LONDON — In this post-Brexit, mid-pandemic moment in the United Kingdom, with its economy battered by recession and the royal family in mourning and turmoil, it is hard to find a topic that unites this fractious nation. But U.S. chickens — yes, the lowly, clucking farm animal, consumed daily by the millions in all 50 states — have done it.
Everybody hates them.
The odd thing is that U.S. chicken is not sold anywhere in Britain, and if people here get their way, it never will be.
What precisely have U.S. chickens done to so thoroughly appall the British, even though few of the latter have ever sampled the former?
The short answer is that some U.S. chicken carcasses are washed in chlorine, to eliminate potentially harmful pathogens. Americans for years have been devouring these birds without any fuss, but in Britain, U.S. chickens are now attached to the word “chlorinated” the way warning labels are attached to cigarettes — which is to say, always. U.S. chickens have been denounced by editorialists, academics, politicians, farmers and a wide variety of activists. In October, a group of protesters dressed in chicken costumes milled around Parliament.
forward an article that quoted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which stated that one in six American suffered from a food-borne illness every year. In the United Kingdom, that figure as tallied by the Food Standards Agency, the article continued, is one in 60.
The chlorine dunk isn’t just kind of gross, in other words. It’s ineffective.
Nonsense, says Tom Super, spokesman for the National Chicken Council, which represents the companies that process about 95 percent of U.S. chicken. He pointed out that the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency’s own website offers a caution about comparing food-borne illness numbers between countries.
the site reads. “This makes any comparison and interpretation of differences challenging.”
Mr. Super notes that only 5 percent of chickens are now washed with chlorine because the industry has moved on to a better cleaner. (Peracetic acid, if you’re curious.) But focusing on how chickens are washed misses the safety and care built into the U.S. system, he added, starting with how eggs are hatched and chickens are fed. Lower hygiene standards? A total canard, an excuse for protectionism, he says, and one that glosses over the findings of the European Food Safety Authority, which in 2008 could find no evidence that chlorinated chickens are unsafe.
“The science is on our side; the data is on our side,” said Mr. Super. “Americans eat about 150 million servings of chicken a day, and virtually all are eaten safely. We’d send the same chicken to the U.K. that we now feed our kids and that we send to 100 countries around the world.”
The timing for any U.S.-U.K. trade deal is unknown; the Biden administration has said little on the subject. Katherine Tai, the U.S. trade representative, said at her confirmation hearing that she wanted a pact that “prioritizes the interest of America’s workers and supports a strong recovery for our economy.”
Several trade experts said that negotiations could take years, largely because the deal doesn’t seem to be a high priority in the United States. But a long wait might be just what the British need, said Professor Boyd of St. Andrews. Agriculture here has long had a claim on the national psyche that far outweighs its actual economic significance, he explained. Consumers here are more interested in sustaining an institution — farming — than buying slightly cheaper cutlets. And lecturing the British public about studies and test results won’t change that.
“If we were to address fears about U.S. chicken with evidence-based arguments and expensive publicity campaigns, then something else would arise,” Professor Boyd said. “This is a sociopolitical problem which will be resolved through enlightened partnership to build a trading relationship, not by browbeating people with scientific facts.”
David Henig, director of the U.K. Trade Policy Project, which is part of a think tank in Brussels, said trade between the countries will carry on, using terms and agreements that have been in place for years, he said. When the United States is prepared to tackle the thornier issues, the British will be ready.
“The U.K. side is keen for a deal,” he said. “It’s just not keen about the chickens.”
BRUSSELS — Now that the United States has decided to pull its troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, NATO’s foreign and defense ministers are meeting to discuss “a safe, deliberate and coordinated withdrawal of our forces from Afghanistan,” the American secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, said on Wednesday at the alliance’s headquarters.
Ministers from NATO member countries, many of them attending the Wednesday meeting virtually, are expected to formally back the American withdrawal date. The alliance’s mantra has always been “in together and out together,” so the ministers are expected to confirm that their troops will leave alongside the Americans, though some smaller contingents may leave before.
At the moment, of the 9,600 NATO troops officially in Afghanistan, about 2,500 of them are American, though that number can be as many as 1,000 higher. The second-largest contingent is from Germany, with some 1,300 troops.
“We have achieved the goals we set out to achieve,” Mr. Blinken said. “Now it’s time to bring our forces home.”
liberate women, help girls to attend school and shift agriculture away from growing heroin poppies.
After the attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, “Together we went into Afghanistan to deal with those who attacked us and to make sure that Afghanistan would not again become a haven for terrorists who might attack any of us,” Mr. Blinken said. Those goals have been achieved, he asserted.
Some current and former American officials agree that Afghanistan is not expected to emerge as a terrorist threat to the United States in the short term, but they say that the question is more difficult to assess in the long run.
Even as the Atlantic alliance withdraws its troops, Mr. Blinken said, “our commitment to Afghanistan and its future will remain.”
The German defense minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, referring to NATO, told the German television station ARD on Wednesday: “We always said, ‘We’ll go in together, we’ll leave together.’ I am for an orderly withdrawal and that is why I assume that we will agree to that today.”
a buildup of Russian troops at the border with Ukraine, the alliance’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said on Wednesday, appearing alongside Mr. Blinken. “Russia must end this military buildup, stop provocations and de-escalate,” Mr. Stoltenberg said.
a visit to Israel and Germany.
After the gathering, Mr. Blinken will meet with the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany, the other members of “the Quad,” to discuss Afghanistan, Ukraine and the continuing talks in Vienna about how to restore the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran.
the blackout at the Natanz nuclear enrichment plant in Iran, which was reportedly the result of an attack by Israel, and by the responses from Tehran, which have included an attack on an Israeli ship and a vow to begin enhancing uranium enrichment from 20 percent to 60 percent, levels banned under the accord and closer to weapons-grade.
The Iranian moves were criticized in a joint statement from the British, French and German foreign ministers on Wednesday.
“This is a serious development since the production of highly enriched uranium constitutes an important step in the production of a nuclear weapon,” the statement said.
The statement called Iran’s moves “particularly regrettable” when the Vienna meetings had made progress. “Iran’s dangerous recent communication is contrary to the constructive spirit and good faith of these discussions,” it noted.
Iran maintains that its nuclear program is purely civilian.
The German Foreign Ministry said that the main topic of the separate meeting of foreign ministers from the Quad would be Afghanistan. Although France pulled its troops out of Afghanistan years ago, the country remains deeply involved in the Iran talks. The Vienna negotiations are trying to bring both the United States and Iran back into compliance with the accord, from which President Donald J. Trump withdrew in May 2018. In response, Iran began to breach enrichment levels, calling its actions “remedial.”
WASHINGTON — President Biden outlined a vast expansion of federal spending on Friday, calling for a 16 percent increase in domestic programs as he tries to harness the government’s power to reverse what officials called a decade of underinvestment in the nation’s most pressing issues.
The proposed $1.52 trillion in spending on discretionary programs would significantly bolster education, health research and fighting climate change. It comes on top of Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package and a separate plan to spend $2.3 trillion on the nation’s infrastructure.
Mr. Biden’s first spending proposal to Congress showcases his belief that expanding, not shrinking, the federal government is crucial to economic growth and prosperity. It would direct billions of dollars toward reducing inequities in housing and education, as well as making sure every government agency puts climate change at the front of its agenda.
It does not include tax proposals, economic projections or so-called mandatory programs like Social Security, which will all be included in a formal budget document the White House will release this spring. And it does not reflect the spending called for in Mr. Biden’s infrastructure plan or other efforts he has yet to roll out, which are aimed at workers and families.
Trump administration’s efforts to gut domestic programs.
But Mr. Biden’s plan, while incomplete as a budget, could provide a blueprint for Democrats who narrowly control the House and Senate and are anxious to reassert their spending priorities after four years of a Republican White House.
Democratic leaders in Congress hailed the plan on Friday and suggested they would incorporate it into government spending bills for the 2022 fiscal year. The plan “proposes long overdue and historic investments in jobs, worker training, schools, food security, infrastructure and housing,” said Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee.
Shalanda D. Young, who is serving as Mr. Biden’s acting budget director, told congressional leaders that the discretionary spending process would be an “important opportunity to continue laying a stronger foundation for the future and reversing a legacy of chronic disinvestment in crucial priorities.”
The administration is focusing on education spending in particular, seeing that as a way to help children escape poverty. Mr. Biden asked Congress to bolster funding to high-poverty schools by $20 billion, which it describes as the largest year-over-year increase to the Title I program since its inception under President Lyndon B. Johnson. The program provides funding for schools that have high numbers of students from low-income families, most often by providing remedial programs and support staff.
The plan also seeks billions of dollars in increases to early-childhood education, to programs serving students with disabilities and to efforts to staff schools with nurses, counselors and mental health professionals — described as an attempt to help children recover from the pandemic, but also a longstanding priority for teachers’ unions.
Mr. Biden heralded the education funding in remarks to reporters at the White House. “The data shows that it puts a child from a household that is a lower-income household in a position if they start school — not day care — but school at 3 and 4 years old, there’s overwhelming evidence that they will compete all the way through high school and beyond,” he said.
There is no talk in the plans of tying federal dollars to accountability measures for teachers and schools, as they often were under President Barack Obama.
his vision of having every cabinet chief, whether they are military leaders, diplomats, fiscal regulators or federal housing planners, charged with incorporating climate change into their missions.
The proposal aims to embed climate programs into agencies that are not usually seen as at the forefront of tackling global warming, like the Agriculture and Labor Departments. That money would be in addition to clean energy spending in Mr. Biden’s proposed infrastructure legislation, which would pour about $500 billion on programs such as increasing electric vehicle production and building climate-resilient roads and bridges.
Strategic National Stockpile, the country’s emergency medical reserve, for supplies and efforts to restructure it that began last year. Nearly $7 billion would create an agency meant to research diseases like cancer and diabetes.
Reporting was contributed by Coral Davenport, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Lisa Friedman, Brad Plumer, Christopher Flavelle, Mark Walker, Dana Goldstein, Mark Walker, Noah Weiland, Margot Sanger-Katz, Lara Jakes, Noam Scheiber, Katie Benner and Emily Cochrane.
HSINCHU, Taiwan — Chuang Cheng-deng’s modest rice farm is a stone’s throw from the nerve center of Taiwan’s computer chip industry, whose products power a huge share of the world’s iPhones and other gadgets.
This year, Mr. Chuang is paying the price for his high-tech neighbors’ economic importance. Gripped by drought and scrambling to save water for homes and factories, Taiwan has shut off irrigation across tens of thousands of acres of farmland.
The authorities are compensating growers for the lost income. But Mr. Chuang, 55, worries that the thwarted harvest will drive customers to seek out other suppliers, which could mean years of depressed earnings.
“The government is using money to seal farmers’ mouths shut,” he said, surveying his parched brown fields.
already strained by surging demand for electronics, the added uncertainty about Taiwan’s water supply is not likely to ease concerns about the tech world’s reliance on the island and on one chip maker in particular: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company.
Intel and other big names. The company said last week that it would invest $100 billion over the next three years to increase capacity, which will likely further strengthen its commanding presence in the market.
TSMC says the drought has not affected its production so far. But with Taiwan’s rainfall becoming no more predictable even as its tech industry grows, the island is having to go to greater and greater lengths to keep the water flowing.
In recent months, the government has flown planes and burned chemicals to seed the clouds above reservoirs. It has built a seawater desalination plant in Hsinchu, home to TSMC’s headquarters, and a pipeline connecting the city with the rainier north. It has ordered industries to cut use. In some places it has reduced water pressure and begun shutting off supplies for two days each week. Some companies, including TSMC, have hauled in truckloads of water from other areas.
But the most sweeping measure has been the halt on irrigation, which affects 183,000 acres of farmland, around a fifth of Taiwan’s irrigated land.
project to increase irrigation efficiency.
That Taiwan, one of the developed world’s rainiest places, should lack for water is a paradox verging on tragedy.
2015, and before that in 2004.
“If in another two or three years, the same conditions reappear, then we can say, ‘Ah, Taiwan has definitely entered an era of major water shortages,’” said You Jiing-yun, a civil engineering professor at National Taiwan University. “Right now, it’s wait and see.”
according to the company, or more than 10 percent of the supply from two local reservoirs, Baoshan and Baoshan Second Reservoir. TSMC recycled more than 86 percent of the water from its manufacturing processes that year, it said, and conserved 3.6 million tons more than it did the year before by increasing recycling and adopting other new measures. But that amount is still small next to the 63 million tons it consumed in 2019 across its Taiwan facilities.
government figures show. Most Western Europeans use less than that, though Americans use more, according to World Bank data.
Mr. Wang of the Water Resources Agency said: “Adjusting water prices has a big effect on society’s more vulnerable groups, so when making adjustments, we are extremely cautious.” Taiwan’s premier said last month that the government would look into imposing extra fees on 1,800 water-intensive factories.
Lee Hong-yuan, a hydraulic engineering professor who previously served as Taiwan’s interior minister, also blames a bureaucratic morass that makes it hard to build new wastewater recycling plants and to modernize the pipeline network.
“Other small countries are all extremely flexible,” Mr. Lee said, but “we have a big country’s operating logic.” He believes this is because Taiwan’s government was set up decades ago, after the Chinese civil war, with the goal of ruling the whole of China. It has since shed that ambition, but not the bureaucracy.
Taiwan’s southwest is both an agricultural heartland and a rising center of industry. TSMC’s most advanced chip facilities are in the southern city of Tainan.
The nearby Tsengwen Reservoir has shrunk to a marshy stream in some parts. Along a scenic strip known as Lovers’ Park, the floor of the reservoir has become a vast moonscape. The water volume is around 11.6 percent of capacity, according to government data.
In farming towns near Tainan, many growers said they were content to be living on the government’s dime, at least for now. They clear the weeds from their fallowed fields. They drink tea with friends and go on long bike rides.
But they are also reckoning with their futures. The Taiwanese public appears to have decided that rice farming is less important, both for the island and the world, than semiconductors. The heavens — or larger economic forces, at least — seem to be telling the farmers it is time to find other work.
“Fertilizer is getting more expensive. Pesticide is getting more expensive,” said Hsieh Tsai-shan, 74, a rice grower. “Being a farmer is truly the worst.”
Serene farmland surrounds the village of Jingliao, which became a popular tourist spot after appearing in a documentary about farmers’ changing lives.
There is only one cow left in town. It spends its days pulling visitors, not plowing fields.
“Around here, 70 counts as young,” said Yang Kuei-chuan, 69, a rice farmer.
Both of Mr. Yang’s sons work for industrial companies.
“If Taiwan didn’t have any industry and relied on agriculture, we all might have starved to death by now,” Mr. Yang said.