World and Nation

Shorts (left)

Chinese currency set to rise

The Chinese government is preparing to announce in the coming days that it will allow its currency to strengthen slightly and vary more from day to day, people with knowledge of the emerging consensus in Beijing said on Thursday. The move would help ease tension with the Obama administration about the huge trade deficit the United States has with China.

China’s exports have been bolstered by its policy of keeping its currency, known as the renminbi or yuan, pegged at a nearly fixed rate to the dollar. Many members of Congress and many economists say that by spending several hundred billion dollars each year to hold down the value of the renminbi, China has made its exports extremely competitive in foreign markets and taken away sales from manufacturers in the United States and other countries.

Britain adopts stronger stance against internet piracy

The British Parliament on Thursday approved plans to crack down on digital media piracy by authorizing the suspension of repeat offenders’ Internet connections.

Following the House of Commons late Wednesday, the House of Lords on Thursday approved the bill after heavy lobbying from the music and movie industries, which say they suffer huge losses from unauthorized copying over the Internet.

The law makes Britain the second large European country, after France, to approve a so-called graduated response system, under which online copyright violators face temporary suspensions of their Internet accounts if they ignore warning letters.

The anti-piracy plan is part of a broader bill aimed at stimulating the digital economy in Britain.

Many of the original proposals in the bill were dropped in the rush to complete the legislation before national elections, set for May 6. These included a plan to impose a tax on telephone lines to finance the expansion of faster broadband connections to remote areas. Under the proposal, every telephone landline was to be subject to a levy of 50 pence, or 76 US cents, a month.

Energy needs in South Africa collide with Obama policy

The Obama administration, caught in an awkward bind between its own ambitions on climate change and Africa’s pressing energy needs, is facing the first test of its new guidelines discouraging coal-fired power projects in developing nations.

This week, the World Bank will vote on a $3.75 billion loan to South Africa, most of it to help build the world’s seventh-largest coal plant. The bank’s own experts concede that the giant plant will “produce large quantities of carbon dioxide that will contribute to global climate change.”

But the bank’s largest shareholder — the United States — has enacted guidelines to push for “no or low carbon” ways of meeting the energy needs of developing nations that rely on international financial institutions.

Construction of the plant is well under way, so it is too late for the steps advocated in the Obama administration’s guidelines to ensure that coal is a last resort. Treasury Department officials have declined to say how the United States will vote when the loan is before the bank’s board on Thursday, with one describing the decision as “challenging.”

South African officials contend that the plant is desperately needed to help the country’s economy, the largest on the continent, and those of six neighboring nations generate growth and combat poverty. The loan is the first South Africa has sought from the World Bank since apartheid ended in 1994.