In which Europe continues to have a bad time, China’s party elites begin to withdraw overseas assets, articles on the toughness of the LGBT+ communities in Iraq and Japan, the withdrawal of McDonalds in Russia means no more happy meals, and the tug of war over Africa continues.
Link back to the discussion thread.
Russia cuts off Finland gas flows over payment dispute Al Jazeera
Emergency plans to stop food crisis as biggest rail strike in modern British history looms Telegraph
Rail bosses are drawing up emergency plans to stop what is expected to be the biggest rail strike in modern history leaving supermarket shelves empty and petrol pumps dry.
Union barons are plotting to unleash chaos in an effort to block plans for thousands of maintenance jobs to be cut and secure double-digit percentage pay rises for their staff.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) union is midway through a ballot for strike action of workers at train operators and Network Rail, with voting due to close on Tuesday.
Switching to transporting freight by road is not an option because of the shortage of lorry drivers.
- The Tory Guide to Surviving the Cost of Living Crisis Naked Capitalism
According to Lee Anderson, if you’re facing food poverty and having to rely on food banks, it’s probably because you don’t know how to cook. The Ashfield MP, who earns £84,144 a year, told the Commons that food banks are unnecessary in the UK, and that the main reason why people on lower incomes are struggling to afford food is because they lack cooking and budgeting skills. “You’ve got generation after generation who cannot cook properly. They can’t cook a meal from scratch. They cannot budget.” Anderson went on to claim that nutritious meals only cost 30p a day.
… safeguarding minister Rachel Maclean has cracked the cost of living crisis. The solution, Maclean says, is to earn more. Easy! Why are people wasting time choosing between heating and eating, when they could just take on more hours or better yet, get a higher-paying job? “Over the long term, we need to have a plan to grow the economy and make sure that people are able to protect themselves better, whether that is by taking on more hours or moving to a better-paid job,” she told Sky News.
Simple enough. Maclean would know, before becoming an MP, she workedin Hong Kong, Sydney and Tokyo with HSBC, then set up Packt Publishing Ltd with her husband. The IT publishing company reportedly recorded £1.8m operating profits in 2020. And last year, on top of her £84k salary as an MP, Maclean reportedly claimed more than £213,000 in expenses. The average claimed by MPs is £203,000.
Our next top budgeting tip comes from the environment secretary, George Eustice. When Sky News asked what advice he would give to people who want to have a family Sunday roast with a chicken but can’t afford it, Eustice suggested that shoppers should buy supermarket own-brand products. “Generally speaking, what people find is by going for some of the value brands rather than own-branded products – they can actually contain and manage their household budget.”
Lastly, we have some stellar housing advice for young people from Tory MP Jackie Doyle-Price, who thinks we should all make use of our granny annexes, the self-contained flats we all have just off of our main homes.Speaking in the Queen’s Speech debate, Doyle-Price told MPs that the government should be “encouraging people to make better use of their housing asset for the whole of their family”. “We can incentivise granny annexes, we can make sure that young people have got some hope by having greater access to the wealth in their parents’ home.
The declining euro could worsen inflation so the ECB should push rates higher, German finance minister says BusinessInsider
Europe is determined to cut fossil fuel ties with Russia, even though getting Hungary on board won’t be easy The Conversation
Rouble hits 2015 level against euro as EU prepares to pay for gas Reuters
Russian Oil Revenues Soar Despite Sanctions OilPrice
Italy’s Oil Imports From Russia Quadruple Since February TeleSUR
EU Faces Same Hurdles Over Tariff On Russian Oil As With Embargo OilPrice
The European Union is unlikely to reach a unanimous decision on the idea the U.S. has floated for cutting Putin’s oil revenues—a tariff on Russian oil, a senior official told Argus on Friday.
- Sanctions Force Foreign Executives At Rosneft To Quit OilPrice
European-born executives at Rosneft quit the Russian oil giant days before the EU sanctions banning European citizens from working at the state-held Russian firm entered into force, Reuters reported on Friday, quoting six sources with knowledge of the matter.
- ‘I can’t see the light’: War fuels surging prices in Europe ABC
Public works projects in Italy are grinding to a halt just as the European Union is injecting 108 billion euros ($114 billion) in pandemic recovery money meant to launch a construction frenzy.
The war has accelerated inflation across Europe and the world, with prices for energy, materials and food surging at rates not seen for decades. It’s causing sticker shock at the grocery store, gas pumps, electricity bills and construction sites.
Fishmongers and farmers are being forced to charge prices for their catch and crops that even they see as astronomical. High fuel prices threaten to paralyze ground transport of goods. Bread prices are soaring from Poland to Belgium. Protests over price hikes have erupted in places like Bulgaria. While governments have responded with tax cuts and other aid, they face limits in easing the impact of volatile energy markets.
Even the thrifty, with backyard hens, are wondering if the price of feed is worth the eggs they yield. Alina Czernik, a shop assistant in Warsaw, does the math, as she sees prices of grain for her hen go up 150%, to 200 zlotys ($45) per 100 kilograms (220 pounds).
“I have to tighten my belt. I buy fruits and vegetables so my kids have everything, but I don’t touch it,” she said.
Add to that: The war in Ukraine has blocked exports of raw materials like steel and minerals that kept western Europe humming, as well as commodities like grains and seed oil, accentuating global shortages.
Inflation is running especially hot in central and Eastern European countries nearest the battlefields of Ukraine. Prices in April rose 14.2% in the Czech Republic, 12.3% in Poland and 10.8% in Greece. They’re an eye-popping 61% in Turkey, which saw its currency lose 44% of its value against the dollar last year.
“Even in (the affluent district of) Cankyaya, people are no longer buying according to their needs, but according to what they can afford. Those who bought two kilos of ground beef are now buying a kilo at the most,’’ he said.
It goes on like this.
EU steps up action to strengthen EU defence capabilities, industrial and technological base: Towards an EU framework for joint defence procurement EU Reporter
Commission presents plans for the Union’s immediate response to address Ukraine’s financing gap and the longer-term reconstruction EU Reporter
France’s crop yields will be ‘very poor’ due to unprecedented drought France24
Asia and Oceania
While other countries back away from Russian oil, China senses an opportunity to stock up on the cheap Fortune
China needs Russian coal. Moscow needs new customers CNN
China slashes key interest rate as housing sales collapse CNN
The central bank’s decision to slash the five-year rate is the latest in a series of steps that China has taken to tackle a real estate crisis as Covid lockdowns threaten to push the economy into its first quarterly contraction since early 2020.
Sales of new homes plunged 47% in April from a year earlier, according to the National Bureau of Statistics earlier this week, while prices in 70 cities dropped for an eighth consecutive month.
- China Insists Party Elites Shed Overseas Assets, Eyeing Western Sanctions on Russia WSJ
China’s Communist Party will block promotions for senior cadres whose spouses or children hold significant assets abroad, people familiar with the matter said, as Beijing seeks to insulate its top officials from the types of sanctions now being directed at Russia.
The ban, outlined in an internal notice by the party’s powerful Central Organization Department, could play a role in Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s efforts to increase his influence at a twice-a-decade leadership shuffle scheduled for later this year.
Issued in March, the directive prohibits spouses and children of ministerial-level officials from holding—directly or indirectly—any real estate abroad or shares in entities registered overseas, the people said.
Senior officials and members of their immediate families would also be barred from setting up accounts with overseas financial institutions unless they have legitimate reasons for doing so—such as study or work—the people said.
It isn’t clear if the rules apply retroactively, but family members of some senior officials have sold shares in overseas companies in order to comply, the people said. It isn’t known if the directive will be made public.
The directive came as Mr. Xi seeks to minimize geopolitical risks for the Communist Party amid concerns that officials with overseas financial exposure could become a liability if the U.S. and other Western powers impose sanctions against Chinese leaders and their relatives, similar to what was done against Moscow following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the people said.
- Scorched earth: How a decade of war destroyed Syria’s farmlands MEE
Cluster bombs, mines and other remnants of war are a daily danger for Syrian farmers, as well as leaving a toxic legacy that could contaminate the soil for decades.
In rebel-held northwestern Syria, damage caused by Russian and Syrian government forces means the farmlands of Ahmed al-Amin and his neighbours are no longer suitable for cultivation.
“A Russian ballistic missile fell last month, destroying olive trees that are about thirty years old,” al-Amin told Middle East Eye from his home in Jabal al-Zawiya, in the south of Idlib province.
“Indiscriminate shelling has swept away the soil, making farmlands rocky and unfit for agriculture. The farmlands are filled with remnants of war. Perennial trees have been cut down after being hit by shrapnel that spoiled their fruits,” he said.
Pakistan holds bailout talks with IMF in Qatar as economy falters Al Jazeera
Iran, Azerbaijan stress expansion of energy ties TehranTimes
- One of the nation’s largest defense contractors just donated tens of thousands to lawmakers voting on Ukraine defense legislation BusinessInsider
One of the nation’s largest defense contractors spread more than $51,000 in contributions among members of Congress and partisan political committees in April as lawmakers debated sending a new round of weapons and other military aid to Ukraine, according to a new filing with the Federal Election Commission.
The contractor, Raytheon Technologies, donated to more than 30 members of Congress' campaigns, as well as several leadership political action committees and national party committees.
The weapons supplier also in April donated $15,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee and $2,500 to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California.
Beyond campaign contributions from its PAC, Raytheon Technologies spends millions of dollars each year directly lobbying the federal government, including Congress, over policy and regulatory matters. During the first three months of this year alone, Raytheon spent nearly $3.5 million on federal-level lobbying efforts, according to federal data compiled by nonpartisan research organization OpenSecrets.
Meanwhile, 20 federal lawmakers have personally invested money in Raytheon Technology or Lockheed Martin stock, which has nearly doubled in value since the stock market crash of March 2020.
Fannie Mae says a recession is likely to hit next year, and it could hit the housing market too Fortune
Omar Leads Charge Against Baby Formula Monopolies Amid US Shortage CommonDreams
Amazon Says It Complies With International Labor Standards. It Absolutely Does Not. Jacobin
U.S. Natural Gas Prices Fall As Colder Weather Approaches OilPrice
Permian Drillers Lead The Charge As Rig Count Climbs OilPrice
The number of total active drilling rigs in the United States rose by 14 this week, on top of the 9 rig increase in the week prior, according to new data from Baker Hughes published on Friday.
The total rig count increased to 728 this week—273 rigs higher than the rig count this time in 2021 and the highest count since March 2020. Drilling has picked up substantially since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, adding 78 rigs.
- Americans Drive More Than Pre-Covid Despite Record Gas Prices OilPrice
Americans are driving more this year than in the same period in 2019, the last ‘normal’ year before COVID, despite the fact that U.S. gasoline prices have been soaring and hitting records every day in the past week, data from the Federal Highway Administration show.
- The Rapidly Growing Starbucks Union In Numbers Popular Resistance
Based on current filings alone, the Starbucks Union is already on track to have 6,400 workers at 230 stores.
- Can Venezuela Help Lower Gasoline Prices? OilPrice
A month ago, the United States was said to look to Venezuela–sitting atop the world’s largest oil reserves–for additional oil, but it was rumored to come away empty-handed. Now, the United States is granting Chevron a license to negotiate with PDVSA to strike up oil deals. Venezuela’s heavy oil is perfectly suited for many American refineries. It is likely to be just the first of many steps in lightening up sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry, and as many as 400,000 bpd of oil could be added to global supplies if sanctions were relaxed.
- Bolsonaro Moves Forward With the Privatization of Eletrobras TeleSUR
- From burgers to breakfast cereal, some key ingredients are being hit by food export bans — industry experts tell us what might be next BusinessInsider
Heatwaves, poor harvests, supply-chain bottlenecks and disruption from war in Ukraine have sent food prices soaring this year. In response, a number of countries around the world have imposed export bans in order to protect their own national food supply, which has only added to the problem.
It’s not the first time the world has suffered from an agricultural commodity price shock. Food inflation was a problem from 2007 to 2008 in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, where countries like Ukraine and other major grain exporters banned supplies to defend domestic prices. India and Vietnam, the biggest exporters of rice, also restricted imports to fight soaring food prices.
A similar situation is playing out now, where Ukraine again has halted wheat exports, in part because war will almost certainly disrupt the planting of the new crop this year. Indonesia has placed a blanket ban on the export of palm oil, and Argentina has blocked certain beef cuts.
- BRICS-led New Development bank to set up regional office in India Reuters
New Development Bank (NDB), established by the BRICS group of emerging economies, said on Friday it would set up a regional office in India for funding and monitoring infrastructure projects in that country and Bangladesh.
NDB has so far approved 21 Indian projects, involving funding of $7.1 billion.
The multi-lateral development bank, launched by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa in 2015, expanded membership last year to include Bangladesh, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Uruguay.
The Shanghai-headquartered lender has signed off on more than 80 projects in the five original member countries. The value of the projects exceeds $30 billion and they are in sectors from transport, water and sanitation to clean energy and digital and social infrastructure.
Inflation? IMF chief warns you better get used to it Fortune
How soaring inflation can be particularly harmful for young people The Conversation
Stagflation Is Looming, Right? Wrong, Economists Say Bloomberg
That’s understandable amid a stock market rout and when so many prominent commentators, including former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers and former Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein, have predicted resurgent inflation and now say recession is increasingly likely. They’re not impressed that US gross domestic product has rebounded from the Covid-19 shock at the fastest pace in modern times, overtaking its pre-pandemic high of $21.4 trillion. Nor are they relieved by the fact that the Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of prices, the Personal Consumption Expenditure Core Price Index, is nowhere near replicating the runaway scourge of the 1970s despite rising the most this year since 1983.
Yet prophecies of imminent stagflation are drowning out a countervailing consensus among savvy economists, who see the US growing through 2024 as inflation subsides to a third of its current 8.3% rate. Seventy-seven economists contributing to Bloomberg predict that US GDP will outperform the Group of Seven developed nations during the next three years. All 56 economists who provide quarterly forecasts not only see steady growth over seven consecutive quarters but also the absence of a contraction. The US unemployment rate, which has recently improved the most in its history by falling to 3.6% — almost the lowest level in five decades — from a 2020 high of 14.7% is poised to reach 3.5% in the third quarter and remain low for several years. That would make the US the second-lowest in joblessness among the G-7 nations after Japan, according 50 economist forecasts compiled by Bloomberg.
Additionally, the economists put the probability of a recession at 30%, up from 15% at the end of January but not historically remarkable.
Diplomatically and Politically
Involving Ukraine or Russia
- As Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Stalls, Critical Voices Emerge in Moscow WSJ
For the sake of balance, I won’t put this in Dipshittery, but I would like to note that the WSJ has only found four people with “critical” voices, and they aren’t exactly calling for Putin’s head on a spike.
- Germany’s intelligence chief warns spying has surged to Cold War levels as Russia wages war against Ukraine BusinessInsider
“In a world of open hostilities and drastic sanctions, the inhibition threshold for espionage, sabotage, and illegitimate influence will continue to fall,” Haldenwang warned.
Collectively, the US and Europe have expelled hundreds of Russian diplomats and officials since the war in Ukraine began, accusing many of those made to leave of operating as spies under diplomatic cover. Russia has responded by expelling Western diplomats.
- UK in talks to arm Moldova RT
The UK is in active discussions to ship weapons to Moldova – a country located along Ukraine’s southwest border – according to Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who said the arms could help to fend off a future Russian attack.
Speaking to the Telegraph in an interview published on Friday, the cabinet minister claimed Moscow has “ambitions to create a greater Russia,” suggesting it could next set its sights on Moldova, which contains the Russian-speaking breakaway region of Transnistria.
“I would want to see Moldova equipped to NATO standard. This is a discussion we’re having with our allies,” Truss said, though she did not elaborate on what kind of arms were being considered. She deemed Moldova a “vulnerable” state, again alleging a “broader” threat posed by Russia.
Asia and Oceania
Is Bangladesh heading toward a Sri Lanka-like crisis? DW
How LGBT+ Communities Overcame Japan’s 2011 Triple Disaster The Diplomat
The past decade of research shows that LGBT+ people are more vulnerable than the general population during a disaster, due to a number of factors. For example, in a disaster, while all women face a higher likelihood than men of being assaulted or harassed, for transgender people this number is many times greater. Being forced to choose between a men’s or women’s bathroom in an emergency shelter can exacerbate this issue, making trans people stand out in ways that are highly traumatic and unwanted.
Even seemingly straightforward processes of evacuation can create traumatic experiences for LGBT+ people. Because many LGBT+ families may not have access to full legal recognition for their relationships, depending on the laws in place where they live, they may not be considered family in an emergency. This means that they face the threat of being separated during evacuation processes that prioritize opposite sex couples and their biological children as a family unit.
LGBT+ communities also tend to have more difficulty accessing information in a crisis. For example, youth in this community are more difficult to reach in an emergency because of their higher rates of homelessness compared to other young people. Seniors in the community also are more likely to be isolated and less likely to have family support, and therefore can have difficulty accessing resources or receiving emergency messages.
During Japan’s 2011 catastrophe, local LGBT+ people quickly realized that they could not rely on inclusive considerations like gender neutral single stall bathrooms during the mass evacuation. Both bathrooms and temporary bathing facilities set up by the Japan Self-Defense forces were typically divided in binary fashion: men on one side, women on the other. This alienated people who did not identify strongly with either of those gender categories.
In the emergency period, Azusa and other members of the Tohoku LGBT+ community began identifying which of their community’s needs were not being met, and then pooling resources in order to develop their own strategies to take care of themselves.
In just one example, a gay man in the community recognized that only offering men’s or women’s bathing facilities presented a potentially problematic blind spot in the existing disaster response. Because he was lucky enough to have running hot water, he took it upon himself to open his home to strangers in the queer and trans community who wished to avoid the gender binary of existing facilities.
Others, like Azusa, developed message boards with targeted information about where to access supplies such as sanitary napkins and gender-appropriate undergarments, even going so far as to personally deliver those supplies to shelters along the coast where they were needed but not readily available to gender-diverse people.
Some of these activities gave way to in-person meetings and groups gradually began holding regular check-ins, eventually organizing fundraising activities and even creating inclusive disaster planning handbooks and other awareness-raising resources for inclusive disaster planning. Their creative response to their community’s vulnerability means that people in other locations can learn from these experiences, in many places throughout Japan and the world.
- Non-binary in Iraq: ‘People get killed’. A short video by the BBC
Being non-binary doesn’t break any laws in Iraq, but those who are still live in fear. Every day people across the LGBTQ community there face physical violence or even being murdered if their secret is uncovered. Sexual assaults are also common, and the toll on their mental health is severe.
If you’re non-binary, transgender or gay in Iraq then life is difficult and dangerous. In a society that sees itself as modest, traditional, and deeply religious, many still refuse to believe in anything other than heterosexuality.
- Iran moves ahead with regional diplomacy TehranTimes
The new policy came into effect right from the start. After taking office in August 2021, Ayatollah Raisi announced that he prioritizes what came to be known as “neighborhood policy,” one that rests on fostering good neighborly relations with all neighbors and boosting ties with Eastern powers along with Europe.
A senior Iranian lawmaker recently told Fars News that Amir Abdollahian will soon meet his Saudi counterpart in Baghdad to discuss bilateral issues, the exchange of embassies and regional issues, especially the Yemen crisis.
Some Arab media outlets even raised the possibility of a summit between Ayatollah Raisi and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
Ayatollah Raisi is expected to pay a visit to Oman soon and according to the Arab press, Raisi also has a visit to the United Arab Emirates on his agenda. The president and his foreign minister both sent letters of condolences to their Emirati counterparts on the death of former UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed. Amir Abdollahian offered condolences in person to new President Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed. After his trip to the UAE, Amir Abdollahian said a “new chapter” opened in Tehran-Abu Dhabi relations.
On Thursday, Ayatollah Raisi received Azerbaijani Deputy Prime Minister Shahin Mustafayev. In the meeting, the Azeri official pointed to a previous meeting between Ayatollah Raisi and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev in Ashgabat and said, “Your meeting with Mr. Aliyev in Ashgabat is historic and has opened new pages in the history of relations between the two countries.”
On Friday, Amir Abdollahian also spoke over the phone with his Indian counterpart, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar.
- What next for Lebanon after Hezbollah loses its parliamentary majority? EuroNews
Lebanon’s militant group Hezbollah and its allies lost their parliamentary majority after elections were held on Sunday. The coalition won 61 seats in the 128-member legislature, a drop of 10 members since the last vote was held four years ago.
Independents gained more than a dozen seats and were the big winners, along with the nationalist Christian Lebanese Forces party, which took votes away from its Christian rival, the Free Patriotic Movement founded by President Michel Aoun.
Along with the economic crisis, the country is struggling to afford its imports and is suffering the lingering effects of the Beruit port blast of 2020, which killed at least 218 people and left much of the capital devastated.
The process of forming a new government for the country will now take months, as there is no obvious majority in parliament.
- UK lifts all restrictions on defence exports to Turkey MEE
The United Kingdom has completely lifted all of the restrictions on the export of defence products to Turkey that were brought in following Ankara’s 2019 offensive on northeast Syria, Turkey’s chief defence industry officer Ismail Demir said on Friday.
- Togo looks like West Africa’s new frontier of violent extremism The Conversation
Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa Province have been active in the Lake Chad Basin region. Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin, the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara and Ansarul Islam in the Sahel. The implications for the peace and security of the sub-region have never been more pronounced.
The activities of these groups have led to the deaths of thousands and displaced many others across parts of West Africa. The result is a worsening humanitarian crisis.
Togo, despite its proximity to countries affected by violent extremism, is one West African country that has experienced relative peace and security, until recently. On May 10 and 11 jihadists attacked a Togolese military outpost and killed eight Togolese soldiers.
- Mali foreign minister in Moscow, reiterates things have changed with partners AfricaNews. Also: Russia blasts France’s ‘colonial mindset’ in Africa RT
“Every day, there are attempts to make our lives difficult, because the only problem that we have is that Malians have decided to take their destiny into their own hands, they decided to manage their country according to their own vision. I believe that certain of our partners have not yet realised that things have changed.” Diop told reporters.
Meanwhile, Moscow says it is ready “to increase the combat capabilities of the Malian armed forces”, particularly in the training of soldiers and law enforcement.
Lavrov assured that Moscow will continue to deliver mineral fertiliser, petroleum products and wheat to Mali amid growing concerns of a global food crisis.
Paris has repeatedly raised concerns over growing security cooperation between Bamako and Moscow, Lavrov said. During the talks, the Russian side reiterated its readiness to continue providing “complex support” to Bamako, including training Malian armed and security forces. “Their dissatisfaction with the decision of the Malian authorities to seek help from foreign powers to provide protection and security is nothing more than the resurgence of a colonial mindset, which the Europeans should have gotten rid of long ago,” Lavrov said.
Algeria-Russian Military-Technical Cooperation To Continue TeleSUR
Biden administration approves large sale of anti-tank missiles to Egypt MEE
The Biden administration informed Congress on Thursday that it has approved a potential sale of $691m worth of anti-tank missiles and other equipment to Egypt. The sale, if completed, would include 5,070 TOW 2A anti-tank missiles, tools, equipment and training services.
The weapons would help Egypt replenish its existing stockpiles of armaments and be used for counter-terrorism operations and border security operations, according to a statement released by the Department of Defence.
A country of more than 100 million straddling the Middle East and North Africa, Egypt is a strategic US ally in the region and home to the Suez Canal, the vital shipping artery through which 12 percent of world trade passes.
It receives about $1.3bn in US military aid annually, the second-highest amount of any country after Israel. However, ties between the two allies have come under strain over the Biden administration’s critique of human rights issues in the country.
In recent years, Egypt has also diversified its suppliers of armaments, striking deals with France and Russia. Between 2017 and 2021, Moscow was the single largest provider of arms to the country, as Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi looked to hedge against reliance on the US.
But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and western sanctions have hamstrung Moscow’s defence industry, raising hopes among US officials that they can pry Egypt, as well as other Middle Eastern states, away from the Kremlin’s orbit.
Mali is Deprived of an Opportunity to Follow Policies Independent of the West NEO
Biden Redeploys Troops To Somalia While Humanitarian Crisis Looms Popular Resistance
The US kicks off neocolonialism via Indo-Pacific Economic Framework Bilaterals
Trump-Loving Americans Drinking Deep From Orban’s Fascist Well CommonDreams
Panama President aims to restart China trade talks immediately Bilaterals
Lula Can Win This Year’s Presidential Election in Brazil Jacobin
Cuba and Mexico Strengthen Ties in Health Care Collaboration TeleSUR
Nicolas Maduro Activates New System of Government in Venezuela TeleSUR
According to the head of state, the tools and strategies of the technological platform of the 1×10 Government method to provide solutions to the population are comprehensively structured.
“Now we are going for more, now it is up to all of us and what is coming now is bigger, but to achieve it we need new working methods (…) We have been meticulously preparing the 1x10 of Good Governance, the Map of Solutions and the Concrete Action Agenda of the People’s Power”, he expressed.
The President also announced six strategic lines of action, including “advancing and consolidating the integral economic recovery of the country, strengthening the productive engines and achieving the stability of the fundamental economic markers.”
In addition, these guarantee plans for the rewarding human development and social protection of the people; ensuring the right to the environment, the city and public services; and promoting the participation of the People’s Power to guarantee good governance.
- Uruguayans To Demand Justice For Alvarez’s Dictatorship Crimes TeleSUR
Russia moves to recruit more soldiers by eliminating its age limit for military service after a series of setbacks in Ukraine BusinessInsider
Is Russia fielding laser weapons in Ukraine? Pentagon does not think so Reuters
The Pentagon said on Friday there were no indications that Russia had used laser weaponry in Ukraine, following claims by Moscow that it was fielding a new generation of powerful lasers there to strike enemy drones.
“We don’t have any indication of the use of lasers, at least weaponized lasers, in Ukraine. Nothing to confirm on that,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told a news briefing.
- Berlin to deliver first 15 Gepard tanks to Ukraine in July, defense minister says Reuters
Oh, thank god, I was wondering if it was gonna be too late.
- Netherlands announces that they can no longer send any more howitzers to Ukraine Yahoo
- Russia says Azovstal siege is over, in full control of Mariupol Al Jazeera. Also: Russia advances in Ukraine’s Donbas as Mariupol steelworks siege ends Reuters
“The territory of the Azovstal metallurgical plant … has been completely liberated,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that 2,439 defenders had surrendered in the past few days, including 531 in the final group.
- Russia takes three more villages near Popasna.
Dipshittery and Cope
- Why is the Brazilian left supporting Putin’s Russia? Al Jazeera
Brazillian journalists are holding us pro-Putin tankies accountable in this article. Don’t read if you don’t want to be shown some extremely good arguments that will change your mind and take up the incredibly fringe position nowadays that Russia is bad and the US is good, a viewpoint that must be preserved and fought for at all costs against the billions of communists violently beating down the walls rather than engaging in peaceful, calm debate.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine led to an unexpected convergence in the political arena. Indeed, all over the world left-wing parties, activists and even prominent leftist politicians are joining the far right in voicing their support for – or at least excusing – the Kremlin’s brutal, imperialist aggression against a much smaller sovereign nation.
Every nation is smaller than Russia. I know that’s not the point but, just saying.
This strange phenomenon is perhaps most visible in Brazil, where supporters of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro and his left-wing rival, former president Lula da Silva, are both working hard to demonstrate why Russia should not be blamed for the devastation we are witnessing in Ukraine today.
Bipartisanship is bad now?
Just like their counterparts on the right, left-wing supporters of the Kremlin insist that it was NATO that “provoked” the war and that Russia is simply “defending itself” (they, of course, refuse to explain how this so-called act of “defence” is different from the West’s past “pre-emptive” strikes against countries of the Global South that they vehemently condemned).
As an optimist, I refuse to believe this person is so stupid as to not understand the difference between invading Iraq and Afghanistan on the literal other side of the planet from the US for the profit of the MIC, vs a hostile imperial organisation threatening to occupy and put nuclear weapons on a country bordering Russia.
They are also dismissing credible reports of war crimes, crimes against humanity and even genocide coming from Ukraine as Western “distortions” and “NATO propaganda” funded by George Soros (ironically also the bogeyman of the anti-Semitic far right), in defence of Ukrainian “Nazis” trying to destroy Russia.
Who on the left is blaming George Soros for anything? Like, is this a thing I’ve missed?
Behind all this, of course, there is a justified mistrust of the US and NATO – leftists in Brazil have much reason to question any narrative supported by the empire that inflicted so much pain on their region. After all, there is not a single right-wing dictatorship on the continent that was born without a degree of US support or encouragement.
There are, however, also other, much less justifiable, reasons behind this surprising pro-Kremlin stance. In the imagination of many Brazilian leftists, despite its aggressive capitalism and impossible to ignore imperial tendencies, Putin’s Russia is still the natural successor of a left-wing utopia once represented by the Soviet Union. Not even the autocratic Russian leader’s undeniable corruption, his oppression and abuse of the Russian working class, or his financial and ideological support for the global far right seem able to shake their belief that he can and will be the leader of the revolution that topples the US-led world order.
We’ve gone from neoliberals not being able to tell the USSR and Russia apart and saying that Russia is a totalitarian communist nation still, from them accusing us of not being able to tell the two apart.
This is not to say that most of the left-wing activists, thinkers and politicians who are sympathetic to the Kremlin are too naive to see President Vladimir Putin for the right-wing kleptocrat that he really is – they likely are not. But they strongly believe that under Putin’s command, Russia can put an end to US imperialism and pave the way for a multipolar world order. And they are willing to turn a blind eye to his regime’s myriad human rights abuses, and support his war of aggression against a neighbouring nation, to see their main enemy – the West – defeated.
If Satan rose up from Hell with his army of the damned, I would support him in his campaign against the United States, for the US is the greater Satan.
On the surface, most Brazilian leftists appear to be avid supporters of human rights, democracy and justice. They proudly say they want to see an end to powerful countries – all powerful countries – invading others under the guise of “bringing democracy”. But sadly, their desire to see an end to the Western-led world order leads to them excusing invasions, wars of aggression and even genocides when they are initiated by the West’s enemies. In their eyes, the only real imperialism is US imperialism.
Lula, who himself said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is as responsible for his country’s current fate as Putin in a recent interview, and a majority of the Brazilian left seem convinced that it is OK to deny the humanity and sovereignty of an entire nation if it inflicts damage on the US.
The universe began on the 24th of February 2022 and there is no context to this situation at all.
There are, of course, leftists in Brazil who do criticise and stand against all kinds of abuse – whether committed by the US and its allies or Russia. But more often than not, they end up being accused of not being real leftists or buying into American propaganda by their pro-Russian “comrades” who see any criticism of Russia merely as a defence of the US.
All in all, it seems many Brazilian leftists have failed to accept that the Berlin Wall fell and the Cold War ended. They are living in an imaginary world where Russia is fighting a revolutionary war against the US. In this world, all of Russia’s crimes need to be excused or ignored. The crimes of other “anti-imperialists” – read anti-US forces of any creed – such as Daniel Ortega’s Nicaragua or Nicolas Maduro’s Venezuela should also be buried and not talked about. They are blind to the hypocrisy of supporting those who are being oppressed and victimised by the imperialism of the West, while baselessly branding the victims of Russia’s equally brutal and deadly imperialism “Nazis”.
These people rightfully denounced US-instigated regime change on their continent, condemned Israel for its crimes against the Palestinian people, and stood against the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan by the US. But now they seem unable to see they are siding with the aggressor because that aggressor is not the West, but Russia.
This is, of course, not the first time large sectors of the left – in Brazil and beyond – have found themselves rooting for the success of a brutal right-wing dictator merely to spite the West. Many leftists also sided with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in no distant history, declaring him an anti-imperialist hero, just because the US happened to be supportive of the Syrian people’s revolt against him.
It should have been an easy decision for the Brazilian left to put its support behind Ukraine. It is, after all, a smaller country being invaded by an imperial power, fighting for its independence. But many of them are stuck in a black-and-white dream world where there is only one evil – the US. They love to pretend Russia is doing everything it does – including invading its neighbours – not to expand its own power but to free the world from the clutches of the evil American empire.
If the Brazilian left is to be successful once again and prove to the people that it is on the right side of history, it needs to stand against all imperial oppressors, including the Russians.
That’s the whole article. You’ll notice that the criticism of Russia’s war in Ukraine vastly outnumbers the criticism of America’s wars and coups around the globe for the last century.
- Goodbye, American soft power: McDonald’s exiting Russia after 32 years is the end of an era CNBC
This article is an eldritch creation that will drive you into insanity. Bolster your mental defences and proceed with care.
It was 4 a.m. and a trickle of Russians had already begun lining up outside the building in the freezing winter cold, hours before opening time.
When the doors opened, hundreds of hungry, bundled-up Muscovites rushed in for their first-ever taste of this alien creation: the Big Mac.
It was January of 1990 and McDonalds was opening its very first restaurant in the Soviet Union, becoming one of the few Western companies to breach the Iron Curtain in its final days as it slowly opened up to the world.
At that time, Russians were hungry. In the literal sense. Stores frequently ran out of food and lacked most of the products that existed in the Western world. A meal at McDonald’s cost half a days’ wages, but “it’s unusual … and delicious,” one local woman told a CBC News reporter at the opening, after trying her first burger.
“We are all hungry in this city,” the woman said. “We need more of these places – there is nothing in our stores or restaurants.” The McDonald’s ended up having to stay open several hours past its official closing time due to the high demand, and served a whopping 30,000 customers on its opening day – a record for the iconic American chain.
Of course, in the 32 years since, Russia has become a capitalist haven, replete with thousands of recognizable Western brands and foreign investment. But in the weeks following Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of its neighbor Ukraine and amid global condemnation, most of these brands have shut their doors, either closing temporarily or vacating the country entirely.
So the scenes from 1990 have almost repeated themselves three decades later, albeit in a very different context. When McDonald’s announced the temporary closing of its more than 800 restaurants in Russia in early March, before this week’s decision to exit the country permanently, long lines were seen outside its facilities as Russians came to get what could be their last-ever golden-arched burgers and fries. One Russian man even handcuffed himself to the door of a Moscow McDonald’s in protest, shouting “Closing down is an act of hostility against me and my fellow citizens!” before being arrested.
For Bakhti Nishanov, a Eurasia specialist who grew up in the Soviet Union, the departure is oddly emotional. “It’s truly weird how this hits me. It’s almost like hope leaving the country,” he told CNBC. “This has a massive symbolic importance: McDonald’s coming to Russia, then part of the Soviet Union, was an implicit signal to the world that Russia is open for business. The company leaving Russia is an explicit signal that the country is no longer a place you want to be in as a business,” Nishanov said.
“I first read about the McDonald’s in Russia in a youth magazine called Yunniy Tehnik,” Nishanov recounted. “I was absolutely mesmerized and fascinated by the article and the idea that one, for a relatively modest amount of money, can too be part of the American culture that McDonald’s was a tangible representation of.”
“To a generation of Russians, McDonald’s — commonly referred to as MakDak — was a fascinating phenomenon,” he added. “Clearly connected to the American culture, yet very much part of their daily lives and, in a way, less foreign or alien than many other brands.”
Politically, the golden arches also went a long way, says Tricia Starks, a professor of history at the University of Arkansas and author of the forthcoming book “Cigarettes and Soviets.”
“The American way of consumption was a crucial soft-diplomacy front in the Cold War … acquainting the Soviets with America’s material standards was another field of battle,” Starks said. A few other brands took on this role in the USSR before McDonald’s did, namely Pepsi in 1972 and Marlboro in 1976.
But McDonalds, unlike a can of Pepsi or a pack of Marlboro cigarettes, “was a totally immersive experience of capitalism’s sensual joys,” she said.
“From the moment you stepped in, it was an entirely different experience than a Soviet restaurant. You were greeted with smiles and shouts of ‘Can I help you?’ Products were of consistent quality and always consumable. The burgers were hot!”
This was a culture shock to Soviet denizens, many of whom expressed confusion when staff would smile at them. “When I smile, people are asking what’s wrong, they think I am laughing at them,” one Russian employee at the McDonald’s opening day in 1990 told a reporter.
“When you were done, a worker would come and whisk away the trash, and the showplace on Pushkin Square was kept clean despite the thousands who would come by through the day — some of them waiting hours to spend a full month’s wages on dinner for a family of four,” Starks described, noting that customer service was simply not a concept in the USSR. “Service was a side product of a McDonald’s experience.”
Not all Russians feel bad about the golden arches leaving. “Hello Americans … We want to thank you for all your sanctions, for taking away from our country Coca Cola, KFC, McDonald’s and all that sh–. Now by summer we will be healthy, strong and without ass fat,” Russian influencer and comedian Natasha Krasnova wrote in an Instagram post in March that was viewed more than 5 million times.
“McDonald’s leaving Russia hits many of my generation differently,” he said, “I think because it represented — and I know this sounds dramatic — hope and optimism. The company leaving confirms Putin’s Russia is a place devoid of those two things.”
- Cosmopolitan no more: Russians feel sting of cultural and economic rift Guardian
Compare this article to the one all the way up there in Economically about Europe.
“When I had my first child, there was all this choice. Mothercare, Zara, you name it,” said Evgenia Marsheva, a 33-year-old architect. But when she went shopping in Moscow this month for her newborn, many of those large retail brands had been shuttered.
“Now, I can only find very cheap or extremely expensive Russian products. I was brought up with tales of the limited choices that my parents had during the Soviet Union. I never thought that would come back.”
Three months into the war, Russia has become the most sanctioned country in the world, and almost 1,000 foreign brands – the majority of them voluntarily – have curtailed their operations there, according to records kept by the Yale School of Management. The exodus of companies continued this week with McDonald’s officially announcing it would leave Russia after three decades.
According to estimates by officials, the Russian economy is expected to contract by between 8 and 12% in 2022. Car sales, an indicator often used by experts to measure the economic mood, fell by almost 80% in April, the largest drop on record. Meanwhile, the country’s central bank has predicted an inflation rate between 18 and 23% this year.
In a recent survey by the independent Levada Center, 85% of Russians polled said now was a bad time for big purchases, the highest level in more than a decade, while more than 60% of Russians said they had no savings.
“The government has created a false sense of stability. But the long-term picture is damning,” said Shagina.
While the slow-burning sanctions might not force Vladimir Putin to change his actions in Ukraine, the pressure on the Kremlin would rise “dramatically” if the European Union proceeded with its plans to decouple from Russian oil and gas, she said.
“As long as Russia has its revenues from gas and oil it can sustain the war. It will be a huge blow to the Kremlin if they lose that cash cow.”
“The cultural isolation is maybe even scarier for me than the economic one,” said Katya Fedorova, a former fashion editor who now runs a widely read lifestyle and fashion blog on Telegram.
“I remember summers spent in Moscow hopping from an exhibition by Juergen Teller to one by Murakami, dancing at music festivals where the international lineups would rival the best European concerts,” Fedorova recalled. Western fashion executives would marvel when she took them around town, commenting on how “modern and happening” the city was.
- Azov Battalion evacuates dead after fighters stop defending Mariupol steel plant EuroNews
“stop defending” is certainly one phrase for it.
- Russia is desperate for more soldiers and likely to redeploy troops too quickly after Mariupol siege, UK intel says BusinessInsider
They’re never happy, are they? Russia is either acting too quickly, or too slowly.
- Before-and-after photos show the personal toll of Ukraine’s war on Zelenskyy since he took office 3 years ago BusinessInsider
He’s an actor, through and through.
- Most of US will see above-average temperatures as Western drought continues CNN
Nearly the entire contiguous US is expected to have above-normal temperatures this summer, which runs from June through August, according to Thursday’s Climate Prediction Center’s outlook. The combination of hotter weather and below-average rainfall is expected to fuel the megadrought that covers much of the West.
Unfortunately, the outlook for precipitation remains low across the west as well, with the lowest chances of rainfall from central Wyoming into northern Texas. The only area with above-average precipitation probabilities is found along the Gulf coastal region and Florida.
Cold wave hits southern Brazil with record-low temperatures France24
Kenya: Bees at risk from pesticides and habitat loss AfricaNews
In Kenya, environmental scientists are calling for a new multidisciplinary approach that involves farmers, beekeepers and environmentalists.
Samuel Mwaniki, is a beekeeper in Kitui County, Kenya. He says that lack of rainfall and the use of pesticides to combat 2021’s locust invasion devastated his hives.
- The climate scientists are not alright WaPo
Frustration, rage, terror, desperation: After decades of being ignored, scientists are resorting to more radical action to communicate the dire urgency of the climate crisis.
- Climate change likely to reduce the amount of sleep that people get per year ScienceDaily
I Thought I’d Mention
WHO Convenes Emergency Meeting on Monkeypox Outbreak TeleSUR
U.S. government places $119 million order for 13 million freeze-dried Monkeypox vaccines Fortune
Mozambique confirms first wild poliovirus case in 30 years Guardian