In which Ukraine wants de-facto NATO membership and will strike Crimea with long-range weaponry, China finds a shitload of uranium ore in their country, Biden prepares to kneel to Saudi Arabia, Africa sides with Russia, some anti-China propaganda on the anniversary of the attempted fascist overthrow in 1989, and Russia continues to lose and be evil.

Link back to the discussion thread.


Ultimately joining the euro is actually a condition of signing up to the bloc, though the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Sweden don’t seem interested. Meanwhile Denmark, which clinched an opt-out on acceding before the dawn of the currency, isn’t budging either. Its premier, Mette Frederiksen, said on Wednesday that a public vote on switching stance isn’t going to happen.

Contrast such foot dragging with the enthusiasm of Croatia. The Adriatic country of 3.9 million, scarred by war a generation ago, is about to complete its transformation and become the euro’s 20th member. EU officials recommended its application this week. Bar any hiccups, the nation will fully join on Jan. 1, 2023.

Two other hopefuls aren’t so fortunate. Romania’s bid for membership has been hampered by internal squabbling, evidenced by the highest turnover of governments in the EU.

Bulgaria, the bloc’s poorest country, wants to join in 2024, but now faces attempts to delay the process from junior coalition partners. In any case, wary European Central Bank officials aren’t convinced that its economy and scandal-plagued banking system are ready for currency prime time.

Applicants know that membership is no panacea. Just look at the euro zone’s struggle with inflation, where the lowest and highest rates of price growth in different countries are now wider than ever. And as the ECB’s current debate shows, signing up also means accepting a common monetary policy stance determined by the majority.

Finally, while membership has its privileges, it also brings obligations, as Greeks learned to their cost during the sovereign debt crisis of the past decade. Surveys of trust in the ECB show they’re still bitter.

  • Berlusconi reveals ‘bitter reality’ of Western world’s isolation RT

The Ukraine crisis has shown that the West is still isolated from the rest of the world, which continues to live “under dictatorships, autocracies, oligarchies, theocracies, authoritarian or totalitarian systems,” former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has said.

In an article for Il Giornale published on Thursday, Berlusconi hailed the West’s “balanced, firm and above all united response” to the “undeniable aggression from the Russian side against a neutral country.”

“From this point of view, Russia has already lost its game: If it considers the West an opponent, today it faces an opponent much more united and more determined than in recent years,” Berlusconi wrote.

However, in his opinion, the Ukraine conflict has revealed “a very bitter reality.”

“Russia is isolated from the West, but the West is isolated from the whole world,” he said.

The former prime minister explained that only 1.4 billion people live in systems “that can be broadly defined as free and democratic, of a Western type,” while the “other 6.4 billion human beings live under dictatorships, autocracies, oligarchies, theocracies, authoritarian or totalitarian systems in various ways and to varying degrees.”

He added that the largest countries in the world – China, India, Russia, and many other Asian, African, and Latin American nations – “are not with the West at the moment.”

That’s so weird! As we’re obviously good and pure and democratic, they must be evil and corrupted and autocratic!


  • Ukraine signs deal with Westinghouse to end Russian nuclear fuel needs Reuters

Ukraine has signed a deal for the U.S. nuclear power company Westinghouse to supply fuel to all of its atomic power stations in an effort to end the country’s reliance on Russian supplies, Ukraine’s state nuclear company said on Friday.

The agreement also increases the number of new nuclear units Westinghouse will build to nine from an earlier five, and the company will establish an engineering centre in the country.

  • NATO should consider ‘de facto’ membership for Ukraine, Ukrainian defence minister says Reuters

NATO should consider granting Ukraine “de facto” rather than “de jure” membership of the alliance when it discusses its strategy for the next 10 years at a summit in June, Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said on Friday.

“I think that if we are talking about the membership of Ukraine with NATO de facto not de jure, it could be the good idea in this strategy,” Reznikov told the GLOBSEC 2022 Bratislava Forum by video link.

“Ukraine will be also part of the strategy because we also are the part of eastern flank of Europe, the eastern flank of NATO countries, eastern flank of the EU. I think it will be a win-win situation for all countries,” Reznikov said.


  • Russia summons heads of U.S. media outlets, warns of ‘stringent measures’ Reuters

“If the work of the Russian media - operators and journalists - is not normalized in the United States, the most stringent measures will inevitably follow,” ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Friday.

“To this end, on Monday, June 6, the heads of the Moscow offices of all American media will be invited to the press centre of the Russian Foreign Ministry to explain to them the consequences of their government’s hostile line in the media sphere,” she added. “We look forward to it.”

Russia has accused Western countries of imposing unfair restrictions on its media abroad, including bans on some state-backed news outlets. Lawmakers passed a bill last month giving prosecutors powers to shut foreign media bureaus in Moscow if a Western country has been “unfriendly” to Russian media.

  • Putin says Ukrainian grain can be exported through Belarus Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday denied Moscow was preventing Ukrainian ports from exporting grain and said the best solution would be to ship it through Belarus, as long as sanctions on that country were lifted.

“If someone wants to solve the problem of exporting Ukrainian grain - please, the easiest way is through Belarus. No one is stopping it,” Putin said. “But for this you have to lift sanctions from Belarus.”

  • Exiled Russian economist says Putin will ‘laugh’ at losses from the EU embargo on Russian oil and won’t change course in Ukraine Yahoo

The EU agreed on Monday to institute an embargo on most Russian oil imports by the end of 2022 in what the bloc has framed as one of its most significant reactions to Russia’s unprovoked war in Ukraine to date.

But Russian economist Sergei Aleksashenko, a former deputy chairman of the Russian central bank who now lives in exile in the US, told The Washington Post that the embargo will mean little to Russian President Vladimir Putin and won’t alter his plans in Ukraine.

Putin’s economic advisors will “tell him what the estimated loss is from the embargo, and he will laugh quietly,” Aleksashenko said, adding, “He is not changing his course.”

  • Russia is scrambling to pull down the ruble, after its policy moves sent the currency soaring too high. A Moscow broker explains what’s going on Business Insider

In late February, just after Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine, the ruble crashed. In response, the Central Bank of Russia more than doubled interest rates to convince people to keep their money in the bank.

Three months later, and Russia is facing the opposite problem. The ruble has risen rapidly — perhaps by too much — and threatens to become a burden for the country’s exporters and budget.

Last week, the Central Bank of Russia slashed interest rates down to 11% — they stood at 20% in late February — as it tried to tame the rampant ruble.

Some analysts and economists are skeptical of this narrative. Timothy Ash, a strategist at BlueBay, has said the idea that the ruble has become too strong is “all part of Kremlin PR”, and that the currency is being “stage-managed.”

Whether or not that’s the case, Russia is rapidly loosening many of the strict policies it put in place to boost the ruble at the start of the war.

Lutsko said the ruble had become too strong for the Russian government, in particular because it posed a threat to the budget. That’s a worry for Moscow, which has ramped up its spending as it funds its operations against Ukraine and as the Russian economy slows under the weight of sanctions.

Russia’s oil and gas exports now account for around 65% of tax revenue in the country, Lutsko estimated, as prices have surged and other industries have suffered due to sanctions.

The issue is that energy sales are predominantly priced in foreign currencies, particularly dollars. These must be converted back into local currency for spending in Russia, and a high exchange rate means the government gets fewer rubles for its sales.

  • Russia Sees Extra $6.4 Billion Oil Revenue In June As Prices Rally Oil Price


  • Belarus proactively tapping into new potash fertilizer markets TASS

Belarus is proactively developing new markets for sales of potash fertilizers in the environment of sanctions introduced by the West, Prime Minister Roman Golovchenko told reporters.

“Our potash flows are also proactively redirected to markets of African, South America, Asian countries, including China,” Golovchenko said, cited by BelTA news agency.


  • Inflation Forces Almost Half of Germans to Rein In Spending Bloomberg

Nearly half of all Germans can no longer afford their lifestyle as inflation surges from one record to the next, according to a poll conducted for public broadcaster ARD.

About 47% indicated they’re strongly or very strongly cutting back on spending. In low-income households, that share rises to more than three-quarters. The survey was conducted among 1,337 Germans between May 30 and June 1.

  • German exports to Russia tumble RT

The volume of German exports to Russia decreased to €800 million ($859 million) in April, down by 10% compared with March, the German Federal Statistical Office, Destatis, said on Friday, citing sanctions and other restrictions.

The figure, however, is much better than in March, when exports collapsed by more than 60%.

Data shows that imports from Russia also declined in April by 16.4% month-on-month to €3.7 billion (almost $4 billion).


  • Poles get OK to gather firewood as energy prices soar Seattle Times

Poland’s authorities are reminding citizens they can rummage forests for firewood to heat their homes as energy costs continue to soar.

Inflation in Poland is now at nearly 14%, with fuel prices surging to over 8 zlotys ($1.87) a liter. The government of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki blames Russia’s war in Ukraine for driving up costs, calling it “Putinflacja” — or “Putinflation.”

Asia and Oceania

  • US wants to surround China with missiles - but can’t find Asian country to host them Multipolarista

The United States plans to spend tens of billions of dollars to surround China with missiles. But it’s having trouble finding an Asian country willing to host the offensive weapons.

The US military commissioned a study from the RAND Corporation, a Pentagon-backed research group, to assess the feasibility of deploying intermediate-range missiles to the Pacific.

The study closely analyzed the US government’s relations with its five treaty allies in the region: Australia, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, and Thailand.

Citing “an inability to find a willing partner,” the RAND report concluded that the chance of these nations hosting US ground-based intermediate-range missiles “is very low as long as current domestic political conditions and regional security trends hold.”


  • Japanese PM may attend NATO summit for the first time TASS

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is considering attending the NATO summit in Madrid at the end of June, NHK TV channel announced on Saturday, citing sources.

Thus, Kishida could become the first Japanese prime minister to attend a NATO meeting. At the summit, he intends not only to discuss the situation around Ukraine, but also the actions of China and North Korea, as well as talk about Japan’s plans to radically strengthen its defense capability, the TV channel said.


  • China finds uranium at ‘impossible’ depth: scientists SCMP

Chinese nuclear authorities say their researchers have discovered rich uranium deposits deep below the Earth, in what they are calling a breakthrough for the country’s national security.

Huge, industrial-grade deposits were found at depths previously thought impossible, increasing China’s estimated total reserve 10-fold to more than two million tonnes – putting China on a par with Australia, one of the world’s most uranium-rich countries – according to scientists involved in the project.

Using some of the world’s most advanced technology and equipment, the geologists increased the exploration depth to 3,000 metres (nearly 10,000 feet) – six times deeper than most of the country’s uranium mines.

“This world-leading project is a major breakthrough for our country,” said the China National Nuclear Corporation on its WeChat social media account on Tuesday.

China’s need for uranium has been expanding, with its nuclear power supply increasing faster than any country in the world, with seven or eight new reactors built each year.

  • China’s yuan could strength against the dollar as the Fed struggles to balance growth and inflation, says top Beijing official Business Insider

The deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China said the yuan will be less volatile now and could even strengthen against the US dollar after diving earlier this year.

On Friday, the yuan hovered at 6.66 per US dollar, rebounding by about 1.1% since mid-May after weakening by roughly 6% in April as China’s zero-COVID policies hampered business and economic activities.

“Yuan exchange rates are basically stable with two-way fluctuations,” Pan Gongsheng said Thursday, according to the South China Morning Post.

China’s economy is now more prepared to handle cross-border capital flows and currency volatility, and economic growth momentum is recovering quickly thanks to government stimulus, he added.

  • China to continue pushing for Pacific Island nations to sign regional trade and security agreement Bilaterals

China’s government says it remains confident it can strike a sweeping trade and security agreement with 10 Pacific Island states despite being forced to shelve its proposed agreement.

Beijing has since released a position paper on the Pacific, but several key components of the draft deal — including free trade, joint police efforts and cybersecurity measures — are omitted from the document.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with 10 Pacific counterparts on Monday, less than a week after a copy of the Common Development Vision agreement was leaked to the press.

The proposal stoked controversy among Pacific Island nations, with Federated States of Micronesia President David Panuelo warning it could stoke geopolitical confrontations in the region and undermine the sovereignty of Pacific countries.

On Monday, China’s ambassador to Fiji confirmed some Pacific nations had “concerns” about some “issues” in the agreement and said Beijing would try to seek consensus from them.

But Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian played down the significance of the pause when asked about it by journalists in Beijing.

“As for the joint document you mentioned, it involves an ongoing process of discussion,” he said. “Not every meeting has to issue a joint document.


  • Myanmar military accused of torching hundreds of homes in three-day blitz The Guardian

New Zealand

  • ‘We don’t need to be reactive’: New Zealand keeps faith in its foreign policy amid China Pacific push The Guardian

New Zealand’s foreign minister has defended herself against accusations of complacency in the wake of China’s dramatic push for greater influence in the Pacific region, saying New Zealand does “not need to be reactive to any other agenda from any other country”.

Opposition critics, she said, “Seem in a bit of a frenzy about where we should be visiting, that we should be hot on the trail of this minister or that minister – and actually, that’s not how that’s not how we operate in New Zealand,” she said. “We don’t need to be reactive to any other agenda from any other country.”

Middle East


  • Turkey’s inflation soars to 73%, a 23-year high, as food and energy costs skyrocket CNBC

Turkey’s inflation for the month of May rose by an eye-watering 73.5% year on year, its highest in 23 years, as the country grapples with soaring food and energy costs and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s long-running unorthodox strategy on monetary policy.

Food prices in the country of 84 million rose 91.6% year on year, the country’s statistics agency reported, bringing into sharp view the pain that regular consumers face as supply chain problems, rising energy costs and Russia’s war in Ukraine feed into global inflation.


  • Iran Hasn’t Given Credible Explanations for Nuclear Material, U.N. Agency Says WSJ

The United Nations atomic agency said Monday that Iran hasn’t offered credible answers to its probe into nuclear material found in the country and reported that Iran’s stockpile of highly enriched uranium has grown to roughly enough material for a nuclear bomb.

The two reports, circulated to member states and seen by The Wall Street Journal, will sharpen concerns about Iran’s nuclear work at the same time negotiations on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal have stalled. That agreement placed tight but temporary restrictions on Iran’s nuclear work in exchange for lifting most international sanctions.

Since the U.S. quit the nuclear deal in 2018, Iran has scaled up its nuclear work, including producing uranium enriched to 60%, which is near weapons-grade material. It has also largely stonewalled a probe into the nuclear material found in Iran, which many experts consider to be related to work on a nuclear weapon Iran carried out many years ago.

  • Iran warns of ‘immediate’ response to ‘political’ action by IAEA Iraqi News

“Any political action by the United States and the three European countries in the IAEA would provoke without any doubt a proportional, effective and immediate response on the part of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said during a conversation with his European counterpart Josep Borrell, according to a statement.

Saudi Arabia

  • ‘We feel betrayed’: Activists say Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia is a breach of values Middle East Eye

Saudi activists and rights groups have condemned the upcoming visit of US President Joe Biden to Saudi Arabia, saying the president is betraying his values by meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has been accused of rights abuses including murder, torture, and the killing of civilians in the Yemen war.

Several reports have indicated that the US president will be travelling to Saudi Arabia later this month where he will meet with bin Salman, who is also known by his initials MBS. In speaking with reporters on Friday, he confirmed that he would be travelling to the region at some point.

  • Biden’s flip-flop on Saudi Arabia WaPo

Say what you will about former president Donald Trump: When he was flip-flopping on Saudi Arabia, at least he acknowledged the utterly transactional nature of it.

President Biden is now apparently about to complete his own thoroughly convenient evolution on the Saudis. It has been a long time coming, but it’s plenty striking as well.

Administration officials confirmed Thursday that Biden plans to make a trip to Saudi Arabia later this month. The addition of the stop on Biden’s trip comes in an apparent effort to seek help from the oil-rich nation, among others, to lower the record-high gas prices that have hampered the American economy and dogged Biden’s political fortunes.

But it also comes less than three years after Biden pledged to turn the kingdom into a “pariah” for the gruesome assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Biden is expected to meet with the country’s de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, despite U.S. intelligence having said Mohammed ordered Khashoggi’s assassination. Needless to say, this not a treatment generally reserved for pariahs.

  • President Biden visiting Saudi Arabia wouldn’t be a long-term solution to the energy crisis because the US faces structural shortages, says Goldman Sachs head of energy research Business Insider

“It will perhaps prevent a spike in prices and shortages this summer, but you have to remember we are faced with structural shortages and deficits in oil. This is years in the making,” Damien Courvalin told CNBC Friday. “And bringing extra barrels today, sure, it helps in the short run, but it’s not sustainable. In particular it comes at the sacrifice of any remaining spare capacity.”

The energy analyst added that markets all over the world are signaling downside risk to production, pointing to the European Union’s ban on Russian oil and decreased production in Libya.


  • African Union wants Russian sanctions lifted RT

Western sanctions against Russia threaten Africa with a food security crisis, the head of the African Union (AU) and Senegalese President Macky Sall said during a meeting, in Sochi, on Friday with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He advocated the abolition of restrictions that apply to Russian grain crops and mineral fertilizers.

“Sanctions against the Russian Federation have exacerbated the situation because we no longer have access to grain, especially wheat from Russia, and most importantly, to fertilizers, which poses a serious threat to food security on the continent,” said Sall.

He pointed out two major problems, the global food crisis and anti-Russia sanctions, and said those problems needed to be worked out so that food products, in particular grains and fertilizers, are removed from the sanctions list.

President Putin, meanwhile, said that Russian-African relations are currently at a new stage of development, which is very important for both sides. “I would like to remind that our country has always been on the side of Africa, supported Africa in the fight against colonialism,” he said.


  • India and Egypt are working to swap wheat for fertilizer and other goods to ease potential food shortages Business Insider

India and Egypt are reportedly in talks to exchange wheat for fertilizer amid the growing food supply crunch. For the potential deal, India would export wheat to Egypt and would get fertilizers and other products in return, Egyptian Supply Minister Aly El-Moselhy told Bloomberg.

Moselhy said he met with the Indian ambassador to Egypt on Wednesday to go over a potential swap agreement for 500,000 tons of wheat.

  • Arabic press review: Half of Egypt’s doctors left country in unprecedented brain drain Middle East Eye

The health sector in Egypt is at risk of collapse due to the unprecedented migration wave of Egyptian doctors, according to a report published by the Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper. The latest statistics show that tens of thousands of doctors have left Egypt over the past three years, the London-based daily said.

North America

United States

  • Morgan Stanley lays out why it thinks inflation is cooling — which should ease investors' fear of an extreme 1970s-style shock Business Insider

“Out of the many developments of this year, one really stands out. It’s inflation, and the impact that high inflation has had on central bank policy,” he said. “But now this story may be changing again — away from inflation and back towards growth.”

  • Fed’s Mester says inflation hasn’t peaked and multiple half-point rate hikes are needed CNBC

Cleveland Federal Reserve President Loretta Mester said Friday that she doesn’t see ample evidence that inflation has peaked and thus is on board with supporting a series of aggressive interest rate increases.

“I think the Fed has shown that we’re in the process of recalibrating our policy to get inflation back down to our 2% goal. That’s the job before us,” Mester said in a live interview on CNBC’s “The Exchange.”

“I don’t want to declare victory on inflation before I see really compelling evidence that our actions are beginning to do the work in bringing down demand in better balance with aggregate supply,” she added.

  • 3 signs that the US economy is already losing steam CNN

Fears about whether America could fall into a recession are dominating conversations among investors and pose a risk to the Biden administration ahead of midterm elections this fall. In the meantime, the US economy is humming along — though there are signs it is sliding into a lower gear.

  1. The job market: The US jobs report for May showed Friday that 390,000 positions were added last month. That’s a solid number, and higher than expected, but down from 428,000 in April.

  2. The housing market: Borrowing costs have jumped as a result of the Fed’s decision to start hiking interest rates. A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 5.09% for the week ending June 2, up from 2.99% the same time last year.

  3. The Beige Book: The Fed’s latest survey of economic conditions released this week, known as the “Beige Book,” showed that all 12 districts across the country experienced growth, but the impact of tighter financial conditions was starting to become apparent.

  • The economy is going into the toilet. Let’s hope no one flushes it! CNN

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon says an economic hurricane is coming. Tesla’s Elon Musk says he has a “super bad feeling” about a recession. Companies are downgrading their earnings forecasts. Oh, and we’re in the midst of an energy and inflation crisis, and stocks have been flirting with a bear market.

It’s easy to feel miserable about the economy. And it turns out most Americans do: Only 23% of the US public say economic conditions are “somewhat good” or better, a recent CNN Poll conducted by SSRS found.

And yet those same Americans keep spending like crazy — because nearly everyone has a job. We just got another pretty robust jobs report Friday: America added another 390,000 jobs in May. To put that in context, that’s more than double the average 186,000 jobs the US economy was creating each month during President Donald Trump’s administration before the pandemic — you know, just a few years ago, when Americans were super jazzed about the economy.

If you’re feeling like the US economy is slowing down, you’re not alone. In fact, that slowdown is intentional.

The Federal Reserve had been giving the economy a sugar rush since March 2020 by buying billions of dollars of government bonds and corporate debt each month and by keeping rates near zero for two years.

The economy got high on the Fed’s supply, and inflation zoomed to a four-decade high. In March 2022, Fed Chair Jerome Powell finally said, “no más,” and the central bank raised rates. In May, the Fed issued the biggest rate hike in more than 20 years, and it pledged that the beatings would continue until morale improves.

A steady stream of historically large rate hikes and a rapid downsizing of the Fed’s balance sheet should help cure the economy’s addiction to free money: By slowing the economy, the Fed hopes to tame inflation. But it could also plunge the economy into a recession.

  • Biden’s unemployment numbers are lower than any time between the ’70s and 2019, but he’s getting slammed over expensive gas Fortune

The 3.6% unemployment rate has been holding steady for three months in a row, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ jobs report released on Friday. With the exception of the last few months of 2019 and the first few months of 2020, it’s a lower unemployment rate than any single month throughout the 1970s, ’80s, ’90s, and 2000s.

That’s usually a positive sign for the economy, especially one that has been ravaged by a global health crisis. From one perspective, jobs are the whole point of the economy: More workers means more productivity and fewer people struggling to pay their bills. President Joe Biden’s stimulus package helped supercharge demand that created a jobs boom. There are just two problems: Inflation is also higher than any time since the late ’70s, and Americans don’t seem to care about all the new jobs as much as the high price of stuff.

Since America entered a post-vaccinated world and began reopening in full force last summer, consumer sentiment has been miserable. Despite the economy outperforming expectations in its recovery, consumer confidence was lower than it was during the depths of the pandemic at the end of 2021. Come May, it dropped to a 10-year low.

While the fact that we’re still dealing with a pandemic two years later may have something to do with this pessimism, rising prices have been putting Americans in a foul mood. Their wallets are feeling the burn of inflation, and low unemployment just doesn’t seem to be moving the needle.

Are you telling me that the state of being employed does not make you happy, especially if you aren’t earning enough money to keep you afloat? How ungrateful of these wage-labourers! They haven’t even studied Economics 101!

  • Americans’ Economic Anxiety Shouldn’t Surprise Anyone Forbes

Everything’s fine, says the data. At the end of 2021, 78% of adults were either “doing okay” or “living comfortably,” according to the Federal Reserve’s Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2021. A full 64% of people could cover an unexpected $400 expense with cash or cash equivalent, up from 56% in 2020.

People have money and are spending it reassuringly murmurs more data, this time from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Advisors (BEA). Personal income was up 0.4% in May, disposable income (what’s left after taxes) increased 0.3%, and personal consumption expenditures jumped by 0.9%.

Unemployment continues to fall even as there’s a near record number of jobs looking for candidates. White House National Economic Council director Brian Deese told Fox News that the country is experiencing “the strongest period of economic growth in 40 years, the strongest labor recovery in modern history, and progress on reducing the deficit.”

But consumers’ confidence slipped slightly in May as did their expectations of the short-term future for income, business, and labor conditions, by the Conference Board’s ongoing measurements. And the latest Forbes Advisor-Ipsos Consumer Confidence Biweekly Tracker shows that as Americans’ job security confidence and employment outlook were up, respondents’ expectations for their own financial futures slipped from two weeks before.

The atmosphere is almost like an early scene in a horror movie. Characters move about and everything seems fine on the surface, but there’s some sense of dread and slowly but inexorably perceptions move from sunny to cloudy and perhaps even to stormy.

Average consumers aren’t deliberately analytical, but they have a common sense understanding of how their personal economics is feeling pressure. They catch the hint of ominous music suggesting danger ahead, around a shadowed corner. In that sense, their gut feel is far ahead of what the professional number crunchers see, or maybe what they’re willing to admit.

  • Tesla to Cut 10% of Salaried Staff, Musk Tells Employees NYT

Tesla’s chief executive, Elon Musk, plans to cut 10 percent of the electric carmaker’s salaried work force, he told staff in an email on Friday.

The job cuts will not apply to employees who build cars or batteries or who install solar panels, and the number of hourly employees will increase, Mr. Musk said in the email, a copy of which was reviewed by The New York Times. “Tesla will be reducing salaried head count by 10 percent, as we have become over staffed in many areas,” he said.

  • Chevron CEO Says No New Refineries In U.S—Ever Oil Price

“Building a refinery is a multi-billion dollar investment. It may take a decade. We haven’t had a refinery built in the United States since the 1970s. My personal view is that there will never be another refinery built in the United States.”

South America


  • Analysts raise Argentina 2022 inflation forecast to 72.6% Reuters


  • World will face serious challenge in 1-2 months due to lack of fertilizers TASS

The global community will face a significant challenge due to the suspension of fertilizer exports by key countries, the problem will affect the 2023 harvest, according to Chief Economist of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Maximo Torero.

Gas traders are scrambling to find enough LNG carriers ahead of the start of the next heating season amid the European Union’s own rush to reduce its dependence on Russian energy.

Among those seeking LNG carrier capacity are TotalEnergies, Shell, and China’s Unipec, according to a Financial Times report that cited LNG shipowners and brokers.

As a result of the rush, charter rates for LNG carriers have soared to the highest in 10 years, the FT noted in its report, to $120,000 per day, according to data from Clarksons Platou Securities.


The Ukraine War

  • Russian telegram:

  • The tribunals over Ukrainian war crimes will be held in Mariupol. In addition to the Ukrainian Nazis who committed warcrimes in Mariupol, foreign mercenaries and NATO instructors will also be tried there.

  • The head of the Kherson region says that “Russian power in the Kherson region was established forever.” Russian passports are already being handed out to residents for 3 days. The integration of the region into the Russian Federation is likely to pass through a direct referendum.

  • Arestovich: “We pretended to withdraw from Severodonetsk and laid a nice trap for Russian soldiers. They are all trapped now and lose up to 400 men a day”

  • Arestovich: “Russian forces are gradually moving around Avdiivka. The enemy advance on Slavyansk from the southeast of Izyum and to the west of Liman still did not advance. There is no chance of success in the coming days. The enemy continues the assault on Severodonetsk and Lysychansk in order to establish full control over the Luhansk region.”

  • Ukrainian govt demanded a meeting with German defence ministry telling them they need submarines

  • Ukrainian army unlikely to put up stiff resistance at Severodonetsk plant, says LPR TASS

Ukrainian troops currently located on the premises of the Azot plant in Severodonetsk are not likely to offer resistance for as long as the nationalists at the Azovstal plant in Mariupol did, Ambassador of the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) to Russia Rodion Miroshnik told a TASS correspondent on Friday.

“I don’t think that these are comparable situations because, first of all, the number of people located at Azot is significantly lower. Secondly, the contingent that had been in Severodonetsk before it was taken consisted mostly of territorial defense battalions and nationalist battalions. So, there wasn’t any seriously trained group that had been preparing for a while for the defense [like] in Mariupol. This is why I think that now there won’t be such a prolonged standoff in order to smoke them out of Severodonetsk,” the envoy said.

  • Ukraine backtracks on promise to US RT

Ukraine will use US-supplied rocket systems to strike into Russian territory should it deem such attacks necessary, Ukrainian Presidential Adviser Alexey Arestovich said on Thursday.

Responding to a question about whether the restrictions on the use of US-supplied rocket systems apply to Crimea, a peninsula that overwhelmingly voted to become part of Russia in a 2014 referendum, Arestovich said that it belonged to Ukraine.

“Crimea is ours. It belongs to Ukraine. And they [Russia] know it. Therefore, it will fly to Crimea double-time, should the need arise”, he pointed out, alleging that Kiev has already successfully struck targets on the peninsula.

We’re going to “Well, technically…” our way to nuclear apocalypse.

  • US, EU discussed potential conditions for truce in Ukraine TASS

US Administration representatives have been having regular consultations with European allies regarding potential frameworks of a truce in Ukraine during the last few weeks, CNN reported Friday citing US government sources.

According to the sources, Ukraine did not take part in these discussions. Meanwhile, CNN sources did not name any specific frameworks that the discussions were happening in, but they underscored that Washington does not intend to put pressure on Kiev to surrender territories.

  • As Ukraine loses troops, how long can it keep up the fight? Yahoo

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said this week that Ukraine is now losing 60 to 100 soldiers each day in combat. By way of comparison, just short of 50 American soldiers died per day on average in 1968 during the Vietnam War’s deadliest year for U.S. forces.

“This is one of the critical moments in the war, but it is not the peak,” [Muzhenko] told The Associated Press. “This is the most significant conflict in Europe since World War II. That explains why the losses are so great. In order to reduce losses, Ukraine now needs powerful weapons that match or even surpass Russian weaponry. This would enable Ukraine to respond in kind.”

Ukraine had about 250,000 men and women in uniform before the war and was in the process of adding another 100,000. The government hasn’t said how many have been killed in the first 100 days of fighting. Nobody really knows how many combatants or civilians have died on both sides, and claims of casualties by government officials — who may sometimes be exaggerating or lowballing their figures for public relations reasons — are all but impossible to verify.

Still, as Ukraine’s losses mount, the grim mathematics of war require that it find replacements. With a population of 43 million, it has manpower.

“The problem is recruiting, training and getting them on the front line,” said retired U.S. Marine Col. Mark Cancian, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“If the war is now moving into a long-term attrition struggle, then you have to build systems to get replacements,” he said. “This has been a difficult moment for every army in combat.”

  • ‘They’re Jamming Everything’: Putin’s Electronic Warfare Turns Tide of War Newsweek

As Russian forces push for territorial gains in eastern Ukraine, they’re turning to a military capability they’ve largely forgone during the war but is expected to give them an edge: electronic warfare.

After earlier failing to topple Ukraine’s government, Russia’s military has focused its offensive on the country’s eastern Donbas region, which is home to a large population of Russian speakers. New reporting shows Russian forces are increasingly intercepting the Ukrainian military’s communications while jamming navigation and guidance systems.

“They are jamming everything their systems can reach,” an official with the Aerorozvidka, a Ukrainian agency that develops unmanned aerial vehicles and other military capabilities, told the Associated Press in a report published Friday. “We can’t say they dominate, but they hinder us greatly.”

Russia has jammed GPS receivers on drones used by Ukrainian forces used to locate and fire artillery at enemy targets, according to the report.

  • Russia will likely control all of Luhansk within two weeks, UK intelligence says CNN

The British assessment said: “Russia is now achieving tactical success in the Donbas. Russian forces have generated and maintained momentum and currently appear to hold the initiative over Ukrainian opposition.”

“Measured against Russia’s original plan, none of the strategic objectives have been achieved. In order for Russia to achieve any form of success will require continued huge investment of manpower and equipment, and is likely to take considerable further time,” it added.

Climate and Space

  • Earth’s CO2 level passes a new climate milestone Al Jazeera

Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in May were 50 percent higher than during the pre-industrial era, reaching levels not seen on Earth for about four million years, the main US climate agency said on Friday.

  • EPA raises amount of ethanol that must be blended with gas Yahoo

The Biden administration on Friday set new requirements that increase the amount of ethanol that must be blended into the nation’s gasoline supply but reduce previous ethanol-blending requirements due to a plunge in fuel demand during the coronavirus pandemic.

  • ‘The world is trying to reduce emissions, and you just don’t see it,’ federal scientist says, as carbon dioxide hits highest levels in human history Business Insider

“The world is trying to reduce emissions, and you just don’t see it,” said Pieter Tans, a climate scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, according to The Associated Press. “In other words, if you’re measuring the atmosphere, you’re not seeing anything happening right now in terms of change.”

  • Global plastic waste is projected to triple by 2060 Al Jazeera

  • Car tyres produce vastly more particle pollution than exhausts, tests show The Guardian

Almost 2,000 times more particle pollution is produced by tyre wear than is pumped out of the exhausts of modern cars, tests have shown.

The tyre particles pollute air, water and soil and contain a wide range of toxic organic compounds, including known carcinogens, the analysts say, suggesting tyre pollution could rapidly become a major issue for regulators.

  • More than 40% of Earth’s land surface must be conserved to stop the biodiversity crisis, report warns CNN

Almost half of the Earth’s land surface must be protected to stop the biodiversity crisis, according to a new report published Friday in the journal Science.

The research found some 64 million square kilometers (24.7 million square miles) – 44% of the Earth’s land – needs “conservation attention” to prevent major biodiversity losses.

Carbon Engineering, the carbon removal start-up based in Squamish, BC’s “Outdoor Recreation Capital,” recently announced an exciting new use of their direct air capture (DAC) technology by one of their partners in the US. The partner, 1PointFive, sold 400,000 tonnes of “carbon removal credits” to the aircraft manufacturer Airbus, putting to rest once and for all the argument by naysayers that direct air capture will never be “feasible, affordable, and scalable.” Let’s take a closer look.

Using captured carbon dioxide to extract more oil is problematic in a couple ways: first, it makes oil extraction cheaper, driving the price of oil down and the total consumption of oil up. Second, it creates a new public subsidy for the already heavily subsidized oil industry as the company soaks up tax credits that are used to help it extract more oil. This kind of use of DAC technology does nothing but buy social license for continued expansion of the fossil fuel industry.

Let’s say, though, that they really do intend to permanently sequester carbon without using it to pump up their petrochemical business model. Great!

400,000 tonnes of carbon removal sounds like a lot. A million tonnes—the annual capacity of the proposed DAC plant—sounds like even more. But according to Airbus’s website, the 566 commercial aircraft they delivered in 2020 will generate 440 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent over their (average) 22 year service lives. Airbus has delivered about 2,000 aircraft in the last three years.

Once operating, the proposed DAC plant would offset roughly 1.3 percent of the annual emissions associated with those 2,000 planes. There were 22,000 private jets operating in 2019 and many more commercial ones. Boeing, another aircraft manufacturer, believes that there will be a market for 40,000 new planes just over the next two decades.

“OK, OK,” you might say. “It’s just a proof of concept! Wider deployment will follow.” Well, it’s hard to imagine that there’s space (or funding) for tens of thousands of these plants to be built, let alone for the carbon they capture to be safely and permanently sequestered. But assuming there is, the announcement obscures a more fundamental issue: it’s not actually a proof of concept.

The carbon removal plant doesn’t exist yet. Instead, this deal is nothing more than proof that oil companies and private equity firms can profit from the creation of a new financial product. 1PointFive’s announcement heralded the sale of 400,000 speculative financial units: carbon removal futures. A burgeoning carbon market of this kind may help inflate GDP and public perceptions of climate progress, but it won’t actually remove any carbon from the atmosphere.

And, while failing to reduce atmospheric carbon, this narrative—the idea that the carbon removal market is taking off—helps perpetuate fossil fuel use.

  • China plans to complete space station with latest mission Yahoo

China is preparing to launch a new three-person mission to complete work on its permanent orbiting space station, the country’s China Manned Space Agency said Saturday.

The Shenzhou 14 crew will spend six months on the Tiangong station, during which they will oversee the addition of two laboratory modules to join the main Tianhe living space that was launched in April 2021.

Their spaceship is due to blast off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on the edge of the Gobi Desert on Sunday morning at around 10:44 a.m. local time (0244 GMT), the agency said.

Dipshittery and Cope

  • The Queen Has Had Far More Triumphs Than Failures Bloomberg

When the inhabitants of the United Kingdom and television audiences across the world celebrate Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee this weekend, one telling secret of her popularity is likely to be overlooked. As her most authoritative recent biographer, Robert Hardman puts it, “the Queen genuinely enjoys being Queen.”

That is not the dominant narrative about the “Firm.” Watch the Netflix drama series “The Crown” (regarded by millions of viewers as historical fact, rather than truth mixed with surmise and exaggeration), and you see a family in which personal feelings are forever sacrificed to the claims of duty. It presents a joyless, careworn monarch forced to overcome crisis after crisis over her seven-decade reign.

If modern monarchy is such a vale of tears, why didn’t the Queen hand over the reins to her eldest son and heir, Prince Charles, long ago?

The answer lies, in part, in her religious sense of vocation. The Queen also has bitter memories of her uncle Edward VIII’s abdication, which placed the crown on the unwilling head of her shy, stuttering father.

But mainly, Elizabeth likes doing the job. With some justice, she thinks she is good at it.

Alright, whatever, this fucking sucks, let’s just get onto the imperialism rehabilitation.

The main achievement is in managing Britain’s decline from the height of its global power. The Queen’s predecessors presided over an empire, which reached its territorial zenith at the time of her birth. She came to the throne five years after Indian independence. The loss of this “jewel in the Crown” was followed by independence for most of Britain’s former colonies.

While Britain’s status was dramatically changing abroad, it always seemed the same at home with the second Elizabeth sedately on the throne. An end of empire transpired without the turbulence that brought down the fourth republic in France and that roils Russia to this day.

What? WW1 and WW2 were, among other things, the passing of the torch of global empire from the UK to the USA and hopefully we can all agree that those were turbulent events.

Relations between London and the former colonies have been stiff at times and may well become more so, but the Queen has managed to keep the Commonwealth association of former colonies and dominions afloat by personal diplomacy. Hardman’s account notes that influential leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia and Hastings Banda of Malawi, all imprisoned by the British, pre-independence, nonetheless preferred her company to Westminster politicians.

And although she has been praised for keeping silent on matters of controversy (it is worth pausing to ask why is no male authority figure is so praised for holding his tongue), the monarch does take risks behind the scenes.

Elizabeth personally intervened to stop Kaunda denouncing Margaret Thatcher at the first Commonwealth summit hosted in an African country in 1979 after the diplomats failed, thus paving the way for the Lancaster House Conference, which ended white minority rule in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Her 2011 visit to Dublin was also a masterstroke for peace, with a walk on the pitch at Croke Park, the home of Gaelic football, where British forces killed 14 civilian spectators in 1920. Her speech in favor of reconciliation genuinely touched Irish hearts as no conventional politician’s could.

The following year, she was prepared to shake hands with former IRA commander Martin McGuinness, which must have strained her self-control given that 20 years earlier, the IRA had purportedly tried to assassinate her.

The Union is now fraying in Northern Ireland and Scotland, but without her unifying glue, it might have already broken. Even Nicola Sturgeon, uncrowned queen of Scottish nationalism, is deferential.

Her main errors have fallen closer to home. She has been too indulgent of her prodigal second son, Prince Andrew, despite his scrapes that dragged her family’s name through the mud. And she waited three years to insist that Charles and Diana divorce after the latter’s BBC interview with Martin Bashir revealed that “there were three of us in this marriage.”

In some senses, life in the royal household is less about grandeur than survival. And that is also true of the institution itself. The purely rational mind will never understand the point of it — or her. But millions across the world intuit the monarchy’s non-rational power. As the former head of the Diplomatic Service, Lord McDonald, once put it, “She is dependable and dignified. Everyone wants to be associated with that.”

Behind the bunting, crown jewels and flypasts, the royals reflect the appeal of a universal family and a beacon of continuity in a hectic, unstable world. It’s Elizabeth II’s superpower — one she’s made all the more effective for wielding it quietly.

The Queen is truly a land of constrasts.

  • Biden’s Speech Shows He Still Hasn’t Embraced the Presidency Politico

No shit, he doesn’t even know he’s the President half the time.

Like many presidents before him, Biden has yet to complete the transformation from being a presidential candidate — a status he has enjoyed off and on since announcing his first campaign 35 years ago — to president of the United States. You would think that after being president for 17 months, he might have learned the difference, but no. During the first months of caucuses and primaries, a presidential campaigner speaks almost exclusively to members of his own tribe, telling them what they want to hear and never deviating too far from the party’s orthodox positions. Once nominated, the candidate has more leeway. Not every speech should be a sermon, because independents and political strays find such language off-putting. What’s more likely to move them to support a candidate is the persuasion contained in a lesson and the logic of a winning argument. If a candidate is lucky enough to win the White House and he doesn’t command overwhelming majorities in the House and the Senate to do his bidding, he must refine his powers of persuasion and sometimes coercion to bend members of the opposition.

No matter where you stand on gun control, it’s easy to criticize the tenor and flatness of Biden’s prime-time appeal, which sometimes better resembled a political tantrum than an appeal to reason. At eight points in his 16-minute address, Biden implored the nation to “do something” about the gun problem. Twelve times he pleaded, “Enough!” Rhetorical incantations like this sometimes do magic on the campaign trail, but they rarely do much to shape public opinion, let alone action on Capitol Hill.

  • In China, New Evidence That Surgeons Became Executioners WSJ

Eight doctors at the Tongji Medical College hospital in Wuhan, China, traveled 40 miles on March 18, 1994, to procure a heart from a death-row prisoner. But rather than wait until the judicial authorities had executed the prisoner, the doctors carried out the execution themselves—by heart extraction.

In a large-scale review we conducted of nearly 3,000 Chinese-language clinical reports and published in the American Journal of Transplantation, we find surgeons acknowledging such actions again and again.

The Wuhan doctors write: “When the chest of the donor was opened, the chest wall incision was pale and bloodless, and the heart was purple and beating weakly. But the heartbeat became strong immediately after tracheal intubation and oxygenation. The donor heart was extracted with an incision from the 4th intercostal sternum into the chest. . . . This incision is a good choice for field operation where the sternum cannot be sawed open without power.”

By casually noting that the donor was connected to a ventilator (“tracheal intubation”) only at midsurgery, the physicians inadvertently reveal that the donor was alive when the operation began.

For a declaration of brain death to be legitimate, the organ donor must have lost the ability to breathe spontaneously and have already been intubated. This is a well-established medical principle associated with a basic rule of transplant ethics: Donors must be deceased before vital organs are removed.

Yet our research finds scores of reports—over a three-decade period, at 56 Chinese hospitals, involving more than 300 medical workers—in which brain death was described as having been declared before the donor was intubated. They were often intubated immediately before surgery. In the 1994 Wuhan case, intubation took place after the surgery began. In other cases, there was no intubation at all.

It has long been known that China harvests organs from death-row prisoners and prisoners of conscience as part of a large-scale, lucrative trade. To the extent that such religious minorities as Falun Gong and Uyghur Muslims have been targeted, a London-based independent tribunal described it as a crime against humanity and potentially a component of genocide. Yet until now there has been no systematic study of the role of doctors in carrying out the executions themselves.

Do you reckon the mainstream media has an automatic alarm telling them to talk about the Falun Gong, Ughyurs, and Tiananmen Square whenever China is mentioned in an article?

  • The World Has Not Learnt the Lessons of the Tiananmen Square Massacre The Diplomat

The article begins with a very objective and historical description of the 56 billion democracy protestors killed on June 4th 1989 by the tank army, then:

The Uyghurs are among some of the worst victims of the unchecked repression that succeeded the Tiananmen Square Massacre. While our people had suffered state-violence for decades, we could not have foreseen the genocide we now face. Our homeland has been turned into a high-tech open-air prison, women are forcibly sterilized, children are taken from their families and millions of our fellow Uyghurs have been locked in concentration camps. Those of us in exile cannot contact our families, instead we are left to wonder about their safety.

Oh my god. I’m not reading this absolute fucking drivel. Moving on.

  • Yes, it has come to this. It’s time to arm teachers. WaPo

Opinion writing is an exercise in restrained bias. But personal experience, along with observation and facts, necessarily informs a good column. Writers without some deep life experiences to guide their judgment and form insights don’t usually have much to say.

You’re not exactly encouraging me to read this article.

Thus, my recent suggestion that willing teachers be trained and armed as a deterrence to mass murderers stems in part from a bias formed during my long-ago childhood. My father was both a lawyer and a gun collector, and he made certain through regular tutelage and practice that everyone in our household knew how to properly handle a firearm, how to shoot and, most important, how to keep the safety mechanism locked in place.

“Never point a gun at anyone unless you intend to shoot him,” he often told me. “And never shoot anyone unless you intend to kill him.”

Those were startling words for a girl more inclined toward Barbie dolls, palomino ponies (the plastic kind) and poodle skirts, but I studiously followed directions and learned to shoot as well as anyone in our family. Of course, my brother and I thought Pops was insane, and maybe he was. But as a child of the Great Depression and a World War II pilot, he feared that our generation would be too spoiled and soft to navigate the world he foresaw. Let’s just say, his child-rearing methods — manual labor, harsh discipline and book-reading — ensured the opposite.

A girl?! Being taught how to shoot a gun!? WHHAAAAAAAA?!?!

I don’t subscribe to everything he said or did, of course. But I’m not inclined to hide under a desk waiting for the Soviets to launch a nuke, as schoolchildren were made to do in the ‘60s — or today, hoping the bullets from an AR-15 won’t find my quivering hide. I’d rather take my chances defending myself — and any children in my care — than die watching my babies being mowed down by a homicidal maniac.

Opponents worry that guns in schools will make children less safe and point to the possibility that law enforcement could mistake an armed teacher for the shooter. (Hint: Listen for the AR-15.) Even trained law enforcement officers miss their target roughly 70 percent of the time. In war, soldiers often die from friendly fire. How do we expect teachers to do better?

I don’t know. Everything depends on smarts, strict adherence to protocols and training comparable to what security officers or police receive. I do understand the opposition’s point of view, which I shared until recently. Even though there are more guns than people in this country, most urban dwellers (other than criminals) have little or no experience with guns. To them, the idea of an armed teacher is obscene. I don’t disagree. It is obscene.

But when a Twitter follower wrote to me recently saying that arming teachers would be the end of civilization, I replied, “We’re already there, my friend.” What could be less civilized than a society that tolerates regular massacres of its citizens, especially of its children?

But when you kill half a million children abroad, then that’s a sacrifice you’re willing to make.

In real life, my kind and gentle husband has had to kill a couple of coyotes in our yard before they got to our pets or even, perhaps, our grandchildren. We both hated it because we love all animals, including coyotes, foxes, bobcats and bears. But they don’t get to eat my family. And militarized psychos don’t get to kill my children.

I’m not a teacher, but if I were, I’d want to have ready access to a gun. Some teachers, God bless them, aren’t up to such a challenge and shouldn’t be asked to be. Others are willing and able. In the absence of anyone else, why not allow them to defend our children?

None of these policies should be necessary, but, clearly, we’re not doing enough. Until we can figure out broad, societal remedies short of cloning my father — a dicey proposition, I’ll admit — I’d feel better knowing my grandchildren were in a school where someone knows how to stop a killer.

Systemic and root causes for gun violence and white supremacy? That’s boring. Let’s turn this elementary school into a fucking Gears of War map! Concrete barriers and armed guards everywhere! Surely this will not accelerate the mental issues of young people and increase their sense of alienation and fear of others and create a positive feedback loop!

Russia Is Losing And Evil

  • Russia engaging is medieval warfare, says US OSCE envoy Yahoo

“15 weeks of cruelty, 15 weeks of bestiality, 15 weeks of violence, with so many reports of casualties, forced deportations, rape, filtration camps and destruction … it (is) difficult to comprehend the scale of the slaughter perpetrated by the Russian Federation,” said Carpenter.

“After 15 weeks, the terror that Russia is deliberately using against Ukraine’s civilian population has no end in sight.”

Carpenter described Russian tactics as medieval: Moscow uses destruction to force local populations to abandon their homes and flee, thereby making it easier to occupy barren lands.

I feel like the United States has been doing this to every country it’s invaded for the last century.

  • Russia Turns to ‘Forced Mobilization’ as Troop Morale Declines: Report Newsweek

Ukraine’s General Staff of the Armed Forces said in a Thursday Facebook post that Russia has been conducting “forced mobilization” in areas it occupies in the Donetsk region.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) discussed the alleged forced mobilization in an assessment of the conflict released on Thursday. In its report, the think tank wrote that Russia’s decision to force individuals into service is “highly unlikely to generate meaningful combat power and will exacerbate low morale and poor discipline in Russian and proxy units.”

Friday marks 100 days since Russia began its military assault on Ukraine. Throughout Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military campaign, there have been reports of low morale among his troops. There have also been reports of food shortages, including one this week from Ukraine’s security and intelligence agency. In that instance, the agency said it had intercepted a text message exchange between Russian troops in which one of the servicemen said he had been forced to eat a dog because of a food shortage. (Newsweek could not independently verify the report.)

The ISW also reported that a military regiment of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) posted a video on Thursday in which “forcibly mobilized” soldiers complained to Putin about how they have spent the war on the front line in the Kherson region without proper food or medicine.

  • Russia will lose its relevance in OPEC+ as sanctions continue to weigh on oil production, top energy analyst says Business Insider

Russia will become less relevant to the OPEC+ group over time, a top energy analyst told CNBC Friday.

Dan Pickering, chief investment officer at Pickering Energy Partners, thinks that sanctions from the US and EU will continue to mount and weigh on the Kremlin and force Europe to more heavily rely on other sources to streamline oil supply.

“Russia will, by default, slowly start to see its production decline,” Pickering said. “It’ll become less relevant in this cartel group as Europe and the rest of the world starts to sanction Russia.”

  • Why SWIFT Ban Is Such a Potent Sanction on Russia WaPo

One sanction that Western allies were hesitant to impose on Russia – for fear of blowback to their own economies – was called a “financial nuclear weapon” by France’s finance minister. That sanction is cutting off banks from SWIFT, the messaging system used by financial institutions globally to convey instructions to carry out tens of millions of transactions each day. Most major Russian banks did end up being cut off, underscoring Russia’s isolation as a global pariah and prompting its government to try to steer business with its remaining friends to its own, much smaller version of SWIFT. China, too, has been trying to develop a SWIFT alternative as part of its campaign to decrease its dependence on the Western financial system and use of the dollar.

A country whose banking system is cut off from SWIFT has a very difficult time moving money, and thus goods, in or out, and can thus suffer significant economic pain. When Western nations threatened Russia’s access to SWIFT in 2014, Alexei Kudrin, a onetime finance minister close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, estimated that it could reduce Russia’s gross domestic product by 5% in a year. Iran’s banks lost access to SWIFT in 2012 as part of European Union sanctions targeting the country’s nuclear program and its sources of finance. Many of the banks were reconnected in 2016 after the EU took them off its sanctions list.

Russia’s economy and society are being hit by so many different sanctions, and by the war itself, that it’s difficult to disentangle their effects. Adding to the challenge, Russian banks suspended monthly reporting of financial information when the war began. According to a March 31 report by independent Russian news agency Interfax, the central bank estimated that Russian banks may lose as much as 5.8 trillion rubles ($93.8 billion) in 2022 due to sanctions and from participating in measures to support the economy. Bloomberg News reported in May that an internal forecast by Russia’s Finance Ministry envisioned gross domestic product shrinking as much as 12% this year. The Finance Ministry called the report inaccurate.

  • Almost 31,000 Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine, thousands of pieces of military equipment destroyed Yahoo

  • Now is no time to go tentative on military aid for Ukraine WaPo

A prolific maker of widows, orphans and history, Napoleon was a war savant who understood the perils of tentativeness. As U.S. and allied weapons — including information — are wielded by Ukraine against a Russia that aspires to be rampant in its region, the military and diplomatic dangers of hesitancy are mounting.

The annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, earns some of the derision it receives (“Where billionaires tell millionaires what the middle class is thinking”), but occasionally it puts a world leader in a useful spotlight, hence on the spot. On May 26, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told the forum: The world “experienced a thunderbolt” when Russia invaded Ukraine. This will “end Germany and Europe’s dependence on energy imports from Russia”: “We cannot allow Putin to win his war,” so we must “make it clear to Putin that there will be no victor’s peace.”

Another German, Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, says Ukraine “must win” because it is “one of us.” She thereby supplied the answer to the foolish question of whether Ukraine — geographically, the largest nation located entirely in Europe — belongs in the European Union.

All wars end, usually with negotiations. It is imperative that Ukraine start negotiating from a position of strength. Last week’s E.U. decision to embargo 90 percent of Russian oil imports by year’s end was especially heartening, given Europe’s low pain threshold. But the battlefield matters first and most in determining — and defining — victory.

In his 1951 speech to Congress after President Harry S. Truman relieved him of command in the Korean War, Gen. Douglas MacArthur proclaimed: “There is no substitute for victory.” Actually, there are gradations of victory, hence there were substitutes for victory as Americans — fresh from a world war concluded by unconditional surrenders — then understood it. In December 1952, what President-elect Dwight D. Eisenhower saw, hunched in a tiny plane flying over the Korean front, confirmed his intuition: Military victory would require effusions of blood disproportionate to any U.S. geopolitical gain — and beyond Americans’ tolerance.

The United States’ choice today is different. The country’s potential gains from sustaining Ukraine’s valorous expenditure of its blood are enormous.

I’m trying to find a way to parse this sentence that isn’t totally evil and obscene.

After visiting Kyiv, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on May 1 that the United States is “with Ukraine until victory is won.” Victory should have two elements.

One is that combat ends with Russia diminished — more militarily vulnerable, economically ramshackle and internationally disdained than it was when its aggression began. This has been achieved, but the achievement must be preserved by a second element:

Never mind war reparations; war-crime prosecutions; the return of Ukrainian territory previously annexed by Russia, such as Crimea; or even the end of Russian mischief in Ukrainian regions with large Russian-speaking populations. What matters in preventing Scholz’s “victor’s peace” is restoration of the (albeit untidy) geographic status quo of Feb. 24.

Ukraine is never getting Crimea back! What is wrong with these people?!

Putin wanted to restore his nation’s swagger. Russia now limps into a shrunken future as a moral pariah, its stumbling military in the shadow of an enlarged NATO. Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times reports U.S. estimates that Russia has lost about 1,000 tanks, that shortages of components have forced two tank manufacturers to halt production and that Russia’s semiconductor shortage is so severe they are “using computer chips from dishwashers and refrigerators in military equipment.” This is the time to increase Ukraine’s sting.

The United States’ adversaries in Afghanistan said: You have the wristwatches, but we have the time. Barbarians like Putin often believe that societies defined by brute stamina can prevail against societies that are more sophisticated than implacable.

I know we joke about it, but isn’t this almost literally phrenology?

Ukraine’s supporters should avoid the temptation — the military folly — of tentativeness.

  • Ukraine probes deportation of children to Russia as possible genocide Reuters

Prosecutors investigating war crimes cases in Ukraine are examining allegations of the forcible deportation of children to Russia since the invasion as they seek to build a genocide indictment, the country’s top prosecutor said in an interview.

International humanitarian law classifies the forced mass deportation of people during a conflict as a war crime. “Forcibly transfering children” in particular qualifies as genocide, the most serious of war crimes, under the 1948 Genocide Convention that outlawed the intent to destroy - in whole or in part - a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.

Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova, who is overseeing multiple war crimes inquiries in Ukraine, said “we have more than 20 cases about forcible transfer of people” to Russia from various regions across the eastern European country since the invasion began on Feb. 24.

Venediktova declined to provide a number for how many victims had been forcibly transferred. However, Ukraine’s human rights ombudswoman Lyudmyla Denisova said in mid May that Russia had relocated more than 210,000 children during the conflict, part of more than 1.2 million Ukrainians who Kyiv said have been deported against their will.

  • Russia Is Down. But It’s Not Out. NYT

I was hoping that this was going to be a bit of a reversal of the trend of articles describing how owned Putin and Russia are and how not owned the West is, but it’s not really that. To me, this reads like an article describing how the US lost a hypothetical war game and thus needs doubled military spending.

The war in Ukraine has undoubtedly tarnished Russia’s standing as a great power.

Russia’s botched invasion of Ukraine, involving a retreat from Kyiv and many tactical blunders, has severely damaged the image of its military as a capable fighting force. The harm is more than reputational: Three months of fighting has dealt Russia heavy losses of troops and equipment. At home, meanwhile, sanctions and export controls — as well as the exodus of Russia’s brightest minds — are hitting the country’s already lackluster economy.

As a result, many in America and Europe are eager to dismiss Russia as a Potemkin power whose exalted status is at an end. Militarily battered and saddled with sanctions that some in Washington suggest are designed to weaken Russia, the Kremlin seems to no longer warrant the worry previously expended on it. The threat Russia poses to the West, in this view, has foundered on Ukrainian soil.

Yet such an assessment is premature. Yes, President Vladimir Putin made a strategic blunder, leading to a military debacle and destroying decades of relative economic stability. But it’s far too soon to write Russia off. Despite its failures in Ukraine, Russia retains the capacity and the will to continue to seriously challenge the United States and Europe. Russia may be down, but it’s not out.

In the past three months, vivid images of destroyed Russian tanks have filled our screens. And it’s true that Russia’s army, over the past three months, has been mauled. Russia has lost approximately 25 percent of its active tank force, over 30 aircraft and more than 10,000 troops. While the exact number is unknown, the casualties are significant, and the Russian military will struggle to sustain the war without resorting to some form of conscription.

But appearances can be deceptive. After all, many of the army’s initial failures stemmed from Mr. Putin’s misplaced assumption that the war would be short and sharp: Russian troops were simply not prepared or organized for a serious campaign. Yet in recent weeks, as Russia revised its war aims to focus on the Donbas in Ukraine’s east, Russian forces have adapted and begun correcting some of their earlier incompetence. Russia has been making incremental gains, revealing Ukraine’s military position to be precarious in some areas.

What’s more, the war in Ukraine has done little to affect Russia’s more destructive military capabilities. It isn’t modernized Soviet tanks or Russia’s dated air force that most concern the United States and NATO; it’s Russia’s submarines, integrated air and missile systems, electronic warfare, antisatellite systems and diverse nuclear arsenal. These capabilities, which have gone almost completely untouched during the war, remain available to the Kremlin.

Russia is certainly suffering economically, but it will take many months for the brunt of sanctions, export controls and an attempted European move away from Russian energy to be felt by its citizens. For now, the Russian government’s coffers remain full: Its monthly exports, according to estimates, rose more than 60 percent in April compared to a year ago. Though dependent on the sale of oil and gas — often discounted and susceptible to European sanctions — that amounts to a vital source of income. Over time, Moscow may adapt.

In any case, the Russian military will be spared the full effect of economic contraction. Even in straitened times, the Kremlin has a habit of spending on arms rather than people: We can be sure that it won’t be the military budget that Mr. Putin cuts first.

You motherfuckers.

And though export controls will make it difficult for the country to produce weapons that rely on imported components, Russia’s defense industry has spent years adapting and finding ways to work around sanctions.

Internationally, too, Russia is not as isolated as we like to think. The United States and Europe have staged a united response to Russia’s invasion, and NATO, re-energized, will surely soon welcome Finland and Sweden to its ranks. Yet many regionally significant countries, such as India and South Africa, have longstanding ties to Russia that they are not currently prepared to abandon. Other countries, worried that economic sanctions will raise the cost of living and create instability within their borders, are refusing to pick sides. African countries, for example, have not imposed any sanctions on Russia, and the Middle East is hedging. And, of course, Russia can count on the continued support of China.

In Russia, there’s no reason to believe Mr. Putin’s regime is under immediate threat. The Kremlin’s moves to shut down independent media and outlaw dissent have sealed off the antiwar sentiment that greeted the invasion. There is also a sizable segment of the population that supports the war, buttressed by a torrent of hypernationalist rhetoric. Mr. Putin will have to find ways to sate those feelings and demonstrate that Russia is still a power to be feared.

Russian power, it’s worth remembering, has gone through fitful cycles of stagnation, decline and resurgence; it would be wise to avoid triumphalism and complacency. Mr. Putin made a mistake but not necessarily a fatal one. As the historian Stephen Kotkin noted, Russia has a remarkable historical capacity for reconstitution. The West’s relatively brief respite from great power competition with Russia in the wake of the Cold War constitutes, he reminded us, “a historical blink of an eye.”

In other words: Russia is a problem for the West, and it’s not going anywhere.

Good Takes that are Dope

  • Electric Co-ops Are Well Situated To Lead The Green Energy Transition Popular Resistance

To maintain a livable climate, the United States must make immediate and drastic changes to its energy policies. Perhaps the most important change is the need for a transition away from fossil fuels toward cleaner, more renewable sources of energy.

A new report by the Democracy Collaborative has found that community utilities — those that are publicly or cooperatively owned — are better suited for a green transition than their for-profit corporate counterparts. The report also found that many community utilities, as they currently exist, must be significantly reformed to fulfill their full potential.

Electric co-ops operate in pretty much the same way as investor-owned utilities companies, like PG&E. The key difference is that in the case of electric co-ps, it’s ratepayers — the people actually paying for and utilizing electricity — who act as owners, not out-of-touch shareholders.

“As a result of being on or near wastelands, prisons constantly expose those inside to serious environmental hazards, from tainted water to harmful air pollutants,” Leah Wang recently wrote for the Prison Policy Initiative. “These conditions manifest in health conditions and deaths that are unmistakably linked to those hazards.”

  • You Can Thank Ronald Reagan for the Economic Shitstorm to Come Common Dreams

The CEO of America’s largest bank is worried, and for good reason. Yesterday the Fed started something it hasn’t done for quite a while. It started dumping bonds.

The Fed has been goosing the economy steadily since the Bush Crash of 2008, buying US and corporate bonds with money it creates out of thin air (only the Fed can “print money” like this by simply willing the dollars into existence).

By purchasing and holding those bonds over the past 14 years, the Fed has created and then flushed into our economy $8 trillion in liquid cash. This is how the Fed stimulates an economy in crisis: pouring newly-created money into the system.

As a result, our economy has been running on high-octane sugar-high stimulus (free money from the Fed, as you can see above) ever since 2008.

So, how did we get here? Between the Republican Great Depression of 1929-1937 and Reagan’s inauguration in 1981, the United States experienced a few recessions, but nothing as severe as Republican President Herbert Hoover oversaw back on Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929.

Hoover’s crash was set up by the election of 1920, when Republican Warren Harding convinced Americans to abandon the trust-busting, high tax, progressive policies of Presidents Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Woodrow Wilson in favor of that generation’s version of neoliberalism or what we today call Reaganomics.

Harding referred to it as “Horse and Sparrow Economics” — it was the early 20th century version of what Reagan later reinvented as “trickle-down economics.”

If the horses (rich people and big business) were fed more oats (through deregulation and tax cuts), more of those oats would pass undigested into the horse manure that then littered the streets of American. The sparrows (working class Americans) could then pick the extra oats out of the manure.

In 1920, Warren Harding won the presidency on a campaign of “more industry in government, less government in industry” — privatize and deregulate — and “a return to normality,” his promise to drop the top tax bracket from its then-91 percent rate down to 25 percent.

Harding kept both promises, putting the nation into a sugar-high spin called the Roaring ’20s, where the rich got fabulously rich and working-class people were being beaten and murdered by industrialists when they tried to unionize. Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover (the three Republican presidents from 1920 to 1932) all cheered on the assaults, using phrases like “the right to work” to describe a union-free nation.

After Reagan finally dropped the top tax rate from the 74% he inherited when he came into office to 28% there was a one-day 22% stock market crash — Black Monday on October 27, 1987 — that rivaled 1929’s Black Tuesday for the first time.

When Reagan deregulated the Savings & Loan industry the banksters stole so much money they crashed S&Ls across America, the first serious bank panic since the Republican Great Depression.

We’re still living in Reagan’s neoliberal deregulated economy. It brought us two financial crises while he was President, the dot-com bubble-bust of 1999/2000, the Bush Crash of 2008, and arguably the trillion-dollar-heist of 2020 when Trump passed out money to his fat-cat buddies without controls (we’re still trying to figure out where all that money went).

Now, if Dimon is right, hang onto your hat for another “event.” The core tenant of both Harding’s and Reagan’s versions of neoliberalism is that the economy is essentially a force of nature. It’s why Harding did away with regulations on stock speculation and why Reagan deregulated everything he could as fast as he could.

The economy “operates according to its own rules,” they’d tell you, and anything government does to interfere with it will simply produce a bad outcome. In actual fact, the opposite is true.

Players in the top reaches of finance, banking, and speculation are much like players in boxing or football: they’re engaged in a competitive high-stakes game defined by very specific rules, and when they know they can get away with breaking those rules, they’ll often do it.

The difference is that instead of winning or throwing a football game or boxing match, when bankers and speculators violate the rules they can take down the entire economy.

The financial speculators, of course are rarely injured in the process. We bailed out the banksters and speculators in the 1980s, 1999/2000, 2008, and 2020 to the tune of trillions of dollars. Senior executives and shareholders took home hundreds of billions of those dollars, looting the system they themselves had crashed.

Since 2008, most of that money was created out of thin air by the Fed. Now the Fed wants it back, but the banksters and speculators have already stashed it in their offshore tax havens. As a result, working class Americans and small- and medium-sized businesses will largely foot the bill.

Now, in addition to an economy held together with the baling-wire of Fed stimulus (that’s coming to an end), both the US and the world are facing a wild spectrum of assaults that could have huge economic impacts.

Between the worldwide food and oil crises the Russian invasion of Ukraine are provoking, billions in climate change damage and millions of climate change refugees, Republican intransigence, and the Fed’s claiming back that $8 trillion they gave our banksters and speculators, a real crisis may be at our doorstep sooner than any of us would like. Brace yourself.

Bloomerism and Hope

  • Norway oil, gas workers threaten strike over wages Al Jazeera

At least 647 Norwegian oil workers plan to strike from June 12 if state-brokered wage mediation fails, putting some crude output at risk of shutdown although gas may not be affected, according to labour unions.

Workers are seeking above-inflation pay increases and other changes to their contracts but have not released details of their demands.

  • Uruguayan unions call for general strike next month MercoPress

Uruguay’s labor unions gathered under the PIT-CNT Thursday, announced a general strike with a march towards the Executive Tower and the Legislative Palace between 9 am and 1 pm.

They will stage a protest amid parliamentary budget discussions for next year against the Government of President Luis Lacalle Pou, who has a 46% approval rating, according to a survey released Thursday.

“Uruguayan workers are suffering a conflict as a result of the loss of wages, the precariousness of work, factory closures and, in addition, the constant increase in tariffs and prices of the basic food basket: dearness,” said PIT-CNT on social media.

“In these situations, our response will always be unity, solidarity, and struggle. We support and call for the mobilizations that the unions will carry out and that will converge in a Partial General Strike next June 7 in defense of quality work and wages,” the labor grouping went on.

This alleged prophecy, attributed to French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, is seemingly coming true. It is the 21st century and no region of the world has escaped China’s economic and political vision. At a time when America is increasingly inward looking and less interested in the rest of the world, many are wondering: Is China about to take the lead globally?

Many regimes across the Middle East and North Africa are looking toward Beijing for their political future, as one UAE based-academic told the UK’s Financial Times, “the trend is more China, less America on all fronts.”


  • Charity Accuses Soldiers Of Blow-Dart Attacks On Stray Cats At Hawaii Army Barracks HuffPost

An animal rescue outfit in Honolulu said people are shooting blow darts at stray cats around Schofield Army Barracks, suggesting the culprits are soldiers who allegedly purchased the weapons during recent training in Indonesia. The military says it’s on the case.

Multiple cats have been injured, KAT Charities wrote on Facebook Thursday. A local animal hospital confirmed to KHON that it had treated one of the cats.

Link back to the discussion thread.