A fun update, featuring the return of “Ukraine is definitely gonna win” articles, after a bit of a depression among journalists. I swear, some of these articles on how badly Russia is doing could only be written if your only source on the war has been Reddit for the last few months. Additionally, there’s a truly deranged piece by the Wall Street Journal rehabilitating Azov Battalion.
- Don’t close the embassy, U.S. ambassador tells Russia Reuters
Russia should not close the U.S. embassy despite the crisis triggered by the war in Ukraine because the world’s two biggest nuclear powers must continue to talk, the U.S. ambassador to Moscow was quoted as saying on Monday.
“We must preserve the ability to speak to each other,” Sullivan told TASS in an interview. He cautioned against the removal of the works of Leo Tolstoy from Western bookshelves or refusing to play the music of Pyotr Tchaikovsky.
- Chevron CEO Sees Russian Oil Output Falling After Exit of Western Firms WSJ
Russia is still finding a home for much of its oil despite expanding sanctions, but its production likely will diminish following the departure of western oil companies, Chevron Corp. Chief Executive Mike Wirth said.
In a meeting with Wall Street Journal reporters and editors this week, Mr. Wirth noted that many countries continued to buy crude from Russia, one of the world’s top oil producers along with the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.
But he said that it would be difficult for Russia to overcome the loss of western technology and capital, noting that other once-large oil producers have seen output fall after sanctions and the pullout of international oil companies.
“If you look at Iran and Venezuela, two other examples of large producers that have come under sanctions and have been pretty well cut off from the same kinds of investments and technology, their productive capacity degrades over time,” Mr. Wirth said.
Yeah, sure, why not extrapolate from those cases? Makes sense.
- Russia says it’ll have ‘significantly’ more profits from energy exports this year as prices jump on policies from the West Business Insider
In the main picture of this article, Putin is doing what I can only describe as the troll face.
- U.S. skeptical U.N.-Russia talks will free trapped Ukrainian grain Politico
The United Nations is trying to broker a deal with Russia to allow Ukraine to restart grain exports via the Black Sea. Biden administration officials and lawmakers, however, are highly skeptical Russia is operating in good faith.
Their primary reason for pessimism: recent comments from Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian officials suggesting they would ease the blockade on Ukraine’s ports if, in exchange, the West lifts its economic sanctions on Moscow. That proposal is “complicating” the “fragile” negotiations, a U.N. official told POLITICO, shortly before the U.N.’s top humanitarian official wrapped two days of talks on the blockade in Moscow on Friday. One U.S. official described Moscow’s pitch as “extortion diplomacy” and said the U.S. wouldn’t agree to a deal that lifted any economic pressure on the Kremlin.
- British PM Boris Johnson faces confidence vote that could oust him from power NBC
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces a vote on Monday that could remove him from power as a growing number of lawmakers in his own ruling Conservative Party turned on their leader after months dominated by scandal.
The vote, which is due to be held between 1 p.m. ET and 3 p.m. ET, was triggered after dozens of Conservative lawmakers submitted letters of no confidence in his leadership. If he loses, Johnson will be out.
- Half a million small businesses in Britain could go bust RT
If a new wave of government assistance is not released immediately, some 500,000 small businesses in the UK will go bankrupt within weeks, the chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Martin McTague has warned.
- Germany faces 5 billion euros a year hit from Russian gas sanctions, Welt am Sonntag reports Reuters
Russia’s sanctions against Gazprom Germania and its subsidiaries could cost German taxpayers and gas users an extra 5 billion euros ($5.4 billion) a year to pay for replacement gas, the Welt am Sonntag weekly reported, citing industry representatives.
- Greek shipping companies are profiting by masking the transport of Russian oil, report says Business Insider
Greek shipping companies are engaging in “ship-to-ship” switches to disguise the transport of Russian oil, according to data reviewed by London’s Sunday Times newspaper.
The data suggested “ship-to-ship” transfers in the Russian port of Kavkaz, where a Russian ship will unload oil from its vessel onto another vessel coming from a neutral company, has been on the increase since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
Asia and Oceania
- Ukraine war deepens China’s mistrust of the west The Guardian
More than 100 days into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China’s strategic assessment of the conflict is becoming clearer: it does not wish to be cast in the same light as Russia, but the war has deepened Beijing’s mistrust of the west.
In Beijing’s view, the pessimism has been exacerbated by the US and its allies’ recent efforts, for example, to help Taiwan increase its international recognition. On Monday last week, Beijing made the second-largest incursion into Taiwan’s air defence zone this year with Taipei reporting 30 jets entering the area, including more than 20 fighters.
China’s tone has also evolved from sitting on the fence to outright defensive. When the conflict first began in late February, Beijing tried to be “impartial”, but in the last few weeks, it deployed the language that directly confronted the US-led Nato and western sanctions, calling them “financial terrorism” and “economic weaponisation”.
Zhao Tong, a Beijing-based senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, observed: “Liberal voices within China have become less capable to counterbalance against the growing influence of hardline views that see China’s future as resting with working with other like-minded countries to more proactively push back against the US-led western order, norms, and values.”
One of the reasons for this dynamic, according to Liu, was that opponents saw “strong evidence that even if China had supported the US in condemning Russia and sanctioning it, the fundamentals in the bilateral relationship would not change”. He pointed out that many saw last week’s speech by Antony Blinken, in which the secretary of state said Washington would “shape the strategic environment around Beijing”, as further evidence that the American state has determined to treat China as its ultimate challenger.
And until recent weeks, public opinion seemed to be on Beijing’s side, too. According to a poll by the Carter Centre’s US-China Perception Monitor initiative, 75% of Chinese respondents agreed that supporting Russia was in China’s national interest, although roughly 60% of the surveyed also expected China to play a role in mediating an end to the war.
- Left out of the Indo-Pacific deal, China pushes toward the world’s largest trade deal CNBC
Get ready for a lot of acronyms.
Amid the fanfare of U.S. President Joe Biden’s new Indo-Pacific strategy, China flew under the radar and hosted a high-level discussion on RCEP, the world’s largest trade pact.
It came days after the Biden administration launched the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, or IPEF — a partnership which involves 13 countries, excluding China, as the U.S. seeks to expand its political and economic leadership in the Indo-Pacific region.
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) meeting in the southern island of Hainan underscored analysts’ expectations that instead of reacting to or countering IPEF, China will likely forge ahead with agreed-upon trade pacts and capitalize on ready-to-go tariffs and market accesses.
RCEP includes China and the 10-member ASEAN bloc, together with Australia, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.
Trade specialist Heng Wang, who is at the Herbert Smith Freehills China International Business and Economic Law (CIBEL) Centre at the University of New South Wales, also took the view that China will continue to use market accesses it has under RCEP as they will allow it to deepen its presence in the region.
“RCEP is the only mega regional trade agreement to which China is a party, and China would likely highlight it,” Wang said.
“In case anyone doubts the U.S. vision of the IPEF as the RCEP-killer, the White House stated explicitly in the [IPEF] announcement, that: ‘Together, we represent 40% of world GDP,’” Gao said. “Why [use] this statement when the IPEF isn’t supposed to be about market access?”
Meanwhile, China has already gained headways with implementing the RCEP since its launch in January, according to Li. It laid out a blueprint for Chinese businesses on how to expand trade and find opportunities through RCEP.
Beijing laid out guidelines in six areas including trade and manufacturing, and promoted the use of the Chinese yuan for trading settlement of trading transactions. Authorities also asked businesses to pursue the use of its heavily publicized free-trade port in Hainan which was implementing an independent customs system.
- Timor-Leste Signs Four Cooperation Agreements With China The Diplomat
The four agreements covered agriculture, media partnerships, economic and technical cooperation, and the dispatch of a Chinese medical team to Timor-Leste, AFP reported. During his stop, Wang also met with newly inaugurated President Jose Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Taur Matan Ruak.
Since its independence in 2002, Timor-Leste, like most of its neighbors in Southeast Asia, has developed close economic ties to China, and this seems unlikely to change for the foreseeable future. As the Sydney Morning Herald noted, the president’s palace, the Foreign Ministry, the Defense Ministry and major shopping centers in the capital Dili have all been built with Chinese money.
- S.Korea, U.S. launch eight missiles in response to North Korea missile tests Reuters
South Korea and the United States said they fired eight surface-to-surface missiles early on Monday off South Korea’s east coast, responding to a barrageof short-range ballistic missiles launched by North Korea on Sunday.
The action is a demonstration of “the capability and readiness to carry out precision strikes” against the source of North Korea’s missile launches or the command and support centres, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency cited the South Korean military as saying.
- Hezbollah warns it will not allow Israel to operate in Karish gas field Middle East Monitor
Lebanese Hezbollah yesterday warned that it would not accept Israel to work in the Karish gas field located in the disputed maritime zone, Sama news agency reported.
This came following the arrival of the Greek floating production and storage rig, Energean, to the area.
Israel said its navy has been sent to defend the vessel.
- ‘Facing a real test’: Bennett warns Israel on brink of collapse Middle East Monitor
“Our unified sovereignty has disintegrated twice in ancient times due to internal conflicts. The first break-up took place 80 years after its foundation, whereas the second one came about 77 years later. We are now living in the third era, and are approaching the 80-year mark. We are all facing a real test, and wondering to whether we will be able to preserve Israel,” Bennett stated in the communique sent on the first anniversary of the establishment of the coalition government.
“A few days ago, we were heading towards the fifth election campaign that could split up our land. I took the most difficult decision of my life, which was to form a national rescue cabinet to save Israel from chaos and to restore it. I partnered people who had completely different views from mine,” he said.
He also mentioned the “Chaos, endless election spin, government paralysis, the cities of Lod and Acre burning in the face of a humiliated and conflicted government,” referring to last year’s uprisings involving Arab-Israeli citizens amid Israeli provocations in occupied-East Jerusalem and military aggression against Gaza.
Israel displayed “terrible weakness in the face of a murderous enemy that fired rockets at Jerusalem,” he added, and was restricted by “the worship of one man and the enslavement of the state’s energy to his legal needs,” referring to opposition leader and then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption charges.
According to a recent survey published by Israel Hayom, at least 69 per cent of illegal Israeli settlers are worried about Israel’s bleak future. The poll also revealed that 66 per cent of settlers do not trust the Israeli security forces, while 67 per cent support possession of firearms and imposition of fines “in order to prevent skirmishes and confrontations between Israelis and Palestinians inside the occupied territories.”
- Saudi Arabia hikes oil prices sharply, sending US crude futures up to a 3-month high Business Insider
Saudi Arabia’s Aramco, the world’s largest oil exporter, hiked prices for customers in Asia, northwestern Europe, and the Mediterranean. Prices for US customers were unchanged.
Even though Aramco’s prices for the US remain unchanged, its hikes for other markets spilled into the international markets amid red-hot consumer inflation. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) rose as much as 1.8% to hit a three-month high, while Brent crude oil futures also rose as much as 2% on Monday morning in Asia.
- Erdogan says May figures show inflation is on downward trend Reuters
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that inflation figures from the month of May, when annual consumer prices jumped to a 24-year high, showed inflation was now on a downward trend.
- Syria army should use air defences against Turkish invasion, U.S.-backed force says Reuters
The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces would coordinate with Syrian government troops to fend off any Turkish invasion of the north, the SDF commander told Reuters on Sunday, saying Damascus should use its air defence systems against Turkish planes.
The new threats have highlighted the complex web of ties in northern Syria: while Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organisation, Syrian Kurdish forces are backed by Washington and have also coordinated with Syria’s government and its ally Russia.
- Iranian scientist and a senior military officer found dead in mysterious circumstances amid a new wave of tension between Iran and Israel Yahoo
Israel gets a headache and starts shaking when it doesn’t assassinate an Iranian official for a few days.
- ‘We’ve got other things to worry about’: former colonies react to platinum jubilee The Guardian
The jubilee has met with a muted response in much of sub-Saharan Africa, with commentators evoking the troubled history of the British empire, London’s diminished influence and the distraction of deepening economic problems on the continent to explain the apparent apathy.
In South Africa, where three beacons were lit, even those who have keenly followed the celebrations admit that there is limited interest among most of the population. “I’m watching everything I can. She’s such a lovely lady,” said Edweena Bell, 69, a nanny in west Johannesburg, the country’s commercial capital. “To English-speaking South Africans, it’s a hankering after the past, the colonial era and all that. It’s romantic. But generally, she doesn’t mean a lot to most people here.”
In Uganda, where international events often prompt intense interest and vocal debate on hugely popular chatshows, the jubilee has also received limited attention. “It’s not an anti-imperialist thing, and there’s no hostility – apart from among elites or a few university-educated people,” said Michael Mutyaba, an independent analyst in Uganda. “It’s just sheer lack of interest. People talked about the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan and Russia but are more interested in rising fuel prices than the Queen.”
In neighbouring Kenya, another former British colony, memories of the empire are still raw for some. “From the start, [the Queen’s] reign would be indelibly stained by the brutality of the empire she presided over and that accompanied its demise,” said Patrick Gathara, a Kenyan cartoonist, writer and commentator.
- Russian Embassy in Libya to function ‘soon’ Middle East Monitor
The Russian Embassy in Libya will resume work soon, according to the Russian presidential envoy for the Middle East and Africa, Anadolu Agency reported.
- Nigeria to Experience Severe Impact of Russian/Ukraine Conflict All Africa
The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) report titled “The War in Ukraine and the Rush to Feed the World,” has stated that Nigeria and other countries were expenditures on food constitute more than 40 per cent of households' income would be severely affected by the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
The report which was published last month and made avilable to Nigerian journalists on Tuesday, said: “But the effects will be far more severe in the many countries around the world where food comprises over 40 per cent of consumer spending, including Pakistan, Guatemala, Kenya, and Nigeria to name a few, and for the most vulnerable populations in every country,” adding that"Nigeria and the other affected countries would face severe levels of extreme poverty, compounded by the ongoing economic and social challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic."
The report stated that “the looming global food crisis is not about the world’s capacity to produce enough food. Rather, it is about the inability of our food systems to store and distribute enough food–and the inputs that are needed to produce it securely and equitably–in the face of the disruption caused by the war in Ukraine.”
B-buh Thanos had a point?!! Overpopulation?!?!
- Egypt aims to reach 42% renewable energy share by 2035, Minister Egypt Independent
Shaker stressed Egypt’s interest in renewable energies through an ambitious plan aimed at increasing the share of renewable energies to reach about 10,000 megawatts by 2023.
- Biden to waive tariffs for 24 months on solar panels hit by probe Al Jazeera
US President Joe Biden will declare a 24-month tariff exemption on Monday for solar panels from four Southeast Asian nations after an investigation froze imports and stalled projects in the United States, Reuters has reported, citing sources familiar with the matter.
The move comes amid concern about the effect of the commerce department’s months-long investigation into whether imports of solar panels from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam – nations which now constitute about 80 percent of annual panel imports into the US – are circumventing tariffs on goods made in China.
Biden also will invoke the Defense Production Act to drive US manufacturing of solar panels and other clean energy technologies in the future, with the support of loans and grants, the sources said.
- Biden Administration Weighs Ending Some Trump-Era China Tariffs To Counter Inflation Forbes
…hmm… counter inflation… or punish China… not sure which one is more important…
- Texas power use to hit record high on economic growth, hot weather Reuters
Power demand in Texas is set to break the all-time record this week, far ahead of the hottest days of summer, testing of the resilience of the state’s power grid after issues earlier this year and last year’s days-long blackout during a deep freeze.
The case for the US avoiding a recession is still alive and well Business Insider
Goldman Sachs economists say the U.S. is still on track to avoid a recession Fortune
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. economists say the US economy is still on a narrow path to a soft landing as improving inflation figures and other factors suggest the Federal Reserve may be able to pull off its aggressive interest rate hike plan without tipping the country into recession.
- The wealthy splurge, the poorest pull back as inflation divides: ‘I shop meal to meal’ Fortune
Americans at the low end of the income rung are once again struggling to make ends meet. A confluence of factors—the expiration of federal stimulus checks and surging inflation on staples like gas and food— are driving an even bigger wedge between the haves and have-nots.
While wealthier shoppers continue to splurge, low-income shoppers have pulled back faster than expected in the past two months. They’re focusing on necessities while turning to cheaper items or less expensive stores. And they’re buying only a little at a time.
It’s a reversal from a year or so ago when low-income shoppers, flush with money from the government and buoyed by wage increases, were able to spend more freely.
Kisha Galvan, a 44-year-old mother of eight children from ages 9 to 27, was able to stock up on groceries for the week and buy extras like clothing and shoes at Walmart for her children last year. But without the pandemic-related government support and inflation hovering at a near 40-year high, she is buying more canned food and depending on the local food pantry several times a week instead of once a week.
“I shop meal to meal," said the Rockford, Illinois, resident who has lived on disability for the past 15 years. “Before, we didn’t have to worry about what we were going to get. We just go get it.”
At the Northern Illinois Food Bank, which feeds people in 13 counties including Galvan and her family, the average monthly number of visits grew to more than 400,000 in the February through April period, from 311,000 in the July through September period, according to president and CEO Julie Yurko. […] the poorest one-fifth of Americans have exhausted the savings they’d built up during the pandemic in part through stimulus checks, child tax credit payments and higher wages, according to calculations by Jeffries, an investment bank. Americans’ bank accounts. The other four-fifths of U.S. households are still sitting on a large stockpile of additional savings since the pandemic, with much of that held by the top fifth.
- U.S. excludes Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua from Americas summit-sources
The Biden administration has made a final decision to exclude the governments of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua from the Summit of the Americas, people familiar with the matter said, despite threats from Mexico’s president to skip the gathering unless all countries in the Western Hemisphere were invited.
The decision, which followed weeks of intense deliberations, risks an embarrassing boycott of the U.S.-hosted gathering this week in Los Angeles if Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and some other leaders choose not to show up.
U.S. officials determined that concerns about human rights and lack of democracy in the three countries, Washington’s main antagonists in Latin America, weighed too heavily against inviting them, a Washington-based source said late on Sunday.
- Biden hoping to avoid Summit of the Americas flop in LA Seattle Times
When leaders gather at the Summit of the Americas this week, the focus is likely to veer from policy issues — migration, climate change and galloping inflation — and instead shift to something Hollywood thrives on: the drama of the red carpet.
With Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador topping a list of leaders threatening to stay home to protest the exclusion by the host United States of authoritarian leaders from Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, experts say the event could turn into a embarrassment for U.S. President Joe Biden.
Even some progressive Democrats have criticized the administration for bowing to pressure from exiles in the swing state of Florida and barring communist Cuba, which attended the last two summits.
“The real question is why the Biden administration didn’t do its homework,” said Jorge Castañeda, a former Mexican foreign minister who now teaches at New York University.
While the Biden administration insists the president in Los Angeles will outline his vision for a “sustainable, resilient, and equitable future” for the hemisphere, Castañeda said it’s clear from the last-minute wrangling over the guest list that Latin America is not a priority for the U.S. president.
“This ambitious agenda, no one knows exactly what it is, other than a series of bromides,” he said.
The U.S. is hosting the summit for the first time since its launch in 1994, in Miami, as part of an effort to galvanize support for a free trade agreement stretching from Alaska to Patagonia.
But that goal was abandoned more than 15 years ago amid a rise in leftist politics in the region. With China’s influence expanding, most nations have come to expect — and need — less from Washington.
As a result, the premier forum for regional cooperation has languished, at times turning into a stage for airing historical grievances, like when the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez at the 2009 summit in Trinidad & Tobago gave President Barack Obama a copy of Eduardo Galeano’s classic tract, “The Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent.”
- Oil from sanctioned Venezuela to help Europe replace Russian crude as soon as next month: report Business Insider
Venezuela is expected to start shipping oil to Europe as soon as next month, sources told Reuters, as the continent continues to cut out Russian energy.
Five people familiar with the matter told Reuters that Italian oil company Eni and Spain’s Repsol could start importing Venezuelan crude as early as next month, resuming supplies halted after the US imposed sanctions in 2019.
The sources said the amount of oil was likely to be small and wouldn’t affect global oil prices, which are hovering near 14-year highs.
Sources told Reuters it was hoped the loosening of restrictions would encourage Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro to restart talks with Venezuela’s opposition following an attempted coup.
The Ukraine War
Russian telegram reports that the claims of any kind of Ukrainian counteroffensive in Severodonetsk is a complete fabrication, due to a lack of any evidence (and trust me, Ukraine posts footage of any kind of success they have, and will post video game footage if there’s nothing positive to post, that’s how desperate they are for good news), and say that Ukraine is probably claiming that they “regained” control of the industrial zone, which they were inhabiting this whole time, i.e. there’s zero change in the front and it’s purely to try and make Ukraine look better by reframing the situation.
Germany refused supply of German made Leopard tanks to Ukraine, quoting fears Kiev authorities cannot be trusted that they won’t attempt to attack Russia with German weapons.
“Fiercest battles” as Ukrainian position in Severodonetsk worsens: regional official CNN
After reclaiming territory from Russia over the weekend, Ukrainian forces in the eastern city of Severodonetsk are under renewed attack, the region’s top official said on Monday.
In the Kharkiv region, the Russians are defending themselves, in the Donetsk region they are trying to attack Yahoo
Russia puts more strength behind ‘creeping’ Ukraine advance Yahoo
Fighting and destruction intensifies around Severodonetsk, official says; UK to send long-range missiles to Ukraine CNBC
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Sunday that he had visited two towns near the front in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, where Russian forces are concentrated. He also visited Zaporizhzhia, which is partly under Russian control.
The U.K., meanwhile, said it is sending Ukraine multiple-launch rocket systems that can strike targets up to 50 miles away. The move has been coordinated with the U.S., which announced a similar military aid package last week.
It comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a broad warning to the West on Sunday that his military will strike new targets if the West starts supplying Ukraine with longer-range missiles.
- Kiev calls Zaporozhye residents traitors, giving up region, says regional official TASS
Residents of the freed areas in Zaporozhye, filing for Russian citizenship, are being portrayed in Ukraine’s media as traitors, which means Ukraine has given up those lands, a regional administration official said on Monday.
“The [Ukrainian] media rhetoric has changed,” Vladimir Rogov, a member of the chief council of Zaporozhye’s military-civilian administration, told Rossiya 24. “Fragments of Russian footages are shown, where people are queueing to apply for citizenship, with newsreaders saying, that the lands are unfortunately inhabited by traitors. This means they have ceded these lands, at least it is the perception of people here,” Rogov said.
- Foreign fighters in Ukraine complain of arms shortages RT
The massive inflow of weapons into Ukraine from the West isn’t reaching many of the soldiers who actually need them, the Toronto Star reported last week. Time constraints, incompetence and corruption are resulting in poorly equipped frontline fighters, the newspaper claimed.
The report, which was based on interviews with foreign volunteer combatants and a Canadian group fundraising to equip soldiers in Ukraine, is the latest evidence of what the paper called “a dark and discouraging reality” on the country’s frontlines.
- A $4.4 billion US destroyer was touted as one of the most advanced ships in the world. Take a look the USS Zumwalt, which experts now say is a ‘failed ship concept.’ Business Insider
Climate and Space
- Colorado will lose half its snow by 2080 and look more like Arizona, federal scientists conclude Seattle Times
Parts of Colorado, Wyoming and Utah are drying out due to climate-driven changes in stream flows, and these states will shift to become more like the most arid states of the Southwest, federal researchers found in a scientific study published last week.
The lead author of the study said Colorado will experience a 50% to 60% reduction in snow by 2080. “We’re not saying Colorado is going to become a desert. But we see increased aridity moving forward,” said hydrologist Katrina Bennett at the federal government’s Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.
- Why the global soil shortage threatens food, medicine and the climate CNBC
The United Nations declared soil finite and predicted catastrophic loss within 60 years.
“There are places that have already lost all of their topsoil,” Jo Handelsman, author of “A World Without Soil,” and a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told CNBC.
The impact of soil degradation could total $23 trillion in losses of food, ecosystem services and income worldwide by 2050, according to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.
- As California’s big cities fail to rein in their water use, rural communities are already tapped out CNN
As cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco struggle to cut their water use – water that overwhelmingly comes from the state’s reservoirs – rural Californians that rely on groundwater are already tapped out. They live with the daily worry that they won’t have enough water to bathe with or drink.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has pleaded with urban residents and businesses to reduce their water consumption by 15%, but water usage in March was up by 19% in cities compared to March 2020, the year the current drought began. With the state running out of water, unprecedented water cuts went into effect this week for city dwellers – in parts of southern California, residents have been asked to cut consumption by 35% to avoid a full ban on watering later in the summer.
Scorching summer heat is also approaching. Water evaporates from the soil on hot days, which worsens the drought – a key reason never-before-seen groundwater shortages are cropping up. Not only has there not been enough rain to fill reservoirs, the air is leeching water from what’s left on the ground.
The article goes on to talk about contamination from industry.
- At least 12 military bases contaminating water supply with toxic PFAS The Guardian
Dangerous levels of toxic PFAS are contaminating water supplies in areas around at least 12 military bases, new Department of Defense testing has revealed, drawing concern from public health advocates that the DoD is not doing enough to protect the public.
PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a class of about 9,000 chemicals used across dozens of industries to make products resistant to water, stains and heat. Though the compounds are highly effective, they are also linked to cancer, kidney disease, birth defects, decreased immunity, liver problems and a range of other serious diseases.
They are dubbed “forever chemicals” due to their longevity in the environment.
- China sends crewed mission to complete Tiangong space station Al Jazeera
China has sent three astronauts on a six-month-long mission to complete work on its permanent orbiting space station, the China Manned Space Agency said on Sunday.
The Shenzhou-14 crew will spend six months on the Tiangong station, during which it will oversee the addition of two laboratory modules to join the main Tianhe living space that was launched in April 2021.
Dipshittery and Cope
The United States
- Joe Manchin Was Right, and Democrats Should Admit It Bloomberg, by Matthew Yglesias.
Senator Joe Manchin officially said no to the president’s signature Build Back Better legislation late last year, but progressives remain furious at him. While it is too much to ask them to thank the moderate senator from West Virginia, if they want to get anything done this year, they might acknowledge that he was basically right — about the bill itself and inflation.
Manchin’s behavior during President Joe Biden’s tenure hasn’t been perfect. It’s also true, however, that the bill the House passed was bad. Had it become law, inflation would be even worse today, and most of the money involved would have been wasted on temporary initiatives.
Yes, it would also have accomplished some useful things — especially on prescription drugs and energy production — but by most accounts Manchin remains interested in acting on those issues, and there is some hope of getting something done. For the party to get to yes on that agenda is going to require all sides to get past some bitterness and recrimination. And a good way to start that would be for progressives to admit that Manchin was right to be worried.
It’s all well and good for Democrats to lament that their unified control of government didn’t create a universal preschool program or a child-care subsidy program or an expanded child tax credit. But it’s not Manchin’s fault these things didn’t happen — their own legislation wouldn’t have created them. It was a bad bill.
Democratic members of Congress were perfectly aware of this at the time. The bill came together because most Democrats didn’t want to pick and choose among programs — their expectation was that Manchin would pick and choose for them. That would allow each non-Manchin member to tell disappointed advocacy groups that it was Manchin’s fault that their preferred program didn’t make the cut.
It would have been convenient for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and dozens of other mainstream Democratic members of Congress. But Manchin didn’t want to wear the black hat any more than they did.
He was also of the view that the White House and the Fed were underestimating inflation risk in the economy. In retrospect, he was obviously correct.
All this time, it’s worth noting, the one piece of the legislation that Democrats made sure to keep permanent was providing tax credits to subsidize the production of zero-carbon energy. This was structured to try to be more neutral between technologies than America’s current climate subsidies, to be permanent rather than temporary, and to be far simpler and more efficient than the current system. This part of the puzzle was well-designed in its parameters, is at least somewhat anti-inflationary in its implications, and is easy to pay for in the context of a package that in the aggregate reduces the deficit by taxing the rich.
Manchin has never rejected these ideas outright, and his staff continues to negotiate with other senators about their exact design. Anyone who cares about inflation, climate change or the Biden administration’s legacy should hope that he and his interlocutors can get to yes. A good starting point would be for everyone to admit that this approach isn’t just a second-best alternative to Build Back Better, it’s actually superior — and that the senator from West Virginia has had a point all along.
- Hillary Clinton is right: the age of the showman leader has damaged politics The Guardian
This article is just sentences on a page. The author is just saying words recreationally. None of it makes any sense whatsoever.
Performative politics is on trial and, for all its successes, has begun to be found wanting. Boris Johnson’s electoral triumphs that delivered the debacle of Brexit and what is now obviously a zombie government have shown the limits of theatre and showmanship over substance, reason and integrity.
However, mastery of “performative politics”, the term used by Hillary Clinton in an interview with me last week, has been until now a prerequisite for democratic success. Johnson is, or was, a master, the former US secretary of state acknowledged: the rumpled hair, artful self-deprecation and ever-present penchant to find the comic angle all a smokescreen to cover his ambition, entitlement and rightwing views. Masters also are Donald Trump, her husband, Bill, and Barack Obama, but the latter two both predated the worst of today’s social media.
Joe Biden? The issue is not content or delivery on the ground, where Biden has plenty of achievements that Clinton warmly admires – his failing is that he is no performer: “So you basically saved people from falling into unemployment. You save small businesses and you’re going to build airports, bridges and tunnels and all kinds of great things,” she says. But the larger question in 2022 remains: “What are you going to do to entertain me? He’s not a performer – and that’s a real problem.”
What has degraded political theatre into performative posturing, argues Clinton, is social media built on our obsession with screens – the catalyst in the witch’s brew of rightwing ideology, Christian fundamentalism, sheer greed and predatory capitalism driving the US’s political polarisation. Politics has become a subset of an alternative reality defined by an avalanche of the hype, trolling, misinformation, retweets, trending, anonymised racism and misogyny in which we now live, exacerbated by big tech and its algorithms, for whom the resulting data traffic is gold.
Political leadership in the 2020s needs to be recast, but old truths will out. Alternative reality may have allowed performative politics to trump content for a period, but for all the collective appetite to be entertained, citizens also want to be governed well. That means a firm grasp of what does and doesn’t work and how matters can be improved.
That in turn requires a viable political philosophy backed by evidence and turned into a programme that can be consistently applied across government, taking on power, privilege and vested interest where it is plainly necessary.
It’s palpably not what we have, but it’s obviously what we need and the wheels are already spinning to deliver it. Keir Starmer’s lack of dash in Johnsonian or Trumpian terms may suddenly be an asset; instead of aping them – in any case both undesirable and impossible – he needs to cultivate a form of counter-performativeness. Talking straight and honestly is the show that the public is increasingly ready for, supported by a clear philosophy of government and ambition for the country. It is doable.
- The U.S. can’t get the hemisphere together because it’s coming apart WaPo
This is news from yesterday, which, as you’ve seen above, is out of date, but I still thought I’d post it here.
The Summit of the Americas, 2022 edition, opens on Monday in Los Angeles, but President Biden is still struggling to finalize the list of leaders who will attend. His counterparts in key countries, notably Mexico, are threatening to boycott unless the United States accepts attendance by the Cuban, Venezuela and Nicaraguan dictatorships. Mr. Biden stands accused of feckless leadership at a time when the United States must orchestrate regional responses to mass migration, covid-19 and inflation.
Mr. Biden should not welcome the region’s tyrants to a meeting for democratically chosen leaders. The attempt to make him do so is symptomatic of more than just long-standing regional disagreements over whether and how to isolate dictators, however. The world, and the Western Hemisphere, have changed since December 1994, when President Bill Clinton presided over the first Summit of the Americas in Miami. At that moment of post-Cold War triumph for the United States and its democratic capitalist model, a consensus in favor of free trade and free elections reigned; Cuban communism, in economic free fall due to the loss of Soviet subsidies, appeared doomed. As the summits recurred every three or four years, U.S.-Latin American trade promotion deals spread from Mexico to the Andes. Moderate politics flourished; absolute poverty rates fell.
That relative harmony lies in the past. Today, Latin America is increasingly torn between populists of the left, such as the Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who is balking at attending the summit, and the right, like Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who is coming. They gradually gained traction by discounting the successes of the U.S.-led post-Cold War order, and blaming it for stubborn economic inequality and government corruption. To a degree that would have astonished attendees at the 1994 summit, much energy on the region’s left reflects the lingering influence of Cuba’s regime, which did not collapse but instead found a new sponsor in the first nation to abandon democratic capitalism, oil-rich Venezuela. Indeed, the late Hugo Chávez, who held power in Caracas from 1999 to 2013, spawned a regional bloc of “Bolivarian” regimes that not only opposed U.S. influence but also invited its rivals — Russia, China and even Iran — into the hemisphere.
Recent elections in Peru and Chile devolved into contests of the ultraright and ultraleft, which were won by left-wing candidates — who have quickly gotten bogged down in partisan quarrels. Even Colombia, previously a stalwart U.S. ally and bastion of democratic stability, is not immune to polarization and populism. Its first round of presidential elections May 29 narrowed the field to two candidates: a former leftist guerrilla, Gustavo Petro, and a self-made construction magnate, Rodolfo Hernandez, of vague right-wing leanings and a pugnacious, Trump-like persona. Whoever wins the June 19 runoff will have done so by promising to repudiate free trade and Bogota’s tough anti-Venezuela stance.
In short, it’s hard to get the Americas together because the Americas are coming apart. Yet the Biden administration must understand that the institutional challenges facing Latin America are not altogether unlike the ones confronting this country, with its own growing distrust of elites and multiple threats to democratic stability. This perspective may even help maintain and enhance U.S. regional influence, which remains vital both for its own sake and to limit that of Russia and China. That long-term project can’t be completed at this week’s summit, but it could be started.
- Democrats should be clear: A radical GOP is holding the country back WaPo
Most of this article is vaguely tedious and everybody here understands the problems this country faces, so let’s just jump into the meat of the article.
Our democracy doesn’t work when the will of the majority is consistently ignored (repudiated, even) by a minority out of step with the nation’s views and values. This takes place primarily with four antidemocratic tools: (1) the electoral college, which has installed Republican presidents who lack majority support; (2) thinly populated, overwhelmingly White states’ disproportionate power in the Senate; (3) the filibuster, which effectively gives the minority party a veto over the majority; and (4) lifetime tenure of Supreme Court justices.
The problem is not lily-livered Democrats or “polarization." Our democracy is being thwarted again and again by an increasingly radical, antidemocratic GOP driven by white grievance and nostalgia for a pre-civil-rights America.
If Democrats, including the president, want to end this paralysis, they must be clear about the need for fundamental reform, including elimination of the filibuster and establishment of term limits for Supreme Court justices. Democrats should say it plainly: We cannot have what we collectively want by overwhelming majorities unless we have enough Democrats in power to fix our democracy. You want the right to choose? Gun regulations? We need people in the House and Senate determined to stop the tyranny of the minority and reflect the supermajority views of the people.
It’s fairly obvious to everybody here that the Democratic Party is, with the most generous interpretation, an entirely feckless organization to stop the right-wing, and in a more realistic interpretation is actively collaborating with the Republicans to prevent any kind of left-wing opposition and thus will plunge us ever-deeper into fascism - I only really put this article in the update at all to show that Jennifer Rubin and all her Resistance ilk are still clinging to this fantasy that if only the filibuster was removed, if only, if only, if only, then the United States would be fixed, even in this moment of rapidly deteriorating conditions for the vast majority of people in this country, especially among minorities. The last media article published before the power lines crumble from neglect and the heavy metal runoff from a forced sterilization camp poisons the last river in America will be titled “President Rittenhouse, Have You No Shame, Sir?"
- Biden wants to get out more, seething that his standing is now worse than Trump’s Politico
Oh, come on, it literally has the word “seethe” in there. Where else was I gonna put it?
President Joe Biden and his aides have grown increasingly frustrated by their inability to turn the tide against a cascade of challenges threatening to overwhelm the administration.
Soaring global inflation. Rising fuel prices. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. A Supreme Court poised to take away a constitutional right. A potentially resurgent pandemic. A Congress too deadlocked to tackle sweeping gun safety legislation even amid an onslaught of mass shootings.
In crisis after crisis, the White House has found itself either limited or helpless in its efforts to combat the forces pummeling them. Morale inside 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. is plummeting amid growing fears that the parallels to Jimmy Carter, another first-term Democrat plagued by soaring prices and a foreign policy morass, will stick.
“It’s something that has bedeviled quite a few previous presidents. Lots of things happen on your watch but it doesn’t mean there is a magic wand to fix it,” said Robert Gibbs, a press secretary under President Barack Obama. “The limits of the presidency are not well grasped. The responsibility of the president is greater than the tools he has to fix it.”
*Not really. You could end student debt with a penstroke. You could legalize marijuana. End the sanctions on Russia, Venezuela, and other countries. Establish a Green New Deal to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. *
The president has expressed exasperation that his poll numbers have sunk below those of Donald Trump, whom Biden routinely refers to in private as “the worst president” in history and an existential threat to the nation’s democracy.
He’s not even really in the top five worst presidents in history, evaluating purely on their world impact and not their posting habits.
Biden didn’t want to be painted as slow to act on a problem affecting the working-class people with whom he closely identifies. Therefore, when aides convened a meeting with formula company executives, the president — against the advice of staffers — publicly declared it took weeks before details of the shortage had reached him, even though the whistleblower complaint that led to the shutdown of a major production facility was issued months ago. Some aides feared the moment made Biden look out of touch, especially after the CEOs in the very same meeting made clear that warnings of the shortage were known for some time.
Members of Biden’s inner circle, including first lady Jill Biden and the president’s sister, Valerie Biden Owens, have complained that West Wing staff has managed Biden with kid gloves, not putting him on the road more or allowing him to flash more of his genuine, relatable, albeit gaffe-prone self. One person close to the president pushed for more “let Biden be Biden” moments, with the president himself complaining he does not get to interact enough with voters. The White House has pointed to both security and Covid concerns in restricting the travel of the 79-year-old president.
Honestly, this is genuinely a good point. I do want to see Biden interact with voters more.
“A lot of things are out of his control and we are frustrated and all Democrats — not just the White House but anyone with a platform — need to do a better of job of reminding Americans of how terrible it would be if Republicans take control,” said Adrienne Elrod, a senior aide on Biden’s transition team and aide to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
“[Carter] lost because of inflation and bad feelings about the economy and a sense that America was flailing and Biden is finding now that it’s hard to be a leader when other things are unraveling,” said Douglas Brinkley, presidential historian at Rice University. “He can’t just be a mourner-in-chief, he can’t just play defense. He needs to be on offense and convince Americans that, despite the challenges, better days are ahead.”
- Biden Has ‘Only Bad Options’ for Bringing Down Oil Prices NYT
I mean, you could just remove the sanctions on Venezuela and Iran.
As Mr. Carter and other presidents learned, Mr. Biden has precious few tools to bring down costs at the pump, especially when Russia, one of the world’s largest energy producers, has started an unprovoked war against a smaller neighbor. In Mr. Carter’s time, oil supplies that Western countries needed were threatened by revolutions in the Middle East.
During the 2020 campaign, Mr. Biden pledged to turn Saudi Arabia into a “pariah” for the assassination of a prominent dissident, Jamal Khashoggi. But officials said last week that he planned to visit the kingdom this summer. It was just the latest sign that oil has again regained its centrality in geopolitics.
Just a few years ago, many lawmakers in Washington and oil and gas executives in Texas were patting themselves on the back for an energy boom that had turned the United States into a net exporter of oil and petroleum products and made it more energy independent. With prices rising, that achievement now looks illusory.
The United States is the world’s biggest oil and natural gas producer, but it accounts for only about 12 percent of the global petroleum supply. The price of oil, the principal cost in gasoline, can still shoot up or tumble depending on events halfway around the world. And no president, no matter how powerful or competent, can do much to control it.
Those facts are cold comfort to Americans who are finding that a stop at the gas station can easily cost a hundred dollars, much more than just a year earlier. When fuel prices rise, consumers demand action and can turn against presidents who seem unwilling or unable to bring them back down.
Always looking ahead to the next election when their jobs or their party’s hold on power is at stake, presidents can find it impossible not to try to cajole or plead with foreign and domestic oil producers to drill and pump more oil, faster.
“A president has to try,” said Bill Richardson, an energy secretary in the Clinton administration. “Unfortunately, there are only bad options. And any alternative options are probably worse than asking the Saudis to increase production.”
Two other oil-producing countries that could increase production — Iran and Venezuela — are U.S. adversaries that Western sanctions have largely cut out of the global market. Striking any deal with their leaders without securing major concessions on issues like nuclear enrichment and democratic reforms would be politically perilous for Mr. Biden.
YOU’RE LITERALLY PROPOSING TALKING TO A MONARCHIC REGIME WITH EXTREME HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS, BUT TALKING TO IRAN AND VENEZUELA ARE A BRIDGE TOO FAR?
- Chinese jets flying extremely close to Canadian aircraft on UN mission; 60 such incidents since December IndiaTV
Chinese military jets have been flying extremely close to the Canadian aircraft, risking a mid-air collision and showing an “unsafe and unprofessional conduct” of the Chinese pilots, reports have stated. According to sources with the Canadian government, their maritime patrol aircraft CP-140 Aurora, manned by rotating crews, is currently taking part in UN Operation NEON to monitor sanctions against North Korea.
I was just walking out in public, swinging my fists around, and honestly, I find it deeply disrespectful and quite frankly dangerous how close people put their faces to my fists.
- China’s new vassal: Vladimir Putin Politico
This is quite a long article, so I’ll only post the first section.
China can now enjoy turning the tables.
When Chairman Mao Zedong visited Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin in the winter of 1949, he was very much the junior supplicant. Stalin packed him off to wait for weeks in his snow-bound No. 2 dacha, 27 kilometers outside Moscow, where the humiliated and constipated Chinese leader grumbled about everything from the quality of the fish to his uncomfortable mattress.
When the two Communist leaders did get to business, Stalin bullied his way to a very favorable deal that put Mao on the hook to buy Russian arms and heavy machinery with a loan on which Beijing would have to pay interest.
Seven decades later, the power dynamics reveal a radical reset. Shortly before invading Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin traveled to the Winter Olympics in Beijing to proclaim the “no limits” friendship with China’s Xi Jinping, but there’s no doubting who the real superpower is in that duo these days. China’s $18-trillion economy is now 10 times mightier than Russia’s. Beijing will hold nearly all the good cards in setting the terms of any financial lifelines from big brother.
As Russia faces a sharply contracting economy under sanctions and an impending oil embargo from Europe, China is the obvious potential benefactor for Putin to turn toward.
Xi shares Putin’s hostility to the West and NATO, but that doesn’t mean he will be offering unalloyed charity. Xi’s overriding strategic concern is China’s prosperity and security, not saving Russia. Beijing is likely to buy at least some oil diverted from Europe, but only at a hefty discount from global benchmarks. China will only help Russia to the extent that it doesn’t attract sanctions and imperil its own ability to sell goods to rich countries in North America and the EU.
Russia and Ukraine
- Sanctions Fatigue Is Next Obstacle in Confronting Putin Bloomberg
The momentum behind Western sanctions against Vladimir Putin is flagging. Even as the European Union toasts its toughest restrictions yet against the Russian war machine — including a partial ban on oil imports — concessions are mounting, from exempting pipeline crude to removing Putin’s favorite cleric from the sanctions list.
Hungary’s Viktor Orban, an admirer of Putin, is clearly playing a big role in splintering the united front. But the risk of fatigue and waning morale goes well beyond Budapest. The cost of hitting Putin where it hurts — energy — is preying on many leaders’ minds at a time of high inflation and economic slowdown, as is the grim sight of Russia’s advance regaining momentum after 100 days of fighting.
Along with differences of opinion percolating inside and outside the EU over what an endgame might look like, this doesn’t bode well for the near term. Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, who now must reassemble her governing coalition after its collapse last week, is keen to keep tightening the screws on Moscow. But she acknowledges everything will get more “difficult” from here — with little chance of a gas embargo in the next raft of restrictions.
There’s no easy fix for sanctions fatigue. The “financial weapon” is an imperfect tool that is prone to patchy enforcement and unintended consequences. The unprecedented scale of sanctions against Putin’s inner circle, as well as Russia’s financial system, airlines and trade, will contribute to an estimated 10% decline in Russian gross domestic product this year. But it has not deterred or dislodged Putin.
Worse, there have also been some counterproductive effects. The rising price of energy has lined Putin’s pockets while impoverishing importers. Russia’s oil-and-gas revenue will be about $285 billion this year, according to Bloomberg Economics estimates. Throw in other commodities, and that more than offsets $300 billion in Russian foreign reserves frozen as part of the sanctions.
Already, a YouGov survey from April found European public opinion somewhat conflicted: More than 30% of respondents in seven countries including Spain and Italy advocated investing in trade and diplomacy with Russia, rather than defense and security.
Without light at the end of the economic tunnel, the public mood might turn. If this war drags on and becomes a test of morale, the West and the EU have the advantage in terms of resources and human capital, as Miguel Otero Iglesias of the Elcano Royal Institute has noted. But that comes with a need to protect the most vulnerable in society; fiscal support should be “inevitable,” he rightly adds.
It is easy to assume, as some have, that the dividing line in this conflict is between those who want to accommodate Putin and those who are on Ukraine’s side. This is neither accurate nor helpful. The journey of Italy is especially instructive: Before Putin’s invasion, Mario Draghi was mulling deeper gas ties with Russia. He has since supported an oil ban and backed sending heavy weapons to Ukraine despite domestic political resistance.
- Europe’s New Era Might Not Last Long Bloomberg
A malevolent expansionary autocracy waging war on its doorstep seems to have cured the European Union of its complacency over self-defense. The pandemic had already underlined the need for closer coordination in other areas. Europe’s politicians are now talking of a new era of cooperation.
Historians will surely record Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a transformative moment — yet what kind of transformation is harder to say. Celebrating Europe’s new unity under pressure might be premature. The demands being placed on the union could strengthen it. Or, in the end, fracture it.
Europe’s shock at Russia’s brutality would be hard to exaggerate. Not long ago, Germany’s former chancellor Angela Merkel was celebrating a new economic partnership with Moscow, one that put Germany at the mercy of Russia’s energy exports. The invasion was stunning. Jolted into action, the EU moved quickly by any standards — and faster than anyone accustomed to its usual torpor would have thought possible.
Member countries agreed on unprecedented sanctions. They sent arms to Ukraine. Sweden and Finland, in a decision unthinkable before the war, applied to join NATO. Governments rushed to boost their spending on defense, promising to strengthen joint procurement of weapons and better integrate their systems. Suddenly, Europe’s politicians see effective mutual defense as an urgent need, not an aspiration.
The war’s consequences therefore push strongly in opposite directions. Europe now understands that on its eastern border is not a potential friend but a ruthless enemy. That’s clarifying. Nobody denies that the EU should develop a new security order and spend what it takes to make this effective. Any such progress, you might think, goes hand in hand with a deepening sense of European identity. But this new project has to contend with rapidly mounting economic pressures, economies that are far from fully integrated, dysfunctional fiscal arrangements, a slipshod constitution, diverging political values and too many citizens who aren’t remotely convinced.
The EU has passed tests like this before. In fact, its visionaries have often seen the path from crisis to closer union as the best way to make progress. Let’s just say, success isn’t guaranteed.
- Putin’s regime may collapse from within, but Russian opposition leaders can’t replace it, says political expert Yahoo
“Firstly, the question is how much time it will take – a year or 10 years? As a result of the physical death of the dictator or earlier? Either it will collapse as a result of some serious coup, or a serious economic, social crisis in Russia. These are completely different conditions.”
“Will the elite that is in power in Russia today retain power, will it just be modified and become a partner in negotiations with the West? Or it will lead to the complete destruction of such an elite,” the political expert said.
Portnikov gave an example: when political exiles returned to Russia in 1917, there were hopes that people who were “the voice of common sense” would get power.
Instead, the Bolsheviks came to power, he said.
- Ukraine claims to have destroyed nearly an entire Russian army in Izyum Business Insider
Wow! Great job, Ukraine!
Ukraine claimed to have almost entirely obliterated Russia’s 35th Combined Arms Army in Izyum, a Ukrainian city in the Kharkiv Oblast.
- We must stop Putin in Ukraine before the rule-of-law is replaced by the rule-of-the-jungle CNBC
Ukraine must win. Russia must lose. It’s really that simple.
So, Let’s first stipulate that you agree with that end goal, as has everyone from U.S. President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. To embrace anything less would be immoral, set a historical precedent with catastrophic costs, and unravel what remains of our fraying international order of rules and institutions.
And? Please explain exactly why this would be bad. You’re positing that the international rules-based order is good for no other reason than it sounds like a good thing.
President Biden laid out the argument clearly in his New York Times op-ed this week. His words should be read closely by all members of his administration and NATO allies who are still acting too tentatively in providing Ukraine the weaponry, and the freedom of action in using it, to ensure Ukraine’s victory.
“Standing by Ukraine in its hour of need is not just the right thing to do,” wrote President Biden. “It is in our vital national interests to ensure a peaceful and stable Europe and to make clear that might does not make right. If Russia does not pay a heavy price for its actions, it will send a message to other would-be aggressors that they too can seize territory and subjugate countries… And it would mark the end of the rules-based international order and open the door to aggression elsewhere, with catastrophic consequences the world over.”
But the United States has been seizing territory and subjugating countries since it became an empire!
In short, we must stop Russian President Vladimir Putin now to ensure the rule-of-the-jungle doesn’t replace the rule-of-law.
They’re the same thing right now!
Why write all this now, as Putin’s war in Ukraine passes its hundredth day? Most simply, it’s because Putin is showing grinding gains after shifting tactics in response to Ukraine’s unexpected victories and resilience, and Russian troops’ heavy losses and abysmal performance in the war’s early stages.
Putin’s brutal new approach is to pulverize Ukrainian population centers in eastern and southern Ukraine with stand-off weapons, thus emptying them of their people through death or flight, with less risk to his own troops, replicating the brutal tactics he deployed in Syria. Once these cities and towns are drained of their humanity, his troops can then “liberate” the rubble, seize the territory, and position Russia for the most advantageous peace deal possible, or a further offensive.
You can’t use ‘brutal’ twice in the same paragraph. Maybe try ‘ruthless’?
At the same time, Putin has been striking at Ukraine economically by blockading its grain exports and either destroying or stealing its available supplies. Though Putin continues to choke on tough sanctions against him, he is willing to risk starvation elsewhere while wagering that he can outlast Western support for Kyiv through upcoming election cycles and other democratic distractions, such as the recent U.S. school gun shootings and Supreme Court battles.
There is a way, however, to counter Putin’s new tactics. It will require the newly united West and its Asian partners to grow even more determined, creative, and proactive through a combined military, economic and public relations offensive that would again put Putin on his back feet.
The aim should not be to ensure a stalemate, which has allowed Putin to take 20% of Ukrainian territory, nor pressure Ukraine into a self-defeating peace agreement, but rather to give Ukraine the means to retake territory through a counteroffensive — perhaps most importantly at the strategic southern Ukrainian city of Kherson — which would ensure access to Odessa and to the Black Sea now and in any eventual peace agreement.
Most important is for Ukraine’s potentially fatigued supporters, and even for those countries still sitting on the fence, not to lose sight of the barbarity of Putin’s atrocities and thus the moral responsibility to oppose them.
“It’s extremely important that we don’t forget the brutality,” Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary general, told the Atlantic’s Tom McTague in the most emotional of terms. “Of course, it is emotional. This is about people being killed; it’s about atrocities; it’s about children, women being raped, children being killed.”
You literally only care about that when it’s not you doing it.
With that in mind, it’s flat wrong for the U.S. or any arms supplier to limit Ukrainian fire to hitting only Russian targets on Ukrainian soil. In his otherwise excellent op-ed, Biden wrote, “We are not encouraging or enabling Ukraine to strike beyond its borders. We do not want to prolong the war just to inflict pain on Russia.”
Think about that for a moment. If someone is killing your family members by shooting across a fence from your neighbor’s yard, what good is a weapon that can only shoot as far as your side of the fence? If you don’t take out the shooter, the killing continues. It’s this kind of self-defeating restraint that makes Putin so confident he can win through attrition.
But if my neighbour had a device that would cause his house, my house, and the surrounding city to vaporize if he is under serious threat or killed, then maybe I’d show a little more nuance.
Historians point to the Winter War between the Soviet Union and Finland in 1939-1940 to demonstrate that a smaller but more determined country with less military strength can outlast Moscow and retain its sovereignty.
Remind me: how much territory did Finland lose to Russia in that war?
Finland held off Soviet forces for more than two months, inflicting substantial losses before the Soviet Union adopted different tactics, and overcame Finnish defenses in February. Finland reached a peace deal in March 1940 that ceded 9% of its territory to the Soviet Union. Though Moscow’s reputation suffered, and it was removed from the League of Nations, it came away with more territory than it had initially demanded.
On the negative side, Putin is every bit as determined as Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, and shares Stalin’s utter indifference to casualties and human suffering.
He also inherited his giant spoon, and is eating all the grain in Ukraine as we speak.
On the positive side, Ukraine is receiving dramatically more outside support than Finland did at the time.
Yet without even more Western resolve, Putin can still win, and Ukraine can still lose. Ukraine and the West need to show Putin a dead end and not an off-ramp.
- Zelenskyy says Russia has lost 200 aircraft in Ukraine, showing Putin’s failure to dominate the skies Business Insider
I’m pretty sure that number is like, over an order of magnitude lower. And almost all of it in the first couple weeks before the Russian airforce adapted.
Despite having a significantly larger air force than Ukraine (15 times larger by some accounts), the Russian military has failed to gain air superiority, and arguably maintains aerial parity. At best Russia has achieved local air superiority in the Donbas region.
Gaining control of the skies has been seen as a crucial part of military doctrine since the Second World War, and it is something the United States and its allies had accomplished in the 1991 and 2003 invasions of Iraq.
In fact, the Iraqi Air Force suffered almost complete obliteration in the opening stages of the Persian Gulf War in 1991 and as a result, the United States achieved air supremacy. It accomplished the same control of the skies in 2003.
By contrast, Russia has never come close to defeating the Ukrainians Air Force.
Goddamn it, another journalist has been isekai’d into the universe where Ukraine is winning.
- Ukraine’s Azov Battalion Looks to Regroup and Clean Up Image WSJ
Oh no. Oh god no. I quote in full.
Three special-forces platoons from the Azov Regiment, a Ukrainian volunteer militia, fanned out in the woods outside this southern city to practice shooting and ambush tactics they plan to use against invading Russian forces.
After their regiment’s hard-fought but losing battle against Moscow’s forces in the port city of Mariupol, the men training here said they are determined to retake the lost ground and expel the Russians from Ukraine. They are also working hard to shake their reputation as a far-right movement.
“Don’t believe Russian propaganda,” said Vyacheslav Rodionov, 29 years old, a flutist with the Kyiv Symphony Orchestra who now leads a unit of about 20 Azov fighters. “They will bullshit Azov as much as they can, call us Nazis—the real Nazis are the Russian army.”
Azov’s widely hailed resistance in Mariupol, which resulted in hundreds of its fighters being taken as prisoners of war by Russia, has bolstered its image, even as the battalion continues to court controversy.
On Feb. 27, three days after Russia launched its invasion, Ukraine’s National Guard posted a video it said showed an Azov fighter dipping bullets in pig fat, a move apparently designed to intimidate any Muslim Chechens fighting on Russia’s side.
Twitter said the tweet violated its rules against hateful conduct.
Few would deny Azov’s origins are problematic. The group’s first commander, Andriy Biletsky, joined Azov in 2014 after leading political groups that openly espoused neo-Nazi and white supremacist ideas. Mr. Biletsky left in October 2016 to head National Corps, a new right-wing party aligned with the regiment.
Mr. Biletsky is still actively involved with Azov, maintaining regular contact with its members and participating in their training. He denies being an ethnic nationalist.
“An ethnic Ukrainian from Donetsk fighting with a St. George Ribbon or Red Star”—a reference to Russian and Soviet military symbols—“is less of a Ukrainian to me than a Georgian born in the mountains,” he said.
Azov was formed as a volunteer battalion in Mariupol in 2014, a time when the Ukrainian army was in tatters. It brought together a ragtag group of fighters who successfully repelled an attack on the port city by Russian-backed separatists. It attracted a collection of disparate characters, among them amateur historians, battle reconstructors, neo-Nazis and hard-core soccer fans.
That summer and fall, the men—instructed by trainers from the Georgian military—fended off further offensives by Russia’s proxy forces and began building their reputation as a formidable force.
“These were the most battle-ready, most motivated fighters who had already proved their mettle freeing Mariupol,” said Oleksandr Kovzhun, a political consultant who said he was dispatched to Mariupol in 2014 by Donetsk governor Serhii Taruta, who helped finance Azov in the early stages.
Mr. Kovzhun said a poll he conducted among its members in 2014, when the battalion numbered 345 people, found that 40% had higher education and 18% had history degrees, with two of its members holding Ph.D.s.
Ukraine’s then-Minister of Interior Arsen Avakov said the objective of creating Azov was to combat the Russian narrative about Kyiv oppressing Russian-speaking Ukrainians.
“It was part of Russian propaganda that they were Nazi units, that they were only Ukrainian-speaking and they were all extremists, which is not true,” Mr. Avakov said. “Most of the fighters with Azov speak Russian, just as I am speaking to you in Russian now.”
The influx of members who joined since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 includes self-avowed nationalists, but Azov’s new fighters said they oppose fascism and don’t subscribe to any extremist views. Many Azov fighters prefer to describe themselves as “football hooligans”—a reference to rowdy and sometimes violent soccer fans. Many of them wore patches with the logos of their favorite soccer team on their uniforms.
It is difficult, however, to make sweeping generalizations about Azov’s members.
The Azov fighters at the training, who joined the regiment in February after the Russian invasion, come from all walks of life. There are piano teachers and professional musicians; one of them owns a Kyiv-based store that sells vegan pet food; many of them are lawyers.
Many say they chose Azov over other regiments not because of its nationalism, but because it offered a quick path to the battlefield and its reputation as an elite fighting force.
Andrew Milburn, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who founded the Mozart Group, which is helping to train the Azov fighters at their request, says that moving inexperienced people to the battlefield swiftly is a challenge. “Given just 120 bullets, how do you get a guy who has never fired a weapon to a point where he is consistently hitting the target?” he said.
They are so inexperienced that one of them shot himself in the foot during a training session last month, according to Mozart Group trainers. “It takes more time than we have,” said Mr. Milburn. “But they’re definitely motivated.”
It isn’t just training that is an issue; the fighters lack equipment. Dmytro Kukharchuk, the commander of the 2nd Battalion Special Forces of Kyiv, said most of the volunteers have been forced to buy their own weapons, helmets, flak jackets and boots.
Azov’s tainted reputation as a far-right group had contributed to that lack of equipment.
In 2018, Congress banned Azov from receiving U.S. weapons, arms or training. The following year, 40 U.S. Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanding that several international far-right movements, including Azov, be officially placed on the foreign terrorist organization list alongside Islamic State and al Qaeda.
The letter, drafted by now-former Rep. Max Rose, classifies Azov as being among the world’s “violent white supremacist extremist groups,” adding that it “has been recruiting, radicalizing and training American citizens for years, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.” Azov denies this allegation.
The lawmakers pointed to alleged incidents, cited by the United Nations, of detainee torture by Azov fighters. The U.N. has also raised concern more recently about “credible allegations” of torture by Ukrainian forces in the current war with Russia, including a video shared by the Azov Regiment showing Russian soldiers stripped to their underwear, with hands tied behind their back and eyes covered.
Rep. Jason Crow (D., Colo), who was among the signatories of the 2018 letter, said that he was “not aware of any information that currently shows a direct connection [of Azov fighters] to extremism now.”
“I am sensitive to the fact that the past isn’t necessarily prologue here, that groups can change and evolve and that the war might have changed the organization,” he added.
The battle at Mariupol, where hundreds of Azov fighters held out for weeks on the grounds of the Azovstal plant, may have helped change that image. The 2,000 or so Ukrainian fighters who were taken into Russian captivity in April, many of them from Azov, were hailed as heroes by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky.
It is unclear, however, if that will have any effect on the U.S. Congress, or its decision to help equip the group.
Today, Azov’s Kyiv Battalion has three U.S.-made Javelins. Mr. Kukharchuk said his fighters also have NLAW short-range antitank missiles, and rocket-propelled grenades, but what they need desperately are high-mobility artillery rocket systems, tanks, and most of all, artillery.
“We have no heavy weapons,” said Mr. Kukharchuk.
Even in the absence of the most advanced weapons, or the most experienced fighters, the bravado that draws so many volunteers to the battalion is evident at the training camp.
Dmytri Rudakov, 32, who owns an online store selling street apparel, and is now a unit leader in Azov, was optimistic, even after Mariupol.
“We’ll invite you to Crimea soon,” Mr. Rudakov said, referring to the picturesque Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014. “I packed my swimsuit.”
Good Takes that are Dope
- Central Bankers Don’t Know How to Tackle Inflation Bloomberg
Now, this a rather tentative good take as it’s from Bloomberg and all that, but still - a remarkable pushback on these incompetent astrologers.
The Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank and the Bank of England all preside over inflation rates that have surged to quadruple their 2% targets. One of their brethren is highly skeptical of their chances of success in calming price increases. It may turn out that they’ve been lucky rather than good in achieving price stability in recent years — and their luck has run out.
A few weeks ago, Jeremy Rudd, a senior economist at the Fed, published a paper that does little to inspire confidence in the ability of policy makers to prevent stagflation from afflicting their economies. Moreover, one of his conclusions — that anchoring inflation expectations has little effect on prices — suggests the current mania among central bankers for raising interest rates may exact a cost on growth without a corresponding benefit of achieving their chief policy goal.
Rudd examined a surge in US inflation in the second half of 1960, noting parallels between then and now. It’s his assessment of what’s been learned in the intervening period — or rather, what remains unknown — that’s most striking:
“Perhaps the most sobering fact, though, is how little practical benefit six decades’ worth of additional experience has provided us: Our understanding of how the economy works — as well as our ability to predict the effects of shocks and policy actions — is in my view no better today than it was in the 1960s.”
It’s understandable, if not forgivable, that the forward guidance policy makers are currently delivering is all over the place. “For me, I think a pause in September might make sense,” Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic said on May 23. Contrast that with Fed Governor Christopher Waller’s comments last week that “I support tightening policy by another 50 basis points for several meetings,” and the path for at least the next three US central bank decisions is as clear as mud, as Jim Bianco of Bianco Research alluded to in a tweet […]
If major economies do slump into stagflation, policy makers will have failed to do their jobs. Nevertheless, as tempting as it might become for some politicians, questioning their independence to set monetary conditions would be the wrong reaction.
- Hydrocarbon hypocrisy: Sanctions are crude and often don’t work. Russia’s continuing energy exports prove it Khmer Times, originally published in The Times of India.
Three months into Western sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, two outcomes are apparent. Initial expectations of the US and EU were over the top. In addition, it’s getting harder for the EU to keep its own flock together in its aim to cripple Russia’s energy sector. For example, EU leaders this week agreed after protracted negotiations to stop imports of Russian crude by the end of 2022. However, they were forced to grant Hungary an exemption from it. Even Bulgaria’s timeline is likely to be extended. And as for Russian gas, there’s no deadline at all.
A step back will make it clear why Western sanctions and the subsequent sermonising aimed at countries such as India were unwise. Let’s start with Iran, a country subject to US sanctions soon after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Into its fifth decade, the conversation is still about changing Iran’s “behaviour”.
For sure, when the world’s largest economy imposes sanctions, it limits the economic potential of the victim. But evidence shows that it doesn’t achieve its core aim. Also, the collateral damage on unrelated countries cannot be justified by convenient references to a rules-based order.
Another reason why sanctions don’t really work is that both sovereign nations and private firms have a powerful economic incentive to bypass them. US media reports on Iran’s “clandestine finance system” straddling the globe is an example. In the current context, IEA data showed that even in March, Russia remained the OPEC+ grouping’s second-largest crude oil supplier with 9.10 million barrels a day.
A look at the predicament of Germany, EU’s economic powerhouse, provides an insight on this issue. Russia is the source for about 55% of Germany’s natural gas, which is harder to substitute than oil. A scenario analysis by the German Bundesbank on the outcome of an immediate halt of Russian energy imports estimated the economy would shrink by 2%. Moreover, Germany’s current inflation level of over 7% is a four-decade record.
There’s no case to support Russian actions in Ukraine. However, Western response smacks of both double standards and unsophistication. The proof for it are the exemptions within its ranks and growing cases of sanctions bypass. India was right to say, more than once, that Western lectures on buying Russian oil don’t square with Western purchase of Russian gas.
- The Myth-Making Around Tiananmen Square Popular Resistance
Last week marked the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen square protests. The media hullabaloo about it was marked by the typical narratives of freedom struggling against totalitarianism, along with “mourning” the “hundreds probably thousands” of students” massacred on June 4, 1989 by the Chinese army. It has become a ritual to repeat the story every year for the consumption of the global audience. It is amazing to note that at a time where massacres are happening all over the world under the watchful eyes of the western armies, the liberal media’s human rights campaigns are still obsessed with an incident whose dubiousness is established beyond doubt.
Most western accounts claim that on the midnight of June 3, 1989, the People’s Liberation Army moved with full force to Tiananmen square where students were peacefully protesting for democracy and against the authoritarian regime in China. The students were supposedly inspired by the democracies in the west and were heroes standing up to the illiberal communist rule. According to this narrative, the communist leadership under Deng Xiaoping ordered the army to open fire, killing hundreds or thousands of unarmed students at the square. Thus, the Chinese communist party leadership was responsible for the killing and oppression of democratic spirit. Also, in subsequent decades, the Chinese government maintained tight control and hid its own brutality from generations.
Facts: The protests in the square had begun in mid-April, mourning the death of communist party leader Hu Yaobang. He was considered a reformist. Some of the students who turned up to pay homage to Yaobang were persuaded by others to stay. Soon this gathering became a protest meeting against what the students termed corruption within the party. The government offered talks, which were refused by the protesters who demanded unspecified reforms. Soon, the protesters were joined by factory workers who were agitated because of the effects of new economic policies on their lives. The policy of market with socialist characteristics had led to some initial hiccups and apprehensions among the workers. Their support to the students’ demands of reform was rooted in those apprehensions. After all the attempts of negotiation failed, the government declared martial law on May 19.
The government avoided using force initially and allowed the protesters to peacefully withdraw. A large number of the protesters withdrew after the declaration of the martial law. Meanwhile, some protesters had barricaded the roads to the square and attacked military personnel, killing several of them. Ironically, a large number of media houses published the pictures of the soldiers being killed as evidence of the brutality of the regime. On June 3, when unarmed soldiers were sent to remove the protesters, they were attacked by the protesters. The entire city was under siege. This led to the final action on June 4 which were resisted by the protesters with arms. The deaths, no exact numbers are known, were reported from different parts of the city and it included both protesters and the soldiers.
There is no doubt that clashes did occur between protesters, including students, and security forces both at the square and other parts of the city. However, the extent of these clashes, the sections involved and the complexity of the issues have all been buried under the western narrative of a conflict between the students and the state. Over the years, a lot of evidence has emerged to throw doubt on that narrative.
On June 1 2014, the Financial Times carried a report on Operation Yellowbird or the extraction of almost 800 leaders of the Tiananmen demonstration by the British MI 6 and the Americans. Many of them later got prestigious scholarships and Ivy League admissions. One of the leaders, Chai Ling, now living in the US identified the motives behind the demonstration in the report. Though she herself wanted to live, she said “our wish is to see blood; that is to frustrate our government to the extreme that they will eventually butcher their citizens. I believe that only through a river of blood in the Square, will the nation then open their eyes and unite, but how could we tell our fellow students our intention?” This has been quoted partially in the Financial Times report and in full by Kim Peterson in his review of Wei Ling Chua’s book Tiananmen Square Massacre? The Power of Words vs Silent Evidence published in 2014.
In 2011, Wikileaks, the global whistleblower website founded by Julian Assange, published cables sent by US officials based in Beijing at the time of the demonstrations. These cables confirmed that most of the deaths happened in clashes between the demonstrators and the military in different parts of the city and not in the square. The fact that it has been more than 7 years since these cables are in public domain and most of the journalists continue writing about the “massacre” in the Square betrays the real objectives of such reporting.
On June 3 this year, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo issued a statement, saying “the massacre still stirred the conscience “of freedom-loving people around the world”. It is ironic that the country which is responsible for death of hundreds of thousands of people in different parts of the world, which supports the everyday occupation and killing of innocents in Palestine, the country which uses the slogans of democracy and human rights to legitimize the killing of innocents in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen has a ‘conscience’ for a ‘massacre.’ Yet again, a skewed version of history is being used to serve current political interests and the pursuit of an imperialist agenda.
- Let Them Eat (Jubilee) Cake Popular Resistance
When Marie Antoinette discovered her subjects were facing a bread shortage and starvation in around 1789, due to multiple poor crop harvests and rodent infestations, she apparently exclaimed ‘let them eat cake!’ Her hereditary privilege meant she had no grasp of the severity of their suffering, or the fact that cake was much more expensive than bread to produce.
Inequality during this period, immediately before the French revolution, was very high. Historians have estimated that around 90 per cent of working-class families lived at or below subsistence level, meaning they could only afford bare necessities. Marie Antoinette’s comment made her a symbol of hatred, which fueled the French revolution and the fall of the monarchy.
Fast forward nearly 250 years, and Britain is celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee amidst an intensifying cost of living crisis and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The privilege of the monarchy and the national crisis stand in sharp contrast. In Derbyshire, many have been angered by the council putting aside £200,000 to fund its Jubilee celebrations while food bank use in the county increased by 11 per cent in 2020.
The wider economic context paints an equally bleak picture. Earlier this year, the Office for Budget Responsibility forecast that household post-tax incomes would fall 2.2 per cent this year, the largest fall since records began. The Health Foundation found that working age people in the poorest 10 per cent of England were four times more likely to die from Covid-19 than those in the wealthiest areas. While the Queen gave a rare televised speech in April 2020, invoking the ‘Blitz spirit’, it was frontline workers who bore the brunt of the pandemic.
Yet, today, we are encouraged to buy decorations and food for Jubilee street parties. I’m personally getting bombarded with adverts for ‘special edition Platinum Jubilee macarons’, retailing for between £20-30. What better symbol of inequality than an expensive, Instagrammable patisserie with a portrait of a hereditary monarch on it?
It is not just that these inequalities are being sharpened alongside the existence of monarchy, but rather that the inequality inherent to systems of monarchy provide the conditions for inequality within wider society. There can be no call for socialist revolution and greater equality without including a call for Republicanism.
- The war in Ukraine through an African lens Responsible Statecraft
African policymakers and civil society opinion makers, like their counterparts around the world, share no consensus on the war in Ukraine. Its impact is undeniable, as the economic fallout for Africa has been profound, not least in the shortages of wheat and fertilizer from the region.
The head of the African Union, Sengalese President Macky Sall, is meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, June 3, to discuss the war and how to resolve these issues for the African continent. This involves wheat exports from Ukraine, which must pass through Russian-controlled ports or the port of Odessa on the Black Sea. Russia has also limited grain exports except to its top customers. Less noted but also vital for Africa are fertilizer exports from Belarus, blocked by closure of the export route through Lithuania.
Africans are also not insensitive to the highly visible suffering of Ukrainian civilians caught up in the war.
But the reluctance of African governments to vote for Western resolutions at the United Nations, or take sides with Washington and its policy of military escalation, should not be seen as support for the Russian invasion or for Vladimir Putin.
Yet both the Biden administration and Congress continue to demand that African leaders take sides. On April 27, for example, the House of Representatives passed the “Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act” by a margin of 415 to 9. The bill essentially mandates a new Cold War in Africa, including action against African governments that “facilitate the evasion of United States sanctions against Russia.”
The debate about causes and responsibility for the war in Ukraine will undoubtedly continue. Some in Africa, as elsewhere around the world, may resist Washington’s demands to take sides because they approve of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Governments in a few African countries, notably Mali and the Central African Republic, may do so because of Russian military support they have been receiving since the Wagner Group joined the host of French, U.S., and international agencies providing training and “advice” to African security forces.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, called on both Russia and Ukraine to prioritize negotiation, citing South Africa’s own difficult history of negotiations to end apartheid, in which he played a central role. A South African columnist in the Nairobi-based newspaper The Elephant called for “rebooting the non-aligned movement.” A Ugandan columnist in the same paper denounced the war as a return to the European norm after the decades of peace since World War II. And a Nigerian intelligence analyst argued that it was not in Nigeria’s interest to get involved in this geopolitical conflict.
Bloomerism and Hope
- In Los Angeles, Tenants Just Secured a Historic Victory Over Landlords Jacobin
The Hillside Villa Tenants Association has successfully forced a municipal government to approve the public purchase of a building to preserve affordability. The victory, a historic first in the US, creates a blueprint that can be followed across the nation.
Well, it’s not exactly what Mao achieved, but you’ve gotta start somewhere.
Austin Starbucks Employees Become First To Unionize In Texas Popular Resistance
Palestine Action Scotland Occupy Thales Weapons Factory In Glasgow Popular Resistance
This morning, Palestine Action Scotland made its debut – as activists took to the roof of weapons company Thales’ Glasgow factory. A team of six activists scaled the site in the early hours of the morning and are currently occupying the building, rendering it unusable and forcing workers to evacuate. Inside the factory they have dismantled and destroyed factory equipment and facilities.
Thales is one of the world’s largest arms companies – producing armored vehicles, missile systems and military UAVs (drones) – in particular, the Watchkeeper drone, used for surveillance and combat on captive populations. Today’s action has begun the campaign to end Scottish complicity in the apartheid, dispossession and ethnic cleansing enacted on Palestinians by the Israeli occupation.
- US bird flu outbreak: millions of birds culled in ‘most inhumane way available’ The Guardian
The US poultry industry has increasingly switched to “the most inhumane method available” to cull tens of millions of birds during the latest outbreak of avian influenza, according to government data.
Outbreaks of the disease, also known as bird flu, have wreaked havoc across Europe and the US this year, with 38 million birds killed in the US so far.
But how these birds are killed has generated controversy, with veterinarians and animal welfare campaigners urging an end to the use of the ventilation shutdown method, which kills animals by sealing off the airflow to the poultry sheds and increasing temperatures to lethal levels.
Workers have described the method as like “roasting animals alive”. European officials have said it should not be used in the European Union.
In the US, however, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) lists ventilation shutdown with supplemental heat as “permitted in constrained circumstances” for “depopulation”.
A new analysis has found that it has now become the main method for killing birds, used in nearly three-quarters of culls.