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Europe

  • Euro zone to avoid recession, growth to accelerate in third quarter, ECB survey shows Reuters

The euro zone will avoid a recession this year and growth will accelerate noticeably after bottoming out in the second quarter, a key European Central Bank survey showed on Monday.

The 19-country currency bloc has been hit by fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has sapped confidence, investment and households' purchasing power via sharply higher fuel and food prices.

The economy is now expected to grow by 0.1% in the second quarter, accelerating to 0.4% in both the third and fourth quarters, the ECB’s Survey of Monetary Analysts showed.

  • European Commission to support Ukraine’s EU candidate status RT

The European Commission is to support giving EU candidate nation status to Ukraine, Politico reported on Monday.

Several anonymous officials “familiar with the debate among commissioners” told the media outlet that among the factors which tipped the scales in Kiev’s favor were the sacrifices Ukrainians have made so far, as well as the need to make it clear to the Kremlin that Ukraine will never again be part of its sphere of influence.

“The Commission does not forget that Ukraine is the only country in Europe where people died, where people were shot at because they were on the streets carrying EU flags,” one senior official explained. “Now, we cannot tell them, ‘sorry guys, you were waving the wrong flags,‘” he added.

According to Politico, this was one of the arguments Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky used during Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s surprise visit to Kiev on Saturday when he tried to convince the EU boss that his country deserves the much-coveted status. The Ukrainian president reportedly said that by recognizing them as an EU candidate nation, the bloc would give Ukraine a much-needed morale boost in the face of the ongoing Russian offensive.

The final decision, however, rests with the European Council, made up of the heads of state and government of all 27 EU member states. They are expected to decide the matter at a summit in Brussels next week.

Ukraine will need the unanimous support of all member states to obtain candidate status.

However, Politico, citing officials and diplomats, noted that at least three countries were apparently opposed to the move.

Ukraine

  • 25% of Ukraine’s arable land lost to war Inquirer

Ukraine has lost a quarter of its arable land since Russia’s invasion, notably in the south and east, the deputy agriculture minister said Monday while insisting that food security is not threatened.

“Despite the loss of 25 percent of arable land, crop planting this year is more than sufficient” to ensure food for the population, Taras Vysotskiy told a news conference.

He said national consumption levels had fallen “due to mass displacement and external migration” as millions fled to escape the fighting.

Russia

  • Russia threatens to strip anti-war protester of citizenship Al Jazeera

  • Russia’s Oil Revenue Soars Despite Sanctions, Study Finds NYT

Russia earned what is very likely a record 93 billion euros in revenue from exports of oil, gas and coal in the first 100 days of the country’s invasion of Ukraine, according to data analyzed by the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air, a research organization based in Helsinki, Finland. About two-thirds of those earnings, the equivalent of about $97 billion, came from oil, and most of the remainder from natural gas.

“The current rate of revenue is unprecedented, because prices are unprecedented, and export volumes are close to their highest levels on record,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, an analyst who led the center’s research.

Fossil fuel exports have been a key enabler of Russia’s military buildup. In 2021, revenue from oil and gas alone made up 45 percent of Russia’s federal budget, according to the International Energy Agency. The revenue from Russia’s fossil fuel exports exceeds what the country is spending on its war in Ukraine, the research center estimated, a sobering finding as momentum shifts in Russia’s favor as its forces focus on important regional targets amid a weapons shortage among Ukrainian soldiers.

  • China and India now account for about 50% of Russia’s seaborne oil exports, as Asian demand props up Moscow’s energy revenues Business Insider

Poland

  • Poland wants new weapons after arming Ukraine RT

Poland’s weapons stocks have been left too bare by military aid to Ukraine, and the country wants its Western allies to replace the firepower that was shipped to Kiev, Polish President Andrzej Duda told his army commanders on Monday.

“We expect the gaps that have arisen in our resources to be refilled also within the framework of allied support mechanisms,” Duda said in a military briefing. Poland has been Ukraine’s top supplier of heavy weapons, including hundreds of tanks, artillery pieces and other gear, he added.

The aid also included hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition, as well as drones and anti-aircraft launchers. Duda said Warsaw moved quickly to meet neighbor Ukraine’s needs on the battlefield, providing about $1.7 billion in military aid alone, after Russia launched its military offensive in February. It can take years to replace such weaponry, he added.

United Kingdom

  • UK ramps up gas and oil exports to EU amid Russia’s war in Ukraine The Guardian

The UK has drastically increased the volume of natural gas being pumped to the EU amid Russia’s war in Ukraine, powering a record monthly rise in goods exports to the continent despite Brexit.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show EU goods exports rose for the third consecutive month to £16.4bn in April, the highest monthly level in current prices since comparable records began in 1997.

Reflecting the impact of the war in Ukraine as EU nations seek to diversify energy supplies away from Russia, the data suggests the UK is acting as a hub for liquified natural gas (LNG) imports from the rest of the world before pumping it through pipelines to the continent.

  • Workers face ‘year of pain’ as real wages fall at fastest rate in 20 years The Guardian

Regular real pay in the UK fell at the fastest rate in over two decades in April, as wages fell further behind rising prices.

In April alone, regular pay packets (excluding bonuses) shrank by 3.4% once you adjust for inflation (the ONS’s preferred measure, CPIH).

  • UK fuel prices hit new high RT

Fuel prices in the UK have risen to new highs, according to data tracked by the roadside assistance company the RAC.

The average price of diesel has jumped to a record 190.92 pence per liter, while gasoline has reached 185.04 pence.

RAC calculations show that filling up a 55-liter family car with diesel now costs £105.01 ($128.14), while a full tank of gasoline is £101.77 ($124.19).

  • EU set to take legal action against UK over post-Brexit deal changes BBC

Ministers insist current checks on some goods travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland must end to avoid harm to the peace process.

They published a parliamentary bill on Monday aimed at overriding parts of the deal signed with the EU in 2020.

But Brussels says going back on the arrangement breaks international law.

“Britain has taken a very regrettable decision that goes against all the agreements between the EU and Britain,” German Chancellor Olaf Sholz said.

“It is also unjustified because the European Commission made many pragmatic proposals.”

Italy’s Europe Minister Enzo Amendola said the UK’s proposal was worrying and “would violate their international legal obligations”.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Boris Johnson’s government to “continue negotiations with the EU in good faith”.

  • Protests Erupt After UK Court Greenlights Plan to Deport Asylum-Seekers to Rwanda Common Dreams

Progressives demonstrated outside the United Kingdom Home Office in London after judges on Monday greenlit right-wing Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s widely condemned plan to expel some asylum-seekers to Rwanda.

Although human rights campaigners called Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel’s effort to exile hundreds of people “unethical, immoral, ineffective, costly, and very likely unlawful” when it was unveiled in April, British High Court Justice Jonathan Swift ruled last week that the Tories' new deportation policy is in the “public interest” and denied plaintiffs' request for an injunction ahead of a full judicial review later this summer.

Labour Party MP Jeremy Corbyn was among those protesting the Johnson administration’s outsourcing of migrant detention, which Human Rights Watch (HRW) has described as an abrogation of the U.K.’s obligations under international law and a “copycat” version of Australia’s “disastrous” offshore asylum processing scheme.

“There are 70 million people in this world who are refugees,” said Corbyn. “Seventy million people without a home to call their own. Seventy million people facing an uncertain future. They are human beings, just like you and me in this street here today. In a different place in a different time, any one of us could be one of those 70 million.”

“Human rights requires, and the law requires, that you treat refugees fairly, safely, and you give them support,” the leftist leader continued. “It is a shame, a shame on this country that people who have fled from the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Palestine, Yemen, and so many other places are sleeping rough and starving on the streets of our cities.”

“What has happened to our humanity in this, the fifth-richest country in the world?” asked Corbyn.

France

  • France has entered ‘war economy’ - Macron RT

Macron said he instructed the government to “carry out a reassessment of the military spending program in the coming weeks, in the light of the geopolitical context.”

France “has entered into a war economy in which I believe we will find ourselves for a long time,” he said during the opening of the Eurosatory arms expo in Paris. The French president said that Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine created “an additional need to move faster and become stronger at a lower cost.”

“As for anyone doubting the urgency of these efforts, we only need take another look at Ukraine, whose soldiers are in demand of quality weapons and are entitled to a response from us,” Macron noted.

Macron said the EU needs “a much larger defense industry” and should not rely on procuring weapons from elsewhere. The current program entails spending €295 billion ($308 billion) between 2019 and 2025 on modernizing the French military. The annual military budget is set to reach €41 billion ($43 billion) this year and €50 billion ($52 billion) in 2025.

Last month, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that Europe would boost its defense in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. She said EU countries had announced increases of their defense budgets to an additional €200 billion ($209 billion) in the coming years.

Germany

  • German inflation nears 50-year peak RT

Annual inflation in Germany accelerated to 7.9% in May, final estimates from the country’s Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) show. In May alone, consumer prices rose by 0.9%, after jumping 0.8% in April.

According to the agency’s press release on Tuesday, it’s the largest inflationary spike to hit Europe’s largest economy in almost half a century.

“Inflation in united Germany shows a maximum for the third month in a row. The main reason for high inflation is still rising energy prices. We are also seeing an increase in prices for many other goods, especially food… The last time such a high level of inflation was observed was in the winter of 1973-1974, when oil prices rose sharply as a result of the oil crisis,” Destatis President Georg Thiel was quoted as saying.

Germany is grappling with a cost of living crisis amid soaring global energy prices, propelled by Ukraine-related anti-Russia sanctions. Natural gas prices have increased by 55.2% compared to May 2021, and fuel prices are up 41%, Destatis data shows.

Asia and Oceania

China

  • China’s Pacific Push Is Already Remaking the Region The Diplomat

Developments of great significance continue to unfold in the Pacific following China’s bold attempt to redraw the region’s geopolitical map. China aimed to create a bloc of “China-Pacific Island” countries during Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s barnstorming eight-nation tour through the region, which began on May 26 in the Solomon Islands and ended on June 4 in Timor-Leste. Rather than achieving this end, the pressure China has been exerting in the Pacific has triggered a recalibration of regional bonds and domestic realignments, producing a very different Pacific paradigm shift than the one China intended. In all the machinations, Pacific Island nations have strenuously resisted being cast as pawns in this game.

This is a fairly long and detailed accounting (though it does have a bit of an anti-China bent) of what’s going on in the Pacific, so I won’t quote it all here, but go ahead and read it if you’re interested.

  • China seeks stronger security ties with Pakistan RT

Chinese and Pakistani officials have agreed to increase their cooperation in countering terrorism and other security concerns, deepening their cooperation amid efforts by “outside forces” to divide the two countries.

“Pakistan and China reaffirmed their strategic partnership in challenging times and agreed to continue regular exchange of perspectives on issues of mutual interest,” Islamabad’s military said in a statement on Sunday. The countries also vowed to enhance their ties on training, technology, and counterterrorism.

The agreement followed talks during a four-day visit to Beijing by a Pakistani military delegation, headed by Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa. Their Chinese hosts were led by General Zhang Youxia, vice chairman of China’s Central Military Commission.

Laos

  • Bank of the Lao PDR Considers Ban on Public Holding Foreign Currencies Laotian Times

The central bank of the Lao PDR suggests banning members of the general public from owning foreign currencies to address money-related problems including Kip depreciation and rising inflation.

Taiwan

  • Taiwan Strait is an international waterway, Taipei says, in rebuff to China Bangkok Post

The Taiwan Strait is an international waterway and Taiwan’s government supports U.S. warships transiting it, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday, rebuffing claims from China to exercise sovereignty over the strategic passage.

Precisely! The US would obviously have zero reaction if the Chinese navy was floating off the east and west coasts of the US in international waters. Why does China react so strongly to the US navy being there?

Japan

  • Japan’s farmers to switch from rice to wheat RT

Japanese farmers plan to reduce rice production and partially switch to planting wheat and soybeans at home, Japan Today reported on Monday, citing a survey by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

The move comes as global prices have spiked since February’s launch of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine and subsequent Western sanctions on Moscow. The situation threatens a shortage of supplies in Japan.

According to the report, 37 of the country’s 47 prefectures said they planned to reduce the areas where they cultivate rice in favor of other crops.

Japan’s rice consumption has been declining since 1962, the publication notes, attributing the trend to changes in eating habits and a dwindling population. Meanwhile, demand for wheat and soy remains strong. However, Japan imports 80% of the wheat and 90% of the soybeans it consumes, and the prices of these commodities globally have risen sharply since the start of the crisis in Ukraine, which has jeopardized the availability of both Russian and Ukrainian grain supplies. The two countries are traditionally considered the globe’s breadbasket, previously ranking as first and fifth respectively among the world’s major exporters of wheat.

India

  • Pollution cuts life expectancy in India capital by 10 years Al Jazeera

Microscopic air pollution caused mostly by burning fossil fuels is reducing life expectancy by nearly 10 years in the Indian capital, one of the most polluted cities in the world, says a study.

The study by Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), released on Tuesday, said lung and heart disease caused by so-called PM2.5 pollution reduces life expectancy in the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar – home to 300 million people – by eight years.

  • India’s Supreme Court Recognizes Sex Work as a Profession The Diplomat

India’s Supreme Court recently observed that “sex work is a profession” like any other, and sex workers should not be harassed by the police.

“Sex workers are entitled to equal protection of the law. Criminal law must apply equally in all cases, on the basis of ‘age’ and ‘consent.’ When it is clear that the sex worker is an adult and is participating with consent, the police must refrain from interfering or taking any criminal action,” the court ruled.

The court ruling is landmark in the sense, that it upholds the dignity of sex workers. It will enable sex workers to avail themselves of the same benefits and facilities like any other citizen.

It should be pointed out that sex work or prostitution is not illegal in India, however trafficking for sexual exploitation is an offence under Indian law. Sex work as an organized trade which involves pimping, soliciting, exploitation, renting out of property for sex work are all punishable as per the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act (ITPA).

Since there was much hype over the recent court ruling, activists who work to combat trafficking for sexual exploitation have clarified that the court ruling does not legalize the “flesh trade” in brothels. It is aimed at protecting sex workers (prostitutes) and not those who live off or profit from the sex trade such as brothel owners and traffickers, who are liable to be prosecuted.

  • Russia becomes India’s 2nd largest oil supplier RT

Russia became India’s second biggest crude oil supplier in May, as New Delhi stocked up on discounted Russian deliveries, Reuters reported on Monday, citing trade sources.

According to the report, Indian refiners received around 819,000 barrels per day of Russian oil last month, compared to some 277,000 in April.

Iraq has retained its position as India’s largest oil supplier, while Saudi Arabia, which was previously the second biggest, has slid to third place.

Indonesia

  • The World’s Top Coal Exporter Can’t Afford To Go Green Oil Price

How much will it cost to wean Indonesia off coal? This is a pressing question for world leaders and climate policy-makers around the world in the lead-up to this year’s COP27 climate summit, set to take place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt this November. Just before the summit, in which the world’s premier politicians, scientists, policymakers, and industry leaders convene to set goals, broker deals, and make concrete agendas to meet the emissions standards set by the Paris climate agreement in 2015, G-20 leaders are meeting in Bali to try to ink a deal to wean the world’s biggest coal exporter off of the dirty fossil fuel. But it won’t come easy.

Indonesia ranks high on the COP27 agenda as it represents one of the biggest hurdles to phasing out coal on a global scale, a necessary component of all pathways to lowering global emissions enough to avoid the worst effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has stated that the world will have to shut down all coal-fired stations by 2040 at the latest, and had previously urged that the world must reach peach coal by 2020. Instead, the world saw an enormous rebound of coal use in 2021, as ongoing pandemic woes coupled with sanctions on Russian energy caused energy prices to skyrocket.

The renewed vitality of the coal industry is one of many obstacles standing in the way of weaning Indonesia off of coal. The Southeast Asian island nation has the fourth biggest population in the world, and the third biggest coal-fired power capacity, after India and China, making it one of just a few countries with the power to make or break the Paris agreement. But coal is deeply embedded in the economic and political machinations of the country, and getting rid of it will not be easy.

The Indonesian parliament just drafted a “clean energy” bill that prominently features the continued use of coal, to the dismay and outrage of environmental experts and climate advocates. According to the Indonesia Mining Advocacy Network, a watchdog agency, as much as 50% of the country’s 575 members of parliament are directly connected to the mining sector. The Indonesian workers who rely on coal for their livelihoods are also pushing back against climate efforts, and are advocating to keep raising coal output targets while the market is hot.

Further complicating the issue, Indonesia has a massive surplus of coal on its hands after it was heavily over-invested in the sector in past decades. Convincing them not to make use of this cheap and abundant energy source will be difficult – and expensive. This is what’s on the minds of the world’s richest nations as they work toward brokering one of their trickiest deals yet on the eve of COP27. “Indonesia will be our next partnership,” US Treasury Climate Counselor John Morton was quoted by Bloomberg this week. “If this were easy, it would have been done years ago. Countries could have managed this on their own,” he said. “We’re talking about economy-wide economic transitions of energy sectors, which are huge political beasts.”

Middle East

  • West pressuring Arab states – top official RT

Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit in an interview on Sunday accused the West of pressuring Arab states to condemn Russia over its military operation in Ukraine and vote against Moscow in international forums, in a bid to “surround” Russia with compliant Middle Eastern allies.

A number of Arab League members – including Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt – voted for a UN General Assembly resolution in March voicing opposition to Russia’s offensive. However, the league itself, which represents 22 Arab states, has not offered a similar view on Moscow’s actions, stating in late February that it supports a diplomatic resolution to “the crisis in Ukraine,” and acknowledging that its members share “close relations” with “the two sides in the crisis.”

Media reports at the time suggested that the US lobbied Egypt “and several other countries” to give their political support to Kiev and “reduce the pace” of their cooperation with Russia.

“They did not succumb to this dictate to which they were subjected, and some even refused to vote for condemning the actions of the Russian Federation,” Gheit stated, according to a report by the TV channel Al-Mayadeen.

Of the Arab League’s members, Algeria, Iran, Iraq and Sudan abstained from the final UN vote, while Syria, a Russian ally whose membership in the league has been suspended since 2011, opposed the resolution. Days before the vote, reports suggested that the UAE and Egypt would abstain.

Israel/Palestine

  • Israel Defence Forces to conduct military drills near Gaza fence MEMO

The Israel Defence Forces will be conducting military drills today and tomorrow along the nominal border fence with the besieged Gaza Strip. The movement of civilians will not be affected by the drills, the IDF confirmed.

According to Israel Hayom, the army explained that it is “preparing and training continuously for multiple scenarios, including threats from Iran.” In this scenario, it is believed that Iran’s allies in Yemen, Syria and Iraq could target Israeli territory with missiles or drones. The IDF will also continue to conduct military exercises within Israel itself as the country faces internal threats from Palestinian resistance factions.

The latest drills come after the IDF has been taking part in a month-long military exercise called “Chariots of Fire”. As part of this, there was an “Iran aerial exercise” which simulated a wide-ranging regional conflict. Thousands of soldiers and reservists took part, across all army commands, the air force and the navy. It was all intended to improve the readiness of the IDF to fight on multiple fronts simultaneously.

  • Palestinians ‘are bound to win’: Why Israelis are prophesying the end of their state MEMO

While it is true that Zionism is a modern political ideology that has exploited religion to achieve specific colonial objectives in Palestine, prophecies continue to be a critical component of Israel’s perception of itself, and of the state’s relationship with other groups, especially Christian messianic groups in the United States and worldwide.

The subject of religious prophecies and their centrality to Israel’s political thought was once more highlighted following remarks by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, in a recent interview with the Hebrew-language newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth. Barak, perceived to be a ‘progressive’ politician, who was once the leader of Israel’s Labour Party, expressed fears that Israel will “disintegrate” before the 80th anniversary of its 1948 establishment.

“Throughout the Jewish history, the Jews did not rule for more than eighty years, except in the two kingdoms of David and the Hasmonean dynasty and, in both periods, their disintegration began in the eighth decade,” Barak said.

  • Israel’s ruling coalition teeters on collapse RT

Israel may be headed for its fifth election in three years as the ruling coalition headed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett shows signs of unraveling and losing its grip on power.

Longtime Bennett ally Nir Orbach announced on Monday that he has left the ruling legislative bloc, saying it was being held hostage by “extremist, anti-Zionist elements,” such as United Arab List (Ra’am) party member Mazen Ghanaim and left-wing Meretz lawmaker Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi. Orbach’s move left Bennett’s diverse coalition with just 59 seats in the 120-member Knesset, two seats short of a majority.

Addressing the Knesset on Monday, Bennett acknowledged that his government may collapse within “a week or two” unless defectors rejoin the fold. Orbach became the third member of Bennett’s conservative Yamina party to quit the ruling bloc.

“One after another, they’re abandoning the sinking ship,” former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his successor. “Your government of extortion and protection is falling apart.”

Saudi Arabia

  • Biden’s Saudi Arabia Opportunity Politico

The U.S.-Saudi relationship has lately endured some of the worst tensions in its history. But President Joe Biden’s first visit to the Middle East next month, with stops in Israel and Saudi Arabia, offers a surprising opportunity — if both sides will take it.

A wide range of issues have stoked disagreement and mistrust between the longtime partners: Iran nuclear talks, the war in Yemen, the Saudi posture on U.S. rivals Russia and China, human rights (including the murder of Jamal Khashoggi), social reform in the Kingdom, oil production and prices, and the U.S. commitment to the Middle East.

That’s a lot to tackle in one presidential visit of perhaps 24 to 48 hours. As senior officials from both countries travel between Washington and Riyadh to lay the groundwork, they should be realistic about what is achievable. One principle that should guide preparations: Not all bilateral differences can be resolved at once. However tempting a grand bargain may be, the relationship is more likely to be repaired step-by-step.

The article goes on for a while.

Pakistan

  • Europe’s Plan to Quit Russian Fuel Plunges Pakistan Into Darkness Bloomberg

Europe’s campaign to quit Russian fuel is designed to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine. It’s also wreaking havoc thousands of miles away from the conflict, plunging Pakistan into darkness, undermining one regime and threatening the stability of the country’s new leadership.

A decade ago, the world’s fifth-most populous country took specific steps to insulate itself from the kinds of violent price spikes that are roiling the market today. It made a massive investment in liquified natural gas and signed long-term contracts with suppliers in Italy and Qatar. Now some of those suppliers have defaulted, though they continue to sell into the more lucrative European market, leaving Pakistan in exactly the position it tried so hard to avoid.

In order to avoid blackouts during the Eid holiday last month, the government paid nearly $100 million to procure a single LNG shipment from the spot market, a record for the cash-strapped nation. In the fiscal year ending July, the country’s costs for LNG could top $5 billion, twice what they were a year ago. Even so, the government can’t cushion the blow for its citizens: The International Monetary Fund is in talks to bail out the nation with a key condition that it cuts fuel and electricity subsidies.

Now parts of Pakistan are experiencing planned blackouts of more than 12 hours, limiting the effectiveness of air conditioning to offer relief during the ongoing heatwave. The previous prime minister continues to draw large crowds to rallies and protests, amplifying citizens’ anger about inflation that’s rising at 13.8%. Prime-time talk show hosts regularly discuss how Pakistan will get the fuel it needs, and how much it will have to pay.

Last week, the government announced a new raft of energy-saving measures. Civil servants were released from regular Saturday shifts, and the budget for security personnel was slashed 50%.

“I am acutely aware of the hardships people are facing,” Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said in a tweet in April ahead of the Eid holiday. He ordered his government to resume purchasing expensive overseas natural gas shipments that same week. And earlier this month he warned that they don’t have enough money to continue buying gas from overseas.

The supply crunch will go beyond blackouts. The government has redirected existing natural gas supplies to power plants, short-changing fertilizer makers that depend on the fuel as a feedstock. That move could threaten the next harvest, leading to even higher food costs next year. Cellphone towers are using backup generators to sustain service through the blackouts, but they too are running out of fuel.

There’s little reprieve on the horizon. The cost of LNG has surged by more than 1,000% in the last two years, first on post-pandemic demand, then on the Russia invasion of Ukraine. Russia is Europe’s biggest supplier of natural gas, and the threat of supply disruptions sent spot rates to a record in March.

Meanwhile, Europe has been demanding more and more LNG. So far this year, Europe’s LNG imports are up 50% from the same period last year and aren’t showing any sign of slowing down. Policymakers in the European Union drafted a plan to significantly increase LNG deliveries as an alternative to Russian gas as they break ties with President Vladimir Putin’s regime over the war in Ukraine. Countries like Germany and the Netherlands are fast-tracking the construction of floating import terminals, with the first ones slated to start within the next six months.

“Europe is sucking LNG” from the world, said Steve Hill, executive vice president at Shell Plc, the world’s top trader of the fuel. “But that means less LNG will go to developing markets.”

Iraq

  • Sandstorm brings Iraq to standstill, grounds flights Iraqi News

Iraq temporarily closed Baghdad airport Monday as choking clouds of dust blanketed the capital, the latest crippling sandstorm in a country that has warned climate change poses an “existential threat”.

It was the tenth duststorm since mid-April to hit Iraq, which has been battered by intense droughts, soil degradation, high temperatures and low rainfall linked to climate change.

Iran

  • Scores injured in explosion at chemical factory Yahoo

An explosion at a chemical factory in southern Iran injured scores of people, most of them lightly, the country’s state TV reported Tuesday.

The report said a leak from an ammonium tank caused the blast on Monday evening in the southern city of Firouzabad in Fars province, located about 770 kilometers (480 miles) south of the capital, Tehran. Firemen were able to quickly extinguish the blaze, the report added.

According to the chief of the provincial health department, Vahid Hosseini, out of 133 injured who were taken to local hospitals, mostly factory workers, 114 were later released after treatment.

  • Heads of Iran, Afghanistan railways confer on mutual cooperation Tehran Times

In this meeting, Miad Salehi and Bakht-ur-Rehman Sharafat talked about resuming the reconstruction and the completion of the third section of the Khaf-Herat railway.

Speaking at this gathering, Salehi stressed the Iranian government’s policies for expanding cooperation with neighboring countries and said: “Based on the policies of the 13th government administration and the transport diplomacy that is being followed by the government, very good agreements have been reached with neighboring countries in recent months.”

“We also welcome cooperation with Afghanistan,” Salehi said, adding: “If Afghanistan is ready for long-term cooperation and practical agreements with our country, we will also declare our readiness in this regard.”

Africa

Sudan

  • Sudan: Over 15,000 sheep drown in Suakin port MEE

More than 15,000 sheep drowned on Sunday in Sudan’s Red Sea port of Suakin after a livestock ship sunk, officials said. All crew survived.

The vessel was transporting the animals from Sudan to Saudi Arabia when it sank, carrying several thousand more animals than it was meant to take.

A senior Sudanese port official told AFP on the grounds of anonymity that “The ship, Badr 1, sank during the early hours of Sunday morning.”

He added that the ship was “carrying 15,800 sheep, which was beyond its load limits”.

Libya

  • Libya in the Throes of a Serious Political Crisis NEO

After Mohamed al-Menfi, president of the Libyan Presidential Council, met with UN General Secretary António Guterres, he spoke highly of the work done by the UN’s mission in Libya “to support the people in reaching a peaceful solution to restore security, stability and peace to the country.” However, in reality he was probably just being polite and diplomatic, and the current situation in the country, in spite of the efforts of international forums at the very highest level, is very far from hopeful.

Day by day it is looking less and less likely that the so-called Road Map will lead to the successful parliamentary and presidential elections that the 2.8 million strong electorate have been waiting for for so long. The main political forces in the country have still not reached a consensus on certain key questions related to the electoral process. And the regional and international powers, as well as the UN also disagree about the best way to resolve the Libyan crisis, but that has not prevented them meddling in the most reckless manner in the affairs of the country once united by the concept of Jamahiriya. Perhaps all the parties with an interest in resolving the Libyan problem should reconsider their positions and try to reach an alternative agreement – one which has a chance of succeeding where all previous attempts over the last ten years have failed.

In the current highly complex situation Stephanie T. Williams, Special Adviser on Libya to the United Nations Secretary-General is taking advantage of her position to achieve ends of her own, in doing so fanning the flames of the Libyan crisis. Ignoring all the problems afflicting the country, the fundamental flaws in the UN-brokered process and the stalemate into which the opposing Libyan groups have been forced by the West’s policies, she insists on forcing her – and the West’s – point of view on the Libyans. She is still hoping that her friends back in the US will help her out in Libya, and is using the promise of financial assistance to push through her Road Map which is entirely geared towards promoting US interests. It was she who drew up and promoted this document in a meeting with the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) held in Tunis in November 2020. She is continuing to call for elections and for the restoration of political institutions – but only those that are loyal to the West.

Mali

  • French army quits Mali base ahead of total pullout Iraqi News

French troops were on Monday handing back a military base in northeastern Mali ahead of a final withdrawal from the Sahel nation, France’s army said, after nine years fighting a jihadist insurgency.

Gambia

  • Gambia: IMF Approves U.S.$6.72 Million Disbursement for Gambia All Africa

The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Friday completed the fourth review under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) arrangement for The Gambia which enables an immediate disbursement of SDR 5 million, about US$ 6.72 million to help meet the country’s balance-of-payments and fiscal financing needs, and support the post-pandemic recovery, and address challenges from the war in Ukraine.

North America

Canada

The price of many important minerals also skyrocketed following the Russian attack. Russia’s economy holds seven percent of the world’s nickel supply, 10 percent of its platinum, 20 percent of its titanium, and 25 percent of its palladium. The price of these metals and others, including aluminum, cobalt, and copper, spiked in March 2022, only to stabilize in the ensuing months, albeit at above-normal prices in many cases.

Some of the most fluctuant minerals are central components of Canada’s $3.8 billion Critical Minerals Strategy, announced by the Trudeau government in 2021 as a way to “capitalize on rising global demand for critical minerals,” to secure inputs for “renewable energy and clean technology applications,” and to guarantee Canada’s economic primacy in the fields of “defence and security technologies, consumer electronics, agriculture, medical applications and critical infrastructure.”

While the Canadian government continues to support the extraction of these minerals domestically, Canada’s mining industry has assumed an increasingly global orientation over the past few decades, especially since the imposition of neoliberal structural adjustment programs (SAPs) on countries across the Global South. Latin America has historically been the most profitable region for Canadian mining companies operating outside North America, but recently, both the Biden and Trudeau governments have spotlighted Africa as an increasingly key supplier for their respective critical minerals strategies.

Steven Fox, executive chairman of New York-based political risk consultancy Veracity Worldwide, has asserted that the Biden administration “wants to position itself as a strong supporter of battery metals projects in sub-Saharan Africa.” These battery metals are an essential component in the creation of electric vehicles and other less fossil fuel-reliant technologies, whose production is described by some as a way of weaning Europe off of Russian energy imports. Additionally, the lack of environmentally appropriate regulations in many African countries, often the result of SAPs and Western advisement on extractive policy, means that mining projects are likelier more efficient—and thus more profitable—to pursue on the continent.

“While Africa presents its challenges,” explained Fox, “those challenges are no more difficult than the corresponding set of challenges in Canada. It may be easier to actually bring a project to fruition in Africa, than in a place like Canada or the US.”

United States

  • Senators want Pentagon to be more green RT

Citing the US military’s carbon emissions footprint, a group of senior Senate Democrats officially introduced a bill on Monday that would require the Pentagon to buy electric vehicles starting later this year. Spearheaded by Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), the Military Vehicle Fleet Electrification Act would apply to “non-tactical” cars, vans or light-duty trucks bought or leased by the Department of Defense (DOD) starting in fiscal year 2023.

“Transitioning the military’s non-tactical fleet of vehicles to electric or other zero-emission vehicles would have a significant impact on the US government’s greenhouse gas emissions,” Warren said in a statement announcing the bill. “This is an effective solution that helps us tackle the climate crisis and keeps the military ready for the future,” she added.

Hirono called the proposal “a critical step in reducing our government’s carbon emissions” and said it would “help combat climate change while helping to ensure our military has the advantages of a modern fleet of vehicles that reduces the military’s dependence on oil.”

  • Recession signals are flashing again in the bond market as closely watched Treasury yields invert for the first time since April Business Insider

The US bond market on Monday flashed a warning of a potential recession on the horizon as a key point of the Treasury yield curve inverted for the first time since early April.

The 2-year US Treasury yield jumped to its highest since 2007, briefly surpassing the yield on the 10-year Treasury note.

An inverted yield curve — when short-term rates exceed long-term rates — spooks investors and has historically predicted a recession on the horizon in the near to medium-term.

  • Over two thirds of economists believe a recession is likely to hit in 2023 Fortune

  • Bad Inflation Reports Raise Odds of Surprise 0.75-Percentage-Point Rate Rise This Week WSJ

  • Goldman Sachs warns the chances of a US recession are rising, with the Fed to hike rates by 75 basis points at the next two meetings Business Insider

  • The chief economist at Moody’s thinks that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine accounts for over a third of U.S. inflation—and that COVID stimulus had almost no impact Fortune

  • The US wants companies to buy Russian fertilizer as agricultural commodities markets spiral and a global food crisis looms Business Insider

The US wants companies to ramp up purchases of Russian fertilizer as global food costs rise and shortages loom, according to a Monday Bloomberg report.

Sources told Bloomberg that the government is quietly pushing companies to buy and carry more Russian fertilizer. Sanctions fears have created a supply shortage and have fueled a global food crisis, and the US is moving to alleviate pressure with the United Nations by boosting deliveries of fertilizer, grain, and other supplies from Russia.

This year, Russian fertilizer exports have dropped 24%, per Bloomberg data. Russia and Ukraine together account for a quarter of global grains trade.

The challenge the US faces is that it must balance putting more pressure on Moscow while also limiting repercussions for the global economy and the world’s food supply, which relies on a range of products from Russia.

The US and EU have included fertilizer exemptions in their sanctions on Russia, per the report, which allow trade to continue flowing for the key commodity.

On Friday, June 10, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that prices for workers’ families, the so-called Consumer Price Index-Wage or CPI-W rose by 9.3% as compared to prices a year ago. This rate of inflation is near a 40-year high, only exceeded by the 9.4% increase in March. The last time that prices rose so quickly was in November of 1981.

  • Sending Stingers To Ukraine Has Increased The Urgency Of Developing New U.S. Army Air Defenses Forbes

Washington has sent over 1,400 Stinger antiaircraft missiles to Ukraine as part of the allied effort to prevent Russian occupation of the country.

That is a significant portion of the U.S. Army’s entire Stinger inventory, and it highlights the need to modernize the service’s short-range air defenses.

During the global war on terror that preoccupied the Army for more than a decade following the 9/11 attacks, tactical air defenses were neglected because the enemy did not have an air force.

However, with the shift of national defense strategy from counter-insurgency to deterring great power rivals, the Army has revived the air defense mission.

In fact, improved air and missile defense has become a pillar of the service’s modernization agenda. Army plans emphasize the value of layered defenses requiring weapons with diverse ranges, but in many tactical situations short-range weapons may be the only systems immediately available.

Today, that means Stinger. But Stinger is an old system, first designed in the 1970s, and despite improvements it is limited in speed and reach.

Russian drones overflying Ukraine reportedly are able to operate above the engagement “envelope” of Stingers, rendering them ineffectual.

Something better than the existing system is needed, and the Army is pursuing it under a multifaceted program called Maneuver Short Range Air Defense, or M-SHORAD.

The first step in the Army’s approach was to shift vehicle-mounted Stingers from vulnerable Humvees to the heavily-armored Stryker SYK troop carrier. That effort is well under way, led by General Dynamics Land Systems and the U.S. unit of Leonardo.

But that is just Increment 1 in a three-step program. The next step, Increment 2, will be to field a high-power laser on Stryker. And then Increment 3 will develop a missile with longer range and higher speed than Stinger to give defenders greater reach.

  • American Shale Drillers Set To Boost Production In July Oil Price

U.S. Shale production in the seven most prolific shale basins is set to increase 143,000 bpd in July to 8.91 million bpd, according to the Energy Information Administration’s latest Drilling Productivity Report published on Monday.

It would be the largest monthly production increase since March 2020, according to EIA data.

The largest jump is expected to come from the Permian basin, increasing by 84,000 bpd from an estimated 5.232 million bpd in June 2022 to 5.316 million bpd next month. The EIA has forecast that the second largest gainer will be the Eagle Ford, which it expects will see an increase of 28,000 bpd, to 1.180 million bpd in July.

South America

Chile

  • ‘We beg God for water’: Chilean lake turns to desert, sounding climate change alarm Reuters

The Penuelas reservoir in central Chile was until twenty years ago the main source of water for the city of Valparaiso, holding enough water for 38,000 Olympic-size swimming pools. Water for only two pools now remains.

A huge expanse of dried and cracked earth that was once the lake bed is littered with fish skeletons and desperate animals searching for water.

Amid an historic 13-year drought, rainfall levels have slumped in this South American nation that hugs the continent’s Pacific coast. Higher air temperatures have meant snow in the Andes, once a key store of meltwater for spring and summer, is not compacting, melts faster, or turns straight to vapor.

The drought has hit mine output in the world’s largest copper producer, stoked tensions over water use for lithium and farming, and led capital Santiago to make unprecedented plans for potential water rationing.

“We have to beg God to send us water,” said Amanda Carrasco, a 54-year-old who lives near the Penuelas reservoir and recalls line fishing in the waters for local pejerrey fish. “I’ve never seen it like this. There’s been less water before, but not like now.”

Honduras

  • Sweet as a nut: Hondurans fight drought and poverty with cashews The Guardian

El Triunfo lies within the dry corridor – an area of Central America that covers parts of Honduras as well as El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Costa Rica. “The dry corridor has big problems in terms of being vulnerable to climate change,” says Danilo Manzanares, coordinator of Mesa Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutricional, a steering group seeking solutions to drought in the south of Honduras. “Everything floods, or it’s the opposite – it doesn’t rain. It’s terrible, and getting worse.”

In response, more people in the region are pivoting to cashew trees and harvesting the seeds, explains Manzanares. Native to Honduras, alongside traditional crops such as corn, beans and yuca, cashews could be a way for people in this area to build resilience and adapt to the effects of the climate crisis, he adds.

It is an approach that the World Food Programme (WFP) is advocating for those experiencing high levels of food insecurity in the region, says Gustavo Tábora, field monitor of the WFP in Choluteca. “It’s better to have a mixture of crops because people need diversity. Corn, over time, depletes the soil [of its nutrients]. You have to look for and give alternatives so that people can provide for, and feed, themselves.”

Cashew trees don’t need much water; they improve the condition of the soil and provide a habitat for flora and fauna; the climate is favourable for growing them; and the trees provide wood, fruit and seeds – all of which can be sold.

Ecuador

  • Ecuador indigenous groups block road to protest economic policies Reuters

Indigenous groups in Ecuador were blocking some highways with mounds of earth and burning tires on Monday, kicking off what they say will be an indefinite protest against the economic policies of conservative President Guillermo Lasso.

Indigenous and social organizations are asking Lasso to freeze gasoline costs at a lower price, stop plans to expand oil and mining development, and extend deadlines for small farmers to pay off debts with banks.

Global

A recent report by Oxfam International has found that 62 new “food billionaires” were created during the pandemic. The report, released ahead of this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, highlights the record profits made by industry titans.

Food and agribusiness billionaires reportedly raised their collective wealth by 42 per cent in the past two years, all while global food prices soared by 33.6 per cent in 2021, and are expected to rise by another 23 per cent in 2022.


Military

The Ukraine War

Russian telegram:

Ukraine has been stepping up their bombardment of Donetsk city, destroying civilian infrastructure and killing civilians for no discernable military purpose or gain.

Klintsky, in Russia, 50 km away from Ukraine’s northern border, has been hit by explosions. Eyewitnesses report that there was a rocket launch from the Ukrainian border a few minutes before the explosions hit.

From the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Western media have systematically misrepresented developments on the battlefield. Time and again, major media organizations, including The New York Times and The Guardian, have cited military ‘experts’ from NATO armies and officials from the US, British and Ukrainian governments—none of whom constitute objective sources—to support the false claim that Ukraine is either winning the war or has battled Russian forces to a standstill.

One of starkest examples of the Western media’s dishonesty is the assertion that Russia was forced by Ukrainian resistance to make a humiliating retreat from Kyiv. The Associated Press is one of the many media organizations which advanced that narrative, reporting on April 7 that Vladimir Putin’s government had “counted on a quick victory” by attempting to “storm” Ukraine’s capital, but that the Russian offensive ‘failed’: […]

Numerous military analysts, including former United Nations weapons inspector Scott Ritter, disagreed with the mainstream narrative of ‘the battle for Kyiv.’ They argued that Russia’s advance on Kyiv was not a genuine attempt to take the city, but a “feint” designed to tie Ukrainian forces down in and around Ukraine’s capital while other Russian forces ‘shaped the battlefield’ in the Donbas—the Russian military’s principal objective.

Among other things, Ritter pointed out that the Russian columns that had advanced on Kyiv consisted of some 40,000 troops, and that no one with half of a military brain would attempt with so few soldiers to conquer a city of three million people defended by 60,000 Ukrainian troops. According to Ritter, “the so-called ‘battle for Kyiv’ is a clear-cut example of the difference between perception and reality.”

Scott Ritter is not the only military analyst who rejected the West’s claims that Russia had lost the “battle for Kyiv” and was losing the war.

Larry C. Johnson, a veteran of the CIA and the State Department’s Office of Counter Terrorism, argued that Russian forces had reached the outskirts of the capital with extraordinary speed and that, within the first day of the conflict, Russian forces wiped out all Ukrainian Ground Radar Intercept capabilities and thereby deprived the Ukrainian Air Force of its ability to do air to air intercept.

Five weeks after Russia launched its invasion, Lt. Gen Prakash Katoch, a retired special forces officer from the Indian military, authored an article entitled “America’s Information War is Self-Delusional.” In it, Katoch argued that Russia was winning the war decisively. “The West doesn’t need state media,” he wrote, “it has corporations that own both the state and the media; much more potent and dangerous who together are blowing Biden’s trumpet.”

Seven weeks after Russia launched its invasion, Jacques Baud, a former colonel of the Swiss General Staff and an ex-member of the Swiss Strategic Intelligence, wrote “the idea that Russia is trying to take over Kiev, the capital, to eliminate Zelensky, comes typically from the West—that is what they did in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and what they wanted to do in Syria with the help of the Islamic State. But Vladimir Putin never intended to shoot or topple Zelensky. Instead, Russia seeks to keep him in power by pushing him to negotiate, by surrounding Kiev… From an operational point of view, the Russian offensive was an example of its kind: in six days, the Russians seized a territory as large as the United Kingdom, with a speed of advance greater than what the Wehrmacht had achieved in 1940.”

These and other voices of dissent were systematically excluded from Western mainstream discourse about the state of the Ukraine war.

Then, a strange thing happened.

In early April, Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, blurted out the truth.

As reported by NBC on April 6, 2022:

“Just this week, national security adviser Jake Sullivan stood at the White House podium and read out what officials said was more declassified intelligence, asserting that Russia’s pullout from areas around Kyiv wasn’t a retreat but a strategic redeployment that signals a significant assault on eastern and southern Ukraine, one that US officials believe could be a protracted and bloody fight.”

Remarkably, however, the Western mainstream media have largely ignored Sullivan’s admission that “Russia’s pullout from areas around Kyiv wasn’t a retreat but a strategic redeployment.” Supposedly reputable news organizations have continued to peddle the nonsense that Russia’s military attempted to conquer Kyiv and was forced to retreat by Ukrainian resistance.

As recently as June 9, The Guardian published an analysis of the battle for Sievierodonetsk (a battle which Ukraine has essentially lost) in which the authors asserted that “Russia changed its invasion plan in April after its botched attempt to seize the major cities of Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odesa.”

So determined are Western mainstream media to peddle the Ukraine-is-winning fantasy that, even when Western officials tell the truth about the war, the media often ignore them.

  • Russian forces cut off last routes out of eastern Ukraine city Reuters

Russian forces cut off the last routes for evacuating citizens from the eastern Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk, a Ukrainian official said, as the Kremlin pushed for victory in the Donbas region.

The last bridge to the city was destroyed, trapping any remaining civilians and making it impossible to deliver humanitarian supplies, said regional governor Sergei Gaidai, adding that some 70% of the city was under Russian control.

  • The decades-old T-62 tanks Russia is being forced to send into combat could still give Ukrainians trouble Business Insider

It’s undoubtedly a bad sign for Russia that it’s compelled to dip into inventory of retired tanks rather than use better armored T-72s and T-80s. Moreover the requirement for a fourth crew member (loader) doesn’t fit with Russia’s existing training and manning structures.

That said, Russia is estimated to have around 10,000 tanks in storage, including 2,500 T-62s, suggesting there are undoubtedly thousands more T-72s and T-80s that can yet be reactivated. Likely, though, many were in too poor of a condition to be refurbished and deployed as quickly as the T-62Ms dispatched to Ukraine, which seem likely to be shunted to second-rate pro-Russian separatist forces.

In a head-to-head fight against Ukrainian tanks (primarily T-64s, but also T-72s and T-80s), T-62Ms will be at a grave disadvantage due to inferior sensors, fire control, armor and armor-penetration. But tank-on-tank battles remain relatively rare in Ukraine, and T-62s remains perfectly capable of lobbing 115mm shells downrange to blast infantry, fortifications and lighter armored vehicles.

In a support role, the armor upgrades may give T-62Ms a chance of surviving frontal armor hits from lighter and/or older anti-tank weapons used by Ukrainian infantry, including M72A2 LAW, RPG-7, AT4 and Carl Gustaf anti-tank weapons; and dated but still widespread SPG-9 recoilless guns and MT-12 Rapira anti-tank guns.

T-62Ms dispatched to Ukraine have also been spotted with improvised cage armor over the turret, derisively dubbed ‘cope cages’ on social media as they are unlikely to protect against powerful anti-tank weapons like the Javelin or Stugna-P missiles.

However, cage armor should help against anti-tank grenades dropped by civilian-style drones — a popular Ukrainian tactic which has had surprising success — and possibly degrade lighter anti-tank weapons.

However, an interviewed Russian T-72 commander stated his unit removed the improvised cages, noting they inhibited the functionality of the turret machine gun and radio antennas, and prevented crew from escaping a burning vehicle.

  • For Ukrainian troops, a need arises: Javelin customer service WaPo

The Ukrainians had an urgent problem. Their Javelin missile launchers — sophisticated, finicky gear each costing six figures — were inoperable and no one in their unit could fix them.

They sought help from two Americans, who engineered a fix for one by cannibalizing electrical components from a video game controller, said Mark Hayward, a U.S. Army veteran and volunteer trainer. The others, he said, were thought to be broken until it was discovered that the user instructions had gotten gummed up in Google Translate. Hayward recalled the episode with profound frustration that the Pentagon, which has rushed more than 5,000 Javelins to Ukraine, hasn’t done more to ensure that those battling Russian forces have help when such needs arise.

The powerful antitank weapons have come to symbolize U.S. involvement in Ukraine and the race to equip its army for the devastating fight that has unfolded. But lost in the scramble, according to Ukrainian commanders and Western volunteers, is effective, timely logistical assistance — things like training modules, spare batteries and other basics that the U.S. military itself relies upon. The United States’ wartime customer service, they say, is lacking.

“We’re sending equipment,” Hayward said in an interview. “But have we decided not to do tech support?”

Importantly, Hayward said, it appears the Javelins sent to Ukraine do not include instruction cards directing military personnel to call a toll-free number if the weapons malfunction or otherwise require repair. He has opened several cases of them but found no such card, and training cadres across multiple units have told him they were unaware of any Javelin support line, he said.

I’m imagining trying to do your average stereotypical tech support with somebody calling about how they can’t turn on their unplugged PC, but instead it’s a Javelin, and you can hear artillery and gunfire in the background as you tell them to try turning it off and on again.

  • With Billions Going to Ukraine, Officials Warn of Potential for Fraud, Waste WSJ

With the U.S. sending roughly $130 million a day in military aid to Ukraine plus economic and other assistance, current and former U.S. officials warn that more must be done to ensure arms and money aren’t diverted, stolen or misused.

The nearly $54 billion that Congress has appropriated for the Ukraine conflict since January—with strong bipartisan support—dwarfs annual U.S. aid to any other country including assistance sent to Afghanistan at the height of U.S. military involvement there, the officials said.

“We’ve been moving fast and hard, and we haven’t had time, in my view, to reflect on that,” said Rep. Mike Rogers (R., Ala.), ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee and a supporter of Ukraine.

No instances of malfeasance have emerged. The government of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has won praise in the U.S. and Europe for how it has used weaponry provided by the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to beat back Russia’s initial invasion. Ukraine, which faces relentless pressure from Russian forces making slow gains in the eastern Donbas region, says it urgently needs more heavy Western weapons.

The latest Ukraine aid package includes relatively small sums for inspectors in the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development to conduct additional oversight activities.

When evaluating potential arms transfers, the U.S. weighs the “risk of illicit diversion” among other political, military, and human-rights considerations, a spokesman for the National Security Council said.

Transfers won’t be approved if the U.S. assesses that the materiel won’t be used in ways consistent with agreements for the sale or transfer, the spokesman said: “The Ukrainians have assured us that they share our concerns about accountability of these systems.”

Once U.S. equipment is handed to the Ukrainian government, U.S. officials said, they have little direct knowledge of where that material goes, relying on the Ukrainian government for such information. The administration hasn’t agreed to allow American military troops, who could conduct some oversight, into the country.

Given the vast scale of the aid and the absence of U.S. and NATO oversight personnel in Ukraine, veterans of past U.S. military assistance campaigns say it is likely a matter of time before problems emerge.

“Even if it’s a noble cause, there’s going to be theft. There’s going to be misconduct. There’s going to be nepotism. There’s going to be stupid decisions being made. It’s human nature,” said John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, who has spent a decade identifying multimillion-dollar instances of wasted and stolen U.S. funds there. “A couple of years from now, you’re going to be reading stories about waste, fraud and abuse.”


Climate and Space

  • Adani, Total team up in $5bn green hydrogen project Al Jazeera

French giant TotalEnergies SE and Indian billionaire Gautam Adani’s conglomerate plan to invest $5 billion to produce green hydrogen and related products in India as the world’s third-largest polluter seeks to decarbonize.

  • UN chief slams ‘delusional’ fossil fuels dash amid Ukraine war Al Jazeera

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has accused some rich countries of having made a dangerous dash for fossil fuels in response to the war in Ukraine, warning the new investments being made in coal, oil and gas are “delusional” given their impact on climate change.

“The energy crisis exacerbated by the war in Ukraine has seen a perilous doubling down on fossil fuels by the major economies,” Guterres said in a video address on Tuesday to the Austrian World Summit, a climate conference held in Vienna.

  • Feeding Cows Seaweed Reduces Their Methane Emissions, but California Farms Are a Long Way From Scaling Up the Practice Inside Climate News

The Straus Family Creamery, an organic dairy producer in Marin County, California, made headlines last fall after receiving approval from regulatory agencies to conduct a trial of a new seaweed-derived feed additive called Brominata.

Brominata is made of a red seaweed, Asparagopsis taxiformis, and is one of a class of feed additives that, when given to dairy cows, helps to reduce the amount of methane—a powerful greenhouse gas—they release when they burp, called enteric methane. One cow belches out 220 pounds of methane each year, the greenhouse gas equivalent of burning over 900 gallons of gasoline.

The addition of the seaweed to the cows’ diets on the Straus dairy farm proved effective, showing an average of a 52 percent reduction in enteric methane emissions, with one cow’s emissions reduction as high as 92 percent.


Dipshittery and Cope

  • Why Closer Ties Between Russia and China Have Democracies Worried WaPo

Rivals for centuries, China and Russia now have a partnership that has “no limits,” Presidents Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin said in early February. The energy, military and political ties nurtured over the past decade between the world’s two most powerful authoritarian states — both of which aim to upend at least parts of the US-dominated, post-Cold War order — have aroused growing concern among democratic leaders from Washington to Tokyo. Just weeks after the joint statement, when Russia invaded Ukraine, China refused to condemn the move. Still, the support Beijing has shown its ally since has been anything but boundless.

What pushed China and Russia closer? The rapprochement was driven by a common alienation from America that deepened after the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq and became increasingly overt after the 2008 financial crisis, which originated in the US. Both states concluded that the meltdown would undercut faith globally in the US economic and political model. They increased ties cautiously until 2014, when Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula triggered sanctions and a definitive break between Russia and the wider West. That forced Moscow to look for new partners and especially new markets for its energy exports. China was a good fit, proving a massive and fast-growing buyer of Russian commodities and weapons. The two states also share a deep hostility toward US alliances in what they consider their own rightful spheres of influence. For Russia, that’s the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Europe; for China, it’s Washington’s network of bilateral defense treaties in the Indo-Pacific region. Though short of a formal, treaty-based alliance, the partnership between China and Russia has been enhanced by a strong personal bond between Putin and Xi.

Why the bromance between the two leaders? Products of tough childhoods, both men have evinced a determination to crush dissent at home and restore their nations to greatness, ending their perceived humiliation by the US and Europe. They have met more than 30 times, making dumplings together in Tianjin and pancakes in Vladivostok. In 2019, Xi called Putin his “best friend.” In a joint statement in February, they spelled out their shared contempt for Western ideas of democracy. They defined democracy without reference to elections, independent courts or free media and said it was about economic development, with all models for public political participation equally valid.

What’s the history between the two states? In the 1800s, Russia was among European powers that imposed so-called unequal treaties on China’s Qing dynasty, including one ceding the territory where the Russian city Vladivostok sits today. Relations improved dramatically for a short period after Mao Zedong led China’s Communist Party to power in 1949, finding a natural ally in Josef Stalin. But Mao opposed the political reforms known as de-Stalinization that followed the Soviet leader’s 1953 death and, in 1961, he split from Moscow. In 1969, the two countries fought a brief border war over disputed territories and, in 1972, China did the unthinkable by turning toward the US. It wasn’t until the mid-1980s, when Mikhail Gorbachev took charge in the Kremlin, that relations began to thaw again.

What can they offer each other now? Since 2014, Russia has sold China some of its most advanced weapons systems, including $5 billion worth of S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems and SU-35 attack jets. Within two months of Crimea’s annexation, Russia’s Gazprom PJSC signed a deal it said was worth about $400 billion to supply China with natural gas through a pipeline called the Power of Siberia. A second pipeline deal has been struck since. In addition, the two countries have increasingly coordinated their positions at the United Nations Security Council, where both wield vetoes.

What worries the democratic powers? The growing cooperation between China and Russia has led some policy makers in the US to fear that the country could be forced to fight wars on two fronts, for example if Russia were to threaten an American ally in Europe to distract the US during a confrontation with China over Taiwan. US Senator Jim Inhofe argued last year that, adjusted for purchasing power parity, the two nations combined spend more on defense than the US. There’s a wider concern that the combination of economic, military and political muscle the two can muster is emboldening other world leaders with autocratic tendencies, undermining confidence in democracy as a political system, and threatening the version of the rules-based international order promoted by the US and its allies since the end of the Cold War.

How has the Ukraine war played in the relationship? China avoided criticizing the invasion, blamed the US and NATO for the conflict, and bought Russian oil that was being shunned by some other countries, indirectly funding Moscow’s war machine. But Xi proved reluctant to unequivocally back the war or help Russia cushion the financial impact of US and European Union sanctions. With a gross domestic product almost eight times the size of Russia’s, China has substantially more at stake in a global economy that’s still dominated by the US and other developed democracies.

Russia/Ukraine

  • Zelensky vows to retake Donbass and Crimea RT

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has vowed to “liberate” the Russian territory of Crimea and the independent republics of Donetsk (DPR) and Lugansk (LPR). He was speaking just hours after reports of the Ukrainian military shelling residential buildings, a marketplace and a maternity hospital in the center of Donetsk.

“We will come to all our cities, to all our villages, which do not yet have our flag,” Zelensky boasted in a video address on Monday night, claiming that his army will defeat its Russian opponents in eastern Ukraine and recapture the cities of Mariupol, Kherson and Melitopol from Russian and DPR and LPR forces.

“And I ask everyone who has such an opportunity to communicate with people in the occupied south…say that there will be liberation,” he continued. “Say it to Gorlovka, Donetsk, Lugansk. Tell them that the Ukrainian army will definitely come.”

“Of course, we will liberate our Crimea as well. Let every Russian official who has seized precious land in Crimea remember: this is not the land where they will have peace,” he threatened.

  • In 100 Days, A Separatist Army In Ukraine Lost Half Its Troops Forbes

We don’t know for sure how many casualties the Russian and Ukrainian armed forces have suffered as Russia’s wider war in Ukraine enters its fourth month. There are educated guesses, wild claims, politically motivated assertions and obvious propaganda—but few clearly credible official figures.

Except in the Donetsk People’s Republic, the Russian-backed separatist regime in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.

The 5,000-square-mile DPR, population 2 million, fielded a 20,000-person army before the current campaign. In more than a hundred days of hard fighting alongside the Russian army, the DPR army lost 2,057 soldiers killed in action and 8,526 wounded in action—10,583 casualties in all, according to a May 27 report from the regime’s ombudsman.

That’s more than half the pre-war army. While it’s possible the DPR army significantly has expanded with mobilizations, the loss of nearly 11,000 people in just three months likely crippled many of the army’s pre-war maneuver battalions.

The DPR’s losses also lend credence to the higher estimates of Russia and Ukraine’s own losses. Reasonable guesses pin Russia’s casualties at more than 15,000 KIAs and potentially three or four times as many WIAs, amounting to 60,000 or more casualties out of an initial invasion force of just 125,000 or so troops.

Ukrainian officials meanwhile recently claimed Kyiv’s armed forces were losing a hundred soldiers killed every day in Donbas. It’s possible 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen have died in the wider war. That might imply overall losses only slightly lower than Russia’s own losses, out of a pre-war Ukrainian force of 100,000 or more front-line troops.

I literally have no idea where they’re getting these obviously bullshit figures from. Maybe they’re converting the noise of the hum of their refrigerator into numbers via some bullshittery algorithm and just reporting that?

  • Warren Buffett’s son donates $2.7 million for Ukraine aid after meeting with Zelenskyy CNBC

“I’ve never quite seen anything like this in my lifetime,” Buffett said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Monday. “It’s millions of refugees trying to leave the country and it’s just an overwhelming situation for the country… I believe we’ve got to support Ukraine in this fight. It’s a difficult fight for them.”

He is 67 years old.

  • The stench of death is the ‘smell of victory’ for Ukrainians who guard bodies of Russian troops NBC

“We respect all of the dead — except for these guys,” said a 41-year-old soldier who goes by Summer. Like most soldiers, he spoke on the condition that he be identified only by his code name out of concern that he could be targeted by Russians.

“We only have disgust for them,” he said as he ate a cheeseburger in front of the train car, his appetite unaffected by the stench of dead bodies.

“It’s the smell of victory,” he said between bites. “It’s satisfying to see them dead.”

A few feet away, a Kharkiv district prosecutor posed for a selfie in front of the body bags.

  • Ukrainian successes in southern front are a sign of something bigger, says CIT analyst Yahoo

“For example, at the end of May, we saw a very successful attempt to cross the Inhulets (River) and gain a foothold on the lodgment of the occupied bank of this river. We also observed the retreat of the Russians from the village of Blahodatne and, if I’m not mistaken, Tavriiske, which also fell under control of Ukrainian forces.”

The CIT analyst said that in his opinion, this indicates that “preparations are underway for a big offensive”, which would be started from advantageous positions.

“We understand that now there is some relief in Kherson Oblast, and the most favorable situation for an offensive in this direction. In addition, I believe that one of the reasons for these actions is to divert Russian forces from Donbas.”

  • The rich are fleeing from Russia, and more than 15,000 millionaires — 15% of the country’s ultra-rich population — are expected to leave this year Business Insider

The expected exodus accounts for 15% of Russia’s millionaire pool, and it amounts to nearly three times the 5,500 millionaires who left Russia in 2019, according to the Henley Global Citizens Report. The report is based on information including official immigration data and real-estate purchases by millionaires.

Russia is “hemorrhaging millionaires,” wrote Andrew Amoils, the head of research at New World Wealth, which worked on the report with London-based Henley & Partners, a residency and citizenship advisory firm.

“Affluent individuals have been emigrating from Russia in steadily rising numbers every year over the past decade, an early warning sign of the current problems the country is facing,” Amoils added. “Historically, major country collapses have usually been preceded by an acceleration in emigration of wealthy people, who are often the first to leave as they have the means to do so.”


Good Takes that are Dope

  • To Fight Inflation, the Fed Is Declaring a War on Workers Jacobin

New inflation data released Friday offered dismal news: historic price increases aren’t showing any signs of abating, and in fact may be accelerating.

What can be done? Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell has an idea: throw cold water on the hot labor market — perhaps the one bright spot in the current economy.

In fact, Powell recently screamed the quiet part out loud, making clear the largest central bank in the world is in fact an adversary to workers, when he declared that his goal is to “get wages down.”

At a May 4 press conference in which he announced a .5 percent interest rate hike, the largest since the year 2000, Powell said he thought higher interest rates would limit business’ hiring demand and lead to suppressed wages. As he put it, by reducing hiring demand, “that would give us a chance to get inflation down, get wages down, and then get inflation down without having to slow the economy and have a recession and have unemployment rise materially.”

In other words, Powell is saying that the primary, blunt financial instrument at his disposal to address sky-high inflation — hiking interest rates — will limit job opportunities and suppress pay.

Increasing borrowing costs and discouraging investment would not do much to address the root causes of today’s inflation — brittle supply chains, a surge in energy prices further heightened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a housing crisis (which could actually be exacerbated by interest rate hikes), all of which are undergirded by corporate concentration enabling exorbitant corporate profits.

Hiking rates would likely suppress wages and worker power, as Powell indicated, a roundabout way to tackle inflation. That’s because there is overwhelming evidence that worker wages are not driving inflation, especially since wage increases are failing to keep up with rising prices. Friday’s data showed that while wages have continued to increase, the rate of increase is slowing.

Does the Fed chairman really mistakenly believe that wages are driving inflation? If not, Powell — a mega-wealthy private equity mogul and a Republican — might have just validated an argument long made by progressives: that a key driver of the central bank’s interest rate policies is actually to suppress labor power.

Meanwhile, if President Joe Biden and the Democrats who control Congress continue to sit on their hands and fail to take real action to address skyrocketing energy prices, the supply chain crisis, and corporate greed, they will be accepting a response that will force workers to bear the brunt of the crisis.

“If you endorse today’s rate hikes, and the further tightening it implies, you are endorsing the reasoning behind it: labor markets are too tight, wages are rising too quickly, workers have too many options, and we need to shift bargaining power back toward the bosses,” Josh Mason, an economist at the Roosevelt Institute and a professor of economics at John Jay College, City University of New York, wrote in a recent blog post.


Link back to the discussion thread.