- Russian Oil Flows to Europe Have Quietly Started Creeping Up Bloomberg
Europe’s resolve to stop buying Russian crude may be starting to ebb.
The continent’s oil refineries took 1.84 million barrels a day of crude from Russia last week, according to tanker tracking data compiled by Bloomberg. That was the the third consecutive weekly increase and took flows from Russia to Europe, including Turkey, to their highest in almost two months.
Partly it was about Litasco SA, the trading unit of Russia’s largest oil producer, taking barrels to the company’s refineries, and partly it was about Turkey purchasing more. Beyond that, though, steady ongoing declines appear to have slowed.
The developments suggest those companies and countries who were unwilling to buy Russian have already stepped back, leaving the market to others who are happier to do so. Russian oil plunged to huge discounts after the country’s invasion of Ukraine as some companies stopped buying.
- EU gives advice on ‘compensating for’ Russian gas RT
The EU could conserve energy in order to completely compensate for Russian gas from the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Monday.
“If we… decrease the heating in Europe by two degrees, or the cooling, less air conditioning, this would compensate for the whole delivery [from] Nord Stream 1,” von der Leyen told The Irish Times, referring to the Baltic Sea pipeline that delivers gas from Russia to Germany.
The commission chief said Brussels has emergency plans to mitigate the impact of any disruptions of the supply, which include conserving energy and prioritizing needs.
“It’s a lot of work still. And the circumstances are serious,” von der Leyen said.
- Ruble rally continues to defy sanctions RT
The Russian ruble continued to strengthen on Tuesday, gaining over 1% against both the US dollar and the euro, trading data on the Moscow Exchange shows.
At the opening of the session, the dollar exchange fell below 55 rubles for the first time since June 30, 2015. The euro was also trading at a seven-year low against the Russian currency, below 58 rubles per euro.
- Britain and Russia are enemies in Ukraine – but both want to disrupt Europe The Guardian
The British government has taken the first steps to unravelling its agreement with the EU on Northern Ireland – the so-called Northern Ireland protocol. Many Europeans are baffled by this. How can the government – which not only signed this legal agreement but negotiated it “word by word, comma by comma”, to quote the EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier – just tear up a binding international treaty that only came into force last year?
But surprised, they are not. Not really. Because in its relationship with the EU, the UK is increasingly starting to behave like Russia – by unilaterally creating facts on the ground.
Of course, there are many obvious differences between what Russia is doing in Ukraine and what the UK is doing in Northern Ireland. Russia has launched a war to flush European influence out of Ukraine, while the UK is “only” deploying non-military obstruction. But there are striking similarities: Moscow and London deliberately violate international treaties they themselves signed and both antagonise the EU in order to further their geopolitical ambitions. Russia and the UK may be fierce adversaries in Ukraine. But their behaviour is driven by a similar deep and growing frustration with their own inability to exert geopolitical influence.
Russia and the UK both sit on the fringes of Europe. Both have always had one foot in Europe and one outside, geographically, politically and culturally. At times these ambiguities are politically useful. Both are former imperial powers that played an important role in Europe’s security architecture for centuries, and at the same time had most of their territory, subjects and interests outside Europe. Most of Russia’s landmass was in Asia, as difficult to keep in the fold as tropical outposts were for the British empire. Europe was just one of many chessboards on which Moscow and London made their geopolitical moves.
Russia and the UK are now the only large European countries outside the EU. But they are as dissatisfied outside European structures as they were inside them. Their resentment is undiminished. As an economic superpower, the EU projects its rules – embedding its values and principles – far beyond its borders. Its prosperity acts as a magnet for countries without imperial complex. When Ukraine concluded an association agreement with the EU, at its own request, Russia only saw one way to react: disruption. In 2014 it occupied parts of eastern Ukraine and annexed Crimea, even though in 1994 Russia had explicitly guaranteed Ukrainian sovereignty (in exchange, Ukraine dismantled its nuclear arsenal). The same had happened to Georgia.
Unlike Russia, the UK has a long democratic tradition. But seeing the Northern Ireland protocol working well for the majority of citizens in Northern Ireland and that the Northern Irish economy is, post-Brexit, turning towards Ireland and the EU, the UK government has a similar kind of response as Russia when it sees Ukraine drifting towards Europe: disruption. It turns to its “former great power” toolbox to undermine the protocol, such as facilitating smugglers targeting the EU’s single market.
Finally, both Russia and Britain were always keen to see European powers weaken each other. That reflex is still there. The European Union, with all its imperfections, is the polar opposite of these medieval power games, and is therefore a fundamental threat to their outdated vision of the world. This is why they are now, each in their own way, out to undermine the EU.
- Biggest rail strike in 30 years brings UK to standstill Reuters
Britain’s biggest rail strike in 30 years kicked off on Tuesday as tens of thousands of staff walked out in a dispute over pay and jobs that could pave the way for widespread industrial action across the economy in coming months.
Some of the more than 40,000 rail workers who are due to strike on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday gathered at picket lines from dawn, leaving the network at a standstill and major stations deserted. The London Underground metro was also mostly closed due to a separate strike.
- Rail strikes and labor shortages are hurting UK economy CNN
The United Kingdom has a jobs problem. There just aren’t enough workers to keep its economy moving forward, and many employees are growing angry about inflation taking a large bite out of their paychecks.
The problem escalated Tuesday as thousands of rail workers went on strike over demands for better pay and working conditions — the biggest walkout on the railways in 30 years — bringing large parts of the network to a halt. More strikes are set for Thursday and Saturday.
Labor market ‘worse than the 1970s’ as strikes hit UK, Nobel Prize-winning economist says CNBC
Average UK food bill rises by £380 a year as grocery inflation hits 13-year high The Guardian
UK Inflation Jumps Above 40-Year-High As Food And Energy Prices Soar Oil Price
- People Rally In Belgium To Protest Soaring Cost Of Fuel, Food Oil Price
More than 70,000 people rallied in Belgium’s capital Brussels on Monday in a protest against the soaring cost of fuel and food, while strikes at transportation services brought the city home to many of the EU institutions to a standstill.
Workers at the Brussels airport and at local transport networks went on a one-day strike, demanding the government take action against surging prices of food and fuel.
Departures at the airport were canceled as security personnel were also on strike. Most arrivals were also canceled.
- ‘Stop NATO,’ protesters chant at massive rally in heart of EU RT
A trade union-organized protest numbering 70,000 to 80,000 demonstrators packed the streets of Brussels on Monday, bringing the city to a standstill. In addition to expressing anger at the rising cost of living in Belgium, many condemned the US-led NATO alliance and its involvement in the Ukrainian conflict.
Trade unions said that 80,000 people attended the protest, while police said that the turnout was closer to 70,000, Reuters reported. In addition to packing the streets, the protest led to mass cancellations of flights at Brussels Airport, as unions representing security personnel went on strike. Public transit routes around the city were also operating at drastically reduced capacity.
Inflation hit 9% in Belgium in June, a four-decade high. With spending power declining, protesters demanded salary hikes and tax cuts.
Protesters demanded that their leaders “spend money on salaries, not on weapons,” and chanted “stop NATO.”
Just three months ago, some protesters in Brussels waved Ukrainian flags and demanded that the EU cut itself off from “Putin’s Oil.” Weeks before that, there was a demonstration outside European Parliament buildings calling for “sanctions for Russia.”
- Russia threatens Lithuania with ‘serious’ consequences RT
Moscow’s retaliation to Lithuania’s transport “blockade” of Russia’s Kaliningrad Region will seriously affect Lithuanian citizens, Nikolay Patrushev, the head of Russia’s Security Council, has said.
“Of course, Russia will respond to hostile actions. Appropriate measures are in the works, and will be adopted in the near future,” Patrushev told reporters during a trip to Kaliningrad on Tuesday.
He added that the consequences of Moscow’s response will “have a serious negative impact on the people of Lithuania.”
Kaliningrad Region is a small Russian exclave sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania. On Saturday, Lithuania’s national railway operator banned the flow of sanctioned goods between the region and the rest of Russia, citing instructions from the European Commission.
- Lithuania changes tune on Kaliningrad blockade RT
Lithuania’s Foreign Ministry on Monday handed a note to Moscow’s chargé d’affaires in the country explaining the application of EU sanctions on the transit of a number of goods between mainland Russia and Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave nestled between Poland and Lithuania.
Vilnius insists that it has not outright banned transit between the exclave and the rest of Russia and has not introduced any additional restrictions. Lithuania maintains that the transit of passengers and goods not subject to EU sanctions will continue through its territory as usual.
“Lithuania has not imposed any unilateral, individual, or additional restrictions on the transit. Lithuania has consistently implemented EU sanctions, which have different transition periods and deadlines for entry into force,” read the note.
Earlier, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis stated that the decision to impose these restrictions was made by Vilnius after consulting with the European Commission and was implemented under its guidance.
- Austria puts green energy transition on hold RT
Austria is bringing its biggest coal-fired power plant back to life for electricity production amid a reduction in Russian natural gas supplies, Bloomberg reported on Monday
The nation’s biggest utility and most valuable company, Verbund AG, was reportedly ordered late Sunday to prepare its Mellach coal-fired station for operation. The plant, which is located 200km (124 miles) south of Vienna, was shuttered two years ago after the country decided to eliminate coal entirely from its electricity grid. It was turned into a center for researchers looking for ways to safely feed hydrogen fuel to the power grid.
- Another EU state returns to coal RT
Dutch Climate and Energy Minister Rob Jetten has announced that the Netherlands is lifting all restrictions on coal-fired power stations to reduce natural gas consumption, while making an “urgent appeal” to businesses to save as much energy as possible ahead of the winter season.
The Hague has activated the ‘early warning’ phase of its energy crisis plan, in the face of a potential shortage of natural gas this winter, Jetten said on Monday, adding that the decision had been prepared in coordination “with our European colleagues over the past few days.”
“I want to emphasize that at the moment there’s no acute gas shortage,” Jetten noted, but nonetheless claimed that “more countries are now being squeezed” by Russia.
- Producer prices in Germany highest since 1949 RT
Producer price inflation in Germany rose at a record pace in May, the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) said on Monday – the fastest increase since the beginning of data collection in 1949.
According to data, prices ballooned 33.6% year-on-year last month, following April’s 33.5% increase.
Asia and Oceania
- Lao Government Collects Revenues from Cryptocurrency Laotian Times
Revenue from digital business has been made from three sources including fees of USD 500,000 for contract licenses, a tax levy based on the size of the electricity supply, and a tax derived from actual electricity use.
It is expected that cryptocurrency companies will be able to pay USD 111 million in government taxes each year.
- Japan has always been refugee-averse. Then Ukraine happened. WaPo
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, refugee-averse Japan has accepted more than 1,300 people fleeing the conflict and provided social services to help them assimilate — a rare and surprising move that could mark a turning point for the country’s long-standing restrictions on those fleeing violence and persecution.
Holy moly, 1,300 refugees! Take it easy, Japan!
- Japan court upholds same-sex marriage ban RT
A district court in the city of Osaka ruled on Monday that Japan’s ban on same-sex marriage was not unconstitutional, rejecting arguments made by three same-sex couples who filed the suit. The court also dismissed the plaintiffs’ demand for 1 million yen ($7,400) in damages for each pair.
“From the perspective of individual dignity, it can be said that it is necessary to realize the benefits of same-sex couples being publicly recognized through official recognition,” the court ruling said.
Still, the present legislation recognizing unions only between a man and a woman is “not considered to violate… the constitution,” the court added, noting that “public debate on what kind of system is appropriate for this has not been thoroughly carried out.” Japan’s constitution establishes that “marriage shall be only with the mutual consent of both sexes.”
“I actually wonder if the legal system in this country is really working,” said plaintiff Machi Sakata, who married her US-citizen partner overseas. “I think there’s the possibility this ruling may really corner us,” she added.
- Iraq invests in own gas fields to reduce dependence on Iran MEMO
- Saudi crown prince kicks off regional tour in Egypt MEE
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has arrived in Egypt at the beginning of a regional tour which will also include Jordan and Turkey.
The de facto leader of Saudi Arabia was welcomed at Cairo airport by Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on Monday evening.
The two are scheduled to hold talks in the presidential palace in Cairo on Tuesday, where they will discuss “regional and wider international political affairs,” according to a Sisi spokesperson.
- Qatar Expands LNG Capacity To Become Europe’s Emergency Gas Supplier Oil Price
Following on from the recent signing by Qatar of a declaration of intent on energy cooperation with Germany aimed at becoming its key supplier of liquefied natural gas (LNG) going forward, the Emirate has now signed separate partnership deals with France’s TotalEnergies and Italy’s Eni for the US$30 billion North Field (or ‘Dome’) Expansion of the world’s biggest LNG project.
According to statements from Qatar’s Energy Minister, Saad al-Kaabi, the French oil and gas supermajor will have a 25 percent stake in the project, with no other company to have a higher stake and the selection process for partners now finalised.
- Russian telegram:
Most of the heads of African countries ignored Zelensky’s appeal to the African Union, Western media write.
The day before, Zelensky made a speech in which he spoke to African leaders about the food crisis and blamed Russia for it.
However, out of 55 African heads of state invited to a virtual meeting with the President of Ukraine, only four were present.
The rest, at best, sent their representatives.
- China Says It Is Willing to Help End Conflict in Horn of Africa All Africa
China’s special envoy to the Horn of Africa, Xue Bing, has said Beijing is ready to help the region’s countries find peace and get rid of what he called external interference. Xue made the comments at China and the Horn of Africa’s first Peace, Governance and Development Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
With six Horn of Africa countries represented at the meeting, Xue noted that regional turbulence and division are on the rise, and that the Cold War mentality and power politics had resurfaced, while peace and development were being met with resistance.
Even though China has been a longtime trade partner in Africa, this is the first time it appears to have intervened in the politics of African countries – a change in policy for China.
- Belgium returns slain African revolutionary’s tooth to descendants RT
In recognition for its brutal killing of Congolese independence pioneer Patrice Lumumba, Belgium turned over his gold-capped tooth to members of his family in a ceremony in Brussels on Monday.
Laid to rest in a light blue case, the tooth was handed to a group of family members at Brussels’ Egmont Palace and placed in a casket to be taken to the Democratic Republic of Congo’s embassy pending repatriation. The gesture was praised by the slain leader’s son Roland Lumumba, who said it would allow the family to “finish their mourning.”
- ‘Jackpot’ oil discoveries may help Namibia double GDP by 2040 Fin24
TotalEnergies in February said it had made a “significant” oil discovery off the coast of Namibia, three weeks after Shell announced a find off the southwest African nation. Explorers have drilled more than a dozen exploration wells in search of oil and gas. Consultants Woo Mackenzie estimated the combined recoverable finds at almost 4 billion barrels.
“More than 30 years of exploration and we finally we hit the jackpot,” Comalie said in the interview at the sidelines of the Qatar Economic Forum on Tuesday, without giving a timeline for production.
“At peak, these two discoveries could bring $5.6 billion to a very small economy.”
- Zimbabwe healthcare workers strike over wages, inflation crisis Al Jazeera
Zimbabwean healthcare workers have gone on strike to compel the government to pay salaries in US dollars as spiralling inflation has eroded the purchasing power of their take-home pay.
The country’s nurses, doctors, pharmacists, radiologists and other medical professionals did not turn up for work on Monday in an action that strike organisers described as a huge “success”.
Deutsche Bank says the US is heading for a deeper recession than previously expected, with unemployment set to jump Business Insider
Goldman Sachs says the risk of the US falling into a recession within a year has doubled after the Fed’s aggressive rate hike Business Insider
Elon Musk Says U.S. Recession Is ‘Inevitable,’ More Likely In The Near-Term Forbes
The billionaire said although not a certainty, it is “more likely than not” that a downturn is coming in the near term, without offering a specific timeline.
- How Biden can convince us that recession isn’t ‘inevitable’ WaPo
Recession is “not inevitable.” So declares the Biden administration, using careful phrasing repeated over and over by the president and senior officials. They’re technically right, at least in the short term. But they should still be doing much more to stave off the growing risk of recession — and to prepare for its likely fallout.
The “business cycle” is called a “cycle” for a reason. It cycles up and down, which means we’ll have a downturn, or a recession, eventually. That is inevitable. The more relevant question is whether contraction is imminent. Right now — despite low unemployment and some other strong metrics — there are signs it might be. Recent surveys of economists, executives and U.S. consumers show mounting pessimism, and growing expectations of recession in the next year or so.
On top of the very real risks that have darkened the economic outlook lately, the Biden administration is probably also worried that all this talk of recession can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
If consumers and businesses become increasingly gloomy, they might act in ways that reflect that pessimism: cutting back on spending, laying off workers, delaying investments, canceling orders. Then they see everyone else cutting back, grow more nervous and retreat further. That negative feedback loop can generate a recession, regardless of what the Fed, Russia or even covid-19 does.
This is why White House officials, and to some extent Fed officials, are trying to project cautious optimism. They’re emphasizing the good things in the economy, such as solid job growth, and talking up the economy’s resilience.
Striking the right tone in this pep talk is tricky. If policymakers are excessively cheerful, they sound tone-deaf to people’s suffering. That can hurt them politically. Worse, if they play down the risks haunting the economy, or appear unrealistically optimistic, they can sound untrustworthy. This can hinder their ability to intervene effectively later on. Credibility matters.
The administration must use whatever tools available to reduce pricing pressures so that the Fed doesn’t have to act quite as aggressively — so that everything doesn’t come down to jacking up interest rates. The administration could, for instance, lift trade and shipping restrictions, which could modestly reduce costs for consumers. Or expedite legal immigration, to alleviate labor shortages.
- An international mustard shortage could be coming for US grocery stores Business Insider
Worries over a mustard shortage are a result of an especially poor production year. Canada, the second largest mustard seed producer in the world, saw yields fall 28% in the most recent growing season thanks to droughts throughout the growing season. In France, harvests were even worse and dipped by 50% in 2021 due to unfavorable climate conditions, The Guardian reported.
Major French mustard producer Reine de Dijon attributed the poor harvests to climate change. “We’re in a crisis we haven’t seen for 25 years. The price of seeds has gone up three or four times, and maybe five times soon,” French sales director at the company Christophe Planes told France24. “And, on top of that, there is no supply.”
The war between Russia and Ukraine is also contributing to the mustard shortage. Both countries are large producers of mustard seeds, but importing them to make up the difference in France and Canada isn’t possible because of supply chains disrupted by the war.
- Congress Lets School Lunch Program Expire As It Increases Military Budget Popular Resistance
Since March 2020, when the pandemic hit, the USDA has issued waivers to expand school lunch programs. This $11 billion program provided a vital lifeline to working families who were struggling to feed their kids during the pandemic, even when schools were out during the summer.
During the summer of 2020, 262.7 million meals were served through this program and 190.6 million during the summer of 2021, according to a new report from the No Kid Hungry campaign.
But instead of clearing an extremely low bar and extending the food program another year, Congress is poised to let it expire at the end of this month—June 30—after extending it multiple times. No Kid Hungry now estimates kids collectively could miss 95 million summer meals.
Top Republicans in the Senate objected to its extension this time around, using hollow concerns about the program’s cost as an excuse. Yet, on Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved an additional $45 billion to be tacked onto President Joe Biden’s military budget request—around $813 billion—made earlier this year. This creates a new national “defense” topline in the Senate of $857 billion. The vote in the Democrat-controlled committee was 23-3.
- Texas Turns To Renewables As Electricity Demand Soars To Record Highs Oil Price
Texas is sweating out a massive heat wave unusually early in the year – and sweating potential blackouts as all those air conditioning units put extra strain on the state’s infamously fragile grid. Already, before the hottest months of the year have even hit, Texans have annihilated previous records for all-time high electricity demand, surpassing 75 gigawatts in a single day.
“Wind and solar power are ‘bailing out’ Texas amid record heat and energy demand,” read a recent CNN headline. Strong performance and high production rates from both wind and solar have been critical to meeting demand at peak hours. When demand peaked last Sunday, wind and solar contributed 26 gigawatts of energy to the grid, or nearly 40% of the total energy required. “Texas is, by rhetoric, anti-renewables. But frankly, renewables are bailing us out,” Michael Webber, an energy expert at the University of Texas was quoted by CNN. “They’re rocking. That really spares us a lot of heartaches and a lot of money.”
This revolution is a huge victory for renewable advocates in Texas. It also smacks of irony, as many pro-oil news outlets and pundits were quick to (incorrectly) blame renewable energy for last year’s grid failure. Despite the staunch support for fossil fuels in Texas, however, renewables have been steadily gaining ground in the Lone Star State, which has lots of wide open spaces, particularly well suited to wind and solar farms, and a whole lot of energy industry infrastructure already in place. Renewable energy’s reliability during the summer heat is likely to keep fanning those flames, and hopefully even win over some heartland hearts, as the sector continues to grow.
- ‘Totally Unacceptable’: US Rejecting 90% of Afghans Seeking Asylum Under Humanitarian Program Common Dreams
Remember all the people who were talking about the poor women and children of Afghanistan and how they would suffer under the Taliban when the US left last year? Hilarious. Literally none of them actually give a shit.
As a coalition of human rights groups on Monday implored the international community to do more to help Afghan refugees, new reporting revealed that the United States is rejecting the overwhelming majority of Afghans seeking to enter the country under a humanitarian program—including relatives of those who aided the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of their country.
“Today, over six million Afghans have been driven out of their homes and their country by conflict,” the Alliance for Human Rights noted in its World Refugee Day statement. “These numbers have been exacerbated by the Taliban’s seizure of power in Afghanistan in August 2021 and the critical humanitarian crisis Afghanistan is facing today.”
- Dams, taps running dry in northern Mexico amid historic water shortages Reuters
More than half of Mexico is currently facing moderate to severe drought conditions, according to the federal water commission CONAGUA, amid extreme heat that scientists blame on climate change.
In the sprawling metropolitan area of Monterrey, home to some 5.3 million people, the drought and years of below-average rainfall have led to citywide water shortages.
“We’re in an extreme climate crisis,” Nuevo Leon Governor Samuel Garcia said at a news conference last week. “Today, we’re all living it and suffering.”
- Canada announces multi-billion-dollar missile plan RT
Ottawa has committed to investing at least $3.8 billion over the next six years to modernize the joint US-Canadian early warning system known as North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), Defense Minister Anita Anand announced on Monday.
“As autocracies like Russia threaten the rules-based international order that has protected us for decades, as our climate changes and as our competitors develop new technologies like hypersonic weapons and advanced cruise missiles, there is a pressing need to modernize Canada’s NORAD capabilities,” Anand said as cited by CBC.
The initial $3.8 billion (Can$4.9 billion) investment is just the first part of an even more ambitious plan to spend up to $31 billion (Can$40 billion) over the next two decades, Anand said. She did not provide a specific breakdown of where the money will go, but named several areas the initiative will focus on, including an Arctic over-the-horizon radar system, a space-based surveillance project, and a new system called ‘Crossbow’ with early warning sensors deployed across the country.
- Colombia’s new president Gustavo Petro pledges to keep fossil fuels in the ground Climate Home News
Leftist Gustavo Petro was voted in Sunday night alongside Goldman prize-winning environmental campaigner Francia Marquez, the nation’s first black and second female vice-president.
In his manifesto, Petro committed to “undertake a gradual de-escalation of economic dependence on oil and coal”. He committed not to grant any new licenses for hydrocarbon exploration during his four-year mandate and to halt all pilot fracking projects and the development of offshore fossil fuels.
“These are not baby steps but huge steps towards the transition and reducing fossil fuels,” said Colombian environmentalist Martin Ramirez.
If Petro formalises his commitments to phasedown fossil fuel production, Colombia could become the largest fossil fuel producer to do so.
At the Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow last year, Costa Rica and Denmark launched an alliance of countries committed to phasing out oil and gas production known as the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance , collectively accounting for 0.2% of global oil production. Colombia produces around 1% of the world’s coal, oil and gas.
Joining the alliance would require Colombia to turn its commitment to immediately end fossil fuel expansion into law and set an end-date for all production.
“Some of the most powerful examples of leadership when it comes to keeping fossil fuels in the ground are no longer coming from some of the European countries that created [the alliance],” Romain Ioualalen, a campaigner at Oil Change International, told Climate Home. “It’s coming from a middle income country in Latin America,” he said.
- Ecuador Halts All OIl Operations Amid Escalating Protests Oil Price
Ecuador’s state-owned oil company Petroecuador declared force majeure across exploration, production, and transportation operations amid escalating protests against the government.
This means that exports of oil from the Andean country will be halted, as protesters entered oil fields, Reuters reported, citing a statement by Petroecuador.
The protests by indigenous peoples in Ecuador against the economic policies of the government of Guillermo Lasso, which have recently included fuel price hikes, prompted the president to declare a state of emergency across three provinces. This, however, did not stop the protests, as people demanded cheaper fuel and food price controls, Al Jazeera reported.
The Ukraine War
Death penalty for captured US citizens not ruled out, Russia says Al Jazeera
Putin announces deployment of S-500 air defense systems RT
The Russian military is in the process of deploying the S-500, the most advanced air-defense system in the country, President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday.
The Russian leader made the announcements during an address to the graduates of military colleges in Moscow as he described Russia’s plans for fielding advanced weapon systems, which he said “will determine the combat capabilities of the army and the navy for years and decades to come”.
Putin stated that the S-500 long-range missile system, which is designed to intercept aircraft and missiles and may have some anti-satellite capabilities, had no equal in the world.
Climate and Space
- Humans Somehow Found A Way To Litter On Mars HuffPost
Mars is getting a taste of human life before any person has ever even been there.
NASA reported Wednesday that its Perseverance Mars Rover had spotted “something unexpected”: a piece of litter on the surface of the red planet.
The debris was a piece of a thermal blanket that NASA scientists believe may have fallen off during the rover’s descent. The robot explorer was wrapped in the material to control its temperature.
- Giant Sunspot Has Doubled in Size in 24 Hours and It’s Pointed at Earth Newsweek
An enormous sunspot that has doubled in size in only 24 hours is now facing Earth—meaning it could send a solar flare our way.
- South Korea launches first successful homegrown rocket, starting ‘new era’ for space program ABC
South Korea successfully launched and put its homegrown space rocket into orbit Tuesday, becoming the seventh nation capable of launching practical satellites using a self-developed propulsion system.
- NASA is starting to shut down the Voyager probes, which launched in 1977 and made it deeper into space than anything since Business Insider
The epic interstellar journeys of NASA’s acclaimed Voyager probes are due to come to an end as the agency starts switching off their systems, Scientific American reported.
The probes launched 45 years ago, in 1977, and have pushed the boundaries of space exploration ever since. They are further away from Earth than any other manmade object, a record that will likely stay unbroken for decades.
The decision to reduce power on the probes is meant to extend their lifespan a few more years, taking them to around 2030, per Scientific American.
The probes are powered by radioactive plutonium, which has kept the tiny on-board computers running for decades on end.
The energy in the system is decreasing by about 4 watts a year, per Scientific American, requiring energy use to be cut.
“If everything goes really well, maybe we can get the missions extended into the 2030s. It just depends on the power. That’s the limiting point,” said Spilker.
Dipshittery and Cope
- The center has not held in Colombia, but democracy still might WaPo
We had no preference in Sunday’s Colombian presidential election runoff and frankly we didn’t envy Colombians the decision they had to make.
I hate these motherfuckers so goddamn much.
After a first-round election on May 29, the voters’ choices had been narrowed to two former mayors, whose competence was iffy and whose ideologies were extreme when they were not vague: populist 77-year-old construction magnate Rodolfo Hernández, a Trump-like independent, and Gustavo Petro, a leftist senator and former militant in a guerrilla group. Mr. Petro emerged as the winner with just over 50 percent of the vote. Thus does Colombia, a pillar of stability in recent Latin American history, join a regional trend that has seen traditional center-left and center-right parties nearly collapse — and leftists capture presidencies in Peru, Chile and Mexico.
There is much cause for concern in the policy direction Mr. Petro has articulated, in particular his call for an end to new oil exploration, a potential blow to the country’s industry likely to do much damage to export revenue and little good for the global environment. Still, it must be acknowledged that Mr. Petro (and indeed Mr. Hernández) tapped discontent with the country’s traditional parties that was rooted in real issues, such as chronic corruption and an uptick of economic inequality over the past four years. To be sure, leaders of the center-right — the most recent of which was President Iván Duque, the incumbent — pacified the country after decades of guerrilla war, a historic achievement. But Colombians wanted to know what their government had done for them lately.
If the center did not hold in Colombia, democracy still might. Voting was peaceful and transparent, followed by the prompt, gracious concession of Mr. Hernández — who proved blessedly, and admirably, un-Trumpian in that respect. Other institutions might act as a check on the new president: Colombia’s Congress, for example, is fragmented, and Mr. Petro’s opponents control more seats than his party does. Similar divisions of power have turned governance into a slog for new leftist presidents in Peru and Chile. Mexico’s Congress, too, has blocked some of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s more extreme proposals.
For the United States, the rise of Mr. Petro probably means it can no longer count on Colombia to help isolate next-door Venezuela’s leftist dictatorship; Mr. Petro is also likely to pursue warmer relations with Cuba and Nicaragua. However, that does not mean Colombia — or other left-leaning elected governments — would necessarily harm the long-term cause of democracy in the region. To the contrary, that cause might benefit from the rise of left-wing governments, as long as both they and their opponents on the populist right pursue their political conflicts within constitutional checks and balances. People who are free to choose among governing ideologies, even those that might seem extreme, and to reject those that fail, are less likely to turn to either military coup or violent insurgency, the banes of Latin American history.
Which country is often fueling those military coups and violent insurgencies?
The Biden administration has no choice but to approach the incoming Petro administration with an open mind. That’s just as well, since it would be the right thing to do anyway.
- Janet Yellen says the US and its allies are discussing a price cap on Russian oil to ‘depress Putin’s revenues’ Business Insider
The US and its allies are actively discussing a price cap on Russian oil, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Monday.
She told reporters in Toronto that one aim of a cap would be to “push down the price of Russian oil and depress Putin’s revenues.”
Another aim would be “allowing more oil supply to reach the global market,” she said during a joint press conference with Canada’s finance minister Chrystia Freeland.
Yellen said a price cap on Russian oil would be “an important way to prevent spillover effects to low income and developing countries that are struggling with high costs of food and energy.”
She did not provide a timeline for the price cap but said the US was “actively working” with partners on imposing one ahead of the G7 leaders summit in Germany next week.
- Ben Stiller tells Zelensky in Ukraine: ‘You’re my hero’ WaPo
Actor and humanitarian envoy Ben Stiller met in Ukraine with refugees and officials including President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday as part of his visit to the region on World Refugee Day.
“It’s a great honor for me,” Stiller said to Zelensky during a meeting in Kyiv. “It’s really wonderful. You’re my hero.”
Stiller marveled to fellow actor Zelensky, who played Ukraine’s president on television before becoming the country’s real-life leader, about “the way that you’ve rallied the country — the world.”
He added, “You quit a great acting career for this.”
Zelensky replied, “Not so great as you!”
I would argue that Zelensky currently has one of the greatest acting roles on the planet right now. As in, largest - definitely not best.
- US intel officials admit they didn’t see that Russia’s military was a ‘hollow force.’ Here’s what they did see and how they missed it. Yahoo
Wow, thank god! That means we can stop sending military aid to Ukraine and NATO can disband! There’s absolutely nothing interesting in this article, even to laugh at, so I won’t quote anything from it.
- Russia’s New Economic Policy: Famine, Looting And Stealing? Forbes, by Stuart Anderson, the executive director of the National Foundation for American Policy.
In the 1920s, despair prompted Soviet leaders to adopt the New Economic Policy (NEP), an attempt at new policies to improve the economy. In 2022, facing sanctions and isolation from Western countries, Russian leaders appear to have adopted another new economic policy. In the 1920s, NEP was based on a greater use of market forces. Today, the policy appears based on force, a combination of stealing from Ukraine, facilitating looting by soldiers and inflicting famine on the world.
Famine: Since the invasion of Ukraine, Russian forces have blocked more than 20 million tons of grain from being shipped through Black Sea ports. The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has called Russia’s action a war crime. Given the quantity of grain blocked, United Nations personnel have warned a famine could take place in parts of the world. This is not an accident. Russian officials are open about leveraging the prospect of mass starvation to compel Western governments to lift sanctions harming the Russian economy.
In June 2022, at the Petersburg Economic Forum, Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of Russian state-controlled RT, said she heard from people several times in Moscow that “All our hope is in the famine.” She continued, “Here is what it means. It means that the famine will start now and they will lift the sanctions and be friends with us, because they will realize that it’s necessary.”
Preventing Ukraine from selling its wheat is not a side effect of the war. It is part of Russia’s economic strategy to leverage widespread hunger to help its economy.
Stealing: Russia is not relying on famine alone. It is also stealing wheat and steel from Ukraine. Russian media has openly stated Russia is selling wheat it stole from Kherson in Ukraine.
The Russian government is also stealing or nationalizing land from Ukrainian farmers in a parallel to Stalin’s expropriation of Ukrainian farmers’ property during collectivization in the 1930s, which resulted in millions of deaths from famine and saw the deportation of Ukrainian farmers who resisted.
The Ukrainian government estimates Russia has stolen about 400,000 metric tons of grains and seeds, according to the Wall Street Journal. Russia has also bombed Ukrainian farms and grain operations outside of its control.
Looting: The Russian government has difficulty finding enough manpower to prosecute military operations in Ukraine, in part, because it has not declared war and must rely on contracts with troops. One enticement to service appears to be allowing widespread looting, which at least one Russian soldier said in an intercepted phone call was sanctioned by Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
Compensating soldiers via looting was common in medieval times. Widespread reports of looting by Russian troops since the war began shows looting has been permitted as an informal economic strategy to harm Ukrainians and incentivize Russians to serve in the military.
In the near team, the Russian government may achieve some successes with its current approach, but it shows how much the invasion of Ukraine has distorted Russia’s economy and its future. In the long run, Russia is unlikely to build a successful 21st century economy through famine, looting and stealing.
Good Takes that are Dope
- Only New York’s Socialist City Councilors Voted Against an Austerity Budget Jacobin
At the behest of Mayor Eric Adams, New York’s City Council passed a horrifying budget last week that slashes public school resources while fattening the police force. Only the socialist members voted no.
The episode shows that it’s not enough to have good liberals in government with nice values who can talk left. It doesn’t necessarily even matter how sincerely they believe what they’re saying. There’s no substitute for socialist leaders accountable to grassroots and socialist organizations.
The budget cuts targeted at schools come to $215 million. Teachers, parents, students, and school principals are reeling from the news. With many schools seeing their budgets drop by as much as a million dollars, principals are saying they could be forced to lay off teachers and go without social workers, art, music, and even paper. Other likely casualties are science, after-school activities, and intervention for special needs kids. Class sizes will get larger, even though the state government actually allocated funding to shrink class sizes this year.
All this is particularly inexcusable given that the city has been given much more state and federal money for education than usual in recent years. New York City’s Comptroller, Brad Lander, pointed out in a statement decrying the cuts that the city has $5 billion in unspent federal stimulus funding.
Bloomerism and Hope
- Palestine Action Permanently Shut Down Israeli Arms Firm’s London HQ Popular Resistance
Recently, police told Palestine Action activists who were under arrest, that Elbit was abandoning its London Headquarters at 77 Kingsway. Security at the company’s entrance told Samantha Asumadu, a freelance journalist, working for the Big Issue, that Elbit was not at the site and they had never heard of them. The front desk also confirmed that the Israeli arms firm were not there and even denied the company ever was, despite it being well known that Elbit was leasing the sixth floor for many years. A separate security guard confirmed to another source that Elbit had indeed left the building.
This makes 77 Kingsway the second Elbit site permanently shut down by Palestine Action, in less than 2 years of sustained direct action. Behind closed doors, war criminals have been facilitating Elbit’s British-based operations — no more! Palestine Actionists have worked tirelessly, but successfully, to shut its London site.
Palestine Action’s inaugural action saw activists storm the company’s former central London office, trashing site facilities and spray painting ‘Shut Elbit Down’ and ‘We will be back’ across the walls. As the campaign continued, tactics included disruptive entry, outdoor & indoor occupations, paint throwing and chain-and-lock blockades. The 15 separate actions at Kingsway and simultaneous sister actions against its landlords, have culminated in dozens of arrests — 60 in total, for which many activists still face trial. Elbit’s closure comes after weeks of dramatically-intensified action targeting their Kingsway headquarters.