- Europe’s famously ailing banks — that spawned the term ‘doom loop’ — are healthier than you think Fortune
Europe’s banks, long seen as a systemic risk for the economy, maybe at their healthiest in years, according to the latest official figures.
The continent’s ailing financial sector famously spawned the term “doom loop”, a vicious circle when falling credit ratings for sovereigns lead to downgrades for banks, which further feed fresh doubts on the sovereign. This helped spark the euro zone debt crisis that presented an existential risk to the euro ten years ago this month.
According to data from the European Central Bank on Monday, the share of non-performing loans (NPLs)—defined as over 90 days in arrears—dropped to just 1.95% in the first quarter of this year. It marks the lowest level since records began in the second quarter of 2015.
Previously there was no coordinated oversight, with national authorities interpreting banking risks differently despite the region sharing a common currency and monetary policy.
“The euro area banking sector has entered the year with strong capital and liquidity positions," a spokesperson for the ECB told Fortune. “The pandemic on average has not had an impact on banks’ non-performing loans, and for the time being it appears as if risks from the war in Ukraine appeared to be contained.”
The improvement in the NPL ratio was thanks to a slight increase in total loans to €19 billion ($19.2 billion), with the stock of NPLs themselves falling marginally versus the end of December to €369 billion.
- European Space Agency cuts ties with Russia on Mars rover mission CNN
The European Space Agency terminated its cooperation with Russia to launch Europe’s first planetary rover, the agency’s chief said Tuesday.
Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, and ESA were collaborating on a mission involving the European ExoMars Rover, designed to look for signs of life on Mars.
The rover’s September 2022 launch was initially suspended in March, just weeks after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Now, the ESA Council has officially cut ties with Roscosmos on this joint project as a result of the war in Ukraine and ongoing sanctions, ESA’s Director General Josef Aschbacher wrote Tuesday on Twitter.
- Two-thirds of Ukraine refugees plan to stay put for now, according to UNHCR Euro News
Around two-thirds of refugees from Ukraine expect to stay in their host countries until hostilities subside and the security situation improves after Russia’s invasion, a survey by the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR has found. The survey was conducted between mid-May and mid-June.
Most of the refugees from Ukraine, mainly women and children, hope to return home eventually, according to the survey of around 4,900 people from Ukraine now living in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.
Of those seeking to return, 40% planned to do so in the next month, said UNHCR, adding that a higher proportion of refugees from the capital Kyiv and areas in the west were planning to return than those who arrived from the east and north.
- Zelensky to consider honoring gay porn star with monument RT)
A petition calling on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to commemorate American pornographic actor Billy Herrington with a monument in Odessa has passed 25,000 votes and must now be considered. Activists want Herrington’s likeness to replace that of Russian Empress Catherine the Great.
Launched in May, the petition passed the threshold of 25,000 votes this week. Describing Catherine II as a “controversial historical figure whose actions caused great damage to Ukrainian statehood and culture,” it calls on Zelensky to ensure that her statue is torn down and replaced with one of Herrington sitting “at the bar with a bottle of beer.”
The petition’s author wrote that this would make the statement that “Odessa is not a part of Russian culture but has its own culture and sense of humor,” and would send “a clear signal that Ukraine supports the LGBT community.” Furthermore, he wrote that a monument to Herrington would be “fun and funny” and would be worth it for “memes.”
I wonder what the angle is here. Is this a genuine attempt by Ukrainian activists? Is this a pro-Russian “troll” campaign designed to either a) make the West begin to turn against Ukraine for being anti-LGBT, or b) it actually happens and pisses off Ukrainians, of which the vast majority are homophobic?
- Soaring Energy Exports Send Russia’s Account Surplus To Record High Oil Price
Russia’s account surplus reached a new record for the second quarter, according to data released by the central bank cited by Bloomberg.
The surplus, now more than $70 billion, comes on the back of surging oil and gas—and other commodities as well—exports, which outweighed the sanctions placed on the country by Western powers.
The surplus was also bolstered by high prices and decreasing imports—to $72.3 billion in Q1 from $88.7 billion in Q2—thanks to the sanctions, which have a greater effect on imports than on exports.
- Putin decree gives all Ukrainians path to Russian citizenship Reuters
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on Monday extending a simplified Russian naturalisation process to all citizens of Ukraine, a document published on the government’s website showed.
Previously, a simplified procedure for acquiring Russian citizenship applied only to residents of the self-proclaimed breakaway territories of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) in eastern Ukraine, which Russia seeks to “liberate” from Kyiv’s control, as well as the Russian-occupied regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, the state news agency TASS reported.
- Russian lawmakers propose extending ‘gay propaganda’ law to all adults Reuters
Russian lawmakers have proposed extending a ban on the promotion of “non-traditional” sexual relationships to minors to include adults as well, a senior legislator said on Monday.
Russia’s existing “gay propaganda” law, passed in 2013, has been used to stop gay pride marches and detain gay rights activists.
Authorities say they are defending morality in the face of what they argue are un-Russian liberal values promoted by the West, but human rights activists say the law has been broadly applied to intimidate Russia’s LGBT community.
- Amid Ukraine war, Russian parliament to hold extraordinary session Reuters
The lower house of the Russian parliament will gather on July 15 for an extraordinary session, its council decided on Monday, just days after President Vladimir Putin warned that he had not even started to get serious in the war in Ukraine.
Putin used a meeting with parliamentary leaders on Thursday to dare the United States and its allies to try to defeat Russia in Ukraine, which Russia invaded on Feb. 24. Parliamentary leaders all thanked Putin for his decisions.
The Russian parliament, dominated by a party which always supports Putin, listed some amendments on competition and information policy that would be discussed at the extraordinary session.
Vladimir Vasilyev, the head of the United Russia party, which has 325 seats in the 450-seat parliament, said that lawmakers would discuss more than 60 issues at the session.
- Lego closes Russia business and lays off 90 staff in Moscow CNN
Lego is closing its business in Russia indefinitely and laying off its 90 Moscow-based employees, owing to “extensive disruption” in the country, the Danish toymaker said on Tuesday.
- Spain Calls On Firms To Minimize LNG Imports From Russia Oil Price
Spain has called on its companies to seek to lower imports of LNG from Russia, while the Spanish government looks to help other EU member states with energy and power supply this year, Energy Minister Teresa Ribera said.
“It is desirable that traders seek to minimise imports of Russian gas and diversify the contracts they may hold,” Ribera said at a press briefing as carried by Reuters.
Unlike most of the EU, Spain does not depend on Russian pipeline gas, but it has the highest number of LNG import terminals in Europe—six.
Imports of LNG from Russia represented nearly 12 percent of Spain’s gas imports in May, compared to a 6.6 percent share of Russian LNG in May 2021, according to Reuters estimates.
- Heatwave grips Spain as UK readies for soaring temperatures Iraqi News
Spain and Portugal were sweltering in their second heatwave in a month on Monday, with scorching temperatures also expected in France and Britain in the coming days.
In Spain the southern city of Seville recorded Monday’s highest temperature with the mercury hitting 42.4 degrees Celsius (108.3 Fahrenheit), according to Spain’s meteorological agency AEMET.
- Germany to stop buying Russian coal on Aug 1, oil on Dec 31, says deputy fin min Reuters
“Guys, I have a genius idea. What we should do is - sometimes my supreme intellect really surprises me, when it shouldn’t, because I am a prodigy - but yeah, what we should do is force up gas prices, bring down gas supplies, then switch to coal power plants, and then stop buying Russian coal. I’m currently sending my assistant to nominate me for an economics prize."
Germany will completely stop buying Russian coal on Aug. 1 and Russian oil on Dec. 31, marking a major shift in the source of the country’s energy supply, deputy finance minister Joerg Kukies said at a conference in Sydney.
The key challenge ahead will be filling the huge gap that will be left when the European Union weans itself off the 158 billion cubic metres (bcm) per year of gas that Russia supplies, Kukies said.
“We will be off Russian coal in a few weeks,” he told the Sydney Energy Forum, co-hosted by the Australian government and the International Energy Agency.
Russian previously supplied 40% of Germany’s coal and 40% of its oil, he said.
- French Industry Switches To Oil From Gas Amid Uncertainty Over Russian Supply Oil Price
Major energy-intensive industries in France look to convert gas boilers to run on oil as French and European businesses prepare for another decline or a complete halt of Russian gas deliveries to Europe, Reuters reports.
Sounds like a great idea, I don’t see how this could possibly go wrong. Again, if only we knew about climate change fifty years ago and had the time to switch to renewable energy before this crisis! Unfortunately, the universe began on February 24th, 2022.
- Global CEOs to announce €6.7 billion of investment at Macron’s Versailles summit EU Reporter
At the fifth edition of President Emmanuel Macron’s Choose France summit, which was held in Versailles on Monday (11 July) at 19h, international investors will announce €6.7 billion ($6.82bn) of French investment, his office stated.
According to the Elysee palace, the 14 investment projects by companies like FedEx AKZO.AS and Raytheon Technologies will create 4,000 jobs here in France.
- Switzerland, Playground of Russian Oligarchs, Emerges as Sanctions Weak Link WSJ
Switzerland has pledged to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. So far, that promise hasn’t triggered much action against Russian companies doing business there, bolstering concerns in world capitals that the Alpine financial hub isn’t doing enough to forestall the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s allies.
Eighty percent of Russia’s commodities are traded through Switzerland, mostly through Zug and the lakeside city of Geneva. Swiss banks manage an estimated $150 billion for Russian clients, according to the country’s banking association. Thirty-two of the oligarchs closest to Mr. Putin have property, bank accounts or businesses in Switzerland, according to by Zurich-based transparency group Public Eye.
In the four months since Swiss authorities began sanctions, $6.8 billion in Russian financial assets have been frozen, alongside 15 homes and properties, according to the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, or SECO, the implementing entity.
U.S. senators have privately petitioned Swiss officials to do more to locate Russian money and property. “Instead of enabling Russia’s abuse of the global financial system, they should stand against it,” said Sen. Roger Wicker, chair of the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation, which promotes human rights, military security and economic cooperation.
- Northern Italy drought threatens olive oil, risotto rice and passata supplies The Guardian
Supplies of olive oil, risotto rice and passata are under threat as northern Italy suffers its worst drought in 70 years, stirring up the cost of living crisis further.
Specialist importers are preparing for price rises of as much as 50% or more for rice and tomatoes and are considering looking for new sources of supply, after growers in the Po valley, the home of arborio rice used in risotto, warned of a “significant reduction” in crop yields this year.
- UK economy grows 0.5% in May The Guardian
The UK economy has surprised us with 0.5% growth in May, following April’s 0.2% decline (revised from a 0.3% drop). Growth was fuelled by a boom in holiday bookings and a large rise in GP appointments.
And over the three months to May, GDP rose 0.4%, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics. Economists had expected zero growth in May alone, and in the three months to May, amid the cost of living crisis.
- UK Approves 25% Windfall Tax On Oil And Gas Producers Oil Price
British lawmakers have officially approved a 25% windfall tax on oil and gas producers that will earn the government nearly $6 billion in one year to put towards surging consumer energy bills.
Now that the bill has been approved by parliament, it will have to pass the House of Lords to become law.
- Estonian PM reaches agreement to regain majority in parliament EU Reporter
Estonian Prime Minster Kaja Kallas (pictured)' Reform Party announced Friday (8 July) that it had reached an agreement to form a majority coalition within the parliament. This was after a month of negotiations.
Kallas resigned from her junior coalition partner, Centre Party, on June 3, after it joined forces with a far right group in parliament to defeat government reform of primary education.
On 11 June, the Reform Party began negotiations with the center-left Social Democratic Party and the conservative Isamaa Party.
Reform stated in a Friday statement that the parties would form a coalition government “Following today’s agreements”, Reform added.
Asia and Oceania
- China Is Winning Big As Russia Pivots To Asia Oil Price
China is the main beneficiary of the biggest change in energy trade flows in recent memory as Russia pivots to Asia to sell the oil and coal banned in the West and looks to build another major natural gas pipeline to China. Beijing is not only a willing energy trade partner for Russia, soaking up hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil per day unwanted in the West.
China is also paying for Russian energy at growing discounts to international benchmarks, which makes its government-managed industry even more competitive than that of the U.S. and its allies, Thomas J. Duesterberg, Senior Fellow at U.S.-based think tank Hudson Institute, writes in Forbes.
- Don’t Sleep on China’s Global Development Initiative The Diplomat
It’s been a hectic few weeks in international relations and development policy circles, with significant implications for Asian and Pacific countries.
First was the BRICS Business Forum on June 23, attended by the top leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. Then came the High-Level Dialogue on Global Development on June 24, attended by leaders from Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, and a selection of non-BRICS countries: Cambodia, Argentina, Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Fiji, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Senegal, Thailand, and Uzbekistan. Two days later, leaders from seven of the world’s wealthiest countries (the G-7) met from June 26 to 28.
While there was much to discuss internally within these groups, a general thread from each meeting was international development, especially as the world continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and now the fall out of the Russia-Ukraine war.
However, U.S. President Joe Biden’s announcement at the G-7 of the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII) dominated international media headlines. By contrasts, some new commitments by China at the high-level BRICS dialogues went relatively unnoticed.
The main announcements from China were under a fairly new umbrella term, the Global Development Initiative (GDI), which according to the Chinese government was launched in September 2021 to raise awareness of the challenges threatening the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and re-prioritize and renew global commitments to these goals. At the same time, like its older sibling, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), at the time of its launch in 2013, the GDI is still relatively amorphous, a “vision.” There is no timeline for delivery, no overall financial goal, no clarity on priority countries or regions, or even sectoral themes. Indeed, this makes it seem somewhat similar to the PGII initiative, which has also been criticized for being too broad and aspirational. That said, the GDI does matter.
Like the BRI, the lack of clarity to date surrounding the GDI has not stopped over 100 countries from expressing support for the initiative, including many in the Asia-Pacific region. The vision itself clearly seems attractive. In January 2022, the Group of Friends of the GDI was initiated at the United Nations, and more than 50 countries have joined the group. This is in sharp contrast to the PGII, which counts as its main proponents other G-7 members, especially EU member states. A few low-and middle-income countries have “welcomed” the PGII – if it happens – but many are not convinced it will, given their experience with the B3W and Global Gateway, two similar G-7 initiatives launched in 2020 and 2021.
Moreover, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s description of the GDI this time, at the high-level dialogue, did come with some new financial and other specific commitments. For instance, Xi pledged to add a further $42 billion to the South-South Cooperation Assistance Fund, which was initially capitalized with $3.1 billion. The fund will also be renamed the “Global Development and South-South Cooperation Fund.” China committed to increase its contributions to the United National Peace and Development Trust Fund as part of the GDI, although by how much remains unknown. China also committed to providing a platform for experience- and knowledge-sharing on questions of international development.
So why did the new GDI get so little attention? No doubt geopolitics matters; publicizing positive outcomes from a forum in which Russia is seen as a legitimate participant is difficult in some parts of the world. But perhaps it is also a communication issue for China. Certainly, many Asian, African, and other low-and middle-income countries will wonder how the GDI and BRI work together or if the GDI is a new, “face saving” means for China to say the BRI is dead.
There have been declarations, for instance by the Economist, that the “era” of big Chinese infrastructure financing is over. If GDI is a new, non-infrastructure-focused replacement for BRI, that would lend credence to this assertion – and would be a significant disappointment for many countries and regions still eager to plug infrastructure gaps with cheap loans from Chinese banks and act as nests for offshored Chinese manufacturing. This confusion and lack of understanding could be behind the lack of coverage.
That said, while more detail still needs to emerge about the GDI, our expectation at this stage is that the GDI is and can be complementary to the BRI, which will continue, albeit at a slower pace, due to COVID-19 in particular. This is because the GDI focuses on sustainable development through grants and capacity building. For example, the China-Pacific Island Countries Climate Action Cooperation Center has been created to help countries cope with and mitigate climate change as part of the GDI. In contrast, the BRI still has connectivity and infrastructure as its basis.
- Heat wave threatens power shortages and higher pork prices in China CNN
A scorching heat wave in China has forced a major manufacturing region to appeal to businesses and households to use less power, while fear of crop failure is sending pork prices soaring.
Dozens of cities have been experiencing record-high temperatures at a time when the economy is still trying to recover from bruising Covid-related lockdowns. The heatwave also comes as consumer inflation hits a 23-month high, mainly driven by rising food prices.
As many as 84 cities across the country on Wednesday issued their highest-level red alert warnings — which means temperatures are expected to reach over 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in the coming 24 hours — according to the National Meteorological Administration. Shanghai reported 40 degrees Celsius on Sunday for the first time this year.
- Fukushima nuclear disaster: ex-bosses of owner Tepco ordered to pay ¥13tn The Guardian
A court in Japan has ordered former executives of Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) to pay ¥13tn (£80bn) in damages for failing to prevent a triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011.
- Paths to Recovery in Laos: Restore Economic Stability, Increase Inclusion, and Strengthen Resilience Laotian Times
The Lao PDR Systematic Country Diagnostic 2021 Update, released today, lays out three pathways that the country can follow to address its most pressing economic challenges: ‘Stabilize’ as a precondition for economic growth and protecting people’s well-being; ‘Share’ to enhance inclusion and social cohesion; and ‘Sustain’ to strengthen economic, social, and environmental resilience.
“Laos needs economic growth based on job-creation, rather than on borrowing and the sale of natural resources”, says Alex Kremer, World Bank Group Country Manager for Laos.
“The immediate priority is to increase state revenues. Otherwise, with debt payments growing each year, there will be less money available to invest in education, skills, local infrastructure and health – the sources of healthy economic growth.”
The report, informed by a series of World Bank diagnostic reports, including the recently released Lao PDR Country Economic Memorandum, shows that three major challenges facing the country have been amplified by the pandemic: macroeconomic instability, jobless growth with rising inequality, and vulnerability to climate change, environmental degradation and shocks.
These problems are exacerbated by weak governance and institutions. As well as the three broad pathways for economic recovery – Stabilize, Share, and Sustain – the report, therefore, identifies the cross-cutting objective of strengthening national institutions and governance systems.
The report also details 16 development objectives, some of which will appear in the World Bank Group’s next Country Partnership Framework. These include improving fiscal space, reducing stunting, and increasing agricultural productivity.
- President Gotabaya Rajapaksa Flees Sri Lanka The Diplomat
Sri Lanka’s president fled the country early Wednesday, slipping away only hours before he promised to resign under pressure from protesters angry over a devastating economic crisis. But crowds quickly trained their ire on the prime minster, storming his office and demanding he also go.
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his wife left aboard a Sri Lankan Air Force plane bound for the Maldives, the air force said in a statement. That brought little relief to the island nation gripped for months by an economic disaster that has triggered severe shortages of food and fuel — and now is beset by political chaos.
Thousands of protesters demanding that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe step down rallied outside his office compound and some scaled the walls, as the crowd roared its support and tossed water bottles to those charging in. Some could later be seen inside the building and standing on a rooftop terrace waving Sri Lanka’s flag.
In a move only likely to further enrage protesters, Rajapaksa appointed his prime minister as acting president since he was out of the country, according to the Parliament speaker. Rajapaksa has yet to resign, but Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said the president assured him he would later in the day.
- The Revival of Rail Infrastructure in the Philippines The Diplomat
On June 9, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved up to $4.3 billion in loans for the southern leg of the Philippines’ gargantuan North–South Commuter Railway project. The railway line is being constructed in three segments and will span a total length of 147 kilometers. It will start in the north near Clark International Airport and then run down through the urban core of Manila before continuing on to its southern terminus in Calamba. This follows on the ADB’s approval of a $2.75 billion loan in 2019 for the northern segment which is currently under construction.
The total cost for just the north and south segments will be $14.2 billion, of which the ADB has agreed to cover about half through loans, with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) picking up another $3.68 billion. Separately, JICA is financing the construction of the middle section that will connect Tutuban to Mololos. The scale of this project is enormous and, according to the ADB, represents the bank’s “largest infrastructure financing in the Asia and Pacific region to date.”
But this $14 billion mega railway project is only part of the story. One of the major economic policy programs during the Duterte administration has been increased infrastructure spending, and this includes Manila’s urban transit system, which is due for a big upgrade. For nearly two decades, mass transit in Manila was covered by three lines which have struggled with service and maintenance issues. Those lines are receiving upgrades and expansions, while two new lines, the MRT 4 and 7, have been approved or are under construction.
Even more ambitious is the Metro Manila Subway, a 355 billion peso ($6.3 billion at current exchange rates) mega-project being financed by JICA. Dubbed the “Project of the Century” it will represent a major upgrade to Manila’s urban transit system and is a fairly impressive engineering feat. Separately from that, the city government of the upscale Makati district has entered into an agreement with a private developer to build out its own subway system. The Makati project primarily involves Chinese financiers and construction companies.
- Australia’s Private Energy Market Is Rigged to Guarantee Corporate Profits Jacobin
Over the next few months, most of Australia will be receiving shocking electricity bills. The inevitable tabloid headlines employing that exact pun will only add to our suffering. The inflated power bills will be less shocking, however, for anyone who’s been paying close attention to the National Energy Market (NEM). Since the late ’90s, when Australian electricity privatization began in earnest, the NEM’s complex regulatory apparatus has routinely struggled to protect the public from the market forces it was designed to unleash.
Reliable electricity is the lifeblood of modern society, and it requires careful planning and oversight. The neoliberal transformation of state-owned, vertically integrated utilities into a disaggregated private electricity market has achieved the opposite of this. It’s also failed on its own terms — the NEM isn’t remotely close to a competitive, free market.
Instead, the NEM is a Rube Goldberg machine of tightly regulated, often oligopolistic competition. It’s an opaque system that presents a plethora of opportunities for gaming and profiteering, which flow down to the public in the form of higher power bills.
- Palestinians say Biden ‘helping sustain apartheid’ before visit Al Jazeera
For Palestinians, however, the US flag is not a welcome symbol.
They say Biden’s policies as president – like his predecessors – represent the US’s longstanding allegiance to Israel at the expense of Palestinian freedom and dignity.
“He’s [Biden] not coming here for Palestinians, he doesn’t care about Palestinians,” Diana Buttu, analyst and former legal adviser to Palestinian negotiating teams, told Al Jazeera.
“He has done nothing to stop Israeli settlements, while home demolitions have gone up since he’s been office, and he hasn’t stopped the killings [of Palestinians] that are happening on an almost-daily basis,” she added.
“It has been a feature of US policy – pre-dating [former US President Donald] Trump and Biden – to do whatever it is that Israel wants,” said Buttu.
- Iran Moves To Expand Supergiant Oilfield Amid Global Crude Crisis Oil Price
Iran is one of the only countries on earth with the potential to add significant oil supply to a global oil market that is desperately tight.
In its latest attempt to leverage its significant oil reserves in order to restart JCPOA negotiations, Iran has announced a huge expansion of its Azadegan field.
The location of the Azadegan field, which borders Iraq, is also significant as it is impossible for the U.S. to determine the origin of the crude that is extracted from this field.
- Iran responds to US claims of drone shipments to Russia RT
Tehran will not help either side in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has said in response to White House claims the Islamic Republic was planning to deliver “hundreds of drones” to Russia.
“We have different kinds of cooperation with Russia, including in the defense sector. But we are not going to help either side in this conflict because we believe that it has to be stopped,” Amir-Abdollahian told Italian newspaper la Repubblica on Wednesday.
- Africa: Sub-Saharan Africa Facing Severe Food Shortage All Africa
The International Committee of the Red Cross warns hundreds of millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa are going hungry due to conflict, climate shocks, and rising food prices triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The ICRC warns Africa’s food crisis is set to worsen. It says conflict and armed violence, failing harvests due to years of drought, and increases in food and other commodity prices are driving more people into extreme poverty and hunger.
A recent U.N. assessment estimates 346 million people on the continent face severe food insecurity, meaning one-quarter of the population does not have enough to eat.
- Cameroon Orders Investment in Wheat Production to Quell Protests Sparked By Shortages All Africa
Cameroon President Paul Biya says the government will increase funding to grow more wheat after protests over wheat shortages and price spikes sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Before Russia’s Black Sea blockade, Cameroon imported 60 percent of its wheat from Ukraine. The cut-off has led to a nearly 50 percent increase in the price of bread.
Cameroon government says President Paul Biya on Monday ordered an immediate disbursement of over $15 million to grow wheat in the central African state.
Cameroon’s agriculture minister, Gabriel Mbairobe, says Biya responded to pleas from civilians that the cost of living is becoming very high, and many Cameroonians are finding it very difficult to put food on the table.
- Former Trump adviser John Bolton admits to planning foreign coups Al Jazeera
John Bolton, a former United States ambassador to the United Nations and ex-White House national security adviser, has admitted in an interview he had helped plan coups in foreign countries.
Bolton made the remarks to CNN on Tuesday after the day’s congressional hearing into the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol. Former President Donald Trump has faced accusations of inciting the violence in a last-ditch bid to remain in power after losing the 2020 election.
Speaking to CNN anchor Jake Tapper, however, Bolton suggested Trump was not competent enough to pull off a “carefully planned coup d’etat”, later adding: “As somebody who has helped plan coups d’etat – not here but, you know, [in] other places – it takes a lot of work. And that’s not what he [Trump] did.”
“I’m not going to get into the specifics,” Bolton said, before mentioning Venezuela. “It turned out not to be successful. Not that we had all that much to do with it but I saw what it took for an opposition to try and overturn an illegally elected president and they failed,” he said.
“I feel like there’s other stuff you’re not telling me [beyond Venezuela],” the CNN anchor said, prompting a reply from Bolton: “I’m sure there is.”
Man, this reality sucks. Why even do analysis any more? They’re just saying it. Subtext is not only dead, we’re being beaten to death with it. Conspiracy theories are over. Before long it’ll just be “Well, there’s no way that the attempt on the President’s life by this QAnon member, Rowland-Constanza McCrumbjack, who owns a jet ski store, would have worked. For that, you’d really need the power of a government agency, like what we did with JFK."
- Pentagon diverted small business fund to defense industry giants Responsible Statecraft
In just one year, more than $300 million earmarked for small businesses ended up going to Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, L3Harris, and other top defense contractors, according to a recent report from the Project on Government Oversight (POGO).
The funds come from a pool of $33 billion that the Pentagon set aside to support small businesses in the defense industry, which have rapidly disappeared as the military sector has consolidated in recent years.
Experts say this misuse of funds threatens to force more small companies out of business, eliminating competition and empowering defense giants to drive up prices.
- The Cost of Taming Inflation Will Be Exorbitant Bloomberg
At the start of the year, the issue affecting markets the most was the Federal Reserve’s reluctance to acknowledge the problem of faster inflation. That changed recently when Chair Jerome Powell accepted the need to make fighting inflation priority number one. Although the markets breathed a sigh of relief, what wasn’t acknowledged was the cost of this policy.
Contrary to his predecessor, President Joe Biden has no objection to higher interest rates and has expressed his confidence in the Fed’s ability to get inflation under control. However, there are second-order effects to higher rates to consider. When Volcker boosted rates to 20% in the early 1980s, the US had debt equal to just 31% of gross domestic product. Today it stands at 125%.
There is currently little pushback to the Fed’s tightening campaign, but that will likely change in coming months as the cost of higher rates becomes clearer. Volcker is remembered with fond admiration for winning the battle over high inflation, but his policies were not always popular. During his tenure, farmers blockaded the main office of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors in Washington with their tractors in protest.Today, there is less fiscal space to accommodate higher interest rates and it will probably take a much smaller increase in rates to spark a similar public reaction. Under the right circumstances, the Fed could face significant pressure to not raise rates as much as needed. When the increase in the cost of funding the government’s debt results in the federal government being forced to cut back on spending, there will be a much different attitude about the Fed’s policies. So far, everyone has welcomed higher rates, but that could soon change.
- Texas wind power is failing amid a scorching US heat wave Al Jazeera
Wind power — a key source of electricity in Texas — is being sidelined just when the Lone Star State needs it most, with turbines generating less than a 10th of what they’re capable of.
A scorching heat wave is pushing the Texas grid to the brink. Power demand is surging as people crank up air conditioners. But meanwhile, wind speeds have fallen to extremely low levels, and that means the state’s fleet of turbines is at just 8% of their potential output.
Texas may be America’s oil and gas hub, but it’s also long been the country’s biggest wind-power state. The renewable energy source has become highly politicized: Some critics blamed frozen wind turbines for the Texas grid’s failure during a deadly winter storm last year, even though disruptions at plants powered by natural gas were the bigger culprit.
The current lows for Texas turbines also point to a broader contradiction facing the world as it transitions to cleaner energy sources. While countries across the globe are generating more electricity from intermittent wind and solar sources, large-scale, battery storage is still in its ascendancy. That leaves major grids more fragile and vulnerable to shock.
Depressed wind power during heat waves isn’t a new phenomenon. Powerful high-pressure systems that cause intense heat often squelch wind production — just when more power is needed to meet higher electricity demand. The mass of air overhead stifles wind near the surface, until the mass moves elsewhere.
Right now, one of those high-pressure systems is sitting directly over the Lone Star State.
- As drought shrivels Lake Powell, millions face power crisis The Guardian
Bob Martin, the deputy power manager at the Glen Canyon Dam, gestures at the band of whitish, chalky residue running along the steep canyon walls towering above the Colorado River.
“That’s where the water level used to be,” says Martin. “It’s fallen lower than even the lowest end of the scale thought possible when the dam was constructed.”
But dwindling water levels at Lake Powell, which is currently at 28% of its 24 million acre-feet capacity, have put the Glen Canyon Dam at risk. In March, water levels fell below 3,525 feet – considered a critical buffer to protect hydropower – for the first time. If the lake drops just another 32 feet, the dam will no longer be able to generate power for the millions who rely on it.
Such a calamity might not be far off. The Bureau of Reclamation, the US federal agency which manages the Colorado River’s infrastructure, forecasts that even with significant proposed cuts to water allowances there is a 23% chance power production could halt at Glen Canyon Dam in 2024 due to low water levels and that it is within the realm of possibility that it will happen as soon as July 2023.
- US Special Operations Command is working on a new weapon for its ‘Ghostrider’ gunship: lasers Business Insider
While Russia’s war in Ukraine drags on, the US military is continuing to prepare for a conflict with China in the Indo-Pacific region.
To deal with the Chinese military’s increasing capabilities, US Special Operations Command is rebuilding partnerships in the region and experimenting with futuristic weapon systems.
One concept being tested is a high-energy laser weapon, and SOCOM intends to put it on one of its deadliest platforms: the AC-130 gunship.
In 2017, Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, AFSOC’s commander at the time, described the capabilities that a high-energy laser weapon would bring to a gunship, telling National Defense Magazine that it could provide stealthy but kinetic capabilities.
“Without the slightest bang, whoosh, thump, explosion, or even aircraft engine hum, four key targets are permanently disabled,” Webb said at the time. “The enemy has no communications, no escape vehicle, no electrical power, and no retaliatory intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capability. Minutes later, the team emerges from the compound, terrorist mastermind in hand. A successful raid.”
- Prairies ramp up potash production amid Russia sanctions blowback Canadian Dimension
In the 2022 federal budget, the Canadian government allocated $4 billion to its first-ever Critical Minerals Strategy (CSM), described in its discussion paper as “a generational opportunity for our country.” In addition to increasingly in-demand battery minerals of the sort that are drawing Canadian investment to Africa, the CSM notes dozens of important minerals whose price and accessibility have been affected by “geopolitical uncertainty,” and which Canada needs to secure for its own economic security. One of them is potash.
Recently, the Saskatchewan Party government released a “Growth Plan” that centres around amplifying the province’s mining capacity, especially its potash production. In 2021, Saskatchewan potash production was valued at $7.6 billion, around 30 percent of the world supply. The Growth Plan indicates that the Saskatchewan government wants to increase potash exports to $9 billion by 2030.
The mineral strategies of both the Alberta and Manitoba governments also include potash development, even though these provinces are not traditionally fertilizer producers. In June 2022, Manitoba announced the creation of its first-ever potash mine. It is located near the province’s Saskatchewan border. Additionally, Manitoba’s 2022-2023 mining program identified potash as a focus of the province’s expanding mineral extraction projects.
Alberta’s recently released “strategy to re-energize Alberta’s minerals sector” also notes the importance of potash. The document shows that there are currently three potash exploration sites in the province, all of them along the eastern border with Saskatchewan.
Despite this Prairie-wide expansion of fertilizer exploration and production, it is impossible that Canadian potash will be able to fill the gap left by Russian and Belarusian sales. Nutrien’s Chief Economist Jason Newton admitted as much in a recent Financial Post interview in which he stated, “We know that other Canadian producers are looking at options to boost production as well, but that still falls a long way short of the reduction in Russia and Ukraine.” Article author Gabriel Friedman notes that the increased production plans will “take Nutrien to the limits of what it can produce from its six mines in Canada,” and that any substantial growth will take years of strenuous effort. Additionally, Gensource Potash CEO Mike Ferguson stated that he “does not believe there is sufficient capacity to make up for all sanctions imposed on the fertilizer, which may lead to a tight potash supply and sustained higher prices.”
I keep forgetting in which section I’m putting the Caribbean islands. I hope I’ve been doing North America every time but I’ve probably fucked up somewhere.
- Cuba slams US ‘involvement’ on anniversary of anti-gov’t protests Al Jazeera
Cuba’s foreign minister has accused the United States of being involved in efforts to “subvert law and order” in the country after President Joe Biden’s administration welcomed the courage of Cuban protesters who took to the streets last year in rare anti-government demonstrations.
In a statement on Monday marking the one-year anniversary of the Cuban protests, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington “celebrate[s] the Cuban people and commend[s] their indomitable determination in the face of oppression”.
“To the Cuban people: Americans watched with admiration on July 11, 2021 as tens of thousands of you took to the streets to raise your voices for human rights, fundamental freedoms, and a better life. And we stand with you as the Cuban regime, instead of welcoming the voices of the people, has condemned hundreds of protestors to decades-long prison sentences,” Blinken said.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez shot back on Twitter, saying Havana rejected Blinken’s comments “confirming direct involvement of government of that country in attempts to subvert order and peace in #Cuba in violation of International Law”.
I personally don’t believe that the United States, who has not once attempted to assassinate the leader of Cuba, would dare to intervene politically by encouraging protests against the Cuban government. What an absolutely crazy thing to suggest.
- Brazil’s Bolsonaro says deal close to buy cheaper diesel from Russia Reuters
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Monday that a deal was close with Moscow to buy much cheaper diesel from Russia, in what would appear to be the latest tangible benefit stemming from his friendly relationship with President Vladimir Putin.
- Oil falls 8% as global recession fears spook market Al Jazeera
Oil tumbled as concerns about a global economic slowdown and growing Covid-19 cases in China reduced traders’ appetite for risk.
West Texas Intermediate shed more than 8% to settle under $96 a barrel for the first time since early April. Rising virus cases in China and looming US inflation data are stoking concerns about demand. Meanwhile, dwindling liquidity is also exacerbating price moves. Money managers have become more bearish on the main oil benchmarks, cutting their net-long positions last week to the lowest since 2020.
Despite recession fears, several energy administrations agree that supply tightness is set to worsen. IEA’s Executive Director Fatih Birol said nations “might not have seen the worst” of a global energy crunch while OPEC’s first look at 2023 showed no relief from market tightness. Underscoring supply constraints, the US lowered its growth forecast for oil production through 2023 citing inflation and labor shortages.
The Ukraine War
- Civilian toll in Ukraine conflict passes 5,000 mark, UN says Reuters
The U.N. human rights office (OHCHR) said on Tuesday that more than 5,000 civilians had been killed in Ukraine since Russia invaded on Feb. 24, adding that the real toll was likely much higher.
OHCHR, which has dozens of human rights monitors in the country, said in its weekly update that 5,024 people had been killed and 6,520 injured.
Truly a genocidal war by Russia.
- Kyiv strikes Russian-held area in southern Ukraine in rocket attack Reuters
Ukraine launched long-range rocket attacks on Russian forces in southern Ukraine and destroyed an ammunition store, its military said, as Russia continued to pound the country’s east.
The strike on Nova Kakhovka in the Kherson region killed 52 people, Ukraine’s military said on Tuesday. The town’s Russia-installed authorities said that at least seven people had been killed and around 70 injured, Russia’s TASS news agency reported.
- Ukraine’s Demands for More Weapons Clash With U.S. Concerns NYT
The Ukrainians say they need faster shipments of long-range artillery and other sophisticated weapons to blunt Russia’s steady advance. The United States and the Europeans insist more are on the way but are wary of sending too much equipment before Ukrainian soldiers can be trained. The Pentagon is concerned about potentially depleting its stockpiles in the coming months.
The Biden administration and its allies are struggling to balance their priorities against Kyiv’s demands as Russian forces intensify their bombardment of cities and villages across eastern Ukraine, according to American and other Western diplomats, military officials and lawmakers.
U.S. officials say Ukraine could mount a counterattack and claw back some — though not all — of the territory it has lost if it can continue to exact a bloody toll on Russia until new weapons can flow in from the West. But some officials are concerned that pulling too many Ukrainian artillery specialists off the front lines for weeks of training on the new weapons could weaken Ukrainian defenses, accelerate Russian gains and make any future counterattacks more difficult to carry out.
“There are no good choices in a situation like this,” said Senator Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat who heads the Armed Services Committee. “You have to take your best artillery officers and enlisted personnel and send them back for a week or two of training. But in the long run, I think that’s probably the smarter move.”
- Patience is vital tactic in Ukraine’s hopes of turning tide against Russia The Guardian
I’m unsure where to put this article. Despite its title, it actually comes to a reasonable (for a western source) conclusion about Ukraine’s prospects with its newest propaganda boondoggle of a million man army. And then it descends into a murky sludge.
Ukraine hopes to assemble a “million strong” army to try to retake territory occupied by Russia, the defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov, said over the weekend. Its forces, he added, had also demonstrated to the US they could make good use of newly acquired longer-range rocket artillery, opening the door to the supply of more.
But however impressive sounding the claims were, it is hard to believe Ukraine is yet capable of an effective counteroffensive, even if the much-vaunted US Himars and the British M270 rocket artillery, with their range of 70km to 80km, have begun to arrive and are being put to good use. A turning of the military tide, if it happens at all, will most likely take time.
Ukraine has to talk up its prospects. The idea of a counteroffensive “is a hugely popular idea inside Ukraine”, said Orysia Lutsevych, a research fellow at the Chatham House thinktank, and Kyiv needs to convince the west that with sustained help, its military has a realistic chance of kicking the Russians out.
The country began the war with a 125,000-strong army plus 100,000 in national and border guards, according to figures from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) – but says it is lifting that to an army of 700,000 plus 300,000 of the paramilitaries. But if it can assemble that number under arms, a key issue is their quality.
The three-month long battle in Donbas so far has cost the defenders many casualties, as Russia switched tactics to artillery bombardment. Various figures have been bandied about, but Ukrainian military intelligence sources recently told experts at the Rusi thinktank that 100 were being killed a day, on average.
Add in wounded at 300 or 400 a day, and casualties could amount to about 15,000 a month – perhaps 35,000 to 45,000 in total. A further 7,200 Ukrainian soldiers have gone missing since the start of the war, the country estimated on Monday. Many of these losses will have come from Ukraine’s most experienced forces.
The need to enhance the fighting force is well recognised by Ukraine and its western backers. Britain has begun training Ukrainian recruits – 600 are currently receiving a few weeks of basic training around the UK – and there is capacity to train 2,400 at once and 10,000 every 120 days, assuming the UK government sticks to a pledge made by the outgoing prime minister, Boris Johnson.
Some of the Ukrainian recruits, aged between 18 and 60, are people who have never fired a gun. This is an army that has to be replenished from scratch. Elementary learning is quick though. Raw recruits at first were only able to hit targets with rifle fire 50% of the time. It rose rapidly to 80%, one British trainer said.
Such military training is clearly critical for the Ukrainians, but a successful counteroffensive will require more: a strategic use of a combination of arms, an ability to concentrate force on the chosen battlefield of at least three to one or ideally more (Russia is thought to have managed seven to one in Donbas) and advanced western weapons.
Ukraine has lobbied heavily for Nato standard munitions as it gradually runs out of its traditional Soviet-standard supply. The new weapons, however, create fresh problems as experts Jack Watling and Nick Reynolds noted in a comprehensive analysis for Rusi. For example, while Nato forces use 155mm shells, there is no such thing as a single western howitzer: “Nato standardisation is not very standardised,” they wrote.
At the same time, the US, the lead weapons supplier, remains cautious in the amount it will provide of critical kit. So far, the initial four Himars truck-mounted rocket artillery has been upped to 12. Nevertheless, as Reznikov mentioned, there are encouraging signs.
On Sunday, the Russian nationalist Igor Girkin warned on his Telegram channel that Russian air defence systems were proving “ineffective against” strikes by Himars missiles, and claimed that over the past five to seven days, “more than 10” ammunition and logistics stores had been hit and “about a dozen” command posts. When will the Russians start “fighting in full force?” Girkin asked.
Ukraine will hope that by striking deeper behind enemy lines, the rocket artillery will disrupt Moscow’s ability to continue its grinding offensive in Donbas.
I swear we’ve been through this before. I’m getting some extreme deja vu from earlier in the war, when western media was like “These Russians are all complaining about how amazing the weapons they’re being attacked by are! We’ve got them on the ropes!” but I can’t remember what it was. Maybe it was the M777s or some shitty drone or something. Either way, who gives a shit. Increase the number of HIMARS in Ukraine by an order of magnitude - by two, even. Won’t make a significant difference to the outcome of the war. It’s all military-industrial complex grift, all the way down. On both sides, even, though Russia’s weapons do actually seem to function in high-pressure combat.
- Russia assembling reserve forces near Ukraine for future offensive, says British intelligence EU Reporter
British military intelligence has been either laughably incompetent or knows that Russia is going to win and is deciding not to propagate that information, but hey, let’s see if they can have a correct prediction at some point in this war.
Russia has moved its reserve forces across the country, and is assembling them near Ukraine in preparation for future offensive operations. This was confirmed by British military intelligence on Saturday (9 July).
According to a regular bulletin from Britain’s Ministry of Defence, a large number of new Russian infantry units will likely deploy with MT-LB armoured vehicle taken from long-term storage as their main transport.
Climate and Space
- Halt use of biofuels to ease food crisis, says green group The Guardian
Governments should put a moratorium on the use of biofuels and lift bans on genetic modification of crops, a green campaigning group has urged, in the face of a growing global food crisis that threatens to engulf developing nations.
Ending the EU’s requirement for biofuels alone would free up about a fifth of the potential wheat exports from Ukraine, and even more of its maize exports, enough to make a noticeable difference to stretched food supplies, according to analysis by the campaign group RePlanet.
About 3.3m tonnes of wheat were used in 2020 as feedstock for EU biofuels, and Ukraine’s 2020 wheat exports came to about 16.4m tonnes. About 6.5m tonnes of maize was also used for EU biofuels, compared with about 24m tonnes exported from Ukraine the same year.
- Heat and humidity gets dangerous to health sooner than most people realise Climate Home News
Heat waves are becoming supercharged as the climate changes – lasting longer, becoming more frequent and getting just plain hotter. One question a lot of people are asking is: “When will it get too hot for normal daily activity as we know it, even for young, healthy adults?”
The answer goes beyond the temperature you see on the thermometer. It’s also about humidity. Our research shows the combination of the two can get dangerous faster than scientists previously believed.
Scientists and other observers have become alarmed about the increasing frequency of extreme heat paired with high humidity, measured as “wet-bulb temperature.” During the heat waves that overtook South Asia in May and June 2022, Jacobabad, Pakistan, recorded a maximum wet-bulb temperature of 33.6C (92.5F) and Delhi topped that – close to the theorized upper limit of human adaptability to humid heat.
People often point to a study published in 2010 that estimated that a wet-bulb temperature of 35C – equal to 95F at 100% humidity, or 115F at 50% humidity – would be the upper limit of safety, beyond which the human body can no longer cool itself by evaporating sweat from the surface of the body to maintain a stable body core temperature.
Our studies on young healthy men and women show that this upper environmental limit is even lower than the theorized 35C. It’s more like a wet-bulb temperature of 31C (88F). That would equal 31C at 100% humidity or 38C (100F) at 60% humidity.
Current heat waves around the globe are approaching, if not exceeding, these limits.
- Acceleration Forever? The Increasing Momentum Of Mineral Extraction Popular Resistance
Half of all the oil consumed since the dawn of the modern oil age in 1859 has been consumed from 1998 through 2021 inclusive based on data available from the BP Statistical Review of World Energy. Approximately 1.4 trillion barrels of oil is thought to have been consumed to date (though there are estimates as low as 1.1 trillion). That means that in just the last 24 years total historical oil consumption has doubled.
It is hard for most people to imagine the vast increases in the rate of consumption of practically everything that makes modern life possible. Resources appear without most of us ever thinking about how or whether the rising rates of consumption can be sustained.
For copper, one of the critical metals we depend on for electrical, mechanical and even monetary purposes, the story is similar. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that about 700 million metric tons of copper have been extracted to date. Based on mining statistics from the Copper Development Association, that means about half of all the copper ever mined has been mined from the year 2000 through 2018 inclusive.
Could we double total oil and copper consumption again in the next 24 and 19 years, respectively?
Just for comparison, the world’s population grew 32 percent from the year 2000 through 2022 to date based on the U.S. Census Bureau population clock and historical data. This means that, at least for these two commodities, the per capita consumption rose over this period. We are not becoming more efficient with these resources per person.
Is it likely that both population and per capita consumption can continue to grow at these historical rates? If so, the doubling of total historical consumption of oil and copper would come even sooner than calculated above.
Although historical estimates of total production for other minerals are hard to find, recent production statistics illustrate that an acceleration is taking place across a wide range of critical metals. Below I compare the increase in the rate of production across time. […]
The table in the article says that the increase of our usage of aluminium has gone up 5.59 times since 1970; cobalt, 3.69 times; indium, 9.44 times; iron, 2.25 times; lithium, 25.39 (!) times; nickel, 2.44 times; silver, 1.97 times; and zinc, 1.53 times.
The most quoted sentence in Albert Bartlett’s famous lecture Arithmetic, Population and Energy—which he gave 1,742 times during his life—is this, “The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.”
Dipshittery and Cope
- Latin America’s Second Wave of Left-Wing Governments Could Be More Powerful Than the First Jacobin
I don’t think this is true at all. Like, maybe these leaders will surprise me, but I don’t think that Castillo is about to try and do the Peruvian version of Cybersyn. These are victories, and Lula winning would be good, and it’s undermining the US’s authority over the region and propelling a multipolar world, but any truly genuine socialist governance in Latin America beyond Cuba and Venezuela seems like it would come from the bottom at this point, not the top. That ship has sailed.
- Ukrainian lawmakers support secession of Chechnya RT
Ukrainian MPs Alexey Goncharenko and Musa Magomedov introduced legislation on Monday calling on the country’s parliament to recognize the sovereignty of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria – the breakaway state that fought two wars with Russia in the 1990s and 2000s.
Okay, while it is obvious cope for the DPR/LPR situation, it is also a little funny, I’ll give them that.
- British commandos may have committed war crimes – BBC RT
The BBC claims it has found evidence of killings allegedly committed by the British Special Air Service (SAS) in Afghanistan in the early 2010s, a new Panorama documentary details. A pattern appears to have emerged of unlawful killings of Afghans by a squadron of SAS commandos during night raids, with as many as 54 victims over a period of just six months.
I don’t fucking believe it. Are you seriously telling me - and don’t bullshit me here - that Western forces might have committed war crimes in Afghanistan? I’m sorry, but extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and this is an extremely extraordinary claim.
- Biden Should Call Off Iran Nuclear Talks Bloomberg
YOU BROKE THE DEAL! WHY SHOULD IRAN TRUST ANYTHING YOU HAVE TO SAY WHEN IN TWO YEARS, THERE COULD BE A DIFFERENT PERSON WITH DIFFERENT PRIORITIES IN THE WHITE HOUSE! Can you imagine if Iran broke the deal in 2018 and then 2 years later came back to the United States wanting to reform it? Can you IMAGINE the kind of terms that would be forced upon Iran by America? IMAGINE the article headlines - “Iran, the untrustworthy enemy of democracy and human rights around the world, wants to reform the deal that they broke. Under no circumstances should we do so, unless they agree to the harshest possible terms."
I’m gonna cut through all the preamble and get straight to the meat of the article:
The Biden administration has for the most part looked the other way as Iran has flouted the sanctions, exporting ever more oil and greatly increasing its military spending. One of Biden’s first acts upon taking office was to overturn Trump’s decision to designate the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen as a terrorist group.
All this seems naive to the Israelis and Gulf Arabs, who point out that Biden has gotten nothing in return for his conciliatory attitude. Iran will not even negotiate directly with the US, preferring to use European intermediaries. Tehran has made no meaningful concessions; on the contrary, Biden’s chief negotiator says Tehran has added new demands even as it has sped up its enrichment activities.
More than likely, Iran is deliberately dragging out negotiations until it has achieved the status of a nuclear weapons threshold state, akin to Japan and South Korea, which have stopped short of weaponizing their stockpiles. The United Nations nuclear watchdog says Iran already has enough material for one bomb. In effect, Iran is enhancing its ability to terrorize its neighbors and blackmail the international community while pretending that enrichment is just a pressure tactic to bring the US back into the JCPOA.
There are some signs that the wool is finally falling from Biden’s eyes. His officials have acknowledged that prospects of a return to the nuclear deal “are tenuous at best” and have announced new sanctions against Iranian oil smuggling. They are also warning of Tehran’s threat extending beyond the Middle East: On Monday, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan announced that Iran was preparing to provide Russia with up to several hundred drones, likely for use in the invasion of Ukraine.
Rather than try to defend the indefensible, Biden should take the opportunity to make a clean break from his failed Iran policy. On Thursday, the seventh anniversary of the announcement of the JCPOA, the US president should announce that time has run out for its revival. He should end the charade of negotiations and press the other signatories to invoke the “snapback” feature in the deal, which imposes broader United Nations sanctions on Iran.
Bloomerism and Hope
- Schools And Labor Against Privatization Popular Resistance
The Schools and Labor Against Privatization (SLAP) coalition held a barbecue on June 26 at Parker School, which the school board has ordered to be closed and eliminated. But the East Oakland elementary school is still operating this summer unofficially as a community school for its majority Black and Brown student body.
“The billionaires are not really that interested in educating working-class youth,” said Oakland teacher Divya Farias at the barbecue, “just like they don’t seem to care about preserving working-class jobs in the port of Oakland. That’s why SLAP got organized, to stop their plans to close our public schools and privatize our public land in the port.”
Oakland is considering transferring the port’s Howard Terminal to billionaire John Fisher for use as a baseball stadium and real estate speculation. Fisher’s family owns Gap Stores and the Oakland Athletics baseball team and is associated with the Kipp Schools network of privatized charter schools.
Trent Willis, past president of International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10, based in San Francisco but working mainly out of the major port of Oakland, was on hand too at the SLAP barbecue. “As a Black person,” Willis said, “my people worked for free for 400 years. That’s why this country is as rich as it is. And that’s why today we need to organize as working people to confront these billionaires and take back our money.
“What if all the working people didn’t go to work one day? Well then, the capitalists wouldn’t have all the money they have — not without our labor,” said Willis. “What if we as workers decided to use the power that we have? As a first step, ILWU Local 10 decided to join SLAP to fight against privatization and the racist school closings.”
- Thousands Of Portuguese Workers Rally Against Inflation Popular Resistance
Thousands of Portuguese workers marched July 7 to condemn inflation and stagnant wages.
People traveled from across the country to gather in Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal. Many traveled by train from Porto, the biggest city in the northern region of Portugal, where the train departed from Campanhã Train Station with around 800 protesters aboard.
The thousands converged on Marqués de Pombal Park in Lisbon then marched to the Portuguese parliament. They demanded a 35-hour work week without salary reduction, a minimum salary of €850 (around $865), an end to employment insecurity, and permanent work contracts to avoid financial instability. They also demanded pension adjustments to keep up with the rising cost of food and housing.
Many call center workers joined the protest to speak out against their job insecurity, inflation and stagnant wages.
The protesters chanted, “A luta continúa,” which in Portuguese means “The struggle continues!”
- After Ecuadorians, Panamanians Say No More Pillaging Popular Resistance
The situation in Panama is becoming increasingly tense as more people join in what has become a permanent strike expressed in street protests. During the last few weeks, there have been several strikes in the transportation sector, especially in agricultural transportation, but the government has not offered any solutions to the demands so far.
The lack of response has generated growing discontent, and since last Thursday, teachers have joined the transport workers declaring a permanent strike, paralyzing a large part of the country’s economic activity. The strike is being supported now by several strong unions, such as Alliance United People for Life and the National Confederation of Independent Trade Union Unity (Conusi), which means over 250,000 workers are withholding their labor.
According to the representatives of these organizations, the main demands is to stop the increase in fuel prices, which a few days ago reached US$6 per gallon. They also demand an increase in salaries and investments in public education.
- Chile’s New Constitution Will Empower Chilean Workers Jacobin
The first step toward a new constitution in Chile is now complete. The draft of the new Magna Carta was officially delivered on May 16, paving the way for major changes in Chilean society, particularly in the areas of social rights, gender parity in political participation, and constitutional recognition of native peoples.
In terms of social rights, the new constitution recognizes demands that have been a banner for popular struggles since Augusto Pinochet’s neoliberal counterrevolution in the 1970s. It guarantees access to health, housing, education, decent pensions, nonsexist education, and the right to abortion, all grouped under the concept of a “social and democratic state” that recognizes itself as plurinational, intercultural, and ecological.
Pablo Abufom of Jacobin Latin America spoke with Karina Nohales about all the changes that can be expected with the new constitution. Nohales, who also serves as Alondra Carrillo’s constituent spokesperson, analyzed the relevance of the newly approved norms, especially those related to labor and labor rights, and explained the challenges that this new constitutional period poses for the plurinational working class of Chile.
The interview isn’t too long, if you’re interested in the current state of Chile and its movements, but too long to reasonably post here.
- The Neoliberal Order Is Crumbling. It’s Up to Us What Comes Next. Jacobin
Neoliberalism may not be dead, but it is no longer the unquestioned ideology of our time. That leaves a huge opening for those on the Left who want to see a political and economic order based on democracy and solidarity rather than unbridled profit-seeking.
An interview with Gary Gerstle, author of ‘The Rise and Fall of the Neoliberal Order: America and the World in the Free Market Era’.
- These Communist Women Are the Feminist Icons You’ve Never Heard Of Jacobin
Some mandatory brainworms about how repressive the USSR was to, uh… checks notes… minorities, unlike the United States during the mid-20th century, to keep the socdems on board with the article before they start frothing at the mouth about tankies - but mostly good.
A new book profiles five extraordinary women of the Communist world — dedicated socialists and champions of women’s equality whose lives exemplified the contradictions of a system defined by pervasive oppression as well as genuine social achievements.
Who deserves credit for building the great civilizations? Lately we’re crediting a lot more people than we used to.
We’ve started recognizing that many of our cities rest upon an ugly history of slave labor, for example. A congressional commission, to take another example, just recommended renaming army bases that previously honored Confederate traitors, replacing the names with heroes that embody “the best of America,” including lesser-known women and African Americans. And middle-grade nonfiction books now more often focus on heroes and heroines of color — Harriet Tubman or Jackie Robinson, for example— in a needed effort to redress what was once a nearly exclusive focus on the achievements of white men.
But even in our increasingly category-conscious culture, the category that Kristen Ghodsee takes as the focus of her new book, Red Valkyries: Feminist Lessons From Five Revolutionary Women — namely, communist women — still seems unlikely to be the object of widespread posthumous recognition.
The “Red Valkyries” in question were dedicated communists in the countries of the Soviet world. The single-party dictatorships that defined these countries’ public life governed through repression but also rested their legitimacy on their claim to fulfill the traditional egalitarian mission of socialism. For that reason, these regimes brought vast concrete benefits to the women of the Eastern Bloc — a fact that, throughout the Cold War, also put pressure on the West to do better on women’s equality.
Each chapter in the book is devoted to one of these women leaders: Bolshevik organizer, writer, and diplomat Alexandra Kollontai; Vladimir Lenin’s wife, the tireless activist and progressive educator Nadezhda Krupskaya; Lenin and Krupskaya’s close comrade and companion, political thinker Inessa Armand; legendary Nazi-killing sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko; and Bulgarian scientist and women’s rights activist Elena Lagadinova.