Link back to the discussion thread.


Europe

  • Economic worry keeps E.U. from imposing tougher sanctions on Russia Washington Post

The most interesting thing about the European Union’s latest sanctions proposal is what it does not do. The proposal does not ban imports of natural gas from Russia. Nor does it include additional measures on oil.

Instead of targeting these key sources of Russian revenue, the European Commission on Friday proposed a ban on gold imports and some tweaks to improve the implementation and enforcement of existing sanctions.

While the proposal, which is expected to be approved next week, will surely have some impact, its narrow scope reflects growing division over how to hit Russian President Vladimir Putin without putting greater strain on the E.U. itself.

Despite successive rounds of sanctions, Russia’s economy is still standing. The country continues to earn billions in revenue from energy exports. And it continues to wage a brutal war in Ukraine.

At the same time, the war has cast a long shadow over European economies. Leaders of E.U. countries face low growth and record inflation. The euro is at parity with the dollar. Appetite for additional disruption is low.

Though E.U. officials insist that the bloc remains united on Ukraine, leaders in the bloc appear less inclined to act in concert and increasingly focused on domestic woes, raising questions about what comes next on Ukraine.

  • European car sales are at their lowest point since 1996 because of supply-chain issues and plummeting demand Fortune

Soaring inflation is making people worldwide rethink big-ticket purchases including cars. Meanwhile, supply-chain snags are making it difficult to even find new cars on dealer lots.

The result: Auto sales are starting to plummet. And nowhere are car manufacturers struggling more than in Europe, where new-vehicle sales recently hit their lowest point in over two decades.

Passenger car sales in the European Union last month were down 15.4% from last year, the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) said on Friday. With fewer than 900,000 autos sold last month, it’s the worst June on record in terms of new sales since 1996.

Sales dropped in all four of the EU’s major European car markets: Germany, Italy, France, and Spain. In Germany alone, sales fell a whopping 18.1%.

  • Europe Now Imports More U.S. Oil Than Asia Oil Price

Europe has overtaken Asia as the biggest buyer of U.S. crude oil, importing 213.1 million barrels over the first five months of the year, while Asia imported 191.1 million barrels, Bloomberg reported, citing Census Bureau data.

This is the first time in six years that Europe has been a bigger buyer of U.S. crude than Asia.

Russia

  • Russia’s McDonald’s replacement has just one problem: It can’t secure fries Fortune

Maybe this will be the sanction that brings Russia down.

  • Putin Aims to Shape a New Generation of Supporters, Through Schools NYT

Starting in first grade, students across Russia will soon sit through weekly classes featuring war movies and virtual tours through Crimea. They will be given a steady dose of lectures on topics like “the geopolitical situation” and “traditional values.” In addition to a regular flag-raising ceremony, they will be introduced to lessons celebrating Russia’s “rebirth” under President Vladimir V. Putin.

And, according to legislation signed into law by Mr. Putin on Thursday, all Russian children will be encouraged to join a new patriotic youth movement in the likeness of the Soviet Union’s red-cravatted “Pioneers” — presided over by the president himself.

Ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian government’s attempts at imparting a state ideology to schoolchildren have proven unsuccessful, a senior Kremlin bureaucrat, Sergei Novikov, recently told thousands of Russian schoolteachers in an online workshop. But now, amid the war in Ukraine, Mr. Putin has made it clear that this needed to change, he said.

“We need to know how to infect them with our ideology,” Mr. Novikov said. “Our ideological work is aimed at changing consciousness.”

Yeah, this is bad and wrong and so on, but it’s pretty entertaining that the Americans of all people are complaining about the brainwashing of children, especially after a war starts, given… -gestures vaguely at history-. Oh, sorry, that’s a whataboutism. The Iraqis and Afghanis (and Vietnamese, and Koreans, and Japanese, etc) were bad people who were genetically predisposed to be bad people, so it’s fine to hate them, whereas Ukrainians have been found to have the democracy gene, whereas Russians do not despite their geographical and familial closeness.

  • Gazprom expects Siemens to continue servicing Nord Stream 1 turbines Reuters

Russian gas exporter Gazprom said on Saturday it expected Siemens to meet its obligations in full when servicing gas turbines needed for the reliable operation of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline and energy shipments to Europe.

Kremlin-controlled Gazprom has said it could not guarantee the safe operation of a critical part of the pipeline that runs under the Baltic sea to Germany because of doubts over the return of a turbine from Canada.

On Saturday, Gazprom said it had asked Siemens to show documentation that would allow the crucial turbine to be brought to a Nord Stream 1 compressor station.

“Gazprom is counting on the Siemens Group to unconditionally fulfil its obligations with regard to servicing gas turbine engines on which depend the reliable operation of the Nord Stream pipeline and natural gas supply to European consumers,” it said.

  • Russia Looks To Expand Its Domestic Natural Gas Network Oil Price

Western sanctions and the exodus of international oil and engineering companies from Russia after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine will slow down Russia’s energy industry development.

Russia’s claims that it can provide all the equipment necessary for domestic gas networks come amid a row with the West.

“It is important to upgrade our capacities by replacing foreign exploration, drilling, and offshore equipment, as well as accelerating work on our own medium- and large-tonnage LNG equipment,” Russian Trade and Industry Minister Denis Manturov said.

  • Could Russia Avoid Sanctions With Its Own Oil Benchmark? Oil Price

Russia plans to create its own national oil benchmark in 2023 as a means to protect its oil export revenue while the West is stepping up sanctions against Russian oil, a document seen by Bloomberg News showed on Friday.

Russia’s oil producers, its central bank, and relevant ministries are working to launch a national trading platform for Russian oil in October this year. The goal would be to attract enough foreign partners to buy Russia’s crude and generate enough volumes so as to set up a national oil benchmark at some point between March and July next year, according to the document Bloomberg News has seen.

Germany

  • 70% of Germans back Ukraine despite high energy prices, survey shows Reuters

I’m not sure what the fuck is going on with polls nowadays. I thought there was one the other day suggesting that more Germans wanted the war to end than to continue? They’re all paid for and made up anyway.

  • Germany to Do ‘Everything’ to Fight Climate Crisis, Scholz Says Bloomberg

“Now. Not 20 years ago, which would have prevented a ton of this entire sanction blowback crisis. Not 10 years ago. We’re starting now. We swear.

Germany will stick to fighting climate change, despite having to rely on phased-out power plants to offset the impact of energy shortage caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said.

“The fact that we now have to temporarily use some power plants that have already been taken out of operation because of Russia’s brutal attack on Ukraine is bitter,” he said in a video message released on Saturday. “But it’s only for a very short time.”

“Because we’re just getting started now and want to do everything we can to combat the climate crisis,” Scholz said, as he pledged that Germany will proceed with its plan for adoption of renewable sources such as wind, biomass, solar energy and produce hydrogen to reach net-zero emissions by 2045.

  • Germany Faces Coal Supply Crisis As Rhine River Waters Dwindle Oil Price

Power plants in Germany are finding it increasingly difficult to source coal amid an energy crisis that is spiraling out of control as falling water levels on the Rhine river add to supply challenges caused by Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Switzerland, which also sits along the 800-mile Rhine river leading to the North Sea, is facing complications with oil product supplies due to the falling water levels, according to a Bloomberg report on Thursday.

The report, which cites government data, indicates that the Rhine’s water level is at its lowest since 2007 for this time of year.

The Rhine handles an enormous amount of supplies for Europe, including fuel and coal, adding to supply chain issues that have already mounted for other means of transportation, including bottlenecked German rail.

Two German power plants in particular–one in Mannheim and one in Karlsruhe–are lacking sufficient coal supplies for operations. Those supplies would typically be shipped in through the Rhine.

According to Bloomberg, citing S&P Global Commodity Insights, in the coming months, Germany will only be able to access some 65% of its coal supply due to transportation issues.

  • Germany’s Top Buyer Of Russian Gas On The Brink Of Insolvency Oil Price

Germany’s Uniper SE is just “days” away from insolvency, deputy chairman of Uniper’s supervisory board, Harold Seegatz, told Bloomberg on Friday.

Uniper is Germany’s largest purchaser of Russian natural gas, securing contracts with Gazprom. But as Gazprom cut flows of natural gas to Germany and Russia’s Nord Stream 1 pipeline undergoes maintenance, Uniper’s purchases of gas on the spot market have increased—a costlier scenario than its arrangement with Gazprom.

The high costs are creating an untenable situation for Uniper, and it is taken to withdrawing gas from storage—gas that was destined to help Germany make it through the coming winter as the country tries to wean itself off of Russian natural gas. Withdrawing gas from storage helps Uniper save on natural gas purchases, but this is merely a game of kicking the can into an inevitable insolvency oblivion.

Asia and Oceania

China

  • China jobs: youth unemployment hits record high in June – nearly 1 in 5 young people out of work SCMP

Nearly one out of five young jobseekers were unemployed last month as China’s youth unemployment rate hit an all-time high of 19.3 per cent in June, official figures show. It was a sharp rise from 18.4 per cent in May, and marked a year-on-year increase of 25 per cent.

The intensifying struggle among those aged 16-24 to carve out their own piece of China’s economic pie came in the midst of the nation’s economy growing by a mere 0.4 per cent in the second quarter of 2022, year on year.

  • Chinese Firms Are Selling Russia Goods Its Military Needs to Keep Fighting in Ukraine WSJ

Chinese exports to Russia of microchips and other electronic components and raw materials, some with military applications, have increased since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, complicating efforts by the U.S. and Western allies to isolate the country’s economy and cripple its military.

Chip shipments from China to Russia more than doubled to about $50 million in the first five months of 2022 compared with a year earlier, Chinese customs data show, while exports of other components such as printed circuits had double-digit percentage growth. Export volumes of aluminum oxide, which is used to make the metal aluminum, an important material in weapons production and aerospace, are 400 times higher than last year.

The rise in reported export values may partly be explained by inflation. But the data shows that many Chinese tech sellers have continued to do business with Russia despite U.S. scrutiny.

The Chinese exports, while just a sliver of the country’s overall exports, are a source of concern for U.S. officials. The Commerce Department added five Chinese electronics companies to a trade blacklist last month for allegedly helping Russia’s defense industry, both before the invasion and after it began.

  • Chinese military upgrades near disputed Himalayan border viewed as provocative in India SCMP

The upgrading of China’s military projection and logistics capabilities along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Himalayas, designed to prepare for contingencies, is being viewed by the Indian side as offensive and provocative.

Citing Indian intelligence sources, The Hindu said the People’s Liberation Army had expanded its troop accommodation capacity within 100km (60 miles) of the LAC from 20,000 to 120,000 in the past two years.

Please stop pissing each other off. We need you both.

Middle East

  • Biden to announce $1 bn in food aid for Middle East: US official Iraqi News

“The president will announce today that the United States has committed $1 billion in new near- to long-term food security assistance for the Middle East and North Africa regions,” the official said in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where Biden is concluding a regional tour.

I can’t imagine this will be all that significant on an extended scale if that’s a one time payment you’re spreading that across the entire Middle East and North Africa region. There’s, what, over half a billion people living there? Where are you actually getting the food from? And is that a loan that has to be repaid or just a grant?

Israel/Palestine

On July 14 U.S. President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid signed a joint strategic declaration that highlights the bonds between the two countries, pledges further bilateral cooperation, and vows to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. It also takes aim at the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), the nonviolent effort to pressure Israel in meeting its obligations under international law.

“The United States and Israel affirm that they will continue to work together to combat all efforts to boycott or de-legitimize Israel, to deny its right to self-defense, or to unfairly single it out in any forum, including at the United Nations or the International Criminal Court,” reads the Jerusalem U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Joint Declaration. “While fully respecting the right to freedom of expression, they firmly reject the BDS campaign.”

“The two countries will use the tools at their disposal to fight every scourge and source of antisemitism and to respond whenever legitimate criticism crosses over into bigotry and hatred or attempts to undermine Israel’s rightful and legitimate place among the family of nations,” it continues. “In this context, they express their deep concern over the global surge in antisemitism and reassert their commitment to counter this ancient hatred in all of its manifestations. The United States is proud to stand with the Jewish and democratic State of Israel, and with its people, whose uncommon courage, resilience, and spirit of innovation are an inspiration to so many worldwide.”

The United Nations has consistently been accused of being anti-Israel by both U.S. political parties. After the UN Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry launched a probe into alleged Israeli war crimes in June, State Department said that the group’s very existence symbolized “a longstanding pattern of unfairly singling out Israel.”

A genocidal ethnostate supported directly by tens of billions of dollars of funding from the largest military power on the planet and the leader of the current world hegemony complains that people are singling them out. How deeply unfair.

  • The Presbyterian Church voted to declare Israel an apartheid state. Jewish organizations are calling the move antisemitic. Business Insider

In a move Jewish organizations are condemning as antisemitic, the Presbyterian Church USA voted to declare that the actions of the Israeli government against the people of Palestine meets the legal definition of apartheid.

Commissioners of 225th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted 266 to 116 in their annual meeting to make public the church’s stance that both affirms the right of Israel to provide security to its borders and criticizes human rights offenses perpetrated against Palestinians.

“In 2018, Israel passed a nation-state law, which declares the distinction between Jews and non-Jews fundamental and legitimate, and permits institutional discrimination in land management and development, housing, citizenship, language and culture. This decision among many other practices have confirmed that the policies and practices of Israel constitute apartheid,” read a letter by Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, stated clerk of the general assembly of the Presbyterian Church.

The clerk’s letter added the Presbyterian Church, which consists of over 1.7 million members, recognizes the legitimacy of the Israeli state but it opposes continuing occupation of Palestine, which it declared to be “illegitimate, illegal under international law, and an enduring threat to peace in the region.”

“Jewish Federations are not surprised by the latest antisemitic action taken by Presbyterian Church USA PC (USA) in its vote to adopt a resolution calling Israel an apartheid state. There was a time when their words mattered. That time is long gone.” The Jewish Federations of North America said in a statement. “This resolution does nothing to further peace or foster a better future for Christians, Jews, and Muslims; Palestinians or Israelis. Its only intention is to demonize the Jews and Israel with the offensive and false allegation of apartheid.”

Rabbi Noam E. Marans, director for interreligious and intergroup relations for the American Jewish Committee told The Washington Post the Presbyterian Church’s stance is a “tragedy.”

“Presbyterians and Jews in the pews need and want each other in order to address the issues that are most challenging in America today,” Marans told The Post. “This prevents that from happening.”

“Please stop feeding Palestinians into a wood chipper. Like, we won’t actually do anything to stop you or anything, we won’t even boycott you, we’re just asking politely."

Zionists have gotta be the whiniest people on planet Earth. They have to not only allowed to commit ethnic cleansing on an industrial scale, but you also HAVE to like it AND financially support it at all times, and if you stop doing either of those things - not even trying to stop it, just cutting yourself off like “I don’t wanna be associated with you anymore, go do your own thing, we won’t stop you, we just don’t wanna be part of it” they’re like “This is literally an antisemitic ultraturbogenocide and I bet you’re rebuilding the camps right now, aren’t you?"

Iran

  • US doubles down on claim that Iran wants to sell drones to Russia Al Jazeera

The United States has doubled down on its claim that Iran is planning to sell “hundreds” of drones to Russia to be used in Ukraine, a day after Tehran explicitly rejected the allegation.

Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser, on Saturday reiterated his statement made earlier this week that Iran wants to sell weapons-capable unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to Moscow.

He released satellite imagery to the US-based CNN network that purportedly showed that a Russian delegation visited an airfield in central Kashan at least twice in the last month.

The Russian delegation is alleged to have been treated to a showcase of the Shahed-191 and Shahed-129 drones, both capable of carrying precision-guided missiles.

I mean, probably? Who cares?

Azerbaijan

  • Von der Leyen flying to Baku to seal Gas deal with Azerbaijan EU Reporter

The European Union’s search for energy security is about to take an important step forward, with a deal that will essentially commit Azerbaijan to supply -and Europe to purchase- as much gas as can be transported through the pipeline network. The European Commission has been keen to take the lead in this process as it sees co-operation between member states as the best way of coping with gas shortages caused by reductions in supplies from Russia.

This pan-European approach will be symbolised by President von der Leyen flying to Baku to sign the deal with President Aliyev. She is due to arrive there on Monday, according to Commission sources.

A draft memorandum of understanding with Azerbaijan has been circulated by the Commission to the governments involved. It states that “the Sides aspire to support bilateral trade of natural gas, including through exports to the European Union, via the Southern Gas Corridor, of at least 20 billion cubic metres of gas annually by 2027, in accordance with commercial viability and market demand”.

Urgent plans have been drawn up to increase the capacity of the Southern Gas Corridor, which involves pipelines across Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and Greece, with one branch crossing the Adriatic Sea to Italy and another supplying Bulgaria. The Turkish pipeline will expand from 16 billion cubic metres a year to 31 billion and the Trans-Adriatic route from 10 billion to 20 billion.

In 2021, 155 billion cubic metre of gas were pumped from Russia to the European Union, 40% of the EU’s consumption of its favourite fuel. It’s hoped that economy measures on the one hand and the deal with Azerbaijan on the other, plus supplies from both EU and non-EU sources in the North Sea, as well as liquified natural gas from further afield, will make it possible to cope with the loss of more than two-thirds of the Russian gas supply.

Africa

Morocco

  • Firefighters struggle to contain wildfires in northern Morocco Al Jazeera

Firefighters and the military struggled on Friday to contain three wildfires in northern Morocco that have killed at least one person, as hundreds of residents evacuated their homes because of flames that ravaged large swaths of pine forests.

Efforts to extinguish the blazes have been hampered by high temperatures and strong winds in the North African country. The interior ministry said that one person has died in the fires, and more than 1,500 hectares (3,700 acres) of forest have been destroyed.

Libya

  • Libya’s ‘New’ NOC Chair Vows Oil Will Flow Within A Week Oil Price

After an armed takeover of Libya’s National Oil Company (NOC) on Thursday, newly appointed chairman Farhat Bengdara has told media that he is in full control and that force majeure could be lifted on Libya’s oil exports within a week.

North America

United States

  • Americans are feeling slightly better about the economy, but inflation still bites CNN

Americans are feeling slightly better about the economy, but painfully high inflation is still keeping consumer sentiment at close to an all-time low, according to preliminary survey data released by the University of Michigan on Friday.

The preliminary index for the university’s Surveys of Consumers rose to 51.1 in July from the record low of 50 posted in June.

“The share of consumers blaming inflation for eroding their living standards continued its rise to 49%, matching the all-time high reached during the Great Recession,” said Joanne Hsu, Surveys of Consumers director, in a statement. “These negative views endured in the face of the recent moderation in gas prices at the pump.”

  • Inflation Pushes Federal Minimum Wage To Lowest Value Since 1956, Report Finds Forbes

As inflation skyrockets, the federal minimum wage – which has remained at $7.25 per hour since 2009 – has reached its lowest value in 66 years, according to a report from the Economic Policy Institute.

  • Energy use from US cryptomining firms is contributing to rising utility bills The Guardian

The largest US cryptomining companies have the capacity to use as much electricity as nearly every home in Houston, Texas; energy use that is contributing to rising utility bills, according to an investigation by Democratic lawmakers.

Energy use in the industry is greater than that of entire countries. The US has become the center of cryptomining after it was banned in China. More than a third of the global computing power dedicated to mining bitcoin, the largest cryptocurrency, comes from the US, Senator Elizabeth Warren and five other Democrats reported in a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency.

  • California Bullet Train Gets $4.2 Billion Green Light For First Phase While Bigger Challenges Loom Forbes

In a breakthrough for the country’s most expensive public infrastructure project, California’s bullet train finally appears to have the money and the legal approval to complete its first leg. What remains a challenge is how to link that initial 171-mile route through the state’s Central Valley agricultural heartland to population centers in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose—and how its designers will overcome California’s mountainous terrain and seismic risks.

State legislators agreed last month to release $4.2 billion earmarked for the train’s first phase, between midsize cities Bakersfield, Fresno and Merced. The project may also benefit from more than $2 billion of federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds set aside for passenger rail. Extending service to the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles would boost the amount of track to 500 miles and the train’s total price tag to as much as $105 billion. That’s far above an initial estimate of about $40 billion when California voters approved a $10 billion bond measure to help build it in 2008.

  • ‘Flash drought’ conditions reported as far east as Massachusetts amid a record-breaking hot summer CNN

Far from the drought-stricken West, where water is scarcer by the day and residents are cutting their usage, extremely dry conditions are sinking their teeth into the Central and Eastern US, amplified by record-hot temperatures and the absence of meaningful rainfall.

A “flash drought” has developed in parts of the South and Northeast, according to the US Drought Monitor, in states including Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Massachusetts.

Romeo Langhorne is the latest victim of an FBI phony terror entrapment scheme. On July 7, 2022 he was sentenced to 20 years in prison for uploading a bomb making video. Langhorne didn’t make a bomb. He uploaded a video while under the direction of an FBI informant. The video had in fact been produced by the government.

More than 20 years after September 11, 2001 Americans are still being told that they are at risk of terrorist attacks. The color coded risk assessments, NSA surveillance of all electronic and internet activity continues. The threat of terror attacks is the justification for encroaching on civil liberties and phony terror schemes concocted by informants still get headlines and give legitimacy to the continued violations of our rights.

Langhorne is a 32-year old Black man who was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He fits the description of nearly every person whom the FBI has speciously claimed to be a terrorist in the past 20 years. They are Black Americans, Muslims from this country or immigrants who are often vulnerable economically or emotionally. The list of people who were said to have planned acts of terror are victims of intimidation and entrapment from informers who are the ones who lead them to commit the act for which they are convicted.

In this case Langhorne pleaded guilty to “probably at some point” pledging allegiance to ISIS. The plea is meaningless when no one is ever acquitted. Pleading guilty in this case gets a 20-year sentence, taking the chance of pleading innocent when the prosecutorial deck is stacked against the defendant means risking many more years in prison when the inevitable guilty verdict is reached.

John Leombruno, Langhorne’s attorney described the scenario which occurs in most terrorism prosecutions, “Acting in an undercover capacity, they initiated conversations with Mr. Langhorne and incited the production of a video that would inform individuals on how to make an explosive…To make certain that a prosecution of the defendant would occur, the government produced the actual video in question (and), circled back to Mr. Langhorne when the interactions and conversations between them grew cold.”

Canada

  • Canadian lawmakers will be called to explain return of Nord Stream turbines Politico

Two federal ministers and three ambassadors will be asked to appear before the House of Commons foreign affairs committee to discuss the Canadian government’s controversial decision to return six Nord Stream 1 turbines to Germany.

During a meeting Friday, the committee agreed to call on Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly and Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson to explain why the government decided to waive sanctions on Russia and return the pipeline parts to Germany, where they will be used to help deliver natural gas from Russia. The ministers will be asked to appear by July 22, subject to their availability.

The committee also wants to hear from Ukrainian Ambassador Yulia Kovaliv, German Ambassador Sabine Sparwasser and EU Ambassador Melita Gabrič, as well as the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.

The federal government’s decision on Saturday to issue a “time-limited and revocable permit” for Siemens Canada to return the repaired turbines to Germany earned a rebuke from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and criticism from the opposition Conservatives and New Democrats.

“I’m very worried about the precedent this sets,” NDP foreign affairs critic Heather McPherson told the committee Friday. “We’re allowing the Russian Federation to weaponize energy around the world, which is extremely, extremely dangerous.”

This is so fucking funny. I had a massive smile on my face while reading this. Literally the first good thing Canada has done internationally in ages and the entire government is like “THIS MUST NOT STAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAND! WHOEVER CARRIED OUT THIS EXTREMELY DANGEROUS OPERATION SHOULD BE IMPRISONED FOR LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIFE!"

Haiti

  • China asks UN Security Council for ban on small arms to Haiti Iraqi News

China has asked the UN Security Council to vote on banning small arms deliveries to Haiti, setting up a potential stand-off Friday with the United States whose draft resolution does not reflect Beijing’s proposal.

Gang violence in the Caribbean nation has been soaring — alongside fuel shortages and rising food prices — with at least 89 people killed in the Port-au-Prince capital region alone this week. Aid agencies have said many areas are dangerous to access.

Council members are considering renewing a United Nations political mission to Haiti which expires on Friday night, but whether Chinese diplomats will go as far as to veto the latest resolution remains to be seen.

This diplomatic activity comes as Haiti announced Thursday night a rare seizure of weapons in cargo containers: 18 military grade weapons, four 9mm handguns, 14,646 rounds of ammunition and $50,000 in counterfeit money.

Beijing has taken an increasingly prominent role in issues relating to Haiti at the UN in recent years — primarily over Haiti’s recognition of self-ruled Taiwan, which China views as its own territory.

“The situation in Haiti can’t be worse. As we conduct the negotiations here, the gang violence is escalating in Port-au-Prince,” a spokeswoman for the Chinese mission to the UN said.

“An embargo of weapons against criminal gangs (is) the minimum the Council should do in response to the appalling situation,” she added, echoing the Chinese proposal for Security Council member states to ban small arms deliveries.

But the revised text from the United States and Mexico finalized late Thursday and seen by AFP falls short of a full embargo.


Dipshittery and Cope

  • Romania Fears Putin, But Putin Should Fear Romania, Too Bloomberg

I admit, I did a double take when I saw this headline. I haven’t seen the Romania-pill yet, but hey, I’m willing to see what it entails. Endless glory to… uhh… what’s the capital of Romani– Bucharest! Let’s see what this new global phenomenon entails.

In 1984, during the darkest period of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu’s Stalinist rule, I visited Targovishte, over an hour northwest of the capital, Bucharest, on the Wallachian plain. It was a hellish town of mud-strewn streets, a few battered cars, without any decent place to eat and garbage everywhere. People looked and smelled bad.

Two weeks ago, I revisited Targovishte for the first time in almost four decades. It is now a gleaming, vibrant town of new roads with speed bumps, clipped flowers and hedgerows, new supermarkets and restaurants, and late-model cars everywhere. People looked and dressed like anywhere in the West.

Targovishte is a miracle wrought by Romania’s membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union; the former having provided a seal of approval for initial investment in 2004, and the latter providing aid and standards for development for years now.

Never mind, this fucking sucks. He couldn’t hold off from the phrenology for a single fucking paragraph. God damn it.

The countrysides of not only Romania but other Central and Eastern European states that joined NATO and the EU in the first decade of the 21st century look similar. A revolution of Westernization has occurred beyond the capital cities of formerly Communist Europe. The idea promoted by many in the Washington policy community that NATO and EU expansion was a mistake — and led inexorably to the war in Ukraine — is undermined by the reality on the ground, in which the political and economic stability of the West now extends all the way to the Russian border.

Had Targovishte and other towns northward across Poland not developed in the last three decades, the US and its democratic allies would face a stark economic and cultural division of Europe analogous to that of the Cold War, with colossal Russia, under any regime, sowing mischief.

Not every country has made equal gains over two decades. But the autocratic populism of Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, and the political disarray in Bulgaria are but a small taste of what might have transpired across much of the European continent without NATO and EU enlargement.

Why was this published? This is so fucking bad. “I am blatantly extrapolating from a single place to the entire country. National statistics? Corruption and economic indices? Nah, just look at Targovishte!” Just get to the point, dude.

Despite the economic development of the past three decades, the West still has to prove itself here. In the late 1940s and 1950s, Romanians waited in vain for a liberation effort by the Western democracies to topple the ruthless communist regime of Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej.

I remember what the late Silviu Brucan, the grand old man of Romanian communism, told me in 1998 when I asked him why he had become a Stalinist in his youth: “Why?” he asked rhetorically. “Because the West did not lose Eastern Europe at Yalta in 1945, it lost it in 1938 at Munich. You were nowhere. So after Munich, the only choice for Romanians was between Hitler and Stalin.”

The expansion of NATO and the EU in 2004 and 2007 occurred while Putin’s Russia was still comparatively weak. Thus, in Romanian eyes, only now comes the real test for the West. People are terrified that Europe’s fortitude will weaken. Only US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (about to depart office) are trusted in Bucharest.

I came to Targovishte to visit the place where Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, were tried and executed on Christmas Day, 1989 — an event that has direct bearing on what is happening in Ukraine.

Because of a trick of the camera angle, the impression from the grainy video clips of the event is of a sizable hall. But the rushed show trial of the Ceausescus happened in a tiny room in the old Calvary school near the railway tracks.

Having drunk fully of the cup of power, having met presidents and prime ministers, having ridden in a coach with Queen Elizabeth and been the objects of adulation at heavily staged rallies, the two found themselves jammed into a corner of the cramped room before a plywood table and seated on two kindergarten-style chairs, with the panel of judges a few feet away. Only two days earlier, they had essentially owned a palace literally comparable in size to the Pentagon.

From the trial room they were marched down a short hallway into a courtyard, where they were summarily blindfolded and shot. Everything good that has happened in Romania originates in that moment. In all the visits I have made to Romania over the decades, I have never detected any remorse for how the couple came to their end.

Ceausescu’s foreign policy was superficially independent of the Soviet Union, but Romanians, unlike many in the West, were never fooled. People knew that had the Soviet Union not been so geographically proximate, Romania would have been spared its communist nightmare of almost a half century.

Through all the vicissitudes of weak and corrupt democratic governments since 1989, life here is better and more secure than at any time in their history. This is a lawful state dedicated to the rights of the individual, not to some mythical collective will and destiny like Ceausescu’s Romania and Putin’s Russia.

Putin’s authoritarian rule is not on the scale of Ceausescu’s, which featured authentic slave labor camps, food rationing and the destruction of a vast historic area of the capital — dynamited to oblivion to make way for a Stalinist City of the Dead housing bleak government offices.

But much like Ceausescu, Putin, by invading Ukraine, has embarked on an extreme and risky journey whose end cannot be fathomed. There is a lesson yet for Putin in Ceausescu’s fall.

Ceausescu never smiled. He always looked “worried, preoccupied,” a nephew of his told me some years ago. Romania, among so much else, teaches about the horror — and loneliness — of absolute power. From lording over a gargantuan palace, then within the space of 24 hours or so going to sleep on camp beds in a small room without a toilet or heating in the winter night, eating out of mess tins, awaiting trial and execution — such was the fate of the Ceausescus.

Romanians, as pessimistic as they are about Western resolve, are nevertheless wise to the fact that something similar might one day befall Putin.

I’m actually more confused than when I began this article. This feels like a history teacher going on a rant about something oddly specific and then realizing that he needs to bring it back to the official topic of the lesson. “So here’s what happened to Ceausescu and Romania! Oh, shit, right, I was paid to write an article about Putin. Uh, fuck. This could happen to Putin too, I guess? Hell yeah, another bag secured."

United States

  • Five Ways the United States Can Still Fight Climate Change NYT

With the largest and most powerful tools that President Biden had hoped to use to fight climate change now stripped away, the White House is assembling smaller, less potent policies that could still help the nation reduce its planet-warming pollution, though not at the levels that Mr. Biden once promised.

The evident death in the Senate of Democrats’ climate change legislation, which was to have been the centerpiece of Mr. Biden’s plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions, comes just weeks after the Supreme Court handed down a decision that sharply limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, the nation’s second-largest source of greenhouse gases.

Legal scholars say that the justices’ decision will, in turn, set a precedent that could limit the federal government’s authority to enact future climate regulations on other major sources of heat-trapping emissions, including cars and trucks.

Experts say that the gutting of those policies now makes it all but impossible for the United States to meet Mr. Biden’s target of cutting the nation’s emissions 50 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. That is the amount that scientists say the United States must reduce its emissions in order to do its part to avoid the most catastrophic near-term impacts of climate change.

And if the world’s largest economy fails to keep its word on reducing emissions, analysts say, it will lose any leverage to compel other nations to reduce theirs.

I don’t think it’ll stop the United States accusing nations of doing bad things that it also does, orders of magnitude worse. It hasn’t in the past. Anyway, let’s just get to these great ideas:

Regulate cars and trucks

Vehicles are the nation’s largest source of planet-warming pollution, and experts say that rapidly ending the use of gasoline-powered cars is crucial to avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. Mr. Biden has directed the Environmental Protection Agency and Transportation Department to write a transformative new regulation to rein in tailpipe pollution and accelerate the nation’s transition to electric vehicles.

Electric vehicles require lots of metals that China has a near-monopoly over, not to mention the natural resources of Russia. Better not piss them off! Hang on, I’m getting a voice in my ear, just a sec– oh. Oh. Oh no. They did WHAT to Russia? A mass sanction regime that has fucked global metal prices? Why?!

Control pollution from power plants

Coal and gas-fired power plants are the nation’s second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. While the Environmental Protection Agency has been blocked by the Supreme Court from issuing a sweeping, ambitious rule that would shut down power plants fueled by coal and gas, the agency still plans to issue a more modest rule that would compel electric utilities to slightly lower their greenhouse emissions, and possibly to install technology to capture and sequester carbon dioxide pollution, although that pricey technology is not yet widely available.

Oh, thank GOD, “slightly lower”! We’ll be slightly less dead in 2100!

Focus on methane

In the coming months, the E.P.A. plans to issue tougher new regulations to curb leaks of methane from oil and gas wells, a move that could take a significant slice out of the nation’s overall greenhouse gas pollution. Legal experts say that, unlike the rules on power plants and autos, the methane rule has a good chance of withstanding legal challenges.

If you say so.

Rally action at the state level

Absent federal action on climate change, state-level climate policies will play a more important role. Just under half the states have already enacted significant climate policies. The leader is California, which in the coming weeks is expected to finalize a first-in-the-nation regulation requiring that all new cars sold in the state must be electric or zero-emission by 2035. Seventeen other states are in line to adopt the same rule when it passes in Sacramento.

What does “rally action” even mean? “Hope the states do it themselves because we’ve tried nothing and we’re all out of ideas”?

Also, there isn’t a fifth point. You promised me five ideas! But I’m not gonna complain about not having to read it.


Bloomerism and Hope

  • New South Wales Public Sector Workers Are Striking Against the Cost-of-Living Crisis Jacobin

Teachers, nurses, midwives, transport workers, and other New South Wales (NSW) public sector workers have been on strike over the last month, demanding adequate wage rises and an end to unsustainable workloads. It’s a welcome revival of industrial militancy after record low strike rates over the last few years. Given the conditions workers are expected to put up with across the country, the strikes could signal the beginning of a broader wave of union struggle.


Link back to the discussion thread.