- Europe’s mightiest river is drying up amid a record heatwave, causing shipping issues and deepening the continent’s energy woes Business Insider
The River Rhine, one of Europe’s most important rivers which is used to transport cargo including chemicals, grains, and coal across the continent, is drying up amid record-breaking summer heatwaves.
Germany’s Federal Institute of Hydrology has warned that rivers in Central Europe are at “unusually low” levels and are continuing to fall.
Much of the 800-mile Rhine passes through Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, but the river also runs through Austria, Switzerland, and the Netherlands as well as along the border between France and Germany.
The water level at Kaub, the river’s bottleneck, was 71 centimeters (just under 28 inches) on Tuesday morning, according to Germany’s federal administration for waterways and shipping. When it reached 77 centimeters (30 inches) last week, it was already at the lowest level for this time of year since at least 2007, Bloomberg reported, citing government data.
Southwest Germany news outlet SWR reported that the low level of water is limiting shipping on the Rhine south of Duisburg and Cologne and that for days, freight ships haven’t been able to travel fully-loaded.
A representative for Germany’s Federal Institute of Hydrology told Bloomberg that if the level at Kaub dips down to 40 centimeters (15.7 inches), it’s uneconomical for vessels carrying commodities to sail past it given how little cargo they’d be able to carry.
- EU to soften Russia sanctions RT
The European Union is planning to amend its sanctions on Moscow to facilitate trade in food and fertilizers, Reuters reported on Tuesday.
The changes will allow EU nations to unfreeze the funds of top Russian banks, which may be required to ease bottlenecks in the global trade of food and fertilizers, Reuters explained, citing a draft document it has seen.
The document said the funds could be released “after having determined that such funds or economic resources are necessary for the purchase, import or transport of agricultural and food products, including wheat and fertilizers,” the agency said.
The revised sanctions will also help facilitate exports of food from Russian ports, which traders had stopped servicing despite food exports being explicitly exempted from the sanctions, Reuters added, quoting an official.
Hang on - I was told, as was the leader of Senegal, that you’re a Putin puppet if you say that the West is doing anything to affect food exports, and that it’s purely an effect of Ukraine’s ports being blockaded. What the fuck? Well, my trust in the fabulous, trustworthy institutions of the West have slightly decreased from 97% to 95%!
- Exclusive: Russia seeking oil payments from India in dirhams Reuters
Russia is seeking payment in United Arab Emirates dirhams for oil exports to some Indian customers, three sources said and a document showed, as Moscow moves away from the U.S. dollar to insulate itself from the effects of Western sanctions.
- Russia’s Gazprom says it cannot guarantee natural gas deliveries to European customers - as its exports to China hit an all-time high Business Insider
Russia’s Gazprom has tried to trigger an “act of God” clause in its natural-gas contracts with European buyers, arguing that it should not be held responsible for recent or current drops in supplies.
Analysts said the move raises questions about whether Russia is planning to permanently reduce or even halt flows of the vital fossil fuel to Europe, in what could be a huge blow for the region’s economy.
It comes as Gazprom’s natural gas exports to China through the Power of Siberia pipeline hit a record high, in a sign of Russia’s pivot away from Europe and toward Asia.
Gazprom declared “force majeure” — which means act of God — in a letter sent to customers dated July 14, Reuters reported Monday. The letter said the declaration applied retrospectively to supplies from June 14.
German energy giant Uniper told Insider it had received a letter from Gazprom in which the Russian company claimed force majeure retroactively for past and current shortfalls in gas deliveries.
“We consider this as unjustified and have formally rejected the force majeure claim,” a Uniper spokesperson said.
Another German energy company, RWE, told Insider it had also received a force majeure letter from Gazprom. Gazprom did not respond to a request for comment.
- Russia sends record volumes of gas to China RT
Russia delivered a record daily volume of gas to China via the Power of Siberia pipeline on Sunday, energy giant Gazprom announced.
The supplies were delivered under a long-term contract between Gazprom and the Chinese company CNPC, the energy giant said in a statement on its Telegram channel on Monday.
Earlier this month the Russian company reported that pipeline gas exports to China grew by over 60% in the first six months of this year. The Power of Siberia is part of the eastern gas route from Siberia to China. A major buyer of Russian energy, China also imports liquefied natural gas from the country.
The increase to China follows a massive reduction of gas flow to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline last month. Gazprom blamed it on a technical issue resulting from the international sanctions placed on Russia. Moscow has repeatedly said that it remains a reliable supplier of natural gas and will stick to contractual obligations to its customers.
- Russia fines Google $366 million RT
A Russian court has fined American search giant Google more than 21 billion rubles (f$366 million) on Monday, for its failure to delete prohibited information on the conflict in Ukraine, RIA Novosti has reported.
Moscow’s Tagansky District Court has slapped a turnover-based fine on the IT-company for its repeated refusal to delete information prohibited by Russian law. Roskomnadzor, the national internet and media watchdog, had previously required the company to remove all “misleading information” regarding Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine, from YouTube.
Prior to the court’s ruling, Roskomnadzor had sent Google 17 notifications requiring it to abide by Russian law, but the tech giant failed to comply. The total fine is equal to one tenth of the company and its affiliated structures’ annual turnover in Russia.
- Germany explains why it can’t use alternate route for Russian gas RT
Germany cannot use the new alternative pipeline to ship natural gas from Russia, Nord Stream 2, even though its usual route, Nord Stream 1, is shut down for maintenance, the country’s government reiterated on Monday.
“Nord Stream 2 is not certified, it does not have a legal permit [for operation]. This issue is not relevant,” Beate Baron, the representative of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, said at a briefing in Berlin, as quoted by news agency TASS.
“Look, I’ve tried! All of us have tried to turn the valve! But the certification - you just don’t understand! The magical spell weaved into the living paper of that document is a force stronger than any of us - all of us! It simply can’t be done!
The announcement comes as Gazprom reportedly declared force majeure on EU gas flow via Nord Stream 1, citing “extraordinary” circumstances outside its control. The pipeline is currently closed for maintenance until Thursday. There is concern in Germany, however, that Gazprom will not resume supply when the works are complete.
- Gas crisis spurs Germany to mull extending life of nuclear plants Reuters
Germany may extend the life of its three remaining nuclear power plants, the economy ministry said on Monday, as public support rises in the face of a possible cut-off of Russian gas.
Germany’s remaining nuclear plants are scheduled to be shut down by year-end after former Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to phase out nuclear power following the meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan in 2011.
The three plants made up 6% of Germany’s power production in the first quarter of 2022.
A first assessment by the environment and economy ministries in March did not recommend extending the plants' lifetime, citing legal, licensing and insurance challenges, the need for extensive and possibly costly safety checks, and a lack of fuel rods to keep the plants running.
But falling Russian gas supplies to Germany through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline have emboldened pro-nuclear voices in Germany and Europe ahead of a feared electricity crunch this winter.
- France signs energy deal with the UAE to wean off Russian imports Al Jazeera
France has secured promises of new energy supplies from the United Arab Emirates after talks between President Emmanuel Macron and UAE leader Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan in Paris.
The UAE has emerged as a key partner for Western countries as they scramble for energy deals worldwide to replace imports from sanctions-hit Russia.
- UK living standards fall at record rate as inflation soars The Guardian
British workers’ living standards dropped in May at a record rate after pay rises failed to keep pace with inflation.
Earnings growth increased across the private and public sector by 4.3% in the three months to May excluding bonuses, the Office for National Statistics said, but that left pay down by 2.8% – a record fall.
Labour blamed the Conservative government for the fall in real wages, saying it “left people more exposed to inflation and the cost of living crisis”.
Average pay growth including bonuses for the private sector was 7.2% in the three months from March to May, while for the public sector it was 1.5%, leaving an average of 6.2%.
- UK passes 104 degrees, breaking all-time record, as Europe swelters in extreme heat wave Business Insider
The UK has provisionally recorded its highest ever temperature on Tuesday: 102.4°F (40.2°C).
The previous record was 101.6°F (38.7°C), from 2019. It was beaten Tuesday by a slew of readings in southern England over the 100-degree mark.
- Flights stopped after runway melts RT
The UK’s Royal Air Force (RAF) has suspended flights at some of its bases and rerouted aircraft due to extremely hot weather, the Ministry of Defence said on Monday.
“During this period of extreme temperature, flight safety remains the RAF’s top priority, so aircraft are using alternative airfields in line with a long-established plan. This means there is no impact on RAF operations,” the ministry wrote on Twitter, referring to flights at the Brize Norton airbase in Oxfordshire south east England.
Sky News reported that flights in and out of the base have been halted because the “runway has melted” in the scorching heat.
Asia and Oceania
- China’s military puts advanced rocket launch system to the test at high altitude SCMP
China’s military has put the precision strike capability of its new rocket launch system to the test at high altitude, according to state broadcaster CCTV.
The People’s Liberation Army used the PCL191 multiple launch rocket system – which is mounted on a truck – to hit a target several kilometres away at a desert shooting range in the west of China during a recent test, Sunday’s report said.
It was reported on state television as the PLA and Indian Army began a 16th round of talks to resolve a protracted border stand-off in the Ladakh region, where at least 20 Indian and four Chinese troops were killed in 2020 – the worst clash on the disputed border in decades.
- China says it will take ‘forceful measures’ if Pelosi visits Taiwan WaPo
I know that China says this whenever almost anybody visits Taiwan and they never really act on it, but it would be incredibly funny if barely-sentient Pelosi stumbling off the plane and saying something incomprehensible caused China to invade Taiwan, and they had to ferry her off the island in a hurry.
- Malaysia seizes $18 million worth of elephant tusks, tiger bones and other trafficked animal parts CNN
Malaysian authorities have seized a massive haul of trafficked animal parts, including elephant tusks, rhino horns, pangolin scales and tiger bones worth around 80 million ringgit ($17.9 million).
Authorities discovered around six tonnes of ivory tusks and other animal parts at the western port in Selangor state on Sunday.
The animal parts are thought to have been shipped from Africa, Malaysian Customs Director General Zazuli Johan said on Monday.
- Australia leads continents in mammal extinctions, climate report says WaPo
Australia’s unique wildlife is increasingly under threat from wildfires, drought and climate change, according to a much-anticipated expert report described as “shocking” by the country’s new environment minister.
The world’s driest inhabited continent has already lost more mammal species than any other continent in the past 200 years — roughly when mass industrialization took off — and continues to have one of the highest rates of species decline among developed countries, said a State of the Environment report published Tuesday.
“While it’s a confronting read, Australians deserve the truth,” Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said. “We deserve to know that threatened communities have grown by 20 percent in the last five years with places literally burned into endangerment by catastrophic fires.”
- North Korean labour could be sent to rebuild Donbas, Russian ambassador says The Guardian
North Korea could send workers to two Russian-controlled territories in eastern Ukraine, according to Russia’s ambassador in Pyongyang – a move that would pose a challenge to international sanctions against the North’s nuclear weapons programme.
According to NK News, a Seoul-based website, ambassador Alexander Matsegora said North Korean workers could help rebuild the war-shattered infrastructure in the self-proclaimed people’s republics in Donetsk and Luhansk.
Matsegora said there were potentially “a lot of opportunities” for economic cooperation between the North and the self-proclaimed republics in Ukraine’s Donbas region, despite UN sanctions.
- Sri Lanka presidency a close contest after frontrunner pulls out Al Jazeera
Three candidates are in the race to be the next Sri Lankan president after former leader Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country and resigned last week over the island’s worst-ever economic crisis.
Acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe will face the opposition-backed candidate Dullas Alahapperuma and Marxist party leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake in the vote to be held on Wednesday, the parliament announced during a brief session on Tuesday.
Alahapperuma is a former education minister and dissident parliamentarian from the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), controlled by the powerful but now unpopular Rajapaksa clan.
Alahapperuma’s name was seconded by G L Peiris, the SLPP chairman, indicating a rift within the ruling coalition as many SLPP legislators are believed to be supporting Wickremesinghe too.
Left-wing leader Dissanayake of the National Peoples’ Power party is the third candidate. Since the party has only three members in parliament, he is unlikely to be a challenger.
Analysts are of the opinion that Wickremesinghe is ahead in the race as a majority of legislators from the ruling SLPP are backing him.
Protest leaders had urged the opposition to field a united candidate to defeat Wickremesinghe, whose closeness with the Rajapaksas angers them.
- Russia-Iran Relations Take A Quantum Leap Popular Resistance
When the US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan first spoke about a potential Iran-Russian drone deal, Moscow kept quiet and Tehran issued a pro forma rebuttal, which, taken together, suggested that it is a work in progress. Sullivan’s disclosure appeared at the fag-end of a White House briefing for President Biden’s forthcoming West Asia tour to Israel and Saudi Arabia, and seemed to have an element of grandstanding aimed at fueling the latent anti-Iran sentiments in the Gulf region that could, in turn, inject some degree of contemporaneity to POTUS’ signal project to cobble together an Israeli-Arab military front in the region.
In the event, the ploy didn’t work. The West Asian countries continue to resist such regimentation by Washington. After Biden’s visit got over, the Saudi Arabian foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan told the CNN, amongst other things, that talks are going on between Iran and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states for improvement of relations and the focus should be on engagement and changing Iran’s behavior.
If the drone deal indeed goes through, as seems quite likely, it will mark a quantum leap in Russia-Iran relations. For, Iran will be doing for Russia something that only China is capable of doing but won’t out of fear of US reprisal. That makes Iran a very special partner country indeed for Russia. Ironically, though, Russia is yet to upgrade its relationship with Iran as “strategic.”
On its part, Iran is literally sticking out its neck in an act of defiance of the West’s “rules-based order”, as Russia will be deploying its weapon systems in the European theater against the air defense systems supplied to Ukraine by the US and NATO countries. There cannot be many parallels of an emerging middle power rendering such critical help to a superpower in high-tech warfare in real conditions on the frontline. Of course, it enhances Iran’s standing regionally and internationally.
In geopolitical terms, however, the important salience lies in the certainty that the door is being slammed shut on the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the US via European mediators, which had been going on Vienna for the past year.
It is possible to say that Tehran is a beneficiary of the deepening Saudi-Russian and Saudi-Chinese relationships. Arguably, Saudi Arabia’s quest for BRICS membership brings the Kingdom pretty close to Iran’s world view, which places primacy on a democratized, multipolar world order where every country is free to choose its developmental path and political system.
To be sure, against this historical backdrop of a transformative West Asian region, President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Tehran on Tuesday is invested with great importance. Iran is becoming one of the most consequential relationships for Russia.
What began as a limited alliance in Syria to fight terrorism has taken wings through the past seven-year period and is assuming global character. Late Qassem Soleimani would have felt immensely gratified that his mission to Moscow in July 2015 has succeeded beyond all expectations.
- Turkey may still ‘freeze’ NATO expansion – Erdogan RT
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Sweden and Finland on Monday that Ankara may still “freeze” their NATO membership they fall short of last month’s agreement, in which the two Nordic countries promised to take specific steps to overcome Turkey’s objections.
“I want to reiterate once again that we will freeze the process if these countries do not take the necessary steps to fulfill our conditions,” Erdogan told reporters. “Our stance on this issue is very clear. The rest is up to them.”
“Sweden in particular does not have a good image on this issue,” he added.
- Palestinians Face Forced Expulsions As Biden Pledges Allegiance To Israel Popular Resistance
President Joe Biden’s much-heralded visit to Jerusalem has confirmed that the United States remains Israel’s enabler-in-chief. Biden promised to continue providing Israel with $3.8 billion in annual military aid (more than the U.S. gives any other country) to maintain the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.
Pledging to “stand with the Jewish and democratic State of Israel,” Biden ignored the exclusion of the Palestinian people from Israel’s “democracy,” which extends only to Jewish people. Palestinians do not enjoy the same democratic rights as Jews. As Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem recently affirmed, Israel is an apartheid state.
After Biden arrived at Ben Gurion Airport, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid called him “a great Zionist and one of the best friends Israel has ever known.” Biden said, “You do not need to be a Jew to be a Zionist.” Israel is a Jewish theocracy whose Zionist government was created on Palestinian land.
While Biden pledges allegiance to Israel, thousands of Palestinians in the Masafer Yatta region of the occupied West Bank are facing imminent forced expulsions from their homes. Although this would violate the Geneva Conventions, Biden has not condemned it in spite of protests by U.S. Jewish organizations and 100 U.S. Congress members. Biden would not meet with the people of Masafer Yatta or any other Palestinian community whose homes are threatened with demolition funded by U.S. tax dollars.
Biden’s visit comes on the heels of the U.S. government’s whitewashing of Israel’s assassination of beloved Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who reported for Al Jazeera for 25 years. Although the U.S. concluded she was “likely” killed by the Israeli military, the U.S. said it had “no reason to believe” the killing was “intentional but rather the result of tragic circumstances.”
- African nations meet on ‘critical’ nature conservation Africa News
Delegates from across Africa launched Monday in Rwanda the first continent-wide gathering about the role of protected areas in ensuring the future of our planet.
The IUCN Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC) is being held just a few months before the COP15 summit in December when global leaders are aiming to adopt a much-delayed pact to shield nature from the damage wrought by human activity.
- US promises $1.2 bn to feed Horn of Africa, urges others to help Iraqi News
US aid chief Samantha Power on Monday promised $1.18 billion to help avert famine in the Horn of Africa and urged other nations including China to do more to fight a food crisis aggravated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Power voiced alarm that the war as well as climate change were worsening hunger around the world, just after a decade of progress had been “obliterated” by the Covid pandemic.
“Today we are confronting something even more devastating as not only are tens of millions more people facing that grave hunger, many of them are at risk of outright starvation,” she said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“Will we be doing anything at all to solve this problem in the mid-to-long term? Of course not. Here’s $1.2 billion dollars that we’ll probably deliver… somewhere."
- Ghana IMF loan outcry pressures government over economy Iraqi News
Ghanaian trader Mohammed Biney was already struggling when the government passed a new tax on electronic money transactions this year to try to revive the economy.
With Ghana now buckling under nearly 30 percent inflation, the Accra shoe seller was shocked when the government announced in July it would have to seek help from the IMF.
President Nana Akufo-Addo once promised “Ghana Beyond Aid” to keep his West African country off foreign aid dependency.
But a sudden U-turn over an IMF credit has sparked fierce debate over his economic management as Ghana struggles with the highest costs of living in two decades.
“You can’t impose taxes on us under the guise of saving the economy and then overnight come and tell us you’re going to the IMF,” trader Biney told AFP.
“I think they ran out of ideas.”
- Refinery Shuts Down Due To Lack Of Crude Oil Price
A South African refinery has shut down operations and declared force majeure on the supply of petroleum products due to a delay in the shipment of crude, which highlights the fact that the physical market for crude is tight these days despite a slump in paper-traded oil futures.
Sasol, the biggest fuel producer in South Africa, was forced to declare force majeure on refined product deliveries because of delays in the crude oil supplied to its 108,000 barrels per day (bpd) refinery Natref, a company spokesperson told South Africa-based financial news outlet Fin24 on Saturday.
- Biden can’t control the one thing that could save his presidency CNN
A new CNN poll, conducted by SSRS and published Monday, showed that 75% of Americans see inflation as their top economic concern but only 25% of them approve of Biden’s efforts to tame it. This represents a staggering repudiation of a President on an issue that is causing considerable pain for most families and figures to be the dominant issue in November’s midterm elections.
These numbers help explain why inflation – a gut punch that afflicts most voters directly, even more than job losses in most recessions – is universally feared by elected officials. The plunge in confidence in Biden’s leadership may also reflect his administration’s blasé assurances last year that inflation was not a long-term concern, contradicting warnings of experts like former Democratic Treasury Secretary Larry Summers.
Whatever happened in the past, it’s clear that until Biden can convince the country he has inflation under control, his political fortunes are not likely to improve.
But the most daunting takeaway of the poll for Biden and Democrats, less than four months before the midterm elections, is that he has limited power to control the factor that could most dictate their fates. Biden, seeking to restore independence and integrity to government after Donald Trump’s term, has stressed that primary responsibility for fighting inflation lies with the Federal Reserve, not the White House.
Ever since the Parliamentarian cast the Wage-Price Spiral Incantation, there’s been no way to solve inflation. All we can do is rapidly press the Raise Interest Rates button on this controller that’s disconnected from the TV. Wait, what’s that? Wage growth is slower than inflation so how the fuck can that be causing it, versus corporate profits, which are rising at stupendous rates? Shut the fuck up - you don’t have an economics degree.
- Chipmakers may finally get their $52 billion in Chips Act government subsidies—but companies like Intel are not happy about some of the strings attached Fortune
If all goes as planned, Congress will finally start voting on funding the CHIPS Act on Tuesday.
On Monday, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) said the Senate would vote on $52 billion in government subsidies for domestic semiconductor or chip manufacturing as its own separate bill on Tuesday. The funding was originally part of a larger competition and innovation bill, which was held up in Congressional negotiations.
“We need to move quickly,” Schumer said. “Without these incentives from Congress, the capital investment required for expanding production is not economically viable in the United States.”
After the Senate vote, the House of Representatives will still need to approve the CHIPS Act funding before submitting it to the White House for signing. Congressional leaders are operating on a tight schedule, hoping to get funding passed before Congress goes on recess on Aug. 8.
Passing CHIPS Act funding into law will be a victory for chipmakers like Intel Corporation, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation, and GlobalWafers, who claim their planned U.S. projects depend on getting government money. Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger has been particularly vocal in pressuring Congress. The company delayed the groundbreaking ceremony on its $20 billion project in Ohio to protest the slow passage of the CHIPS Act. In late June, Gelsinger said that without CHIPS Act money, the chipmaker was likely to shift production to Europe, which offers its own government subsidies.
Despite chipmakers advocating for the bill’s passage, semiconductor manufacturers aren’t happy with everything that may end up in the final legislation.
The biggest point of contention relates to China—specifically, the restrictions on investing in China that will apply to companies that receive CHIPS Act money.
The CHIPS Act funding comes with so-called guardrails meant to ensure that U.S. subsidies are spent on building factories in the U.S. and not put towards some other purpose. One provision prevents recipients of CHIPS Act funding from expanding production of advanced chips in China, which would further escalate U.S. efforts to prevent China from producing the components that power nearly all of today’s digital devices, from phones and tablets to cars and servers.
Chipmakers like Intel are lobbying to loosen those guardrails, reports Politico. One draft of the legislation barred funding recipients from producing semiconductors smaller than 28 nanometers in China. While chips of that size are still used in some consumer electronics, the most advanced chips used in smartphones and tablets are much smaller, meaning the proposal would prohibit chipmakers from churning out their most innovative technology on Chinese soil.
Instead of a blanket prohibition on chip production in China, Intel and other chipmakers want to give the Secretary of Commerce the authority to determine what size semiconductors are off-limits. One unnamed chipmaker told the Financial Times that chip manufacturing is developing so rapidly that the 28 nanometer threshold would be meaningless after a few generations of new chips.
- 18 Republicans — including MTG, Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert — voted against Sweden and Finland joining NATO Business Insider
The House bill passed easily with 394 votes, leaving the 18 Republicans in a small minority even among their own party.
- U.S. successfully flight-tests Raytheon hypersonic weapon -Pentagon Reuters
The United States has successfully tested a Raytheon Technologies Corp (RTX.N) air-breathing hypersonic weapon capable of speeds faster than five times the speed of sound, making it the third successful test of that class of weapon since 2013, the Pentagon said in a statement on Monday.
- Pentagon and Lockheed reach deal to build 375 F-35 fighter jets Reuters
The U.S. Department of Defense agreed with Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) to build about 375 F-35 fighter jets over three years, the two parties said on Monday, amid expectations the price of the most common version of the aircraft would increase due to inflation and slower production.
“We are pleased to announce that the Department and Lockheed Martin reached a handshake agreement for the next F-35 lot buy on a basis of 375 aircraft,” said William LaPlante, the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer.
- New roadblocks go up in Panama as protesters reject gov’t deal Al Jazeera
Protesters in Panama have erected new roadblocks, rejecting a deal signed with the government to clear the highways in exchange for a fuel price cut.
On Sunday, the government and some protest leaders announced a deal to end more than two weeks of demonstrations over high fuel prices and rising living costs in the country of 4.4 million people.
But on Monday, after union leaders consulted grassroots supporters on the deal, some groups decided to continue protesting, according to Luis Sanchez, a leader of the Anadepo civic grouping.
“We had warned the executive that we still have to consult the rank and file,” he told the TVN-2 channel.
The agreement, he added, “was signed under pressure” and members have opted to continue the mobilisation that had seen trucks and banner-waving demonstrators paralyse the strategic Pan-American Highway that connects Panama with the rest of Central America and is the main transport route for goods through the country.
“In the meantime, there is no agreement,” said Sanchez as he tore up a sheet of paper.
- Guyana races against the clock to bank its oil bonanza Reuters
For the poor, small South American country of Guyana, there’s no time like the present when it comes to reaping the rewards of its offshore oil jackpot.
With sky-high oil prices, a transition to renewable energy on the horizon and 750,000 citizens desperate for better lives, Guyana is putting its foot on the gas to exploit it vast oil reserves, even if that means sacrificing some longer-term gains.
Already locked into contracts with oil firms that have been criticized for being too one-sided, Guyana had hopes of setting up a state-run oil company to manage the next development phase and conduct its own seismic surveys of unexplored fields - all with the aim of securing the best possible return.
But those plans have been shelved as the government faces up to the reality that Guyana doesn’t have the skills or resources to pull them off quickly, and is banking on speed over certainty instead, senior officials told Reuters.
The Ukraine War
- Swiss hospitals will not treat Ukraine war wounded Inquirer
Switzerland will not accept patients from Russia’s war in Ukraine for treatment in Swiss hospitals, the government said Monday, citing its military neutrality and the difficulty in distinguishing civilians among the wounded.
The Tages Anzeiger newspaper said some Swiss cantons were willing to respond positively to a request by Nato’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Center, which is organizing medical evacuations from Ukraine internationally.
Neutral Switzerland is not a member of Nato.
The federal government looked into the international request but nonetheless ultimately decided against admitting war wounded.
- Russia preparing for next stage of offensive, Ukraine says EU Reporter
In recent days, Russian missiles and rockets have struck cities with strikes that Kyiv claims have killed many.
Vadym Skibitskyi (a spokesperson for Ukrainian military intelligence) said that it was not just missile strikes from the sea and air. “We can see shelling along all of the front line, and along the line of contact. Tactical aviation and attack helicopters are being used actively.
“There is indeed an activation of enemy along the entire frontline. It is clear that preparations are now underway to the next stage.”
According to the Ukrainian military, Russia was reportedly preparing units for an offensive against Sloviansk. This is a symbolically important city that Ukraine holds in the eastern region.
Climate and Space
- Extreme temperatures in Antarctica and annual loss of 150 billion tons of ice Merco Press
As a heatwave grips the UK and much of Europe, you might be dreaming about being somewhere cooler. Preferably with lots of ice. And maybe penguins. But although the poles – and especially the Antarctic – are much cooler at this time of year, they also get their own share of heatwaves.
Of course, heatwaves in Antarctica aren’t 40-something degree sizzlers like the one currently roasting Europe. But it’s the difference above normal that matters. And when temperatures are 40° Celsius above average for the season, that can have an enormous impact.
In March this year, a record-breaking heatwave hit East Antarctica. Temperatures at the Dome C station rocketed from -55° Celsius, typical for the time of year on the high, cold Antarctic plateau, to a balmy -10° Celsius. This unprecedented increase happened over the course of just three days, making it one of the largest short-term temperature jumps on record.
Extreme heat events in Antarctica are rare right now, but they are becoming increasingly common as we warm our climate. And extreme heat at the poles has high stakes.
Antarctica is losing almost two Olympic sized swimming pools worth of ice every second – or about 150 billion tons a year and extreme heat events can be an important trigger for greater ice loss. All that extra water ends up in the ocean, with global consequences for sea levels. We currently have teams looking at the impact of sea level rise from the big glaciers in West Antarctica as there is still much to learn about their impact.
Dipshittery and Cope
- At Last, a Road Map for Europe’s Energy Crisis Bloomberg
Finally, someone is hitting the right tone on Europe’s energy crisis.
On July 14th, as France was celebrating Bastille Day, President Emmanuel Macron accused Vladimir Putin of weaponizing energy supplies to punish Europe for assisting Ukraine. He argued that Russia would likely cut off gas supplies entirely, putting France and the rest of the bloc through a very tough winter. In his most severe warning yet, Macron urged mobilization, appealing to government agencies, companies and households to reduce energy consumption. The goal: sobriété énergétique, or collective energy savings.
You could also remove sanctions.
The message is long overdue.
Europe may be in the grips of a heat wave, but we are racing against the clock to cut new energy deals and fill up gas storage ahead of the colder months. Governments have a responsibility to inform the public about the severity of the situation — which Deutsche Bank predicts could be a winter of gas rationing, raising the prospects of recession. If policy makers want public support for uncomfortable measures, such as temporary shutdowns of business activity to save essential activities, which may be necessary in a worst-case scenario, they need to be prepping people clearly now.
Removing the sanctions on Russia would mean no more uncomfortable measures.
In his address, Macron put the blame squarely on Putin, not on sanctions or the actions of the Ukrainian government. Had Russia not invaded a sovereign country, the thinking goes, we would not be debating how to save energy to this extent in France and Europe. This may seem obvious, but it will be easy to forget as the months go by and high energy bills and broader price pressures become entrenched. The French president said he expects the war to drag on into a long conflict and suggested Russia is waging a hybrid war on allies by targeting everything from gas to food.
You don’t need to put sanctions on countries. It’s not a fundamental law of the universe. Unless Newton figured out a fourth law that I didn’t hear about, there was no need to do so, and there continues to be no need to have sanctions on Russia.
Although the situation is bleak, Macron managed to be somewhat upbeat in his delivery. He argued that bringing down energy consumption and improving efficiency provided a joint response to the two biggest challenges facing the continent: the war in Ukraine and the climate crisis. The pitch may seem forced, but it gives his plan a sense of larger purpose. There is no denying Europe is paying a heavy price for its massive dependence on Russia, but there is room for optimism over the medium-term. Russia is no longer a credible or welcomed energy partner for the European Union, energy diversification away from Russia is inevitable under Putin, and change is happening much faster than anticipated.
Well, I agree on that last point: change IS happening much faster than anticipated. I wonder which western government will fall next?
The Bastille Day interview is one of those events in France that still gathers a big audience around the television. Macron used it wisely in announcing that his government will soon introduce energy-savings targets for public agencies, big companies and citizens. The campaign for sobriété énergétique has now made its way to the mass media, with ministers repeating the term on the radio, news shows and newspapers. If it works, it could serve as a road map for other European countries.
Transparency will be key to get the public on board if the worst-case scenario manifests, and European governments are forced to ration energy. Setting clear targets is a good start, as it makes clear what will be required from consumers big and small. But if people feel government and industry are not taking the effort seriously, they will hardly be interested in cutting back on energy themselves.
According to the French Ministry for the Energy Transition, government bodies will be briefed on practical steps to reduce consumption, from lowering air conditioning to dimming lights after work. As for companies, it a trickier balance. The French Finance Ministry concedes there are some sectors that will have to take priority. Nonetheless, Macron made it clear he expects big companies to join in the effort one way or another to reduce the country’s total energy consumption by 10% within two years.
10% in two years?!? Jesus fucking Christ Macron, don’t get too ambitious! These crazy plans won’t do you any good!
These fundamental changes for consumers and industry require major political goodwill — and that is certainly lacking in Europe. Macron himself faces a volatile domestic scenario after losing his majority in the National Assembly. Meanwhile, Germany, which fears a Lehman Brothers moment in the energy market as supply runs tight and prices jump, is waking up to decades of botched energy policy. With utility Uniper SE burning through cash and already drawing gas from storage in July, Berlin may soon find itself asking for support in securing supplies. In Italy, where gas supplies are also key for its heavily industrialized north, the future of Prime Minister Mario Draghi is uncertain.
Goodwill starts with being honest with the public, and Macron has shown the right instincts by presenting the issues without sugarcoating them. This crisis requires a narrative that matches the magnitude and complexity of the challenges Europe is facing. The sooner governments and households start applying some sobriété énergétique, the better prepared we will be. It’s either that or a rude awakening in the cold of the winter.
Oh, there’s gonna be a rude awakening in the cold of winter. But you still have a way to fix things - the only viable way, in fact - which is to drop sanctions on Russia.
- Rich Chinese Worth $48 Billion Want to Leave — But Will Xi Let Them? Bloomberg
Oh no! Please! I’m begging you! Please stay! But if you have to go, we’re offering flights out, just for you, for $1 billion per ticket.
Like thousands of wealthy people across China, Shanghai restaurateur Harry Hu is planning to do something he once considered unthinkable: move himself and his money out of the country.
Scarred by Shanghai’s chaotic lockdown under the Covid-Zero policy that has made China a global outlier, Hu is joining what investment migration consultancy Henley & Partners estimates is a cohort of 10,000 high-net-worth residents seeking to pull $48 billion from China this year — the second-largest predicted wealth and people outflow for a country after Russia.
The big question now hanging over China’s rich is whether President Xi Jinping’s government will let them leave.
While policy makers haven’t explicitly tightened curbs on relocating, immigration lawyers say moving has become more difficult in recent months as passport processing times have increased and documentation requirements have become more onerous. Shifting large sums of money out of China has also become harder after a pullback by overseas counterparties who had long helped residents sidestep the country’s capital controls via private swap arrangements.
That’s setting the stage for a fresh bout of tension between wealthy Chinese and the ruling Communist Party, which was already strained amid President Xi Jinping’s populist campaign for “common prosperity.” The government has put a premium on stability ahead of a leadership confab later this year at which Xi is expected to secure an unprecedented third term, but the long-term economic toll on the country of Covid Zero will be determined by the ultimate scope of China’s talent and wealth exodus.
The potential departures of people and capital are “a definite cost to the Chinese economy,” said Nick Thomas, an associate professor at the City University of Hong Kong who has edited several books on pandemics and politics. In almost every country in the world, he pointed out, “the risk from Covid is being built into economic plans and corporate modeling.”
You deserve life in prison, Mr Thomas. Actually, you deserve worse, but I’m being lenient.
Despite the hurdles to leaving, Hu said he’s intent on relocating to Canada.
“Can you imagine that I almost starved to death at the beginning of the lockdown in the most developed city in China?” said the 46-year-old, who recently sold much of his majority stake in two high-end Shanghai restaurants for 20 million yuan ($3 million) and has hired an immigration lawyer and wealth manager to help him move. “I am very sad, but it is time to leave.”
Wait, what the fuck? Okay, now my mind has changed about the Chinese covid system. How could them let this man ALMOST starve to death? Why did they save him by feeding him? Xi, do better. Also, I bet what he means is that he was down to his last $50 million in savings and couldn’t afford to eat the roasted liver of a species with only 100 individuals left in the wild and was like “You stole my only food. Now I’m gonna starve!"
Migration consultants and lawyers in China said inquiries grew three- to five-fold in spring — when Shanghai was in lockdown — compared to a year earlier. Inquiries about moving money out of the country have grown exponentially, according to interviews with seven bankers who didn’t want to be named because they are not authorized to speak publicly.
“Many really felt they had no other options given the Covid lockdown,” said Sumi, a migration consultant in Shanghai who didn’t want to give her full name discussing client business. “I’ve seen those who used to hesitate about emigration finally make up their mind this time.”
- Russia told a militia to prioritize destroying Western weapons in Ukraine, the latest sign it’s threatened by how they’re boosting Ukraine Business Insider
Indeed. That’s how war works. You destroy the weapons that can hit you and your stuff if you can, to stop them from doing that. The West has essentially been throwing darts in the general direction of a dart board, and has missed the board entirely up until this point, and finally they managed to get a dart somewhere on the outer rim, and they’re like “Haha! Get fucked! We’ll be in Moscow by winter!” while Ukraine says that they need like 500 of these things to make a stalemate, let alone advance on Russian-controlled territory, and you’ve only given them like 10.
The ministry said Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu met with the pro-Russia militia Vostock battalion that’s fighting in Ukraine and, “instructed the commander to prioritize the destruction of enemy long-range missiles and artillery with high-precision weapons,” the state-run Interfax news agency reported.
Shoigu also told all units to “eliminate the possibility for the Kyiv regime to inflict massive missile and artillery strikes” on areas under Russian control, The Moscow Times reported.
The ministry statement also said, without offering any evidence, that Russia [sic: I assume the article means Ukraine? Either that or BI just got based.] was using long-range weapons to fire at residential areas and “deliberately” set fire to wheat fields and grain storage in pro-Russia separatist areas.
Good Takes that are Dope
- The United States is building a coalition of its adversaries Responsible Statecraft
At last week’s summit meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, President Biden tried to reassure his audience about U.S. attention to the Middle East by declaring, “We will not walk away and leave a vacuum to be filled by China, Russia, or Iran.” The metaphor of a vacuum as applied to international relations always has had major problems, especially in ignoring how foreign interventions in any region are at least as likely to be an assertive reaction to someone else’s intervention, rather than the filling of a vacuum.
The United States ought to know, given how it has often been the reactor in such situations. For example, the United States Navy conducts “freedom of navigation” operations in the South China Sea not because a vacuum had been left there but instead because China had been conducting its own assertive military operations in the area.
The very trip during which Mr. Biden made his remark further illustrates the point. The trip was dripping with hostility toward Iran, including Biden talking about his willingness to use military force against Iran. The main theme of the trip was U.S. promotion of tighter relations between Israel and Gulf Arab states, a relationship that is an anti-Iran military alliance, one member of which already is waging clandestine war against Iran and regularly threatens to make that war overt. So threatened, Iran naturally seeks to respond.
One way it responds is to ally with outside powers that are themselves adversaries of the United States, or have acquired that label because Washington describes them as such. Over the last several years Iran has significantly enhanced its economic and security relationship with China, notwithstanding a paucity of ideological or cultural links or shared values. Iran is joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, an Eurasian alignment in which China and Russia are the two dominant members. As if to punctuate the point as a matter of timing and not just of substance, Russian President Vladimir Putin chose this moment, on the heels of Biden’s Middle East trip, to travel to Tehran to nurture relations between Russia and Iran.
Biden’s own national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, introduced an additional data point by claiming that Iran will sell drones for military use to Russia. Sullivan might have been stretching the available intelligence a bit in order to enhance the administration’s anti-Iran message to Middle East audiences on the eve of Biden’s trip to the region. But subsequent reporting suggests the story may have validity, even though the postulated exports run in the opposite direction from most arms sales involving Russia.
An all-too-common error is to perceive the behavior of one’s adversaries as somehow hard-wired into their nature and not to be a reaction to one’s own policies and conduct. By making this error, the United States, among other consequences, is encouraging adversaries to unite and thereby to oppose U.S. interests more effectively.