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- Nord Stream turbine stuck in transit as Moscow drags feet on permits Reuters
A missing turbine that Moscow says has caused the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to pump less gas to Europe is stuck in transit in Germany because Russia has so far not given the go-ahead to transport it back, two people familiar with the matter said.
The turbine, which usually operates at the Russian Portovaya compressor station, had been undergoing maintenance in Canada but was flown back to Cologne, Germany, on July 17 by logistics firm Challenge Group, one of the people said.
It is currently unclear when the turbine can be returned, the people said, adding this could still take days or even weeks.
The governments of Spain, Greece and Portugal have all stated that they oppose an EU scheme that would see them slash their natural gas consumption by 15% over the winter.
Announced by the European Commission on Wednesday, the ‘Save Gas for a Safe Winter’ proposal would entail EU member states reducing their gas use by switching to other power sources and ordering their citizens to ration their own usage. If the commission’s proposal is adopted, member states would be required to report on their progress toward the 15% target every two months, and EU authorities would have the power to declare a state of emergency and make the reduction mandatory.
“I deeply regret to say that Spain does not support this proposal,” Spanish Energy Minister Teresa Ribera said shortly after its announcement. Mentioning that the plan had been revealed without a debate in the European Council, Ribera declared that the commission “cannot demand a sacrifice” when “they have not even asked our prior opinion.”
“Unlike other countries, we Spaniards have not lived beyond our means in terms of energy,” Ribera added.
Echoing former German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s assertion in 2009 that Mediterranean countries “were living beyond their means” in the runup to the financial crisis, Ribera’s remark was likely aimed directly at Berlin. Having relied heavily on Russian gas to power its industry, Germany is currently facing economic ruin after voluntarily canceling the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and backing EU sanctions on Moscow.
Greece came out against the plan a day later, with government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou telling reporters on Thursday that Athens “does not agree in principle with the EU proposal for a 15% reduction in gas usage.” Oikonomou said that the government has “submitted our own proposals” to the EU instead. Greece depends on Russia for 40% of its natural gas.
Portugal too “does not accept” the EU’s proposal, Energy Minister Joao Galamba told Portuguese newspaper Publico on Thursday. “There are countries that have not protected themselves and are now asking for help,” he said in an apparent reference to Germany, adding that a bloc-wide rationing program fails to take into account the fact that Portugal lacks pipeline connectivity with the rest of Europe, meaning that gas saved in Portugal could not be used to cover shortfalls elsewhere.
While Spain, Greece and Portugal have spoken out publicly against the plan, officials in Italy, Poland and Hungary also have their reservations, Bloomberg reported on Thursday. Hungary’s opposition is unsurprising, as Budapest has staunchly opposed the sanctioning of Russian oil and gas during successive rounds of EU sanctions on Moscow.
- Monkeypox Vaccine Gets Thumbs Up From EU Regulator Amid Race To Improve Access Forbes
The company behind the shot—Danish biotech Bavarian Nordic—said the European Medicines Agency (EMA) had adopted a “positive opinion” recommending the company’s smallpox vaccine, Imvanex, be authorized to include protection against monkeypox on its label.
The vaccine is approved for use against monkeypox in the U.S. and Canada—where it is marketed as Jynneos and Imvamune, respectively—but is only authorized for use against smallpox in Europe.
- Wheat prices drop to pre-war levels after Ukraine and Russia strike deal to unblock shipments Business Insider
Wheat prices tumbled on Friday after Ukraine and Russia reached a deal to allow crucial grain shipments to safely leave Black Sea ports, according to media reports, potentially alleviating a brewing global food crisis.
US wheat futures dropped almost 3% to a five-month low of $786 per bushel, meaning the price has unwound almost all of its “war gains.” Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, triggering a 70% surge in the price of wheat to a record high of over $1,300 in the two weeks that followed. The two countries together account for a quarter of the world’s wheat exports.
The BBC said Turkey successfully brokered a deal between the two sides.
- Ukraine to remove mines blocking grain ships RT
Ukraine has agreed to facilitate the passage of wheat exports, through the Black Sea, to global markets, the New York Times, reported on Friday, citing three government sources in Kiev.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has added that Kiev has agreed to remove “only a few” of the mines which have been blocking naval traffic since Russia launched its military offensive in February.
Under the proposals, Ukraine’s Navy and Coast Guard would steer grain ships to international waters, the report explained.
According to the report, foreign crews would take the ship to Istanbul, Turkey, where they would continue on to other destinations. A control center would be set up in Istanbul to oversee operations, while Turkish officials would check the ships to assure Moscow that they aren’t used to deliver weapons to Ukraine.
Two senior European officials were quoted as saying they were optimistic that a deal would be struck at the UN-sponsored talks in Istanbul on Friday.
- Ukraine Uses Russian Invasion To Wreck Workers’ Rights Popular Resistance
The Ukrainian parliament has passed two new radical measures on labour liberalisation, prompting fears of Ukrainians losing workplace rights permanently as Russia’s war puts huge pressure on the country’s economy.
In two laws passed on Monday and Tuesday, MPs voted to legalise “zero-hours contracts” and made moves towards removing up to 70 percent of the country’s workforce from protections guaranteed by national labour law.
The latter measure means the national labour code no longer applies to employees of small- and medium-sized enterprises; instead, it is proposed that each worker strikes an individual labour agreement with their employer. It also removes the legal authority of trade unions to veto workplace dismissals.
Ukraine’s ruling Servant of the People party argued that the “extreme over-regulation of employment contradicts the principles of market self-regulation [and] modern personnel management.”
- Google to be banned in Ukraine’s occupied Donetsk and Luhansk regions Guardian
Google’s search engine is to be banned in the occupied Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk after pro-Russian authorities there accused the US tech giant of promoting “terrorism and violence against all Russians”.
- Russian Titanium Maker Is Pulled Off Sanctions List WSJ
The European Union blocked a proposal to sanction Russian metals giant VSMPO-Avisma PJSC at the last minute, EU diplomats said, after France and other member states objected to the move over fears of a potential retaliatory ban by Russia on titanium exports to the bloc.
- Fertilizer cargo from Russia heads to U.S. as many worry about food shortages Reuters
A tanker carrying a liquid fertilizer product from Russia is about to arrive in the United States, sources and vessel tracking data showed in recent days, at a time of widespread worry that sky-high global fertilizer prices could lead to food shortages.
President Joe Biden’s administration has not blacklisted Russian agricultural commodities, including fertilizers, in the aftermath of the Ukraine invasion. Still, many Western banks and traders have steered clear of Russian supplies for fear of running afoul of rapidly changing rules.
- Russian oil is traveling to Asia on tankers that used to carry sanctioned Iranian crude, as ‘dark’ trading expands Business Insider
Tankers that used to carry Iranian oil are now loading up on Russian crude to take it to Asia, as fear of Western backlash forces trading in the region to “go dark”, according to energy analytics company Vortexa.
Since April, there have been at least 11 tankers that have loaded Russian oil and which previously carried Iranian crude, Vortexa said in a note on Friday. Vortexa analyst Armen Azizian, who wrote the note, told Insider the cargoes have all been bound for Asia.
Vortexa said the number of Atlantic ocean ship-to-ship transfers of Russian oil involving vessels which have turned off their tracking signals — a practice known as “going dark” — is growing.
- Another country de facto recognizes Donbass republics RT
Belarus will officially recognize the independence of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk if it becomes necessary, but the absence of a formal recognition isn’t stopping Minsk from helping them, President Alexander Lukashenko said on Thursday in an exclusive interview with Agence France-Presse.
The French agency asked Lukashenko why Belarus, which supports Russia’s military operations in Ukraine, has not recognized the Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic as independent states – or Crimea as part of Russia, for that matter.
“There was no need for it,” Lukashenko responded. “But if Crimea, Lugansk, Donetsk need foodstuffs, bricks, cement, assistance with rebuilding, etc., we will help them. We will recognize them, if needed, if it makes any sense. But what difference will it make today if I recognize them publicly?”
“The fact that we cooperate with Crimea, Lugansk, and Donetsk means that we recognize them de facto,” Lukashenko added. “And all these speculations about my recognition or non-recognition are just idle talk. I will recognize them by a presidential decree, if needed.”
- UK to sanction Russian oil and coal RT
London has added oil and coal to its list of banned Russian imports, according to a notice to exporters published by the UK’s Foreign Trade Ministry on Thursday.
“This amendment prohibits the import of oil and oil products, coal and coal products and gold as well as the acquisition, supply and delivery, directly or indirectly of these goods. It also prohibits the provision of technical assistance, financial services and funds and brokering services relating to these goods,” the notice reads.
The ban on coal imports from Russia will take effect on August 10, coinciding with the start date of a Russian coal imports ban by the EU. The oil import ban will come into force on December 31. In addition, the previously announced ban on Russian gold imports to the UK came into force on Thursday, July 21, the notice said.
In 2021, the UK imported $267 million worth of Russian coal and coal products, $1.4 billion worth of crude oil, $3 billion worth of oil products, and $15 billion worth of gold, according to data compiled by Russian business daily RBC.
- Germany Bails Out Uniper in Fallout From Russian Gas Squeeze Bloomberg
Germany hammered out a rescue package for Uniper SE to prevent the collapse of a linchpin in the country’s energy network in the wake of Russia’s moves to slash gas supplies.
The government will get about 30% in Uniper, a holding big enough to give it veto rights on important strategic decisions, Uniper said in a statement on Friday. Fortum Oyj, Uniper’s main shareholder, will retain a majority.
The package includes an expanded credit line of 9 billion euros ($9.1 billion) from state-owned lender KfW and mandatory convertible securities of 7.7 billion. The total package is worth more than four times the company’s current market value.
- Italian parliament dissolved RT
Italy is facing a general election after President Sergio Mattarella dissolved parliament on Thursday. Prime Minister Mario Draghi resigned hours earlier, after three of his coalition partners boycotted a confidence vote.
Mattarella did not set a date for elections, but said that a vote must take place within 70 days, as per Italy’s constitution.
Asia and Oceania
- Xi sends sympathy message to Biden over Covid infection Inquirer
“I would like to express my deep sympathies to you and wish you a speedy recovery,” Xi wrote in the message, CCTV reported.
- China considers further easing quarantine rules as it seeks to reduce economic damage from Covid curbs SCMP
China is considering a further reduction in its quarantine requirements to lessen the economic impact of strict Covid-19 controls.
The announcement came on the heels of promises by Premier Li Keqiang this week that China would continue to refine its Covid-19 response with more targeted measures in terms of visa access and testing policies as well as allowing more international flights to China.
Wang Liping, an infectious diseases expert with the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, told a media briefing on Thursday that the centre is constantly looking to improve its epidemic control playbook.
“We will continue to collect and study new problems and difficulties that locals are facing in dealing with Covid-19 outbreaks … such as whether the quarantine period can be further shortened for people of various risk levels and whether low-risk areas can be more precisely classified … so as to further update and improve the epidemic control measures to minimise the impact on economic and social development and people’s lives,” Wang said.
- Honda to cut output by up to 30% at Japan plants on supply snag Inquirer
- Negotiations underway for buying vessels from Russia to operate in Caspian Sea Tehran Times
Iranian Ambassador to Russia Kazem Jalali has said the country’s Khazar Sea Shipping Lines is negotiating with Russia to buy cargo and Ro-Ro ships to use in the Caspian Sea lines in order to expand trade between the two countries, Tasnim news agency reported on Friday.
- Russian and Israeli planes hit Syria in separate strikes, kill at least 10 WaPo
At least 10 people were killed in Syria overnight and this morning, following Israeli strikes on the capital in the south and Russian strikes in the northwest of the country.
Syrian state news agency SANA reported Israeli strikes coming from the disputed Golan Heights shortly after midnight Friday, killing three soldiers, wounding seven others and causing material damage.
Syria regularly reports airstrikes from southern neighbor Israel, its long-standing sworn enemy. The strikes, rarely acknowledged by Israel, typically target military installations, arms depots, and other locations that are under the control of Iran-aligned groups.
On the other side of the country in the northwestern Idlib countryside, Russian airstrikes killed seven civilians, according to local first responder group the White Helmets. One strike leveled a modest building in an olive grove that was formerly a chicken farm, the White Helmets media office told The Washington Post, killing four children from one family. Another strike killed two men who had approached the scene after the initial attack.
- Russia taking ‘all measures’ to deliver food to Africa RT
Russia will deliver the contractually promised food, fertilizer, energy and other commodities to its African friends, despite the difficulties created by Western sanctions, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov assured the continent in an op-ed published across major African outlets on Friday. Western and Ukrainian propaganda accusing Moscow of trying to starve Africa is unfounded and seeks to deflect their own blame, he said.
“We are well aware of the importance of Russian supplies of socially important commodities, including food, to many countries around the world. We are mindful that these supplies play an important role in preserving social stability,” Lavrov said.
- Millions hungry but drought overlooked as Kenya prepares to vote Inquirer
In the dust bowl of Kenya’s drought-stricken north, the people of Purapul are edging closer to starvation, surviving on nothing but wild berries as their children waste away from hunger.
Loka Metir knows the bitter fruits make her children sick, further weakening their frail condition. But it hasn’t rained properly in three years, and there’s simply nothing else to eat.
“This is the only way to survive,” the mother of five told AFP in Purapul, a scattering of thatch huts a two-day walk from the nearest town in the bone-dry Marsabit county.
At least 18 million people across the Horn of Africa are facing severe hunger as the worst drought in 40 years devastates the region.
Over four million are in Kenya’s often-forgotten north, a number that has climbed steadily this year, as the crisis struggles to attract national attention in the midst of a hard-fought — and expensive — election campaign.
Nearly 950,000 children under five years and 134,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women in Kenya’s remote arid regions are acutely malnourished and need aid, according to government figures from June.
Hunger in the three hardest-hit counties, including Marsabit, borders on famine.
- Ghana’s Unions And Left Reject Bailout Talks With The IMF Popular Resistance
The government of Ghana has initiated talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a potential bailout program. A delegation of the IMF concluded a week-long visit to Accra on July 13 and met with officials including Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta and Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia. The proposal has been severely criticized by the Ghanaian left, especially the Socialist Movement of Ghana (SMG), and trade unions.
In a statement released after the visit, IMF Mission Chief Carlo Sdralevich stated, “The IMF team held initial discussions on a comprehensive reform package to restore macroeconomic stability and anchor debt sustainability…The discussions focused on improving fiscal balances in a sustainable way while protecting the vulnerable and poor; ensuring credibility of the monetary policy and exchange rate regimes; preserving financial sector stability; and designing reforms to enhance growth, create jobs, and strengthen governance.”
Talks were held just days after Ghana witnessed another round of protests against the spiraling economic crisis. The action was organized by Arise Ghana, which identifies itself as a pressure group, at the end of June to protest the “persistence and astronomical hikes in fuel prices by the Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government”, the “grabbing of State lands” by government officials, “increased rate of police brutalities and state-sponsored killing of innocent Ghanaians”, and the introduction of a 1.5% tax levied on all electronic transactions.
Protestors also demanded a full, bi-partisan parliamentary probe into COVID-19 expenditures and the cancellation of the controversial Agyapa Royalties Deal.
Official figures show that the inflation rate in Ghana hit 29.8% in June, the highest since 2004. The price of food has shot up by 30.7% over the past year, with inflation of 59.3% in the price of vegetable oil and 65% in wheat flour. Housing, which includes electricity, water and gas, has registered an inflation of 38.4% and commuters are paying over 40% more for transport, with an inflation of 99.7% in diesel prices and 69.4% for petrol.
The government’s move has been strongly opposed by the Socialist Movement of Ghana (SMG). A statement by the movement read, “The crisis the Ghanaian economy has been plunged into is only a symptom of the collapse of the neoliberal order which has been diligently enforced by the IMF, the World Bank, the centers of power in the colonial metropolis and neo-colonial regime spread across Africa, Asia, South America, and elsewhere.
“The enforcers of this order have insisted over the last 30 years or more that the path to economic recovery lies in the unbridled and doctrinaire privatization of state enterprises, the withdrawal of subsidies on social services, reckless devaluation of national currencies, and the massive retrenchment of labor in the public sector.”
The movement stated that Ghana is currently spending 128% of its total national revenue on public sector emoluments and debt servicing. The country’s debt-to-GDP ratio is reportedly at a shocking 97%.
Meanwhile, according to the SMG, food prices have skyrocketed by more than 400% in the past two years. The real value of wages and salaries is reported to be only around 40% of what it was six years ago. Young people are particularly vulnerable to the crisis as they form 36% of the country’s population. By the end of 2021, young people formed approximately three-quarters of unemployed adults in Ghana.
- Even Tougher Times Ahead With Highest Interest Rate Hike In Nearly 20 Years All Africa
South Africans waited with baited breath once again, in anticipation of the Reserve Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee announcement on an interest rate hike on July 21, 2022. Everyone knew it was inevitable given the state of the world but few could have predicted a huge hike of 75 basis points, bringing the repo rate to 5.5% and the prime rate to 9%.
- U.S. State Dept approves $2 bln in arms sales to four countries Reuters
The U.S. State Department has approved the potential sale of more than $2 billion worth of arms and equipment, including Patriot missiles for the Netherlands, cruise missiles for Australia, and oceanographic observation equipment for the United Arab Emirates, the Pentagon said on Thursday.
- Shares in Snapchat owner slump 25% amid slowdown in ad revenue Guardian
Snap painted a grim picture of the effects of a weakening economy on social media in quarterly results on Thursday and declined to make a revenue forecast in “incredibly challenging” conditions, hitting its share price in after hours trading and setting off a chain reaction among listed rivals.
Snap, which generates more than two-thirds of its revenue in North America, said some advertisers continued to face supply-chain disruptions and labour shortages, and many others were contending with rising costs amid record inflation, which has led to cuts in spending on advertising.
- Puerto Rico: Major Protest Over Energy Privatization Popular Resistance
Hundreds of people marched on Wednesday in Puerto Rico’s capital San Juan to demand that the island’s government cancel its contract with power grid operator LUMA Energy over chronic power outages and frequent rate hikes.
Demonstrators including union leaders and community activists say LUMA has steadily increased power rates despite frequent outages including one in April that left more than one- third of the island in darkness. read more
Protestors shouted slogans including “There goes LUMA, there goes LUMA with another increase” and “LUMA, a bunch of morons who burn substations.”
Power rates have gone up five times since LUMA began operating Puerto Rico’s transmission and distribution system on June 1, 2020. The last rate hike, which took effect at the start of July, pushed rates up by 17.1%.
- Top U.S. Refiners Set For 652% Surge In Profits Oil Price
Amid soaring gasoline prices in the second quarter, the eight biggest independent U.S. refiners are set to report later this month a huge 652% sequential jump in their average earnings per share (EPS), according to estimates from investment bank Tudor Pickering Holt & Co cited by The Wall Street Journal.
- Plenty of business opportunities available with China, Argentine report says MercoPress
A report released Thursday by Argentina’s Undersecretary for Trade and Investment Promotion Pablo Sívori highlighted the progress over the past 20 years of trade between his country and China, which rose from US$ 1 billion to nearly US$ 20 billion yearly.
Sívori, who oversaw the production of the Report on Opportunities and Business with China, also recalled that his country will be opening next year a consulate in the city of Chengdu, the capital of the southwestern province of Sichuan.
“Argentina has countless opportunities in the Chinese market, and this has to do with the increase in the income of the Chinese population and a change in the country’s food matrix, with a greater demand for proteins and higher quality and sophisticated products, which are one of the bases of Argentine exports,” Sivori explained.
- The World’s Largest Economies Are Ramping Up Coal Consumption Oil Price
In the US, coal production has risen significantly from last year. Though higher prices were not converting to an increase in supply, the Energy Information Administration stated that production is up 6% from the first quarter of 2021. However, they added that the figure should even out at a 3% increase for the year. This is mainly because both US domestic coal consumption and exports were down by 4% in the first quarter of 2022.
On the contrary, global use of coal has been on the rise due to the energy crisis in Europe. China, too, has ramped up coal production and consumption to help drive its struggling economy. Furthermore, the European Union (EU), facing a possible curtailment in gas supply from Russia, recently received the green light from Brussels to increase its use of coal over the next decade. The European Commission estimated that 5% more coal would be used. However, that figure could shoot higher in the short term.
According to this Reuters report, some EU countries that were otherwise planning to exit coal usage are now seeing an increase in production and fossil-powered energy generation. In fact, the current demand for coal is so strong that even the Taliban Government in Afghanistan has hiked the price from US $90 to $200 per ton. The move came after Pakistan evinced interest in importing Afghan coal. The news came much to the discomfort of China, where some energy firms threatened a blockade of Afghan coal imports and exports.
The Ukraine War
- Russia’s Goals In Ukraine Now Expand Beyond Donbas Popular Resistance
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday that Russia’s goals in Ukraine are now expanded beyond the Donbas region, citing the failed peace talks and Western military aid to Ukraine.
When Russia pulled its forces out of areas in northern Ukraine, Moscow said it would focus on the “liberation” of the breakaway Donbas republics, known as the Donestk People’s Republic (DPR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR). Lavrov’s comments are the first time a high-level Russian official acknowledged Moscow’s war aims extend beyond that region.
Lavrov said that geographical realities changed after Russian and Ukrainian negotiators failed to reach a breakthrough at talks that were held in Istanbul back in March. “Now the geography is different, it’s far from being just the DPR and LPR, it’s also Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions and a number of other territories,” the Russian foreign minister said.
- Residents of Mariupol try to survive among its ruins Reuters
It’s a slightly better article than I expected, but only slightly. I have no doubts that living in a city in the months after intense fighting there sucks, but the kind of almost… human zoo-esque reporting by Western media on Mariupol where they’re like “Every single building was savagely reduced to rubble by Russian forces, a billion people died, the heroic and amazing Azov division, who should stand as paragons of virtue in every public place in the West for a thousand years, had their Thermopylae last stand here, all the citizens are starving, they all hate Russia…” has been equally hilarious and infuriating compared to actual footage by people on the ground there, where people seem to be doing generally okay-if-not-good and have an understandably strong sense of community, and there are still houses and food and water and such.
Fighting for control of this strategic Ukrainian port city ended two months ago with victory for Russia after thousands were killed and hundreds of thousands forced to flee.
Many of those who are left in Mariupol now face a new battle: how to survive, said five residents interviewed by Reuters.
The struggle for this once bustling city of 430,000 on the shores of the Sea of Azov left it pulverised and with an estimated population in the tens of thousands.
On a recent visit by Reuters reporters, who were free to speak to locals and were not escorted by Russian-backed officials, five residents said they were struggling to get by despite efforts by the city’s Russian-installed administrators to try to rebuild.
“We hope, of course, for the best, but all this (optimism) is fading every day,” said Tatyana Khandeldy, as she sat outside on a stool with her neighbours surrounded by apartment blocks with their windows blown out, walls covered in bullet and shell holes.
“When the fighting was still going on, we ran on adrenaline to survive. And now the task is to survive so as not to starve to death.”
Sitting outside with her daughter Sofiya, Anna Malenko, 31, complained she had no work or money to buy food, while a man who gave his name only as Roman pointed to a concrete rubble-strewn wasteland that he said used to be a green yard where dozens of children once played.
“Now there are two or three children left here who really have nothing to do,” said Roman, who said he was a former factory worker.
He described his life as “Groundhog Day” – a monotonous daily grind which involved cooking on open fires in order to feed other locals and children.
Russian diplomats say Moscow is doing its best to return life to normal and Reuters reporters saw locals buying fresh bread in an open-air market.
In a Facebook post this week responding to comments from the White House about Russian plans to annex parts of Ukraine, Russia’s embassy in the United States said Moscow was returning peace to what it called “liberated territories.”
It said there were plans to build about 500 km (310 miles)of roads and bridges in the Donbas region, which includes Mariupol, by the end of this year and that what it called “12 modern condos and a medical centre with high-tech equipment” were being built in Mariupol. It said they should be completed by the autumn.
Despite the hardships, two women interviewed by Reuters said they welcomed Moscow’s rule.
“I dreamed all my life that Mariupol would join Russia,” said Khandeldy, the same woman who had complained of the constant struggle to get food.
Pushing a bicycle, Tamara Vasilenko, 63, a pensioner, said many people in the wider region had Russian roots.
“We are glad that we survived, and we are glad that we have found our children. The main thing I believe is that there will be peace here … and Russia will not abandon us.”
Amid the summer heat, cranes and excavators toiled to erect new apartment buildings, cars and cyclists trundled through the streets, and a few locals sunbathed on the shores of the Sea of Azov.
A World Health Organisation official and Ukrainian officials have warned that the city, without running water or functioning sewerage systems, is at risk of a cholera outbreak as rubbish and human remains rot beneath its rubble during the summer.
Bullet-riddled tanks, cars and vans baked in the summer sun, and near the twisted metal of the Azov steel plant, a man fished in a stream. Nearby a human skull lay beneath a sheet of metal.
Some residents interviewed by Reuters said they recognised things had got a little better since the fighting ended but said the overall situation remained dire.
Climate and Space
Dipshittery and Cope
- Zelenskiy says Ukraine can inflict major damage to Russian forces Reuters
Zelenskiy, speaking in a late-night video address, said the meeting had discussed the supply of modern weapons, adding the intensity of attacks on the Russians had to be stepped up.
. “(We) agreed that our forces have the strong potential to advance on the battlefield and inflict significant new losses on the occupiers,” he said.
- Russia hasn’t destroyed any of the devastating HIMARS artillery given Ukraine, US says, contradicting Russia’s own claims Business Insider
Russia has not destroyed any of the HIMARS artillery which the US gave to Ukraine, General Mark Milley said.
Speaking at a Wednesday Pentagon press conference, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff said: “To date, those systems have not been eliminated by the Russians.”
Milley acknolwedged that the systems are at risk, adding “I knock on wood every time I say something like that.”
Kinda like that oft-repeated statistic that Russia has actually lost more planes than Ukraine?
- Italy’s latest government crisis is no laughing matter WaPo
It’s so fucking awesome that every single time a western government is under any significant pressure from any significant force, left wing or right wing (probably mostly right wing), the framing is going to be “How does this help Putin?” I think Putin Derangement Syndrome is going to be the global version of Trump Derangement Syndrome. It was pioneered in America and like every American “cultural” artifact, it will be exported around the world until everybody is equally as insane as a pro-Democrat journalist in 2018 watching Trump accidentally squirt ketchup on the Constitution or whatever he was doing then.
Cue the laugh track: The government of Italy, the 69th in 77 years since World War II, has fallen. To outside observers, it’s tempting to chortle at the Southern European country’s stereotypical instability. Yet the resignation of Prime Minister Mario Draghi on Thursday, after 18 months in office, is no laughing matter. Mr. Draghi’s government was Italy’s most competent and promising one in many years. His ouster amid petty partisan squabbles — to be followed by a new election in the fall — presents Europe with a new crisis when it already has its hands full with securing energy supplies, stabilizing its currency and, above all, confronting Russian aggression. Vladimir Putin could exploit the situation.
A political independent whose previous performance as president of the European Central Bank many credited with saving the European single currency — the euro — the 74-year-old Mr. Draghi possesses unusual technical knowledge and personal credibility. This is why a critical mass of Italy’s fractious political parties united behind him in a national unity government in the first place. It is why the European Union trusted him to push through overdue economic reforms in return for 200 billion euros of pandemic recovery funding. And it is why Mr. Draghi had helped Italy regain influence in E.U. diplomacy — influence he used to help forge Europe’s united front of support for Ukraine, despite Italy’s dependence on Russian gas.
The proximate cause of Mr. Draghi’s downfall is the swift rise of the Brothers of Italy, a far-right opposition party. Hemorrhaging support to the Brothers, both in opinion polls and in the results of recent local elections, right-wing and left-wing populist parties that had supported Mr. Draghi’s national unity government defected, thinking they stood a better chance of clinging to power if national elections were moved up from their previously scheduled June 2023 date. The Brothers’ rise is troubling in itself. Party leader Giorgia Meloni spouts anti-immigrant and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. Even more troubling, though, is that her party could get the most votes in the fall and form a populist right-wing government in coalition with Mr. Draghi’s former conservative backers.
Despite some pro-Putin statements in the recent past, Ms. Meloni has more recently condemned his war and supported arming Ukraine — Mr. Draghi’s policy. Indeed, she has supported that policy more than some of the politicians who brought down Mr. Draghi’s government and might go into coalition with her after new elections.
The ultimate posture of the next Italian government — on Ukraine and other issues — is therefore not easy to predict. Even if the Italian right’s propensity for overt pro-Putin sentiment does not ultimately carry the day, uncertainty in the coming weeks — with crucial battles looming in Ukraine — still presents a problem. Mr. Putin prefers to confront a Europe that struggles to act collectively. With at least temporary leadership vacuums at hand in both Britain and Italy, and the parliamentary majority of French President Emmanuel Macron freshly diminished, the Russian leader surely senses opportunity. Through their votes this fall, Italians can and must deny him.
- Why Europe is tougher than you thought WaPo
After hearing about how Italy is collapsing, let’s now hear about how great Europe is doing, actually.
Europeans may be baking in an epic heat wave, but Russian President Vladimir Putin has succeeded in focusing their thoughts on the coming winter. By temporarily shutting down a crucial pipeline in the past few days, Russia has signaled that it is prepared to cut off its natural gas supply, leaving a gas-dependent continent without enough energy to meet winter energy demands. Factories may be forced to close, consumers may have to ration heating and a recession is likely.
But if Putin thinks Europe will buckle, he’s wrong. Europe will do what it takes to get through the crisis and will come out stronger because of it.
I cannot stress enough how hilarious this framing is. I feel like almost every day, I say the same thing, and today is no different: Europe put sanctions on Russia! This was ENTIRELY self-imposed! If Russia was putting sanctions on Europe (I suppose they technically are now, but in the first few months they sure weren’t) then maybe you could legitimately talk about “withstanding” and “refusing to buckle” and so on. But what’s actually happening here is that Europe is shining a laser at a mirror, and it’s burning their retinas, and they’re going “If Putin thinks that we’ll give up just because our eyes hurt, then he’s got another thing coming!” while Putin looks on in complete confusion.
Europe is paying for a catastrophic German policy choice. During the 16 years of Angela Merkel’s tenure as chancellor, Germany doubled down on its dependence on Russian fossil fuels. The abundance of cheap Russian gas has fueled Germany’s export economy and also enabled Merkel’s decision to close Germany’s nuclear power plants after the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Rarely has a policy choice had such direct, catastrophic consequences. If the gas is turned off, the German economy — and the European Union’s — is going to suffer severely.
Russia is feeling the bite of sanctions imposed by the West after the invasion of Ukraine. Putin hopes that turning off the flow of gas will make Europe back down. He is probably expecting howls of pain from business communities and ordinary voters to push politicians into providing sanctions relief in exchange for opening up the gas taps. Many analysts in the United States and Europe fear a collapse of political will in Europe. “Russia is blackmailing us,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday.
“And he’s right about that. Look at France! Look at the UK! Look at Italy! Look at Germany!” End article. Wait, that’s not the next line? Oh god. Oh no.
But shutting off the gas to Europe won’t cause Europe to buckle. Over the past decade, Europe has shown time and time again that it is not soft. No, the E.U. will in fact do whatever it takes to get through this crisis.
When the euro was on the verge of collapse, then-European Central Bank President Mario Draghi vowed to “do whatever it takes” to save the currency. After populism surged in response to the migration crisis, the E.U. adopted a hard-line stance, cutting a deal to buy off Turkey to keep migrants and creating an armed border guard service. When migrants were forcibly being kept out of the E.U. in Greece and Poland, resulting in deaths, von der Leyen flew in not to condemn the response but to show solidarity. When covid struck, the economic hit was predicted to destroy the E.U. Instead, Brussels borrowed money for the first time, bought vaccines and came out stronger. After Russia invaded Ukraine, threatening Europe’s security, the E.U. shocked the world with the strength of its sanctions, increases in defense spending and the willingness to provide lethal weapons. Europe protects its union.
Instead of weakening Europe’s resolve to stand by Ukraine, cutting off gas will reinforce it. European leaders will not be caught off guard. They believe that Russia will cut off the gas and are making it clear that Putin is to blame. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky harshly criticized an agreement between Europe and Canada to export a gas turbine to Russian energy giant Gazprom to upgrade the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, but that was actually a deft political move. German politicians are making it clear to their publics that they want the gas to flow, and if it stops it is because Putin cut it off. Putin will be the one causing this hardship, not Europe. A recent poll shows that an overwhelming 70 percent of Germans want to continue backing Ukraine. Cutting off gas will not soften, but harden, European attitudes toward Russia.
Again, all polls are fake, but that one is even faker than the rest of them, and runs against every other poll showing the decreasing resistance of Europeans against the Ukraine War. There was a poll just a day or so ago in the UK showing exactly this.
Meanwhile, the E.U. is putting itself on an (energy) war footing. On Wednesday, von der Leyen announced that the E.U. states may have to ration their gas use by 15 percent. The E.U. has also pushed bold proposals to reduce reliance on Russia. Germany’s economy minister, Robert Habeck, trusted by climate activists and the business community, is leading the way. His willingness to build new energy links and infrastructure, to open new LNG terminals, to travel to Qatar to buy gas, and even to expand coal use has demonstrated that he is willing to do whatever it takes to get through the crisis.
Europe’s focus on getting through the winter has led to concerns that the climate agenda has been abandoned. On the contrary, Europe is also accelerating the clean transition and acting with a degree of urgency not thought possible. Europeans, desperately in need of new energy sources, are ramming through projects that might otherwise take years to receive approval. While emissions may increase in the next few years due to increased coal use, the E.U. is likely to dramatically reduce its carbon output in the years to follow. In stark contrast to the United States, the E.U. is positioning itself to show the world how an economy can rapidly decarbonize.
Crises strengthen, not weaken, Europe’s union. Time and time again, Europeans unify in response to a crisis. Even if Europe faces a cold winter, there is no reason to think this time will be any different.
The EU is dying, and has been dying for years now. It will not survive the coming world in the form we currently understand it. But, of course, to quote Upton Sinclair, it is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it, and I’m assuming a person with the title “the director for Europe at the Center for Strategic and International Studies” is paid to not understand it.
- The White House is getting out ahead of expected dismal economic growth numbers next week and pointing out that the US isn’t really in a recession Business Insider
“This is Putin’s recession, Putin’s inflation, and especially Putin’s decades of deindustrialization leading to Putin’s conversion of the American economy into almost entirely service-based with Putin’s jenga tower of financial bloat and subprime mortgages and cryptocurrency and NFTs resting atop it, turning us into Putin’s nation of hapless consumers waiting for the biosphere to turn us into mulch while we play Putin’s VR Assassin’s Creed 23.
Pessimism about the economy is growing among many voters with prices rising at their fastest pace in four decades. Multiple polls indicate that at least half of Americans believe the US is in a recession, despite the economy adding jobs at a robust clip and unemployment holding steady.
But the Biden administration appears to be bracing for what’s expected to be a batch of dismal economic data capable of further fueling GOP attacks.
The first reading of second-quarter gross domestic product is due for release on July 28, and estimates vary widely. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg forecast an annualized growth rate of 0.9% through the three-month period, up from the first quarter’s 1.6% decline but still a relatively slow pace. Yet the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s GDPNow model pegs second-quarter growth at -1.6%.
Should the Thursday report show output shrinking again, debate around the economy’s health will quickly intensify. The rule-of-thumb definition of a downturn has long been back-to-back quarters of negative GDP. The coming data release could very well show just that, but the White House is already explaining why defining a recession requires much more nuance.
For one, the National Bureau of Economic Research has much more stringent criteria for deciding when a recession starts, members of the White House Council of Economic Advisors wrote in a Thursday blog post. The organization — which serves as the semi-official authority for deciding when business cycles start and end — defines a recession as “a significant decline in economic activity that is spread across the economy and lasts more than a few months.” It also considers factors such as employment, consumer spending, and industrial production.
That looser definition makes it less likely the US is actually in an economic slump, the team said. The variables the NBER tracks have shown “strong growth” since the start of the pandemic and continued to improve through the first half of 2022. The unemployment rate remains a historically low 3.6%, and monthly job creation in the second quarter handily surpassed the pre-pandemic trend.
Inflation, rising interest rates, and easing demand all pose significant risks to the recovery, but even if the coming GDP report reveals another quarter of contraction, the economy is still broadly in good health, the economists said.
“Recession probabilities are never zero, but trends in the data through the first half of this year used to determine a recession are not indicating a downturn,” they said.
Even first-quarter GDP wasn’t indicative of an economy in recession, the team added. Overall growth was dragged lower by temporary trends that say little about the economy’s actual strength. A drop in business inventories subtracted about 0.8 percentage points from growth, but the decline was merely a reversion after firms invested heavily in inventory build-up at the end of 2021.
- China wants to ‘reduce misunderstanding’ with the U.S. It could start by talking. WaPo
Chinese Ambassador Qin Gang assured a foreign policy gathering here this week that Beijing wants “to reduce misunderstanding and miscalculation” with the United States. If that’s true, why does China continue to resist a U.S. proposal to discuss “strategic stability” between the two increasingly competitive countries?
President Biden said on Wednesday, before his covid-19 diagnosis was announced, that he expects to talk with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in the next 10 days, and a senior administration official said the president’s agenda will include a renewed emphasis on the risks in the relationship, and the need to establish better communications. But, so far, the official said of the Chinese, “they haven’t taken us up” on a U.S. proposal for the stability talks.
This difficulty in developing a Sino-U.S. dialogue about strategic issues has frustrated the Biden administration. An important lesson of the Cold War was that nuclear-armed superpowers must communicate to avoid dangerous mistakes. But China has resisted arms-control talks even as it expands its nuclear arsenal, and as a result, it hasn’t learned a common language for crisis management in the way the Soviet Union did.
Biden first proposed the talks in a virtual summit with Xi last November, saying the two countries needed “common-sense guardrails to ensure that competition does not veer into conflict,” according to a White House statement at the time. Items on the agenda for such talks would include expansion of a 1998 agreement for avoiding maritime incidents, measures to avert dangerous military activities, and plans for a hotline and other crisis communication measures, the administration official said.
Rather than embracing what former Australian prime minister and China scholar Kevin Rudd calls “managed strategic competition” in a new Foreign Affairs article, Beijing insists the United States should return to its old policies of supportive engagement, which facilitated China’s rise. Like nearly every other Chinese diplomat I’ve encountered over the past decade, Qin often repeated the phrase “win-win cooperation,” which China sees as a cure-all for its increasingly testy relationship with Washington.
China wants to have it both ways as a superpower: flexing its muscles without being seen as a bully. Xi has been explicit in his “Made in China 2025” plans for dominance of major technologies. But China “has difficulty in recognizing the relationship [with the United States] as competitive,” the senior administration official said. Instead, it responds to criticism from the U.S. and Asian regional powers with a wounded tone, as though to say, “Who, us?”
I think it’s completely possible for a superpower to have a strong defensive policy without also feeling the need to put over 700 military bases around the world and killing millions every decade in incredibly asymmetrical wars. My evidence is the nation of China.
Framing a strong and sustainable U.S.-China policy remains the Biden administration’s biggest long-term challenge, despite the current preoccupation with the war in Ukraine. Beijing is the only competitor that could genuinely challenge the United States militarily, officials believe. But Ukraine has complicated U.S.-China policy — for both sides.
Here is where the dipshittery really begins.
Chinese leaders have been “unsettled” by Ukraine, CIA Director William J. Burns told the Aspen Security Forum here, speaking a few hours after Qin. The war has drawn the United States and its European allies closer together, confounding Beijing’s hopes of dividing the transatlantic alliance, Burns said. He also noted that China has been “careful” not to violate U.S. sanctions against Russia. Even flagship companies such as telecommunications giant Huawei have reduced their business with Moscow, for fear of new penalties from Europe and the United States.
Xi was surprised that the Biden administration, which the Chinese expected would be weak and ineffective abroad, has been able to rally global support for Ukraine.
There’s really two angles to attack this from. First - why on god’s green earth would China think that America - the current powerhouse of global hegemony and possessor of the petrodollar - would have a weak and ineffective global policy? It seems to me that they’re retrospectively asserting that the expectations for the Biden admin by foreign critics to be zero, and so anything done at all on the world stage is therefore evidence of how we’re doing so much better than those critics said we would. Second - Biden’s admin has, in fact, been less effective than previous admins have been compared to the last few decades, and the idea that there is “global support for Ukraine” is David Ignatus (or Burns, or whoever expressed this sentiment) lying through his teeth. Maybe there’s some thesis-antithesis-synthesis way of combining those two angles, idk.
But despite Xi’s wariness of incurring sanctions, he remains firmly aligned with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the senior administration official said. Hopes that the war might encourage a break between Beijing and Moscow were misplaced.
The article goes onto talk about Taiwan for a couple paragraphs, none of which is any useful analysis.
Bloomerism and Hope
- China’s ‘zero covid’ policy has been a nightmare for U.S. diplomats Washington Post
In its zealous effort to contain the coronavirus, the Chinese government has trampled on the rights of U.S. diplomats to an extent previously unknown, compelling the State Department to take drastic measures to protect them. Beijing’s heavy-handed pandemic practices have forced the United States’ representatives there to live in constant fear.
Great! Fuck those guys!
For the past two years, U.S. diplomatic personnel in China have been forced to confront the risk of being detained or separated from their family members for either testing positive for the coronavirus or being deemed a “close contact” of someone who has. In fact, 16 U.S. diplomatic personnel or their family members have been sent, against their will, to Chinese government medical quarantine centers since the pandemic began, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing confirmed to me.
“B-buh I’m important! I’m a diplomat! Y-you can’t take me just because I’m coughing my lungs out!"
U.S. diplomats in China were so afraid that they petitioned the State Department earlier this year to allow them to leave the country if the U.S. government couldn’t protect Americans from forced covid-related detention. After several meetings with senior Chinese foreign ministry officials, Burns secured a promise that U.S. diplomats and their family members would not be forced into fever clinics, but rather allowed to quarantine in their homes or at the embassy.
In another policy change, if any U.S. diplomat in China now tests positive and the Chinese government can’t be persuaded to exempt them from going to a fever clinic, the State Department will immediately evacuate them to another country. These measures seem to be working. Since Burns arrived March 28, no American diplomats have been forcibly quarantined, although several had to be evacuated already this year, he said.
Even while trying to protect their own families from China’s zero-covid measures, U.S. diplomats in China have been working overtime to help Americans cope with the restrictions. The State Department evacuated most of its diplomatic personnel from Shanghai during the city’s two-month lockdown this year but simultaneously stood up an 80-person consular team to help Americans leave or at least to provide them some support.
This was not the mission Burns anticipated when he got the job to represent the United States in Beijing. China’s zero-covid policy has made it excruciatingly difficult for U.S. diplomats to do the core work of diplomacy, Burns told me, which is to travel around the country and engage with regular Chinese citizens.
Complete fucking cowards. This is so fucking funny. Shame that China gave in and let them just leave the country. Xi, do better.