Link back to the discussion thread.


Europe

  • EU sanctions tweak to unblock Russian oil deals with third countries Reuters

Russian state-owned companies Rosneft and Gazprom will be able to ship oil to third countries under an adjustment of European Union sanctions agreed by member states this week aimed at limiting the risks to global energy security.

Major trading houses such as Vitol, Glencore and Trafigura as well as oil majors such as Shell and Total have stopped trading Russian oil for third parties, citing EU sanctions, including restrictions on insurance.

Purchases of Russian seaborne crude oil by EU companies and its export to third countries is allowed, but under tweaks to sanctions on Russia that came into force on Friday payments related to such shipments would not be banned.

“With a view to avoid any potential negative consequences for food and energy security around the world, the EU decided to extend the exemption from the prohibition to engage in transactions with certain state-owned entities as regards transactions for agricultural products and the transport of oil to third countries,” the EU said in a statement on Thursday.

Trading house sources had said EU restrictions would have led to China and India buying oil via smaller private traders and Russian oil trade migrating into grey areas with weak insurance against accidents and being handled by older ships.

  • EU debates revised plan to reduce gas use after opposition Reuters

European envoys debated revisions on Friday to a proposal by the EU executive that all bloc members cut natural gas use to prepare for potential Russian supply cuts, hoping for a compromise by next week after some governments balked at the plan.

The European Commission proposed on Wednesday that all EU countries should cut their gas use from August to March by 15%. The target would initially be voluntary, but would become mandatory if the Commission declared an emergency.

But from the outset, the proposal met criticism from a range of countries. Spain, Portugal and Greece are among the most openly hostile, while diplomats say Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands and Poland also have reservations about giving the Commission the power to order cuts.

Ukraine

  • Ukraine to make seeking Russian passport a crime RT

Trying to obtain Russian citizenship as a Ukrainian could soon become a criminal offense, the country’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories Irina Vereschuk warned on Friday.

Russia

  • Russia slashes key interest rate RT

The Central Bank of Russia (CBR) cut its key interest rate on Friday from 9.5% to 8.0%, citing a further slowdown in annual inflation and subdued consumer demand. The cut was bigger than predicted by any of the Bloomberg-surveyed economists.

According to the bank’s statement, the decline in business activity has proven slower than had been expected in June.

“However, the external environment for the Russian economy remains challenging and continues to significantly constrain economic activity,” CBR said.

It also indicated that further rate reductions may follow in the second half of the year.

  • Fate of dollar in Russia revealed RT

The Central Bank of Russia plans to extend restrictions on cash withdrawals in US dollars and euros in September, Governor Elvira Nabiullina said at a press conference on Friday. She noted that the decision was prompted by EU and US sanctions banning the import of the banknotes of their respective currencies to Russia.

“Unfortunately, we now have no reason to expect the situation with foreign currency to change for the better in the future… Therefore, in September we will be forced to extend the restrictions that were introduced in early March,” Nabiullina added.

She noted, however, that even in the worst-case scenario, the circulation of foreign currency in Russia would continue.

“Even in the most apocalyptic scenario, in the most difficult scenario, cash dollars will circulate in our country. According to our estimates, the population has only about $85 billion in foreign currency cash, both in dollars and euros. Now banks can sell and buy this currency, so the circulation of cash will continue,” she stated.

  • Russia announces plan for bond market RT

The Russian Finance Ministry has announced a return to the public debt market by placing a limited amount of OFZs, Russian sovereign bonds, on sale in September, Deputy Finance Minister Timur Maksimov told Prime news agency on Thursday.

“We think that in the second half of September, after the government approves the drafts [of the Russian budget for 2023-2025] and submits them to the State Duma, we can enter the market with some volumes,” Maksimov said, replying to a question about the ministry’s plans for domestic loans.

According to the official, the first bond offer will be relatively small, from 10 to 30 billion rubles ($175-$500 million), so the sudden change does not “startle” the market.

“At first, there will be very limited volumes, just so that the reentry is smooth, so we don’t shock anyone with this program,” the deputy minister explained, noting that the final volumes will be decided upon after the ministry meets with investors to assess their appetite.

  • Russia won’t supply oil to ‘price cap’ participants — head of Central Bank RT

Russia will stop supplying countries that cap the price of its oil, the nation’s Central Bank head Elvira Nabiullina announced on Friday. Moscow has argued that a price ceiling would make oil more expensive and hurt Russian producers.

Nabiullina said that instead of complying with a price limit, Russia would redirect its supply to countries not imposing such a limit.

Her comments came a day after Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak issued a similar warning, telling Russia’s Channel One that a price cap would drive revenue lower than the cost of production, and that Russia’s producers “simply will not work a negative profit.”

  • Tobacco giant to quit Russia RT

Philip Morris International CEO Jacek Olczak said on Thursday that the tobacco firm will wrap up its business in Russia by the end of the year. The corporation, whose cancer-causing products are sold in 180 countries worldwide, announced the pullout in March, in the wake of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine.

“We are working hard to conclude our presence in Russia but I don’t think it’s going to happen in the time frame of the next quarter,” Olczak told Bloomberg Television. The CEO added that withdrawing from Russia is “a pretty complicated process,” which should be finished “around year end.”

  • Putin’s army is guzzling gas and Russians are stuck vacationing at home — boosting the country’s oil production to a 5-month high Business Insider

A gas-guzzling army and a boom in summer driving is ramping up domestic demand for oil in Russia and leading to a sharp drop in exports to Asia, according to energy consultancy Kpler.

Russian oil production stood at around 10.8 million barrels per day in July, data shared with Insider by Kpler showed — the highest level since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February.

Production initially dropped from 11 million barrels a day in February to 10 million in April as the war and resulting sanctions rocked Russia’s economy. However, India and China quickly stepped up their purchases of the country’s crude, which has been trading at a discount on international markets.

An impending European Union ban on Russian oil imports is likely to cause its output to fall by more than 1 million barrels per day before the end of 2022, analysts say.

Right now, though, a rebound in domestic demand has helped Russian production climb for the third month running.

Many Russian airlines have been banned from flying over Europe, severely limiting foreign vacations for the sanctioned country’s residents. That’s led to a boom in trips at home, which has caused demand for motor and jet fuel to soar, according to Kpler analyst Viktor Katona.

Germany

  • Germany’s Schaeuble calls on Berlin to help fund French nukes Reuters

Germany should contribute towards the costs of France’s nuclear arsenal as the threat of nuclear war with Russia looms over Europe, German political veteran Wolfgang Schaeuble said in an interview published on Saturday.

“Now that Putin’s accomplices are threatening a nuclear strike every day, one thing is clear to me: we need nuclear deterrence at the European level as well,” Schaeuble, a former finance minister who has served as a member of the German parliament for five decades, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

France has such weapons, he said, adding: “In our own interest, we Germans must make a financial contribution to the French nuclear force in return for a joint nuclear deterrent.”

The conservative, who has long been a passionate supporter of European integration, became a European household name during the 2012 eurozone debt crisis, when fans hailed him as a guardian of fiscal rectitude even as opponents accused him of imposing damaging austerity on Greece and other indebted countries.

Switzerland

  • Switzerland Releases Emergency Oil Reserves Oil Price

Switzerland will release oil from its emergency reserves as it lowers the obligatory levels of petroleum stocks by 6.5% due to low water levels on the Rhine River and chaos in railway transportation, the government said on Friday.

A spokesperson for the government confirmed to Reuters that the decision to reduce the mandatory stock level by 6.5% between July 25 and the beginning of September would include the release of reserves.

United Kingdom

It takes an advanced level of denial to dismiss the climate crisis during a record-shattering heatwave, but some rightwing British media gave it their best shot.

Talk Radio host Julia Hartley-Brewer invited listeners to shrug off not just a vast body of scientific research but the evidence of their own sweat glands in a manufactured clash with climate campaigner Leo Murray. (Don’t read the comments, for your sanity.)

The Daily Mail newspaper mocked “snowflake Britain” on its front page one day and reported a “nightmare of wildfires” the next, without any sign of self-reflection.

Those attitudes are out of step with a clear majority of people, in the UK and globally, who are worried about climate change and want to see more action to tackle it.

Unfortunately, the task of choosing the UK’s next prime minister falls to a group of people that is likely to get its news from such sources: Conservative Party members.

As the field narrowed to two contenders this week, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, they affirmed their commitment to the UK’s net zero emissions target but had little to say on how to deliver.

Lithuania

  • EU member resumes sanctioned goods transit RT

Lithuanian Railways resumed the transit of sanctioned goods from Russia to its exclave, Kaliningrad, starting on July 22, Mantas Dubauskas, spokesman for LTG Cargo, the freight subsidiary of Lithuanian Railways, said on LRT TV on Friday.

“Customers are informed that it is already possible to transport, since we have received [EU] clarifications… If clients make it in time to transport [the cargo] today, then it is possible that some products will be shipped today,” Dubauskas said, as cited by TASS.

Hungary

  • Orban urges new EU strategy on Ukraine, says sanctions have failed Reuters

The European Union needs a new strategy on the war in Ukraine as sanctions against Moscow have not worked, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Saturday.

“A new strategy is needed which should focus peace talks and drafting a good peace proposal…instead of winning the war,” Orban said in a speech in Romania.

Asia and Oceania

China

  • China’s Xinjiang warns of floods, cotton risks amid sizzling heatwaves Reuters

I can’t believe China is intentionally flooding the Uighyrs.

China’s Xinjiang on Saturday warned of more flash floods and mudslides and risks to agriculture as heatwaves swept across the region, accelerating the pace of glacial melt and posing hazards for its vast cotton production.

China has been baked by above-normal summer heat since June, with some meteorologists blaming climate change. The excessively hot weather has driven up demand for electricity to cool homes, offices and factories. In agricultural regions, drought has been a concern.

Xinjiang’s latest heatwaves have been particularly long lasting and widespread, Chen Chunyan, chief expert at the Xinjiang Meteorological Observatory, told state media.

She noted the extreme weather in the south and east of the region, more than twice the size of France, has already lasted for about 10 days.

  • US Navy stepping up activities in South China Sea, says Chinese think tank SCMP

US Navy warships and aeroplanes have stepped up activities in the disputed South China Sea, with a guided missile destroyer entering waters claimed by China three times in a week, according to the head of a Beijing-based think tank.

The USS Benfold transited the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday, after sailing near the disputed Spratly Islands on July 16 and the Paracel Islands on July 13 during what the United States calls freedom of navigation operations.

Describing Benfold’s movements as provocative, Hu Bo, director of the Beijing-based South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative, said it was rare to see a single US warship challenge China’s claimed territorial waters three times in such a short period.

“There has never been such a situation before as far as I can remember,” Hu said. “Benfold looks like it is catching up to a schedule.”

Middle East

Israel/Palestine

I guess this should be in Dipshittery and Cope, but then, almost everything Israel does could be put there, so…

  • Israeli group urges US to label UN Human Rights Council a ‘hate group’ Middle East Eye

An Israeli organisation has called on the US to label the United Nations Human Rights Council as a hate organisation, accusing it of antisemitism for its probes into Israeli abuses of Palestinians.

In a letter sent to Deborah Lipstadt, the US special envoy for antisemitism, Shurat HaDin said the UNHRC is an “inherently antisemitic organization” and that it is working to delegitimise Israel by “reviving the banner of ‘Zionism is racism’.”

“The UNHRC is deeply infected with antisemitism and should be regarded as one of the largest perpetrators of Jew hatred internationally,” the group argues in its letter.

“The agency’s obsession with Israel [and] the themes and motives that guide the UNHRC and its actions portray numerous indications of antisemitism according to the internationally accepted IHRA definition.”

Saudi Arabia

  • Saudi Arabia Has Big Plans To Boost Oil Export Capacity Oil Price

Saudi Arabia expects to have freed up to 1 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil for exports by 2030 by cutting its direct oil use in power generation as it looks to replace petroleum liquids with gas-powered generation and renewables, Energy Intelligence reports, quoting industry sources.

Saudi Arabia relies on crude and fuel oil for electricity generation and cranks up direct crude and fuel burns during the scorching summer months.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s top crude oil exporter, currently generates 51 percent of its electricity from petroleum liquids, and 49 percent from natural gas, sources with knowledge of the Saudi energy mix told Energy Intelligence.

The Saudi plan, also part of its 2060 net-zero goal, entails having up to 50 percent of electricity coming from renewable energy and up to 55 percent from gas, according to Energy Intelligence’s sources.

Natural gas, the famous non-CO2 emitting fuel source. But then, I suppose the EU just called it a green source of energy, so nobody’s out there leading by example or anything.

Iraq

  • China to construct two solar power projects in southern Iraq Iraqi News

Two solar power projects were reportedly given to Chinese corporations by Iraq. This is in accordance with a contract deal between Iraq and China that was reached in 2019 led by former Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi.

Both solar installations are in the Al-Muthanna Governorate, which borders Saudi Arabia in southern Iraq. The solar projects have a total capacity of 130 MW and 500 MW, respectively and will be distributed across the Governorate.

With goals to raise renewable energy to 20% of the total energy supply, Iraq has given multiple solar power contracts to international companies including TotalEnergies.

Today, Iraq is suffering from acute power shortages because of corruption and war damages to the energy industry. Being OPEC’s second largest oil producer, Iraq is still reliant on Iranian gas imports for its electricity and until recently, it has looked to diversify its gas import by crafting new agreements with Saudi Arabia.

Iran

In his Washington Post op-ed prior to his trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia, Joe Biden argued that he has brought the United States back in from the cold, and has returned Iran back to its isolated status.

The Biden administration remains intransigent in its preference for isolating Tehran, which has been the predominant U.S. strategy since the 1980s. In the four decades since, subsequent U.S. administrations have gone from “dual containment” to containing the “axis of evil” in the post-9/11 era, with little change in how Iran is perceived and approached. While the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign has been harshly criticized by many as being ineffective or even counterproductive, it didn’t differ significantly from previous decades’ U.S. policy in anything other than tone and intensity.

Similarly, Biden’s policy on Iran and the broader region is following the same footsteps. Just as Trump’s summit in Warsaw on peace and security in the Middle East in February 2019 succeeded in provoking escalation by Iran as a response to its isolation, Biden’s proposed security initiatives between Israel and Arab states are destined to increase tensions and very possibly lead to an outright military conflict in the region.

The sense of exclusion may eliminate the emerging interests in Iran for regional de-escalation and economic cooperation, and ultimately push Tehran further towards the types of policies that are opposed by other regional actors. Washington’s strategy will continue to push Iran to ensure its resistance to external pressure, maximize its economic and military capacities, and focus its energy on building relations with those states that have no interest in participating in the pressure campaign.

There is an enormous opportunity involved in reversing this futile strategy of exclusion. This is evidently something that many regional states have already started to take a note of, as seen in their efforts to engage Iran diplomatically following the tumultuous period the region went through in 2019 and 2020 — primarily as a result of and despite the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign.

The recent developments in the geopolitics of the broader Middle East make it evident that the overarching root cause to the tensions is actually the malaise that has been disrupting regional diplomacy: exclusionism. It is evident that countries in the region are starting to recognize this and that the current path of fluctuating yet recurring tensions is not sustainable.

For example, the accelerating pace of reciprocal visits between the UAE and Iran and the potential return of their respective ambassadors signal Abu Dhabi’s recognition of the necessity of diplomatic engagement with Tehran. While there is a push for normalizing relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, Riyadh has itself been diplomatically engaging Tehran as well. These modifications of perspective among U.S. partners should create sufficient space for policymakers in Washington to reconsider their views as well, specifically their assumptions about the inevitability of conflicts and crises in the region.

The article goes on to talk about the Iran Deal, then:

If the nuclear agreement is not revived, Washington seems intent on escalating tensions through regional partnerships and alliances designed to isolate Tehran. This is dangerous, but it also does not have serious backing from the immediate region either. None of the GCC states prefer a military conflict with Iran. The region already witnessed and suffered the damage that could be inflicted from the military tit-for-tat in 2019 — from the drone and missile attacks against Saudi Arabia’s oil instillations in Khurais and Abqaiq to the mine and drone attacks off the coast of UAE’s Fujairah. The ongoing diplomatic engagements with Tehran illustrate their desire to prevent the region from sliding back into that situation. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have clearly stated their desire for more cooperation with Iran and resolving their differences with Tehran through diplomatic means.

Africa

  • President Macron on Monday begins a three nation tour of western African states Iraqi News

France Stay Out Of Africa For At Least Ten Seconds Challenge: difficulty = ludicrous.

President Emmanuel Macron on Monday begins a three-nation tour of western African states in the first trip to Africa of his new term as he seeks to reboot France’s post-colonial relationship with the continent.

Macron will begin his July 25-28 tour, also the first venture outside Europe of his new mandate, with a visit to Cameroon, before moving on to Benin and then finishing the trip in Guinea-Bissau.

Top of the agenda in the talks will be food supply issues, with African nations fearing shortages especially of grain due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

But security will also loom large as France prepares to complete its pullout from Mali this year, with all countries in the region seeking to head off fears of Islamist insurgencies.

  • ‘The deal should help us breathe’: Africa welcomes Russia-Ukraine grain deal. NYT

It’ll be pretty awesome when the western media just stop focussing on Africa because they played their part as the poor victims for cynical journalists to point to as an example of Putin’s evil, and while many on the continent are still largely starving, nobody will be talking about it because it would disrupt the narrative that actually unblocking Ukraine’s ports wasn’t the panacea or even the most important factor - it was all the history leading up to this point of these countries being forced to give up their own agriculture almost literally at gunpoint so that they need to buy it from the US. Pretty epic future ahead of us.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

  • DRC to auction oil and gas permits in endangered gorilla habitat Guardian

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has announced it will auction oil and gas permits in critically endangered gorilla habitat and the world’s largest tropical peatlands next week. The sale raises concerns about the credibility of a forest protection deal signed with the country by Boris Johnson at Cop26.

On Monday, hydrocarbons minister Didier Budimbu said the DRC was expanding an auction of oil exploration blocks to include two sites that overlap with Virunga national park, a Unesco world heritage site home to Earth’s last remaining mountain gorillas.

The planned sale already included permits in the Cuvette Centrale tropical peatlands in the north-west of the country, which store the equivalent to three years’ global emissions from fossil fuels.

The Congo basin is the only major rainforest that sucks in more carbon than it emits and experts have described it as the worst place in the world to explore for fossil fuels.

Speaking to the Guardian, Budimbu acknowledged environmental concerns but defended his country’s right to exploits its natural resources. He said revenue from the oil and gas projects was needed to protect the Congo basin forest and to economically develop the country.

“We have a primary responsibility towards Congolese taxpayers who, for the most part, live in conditions of extreme precariousness and poverty, and aspire to a socio-economic wellbeing that oil exploitation is likely to provide for them,” he said.

Earlier this week, Budimbu told the Financial Times that Hollywood actors Ben Affleck and Leonardo DiCaprio had got “on their high horse” and helped halt oil and gas exploration in Virunga after a 2014 Netflix documentary, but said this time the DRC would not be stopped.

Nigeria

  • Nigeria Unable To Benefit From High Oil Prices Oil Price

Nigeria’s debt has exceeded its revenue in the first four months of the year despite high oil prices, Nigeria’s Budget Office has revealed on its website.

Oil-rich Nigeria, unlike other crude oil producers, has found it impossible to reap the benefits of today’s high oil prices, with oil revenues coming in 61% below target during the period. That’s despite crude oil trading at highs not seen in years.

Nigeria’s crude oil production was relatively steady at 1.376 million bpd in the first quarter of this year compared to the previous quarter, according to OPEC’s Monthly Oil Market Report, and 34,000 bpd below the same quarter last year. While Nigiera’s production slipped further in June 2022 to 1.238 million bpd, Nigeria’s oil revenue problem didn’t stem from a drop in production.

Instead, Nigeria continues to battle oil theft, pipeline vandalism, and most critically, high gasoline prices, which the country subsidizes.

Libya

  • Clashes Break Out In Tripoli As Libya Resumes Oil Exports Oil Price

Clashes broke out in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, overnight, between militia forces just days after a deal that saw the country relaunch oil production and exports after a months-long force majeure.

At least nine people had been confirmed dead and 25 injured, according to various local media reports, by Friday morning, with civilians caught in the crossfire between two militia groups, the Special Deterrence Force (SDF/Rada) and the Tripoli Revolutionary Brigades (TRB).

While the ultimate motive behind the clashes remains unclear at the time of writing, Libyan media speculate that fighting ensued over the SDF’s abduction of a TRB member and turf war that has seen the SDF assume control of some TRB positions in the capital.

North America

United States

  • Truck blockade of major California seaport stretches into day three Reuters

Independent truckers protesting California’s new “gig worker” law blockaded California’s No. 3 seaport for the third straight day on Friday, stranding cargo at the state’s top agricultural trade hub and adding to U.S. supply chain headaches.

Truck gates at all four Port of Oakland marine terminals remain closed to truck traffic on Friday. Oakland International Container Terminal (OICT), which handles about 70% of port cargo, restarted some work on ships, a port spokesperson said.

Oakland port truckers began actions against the law formally known as AB5 on Monday. They picketed and parked tractor-trailers to choke terminal gate access, grinding trade through the eighth-busiest U.S. container seaport to a virtual halt on Wednesday.

Idling the 2,100 trucks that ferry goods at the Northern California seaport each day is hindering exports of fresh beef and pork, dairy products and nuts as well as imports like green coffee, electronics and construction materials.

The law, which aims to clamp down on labor abuses, sets tougher standards for classifying workers as independent contractors.

Backers say it will stop companies from using those workers to avoid paying minimum wage, workers' compensation and other employee-related expenses. The independent drivers that AB5 aims to protect say the law would force them to shoulder hefty rental equipment and insurance costs that were formerly borne by the trucking companies that contract them for jobs.

Supporters of the law, including the Teamsters and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), say AB5 would push companies to hire drivers as employees. Those company drivers could then join unions and collectively bargain for better pay and working conditions.

Trucking organizations including the Harbor Trucking Association and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) have called on Governor Gavin Newsom to delay enforcement of the law. Newsom’s office has twice rebuffed those appeals.

Meanwhile, drivers like Carlos Flores say they will continue protesting until Newsom exempts port truckers from AB5.

Flores, who uses his own tractor to haul port freight, told Reuters the law would burden him with up to $30,000 per month in rental costs for chassis and other port equipment.

“AB5 would shut me down. I don’t have the resources to pay that kind of money,” said Flores, 42. “I’ve invested too much into my business to go to a company and work for hourly wages,” he said.

Canada

Since 2019, the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights has been conducting “a study on the extent and scope of forced and coerced sterilization of persons in Canada,” the findings of which were compiled in a report released on July 14, 2022.

Sterilization, or the permanent prevention of contraception by surgical means, is performed on hundreds of thousands of people annually, and according to Canadian and international law, the surgeon must acquire the “free and informed consent” of the patient before beginning the procedure. Forced sterilization occurs when a person has explicitly refused the procedure or has been subjected to the procedure without their knowledge. Coerced sterilization is when people are intimidated into undergoing the surgery or when they consent on the basis of incorrect information.

The Standing Committee report explicates a reality that Indigenous communities already know and suffer through: in the 1920s, official policies of forced sterilization were administered across Canada, and although these policies have been repealed, the genocidal practice continues to this day in a colonial health care system that already pathologizes Indigenous peoples in a way that other groups simply do not have to endure.

In the early twentieth century, numerous Canadian provinces passed laws intended to forcibly limit the birth rate of Indigenous peoples residing within the fledging nation’s borders, an act of genocide according to the UN definition of the term. “Through settler colonial policies” such as these, write Chaneesa Ryan, Abrar Ali, and Christine Shawana, “Indigenous populations in Canada have been targeted by various assimilation policies and practices including, among others, the Indian Act, residential schools, and the Sixties Scoop.” Forced and coerced sterilization, they explain, “continues the history of colonization and is designed to control and/or eliminate a population.”

Between 2015 and 2019, over 100 Indigenous women from Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, the Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Ontario, and Québec publicly asserted that they were survivors of forced or coerced sterilization procedures. The actual number is undoubtedly much higher, and more and more Indigenous women come forward every year to share their traumatic experiences. One study found that 26 percent of Inuit women between the ages of 30 and 50 in the town of Igloolik, Nunavut were sterilized against their will.

South America

  • Latin America up for increasingly worsening weather MercoPress

The consequences of climate change will continue to worsen in Latin America and the Caribbean, affecting health, development, and food supplies, according to a report from the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released Friday.

The document, titled “The State of Climate in Latin America and the Caribbean 2021” also heralded extreme weather, such as drought, melting ice and deforestation would continue with “profound repercussions” on ecosystems, on food and water security, on people’s health and on the fight against poverty.

“Unfortunately, impacts in the region are expected to worsen as the atmosphere and oceans continue to change rapidly. Food and water supplies will be affected. Countries and cities, as well as the infrastructure needed to support them, will be exposed to increasing risks. People’s health and well-being will be adversely affected, as will natural ecosystems,” the report goes.

The document also showed that the warming trend in Latin America and the Caribbean continued in 2021, with the average rate of temperature increase being about 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade between 1991 and 2021 compared to 0.1 degrees per decade between 1961 and 1990.

The WMO paper also noted that glaciers in the tropical Andes have lost at least 30% of their area since 1980, while sea levels in the region have continued to rise at a faster rate than globally, and the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season was the third most active ever recorded in the basin, with 21 storms, including seven hurricanes.

Honduras

  • Socialist President Xiomara Castro Is Trying to Revive Democracy in Honduras Jacobin

In January 2022, Xiomara Castro became Honduras’s first woman president, restoring electoral democracy to the country after more than a decade of dictatorship. Running with the leftist Liberty and Refoundation (LIBRE) party, Castro’s election breaks with the century-old two-party system that traded power between elites in the establishment National and Liberal Parties. With a mandate for transformation and high popular expectations, Castro faces significant challenges in a context of profound systemic crisis.

The 2009 military coup that ousted Castro’s husband, democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya of the Liberal Party, plunged Honduras into chaos. The ensuing far-right regime was sustained by military force and brazen electoral fraud. The original “Banana Republic” became a laboratory for radical new modes of appropriation and enclosure, with public services and resource-rich territories auctioned off to the highest bidder. Social movement leaders met escalating repression, including the high-profile execution of renowned indigenous activist Berta Cáceres in 2016. The private interests of public officials, extractive capital, and narcotraffickers became indistinguishable. In the face of mounting displacement, insecurity, and inequality, impoverished Hondurans fled to the United States in unprecedented numbers.

LIBRE was formed in 2011 out of the National Popular Resistance Front, which was forged in the anti-neoliberal struggles of the previous decade and challenged the dictatorship in the streets. Militant peasant, indigenous, and labor movements were essential to LIBRE’s victory, but Zelaya’s liberal faction is the dominant force in the governing coalition. Popular organizations must now navigate the pitfalls of demobilization and co-optation as they seek to hold the new government to its promises while fending off destabilization from the Right.

Castro inherits an indebted, ransacked state apparatus, an export-dependent economy in crisis, and a dangerous oligarchic opposition. The judiciary and security forces remain profoundly corrupt and beholden to the old regime, such that the government preferred to extradite her predecessor Juan Orlando Hernández (JOH) to the United States for drug trafficking rather than try to enact justice domestically. The administration has requested UN support for an international, anti-corruption commission in the style of the body that was expelled from the country under JOH.

Castro’s first acts prioritized dismantling the dictatorship’s designs. Declaring electricity a public good and a human right, a reform to rescue the National Electric Energy Company pledges to renegotiate contracts, reserving the right to confiscate noncompliant plants. Legislators repealed the framework for the loathsome autonomous free-trade enclaves called “Zedes,” as well as an Hourly Employment Law that shredded labor protections. At the same time, the president has bolstered social spending and is rolling out targeted cash transfers to families in extreme poverty. New bodies like the Secretariat for Strategic Planning and its Popular Power dependency hope to formalize movements’ role in public policy.

But implementation remains an open question. The environment secretary announced the cancellation of extractive permits and declared the country free of open-pit mining, but the measure has not been enforced. After Congress passed an amnesty for the dictatorship’s political prisoners, the Supreme Court overturned it. And libertarian investors who colonized part of the Caribbean island of Roatán are challenging the Zedes abolition. Upcoming elections in Congress for Supreme Court magistrates and the attorney general will prove key to enforcing reform, together with sustained pressure from below. In the longer term, however, change will depend on fulfilling the resistance movement’s demand for a National Constituent Assembly.

The Castro government must create capacity for self-determination in a state constructed to serve monopoly capital. Honduras is especially vulnerable to US pressures to maintain the country’s subordinate insertion in regional free trade and security regimes, with extensive US military presence throughout its territory and long-standing economic dependency. For the Left, the dictatorship’s defeat is only the first stage in a long transition process toward the democratic refoundation promised in the LIBRE party’s name.


Military

The Ukraine War

  • U.S. to give Ukraine $270-M in more military aid, White House says Inquirer

The United States will provide Ukraine with an additional roughly $270 million to aid in its defense against Russian aggression, including $100 million for drones, the White House said on Friday as fighting raged on in eastern Ukraine.

The package, authorized by U.S. President Joe Biden, will allow Kiev to acquire 580 of privately-held AEVEX Aerospace LLC’s Phoenix Ghost unmanned aerial vehicles, White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters in a briefing.

Aren’t those the drones that didn’t do anything? I might be mixing them up with the Switchblades, which also didn’t do anything.

  • Russia says it destroyed 4 HIMARS launchers, in claim denied by Ukraine Reuters

Russia’s defence ministry said on Friday its forces had destroyed four U.S.-supplied high mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS) in Ukraine earlier this month.

Between July 5-20, “four launchers and one reloading vehicle for the U.S.-made multiple launch rocket systems (HIMARS) were destroyed,” it said in a daily briefing.

Kyiv rejected Moscow’s claims, calling them “fakes” designed to undermine the West’s support for Ukraine.

  • Zelenskiy says no ceasefire without recovering land lost to Russia Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said a ceasefire with Russia without reclaiming lost territories would only prolong the war, according to an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Friday.

He warned that a ceasefire that allows Russia to keep Ukrainian territories seized since the invasion in February would only encourage an even wider conflict, giving Moscow an opportunity to replenish and rearm for the next round.

“In order to avoid prolonging the war, we must prolong the war."

  • Russia hits key Odesa port day after landmark grain deal Al Jazeera

Russian missiles have hit infrastructure in Ukraine’s port of Odesa, a day after Russia and Ukraine signed a deal to reopen Black Sea ports, the Ukrainian military has said.

“The enemy attacked the Odesa sea trade port with Kalibr cruise missiles; 2 missiles were shot down by air defense forces; 2 hit the infrastructure of the port,” the Operational Command South wrote on Telegram on Saturday.

Putin is truly jokerfied.


Dipshittery and Cope

Russia/Ukraine

  • How the war has robbed Ukraine’s oligarchs of political influence Guardian

“It’s incredible! We were so corrupt before 2022 and there were tons of reports on all the neo-Nazi paramilitaries, but then the war started and we, as the media has said, don’t have neo-Nazis anymore, nor corrupt oligarchs! Pretty weird, but I’ll take it!"

Ukraine’s richest people, known in the country as oligarchs, are used to dominating political and economic life. But in the five months since Russia’s full-scale invasion started, they have gone quiet.

Political analysts and experts attribute this loss of influence to the fact that oligarchs and their businesses – like all Ukrainian citizens – need protection in the form of the military and diplomacy, state functions they have no control over.

Rich people famously and historically have had no influence whatsoever over the military-industrial complex of their country.

Mykyta Poturyaev, an MP and former election campaign adviser to several Ukrainian oligarchs and politicians including the president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said oligarchs are in the unusual position of not being able to influence the country at the moment.

“Unlike in 2014, when [Ukrainian oligarch Ihor] Kolomoisky, for instance, was involved in defending Dnipropetrovsk region, there is someone to do that now – the state, the regional administration,” Poturyaev said.

The war has seemingly enabled Zelenskiy to become the first Ukrainian president to sideline the oligarchs, who have traditionally competed to control the country’s political leadership.

But analysts say that only once the war is over will it be clear if Ukraine’s oligarchic era has ended or if the oligarchs will try to regain their influence.

  • A Ukraine grain deal is cause for cautious optimism — very cautious WaPo

To a world hungry both for optimism and, in a literal sense, for food, the news that Russia has agreed to allow large-scale grain shipments from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports comes as a welcome development. Fully a tenth of the world’s wheat exports originated in Ukraine during 2021 — with populous countries such as Egypt, Bangladesh, Turkey, Indonesia and Pakistan, as well as small and economically struggling Lebanon, among the biggest customers. The United Nations World Food Program, which distributes aid to the world’s poor, got 40 percent of its wheat from Ukraine before the war. With even wealthy nations hammered by rising food prices, millions of people around the world could benefit from a flow of 20 million metric tons of Ukrainian grain and other foodstuffs to the world market over the next 120 days. And that is what the deal, which would end Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports and guarantee the safe passage of cargo ships, could achieve.

The best reason to think Russia will keep its part of the bargain is that it was struck with visible high-level support of President Vladimir Putin’s government. He sent Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to a televised signing ceremony in Istanbul, as the agreement’s brokers, Secretary General António Guterres of the United Nations and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, looked on. Yet the best reason to doubt Russia will adhere to the deal is — it’s a deal with Mr. Putin.

Alright, prepare your mental barriers now. Align your chakras and so on. A barrage of dipshittery is heading your way.

He is notorious for violating past humanitarian agreements, including the supposedly safe “corridors” through which Russian forces and their allies herded Syrian civilians escaping war zones in that country. Often, the fleeing people came under fire or faced violent harassment and arrests. What’s more, full compliance with the new accord would require Russia to abandon what had heretofore been a strategy of cutting off Ukraine’s agricultural export earnings, not only by blockading its ports but also by stealing, and reselling, Ukraine’s stockpiled grain — even, in some areas, burning crops in the field. Mr. Putin could easily find a pretext to renege on the new agreement if it suits his purposes.

YOU BROKE THE FIRST AND SECOND MINSK AGREEMENT WHICH LEAD TO THIS WAR. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? YOU ARE SYSTEMATICALLY UNABLE TO KEEP YOUR PROMISES. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU ALL NOT ONLY AGREED TO DO SOMETHING GOOD, BUT ACTUALLY DID IT? CLOSING THE FUCKING OZONE HOLE? IF I WIPED MY ASS WITH THE AVERAGE WESTERN TREATY OR AGREEMENT, IT WOULD BE AN INSULT TO MY ASSHOLE.

All of the above helps explain why Ukraine refused to deal directly with Moscow, and why the new deal, technically, takes the form of parallel commitments Ukraine and Russia are each making to Turkey and the United Nations. Ukraine was prudent to offer only escorts through its maritime minefields, not actual demining of its waters, which is still needed to defend against Russia’s navy.

Nevertheless, incentives influence behavior, and Mr. Putin does have incentives to keep his word this time. One is that the agreement probably makes Russia’s grain and fertilizer easier to sell on world markets; the United States and the European Union had both facilitated the deal by reassuring shippers and insurers that carrying Russian agricultural goods does not violate sanctions. Both the United States and the E.U. issued statements welcoming the agreements, while putting Russia on notice that it will be held accountable for any violations. Mr. Guterres called the grain deal a “beacon of hope,” to which we would add: “trust, but verify.”

United States

  • U.S. to push Russia to fulfill Ukraine grain deal, says China is stockpiling Reuters

The United States said on Friday it will hold Russia accountable for implementing a U.N.-brokered deal to resume Ukraine’s Black Sea grain exports and called out China for stockpiling grain that could be used for global humanitarian needs.

Russia and Ukraine are major global wheat suppliers, and Moscow’s Feb. 24 invasion of its neighbor sent food prices soaring, stoking a global food crisis the World Food Programme says has pushed some 47 million people into “acute hunger.”

“We would like to see it act like the great power that it is and provide more grain to the poor people around the world,” he said. “China has been a very active buyer of grain and it is stockpiling grain… at a time when hundreds of millions of people are entering the catastrophic phase of food insecurity.”

China’s grain stocks at the end of the 2021/22 season were estimated by the International Grains Council to be 323.4 million tonnes, more than half the global total of 607.4 million. They dwarf those of the United States, the world’s top grain exporter, which were estimated at 57.8 million tonnes.

The US has a quarter of China’s population, so multiply that by 4 to get a little over 200 million tonnes. An extra 100 tonnes of stockpile seems reasonable, given that, as the Chinese embassy says below, China doesn’t have all that much farmland. Their country is largely hills, mountains, and deserts.

“We would like to see them play more of a role of making the grain available from their own stockpiles and by allowing WFP (World Food Programme) and others to obtain grain,” said O’Brien.

He said some 40% of the first grain shipments out of Ukraine in April went to China “which was awkward,” adding: “It would have been much better to see that grain going to Egypt, in the Horn of Africa and other places.”

The Chinese Embassy in Washington said that China needs to maintain a certain amount of grain reserves because it has less than 9% of the world’s farmland, but it accounts for one fifth of the world’s population.

“We contribute actively to tackling global food security issues,” said embassy spokesperson Liu Pengyu, citing Beijing’s work with the Food and Agriculture Organization, the WFP, and a contribution of some 30,000 tonnes of emergency humanitarian food aid to developing countries.

“While accusing other countries of hoarding grains and urging them to release their stockpiles, the U.S. has done nothing to reduce its own food consumed for energy and has even exploited the situation to inflate grains prices and seek selfish profits, which is extremely irresponsible,” Liu said.

China

  • China Is Playing Hardball with Troubled Debtors. That’s Dangerous for All of Us. NYT

Over the past decade, Chinese banks have lent generously to poor nations for China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, a politically and economically motivated effort to help build ports, rail lines and telecommunications networks abroad. But now that some of those borrowers are having trouble paying what they owe, the Chinese have become far less generous. Their reluctance to accept losses on loans they’ve made is complicating international efforts to provide debt relief to troubled borrowers in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Here’s why that’s bad for more than just China’s borrowers: If debt relief deals can’t be worked out soon, more countries will default, and defaults are contagious. When one country stops paying, lenders start worrying that others will do the same. So they withhold credit from them or demand super-high interest rates. Lenders’ nervousness causes the very defaults they worried about. Then even financially stronger countries fall under suspicion and topple like dominoes.

Preventing that chain of events from getting started is a high priority for the International Monetary Fund and the Paris Club, the group of 22 creditor nations that coordinates debt relief programs. Old hands learned how it’s done in the Latin American debt crisis of the 1980s and the Asian financial crisis of 1997 and 1998. They’re bringing that experience to bear now that poor nations are being stressed by the Covid-19 pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, inflation and rising interest rates.

“Man, the IMF has sure caused a lot of debt crises in the developing world! Rather than critiquing that by suggesting it could be a flaw of those organizations, I will simply accept them as the price for a Good Thing and even just suggest it was great experience!"

But China stands apart. It wasn’t an international lender during previous debt crises, so it lacks experience with systemic debt problems (as opposed to single debtors getting in trouble for idiosyncratic reasons). It has declined to join the Paris Club. It didn’t follow best practices in making its loans, keeping loan terms secret and turning a blind eye to corruption.

By offering loans with no strings attached in countries with weak governance, China was able to elbow aside Paris Club lenders. Since its lending surge began around 2008, China has become the biggest bilateral lender to poor and middle-income countries.#

But now that some of their borrowers are stumbling, in part because of global economic conditions and in part because some of the loans were imprudent to begin with, Chinese lenders are balking at writing down what they’re owed. In some cases they’re making new loans to help debtors keep current on old ones, according to AidData, a research lab at William & Mary, a public university in Virginia. That’s called “evergreening.”

“This is entirely new to them in terms of simultaneous distress events across a large number of countries,” said Scott Morris, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. “They’re struggling mightily at the moment.”

The I.M.F. says that 60 percent of low-income nations and 30 percent of slightly better off “emerging market” nations are in or near debt distress, which it defines as difficulty with making payments on debt. Whether China’s government and its lenders can be persuaded to accept losses on bad loans could be an important factor in whether or not the stress turns into a full-blown international debt crisis.

To date, China is “not really behaving like a true, global, systemic player,” said Daniel Rosen, a partner of the Rhodium Group.

Part of the problem is that China isn’t speaking with one voice. The People’s Bank of China supports some debt relief, recognizing that relentlessly pursuing every dollar, euro or yuan that’s owed is a bad look for a nation that aspires to be a leader of the international community. But ordinary Chinese citizens — who are heeded by the Chinese leadership on this sensitive issue — hate the idea of bailing out foreigners when they themselves are expected to pay back everything they owe.

The article goes on for a while like this, and I don’t really care. It’s all bullshit, it’s all propaganda, and it’s definitely all cope. The idea that China, and not the US, represents the most serious threat to developing nations in terms of turning them into debt peons is such transparent projection that every person reading this article should be writing to the author suggesting he stop being a journalist and start writing pop-up childrens' books, because he clearly thinks that we are all particularly stupid 3 year olds. The US, and their many arms that reach around the world, are the scourge of billions of humans and has been for the last century, forcing them into increasingly awful positions and more toxic, pollution-infested destitution. For every $1 in foreign aid the West gives out to the developing world, they steal $24 back.


Link back to the discussion thread.