Link back to the discussion thread.


Europe

  • ‘Drill, baby, drill’ is back in Europe as gas crisis looms CNN

?> The 10-mile-long island of Schiermonnikoog is known as one of the most beautiful places in the Netherlands, boasting the widest beach in Europe, 300 different species of birds and a bustling tourist trade.

But after the Dutch and German governments approved the development of a new gas field roughly 12 miles from Schiermonnikoog’s shores, the island’s mayor is anxious about its future.

“We are very concerned that the gas drilling will damage the area,” Mayor Ineke van Gent told CNN Business. “We also believe that there is no need to drill [for] new gas at all and that we should invest much more in renewable energy.”

The gas project, which spans German and Dutch territory in the North Sea, is just one venture that has been greenlit or is getting another look in Europe and the United Kingdom after Russia invaded Ukraine. Europe is desperate to secure gas supplies that can’t be cut off at Moscow’s whim. Last week, EU leaders set a voluntary target to reduce gas usage by 15% through March 2023 to evade a crisis once the weather turns.

  • Europe’s natural gas crisis is going from ‘bad’ to ‘ugly’, according to Bank of America Business Insider

The European natural gas crisis is getting even worse, according to Bank of America.

In a Monday research note, the investment bank highlighted Russia’s actions to limit supply to the region, adding that winter stockpiles could run low.

“The European gas situation is quickly moving from our ‘bad’ to our ‘ugly’ scenario in the past month,” the bank said.

Ukraine

  • Ukraine’s harvest could be halved this year due to Russian invasion, warns Zelenskiy Guardian

Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said Ukraine’s harvest this year could be half its usual amount because of the Russian invasion, in comments likely to intensify fears of global hunger.

“Ukrainian harvest this year is under the threat to be twice less,” the Ukrainian president wrote on Twitter in English. His country’s main goal, Zelenskiy said, was to prevent a global food crisis caused by the Russian invasion.

His comments came as it emerged that the owner of one of Ukraine’s largest agricultural companies had been killed in the shelling of the strategically important southern city of Mykolaiv, near the Black Sea.

  • Farm Giants Expect Continued Food-Supply Problems Despite Ukraine Grain Deal WSJ

The world’s supply of crops is under pressure and likely to remain that way even as grain prices fall, say some of the world’s largest agriculture companies.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is continuing to disrupt supplies from one of the world’s top grain-exporting regions. Bad weather affecting big crop-producing regions, including in South America, is also helping to fuel the supply crunch.

Archer Daniels Midland Co. and Bunge Ltd. , among the companies that dominate global grain trading and processing, said this past week that this combination is keeping supplies tight while the appetite for agriculture products such as cooking oils and soybean meal for livestock feed remains robust.

“We need to have two very good years of good crops in North America and South America to bring a little bit more relief to the current supply-demand inventories,” ADM Chief Executive Juan Luciano told analysts Tuesday. Traders such as ADM, Bunge and privately held Cargill Inc. help direct the flow of corn, soybeans, wheat and other commodities around the world.

Prices for agricultural commodities including corn and wheat have fallen in recent weeks, following a monthslong surge in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February. Fears of a recession and easing concerns over world food shortages after a recent deal between Ukraine and Russia to export grain through the Black Sea are reversing a sharp rally in grain markets.

Futures prices for wheat at the Chicago Board of Trade have fallen about 13% over the past month.

Even though commodity prices have cooled, they remain at elevated levels compared with recent years, said agriculture executives. The export deal with Russia could free millions of tons of grain trapped in Ukrainian silos and would help alleviate some of the squeeze on food, but it will take time before shipments begin to flow, Mr. Luciano said this past week.

Russia

  • Putin signs new Russian naval doctrine RT

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday gave his approval to a revised naval doctrine that takes into account the “change in the geopolitical and military-strategic situation in the world.”

The signing ceremony took place in the State Museum of the History of St. Petersburg in the Peter and Paul Fortress, just before the start of the Navy Day parade. The president also signed a decree to approve the ship charter of the Russian Navy.

The revised doctrine outlines the main “challenges and threats” Russia is facing in the naval sphere, namely “the strategic course of the US to dominate in the world oceans” and the encroachment of “NATO military infrastructure” toward the country’s borders. Other challenges include “attempts by certain nations” to change the existing legal rules regulating sea routes and straits, as well as the spread of terrorism, piracy and trafficking of highly illegal goods in the high seas.

The document outlines the “risks” facing Russia’s naval activities, such as “lacking” the participation of the country’s merchant fleet in global cargo flow, the dependency of trade on freight vessels and undersea pipelines, foreign sanctions and “suddenly emerging and hard to predict” pandemics of dangerous diseases. Also included among the risks is the lack of overseas naval re-supply points and bases. However, the doctrine envisions the creation of such a facility in the Red Sea.

Kosovo

On my day off, it looks like Eastern Europe almost went to war again, and then chilled out today? Man, shit moves so quickly.

  • Kosovo closes two border crossings after local Serbs block roads Reuters

Kosovo police said they closed two border crossings in the volatile north after local Serbs blocked roads and fired shots at police in protest at an order to switch Serb car license plates to Kosovan ones within two months.

Fourteen years after Kosovo declared independence from Serbia, some 50,000 Serbs living in the north use license plates and documents issued by Serbian authorities, refusing to recognize institutions under the capital, Pristina. Kosovo has been recognised as an independent state by more than 100 countries but not by Serbia or Russia.

The government of Prime Minister Albin Kurti said it would give Serbs a transitional period of 60 days starting Aug 1 to get Kosovo license plates, a year after giving up trying to impose them due to similar protests.

The government also decided that as of Aug 1, all citizens from Serbia visiting Kosovo would have to get an extra document at the border to grant them permission to enter.

Apparently they delayed this decision because the reaction, I think.

Germany

  • Germany Has Three Months to Save Itself From a Winter Gas Crisis Bloomberg

There have been a few articles along these lines today - I think we all know the gist of how things are going in Europe so I won’t bother to quote much of the article, but check it out if you wanna hear Bloomberg’s Very Unbiased Take.

Germany’s presidential palace in Berlin is no longer lit at night, the city of Hanover is turning off warm water in the showers of its pools and gyms, and municipalities across the country are preparing heating havens to keep people safe from the cold. And that’s just the beginning of a crisis that will ripple across Europe.

It might still be the height of summer, but Germany has little time to lose to avert an energy shortage this winter that would be unprecedented for a developed nation. Much of Europe is feeling the strain from Russia’s squeeze on natural gas deliveries, yet no other country is as exposed as the region’s biggest economy, where nearly half the homes rely on the fuel for heating.

Switzerland

  • Swiss on track to secure winter gas reserves, SonntagsBlick reports Reuters

Switzerland is on track to secure the natural gas reserves it is seeking for the winter heating season, the SonntagsBlick paper cited a utility sector official as saying.

The government has instructed gas suppliers to line up reserves in neighbouring countries equivalent to 15% of the country’s annual consumption of 35 terrawatt hours and to secure additional options for non-Russian gas of around 6 terrawatt hours, a fifth of winter consumption.

Switzerland does not have it own gas storage capacity.

“Regional (gas) companies have now reached between 75 and 100% of the target for building up gas reserves in gas storage facilities,” the paper quoted Thomas Hegglin of the Swiss Gas Industry Association as saying.

Netherlands

  • Netherlands faces winter of smog RT

Smog and particulate pollution will rise in the Netherlands this winter, public health authorities have warned. The rise is linked to more households choosing to burn firewood as gas prices skyrocket.

Sales of wood and pellet stoves have increased by 30% since last summer, De Volkskrant reported on Sunday. Demand is now so high, the newspaper reported, that manufacturers are struggling to deliver enough of these stoves. Firewood suppliers, meanwhile, are already running out of stock, and sourcing more logs is a difficult proposition, as the Dutch forestry agency refuses to supply trees to the firewood industry.

With gas and electricity bills at record highs, the shift among some consumers to wood burning will have environmental consequences, the National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) warned.

“The sale of wood is linked to consumption and it is indeed expected that this will not have a positive impact on air pollution,” a spokesperson told De Volkskrant.

Bulgaria

  • Bulgaria heads towards fourth election in 18 months Inquirer

Bulgaria headed towards snap elections on Wednesday after the latest bid to form a government failed, deepening a political crisis since the collapse of a reformist coalition in June.

The two largest parties — the liberal PP of outgoing Prime Minister Kiril Petkov and the conservative GERB of three-time former premier Boyko Borisov — have already twice failed to secure a governing majority in the 240-seat parliament.

President Rumen Radev then tasked the Socialists with a last-ditch attempt to piece together a ruling coalition and avoid what would be the fourth general election since April 2021 in the EU’s poorest member state.

But on Wednesday, they failed to convince lawmakers to vote on a proposed six-month programme for a new coalition government.

“In this situation, tomorrow we will return the mandate to President Radev unfulfilled,” Georgy Svilenski, the chief of the Socialists’ parliamentary group, told journalists.

Asia and Oceania

Indonesia

  • Indonesia, US to kick off military exercise today Jakarta Post

Some 4,000 soldiers mostly from Indonesia and the United States will conduct a joint military exercise next week that underscores “the importance we place on a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” a senior US military official said on over the weekend.

The annual “Super Garuda Shield” exercise, which the United States called “significantly larger in scope and scale than previous exercises”, comes against a backdrop of heightened tensions with China over the latter’s growing assertiveness in the region.

But Major General Stephen G. Smith, who will be directing operations on the ground in the exercise, told reporters in Jakarta on Friday that the drill should not be seen as a response to any tensions.

This exercise is not a threat or should not be viewed as a threat to anybody, anywhere. This is a purely military-to-military exercise," he said.

Taiwan

  • Pelosi Will Reportedly Visit Taiwan Despite China’s Warnings Of Retaliation Forbes

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will visit Taiwan as part of her ongoing tour of Asia, CNN reported on Monday, in a move that could spark major tensions with China which has already warned of “serious consequences” for what it views as meddling in its internal affairs.

The exact timing of Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan is unclear but she is expected to stay in the capital Taipei for at least one night, CNN reported citing an unnamed senior Taiwanese government official and a U.S. official.

In a speculative article, the Chinese state-run newspaper Global Times—known for its controversial takes—suggested that Pelosi’s delegation could use aircraft troubles as an “excuse” to carry out an emergency landing in Taiwan. The speculative write-up further notes that if Pelosi’s plane actually does develop issues, the Chinese Air Force has aircraft ready to redirect the delegation to land in the city of Sansha—located on one of the many disputed island chains in the South China Sea.

Malaysia

  • Malaysia says chicken stocks in oversupply after export ban Reuters

Malaysia on Monday said it now has a slight oversupply of chicken, following its imposition of a ban on exports of the poultry to secure domestic supplies and rein in rising food prices.

Malaysia, which supplies live chickens mainly to neighbouring Singapore and Thailand, in June halted chicken exports until production and prices stabilise, after a global feed shortage exacerbated by the Russia-Ukraine war disrupted production.

Agriculture and Food Industries Minister Ronald Kiandee said the government is monitoring local chicken supply and will resume exports if it has the extra capacity to do so.

“At this point, we are able to produce 106% of our self-sufficiency level. That means we have the capacity to export chicken from our country,” Ronald said in parliament.

Australia

  • Australia considers curbing gas exports to avert domestic supply crunch Inquirer

Australia said on Monday it will decide whether to curb exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) after a watchdog urged restrictions, warning one of the world’s biggest suppliers of the fuel could face a shortfall and soaring prices next year.

The government’s move, after a recommendation from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), comes even as the country vies with Qatar and the United States as the world’s top LNG exporter.

The ACCC warned extra gas is needed to offset declining output at offshore fields that have long supplied the populous east coast, home to nearly 90% of Australia’s population.

Middle East

Israel/Palestine

  • Hezbollah issues warning to Israel RT

Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group has posted a video suggesting that Israel’s offshore natural gas industry will come under attack unless the Jewish state resolves a maritime border dispute with Beirut.

The group posted a video on Sunday showing drone footage of vessels and production platforms involved in tapping Israel’s massive offshore gas deposits. The video also showed coordinates for each location featured. It began with words from a recent speech by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, warning that “playing with time is not useful” in the territorial dispute.

According to the video, the footage was shot on Saturday and on June 9. The images were reportedly captured at Karish, a field in disputed waters where London-based upstream firm Energean plans to start pumping gas under a contract with the Israeli government later this year.

Iran

  • The US is drawing up sanctions against companies that smuggle Iranian oil, according to a report Business Insider

The US government is working on a new package of sanctions against anyone that smuggles Iranian oil, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The sanctions would reportedly target companies and individuals that forge documents to pass Iranian oil off as an Iraqi crude blend.

This would be the third time the US government has sanctioned Iranian oil since nuclear deal talks between the two countries stalled earlier this year.

  • Iran produces 90% of its nuclear equipment: AEOI Tehran Times

Deputy head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) stated on Saturday that the Strategic Action Plan approved by the Iranian parliament led to production of uranium enriched to 60 percent purity and manufacturing of IR6 centrifuges.

Pejman Shirmardi stated that the AEOI’s successes are the negotiating team’s winning card and the Western negotiators’ greatest fear, despite the fact that the technology employed to attain these achievements are indigenous.

Pakistan

  • Pakistan imports fall sharply in July, to help rupee stabilise Reuters

Pakistan imports fell by more than a third in July after a ban on non-essentials, the finance minister said on Sunday, adding the improved trade situation will reduce pressure on the struggling rupee.

July imports fell to $5 billion, down 35% from June’s record monthly high of $7.7 billion, Miftah Ismail told a news conference in Islamabad.

Africa

Egypt

  • Major buyer cancels Ukrainian wheat deal RT

Egypt has cancelled an order for 240,000 tons of Ukrainian wheat that was earlier booked for delivery last February and March but not shipped due to the conflict in Ukraine, Reuters reported this week. This comes as Kiev prepares to resume grain exports via the Black Sea following an agreement with Moscow.

Egypt’s procurement authority released the suppliers from their contractual obligations this week, Reuters said citing its sources, adding that it was unclear whether the contracts were cancelled before or after the internationally-brokered deal was reached.

After being unable to receive its supply from Ukraine, Egypt, one of the world’s biggest wheat importers, bought the grain elsewhere. According to media reports, in June the country purchased more than a million tons of wheat from Romania, Bulgaria, France and Russia. Bloomberg reports that Egypt now has more than seven months of wheat stockpiles.

Algeria

  • Algeria hints at joining BRICS RT

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has reportedly said that his country is interested in joining the BRICS and is close to qualifying for membership in the group.

Algeria largely meets the conditions for joining BRICS already, Tebboune said on Sunday in an interview with a state-owned broadcaster. The group is named for its member states – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – and it plans to consider adding Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt at its summit next year.

This year’s BRICS summit, which was held online in June, was expanded to include participation from 13 other countries, including Algeria. Tebboune was the first guest to speak, calling for “a new economic order where parity and equity between countries will reign.”

“Our past experiences have shown us that the imbalance recorded on the international scene and the marginalization of emerging countries within world bodies constitute a source of instability, lack of equity and absence of development,” the Algerian president added.

Zambia

  • IMF could unlock a $1.3bn fund for Zambia Africa News

Zambia should soon access a 1.3 billion dollars IMF-support fund. The bailout was validated just after the southern African nation’s creditors agreed to provide him debt relief.

The committee of creditors co-chaired by China and France announced on Saturday they were ready to negotiate the restructuration of Lusaka’s crushing debt load. IMF’s support plan had been signed in December 2021 but was suspended until the green light was given.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

  • Illegal Logging And The Global North Threaten Congo’s Rainforest — Not Oil Drilling Forbes

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is impoverished: 73% of its nearly 100 million people live on less than $2 a day. But it has one asset that the Global North truly values — its rainforests, which absorb 4% of the world’s annual CO2 emissions and thus delay or prevent a climate breakdown.

The Congo wants to increase its oil development from 25,000 barrels a day to 1 million barrels — something that would improve the lives of its people and perhaps replace some Russian oil. But western nations and environmentalists are shocked at the idea, thinking it would destroy the country’s rainforests. But most such areas are theoretically protected by national law. The Congo is not just an emerging nation. It’s a sovereign nation that says selling oil would allow it to advance economically and socially.

The irony is that the more affluent countries talk out of both sides of their mouth. On the one hand, they promised $1.5 billion in 2021 to protect those rainforests. On the other, the United States, the European Union, and China are buying cheap timber from the Congo — and sometimes illegally. The threat to those rainforests — those natural CO2 vacuums — is not oil. It is ravenous consumers. Even worse, it’s a modern version of colonialism whereby the Congo gets pennies for its wood while the buyers manufacture and sell the finished goods at premium prices.

“Large forest areas are getting cut down because our people need to live. They live in poverty, and they need energy,” says Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu, climate specialist for Congo’s Ministry of the Environment, in an interview with this writer.

“They are clearing the forest for food and fuel,” he adds. “They cut wood to cook and stay warm. Only 9% to 10% of our population has electricity. We believe the country has the sovereign right to use natural resources to reduce poverty and increase economic growth. It’s disingenuous to tell us otherwise.” If the country can increase its wealth, it will then have the means to protect its rainforests.

The average age of a Congolese is 18. Most lack formal education and the skills that would allow them to survive in a modern economy. About one-in-five people have a job that pays a salary. Subsaharan Africa is rife with poverty. But one in six of those are living in the Congo. For example, many workers mine for lithium, cobalt, and copper — the things that go into electric vehicle batteries. Richer countries will buy those minerals at cheap rates. But they assemble them and sell the finished product to car makers such as Tesla and General Motors.

To be clear, the Congo has banned new logging since 2002. But it is difficult to enforce the law because the country is vast, and the government doesn’t have the resources to properly monitor it. Illegal logging will continue as long as the United States, China, and the European Union want virgin wood for such things as flooring, furniture, or packaging.

A Chatham House 2014 study discovered that 87% of the logging in the Congo was illegal. The country lost about 1.2 million acres of rainforest in 2020, adds Global Forest Watch.

North America

United States

  • US Outlook Spells Misery for Biden Democrats Bloomberg

I find it very funny that the wonks have managed to turn human misery into a fucking index.

The state of the economy is looming large ahead of US midterm elections and that spells trouble for President Joe Biden’s Democrats.

With November’s vote nearing, a new study by Bloomberg Economics assesses state-by-state misery indexes, which measure the sum of inflation and unemployment.

Projecting the gauges through election day and taking past voting patterns into consideration, the economists suggest Democrats can expect to lose 30 to 40 seats in the House and a few in the Senate too.

That would wipe out razor-thin Democratic majorities.

Of course, economics is only one part of the calculation that voters make. Democrats will be hoping that anger over abortion and gun laws and the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by a right-wing mob will energize their supporters.

Still, the state-level numbers make gloomy reading for them.

Some key battlegrounds like Ohio and Nevada have misery indexes higher than the national version.

  • 2 reasons why the NBER won’t declare that the economy is officially in a recession Business Insider

A debate has been raging among investors as to whether or not the US economy is in a recession. According to investment firm Raymond James, the answer is no, it is not.

A technical recession is defined as two straight quarters of negative GDP growth, but the US economy is not officially considered to be in a recession until it is declared so by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The NBER holistically looks at the broader US economy to make its recession determination and can make its decision months after the recession started or ended.

Supporting the idea that the economy is in a recession is the fact that first- and second-quarter GDP growth fell this year, albeit by a small margin and with some important nuance. First-quarter GDP growth fell 1.6%, while second-quarter GDP growth fell 0.9%.

Still, “the economy is not in the jaws of a recession,” Raymond James' chief investment officer Larry Adams told clients in a Friday note. “We doubt the official arbiter of recessions, the NBER, will declare the economy is in a recession for two reasons.”

Those reasons include a strong jobs market and the impact business inventories have had on GDP growth so far this year.

A Hyundai subsidiary used up to fifty underage migrant workers at an auto plant known for hazardous conditions.

On July 22, Reuters revealed that a subsidiary of auto giant Hyundai, SMART, had been employing migrant children in Luverne, Alabama. Reuters learned of the underage labor exploitation through local police, the family of three child workers, and eight former and current employees of the subsidiary’s plant.

Interviews with former employees and labor recruiters revealed that many minors employed at the plant went without schooling in favor of work. A former worker claimed that the plant, which, according to Reuters, has a “documented history of health and safety violations, including amputation hazards”, employs as many as 50 children.

Both Hyundai and SMART deny any responsibility. Hyundai said in a statement that it “does not tolerate illegal employment practices at any Hyundai entity. We have policies and procedures in place that require compliance with all local, state and federal laws.” SMART, which supplies auto parts to Hyundai, stated that it “denies any allegation that it knowingly employed anyone who is ineligible for employment.” Former employees and locals told Reuters that SMART dismissed a number of child laborers following news coverage about the disappearance of one of the plant’s underage migrant workers.

South America

  • Green Hydrogen Can Help Latin America’s Energy Transition Oil Price

With countries and energy companies around the world looking to accelerate their transitions towards cleaner energy resources, Latin American nations are developing plans to scale up the production, consumption and export of so-called green hydrogen, which is generated from clean energy resources.

One of the most recent, high-profile developments came in June, when the Argentine province of Tierra del Fuego – located at the southernmost tip of South America – outlined plans to develop a hydrogen and ammonium industry.

The province is attempting to utilise the region’s ample wind resources to attract $6bn in investment in technologies to produce the fuel. This includes investment in wind farms to generate electricity that can be used to power electrolysers, which remove oxygen atoms from water to produce hydrogen.

Once established, some of the project’s hydrogen will be used to make ammonium, which in addition to being used to create fertiliser, can also serve as a carrier fuel for transporting hydrogen through pipelines to downstream markets.

Along with renewable sources like solar and wind, hydrogen is seen as a potential low-carbon or zero-carbon fuel that is key to the transition away from fossil fuels.

While countries across Latin America and the Caribbean are focused on green hydrogen, hydrocarbons-producing countries like Argentina, Colombia, and Trinidad and Tobago can use carbon-capture utilisation and storage technologies to remove carbon emissions from their production process and generate so-called blue hydrogen.


Military

The Ukraine War

  • Russia is firing artillery from a captured nuclear power plant, leaving Ukraine reluctant to shoot back Business Insider

Wow, is this the first time in eight years that Ukraine hasn’t wanted to drop bombs on something?

Russian troops are firing artillery at Ukrainian targets from a nearby nuclear power plant, The New York Times reported, breaking another norm of war.

Russia selected the Zaporizhzhia site because it is very difficult for Ukrainian troops to retaliate, Ukrainian officials told The Times.

  • One of Ukraine’s richest businessmen is killed in the port city of Mykolaiv. NYT

Finally, Russia has killed somebody really important. Poggers in the chat!

The first air raid alarm rang out over Mykolaiv at 1:01 a.m. and for the next four hours, explosions thundered as Russian missiles rained down on this already battered southern port city.

By dawn, a hotel, a sports complex, two schools, a service station and scores of homes were in ruins. Emergency crews racing between blast sites were working to establish the full casualty count — with one of Ukraine’s richest businessmen, Oleksiy Vadaturskyi, and his wife among the dead. Mr. Vadaturskyi’s company, Nibulon, confirmed that he and his wife, Raisa, died in their home.

Tributes to Mr. Vadaturskyi — who had been declared a “Hero of Ukraine” more than a decade ago for his contributions to society — poured in from across the country as news of his death spread. President Volodymyr Zelensky called it “a huge loss for Mykolaiv and for all Ukraine.”

Mr. Vadaturskyi made his fortune in the agricultural industry: His company, Nibulon, has built storage facilities and infrastructure necessary for exporting grain.

He was killed just as the first shipments of grain since the beginning of the war in Ukraine were being loaded onto freighters at Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea after a monthslong blockade. On Sunday, Turkey — which along with the United Nations helped broker a deal to get the grain moving — said the first ship carrying grain was expected to leave the port of Odesa as soon as Monday morning.

It was not clear if Mr. Vadaturskyi was directly targeted or if he was, like thousands of civilians killed by Russian bombs, just in the wrong place at the wrong time.


Climate and Space

  • Chinese booster rocket makes uncontrolled return to Earth Jakarta Post

A Chinese booster rocket made an uncontrolled return to Earth on Saturday, leading US officials to chide Beijing for not sharing information about the potentially hazardous object’s descent.

US Space Command “can confirm the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Long March 5B (CZ-5B) re-entered over the Indian Ocean at approx 10:45 am MDT on 7/30,” the US military unit said on Twitter.


Dipshittery and Cope

For bad takes, awful analysis that makes you wonder why these people get paid, predictions that reveal a staggering lack of knowledge, and hope for a future that would be worse than the present.

China

  • How China Took Latin America WSJ

Boy oh boy, let’s see how long it takes them to say something deeply racist about China!

It was chilling to read Beijing’s warning to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that if she goes ahead with her planned trip to Taiwan this week, it will “have a severe negative impact” on relations between the U.S. and China.

For a half-century, the West has been trying to bring China into the coalition of the civilized.

…uh, excuse me, what?

Beijing has responded by beefing up its military, murdering students in Tiananmen Square in 1989, and, more recently, snuffing out liberty in Hong Kong. Now it is rattling sabers at Taiwan.

Okay, even if you momentarily accept this dogshit premise, the West was a very good teacher for all these things. America pioneered the “Orwellian state” that Reddit libs like to alternatively piss themselves about in fear and make fun of in China. They’re the ones living in an authoritarian, anti-democratic country that doesn’t allow any actual dissent. They just pretend - or, more accurately, have been convinced via propaganda - that being able to insult your leaders on Twitter without punishment (most of the time) means that they must be free. You can’t form a viable third party within the framework of American liberal democracy, but at least you call Trump a poopyhead! Your work, which you spend a large amount of your life doing, probably sucks and is boring and has shitty pay and causes you to die slowly inside, and there’s a good chance that attempting to form a union with your coworkers will invite retaliation from the bosses, but corporate authoritarianism isn’t a thing - haven’t you checked the epic political compass? Even if you think that China is totalitarian or whatever word you want to use to describe it, it is unequiovcally true that the West exported that to China, so China can’t possibly export it to the West through TikTok or whatever, like the libs fear - it’s already here!

Alright, let’s get on with the article.

Closer to the U.S., Chinese expansionism is equally troubling. The Middle Kingdom now has a strong presence in the Western Hemisphere, where it actively supports antidemocratic regimes while posing as a benevolent sugar daddy.

The State Department has been asleep at the switch, missing years of opportunities to correct the Chinese narrative that it is somehow in the region to “help” countries.

Yeah, the US State Department hasn’t spent the last few years inventing claims out of wholecloth about China, such as the Uighyur genocide, no sirree. We need a stronger government to take the kid gloves off!

Sri Lanka learned about Chinese development assistance the hard way. It borrowed nearly $12 billion from Beijing in the first two decades of this century. As the Washington Post’s Ishaan Tharoor reported in July, that money went “largely for a slate of major infrastructure projects that turned into white elephants—including a costly port facility” in Hambantota, hometown of the powerful Rajapaksa family, “which was effectively ceded to Chinese control half a decade ago after Sri Lankan authorities recognized they could no longer pay off the loans.”

This is literally untrue. China makes up something like 10% of Sri Lankan debt. The West makes up most of the rest. The situation in Sri Lanka is not China’s fault.

Beijing is using the same kind of bait-and-switch all over Latin America. In Venezuela, China lent Hugo Chávez some $50 billion backed by oil. Judging from the train wreck that the country has become, it’s pretty clear that money wasn’t used for development. Venezuelan oil production has collapsed but the state-owned petroleum company still dutifully sends regular shipments to China to repay the loan.

It’s really funny how sanctions like, alternatively do and do not exist depending on the context. These journalists will admit that sanctions in abstract are meant to deteriorate the conditions of a country to force it to the negotiating table (to allow American capitalists harvest and then destroy it) but also, the situation in Venezuela and Cuba and Iran and the DPRK, which we have under strict sanctions, are because those countries are failures, not because of the sanctions. I hate to use the words of that fucking traitor Orwell, but it is doublethink.

Ecuador is working to restructure $5 billion in Chinese debt due in the next three years. The country is also coming to terms with the substandard Chinese construction of a hydroelectric plant in the north of the country that cost some $2 billion.

Argentina is especially notable for its open-arms policy toward China. Writing in February 2021, U.S. Army War College Latin America research professor Evan Ellis observed that “Argentina offers [China] a combination of benefits and access that no other populist (or non-populist for that matter) regime in the hemisphere can match.”

The appeal of Chinese financing for bankrupt Buenos Aires is obvious. As Mr. Evans pointed out, “Chinese resources and other support decrease the degree” to which the country has to pay attention to the demands of “Western investors, banks, multilateral institutions and governments, as it consolidates power in increasingly undemocratic ways, and undermines the U.S. agenda in the region—to China’s commercial and strategic benefit.”

The Inter-American Development Bank, which is 30% owned by the U.S. and made China a member in 2009, has the most to answer for when it comes to explaining how China made deep inroads into the region in the last decade.

For the most part, China didn’t know how to do business in Latin America prior to its hookup with the bank. Desperate for capital in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, the IDB escorted Beijing around, opening doors, teaching it how to structure deals and helping it establish itself as a major lender. Annual business summits, hosted by the bank, were designed to introduce Chinese state-owned companies to the locals. The IDB became a conduit for Chinese money, serving a bilateral function between members in the hemisphere and Beijing.

According to IDB data, between 2013 and May 2022 the bank put up $6.1 billion in co-financing for 91 projects with China. Beijing is only a 0.004% IDB shareholder but on top of that co-financing, according to an IDB official, “Chinese state-owned companies got $1.7bn worth of IDB-funded procurement contracts between 2010 and 2020, making it the top non-borrower recipient of such contracts. American companies won contracts worth $249 million.”

China is not a good development partner. Sure, it brings financing to poor countries. But it doesn’t hire or train a local workforce; it imports Chinese labor. Its workmanship and materials are often shoddy. It encourages overborrowing and overbuilding and it leaves a trail of tears as large debt burdens cannot be serviced. Its motives in the region are about gaining greater influence and not about development.

A trail of tears, you say?

This is why the bank is trying to cultivate new partners, including Taiwan. China, predictably, is outraged. In a May email to the bank’s president and several IDB staff members, after a press release announced a project in Belize with Taiwanese backing, the Chinese representative to the IDB wrote: “My authorities see this as a very severe situation and reserve all the rights of further action.”

Those who care about development can only hope that action might be for China to quit the bank and leave Latin America.

This is such a godawful fucking article. My god. I mean, everything is propaganda in these kinds of outlets but this really takes the fucking cake.

  • Six million died. We still don’t know how the pandemic began. WaPo

Shut the fuck up! Oh my god, these people are fucking insufferable!

The pandemic — death knell to more than 6 million people and perhaps as many as 20 million indirectly — still hides its origin. While scientists have struggled mightily to confront threats to human health, attempts to discover how it all began and why remain skimpy and inconclusive. The outbreak started in China, but leaders there covered up the human transmissibility of the virus at first, then mounted a propaganda campaign insisting it originated outside China.

What really happened in Wuhan, and why? The answers could help prevent and plan for a future pandemic.

No, it couldn’t! I know this because a) the West’s coronavirus response, particularly in the US, was very insufficient, and b) monkeypox is literally spreading right now, and we know exactly where it came from!

One school of thought is that the coronavirus jumped from bats to humans, perhaps with an intermediate animal host, a zoonotic spillover event, which has happened often in the past. Another is that research on bat coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, including dangerous “gain of function” experiments, resulted in a laboratory accident or inadvertent leak. Perhaps there was a combination of both, such as a researcher handling bats who became infected and then spread the virus.

Two new research papers in Science revive the questions. One, by University of California San Diego’s Jonathan E. Pekar and colleagues, concludes that there were two jumps of the virus to humans in late 2019. The second paper, by University of Arizona professor Michael Worobey and colleagues, focuses on the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, which sold wildlife and farmed animals, live and butchered. Scrutinizing the location of early human cases of the virus, including 155 with reliable longitude and latitude data, the researchers found a high density of cases near, and surrounding, the market. The paper concludes the market was “the early epicenter” of the pandemic and suggests the virus “likely emerged from the live wildlife trade in China.”

In a preprint in February, the University of Arizona professor claimed to have found “dispositive evidence” that the virus spilled over from the live wildlife trade. His revised, peer-reviewed paper is more cautious, saying the research “does not establish that the pandemic originated” in the market. Events “upstream of the market, as well as exact circumstances at the market, remain obscure,” he acknowledges.

And so much is obscure. In the early chaos of the outbreak, sick patients were turned away from hospitals and not properly counted, so the population plots might not contain the whole story. After the pandemic picked up steam in early 2020, China made no known effort to go back and look for additional early cases from November and December, which might have provided important clues about the origin. Environmental samples point to animals being sold in a corner of the market, but there are no live animal samples to identify which species carried the virus. The Worobey team drew population data from the joint China-World Health Organization mission to China, which published its findings in 2021. At a news conference in Wuhan at the end of the mission, the WHO team leader, Peter Ben Embarek, called a lab leak “extremely unlikely,” but he later told Danish television he was under pressure from China to dismiss the hypothesis, which it calls “a false claim.” A second WHO group is now investigating.

We hope they — or others — get to probe on the ground in Wuhan and elsewhere. China’s leaders should end the stonewalling and open the doors.

Or, maybe, we should focus on the fact that the healthcare systems of Western countries are woefully underfunded and undermanned, and if we had excess capacity and production of things like masks, then hundreds of thousands if not millions of people would still be alive? No, let’s go fuck off to a Wuhan market and see if we can find the exact fucking armadillo asshole that the virus mutated in. Journalists should all be fucking REDACTED.

Russia/Ukraine

  • Reality of Ukraine war hidden from Fortress Russia BBC

In the village of Vybuty, a large crowd has gathered outside a church. People are queuing up to kiss the icon of a saint.

An Orthodox priest in a gold embroidered vestment chants a prayer for Russia: “For our blessed country, its rulers and its army.”

In the congregation are Russian servicemen. They cross themselves with three fingers according to the Orthodox tradition.

Ukraine isn’t mentioned in the mass. But it’s on people’s minds.

“In our family, we have a lot of young men who are serving there,” one of the worshippers, Ludmila, tells me. “God won’t abandon them. They will definitely return home.”

Many Russian soldiers haven’t.

Just a few metres away, in the village cemetery, there are two dozen fresh graves of Russian paratroopers.

The burial ground is carpeted with wreaths, while banners of the men’s regiment flutter in the wind. Attached to wooden crosses are plaques with names and dates of death.

All these soldiers were killed after 24 February: the day Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.

The scene is a stark reminder of the “significant losses” the Kremlin admits Russia has suffered in Ukraine.

The invasion was President Vladimir Putin’s idea. He ordered it. It is his “special military operation”.

Despite the thousands of civilian deaths in Ukraine, the Kremlin leader has displayed no remorse, no hint of regret over his decision to attack a sovereign, independent nation.

But what of the Russian public? More than five months on, do Russians believe their president took the right decision?

In the big cities, such as Moscow and St Petersburg, it’s not uncommon to hear people criticise the Kremlin’s “special operation”.

But I’m a long way from the capital after a nine-hour drive north-west of Moscow.

I leave the village and head to the regional capital, Pskov. As I drive past a military base, the slogan on the poster outside catches my eye: “The borders of Russia never end!”

Pskov is a medieval fortress town which, in a thousand years, has seen many battles.

With its high walls and watchtowers, the ancient citadel is curiously topical and symbolic. This is how the Kremlin portrays modern Russia: as a besieged fortress threatened by the West.

In town, at a rundown Soviet era sports stadium, they’re re-enacting a battle from World War Two.

People posing as Russian partisans are involved in a shoot-out with a group dressed as German Nazis. A mock-up of a Russian village is in flames.

The Kremlin likens what is happening in Ukraine now to the Second World War. It insists that today, once again, Russians are victims, heroes, liberators: the good guys fighting Nazis and fascists.

It is a false image. A parallel reality. But many here believe it.

“My youngest child says that Russians always win. That Russia will always be victorious. I hope that’s true,” says one of the spectators, Tatyana. “The past teaches us that people gave their lives so that we could live. That’s why we must support our soldiers now.”

The event organisers do not support us asking questions about Ukraine. Just as I’m about to interview another spectator, the re-enactment director interrupts us. He smiles awkwardly.

“Thank you for coming,” he says. “I respect you. But I must ask you leave. This is a complex part of the country.”

It is also one of the poorest.

I continue my journey through Pskov region and drive to Novorzhev. Russia may be an energy superpower, but this town has no gas supply - it’s still being built.

To heat their homes, many people here burn firewood. One apartment block I visit has no running water. The residents bring it in buckets from a well.

At the local market, I meet senior citizen Natalya Sergeyevna.

More than two decades of Vladimir Putin in power have not given her a comfortable retirement. To supplement her pension, Natalya sells everything she grows at home: from blackberries to potted plants.

At the age of 84, Natalya still toils in the garden, planting and harvesting potatoes to raise extra cash. She doesn’t blame her president, though.

“I like Putin and what he’s doing,” she tells me. “I feel sorry for him. He gets no rest. As for America and all those other troublemakers, they just want to break Russia into parts. They don’t understand that they mustn’t try to humiliate us.”

I have heard the criticisms Natalya makes about Ukraine, the US and the West many times before on Russian TV. It’s hardly surprising.

In Russia, television remains the key tool for shaping public opinion. And since the Kremlin controls TV, it pretty much controls the narrative and the messaging in the country. Especially since independent media in Russia have been silenced.

The result: the Russian public is receiving a highly filtered, distorted picture of what is happening in Ukraine. But state propaganda doesn’t work in isolation.

Like Natalya Sergeyevna’s garden, which produces a wealth of berries, fruits and vegetables, in Russia there is a fertile soil for the idea of Russia as an empire, a superpower, dictating to its neighbours and taking on the West.

The Kremlin knows that its messaging will strike a chord with many here. But striking a chord is one thing. Persuading Russians to join the fight in Ukraine is quite another.

“I support the special military operation. So many of our lads have been killed,” says an 18-year-old student in Novorzhev. “If I’m called up, I’ll go and fight. But I don’t want to sign up.”

“It’s our duty to fight, if we’re enlisted,” another student, Konstantin, tells me. “Otherwise I won’t go near there. Not for money, not for anything. Family’s more important.”

The Kremlin may dominate the information landscape. But there are limits to its powers of persuasion.

Compare this to America - the fact that they haven’t officially been at war for about a century despite filling chasms with human blood and gore around the world, the fact that many parts of the country are very underdeveloped and infrastructure is crumbling, the fact that American voluntary enlistment is at record low levels. Even if you accept the above framing of Russia - and I don’t, really, it seems extremely cherrypicked - the parallels are enlightening. Of course, none of these overpaid dipshits will investigate that premise, nor talk to Qanon-poisoned grandmas in flyover states.


Good Takes that are Dope

For good, or at least decent, analysis of an event or situation - particularly one that hasn’t been covered endlessly before or has a fresh angle.

In an interview with British journalist Matt Kennard at his home in El Trópico, a small town four hours from Cochabamba in the heart of the Amazon rain forest, former Bolivian president Evo Morales (2006-2019) called for an international campaign to eliminate NATO [the North Atlantic Treaty Organization].

According to Morales, this campaign should explain to people worldwide that “NATO is—ultimately—the United States. It is not a guarantee for humanity or for life. I do not accept—in fact, I condemn—how they can exclude Russia from the UN Human Rights Council. When the U.S. has intervened in Iraq, in Libya, in so many countries in recent years, why have they not been expelled from the Human Rights Council? Why was that never questioned?”

Morales continued: “We [in the Movimiento al Socialismo, MAS] have profound ideological differences with the politics implemented by the United States using NATO, which are based on interventionism and militarism. Between Russia and Ukraine they want to reach an agreement and [the U.S.] keeps provoking war, the U.S. military industry, which is able to live thanks to war, and they provoke wars in order to sell their weapons. That’s the other reality we live in.”


Bloomerism and Hope

For events that show that a better, more equitable, and happier world is possible than the neoliberal hell we inhabit.

Everyone can see that the U.S. has been in decline for several years,” Ben Norton told Watchdog host Lowkey today, explaining that the days of a unipolar world where Washington dominates the planet are over.

Ben Norton is a journalist, writer, and filmmaker. He is the founder and editor of Multipolarista, a website dedicated to presenting international and geopolitical news through the lens of multipolarity. “Obviously this is going to be a decades-long process of decline,” he said of the United States, “But we are very clearly seeing alternatives emerging.”

In the past two decades, the U.S. grip on global power has been slipping, and new nations and organizations have begun to emerge that challenge American dominance. One of these is the BRICS, an economic and increasingly political bloc of emerging economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Argentina, Iran and others have expressed an interest in joining this alliance, which has now laid out plans for its own bank and international currency, two moves strike at the heart of American economic hegemony.

“Now that the U.S. has sanctioned one-quarter of the global population, and especially now with the economic war on Russia, BRICS has emerged as this new economic infrastructure bringing countries together that want to get around Western sanctions,” Norton said.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has spurred the U.S. and its NATO allies to attempt to force poorer nations to turn their backs on Russia, politically and economically. And they have been trying to do the same in an effort to prevent China’s continued economic rise. But it has been to little avail, as even nations not known for defying orders have refused to line up behind the West.

For Norton, this is because these states see the writing on the wall: that U.S. economic and political power is waning and that the 21st century will be a multipolar one. As he explained:

“Not only are countries around the world saying they want to continue doing business with China and Russia because they want Chinese technologies and goods and Russian commodities but they are also saying ‘look, we can do business with these countries and they don’t force us to privatize all of our state assets, they don’t force us to cut social spending and the minimum wage,’ [like the U.S. does]…Countries are saying that ‘we have done this neoliberal model for decades and it has resulted in disaster.’””

  • The Canadian Starbucks Unionization Wave Has Scored Another Victory Jacobin

Canada’s Starbucks organizing wave is moving eastward from British Columbia, with a store in Alberta going union earlier this month. Poetically, the Starbucks union win is on anti-labor Alberta premier Jason Kenney’s home turf.

The vote arrives on the heels of two stores in two cities — Surrey and Langley — in Alberta’s neighboring British Columbia voting to join USW over the past two months. A further five stores in Lethbridge, Alberta, await word on certification. Prior to June 2022, the only unionized Starbucks in Canada was in Victoria, British Columbia.


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