- EU members who rejected gas plan named RT
Poland and Hungary have refused to support the EU’s plan to cut gas consumption by 15%, Reuters reported on Saturday, citing a document published by the Czech Republic, which currently chairs negotiations within the bloc.
EU countries last week agreed on a plan to reduce gas usage in order to fill storages amid concern of a possible shut-off of Russian supplies. The EU Council approved the plan on Friday. However, according to Reuters, the vote for approval only required a simple majority – meaning the support of 15 of the bloc’s 28 members – to be adopted.
Hungary, which is currently in talks to secure more gas supplies from Russia, had opposed the scheme from the very beginning. According to the document seen by Reuters, Budapest questioned the legality of the plan, claiming that it would affect the country’s energy security.
Poland, meanwhile, initially agreed to cut consumption but on Friday voted against the plan, the agency reports. Warsaw called the legal basis of the document “defective” and said that decisions affecting the energy mix of EU countries should be made with the unanimous approval of all member states.
The newly adopted rationing plan is not mandatory unless the EU Council triggers a ‘Union alert’ on gas supply security. It also includes a number of exemptions. In particular, member states that are not connected to the gas networks of other EU countries are exempt from the requirement. In addition, members can request a relaxation of the conditions if they have exceeded their storage capacity targets or if their strategically important industries are heavily dependent on gas.
- Amnesty International’s Ukraine chief quits in protest at ‘Russian propaganda’ report Euro News
The head of Amnesty International in Ukraine, Oksana Pokalchuk, has resigned after the NGO published a report blaming the Ukrainian armed forces for endangering civilians.
Kyiv reacted furiously to the report that accuses it of placing bases and weapons in residential areas — including schools and hospitals — as it has sought to repel the Russian invasion.
“I am resigning from Amnesty International in Ukraine,” Pokalchuk said in a statement on her Facebook page on Friday night, blaming the report for unwittingly serving “Russian propaganda”.
“If you don’t live in a country that has been invaded by invaders and is tearing it apart, you probably don’t understand what it means to condemn an army of defenders,” the Amnesty Ukraine official added.
“Also, Palestinians should go fuck themselves because they’re antisemitic subhumans. Stop targetting Israel so much in the UN and via the terrorist organization that is BDS!"
- Putin and Erdogan agree to boost cooperation, some rouble payments for gas Reuters
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan agreed on Friday to boost cooperation in the transport, agriculture, finance and construction industries, they said in a joint statement after a four-hour meeting.
In the statement, Putin and Erdogan stressed the need for “the full implementation of the Istanbul agreement, including the unimpeded export of Russia’s grain, fertiliser and raw materials for their production.”
The two leaders also agreed to switch part of the payments for Russian gas to roubles, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak told reporters after the talks.
The two also “reaffirmed their determination to act in coordination and solidarity in the fight against all terrorist organizations” in Syria.
- London’s River Thames has shrunk as extreme heat and looming drought dries up its headwaters CNN
The starting point of England’s famous River Thames has dried up and moved downstream, following weeks of little rainfall and a heat wave in July that smashed the UK’s all-time temperature record.
The start of the river has moved 5 miles (8 kilometers) downstream to Somerford Keynes, according to the Rivers Trust, which works across the UK and Ireland.
The flow there is weak and only just discernible.
“What we’re seeing at the source of the iconic River Thames is sadly emblematic of the situation we’re facing across the country, now and in future,” Christine Colvin, Advocacy and Engagement Director for the Rivers Trust, said in a statement sent to CNN.
- Germany Looks Ready For Nuclear Exit Number 4 Bloomberg
It’s getting hard to keep count of Germany’s “exits.” I’m talking about those pertaining to nuclear energy. Let’s see. I think we’re between three and four now, but closer to four.
Nuclear exit number 1 began in 2000. The government back then consisted of the center-left Social Democrats and the Greens. The latter were in power for the first time, having grown out of the hippie counterculture of the 1970s, and in particular the German mass movement against nuclear energy. So Germany decided to phase out its nuclear power plants.
Exit 2 happened in 2010. The government, by then consisting of the center-right Christian Democrats and the pro-business Free Democrats, decided to exit from the first exit and keep the remaining nuclear plants running. Exit 3 followed within a year, after the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan. It spooked the government into exiting from its own exit of the preceding exit. That is, Germany again began phasing out nuclear power.
The country’s last three fission reactors are due to go offline at the end of this year. Bad timing, obviously. This is the year Russian President Vladimir Putin chose to attack Ukraine and declare economic war on the European Union. He’s already throttling the natural gas that used to gush from Russia to central Europe.
Germany, in particular, relies on that gas. It mainly needs the stuff to fuel factories and heat homes. But gas was also supposed to fill the gap in power generation left by the nuclear energy being phased out — which still accounted for 12% of electricity last year.
The government dealing with this mess once again consists of the 2000 roster of Social Democrats and Greens, but now with the addition of the Free Democrats who were part of later exits. The result is cacophonous.
The Christian Democrats, now in opposition, are calling for an extension of the three nuclear plants still online. That could be done even without buying new fuel rods. The Free Democrats agree, but are treading carefully, lest they ruffle the tenuous coalition peace.
Others want to restart the reactors already offline as well — a group of 20 university professors is urging parliament to permanently exit all previous nuclear exits. An industry association even wants to invest in entirely new fission plants.
Germany’s European partners are also vociferous. They never understood Germany’s nuclear hysteria in the first place. France relies on fission for most of its electricity and is investing in more reactors. Cutting-edge nations such as Finland view nuclear power as a small but crucial part in any resilient energy mix.
The EU’s eastern members, from Poland to Romania and Slovakia, are especially annoyed. They spent decades urging Germany not to make itself dependent on Russian gas and vulnerable to Putin’s blackmail. The Germans either ignored them or smugly lectured them on Kremlinology, refusing to acknowledge any connection between their policies on Russia, gas and fission.
Now those links are obvious. So the EU, trying hard to look united, is asking all member states to reduce gas usage by 15%. But some countries see that as bailing out the Germans for their own policy failures. As a Slovakian official puts it, why not start saving gas by firing up Germany’s nuclear reactors first?
The Dutch make a similar point. They have Europe’s largest gas field, in Groningen. But getting the hydrocarbons out of the ground causes earthquakes, so the Netherlands is phasing out production. Now Germany is asking its neighbor to rethink that exit, because it wants the Groningen gas to replace Putin’s. That would be easier to sell to Dutch voters if the Germans showed some flexibility on nuclear.
What many foreigners don’t appreciate, however, is that the German controversy is less a policy debate than a religious war — not unlike the American debates about guns or abortion, say. Many Germans have spent their entire lives protesting against the splitting of atoms. The Green Party’s base, in particular, teems with zealots who consider all nuclear energy evil, and any attempt to nuance the discussion as tantamount to treason.
But the Greens are in the government and have responsibility. They even run the relevant ministries — those for the environment and for commerce and energy. So the party’s leaders are dipping their toes into the discussion.
Even religious wars eventually wear themselves out. My guess is that Germany’s leaders, including those who head the Greens, are secretly yearning to make peace. They’re just agonizing over how to communicate that to the public. Exit number 4 is getting closer.
What the fuck has been going on in Germany for the last few decades? I knew that they were generally anti-nuclear but this is just ridiculous.
Asia and Oceania
- Taiwan accuses China of ‘simulating’ invasion as drills continue Al Jazeera
Taiwan has accused the Chinese army of simulating an attack on its main island, as Beijing continued the large-scale military drills it began in response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei.
Gee, you reckon? Do you really think that China surrounding your island with military exercises might, in some way, be preparation for a future conflict with you? What absolutely wild speculation!
The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) sent “multiple” warships and aircraft into the Taiwan Strait on Saturday, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense said in a statement.
The ministry said it had also fired flares on Friday night to warn off seven drones flying over the Kinmen islands just off China’s eastern coast, and to warn unidentified aircraft that were flying over its outlying Matsu islands.
- Taiwan official leading missile production found dead in hotel Reuters
Another suicide by an important person which could have been avoided if my Jeffrey Epstein Mental Health Fund was established. A shame.
The deputy head of Taiwan defence ministry’s research and development unit was found dead on Saturday morning in a hotel room, according to the official Central News Agency.
Ou Yang Li-hsing, deputy head of the military-owned National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology, was found dead in a hotel room in southern Taiwan on Saturday morning, CNA reported. It said authorities were looking into the cause of death.
- US eyes de-escalation of tension with China, but will stand with Taiwan Inquirer
United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Saturday the U.S. will continue to stand with Taiwan, but will also pursue the de-escalation of tension with China to ensure regional peace and order.
During a virtual joint press conference with Philippine Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo, Blinken criticized China for cutting communication lines with Washington, and launching missiles around Taiwan.
China conducted military exercises around Taiwan following the visit of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the self-governing island which is being claimed by China as part of its territory.
Blinken said the U.S. will continue to back Taiwan as it believes that “a free and open Indo-Pacific demands it.”
He, however, stressed on the need to protect the Taiwan Strait as many trading ships from various countries pass through the said waters.
- Pelosi’s Visit to Taiwan Creates a Headache for ASEAN Countries The Diplomat
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan from late Tuesday night to Wednesday afternoon prompted China to conduct a series of nearby live-fire drills beginning on Thursday. Those drills mark a direct challenge to what Taiwan claims as its territorial waters and airspace.
While Pelosi’s visit delighted Taiwanese, it infuriated Beijing enough to place the entire region in danger through China’s military retaliation. In the midst of the increasing tension, ASEAN’s foreign ministers called for all parties to exercise “maximum restraint, refrain from provocative action and for upholding the principles enshrined in United Nations Charter and the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC).” The statement was released just before Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with his ASEAN counterparts in Phnom Penh on Thursday, August 4.
Amid high tensions in the region, at the China-ASEAN meeting, Wang emphasized his country’s effort to promote close ties with Southeast Asian countries, which appeared to be China’s attempt to bolster its influence in the region. The group of ASEAN ministers’ “strong statement” issued earlier the same day elicited an allegation that China was taking advantage of debts to achieve political gains. China’s Foreign Ministry seized on the statement as evidence that ASEAN was supporting Beijing’s position in the crisis.
Southeast Asian countries have long felt the strain of living in the shadow of China-U.S. rivalry, but that stress was especially acute in the days following Pelosi’s visit to Taipei. The one-page statement said that “ASEAN is concerned with the international and regional volatility, especially in the recent development in the area adjacent with the ASEAN region, which could destabilize the region and eventually could lead to miscalculation, serious confrontation, open conflicts and unpredictable consequences among major powers.” Obviously, governments in Southeast Asia are cautious about the escalation of China-U.S. tensions, which highly likely to jeopardize the interests of all regional countries.
Owing to the sensitivity of the issue, ASEAN governments did not mention by name Pelosi’s contentious visit to Taiwan or China’s response in their statement. Instead, the ASEAN ministers highlighted that “the world is in dire need of wisdom and responsibility of all leaders to uphold multilateralism and partnership, cooperation, peaceful-coexistence and healthy competition for our shared goals of peace, stability, security and inclusive and sustainable development.” The region clearly does not want to become an arena of major power conflicts.
- China holds EU to account for criticism by European MPs SCMP
At a reception in Beijing last month, the European Union’s outgoing ambassador was warned by a senior Chinese official that the words and deeds of European lawmakers towards China – including visits to Taiwan – would be viewed as official EU policy.
“China will never deal with two EUs,” Wu Hongbo, a veteran diplomat and special envoy for China on European affairs, said at a leaving party for Nicolas Chapuis on July 8, according to sources familiar with the conversation.
“You are telling us that you have nothing to do with the European Parliament,” he said. “That’s not OK for China. China sees the EU as one, so whatever the separation of powers in the EU – we recognise only one.”
The remarks came amid a flurry of EU-Taiwan contacts, parliamentary resolutions, and visits from European delegations to Taipei.
- China ignores phone calls from Pentagon RT
As China continues its snap military drills around Taiwan in retaliation to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s provocative visit to the island this week, top Chinese military officials are refusing to return calls from their counterparts at the Pentagon, according to Politico.
Beijing allegedly rejected several calls from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley in recent days, according to “three people with knowledge of the attempts.” Milley’s last confirmed contact with China’s Chief of the Joint Staff, General Li Zuocheng, came on July 7, while Austin met with the Chinese defense minister, General Wei Fenghe, in person in June.
Learned a trick from Russia, I see.
- Japan protests after Chinese missiles land in its exclusive economic zone Reuters
Five ballistic missiles fired by China appear to have landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), Japanese defence minister Nobuo Kishi said on Thursday, part of military exercises launched by China earlier in the day.
The exercises, China’s largest ever in the Taiwan Strait, began as scheduled at midday and included live-firing in the waters to the north, south and east of Taiwan, bringing tensions in the area to their highest in a quarter century.
I’m glad that I get to say that Shinzo Abe is rolling in his grave. I mean, I guess he won because of the military spending increases, but I take tiny victories where I can.
- Japan Asks Mitsui, Mitsubishi To Stay On In Crucial Sakhalin-2 Project Oil Price
The Japanese industry ministry has asked Mitsui and Mitsubishi to “think positively” about their participation in the Russian Sakhalin-2 oil and gas project after the Russian government announced it would boost state ownership.
Reuters reports that industry minister Koichi Hagiuda today asked the two companies, which are minority shareholders in Sakhalin-2, to consider staying on, saying he was due to discuss the matter with a Mitsubishi executive in the coming days.
- Tonga, not China, must decide its future, says U.S. diplomat Reuters
Tonga should determine its future, not China or any other country, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said during a multi-leg trip to Pacific nations amid growing geopolitical tension.
At a televised event with university students in the Tonga capital Nuku’alofa on Saturday, Sherman noted the countries had fought alongside each other since World War Two, some three decades before establishing formal relations.
She said while the countries shared values of religious freedom and concern for human rights, the U.S. also considered Tonga strategically important.
“Why did the Japanese attack here? Because you were a strategic island that was key to who would rule the Pacific Ocean, who would own this area,” she said, invoking the Pacific battle during World War Two.
“It is strategic today as well because, as you know, the People’s Republic of China wants to be here, they want to invest here,” Sherman added.
“What they can’t do … is decide your future for you. We want to work with you, we want to partner with you, and we want to make sure you get to choose your own future and that neither we nor anybody else decides it for you.”
“Tonga should be free to plot its own course. Not China’s course, only our – I mean, your, course. If you don’t follow ou–your course, that is, if you follow China’s course, then, well, that might have some serious consequences for you. But it’s still your choice. This isn’t a threat."
- Heatwaves scorch Iraq as protracted political crisis grinds on Al Jazeera
Under Iraq’s blistering summer heat, thousands gathered inside Baghdad’s Green Zone for mass prayer on Friday.
Some wrapped their faces in cloths soaked in water, others brought bottled water to pour over their heads, many carried umbrellas – all in an effort to bring some relief from the scorching heat.
As the sun beat down on the crowds of thousands packed into the largely uncovered square in central Baghdad, some began to faint.
“It was so hot,” Haafez Alobaidi told Al Jazeera after the prayer called by influential Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr.
“When the air was still, I felt like I was being roasted in an oven,” Alobaidi said.
“When there was breeze, it felt like a hairdryer was blowing in my face … full force,” he said.
“You thought living in Iraq would make you get used to this kind of weather, but no, no human beings should live in this weather.”
- Anti-U.S. protests erupt in Afghanistan Reuters
Hundreds of Afghans carried anti-American banners on Friday to protest against a U.S. drone strike that Washington says killed al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri this month.
The protests were launched a day after the Taliban said their government had no information about Zawahiri “entering and living” in capital city Kabul and warned the United States to never repeat an attack on Afghan soil.
Photos shared on social media showed protesters in at least seven Afghan provinces carrying banners reading “Down with USA”, “Joe Biden, stop lying” and “America is a liar”.
- Russia announces elimination of opposition fighters trained by US Special Forces in Syria MEMO
The Russian Defence Ministry announced on Friday that its air forces had “eliminated” a group of opposition fighters trained by the US in Syria on 4 August.
The ministry’s statement read: “On 4 August, after the routine reconnaissance operations, Russian fighters eliminated a group of militants from the Martyrs Brigade terrorist group, which was hiding in equipped shelters in the desert. This group of militants is based in the eastern region of Tanf, and its members are being supplied and trained by trainers from the US Army Special Forces.”
The ministry noted that these militants had committed terrorist acts and killed civilians in the Badia area.
Moscow has helped its ally, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, to turn the tide of the civil war that has lasted over a decade in his favour to confront rebels, some of whom are backed by the US or Turkiye.
Last March, Russian foreign intelligence confirmed that the US-controlled Al-Tanf base in Syria had witnessed the preparation of terrorists to be deployedto Donbas.
- Kazakhstan’s 300,000-Bpd Kashagan Oilfield Halts Output Oil Price
The offshore oilfield Kashagan in Kazakhstan, which pumps more than 300,000 barrels per day (bpd), was shut down on Thursday after a gas leak was detected on the site, the field operator said on Friday.
“NCOC, the Operator of the North Caspian Project, confirms that on 3 August 2022, Bolashak Onshore Processing Facility was safely shut down as a result of the detection of a gas release within the perimeter of the site. As per standard procedure, following the gas detectors activation, the facilities have been depressurized to the flare system,” the operator said in a statement today.
In the first quarter of this year, oil production from the Kashagan oilfield dropped to an average of 317,000 bpd, down by 2 percent compared to the same period of 2021.
No people were harmed, and no excessive pollution was detected following the gas leak detected on Thursday, the company added.
- ‘Extreme’ rain kills one and causes huge damage in Senegal’s capital, Dakar All Africa
At least one person has been killed in and another severely injured in flooding caused by torrential rain in Senegal’s capital, Dakar, on Friday.
It is the second time in less than a month heavy downpours have turned roads into muddy rivers and submerged underpasses.
Some drivers described frightening scenes, including Tahar Trabelsi, a Tunisian engineer living in Dakar.
“There were a lot of traffic jams, we were completely blocked,” he said.
“We weren’t moving forward and - with the rain - there was a lot of water coming in - and little by little, the water was rising. So we were all blocked.
“Me, when I saw that the car began to fill with water, I took the decision to get out of the car and left.”
“My car was flooded 100 percent.”
Flooding is common in Dakar at this time of year but on Friday 126 millimetres of rain fell in just six hours.
But the country’s sandy roads are ill-equipped to deal with so much water and some are blaming the exceptional rainfall on global warming.
Tahar Trabelsi says: “Nowadays, the intensity of the rain is huge. It’s not like the rains of the past.
“We know about climate change, it is not complicated.”
- Stocks mostly fall after US jobs growth surges Inquirer
Stock markets mostly fell Friday as a much stronger-than-expected US jobs report raised the prospect that the Federal Reserve will maintain its aggressive monetary policy to combat inflation.
Official data published Friday showed the US economy added 528,000 positions, defying all expectations of a slowdown.
Friday’s data also showed US wages jumped, which will add to inflation concerns and likely push the Fed to raise rates aggressively again next month.
The Fed has previously said its decision will be guided by data.
Markets fell after the “absolutely monster” jobs report leaves “the Fed with all the ammo it needs to keep on hiking a lot more,” Markets.com analyst Neil Wilson told AFP.
But after tumbling decisively just after the data, Wall Street equities later came back somewhat, lifting the Dow into positive territory by the session’s end and lessening losses on the other two indices.
US gas prices are sliding toward $4, but hurricane season will have a say in whether prices stay lower, say energy experts Business Insider
Flood Maps Show US Underestimates Contamination Risk At Industrial Sites Popular Resistance
Climate science is clear: Floodwaters are a growing risk for many American cities, threatening to displace not only people and housing but also the land-based pollution left behind by earlier industrial activities.
In 2019, researchers at the U.S. Government Accountability Office investigated climate-related risks at the 1,571 most polluted properties in the country, also known as Superfund sites on the federal National Priorities List. They found an alarming 60% were in locations at risk of climate-related events, including wildfires and flooding.
As troubling as those numbers sound, our research shows that that’s just the proverbial tip of the iceberg.
Many times that number of potentially contaminated former industrial sites exist. Most were never documented by government agencies, which began collecting data on industrially contaminated lands only in the 1980s. Today, many of these sites have been redeveloped for other uses such as homes, buildings or parks.
In just these six cities, we found over 6,000 sites at risk of flooding in the next 30 years – far more than recognized by the EPA. Using census data, we estimate that nearly 200,000 residents live on blocks with at least one flood-prone relic industrial site and its legacy contaminants.
- US Army is developing a tactical bra for its female soldiers CNN
The US Army is developing a tactical bra for its female soldiers.
The bra, known as the Army Tactical Brassiere, is still in development at the US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Solider Center, also known as DEVCOM, in Natick, Massachusetts. If approved by the Army Uniform Board, it will be the first official uniform bra the Army has offered its female soldiers in its history.
- Risks to the dollar’s ‘explosive’ dominance in 2022 are rising and the greenback’s strength could start to wane, analysts say Business Insider
The summer rally that has ignited the dollar could wane if the Federal Reserve loosens monetary policy again as inflation cools.
A note from Evercore ISI analysts lead by Julian Emanuel posits that because the dollar’s surge largely stemmed from a hawkish central bank and strong US growth, its climb could be capped if inflation comes down to a point that satisfies the Federal Reserve.
“The USD rally over the last two years has heretofore been explosive,” Emanuel wrote. He added that Wall Street may have been too soon to assume the Fed will believe inflation has subsided enough to reverse tightening.
The greenback has edged toward 20-year highs so far this year, even as haven assets like gold slump. The central bank has raised benchmark interest rates four times in the past five months, and hasn’t ruled out future additional tightening.
“The dollar trade is moderating after hitting some historic levels with the euro and yen,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA.
But analysts on the other side of the picture say sluggish growth elsewhere could push the dollar higher, because the dollar has already benefited from recession worries in countries like China and the UK. “Dollar dominance,” Moya added, “will probably remain in favor as safe-haven flows grow on global economic slowdown reality.”
- Twitter admits to being hacked RT
Twitter on Friday informed users of a security bug that had allowed “a bad actor” to obtain and sell the personal data of account holders. The tech giant didn’t provide the number of compromised accounts, but media reports state that more than 5 million users could have been affected.
A company statement said that the system vulnerability, which resulted from a June 2021 code update, made it possible to enter an email address or phone number and learn if either was linked to a specific account.
Twitter fixed the bug in early 2022. In July, however, the company saw a press report suggesting that “someone had potentially leveraged this and was offering to sell the information they had compiled.”
- Nitrogen Fertilizer Prices Are Spiking as Natural Gas Soars Bloomberg
Just when the fertilizer market started to see some relief, nitrogen prices are rising again — and major companies are sounding the alarm that they won’t let up anytime soon.
Weekly prices for the common nitrogen fertilizer urea rose almost 7% in New Orleans on Friday to the highest since May as an energy crunch in Europe sends prices for natural gas, the main input, soaring. Europe’s fertilizer industry closed or curtailed output at 10 plants in July as operating costs soared, pressuring a market that has been in chaos since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February.
Wholesale fertilizer prices soared to multiyear highs after Vladimir Putin’s aggression roiled commodity markets. Russia is a big supplier of every major type of crop nutrient. In a bid to contain rising food costs, the US exempted Russian fertilizer sales from wide-ranging sanctions. Nonetheless, restrictions on other energy exports rippled through the supply chain. Recently, prices had been dropping but that trend reversed amid prolonged European curtailments.
- The Semiconductor Chip Shortage Seems to Be Easing Bloomberg
It’s ironic that just as US lawmakers finally broke an impasse of more than a year on a bill providing unprecedented subsidies for making semiconductors, evidence is mounting that demand for chips is softening.
Part of the rationale for that legislation was to address a severe shortage of chips globally that had contributed powerfully to the initial wave of inflation last year. The automobile industry in particular found itself running out of semiconductors vital for the modern vehicle. That crimped supply, sending prices of both new and—in a knock-on effect—used cars soaring.
But while legislators were wrangling, the world changed. Global chip sales growth has decelerated for six straight months. Semiconductor sales rose 13.3% in June from a year earlier, down from 18% in May, data from the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) showed. The current slowdown is the longest since Donald Trump launched his trade war against China.
Signs of an international downturn are also observed in trade data from South Korea, the world’s biggest producer of memory chips. Growth in chip exports slowed for the fourth straight month, down to 2.1% in July from 10.7% in June, when semiconductor stockpiles rose by the most in more than six years.
It’s a similar story in Taiwan, another key player in electronics supply chains. Latest data indicate manufacturing on the island contracted in June and July, while production and demand slumped, with new export orders registering the biggest fall.
The weakening momentum in these two key players is, in turn, partly due to a slowing economy in China, which continues to impose lockdowns under its Zero-Covid policy. China’s factory activity unexpectedly contracted in July, and property sales there continue to shrink.
But another takeaway is that the softening semiconductor output figures suggest that there has been a sufficient—or more than sufficient—ramping up of production to meet demand.
And ultimately that should be good news for inflation, because it illustrates that supply chains are able to respond to demand shifts, easing fears about long-term shortages.
The Ukraine War
- Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of shelling Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant Washington Post
Russia and Ukraine are accusing one another of shelling Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, the Zaporizhzhia plant, triggering fears of an international nuclear crisis.
Is Russia shelling its own plant for no reason, or Ukraine shelling enemy positions regardless of whether it’s safe or not? A mystery for the ages.
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.
- The will of Ukrainian volunteers shows how we will prevail over Russia WaPo, by Iuliia Mendel, a journalist and former press secretary for Zelensky.
Man, does anybody else think these articles are more pitiable than anything at this point? Like, I read that headline and felt more sad than indignation. Obviously, Ukraine is infested with neo-Nazis and something needed to happen from outside because it sure wasn’t being fixed from the inside - but it’s also a nation that is in the process of being bled white, and the people there are still desperately writing and believing propaganda about how Russia will, any day, be beaten back from the occupied territories. Especially with that new report that was claimed to have been leaked (I’m not sure if it’s true) that shows that Ukraine has sustained 191,000 casualties. No matter what happens, whatever remains of Ukraine, if there’s anything really at all, will spend decades being either literally or virtually ungovernable, a poverty-ridden hellhole beyond even that of places that have recently gone through the shock doctrine. This is what happens when fascists gain control of a country, whether through fully legitimate channels or via paramilitary groups like Azov.
Most schools in Kyiv sit dark and empty these days. Russia’s invasion in February sent children back home for distance learning, and then the summer vacation started. But this school gym is packed — not with students, but with women cutting pieces of cloth, weaving, chatting.
“We do this for you, you should tell us what you need,” a woman tells a man with a military uniform.
The gym equipment has been pushed to the side and fishing nets and colorful rags are stacked on the floor — when the women are done, the nets and rags will become camouflage for equipment and troops in the front.
“When the war broke, we were sitting in our apartment and needed to do something,” says Valentyna Hushchyna, 52, a former clothing saleswoman and seamstress. “I called all those who stayed, many of them elderly, to bring old clothes and fabrics and to get ready to weave. Our first net was 24 meters long and six meters wide and was very heavy. It hung from the eighth to the first floor of a building and people weaved on every floor. Now we weave them here.”
This is one of the many ways regular Ukrainians have stepped up to aid the war effort. Very quickly, neighbors organized and learned the way to make camouflage more professionally to fit the army’s needs.
“We have a night vision device that we use it to check that the cloth does not glow at night,” Anna, 39, tells me. “We get fabrics from whoever we can. Someone even unraveled sweaters for the threads. If necessary, we also repaint fabrics.”
“We do it every day, so Putin doesn’t win,” she adds.
Ukrainian volunteers have shown the world what a united front looks like. The Volunteer Platform, launched back in March 2021, lists over 1,150 volunteering opportunities in Ukraine. The platform currently connects more than 400,000 users with over 500 organizations, UNICEF reports.
Many Ukrainians volunteer without officially registering. We see the effects of the war everyday — the casualties, the fatigue — but people refuse to give up.
“I think the whole world is already tired, because no one thought it would last this long, but I believe in victory,” says Marharyta Liashuha, 30, a doctor who has devoted herself to delivering medical supplies. Liashuha’s husband is in the military and spends a lot of time on the frontlines. Liashuha, for her part, developed a network of international contacts and delivers the aid to hospitals.
The article continues for a little while longer, but that’s the gist.
- Opinion: Biden is racking up wins but getting no love for it CNN
Let’s see what somebody who has no idea what is happening to poorer people in their own country thinks what the country looks like. And laugh at them.
For a president who so many people believe is failing, Joe Biden sure is suddenly notching up an impressive string of victories. And they’re not minor. In fact, Biden is on a roll when it comes to both domestic and foreign policy.
After a number of painful defeats, including high-profile setbacks on his Build Back Better bill, the Biden presidency seems to have turned the tide. On Thursday, Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona announced she would support the Inflation Reduction Act, all but assuring the landmark climate, health care and tax proposal will pass in the 50-50 Senate. Hours later, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released data that shows the nation’s economy is still powering ahead, regaining more than half a million jobs in July. Unemployment is now down to just 3.5%, matching the half-century low last seen in February 2020.
And yet, there’s little sign that the President’s standing has enjoyed a meaningful lift. Biden is winning battles, but he’s not getting a lot of love. Is it only a matter of time before Biden’s polls catch up with the new wave of accomplishments?
It’s difficult to redraw an image after it has been etched in the public mind. The right’s efforts to paint the 79-year-old as senile and unable to meet the demands of his office have been largely successful, certainly among Republicans. And many Democrats, particularly young people, have been turning away from the President, disappointed with the pace and scope of what his administration has been able to achieve.
Now, after months of legislative gridlock, however, Biden’s agenda is not just inching along – it is galloping ahead.
I don’t even really know how to respond to this. Either she’s awfully naive, or awfully stupid. Perhaps both.
On foreign policy, Biden had a fine week, despite simmering tensions with China. US forces killed Ayman al-Zawahiri, who took over al Qaeda after Osama bin Landen’s killing. Biden was deeply involved in the decision to launch the precision drone strike that led to his death in Kabul, making sure to avoid the civilian deaths that have tainted other counterterrorism operations.
Seriously? You think assassinating Zawahiri, inside Afghanistan, a sovereign country, was a foreign policy WIN? But yeah, other than the fact that we were (and still are) closer to World War 3 than we ever have been, it’s been a great week for geopolitics.
But the more historic moment came on Wednesday, when the Senate overwhelmingly voted to approve a resolution to ratify membership for Finland and Sweden in NATO – only Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri voted against it while GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky voted present. It was arguably the most consequential expansion of the alliance in decades, and a huge blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin. More than five months after he launched his war, Putin’s efforts to control Ukraine and divide NATO have failed in large part because Biden has held the alliance together, even helping Europe face Putin’s weaponization of gas exports.
She also occupies the parallel universe in which Putin is losing and NATO is stronger than ever. I hope things are nice in that universe, because it sure isn’t reality.
But it was on the domestic front that Biden once seemed to struggle the most.
After promising bipartisanship as a candidate, Biden couldn’t even get all 50 Democrats in the Senate to support key pieces of his agenda. Now, despite the GOP’s alarming radicalization and numerous setbacks caused by Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Sinema (not to mention the Supreme Court), Congress is passing multiple pieces of important legislation.
Last week, Congress approved the CHIPS Act by a wide margin, which will increase semiconductor production and make the US more competitive against China.
That came shortly after Biden signed the first major gun safety law in decades. Despite falling short of what Biden and his party advocated for, its passage in the current political environment is a remarkable achievement.
Speaking of bipartisanship, 47 Republicans joined House Democrats to pass the Respect for Marriage Act. The bill, a preventive measure following Justice Clarence Thomas' call to reconsider the Supreme Court decision allowing the federal right to same-sex marriage, protects not only gay marriage, but also interracial marriages and safeguards against other forms of discrimination. Approval by the Senate is still uncertain.
Then there was the real shocker. Sens. Manchin and Chuck Schumer struck a deal that revived key elements of Biden’s agenda in a bill called the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.
Now that Sinema has signed on, the law is set to become the “BFD” that Biden and his supporters had been hoping for. If it passes, it would be the largest climate investment in US history. The bill will also instill a minimum tax on giant corporations that get away with paying little to nothing and make health care and drug prescriptions more affordable for millions of Americans.
Too little, too late. Either the climate bill will do nothing at all because it’ll be hijacked and sabotaged by fossil fuel corporations, or it’ll provide small changes that are several orders of magnitude below the minimum action required to keep the planet habitable, which is itself several orders of magnitude below what’s required to make it a nice place to live. An effective climate bill would require trillions, probably tens of trillions, of spending to even approach the level of action required for this moment. And also the end of capitalism.
Despite its $433 billion price tag, the bill actually reduces the deficit. A review by Moody’s Analytics concluded it would check inflation, reduce the deficit and boost the economy while tackling climate change.
The two main thrusts of the bill – the economy and the environment – have the power to move the electoral needle. For all the disappointment in Biden, which may stem in part from his subpar rhetorical prowess, Americans are also concerned about pocketbook issues.
Literally nobody cares about reducing the deficit. Not a single person in the United States genuinely, TRULY cares about bringing down the national debt. It’s a sledgehammer you wield to beat down whatever your opponent is proposing. The Venn diagram of people who say that care about the deficit and also want to massively bring down military spending and subsidies for corporations are two separate circles.
And there are certainly bright spots on that front. Gas prices have now been sinking for more than 50 days. Fears that the Fed’s efforts to control inflation will send the economy into a deep recession appear to be easing. At least many investors seem to be having a change of heart – the S&P 500 has soared about 13% from its low in mid-June, and the Nasdaq is up about 16% over the same period. It’s a new bull market, some say.
We’ll see how that changes in the winter. If gas prices are at the same level today as they are in five months, I’ll give Joe a clap on the back.
Adding to the good news for Democrats, voters in Kansas – Kansas! – turned out in huge numbers this week to defend abortion rights, suggesting a path to averting a much-predicted disaster in the November midterm elections.
This is probably one of the only genuinely good things that she’s described in this article so far, and even then, I disagree that it portends too much hope for the midterms.
Democrats are pulling ahead when it comes to the public’s preference for party control of Congress. According to a recent Monmouth University poll released this week, 38% of Americans say they want the Democrats in charge, with another 12% saying they lean towards the party, compared to 34% who prefer Republican control with another 9% leaning toward the GOP.
Those numbers are much closer than I would be proud to admit. Voter suppression might take out the difference anyway.
Biden’s numbers, on the other hand, aren’t moving much. At least not yet. According to the Monmouth poll, Biden had a 38% approval rating – up 2% compared to June, but still a far cry from July 2021 – the last time he held a net positive rating (with 48% approving, compared to 44% disapproving.)
But if the Manchin-Schumer compromise passes, as seems likely, Biden’s standing with Democrats – especially younger voters – could get a boost. And if gas prices keep dropping, inflation starts easing, and the stock market doesn’t sink again, the bulk of the country – many of whom are not obsessed with politics – could start feeling more optimistic, helping Biden’s approval get some traction.
For as long as he’s president, Biden will face the headwinds of shameless distortion by right-wing operatives, and he will suffer from not being the most charismatic, eloquent president at a time when the country’s very democracy is under threat.
That’s one of the funniest descriptors of Biden I’ve ever seen. “This shambling, stuttering, virtually dead husk does not, perhaps, inspire immense amounts of hope in people…"
At this moment in his presidency, however, he can enjoy having scored a string of victories, and hope he has turned the tide.
- These 9 things prove the US economy isn’t currently in a recession Business Insider
I’m not going through these dumbshit reasons, but I will quote the first part:
Last week’s GDP report painted a gloomy picture of the economy — but far more indicators show the country to be performing just fine.
Though gross domestic product shrank for two consecutive quarters, inflation is at four-decade highs, and Americans' economic sentiments near record lows, it would be a mistake to ignore several other signs of resilience in the US economy. A handful of indicators — including those closely tracked by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the very organization that calls recessions — show the recovery running strong through the second quarter, albeit at a slower pace than last year.
“So if you ignore that the economy is contracting and that people are the unhappiest they have ever been with the economy, EVER, then actually things are going quite well."
- Biden’s top labor official says with a job market this good, we’re not in a recession Business Insider
Even as the possibility of a recession looms large over the country, economic data keeps telling a different story.
“We’re not in a recession. The economy on the job front is going very, very strong. And I see it continuing for the foreseeable future,” Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh told Insider.
The copium epidemic spreading throughout the highest levels of the White House is truly astounding in its magnitude.
- Ukraine war making 40 million people go hungry, Africa to bear brunt, says U.S. Reuters
The United States' ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield on Friday said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will cause 40 million people to become food insecure and that sub-Saharan Africa will be hardest hit.
The United States has secured $4.5 billion for food security at the G7 summit, of which it has contributed $2.76 billion.
There are also plans for the U.S. to contribute $150 million in new humanitarian development assistance to Africa pending congressional approval, she added.
Just give them GMO seeds for free! Take over Monsanto and start handing out drought and heat-resistant crops to people!
African governments have largely avoided taking sides in the European conflict, and have refused to join Western condemnation and sanctions.
Africans “don’t want to be pressured to pick a side” in a repeat of the Cold War, but “need to know the facts”, Thomas-Greenfield said.
While energy, climate change, the pandemic and conflict are the root causes of global food supply issues, the “most insidious source” is hunger used intentionally as a weapon of war, she said.
SANCTIONS ARE LITERALLY USING FOOD AND ESSENTIAL PRODUCTS AS A WEAPON OF WAR AND REGIME CHANGE. THAT IS THE EXPRESS POINT OF USING SANCTIONS. AMERICA HAS SANCTIONED THE MOST COUNTRIES ON EARTH. WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?!
“Russia has systematically captured some of Ukraine’s most productive farmland, spoiling fields with mines and bombs,” Thomas-Greenfield said.
“Regardless of how you feel about Russia, we all have a powerful common interest in mitigating the impact of the war in Ukraine on food security,” she added.
We’ve got a couple of articles on China today. Now that the initial shock has passed, journalists are really starting to get jiggy with it.
- China’s Backlash Shows the Neighborhood Who It Really Is Bloomberg
When someone shows you who they are, believe them.
China’s Asian neighbors are getting a lesson in the advice from the late US author and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou, this week, with Beijing firing missiles over Taiwan and landing five in Japan’s exclusive economic zone — something even North Korea tends to shy away from.
Japan, of course, has little power over where US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi goes. Chinese authorities had no need to provoke Tokyo over her visit to Taipei, and could have kept up the fantasy that a Taiwan conflict doesn’t need to involve Japan. Hawks here don’t believe that, but there are enough doves who want to think China is a friend that the nation is conflicted. Before the military drill began, for example, former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama accused the US of inviting war and said Japan would be “foolish” to go along with the US.
This way of thinking could have carried weight in a nation that last month lost its most prominent and respected hawkish voice with the assassination of Shinzo Abe. But Chinese authorities can’t resist revealing their predilections, refusing even to acknowledge that Japan’s EEZ exists. It exposes Beijing’s “respect the rule of international law, but only when it suits us” stance.
You motherfuckers. You absolute fucking disgusting eldritch abominations.
With Japan deep into a debate on defense spending, the move is a gift for hawks and likely only to deepen the alliance between Washington and Tokyo — often overlooked in a potential conflict between China and Taipei. Taiwan is located just 100 kilometers off Japan’s westernmost point, and China doves like Hatoyama will find their arguments don’t travel so far when missiles are flying.
“Well, THANKS, China. We weren’t planning on buying hundreds of billions of dollars of weaponry from the United States before this, but NOW you’ve forced our hand! All because you got angry at Pelosi!” It’s all so repetitive and exhausting.
Before China sent warships across the Taiwan Strait’s median line on Friday in a continuation of its biggest military show of force in decades, reports indicated that Japan’s Defense Ministry will seek a 5.5 trillion yen ($41 billion) budget next year. That would be a record, but a less than a 1% increase on the amount sought last year. Beijing’s actions will lend credence to voices demanding more radically increased spending. One one former Pentagon official called on Japan to triple its defense budget.
Not everyone, of course, reacted this way. The United Arab Emirates raised eyebrows with its China-supporting stance. Perhaps most surprisingly, South Korea President Yoon Suk Yeol opted not to meet with Pelosi at all, citing a scheduling conflict with his holidays. As one of the region’s closet US allies, Seoul’s silence on the missile launches — at time of writing, there hasn’t even been a statement issued — has also been notable. Even more so because if anyone knows what it’s like to deal with a crotchety China, it is South Korea. After all, it has only been a few years since Seoul was on the receiving end of China’s petulance, hit with unofficial economic sanctions over its decision to deploy the THAAD defense system, which it said was aimed purely at the threat of North Korean missiles. Beijing wasn’t so sure.
What will China do next? The administration is skilled at playing the long game. While the world’s attention will likely move on to the next crisis, weeks and months from now China will still be thinking about Taiwan. While its backlash hasn’t been as heavy-handed as some feared (and Beijing promised), don’t assume that it’s finished yet. Tokyo’s dealings in another disputed territory, the islands known in Japan as the Senkakus and in China as Diaoyu, show how. Over a decade ago, when Chinese ships first entered Japanese territorial waters, such a provocation made international headlines. But having sustained such intrusions for a decade now, these days no one pays attention to such moves.
Similarly, little by little, China will likely continue to push at the status quo surrounding Taiwan. The challenge for Japan, the US and their allies is to maintain focus when tensions calm down — and not be distracted when China, inevitably, plays nice again.
- In Turbulent Times, Xi Builds a Security Fortress for China, and Himself NYT
This is a long article, and I really don’t feel like reading most of it. Any of it, really. I’ll do the first few paragraphs and the last one or two, to get the vibe.
Over informal, private meals with American leaders, China’s Xi Jinping let his guard down a little. It was a decade ago, relations were less strained, and Mr. Xi, still cementing his power, hinted he worried about the Chinese Communist Party’s grip.
Speaking privately with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, Mr. Xi suggested that China was a target of “color revolutions,” a phrase the party adopted from Russia for popular unrest in the name of democracy and blamed on the West. The recent “Arab Spring” uprisings across the Middle East had reinforced his concerns that China was vulnerable to public anger over corruption and inequality, both of which the country had in abundance.
“Xi couldn’t have been more forthright that China is beset by malevolent forces and internally prey to centrifugal forces,” said Daniel R. Russel, a former senior American diplomat who accompanied Mr. Biden to China in 2011.
“He would talk all the time about color revolutions. That’s clearly a sort of front-of-mind issue for him,” said Ryan Hass, the National Security Council director for China when Mr. Xi later visited the White House.
Such fears have come to define the era of Mr. Xi. Over the past decade, he has pursued an all-encompassing drive to expand the very meaning of “national security” in China, bolstering the party’s control on all fronts against any perceived threats abroad that could pounce on weakness at home.
He has strengthened, centralized and emboldened an already pervasive security apparatus, turning it into a hulking fortress that protects him and positions him as the most powerful leader since Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. Mr. Xi has built what he calls a “comprehensive” system designed for a world he sees as determined to thwart China — politically, economically, socially, militarily and technologically.
Yada yada yada. All the way to the end:
Officials cite national security to restrict lawyers and their clients, or to silence public complaints about financial or land disputes. Academics face tighter monitoring of their teaching and research. Beijing’s combative worldview, other Chinese critics have said, has pushed China too close to Russia and deterred debate over its invasion of Ukraine.
Children also absorb Mr. Xi’s precepts each National Security Education Day on April 15, which commemorates the first meeting of the National Security Commission in 2014.
In one school in Beijing, children this year drew pictures of vigilant citizens beating up masked villains. “In defending national security, nobody is an outsider or a bystander,” said a presentation at an elementary school in northwest China.
It reminded the pupils of the Ministry of State Security’s phone number for reporting anything suspicious: 12339.
- China’s suspension of bilateral climate talks with U.S. ‘punishes the world,’ Kerry says Reuters
God damn it, Kerry. You were on such a good run, redeeming the dark days when you organized the Kerryposting Brigade.
China’s decision to suspend bilateral talks on climate change with the United States does not punish Washington, “it punishes the world,” U.S. Special Envoy on Climate Change John Kerry said on Friday.
“No country should withhold progress on existential transnational issues because of bilateral differences,” said the former U.S. Secretary of State, who is currently the Biden administration’s top climate diplomat.
“Suspending cooperation doesn’t punish the United States – it punishes the world, particularly the developing world,” he said.
Man, the United States is gonna have its shitty little climate bill to flash around at nations that have done more, for longer, than the US has on climate. It’s gonna be so fucking annoying. I can imagine the talking points now. “While China is building new coal power plants, the new American climate bill worth hundreds of billions of dollars is helping save the planet.” God fucking damn it. Sorry, I’m just making myself angry now.
- How the Afghan War Was Lost, in Five Easy Steps Bloomberg
I wonder how long I can read this before I get mad.
America’s abrupt abandonment of Afghanistan a year ago precipitated a humanitarian crisis and was a debacle for the Joe Biden administration; the president’s approval ratings plunged and have not recovered. Watching Kabul fall to the Taliban has also been a difficult experience for veterans who fought there.
Elliot Ackerman’s forthcoming book, “The Fifth Act: America’s End in Afghanistan,” is a searing condemnation of both the conduct and abandonment of the war effort. Ackerman, a former Marine Corps and CIA officer who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, is one of the most prolific and powerful figures of the current renaissance of writing among American military veterans. (He also the co-author, with Bloomberg Opinion columnist Admiral James Stavridis, of the bestseller “2034: A Novel of the Next World War.”)
“The Fifth Act” weaves together the languor of his family vacation in Italy with the urgency of attempting to get people out of Afghanistan and the regretful ruminations on the meaning of his service and the wars he fought in. Below is a lightly edited transcript of a recent chat with Ackerman about the book:
Kori Schake: I love the book’s opening line: “The war has always been there, even though I don’t go to it anymore.” The idea of deciding to leave, of soldiers in wars of long duration having to negotiate their own separate peace, resonates throughout the book. Explain why that’s such a weighty emotional burden.
Elliot Ackerman: Because there’s always another deployment to go on. Every time I came back from Iraq or Afghanistan, there was the question of the next deployment. Are you going? It’s tough to bow out, no matter how many deployments you’ve already done. These guys you’re serving alongside are your best friends, so it’s tough to tell them that you’re done, that they can go on the next one without you, that it might not be time for them to leave the war, but it is for you. That type of decision can weigh on friendships. It certainly weighed on some of mine.
Okay, yeah, this article fucking sucks and I hate it.
EA: As Kabul was falling, a friend of mine, Bari Weiss, asked me to contribute a brief article about Afghanistan to her Substack. I was, admittedly, feeling at a loss for what to write. I mean, what else was there to say about Afghanistan after 20 years of war?
Bari Weiss is the reason this book exists? God fucking damn it. Anyway, nobody here, including me, gives a shit about this disgusting bootlicker and his adventures murdering children and not being punished for it. I do like these paragraphs, though:
I think we should abolish all these individual war memorials. Instead, we should have one single National War Memorial. I imagine it being a black trench like the Vietnam Veterans memorial, but it spirals underground like something out of Dante. A war memorial built into the earth as opposed to above it seems appropriate; if there’s one thing you learn to do in the military it’s to dig.
This spiraling trench would have all the names of America’s war dead, more than a million, beginning with Crispus Attucks, a freeman of African and Native descent who is counted as the first death in the American Revolution. Every time we fought a war, we’d dig a little deeper to add the names. Down and down, we’d go. We wouldn’t have to debate real estate on the mall, we’d just keep on digging.
I think we should do something like this once America has been destroyed or the revolution has occurred - maybe not a trench, maybe a giant glowing beacon so that everybody from miles around can see - but with all the people that American wars have killed. A Holocaust memorial but like, fifty times bigger due to all the names.
For when people accept reality, though often not fully and not for very long.
- Why the international climate community isn’t popping champagne over the US energy bill CNN
The Democrats' $369 billion climate package, the largest such investment in US history, could have significant implications for global greenhouse gas emissions and the US' standing in the world, after months of uncertainty in Congress undermined the Biden administration’s claims that “America is back.”
US officials are hoping it puts them in a better position for difficult negotiations to come: the international climate talks in Egypt this fall.
The inability of US lawmakers to pass federal climate legislation has for years been a black eye for the country’s international delegates at global climate talks. The Trump years were a low point, but even at COP26 in Glasgow last year, President Joe Biden and US Climate Envoy John Kerry’s calls to action did not have the necessary legislative weight behind them.
Kerry and Biden now have billions of legislative investments in clean energy to tout when they go to COP27 in November, which US lawmakers and experts say is a gamechanger.
“I think we all felt like we were walking through the desert with no hope of finding water, and the vultures were starting to circle,” Heather Zichal, CEO of trade group American Clean Power and a former Obama White House climate official, told CNN. “We’re now talking about over $360 billion [of climate investment]. It’s really apples and oranges in terms of what you can get.”
But while the bill is being welcomed overseas, there’s an overarching feeling that the US is simply catching up to its allies after years of inaction. Pressure has also increased for the US to take financial responsibility for its historic role in the crisis.
“It’s obviously a good thing but it’s important not to get carried away,” Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the London-based Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, told CNN of the bill.
Ward said the bill gave the pledges the US had already made a “degree of credibility,” but what much of the world wants to see the US commit to significant climate finance – funds to help the most vulnerable countries reduce emissions and adapt to the crisis.
“The issues that are still key in the discussions are not really addressed by this bill – there’s nothing in the bill on international climate finance, which is a bit worrying,” Ward said. “Leadership is now required from the rich countries in climate finance.”
Climate finance wouldn’t typically be included in the kind of tax and climate bill Democrats are preparing to pass, and Biden has asked for climate finance in his 2023 budget. But the US has a history of pushing back against international calls for financial tools. At last year’s talks, the US was against a loss-and-damage scheme that would compensate impacted countries for the harm the climate crisis has done.
It’s a classic American thing to do, to do less than the bare minimum and then say “That’s right - you heard us. We have saved democracy, and the planet, through this decision. We are literally Jesus reincarnated on Earth but as a country. America is back, baby.” while other countries look on in exasperation. And also apparently believe them, if polls of public opinion about America in foreign countries are anything to go by. It’s a really transparent portion of the propaganda campaign but it also works, for some reason.
- The last 2 recessions have skewed the market’s expectations, and a coming downturn may not be as mild as some expect Business Insider
It’s been a chaotic year for markets as investors scramble to position for a recession that many top banks say is all but certain. Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and other major firms have called for a recession this year or next, with most analysts seeing at least a mild downturn hitting the US economy.
But the predictions of a “mild” recession are skewed by the experience of much deeper recessions in the past decade and a half, economists say, and it’s too soon for market watchers to say a potential downturn in the near term will be mild.
“The last two recessions really were extraordinary,” Thomas Coleman said, a lecturer at the University of Chicago’s Harris School. He pointed to 2020’s pandemic induced recession, which pushed the S&P 500 to fall 28% from its peak, and 2008’s housing-led financial crisis, which sent the S&P 500 tumbling by 48%.
But as jarring as those experiences were, they were uniques in their severity and their impact on the market, Coleman told Insider. The last “normal” recession — or, a downturn that didn’t involve a once-in-a-generation event or a housing collapse – happened in 2001, with the bursting of the dot-com bubble.
That’s skewed the public’s perception of what a “normal” recession is, Coleman thinks, and is possibly leading some to forecast a “mild” downturn when that might not be the case.
Yet, Porter and Coleman think that even in the worst-case scenario, an incoming recession won’t be as severe as what hit the economy in 2008 or 2020, offering some hope that investors will be able to weather a downturn if one arrives.
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.
- US war on China/Russia targets new multipolar world, sabotages global economy: Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega Multipolarista
In a fiery speech denouncing US imperialism, Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega analyzed the shifting balance of power in the world today. He explained that “a new order is being born in the world that buries imperialism, buries the colonialists, and opens the way to a democracy of nations, a multipolarism that is manifesting itself in various ways.”
But in an attempt to halt this transition to a multipolar world, the United States is waging war on China and Russia, Ortega continued. “North American imperialism is trying to maintain its hegemony at all costs, even at the risk of sinking its own economy,” he said.
The Nicaraguan revolutionary leader argued that “fascism left its roots and is embedded” in parts of the United States and Europe, and they “have the objective of trying to destroy the People’s Republic of China” and the Russian Federation.
The Western “ideologues of imperialism” are “worried,” Ortega added, because “they see the People’s Republic of China providing benefits to the peoples” of Latin America, Africa, and Asia, “and they feel that they are losing the power to keep these peoples enslaved.”
President Ortega made these remarks at a August 2 event marking the anniversary of the Nicaraguan Air Force.
- Private Jets Should Be Illegal Jacobin
Bloomerism and Hope
For events that show that a better, more equitable, and happier world is possible than the neoliberal hell we inhabit.
- Teamsters Edge Closer To A National Work Stoppage At Costco Popular Resistance
Costco Teamsters are one step closer to a nationwide work stoppage following another day of contentious negotiations for a new national contract. The Teamsters are bargaining with the company this week for the first time since members overwhelmingly rejected Costco’s “last, best and final” contract offer in June.
“Our members at Costco will stand up for their rights and withhold their labor if necessary,” said Sean M. O’Brien, Teamsters General President. “As always, if our members decide to act, they will have the backing of the 1.2-million member International Brotherhood of Teamsters behind them.”
In May, the Teamsters Costco National Negotiating Committee unanimously recommended a “no” vote against the company’s contract offer. On June 21, Costco Teamsters rejected the national contract offer by over 93 percent.
- The Great Avocado Shortage: War, climate change, and a nightmare supply chain is driving avocado prices to new heights Fortune
Avocados, for many people, are delicious —whether it’s on toast with different toppings, made into guacamole, or added to a salad. And that’s why Americans eat an average of eight pounds of avocados annually per person.
But multiple problems including a hailstorm in Mexico in June and rapidly rising fertilizer prices due to the impact of the war in Ukraine have decimated avocado crops. The result: a shortage of the fruit—yes, avocados are fruit—and higher prices in U.S. grocery stores.
Average U.S. avocado prices rose 30% for the week of July 23, versus the same time a year earlier, to $1.41 each, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.