Link back to the discussion thread.
- A Radical Plan To Reduce Europe’s Oil Demand By 33% Oil Price
European governments have been racking their brains to come up with a realistic way of reducing energy consumption with a sharp and quite understandable focus on natural gas. But now, a group of NGOs is proposing cutting oil consumption by as much as a third. And it believes it can be done quickly. Transport & Environment, or rather, the European Federation for Transport and Environment, is a group of non-governmental organizations campaigning for what they describe as “a zero-emission mobility system that is affordable and has minimal impacts on our health, climate and environment.”
The group this month released a report titled “How Europe can cut a third of its oil demand by 2030.” The report details short-, medium-, and long-term steps to be taken for Europe to decrease its oil consumption significantly.
Some of the proposed measures, such as the accelerated electrification of transport from cars to trucks are not exactly new or original. The electrification of transport is one of the pillars that the whole energy transition movement rests on, so this “accelerated electrification” is basically a given in any such proposal.
T&E also proposes boosting the fuel efficiency of ships and improving road freight efficiency among its short-term steps for reducing oil demand in Europe. The idea is to entirely eliminate Europe’s need for Russian oil by 2030, according to the report, which just goes to show that some people, even in these turbulent times, can find a way to kill two birds with one stone, solving both Europe’s emission and Russian dependence problems.
One of the key suggestions for short-term measures for reducing oil consumption is, of course, reducing travel by switching to remote work on some days. The T&E authors also propose limiting business travel, especially air travel. And they also propose “Shifting from private car use to transport modes that are fossil free (like walking and cycling), or more efficient (public transport), and shifting some freight to rail or in urban areas to electric or cycle delivery vehicles.”
That’s an impressive lineup of measures that appear to be quite simple to implement as long as one forgets there is still, officially, such a thing as people having the right to choose how to get from point A to point B. It is up to governments, therefore, to curb this right, the report appears to suggest, in a very delicate way.
What a bizarre paragraph. Who actually gives a shit about the freedom of choice of transport in the context of reducing emissions beyond car-brained morons who brush their teeth with leaded gasoline? Under world communism, you will be forced at gunpoint on some days to use the train and on other days to use a bike to get to work. If you even THINK about using the wrong transport method on the wrong day, the brain chip will activate and your frontal cortex will explode.
- Europe is turning to floating LNG terminals as it scrambles to solve its natural gas crisis Business Insider
Europe is racing to set up floating terminals to handle imports of liquefied natural gas, as it tries to resolve an energy crisis driven by a Russian squeeze on supplies.
Finland and Italy will become the new home of at least one offshore LNG units by the middle of next year, their providers said this week.
Meanwhile, Estonia is on track for a November installation of the first floating LNG terminal built in Europe since the Ukraine war broke out, the New York Times reported.
Russia has choked off flows of its natural gas to Europe in response to war-related western sanctions, most notably slashing supplies via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to 20% of capacity. Goldman Sachs analysts say the continent’s energy crisis is likely to drag on until 2025.
- US to send $4.5 billion more to Ukraine for budget needs EU Reporter
The United States will provide an additional $4.5 billion to Ukraine’s government, bringing its total budgetary support since Russia’s February invasion to $8.5bn, the US Agency for International Development said on Monday (8 August).
The funding, co-ordinated with the US Treasury Department through the World Bank, will go to the Ukraine government in tranches, beginning with a $3bn disbursement in August, USAID, the Agency for International Development, said.
It follows previous transfers of $1.7bn in July and $1.3bn in June, USAID said. Washington has also provided billions of dollars in military and security support. The Pentagon announced a $1bn arms aid package on Monday.
Overall, the United States has contributed more than $18bn to Ukraine this year.
- 1,000 Ukrainian patients transferred to European hospitals EU Reporter
As the number of wounded people in Ukraine increases day by day, local hospitals are struggling to keep up with the demand. At the same time, Poland, Moldova and Slovakia have requested support for medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) operations from their respective countries given the large inflow of people. To relieve pressure on local hospitals, since 11 March, the EU has been coordinating patient transfers to other European countries who have available hospital capacity.
The patients have been transferred to 18 countries: Germany, France, Ireland, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Romania, Luxembourg, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Austria, Norway, Lithuania, Finland, Poland and Czechia. Recent operations include the transfer of two patients to Czechia on 3 August and 15 patients evacuated to Germany, four patients to the Netherlands and 2 patients to Norway on 4 August.
Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarčič said: “Russia’s unjustified war in Ukraine is driving Ukrainian health systems to breaking point. To help Ukraine cope with the skyrocketing medical needs, the EU has stepped up its operations. On top of delivering medicines and medical equipment to Ukraine via our Civil Protection Mechanism, we are also coordinating medical evacuations. 1,000 Ukrainian patients have been transferred to hospitals in 18 European countries. I want to thank all countries who are welcoming the Ukrainian patients in this critical time. EU solidarity saves lives.”
- U.S. Sanctions Russian Steel Giant MMK Oil Price
On August 2, the United States officially added integrated steelmaker Magnitogorsk Iron & Steel (MMK) and its chairman Viktor Rashnikov to its list of sanctioned entities. The move is yet another punitive measure in response to Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine, in hopes that the steel manufacturing sanction will place more economic pain on Russia.
The announcement came from The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), part of the US Department of the Treasury. It was part of a new round of sanctions targeting individuals and entities close to the Kremlin. In this case, many of the targeted companies are major revenue generators for the Russian regime. The office added that Rashnikov had “also been sanctioned by Australia, Canada, the EU, Switzerland, and the UK.”
- EU presidency mulls visa ban for all Russians Inquirer
The Czech Republic, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said Friday that a blanket ban on visas for all Russian travelers could be the bloc’s next sanction on Moscow.
“The flat halting of Russian visas by all EU member states could be another very effective sanction,” Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky said in a statement obtained by AFP.
He said he would propose the idea at an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Prague at the end of August.
I love the way it was phrased. It’s like every European leader was asked to go home for a few weeks and think of a sanction because they’ve run out of ideas and the Czech leader was like “Yeah, sure, fuck it dude, this is my contribution. Best I can come up with."
- France Announces Emergency Renewable Energy Package Oil Price
Rare earths and renewable energy are two sectors that almost every country races to dominate. One of these nations, France, takes serious strides towards this goal. Recently, the French government announced an emergency measures package to hasten renewable energy development. Rising infrastructure costs recently pushed the French government towards this decision. Along with the rest of the world, these are riding on the back of record inflation.
Only about 20% of France’s current electricity comes from renewable sources. This includes just 8% from wind energy. Clearly, the country needs to step up its efforts if it plans to meet its climate goals.
As long as the proposal is to strictly increase renewable power generation without also phasing out nuclear power plants, at least in the foreseeable future, then that’s fine. Once we have massive renewable energy generation, and great large-scale battery technology, we can talk about turning off nuclear power.
However, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent disruptions in conventional power generation have put a lot of pressure on the French energy ecosystem. In fact, the war in Ukraine has proven the primary catalyst towards this emergency green package.
As per government estimates, about 7 gigawatts of solar-generated electricity and 6 gigawatts of wind-generated electricity could be lost as renewable power projects try to manage rising costs. A statement by the energy transition ministry says the delays in developing new energy projects are largely due to inflation. As the price of construction materials surges, project costs are no longer covered by the state-guaranteed purchase price of electricity or biomethane.
Incidentally, France was the only European Union country to miss its target of having 23% of its energy come from renewable resources by 2020.
In an effort to hurry up renewable energy development, France put several new initiatives in place. These include permitting renewable energy projects nearing completion to sell their electricity at higher rates for up to 18 months. This came a full year and a half before the contracts signed during tenders come into effect. Meanwhile, the country has lowered rates for installing solar panels and will keep them that way for the rest of 2022. Moreover, all renewable projects that have already won tenders can increase their outputs by up to 40% before project completion.
Along with these measures, the French government has already doubled the size of the planned Oléron offshore wind zone to 2 GW. In fact, the goal strives to generate 40 GW of offshore wind by 2050. According to the plan, this will be spread out across roughly 50 farms. Right now, the French government plans on generating between 21.8GW and 26GW by the end of next year.
- Soil healing and olive growing: how UK farms are coping with looming drought Guardian
Across the UK, farmers are looking at the sky and begging for rain.
Some areas of southern England, where much of the country’s food is grown, have not had any significant rainfall since June. This has put huge pressure on this year’s harvest but things next year could be even worse. The soil in much of the country is too dry to drill, and many crops for harvest later this year and next year need to be drilled by the end of October to be viable.
Livestock are being fed winter stocks of hay now, because the grass has dried up and there is nothing for them to eat – raising fears they will have to be slaughtered early in winter when food runs out.
The amount of water needed for crops this year has also increased due to the lack of rain, so farmers have been emptying reservoirs. Statistics from the UK Centre of Ecology and Hydrology show that in order for rivers and reservoirs to get to normal levels by next year, above average rainfall is needed for months in a row.
Martin Lines, the UK chair of the Nature Friendly Farming Network, grows mostly winter cereals on his Cambridgeshire farm. He said: “We are seeing the impacts of the drought on our spring crops we are harvesting at the moment and a reduced crop yield. Many farmers growing vegetables are running out of water and seeing crops’ potential being lost.
“We should be planting our next oilseed rape crops at the moment but there is no moisture in the soil for them to germinate and grow. With the current crisis in Ukraine this could mean a further reduction in vegetable oil production next year.
“We need the government and supply chains to step up and take our changing climate and drought more seriously. We have under-invested in water management and storage for far too long. We are seeing crops being thrown away because they haven’t made the right size because of the weather. We need all edible crops to reach the table and the supply chains and consumers need to change the demands for perfect-looking products.”
You tell ‘em, Martin.
- UK fuel exports to Netherlands up by 67% in June, data shows Guardian
Energy exports from the UK to the Netherlands rocketed by 67% in June, official figures reveal, in the latest sign of Europe’s scramble to reduce its dependence on Russian oil and gas.
British exports of fossil fuels more than doubled in value in June compared with the same period last year, the latest trading data from HMRC shows.
More than £1bn of that went to the Netherlands, home to some of the continent’s biggest gas storage facilities.
Asia and Oceania
- Global LGBTQ event cancelled after demand to remove Taiwan’s name Al Jazeera
An international LGBTQ gathering in Taiwan has been cancelled after global organisers demanded the self-ruling island’s name be removed from the 2025 event.
Taiwan on Friday blamed “political considerations” for the cancellation of the WorldPride 2025 Taiwan after it said the organisers had insisted that the name “Taiwan” be removed from the title.
Taiwan participates in global events such the Olympics Games as “Chinese Taipei”, to avoid political problems with China which views the democratically-governed island as its own territory and bristles at anything that suggests it is a separate country.
Taiwan’s southern city of Kaohsiung had been due to host the WorldPride 2025 Taiwan event after winning the right from global LGBTQ rights group InterPride.
Organisers in Kaohsiung said InterPride had “suddenly” asked them to change the name of the event to “Kaohsiung”, removing the word “Taiwan”.
“After careful evaluation, it is believed that if the event continues, it may harm the interests of Taiwan and the Taiwan gay community. Therefore, it is decided to terminate the project before signing the contract,” the Kaohsiung organisers said.
Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday that the event would have been the first WorldPride event to be held in East Asia, and would have advanced regional diversity and equality.
- Some of China’s largest state-owned firms will delist from the US market amid ongoing auditing battle between the 2 countries Business Insider
Energy heavyweights PetroChina and Sinopec were among the Chinese companies on Friday that filed their intentions to delist from the New York Stock Exchange, as China and the US remain deadlocked in a long-running auditing dispute.
PetroChina and China Petroleum & Chemical Corp, or Sinopec, Aluminum Corp. of China, China Life Insurance, and Sinopec Shanghai Petrochemical each filed regulatory notifications about plans for their shares to cease trading in the US market. The companies said they would submit delisting applications later this month.
US-listed shares of Sinopec were down more than 6% and PetroChina fell nearly 4%.
The “considerable administrative burden for performing the disclosure obligations as necessary for maintaining the listing of the ADSs on the NYSE as a result of the differences in the regulatory rules of multiple listing venues,” were among the reasons PetroChina in a statement said its board approved the delisting of its American Depositary Shares.
- China sanctions Lithuanian deputy transport minister over Taiwan trip SCMP
Beijing announced sanctions on Friday against Lithuania’s deputy transport minister after she led a delegation to Taiwan this week.
The Chinese foreign ministry said the trip earlier this week by Agne Vaiciukeviciute “trampled on the one-China principle, seriously interfered in China’s internal affairs and undermined China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
“In response to the bad and provocative behaviour of Vaiciukeviciute, China decided to take sanctions against Vaiciukeviciute, suspend any form of interaction with the Ministry of Transport and Communications and suspend exchange and cooperation with Lithuania on international road transport,” the ministry said.
- China’s Golden Era of Smartphones Is Ending Bloomberg
The world’s largest smartphone market is in deep trouble. China saw a 14.7% decline in phone shipments in the second quarter, according to research firm IDC. And multibillion-dollar pillars of the industry like Xiaomi Corp., Vivo and Oppo all reported steep sales declines.
Many factors drove the fall, including a strict Covid Zero policy that torpedoed demand, but the bigger issue is one that’s long been feared by the country’s smartphone makers. China’s 10-year-plus smartphone boom, fueled by new buyers and ceaseless upgrades, is likely coming to an end.
China was eager to become a mobile nation a decade ago. It used state capital to build 4G base stations in almost every village, enabling brands like Oppo and Vivo to sell chic-looking devices to hundreds of millions of people in rural areas, most of whom had never tried a touchscreen. Apple Inc., Samsung Electronics Co. and Motorola pursued tech-savvy city dwellers with more expensive options. (Although the latter two quickly fell out of the game due to product flaws, marketing missteps and geopolitical pressures.)
More recently, smartphone makers saw an opportunity as China pushed toward advanced 5G networks. But few saw the trouble already brewing.
A key problem is that China’s massive smartphone market has become highly saturated. The country has more than 1.6 billion active mobile phone accounts by the end of last year compared to its 1.4 billion population. The penetration rate is well above the global average and has led to fierce competition.
The need to replace phones has also dwindled. The life cycles of smartphones are getting longer, and can be stretched when the economy isn’t doing well. The price of 5G service has prompted many people in China to simply keep their adequate 4G subscriptions. For example, my 93-year-old grandma uses her old Huawei phone to watch videos for hours each day. I don’t think she’s looking for a new phone because the current one works just fine.
Isn’t this a success story? Almost everybody in China now has a phone! Great job! Sure, 5G prices need to be brought down, but the main objective has been achieved!
- China’s Huawei says first-half profit drops 52% as demand weakens Reuters
Huawei Technologies (HWT.UL) said on Friday its first-half net profit more than halved as a difficult economy curtailed demand from customers, compounding woes brought by U.S. technology restrictions.
Revenue dropped 5.9% year-on-year during the period to 301.6 billion yuan ($44.73 billion), with a sharper decline during January-March.
“While our device business was heavily impacted, our ICT infrastructure business maintained steady growth,” said Ken Hu, Huawei’s rotating chairman, referring to its business to business enterprise unit.
The Chinese technology firm’s profit margin narrowed to 5%, with a net profit of 15.08 billion yuan, according to Reuters calculations, down from 31.39 billion yuan in the first half of 2021.
A weak economy, COVID-19 disruptions and supply chain challenges hurt the company’s device business that sells smartphones and laptops, a company spokesperson said.
- China Developers Plead for Government Help Amid Protests Bloomberg
More than a dozen developers in a central Chinese province are seeking help from their local government to restore property sales in the face of protests from disgruntled homebuyers, a sign that tension from a mortgage payment boycott is spilling over to other areas.
At least 17 real estate companies in Hefei, the provincial capital of central Anhui province, asked authorities to block the increasingly organized protests against them, according to a letter dated Aug. 2 seen by Bloomberg News.
Protesters have tried to disrupt home sales by chanting slogans and pulling down banners when developers open new projects, according to the letter. Some homebuyers have also refused to fulfill purchase agreements, and in some cases requested partial refunds, the letter said.
In the letter, developers argue they face “unreasonable requests” from some homebuyers, including complaints about interior decoration. There were no specific examples given and Bloomberg News couldn’t independently verify the accusations.
Hundreds of thousands of angry homeowners have halted payments on their mortgages across China to protest long delays in getting their homes built. The plea for help from Hefei signals that even developers who haven’t fallen behind on construction are now being targeted.
Calls to the Hefei city government went unanswered out of office hours Friday.
- Beijing announces new Rs15 billion aid to Nepal Asia News
China on Wednesday announced a Rs15 billion (800 million RMB) grant to Nepal to invest in projects selected by Nepal for the year 2022.
That’s about 118 million dollars.
The announcement was made by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who is also the state councillor of China, during the bilateral visit of Foreign Minister Narayan Khadka to Qingdao.
Khadka is on a visit to China, the first high-level visit from Nepal to the north since the formation of the Sher Bahadur Deuba government in July last year.
This new grant is additional to the grant announced by the Chinese President Xi Jinping to Nepal in October, 2019.
During official level talks between President Bidya Devi Bhandari and Chinese President Xi in October 2019, the latter had announced a 3.5 billion RMB grant to Nepal for two years but both sides failed to negotiate on how to utilise the amount in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Nepal has yet to select the projects to be funded under the grant announced by the Chinese president.
- China has launched the world’s most powerful magnet for scientific research SCMP
China on Friday launched the world’s most powerful magnet for scientific research at a laboratory in the southeastern city of Hefei, in Anhui province.
The magnetic field facility is not much bigger than a coin, with a diameter of 33mm. But the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ High Magnetic Field Laboratory says it can create a stable magnetic field as strong as 45.22 tesla – or over a million times stronger than that of the Earth.
“[The Hefei facility] has become the highest steady-state magnetic field that can support scientific research in the world,” the laboratory said in a statement.
- Gulf Oil Producers Expand Carbon Capture And Hydrogen Capacity Oil Price
As hydrocarbons producers reap sustained revenue from high global prices, national oil companies (NOCs) in the Gulf are accelerating investment in carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS); hydrogen; and other green energies to make their activities less carbon-intensive and support the energy transition.
Last week Saudi Aramco reached a deal with China’s Sinopec to develop CCUS and hydrogen while building a manufacturing complex at the King Salman Energy Park in eastern Saudi Arabia.
In July Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) signed a deal with France’s TotalEnergies to collaborate on CCUS and hydrogen. The deal will help ADNOC meet its goal of capturing 5m tonnes per annum (tpa) of carbon by 2030, a six-fold increase from its current capacity of 800,000 tpa from its gas plants.
These deals are the latest of numerous others in recent months by Gulf NOCs, which could position them as global leaders in both CCUS and hydrogen.
- Pentagon Contractors In Afghanistan Pocketed $108 Billion Over 20 Years Popular Resistance
Pentagon contractors operating in Afghanistan over the past two decades raked in nearly $108 billion—funds that “were distributed and spent with a significant lack of transparency,” according to a report published Tuesday.
“These contracts show the shadowy ‘camo economy’ at work in Afghanistan,” said report author Heidi Peltier, director of programs for the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.
“Military contracting obscures where and how taxpayer money flows, who profits, and how much is lost to waste, fraud, and abuse,” she added. “It also makes it difficult to know how many people are employed, injured, and killed through military contracting.”
- Pakistan struggles to rebuild after deadly flash floods Climate Home News
Hit by devastating flash floods, Pakistan is struggling to rebuild due to foreign aid cuts and inadequate investment in adaptation.
Abnormally heavy monsoon rains led to flash floods in July which killed at least 550 people across Pakistan, with rural communities in the impoverished southwestern province Balochistan hardest hit. At least 77 children have lost their lives and more than 500 people were injured in the floods.
More than 34,000 homes were deluged and 977km of road infrastructure and 61 bridges were destroyed.
In Balochistan alone, over 150,000 people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, according to Islamic Relief.
Aid groups are on the ground distributing tents and food packs, but a lack of media coverage and aid cuts means there is little funding available to help communities rebuild, he said.
“Ordinarily the UK would allocate significant funds to such a disaster but I haven’t seen any announcement,” said Salik, attributing the silence to the government’s decision to freeze international aid over the summer.
- Iran Awaits US Response In Latest Move To Revive The Nuclear Deal Popular Resistance
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell claimed on Monday that talks in Vienna have concluded. The parties must now say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the final text of the agreement as there is no room for further negotiations.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, in a conversation with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavosoglu, said on Wednesday, August 10, that Iran “hopes that the American side, with a realistic and pragmatic view and acceptance of the legitimate demands of the Islamic Republic of Iran, will provide the ground for an agreement on the final text,” Press Tv reported.
Iran had earlier objected to media reports on Monday claiming that the final draft of the deal has been reached and negotiations are finalized. Iran said that the US has to respond to its fundamental demands before any deal is signed.
- Iran determined to develop space technology Tehran Times
Hassan Salarieh, the head of the Iranian Space Agency, has emphasized the country’s determination to develop space technology.
The Iranian Space Agency launched a satellite called “Khayyam” with a wide range of environmental functions at 10:22 local time on Tuesday. It was put into orbit by a Russian Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur space station in Kazakhstan.
In the past years, the country has made good achievements in the fields of remote sensing, and in order to operationalize the discovered knowledge, we needed to have a high-tech satellite, Salarieh said in a press conference on Wednesday.
Referring to Iran’s recent cooperation with Russia to access remote-sensing satellites, Salarieh stated that Iran’s space industry has started indigenization of this industry in the last 2 decades and has acquired the technical knowledge of manufacturing satellites with 5 to 10 meters resolution.
“We will continue this path and in the coming years, domestically produce, launch, and orbit satellites of higher resolution, to meet the country’s needs,” he added.
- Washington Steals Over 80 Percent Of Syria’s Oil Output Per Day Popular Resistance
The losses incurred by the trafficking campaign surpass $100bln, according to Syria’s oil ministry.
The Syrian Oil Ministry released a statement on 9 August accusing US forces occupying Syria of being responsible for the theft of most of the country’s oil.
“The amount of oil production during the first half of 2022 amounted to some 14.5 million barrels, with an average daily production of 80.3 thousand barrels, of which 14.2 thousand are delivered daily to refineries,” the oil ministry’s statement said.
The statement went on to say that “US occupation forces and their mercenaries,” referring to the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), “steal up to 66,000 barrels every single day from the fields occupied in the eastern region,” amounting to around 83 percent of Syria’s daily oil production.
According to the ministry’s data, the Syrian oil sector has incurred losses nearing “about 105 billion dollars since the beginning of the war until the middle of this year” as a result of the US oil theft campaign.
- Turkey Boasts of Russia Trade Boom, Defying Push for Sanctions Bloomberg
Sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have forced it to divert oil sales and triggered an exodus of multinationals.
But one country is openly boasting of a boom in trade with Russia – Turkey.
Transport Minister Adil Karaismailoglu took to Twitter to celebrate a 58% surge in vehicle trade with Russia in the first four months of the year as evidence of Turkey’s growing logistical strength.
That’s just one example of a broader spurt in Turkish exports to Russia that hit an eight-year high of $2.91 billion in the first half, according to state statistics service TurkStat.
The bonanza is good news for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s drive to grow exports as part of what he calls a “new economic model.” But it will frustrate Turkey’s NATO allies in the US and Europe who have tried to present a united front to isolate Russia’s economy with penalties.
Turkey hasn’t sanctioned Russia, trying instead to balance its relationship with both sides in the war. It supplies Ukraine with armed drones while encouraging Russian investment and the vital foreign currency it brings.
- Germany suspends military mission in Mali amid diplomatic tension Al Jazeera
Germany has suspended most of its operations in Mali after the local military-led government denied flyover rights to a United Nations peacekeeping mission.
“The Malian government has once again refused to give flyover rights to a flight planned for today” for the rotation of personnel, a spokesman for the German defence ministry said at a regular news conference on Friday.
In response, Germany had decided to “suspend until further notice the operations of our reconnaissance forces and CH-53 transport flights”.
- Clashes between protesters, police turn deadly Al Jazeera
Clashes between security forces and protesters in the Somaliland region over an alleged attempt to delay the presidential elections have turned deadly, according to a regional leader and a senior police official in Somalia’s breakaway region.
At least five people have been killed and 100 more injured, Muse Bihi Abdi, the president of Somaliland said in a Facebook post late on Thursday.
Abdi Hassan Mire, the deputy commander of the Somaliland police, said dozens of security personnel were injured during the clashes with protesters who were armed with knives, catapults and clubs. Some carried weapons and fired bullets, he said.
Property and vehicles were also destroyed, according to police.
The president’s current term ends in November but the opposition suspects Abdi wants to delay that election and accuse him of seeking an extension of his term through “Guurti”, a council of elders that acts as the de facto parliament in Somaliland.
- Report: post-9/11 era one of the most militarily aggressive in US history Responsible Statecraft
The United States has conducted nearly 400 military interventions since 1776, according to innovative research by scholars Sidita Kushi and Monica Duffy Toft.
Half of those conflicts and other uses of force – including displays and threats of force as well as covert and other operations – occurred between 1950 and 2019, the last year covered in a new dataset, introduced by Kushi and Toft in a Journal of Conflict Resolution article published earlier this week. More than a quarter of them have taken place since the end of the Cold War.
The United States has carried out 34 percent of its 392 interventions against countries in Latin America and the Caribbean; 23 percent in East Asia and the Pacific region; 14 percent in the Middle East and North Africa; and just 13 percent in Europe and Central Asia, according to a newly refined version of the Military Intervention Project (MIP) dataset — a venture of the Center for Strategic Studies at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
In addition to providing the most accurate count ever of U.S. military interventions — doubling the number of cases found in existing data, while also employing rigorous sourcing methods — the MIP offers 200 variables that allow for complex analyses of drivers and outcomes of wars and other uses of force.
Crucially, Kushi and Toft, the director of the Fletcher School’s Center for Strategic Studies, found that U.S. interventions have “increased and intensified” in recent years. While the Cold War era (1946–1989) and the period between 1868–1917 were the most “militaristically active” for the United States, the post-9/11 era has already assumed third position in all of U.S. history.
Unlike earlier eras in which displays and threats of force were employed, such posturing short of military violence has been absent in recent years. The United States, they found, has actually “engaged in 30 interventions at level 4 (usage of force) or 5 (war).”
Until the end of the Cold War, note Kushi and Toft, U.S. military hostility was generally proportional to that of its rivals. Since then, “the U.S. began to escalate its hostilities as its rivals deescalate it, marking the beginning of America’s more kinetic foreign policy.” This recent pattern of international relations conducted largely through armed force, what Toft has termed “kinetic diplomacy,” has increasingly targeted the Middle East and Africa. These regions have seen both large-scale U.S. wars, as in Afghanistan and Iraq, and low-profile combat in nations such as Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, and Tunisia.
- Shell Halts Oil Output At Three Gulf Of Mexico Platforms Oil Price
Shell has halted production at three of its deepwater platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, Shell said in a statement to Reuters on Thursday.
Shell has halted production at its Mars, Ursa, and Olympus platforms, which combined can produce 410,000 barrels of Mars sour crude oil per day, after a leak shut in the Mars and Amberjack Pipelines that connect to the platforms. Shell has not provided a timetable for restart, although the company said it was evaluating “alternative flow paths” to bring the oil to shore through other pipeline routes.
“Shell is coordinating with local authorities and mobilizing personnel and equipment to assess the situation,” Shell said in a statement.
The leak was detected at the Fourchon booster station, which increases the pressure and the flow of crude on its way to the Clovelly Dome Storage Terminal in LOOP. The Clovelly Dome terminal stores crude oil in underground salt caverns before heading to a refinery. The terminal is capable of holding 40 million barrels.
- Automation And The Trade Deficit Are Decimating US Ports Popular Resistance
As big shipping multinationals automate jobs and US manufacturing declines, dockworkers are left with grim prospects.
A new report published by the Economic Roundtable on 30 June outlined concerns with how foreign supply chains and consolidated shipping companies are extracting wealth from the US supply chain via ports on the US West Coast, draining wealth, income, resources, and jobs from ports.
According to the report, foreign shipping companies that have consolidated into 3 international shipping alliances own 9 of the 11 container terminal companies at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California, handling 81% of the containers transported through the ports. The Port of Los Angeles is the busiest port in the US, and the Port of Long Beach is the second busiest port in the US.
The report notes that in these two major ports, US exports have declined from peaks in 2011 in Long Beach to a 38% decline, and a 2013 peak in Los Angeles to a 52% decline, representing a loss of manufacturing jobs for California residents, while 72% of outbound containers from these ports are empty rather than filled with US products to be shipped abroad.
This trade imbalance—where for every $1 worth of goods exported from these ports, $8.42 worth of goods is imported into the US—is five times greater than the rest of the ports in the US.
- Massachusetts First To End Renewable Energy Subsidies For Biomass Popular Resistance
Environmental groups today celebrated the enactment of Massachusetts’ new climate law, An Act Driving Clean Energy and Offshore Wind, which will expand clean energy development and end renewable energy subsidies for wood-burning power plants.
The new law makes Massachusetts the first state in the nation to remove woody biomass from its Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS). While there are only two small biomass plants that currently qualify for MA’s RPS, that number was poised to balloon as a result of imminent changes to the program advanced by the Department of Energy Resources (DOER). By removing woody biomass from the RPS program altogether, the new law will prevent DOER’s rule changes from going into effect.
“We are grateful to the Massachusetts legislature for taking bold action to address the climate emergency, and relieved that Governor Baker has signed the bill into law,” said Susan Theberge, co-founder of Climate Action Now. “It is inspiring to see the power of grassroots organizing to create positive change and advance climate justice.”
- Mexico Plans to Become an Export Hub With US-Drilled Natural Gas Bloomberg
Mexico — which imports nearly all of the natural gas it burns — has laid out a somewhat surprising mission: to become one of the world’s top exporters of the fuel, and fast.
Although natural gas exports from Mexico are today non-existent, seeing as it produces too little of the power-plant fuel to supply even its own domestic needs, the country’s physical proximity to booming US reserves positions it well to supply American gas to hungry buyers in Europe and Asia. With US shale in mind, a total of eight liquified natural gas export projects have been proposed south of the border boasting annual combined capacity of 50.2 million tons. Some of the operations aim to come online as soon as next year.
If they’re all completed, the Latin American newcomer would join a very small club of nations that ship abroad the superchilled fuel — commonly called LNG — clocking in at No. 4 behind only the US, Australia and Qatar. And unlike those other three export heavyweights, Mexico would mostly be shipping out gas that it imported in the first place.
- Argentina hikes interest rate again as inflation hits 20-year high Reuters
Argentina’s central bank raised its benchmark interest rate by 950 basis points on Thursday as the country struggles to keep a lid on spiraling inflation that rose to a 20-year high of 71%, according to new data.
The central bank raised the benchmark ‘Leliq’ rate for the 28-day term to 69.5% from 60%, a rate the bank set just two weeks ago when it hiked the rate by 800 basis points and the government shuffled its Cabinet to install a new economy “superminister.”
- Cheaper US crude is luring more Asian buyers and undercutting the Middle East’s oil producers as competition between exporters heats up Business Insider
Asian buyers are pivoting towards cheap US crude in a sign that demand for Middle Eastern oil is waning, Bloomberg reported.
South Korean and Indian oil refiners have so far snapped up around 16 million barrels of US crude on the physical spot market this month, which will largely be delivered in November, sources with knowledge of the matter told the outlet. This is double of the amount of oil purchased over the same period in July.
West Texas Intermediate oil, the main US export grade, are trading at a premium of less than $8 a barrel over the Dubai benchmark for crude due to arrive in November, including shipping and other costs, according to Bloomberg. The smaller the premium, the more attractive US crude will be to Asian buyers over Middle Eastern crude.
On the futures market, November WTI futures are trading at a premium of just $4 a barrel to Dubai futures and at a discount of nearly $4.50 a barrel to Murban futures - those backed by the UAE’s flagship blend.
The shift in demand away from Middle Eastern to US crude suggests competition between producers in the two regions is heating up as the US, now the world’s largest producer, undercuts the world’s top oil exporting region.
The US has been pumping out more crude as the West scrambles to replace Russian supply after the invasion of Ukraine. In late July, US crude-oil exports hit a record high of 4.55 million barrels a day, according to data from the Energy Information Administration.
At the same time, Saudi Arabia raised its oil prices for Asian buyers for the month of August as a result of high demand and a tighter oil market in the face of economic sanctions.
But that demand appears to be cooling. Saudi Aramco has allocated full contract volumes of crude to at least 4 North Asian buyers for the last two months, suggesting that any squeeze on supply in the market could be easing as demand for its crude has not accelerated beyond what its buyers originally purchased, Reuters reported.
- OPEC’s Oil Production Rises But Still Well Below OPEC+ Target Oil Price
OPEC’s total crude oil production rose by 216,000 barrels per day (bpd) in July compared to June, but combined production from the 10 OPEC members part of the OPEC+ pact continued to lag the targets in the agreement, OPEC’s monthly report showed on Thursday.
Total OPEC-13 crude oil production averaged 28.90 million bpd last month, according to secondary sources in OPEC’s Monthly Oil Market Report. The 10 members in the OPEC+ pact, with Libya, Iran, and Venezuela exempted, pumped just over 25 million bpd in July, figures from OPEC’s secondary sources showed.
To compare, per the OPEC+ deal, the 10 OPEC members with quotas had a collective target crude oil production of 26.276 million bpd.
- World’s Largest LNG Traders See Losses Mount Despite High Prices Oil Price
Despite sky-high LNG prices, the world’s largest liquefied natural gas traders have seen hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars in losses in recent months as production outages diminished the supply of cargoes under offtake deals, forcing traders to source more expensive spot LNG to fulfill orders. The top LNG traders, some of which are also the biggest international energy majors, realized lower earnings in their gas trading divisions in the second quarter compared to an “exceptionally strong” first quarter, majors such as Shell, BP, and TotalEnergies said in their earnings releases.
The supermajors, however, did not quantify the impact of reduced LNG supplies, mostly stemming from the Freeport LNG outage in the United States in early June, but also due to an industrial action at Shell’s Prelude floating LNG platform offshore Australia and lower supply from Nigeria’s NLNG due to security reasons.
- Chip Shortages And Inflation Are Plaguing The Auto Industry Oil Price
The Automotive MMI (Monthly Metals Index) dropped by 6.32% this past month, a downward trend it has been maintaining since May. The drop comes despite valiant efforts to put out some of the fires plaguing the car manufacturing industry. But with the microchip shortage, surging inflation, and issues with both supply and demand, the automotive market can’t seem to catch a break.
In an automotive market this tight, the industry does not need bad press. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened when leading market research firm J.D. Power published its latest report this past weekend. The 2022 U.S. Initial Quality Study (IQS) took the time to highlight the issues currently afflicting the industry. However, they also called out “premium” car companies for their extensive quality issues.
How bad? Apparently, this proved the highest number of vehicle problems reported in the 36-year history of the study. In fact, J.D. Power charted an 11% increase in “problems per 100 vehicles” compared with 2021. The report also stated that vehicle quality has declined across the board since the pandemic, pricier models had more quality issues than more affordable cars.
This largely has to do with cars having so many more “bells and whistles.” After all, many of these high-end features require increasingly rare components. You might remember hearing how BMW now offers its heated seat function on a subscription basis. While this may not become the norm, it shows a symptom of a very large problem.
According to J.D. Power’s Director of Global Automotive, David Amodeo, “automakers continue to launch vehicles that are more and more technologically complex in an era in which there have been many shortages of critical components to support them.” He also added that “given the challenges automakers and their dealers had to face in the past year, it’s somewhat surprising that initial quality didn’t fall even more dramatically.”
- UN says humanitarian agencies face ‘biggest funding gap ever’ Al Jazeera
The United Nations’ humanitarian projects face a record funding gap this year, with only a third of the required $48.7bn secured so far as global needs outpace pledges, according to the world body’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
The money is needed to help about 204 million people worldwide as armed conflict and climate change emerge as key drivers of “mega crises” that threaten the livelihoods of whole communities.
“More than halfway through the year, the funding shortfall is $33.6bn, our biggest funding gap ever,” OCHA spokesman Jens Laerke told a media briefing on Friday.
“The needs in the world are rising much faster than the donor funding is coming in,” he said.
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.
It looks like a lot of articles are now being spent on the mythical Kherson counteroffensive, which are all basically the same article but with randomized sentence orders, so once you’ve read one, you’ve read them all. There was also that WaPo article about how there probably isn’t going to be a counteroffensive, but that’s already been mentioned by Moon of Alabama, which I posted in the megathread. So we’re running on fumes here in the dipshittery section.
- Russia says its T-90 is one of the best tanks in the world, but it’s having trouble in Ukraine Business Insider
The article spends most of its length discussing the specs of the tanks and their history, which could be interesting for any military buffs out there (not sure why you’d get it from a Business Insider article tho), but I’m just gonna skip right to the bad section.
Despite its on-paper advantages and promotion in Russian media as being the best in the world, Russian T-90s have run into serious issues in Ukraine. Russia has reportedly lost 20 “Vladimirs” in Ukraine to date according to the open-source blog Oryx, as well as two T-90Ms.
In fact, Russia appears to have suffered its first T-90M loss shortly after the tanks began to appear in Ukraine in the spring.
While Russian media sources have pointed to the further delivery of T-90Ms to the Russian armed forces during the invasion as evidence of the resiliency of Russia’s arms industry, the discovery of French optronic technology in a T-90 captured by Ukrainian forces raises questions about the durability of the supply chains which support T-90 production.
Although the T-90 has not lived up to much of its hype in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the ever-distant arrival of the T-14 Armata to active service likely means that Russia will have no choice but to maintain its fleet of T-90s for the foreseeable future.
Is that it? Man, where’s Max Boot when you need him?
- The Inflation Reduction Act? Try the IRS Enforcement Act instead. WaPo Oh, you gottem, Thiessen! Zing! For those reading who are not brain-poisoned by American commentators, Thiessen is a dipshit who is a Fox News contributor, former speechwriter for Bush, and a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
Give him points for honesty. In a Senate floor speech, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called President Biden’s massive climate tax and spending bill what it is: “the so-called Inflation Reduction Act.” “I say ‘so-called,’ by the way,” Sanders added, “because according to the [Congressional Budget Office], and other economic organizations that have studied this bill, it will, in fact, have a minimal impact on inflation.”
A more accurate name for the bill might be the “IRS Enforcement Act.” The bill increases the budget of the Internal Revenue Service by $80 billion over 10 years. What might the IRS do with all that money? The Biden administration has told us. In May 2021, Biden’s Treasury Department produced a 22-page analysis of his American Families Plan agenda, which said that adding nearly $80 billion in new resources over 10 years to the IRS budget would allow it to hire 86,852 full-time employees over the next decade — to audit more returns and pry more money out of taxpayers to fund the administration’s radical climate agenda.
According to Sen. Mike Crapo (Idaho), the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, 57 percent of the $80 million in the final bill is for enforcement.
Mike Crapo? Seriously? We really are in the dipshittery zone now.
So, let’s be conservative and estimate that it could add at least 49,600 IRS agents and auditors. That could increase the size of the IRS workforce (which currently has 78,661 full-time staffers) to more than 128,000. To put that in perspective, the largest NFL stadium — MetLife Stadium in New Jersey — has a maximum capacity of 82,500. This new army of tax collectors would be larger than the actual armed forces of 24 of our 29 NATO allies. It would also be 6½ times the size of our Border Patrol, which has just 19,536 agents trying to handle the worst border crisis in American history.
Anybody else think this is a tremendously stupid and heavyhanded way of looking at that number to make it seem absurdly big? “128,000 people is like, the same size of the city of Chicago, if you removed 95% of the people from it. Imagine ten whole Martha’s Vineyards. Yeah. That’s a lot of people."
If you told Americans that their government was going to spend $80 billion to hire tens of thousands of people, and asked what the new federal workers should focus on, carrying out IRS audits probably would not rank high on most people’s lists. Indeed, improving tax collection does not even make the list of the American public’s top priorities.
While Biden is growing the IRS budget by $80 billion, he did not even request enough funds for the Defense Department to keep up with inflation. In the midst of the first unprovoked land invasion in Europe in decades, and with China menacing Taiwan, Biden is starving our military while lavishing cash on the IRS. If he gave $80 billion to the Pentagon instead, it would be enough to buy six new Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers, 22 Virginia-class attack submarines, 18 Zumwalt-class destroyers or more than 800 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.
Starving our military. Starving our military?! What? Huh? The entire bill is less than half the size of the annual military budget, let alone the $80 billion part, which is less than a tenth! I literally cannot express how idiotic of a paragraph that is. My god, Thiessen has come in clutch with an article that has the same raw power of 10 normal dipshit articles.
As for hiring tens of thousands of new IRS employees, the U.S. Army is facing the worst recruiting crisis since the creation of the all-volunteer force in 1973 and could find itself short 25,000 troops at the end of this year. Perhaps the commander in chief should focus on recruiting and retaining soldiers instead of hiring more tax collectors.
What are you TALKING about?
That’s if he can hire them. Good luck finding tens of thousands of new workers in this economy. One of the main reasons we are experiencing the worst inflation in four decades is because we have a historic labor shortage. There are 10.7 million unfilled jobs in the United States today, and 59 percent of small businesses report they cannot find workers, including 80 percent of restaurants, 76 percent of manufacturers, and 71 percent of travel and lodging businesses. The demand side of the economy is overheating because of all the free government money Biden has provided, while the supply side can’t keep up because of a lack of workers — which means shortages and higher prices.
Four sentences and not a single correct interpretation of reality. How much of this article is left? Oh, thank god.
If Biden really cared about reducing inflation, he would be focused on helping private businesses find workers — not competing with them for workers by dipping into the labor pool to hire people away from the productive sector of the economy.
This bill is not about reducing inflation; it is about increasing tax collection. That’s why Democrats are giving their bill a fake name. Because they know that they can’t tell Americans the truth — that they are hiring an army of tax collectors so they can spend hundreds of billions more of your tax dollars on climate change.
The writing style of conservative journalists is really in a league of it’s own. Nothing can beat the energy of Max Boot on one of his good days, but man, this is approaching it.
For when people accept reality, though often not fully and not for very long.
- The war in Ukraine has likely sent Russia’s economy back to 2018 — but it’s still a smaller contraction than experts expected Business Insider
The war in Ukraine has sent Russia’s economy back to 2018, according to Bloomberg Economics.
That’s as Russia’s GDP likely fell 4.7% on-year in the second quarter of 2022 — the first contraction in a year, according to 12 analysts polled by Bloomberg. The April to June period marked the first full quarter since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. Russia’s central bank estimated Russia’s economy to have shrank 4.3% in the second quarter of the year.
Russia’s economy likely “shed four years of growth, returning to its 2018 size in the second quarter,” per Bloomberg Economics Russia economist Alexander Isakov, according to the news agency. Russia’s economy was worth $1.66 trillion in 2018 and $1.78 trillion in 2021, according to the World Bank.
Russia’s economy grew 3.5% in the first quarter of 2022, according to official data.
Although Russia’s economy was under stress in the second quarter, the contraction was far less than expected. Analysts Bloomberg polled from March to July had expected the country’s economy to contract around 9% to 10%.
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.
- Wall Street, Not the Kremlin, Is Primarily to Blame for Rising Commodity Prices Jacobin
On July 5, the markets admitted they made a mistake. Despite betting for months that the war in Ukraine would produce a global shortage of wheat, speculators now believe that the hostilities will have had no meaningful impact on supply. That’s why the news that Russia will allow Ukraine’s Black Sea wheat exports to resume has barely registered. By the time that the belligerents came to this agreement on July 21, prices had already been “corrected” sharply downward to prewar levels. Then on August 4, oil prices also sank below their prewar price, marking a second admission by the market. Right now, just as much oil flows into the veins of the global economy as it did before the war began.
The Kremlin’s war did not create a Malthusian nightmare of too little food and fuel for too many people. But financial speculators in Wall Street and the City of London bet that it would, causing global prices to boom — and now bust. This speculation led to months of eye-watering prices based not on economic fundamentals but perception.
Soaring food and fuel prices pushed 71 million of the world’s most vulnerable people into extreme poverty. The high prices triggered protests in Argentina, Chile, Cyprus, Greece, Guinea, Ghana, Ecuador, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Lebanon, Palestine, Peru, Sudan, and Tunisia. In Sri Lanka, the prices sparked protests, toppled the prime minister, created a debt crisis, and last week deposed the president. Commodity driven inflation also hit the United States, hammered Joe Biden’s approval ratings, and despite now falling gas prices may have already condemned the Democrats to humiliating defeats in the coming midterms.
Why did the markets get it so wrong? As the Nobel laureate Robert Shiller has shown, behind every price move there is a narrative. In the weeks following the war’s outbreak, headlines issued dire warnings of crippling sanctions, embargoed oil, stranded wheat rotting in silos, blocked Russian ports, and Black Sea blockades. All of these stories were, in a literal sense, true. But the question is whether these “facts” justified the skyrocketing prices that followed.
The verdict, based on the most recent market correction, is a firm “no.”
This is not just a function of hindsight. For one, even oil embargos with broad international support fail to stop barrels crossing borders, let alone the lopsided and loophole-ridden effort from the United States and Europe to limit Russian exports. Warnings of a coming global food crisis assumed that Russia and Ukraine’s wheat exports — 25 percent of the global total — would be stranded forever. But physical commodity traders are remarkably resilient at overcoming barriers — be they war zones, tariffs, the Drug Enforcement Administration, or pirates.
Russians and Ukrainians alike stood to profit greatly from getting siloed grain to global markets since prices at the start of the year were already elevated. It’s no surprise that they did indeed find ways to do so: by reviving river routes, using Romanian ports, and smuggling stolen grain. Even if none of their combined grain left, their Black Sea exports make up just 0.9 percent of global wheat production, and grain stockpiles were already rising across the world in March as farmers had expanded production in 2021.
But these stories of resiliency were overwhelmed by the avalanche of stories of crisis. And as with all speculative bubbles, once cash poured in and pushed up prices, the resulting higher prices “confirmed” the initial story, eliciting fresh capital sending prices even higher. This self-fulfilling prophecy even played out on Reddit message boards, where just as in 2021’s GameStop bubble, posters hyped prices.
Commodity exchange traded funds received $4.5 billion in a single week as retail investors ploughed their savings into the latest get-rich-quick craze. Institutional investors likewise poured money into the commodity markets, not because of any belief about fundamental supply and demand but to diversify their portfolios with an “inflation hedge.” Soon commodities soared past 2008’s record highs, and the United Nations secretary-general warned of yet another “global hunger crisis.”
In June the narrative began to change. The images of smoldering ruins from shelled Ukrainian cities no longer led the nightly news. Instead, stories of inflation, interest rate hikes, and a coming global recession ascended. Sentiment flipped. Traders replaced their fears of a shortage of wheat and oil to a drop in demand. Citigroup predicted crude oil was on course to $65 a barrel by the end of the year, and $45 by the end of 2023. Speculators reversed their bets. Prices crashed.
This isn’t the first time the markets have predicted a food crisis that never came but sent prices soaring nevertheless. The “global food crisis” of 2008, when high prices pushed 155 million people into extreme poverty and triggered riots in forty-eight countries, was driven not by fundamentals but excessive speculation, according to the UN special rapporteur on the right to food and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); even Goldman Sachs admitted that “without question increased fund flow into commodities has boosted prices.” Another speculative onslaught in 2010, owed to fears of quantitative easing–driven inflation and Russian wildfires, triggered the Arab Spring protests. In both 2008 and 2010, the global food system produced more food than at any earlier time in history.
- Understanding Maduro’s Successful Socialist Economic Strategy Popular Resistance
After Years Of Calling Venezuela’s Economy A Dismal Failure That Demonstrates The Dangers Of Socialism, Western Media Is Now Lauding Its Recovery For ‘Embracing Capitalism.’ But This Is Not Accurate, Argues Francisco Dominguez.
In its intensely biased coverage of Venezuela during the hard years of 2014-21 the mainstream media wheeled in every imaginable academic pundit to “demonstrate” that the country’s economic woes were the result of President Nicolas Maduro overseeing Venezuela’s slide “into authoritarianism and economic collapse” (the Guardian, January 24 2019) and not of cruel US sanctions.
In 2019, the Economist for instance, in line with US policy, published a front cover with a clench-fisted Juan Guaido titled “the battle for Venezuela’s future,” positing “the world democracies are right to seek change.” Very rarely, if at all, the mainstream media or the activated pundits gave any significant weight to the well over 500 illegal and criminal unilateral coercive measures (aka sanctions) inflicted on Venezuela and its people by the US and its European and Latin American accomplices.
US economic warfare — the almost total blockade of its economy — led to a shrinking of 99 per cent of its revenues, with Venezuela living on 1 per cent of its pre-sanctions income.
Given current world developments (the mess US efforts to stop its decline are inflicting on the world economy) and the undeniable economic recovery of Venezuela, the Economist is now writing pieces such as “Can Venezuela help the West wean itself off Russian oil?”
We now see key world financial media competing with each other in predicting by how much Venezuela’s economy will grow in 2022, with percentages ranging from 4 to 20 per cent. This confirms Maduro’s success in steering his country steadily out of steep recession, hyperinflation, severe scarcity, the collapse of exports, and eight consecutive years of externally induced GDP contraction.
Furthermore, Venezuela’s economic and now political strength led a shamefaced EU to finally derecognize Guaido as “interim president” with many countries following suit. Maduro — over whose head the US has placed a $15 million reward — has obtained de facto recognition as the real and only government of Venezuela by the US itself.
However, the mainstream media has been quick to attribute Venezuela’s economic recovery to the supposedly capitalistic nature of his strategy. A piece in Spain’s rabid anti-Chavista El Pais (May 26 2022) has characterized Venezuela’s recovery as “rampant capitalism.”
This false view has sadly contaminated a tiny and marginal section of Venezuela’s left who maliciously charge the Venezuelan government with selling out to neoliberalism and betraying the principles of Hugo Chavez. This is not just false but utterly absurd.
What was Chavez’s vision? Article 299 of the 1999 Bolivarian Constitution, Chavez’s brainchild, stipulates “The State, jointly with private initiative, shall promote the harmonious development of the national economy, to the end of generating sources of employment, a high rate of domestic added value, raising the standard of living of the population and strengthen the economic sovereignty of the country.”
Furthermore, in Chavez’s Plan of the Nation’s Socio-Economic Development (2001-07) this guiding principle is combined with the objective of maximizing the collective wellbeing through the expansion of democracy and higher standards of living, aimed at a fair distribution of national wealth. This model additionally seeks economic diversification and is open to international markets but is based on a strong state presence in strategic industries where private enterprise participates.
Even Chavez’s radical constitutional reform — defeated in the 2007 referendum — consecrated the development of public-private mixed enterprises and recognized mixed and private as two of five forms of property. However, constitutionally, the state is entrusted with the responsibility to protect national industry and agriculture from unfair competition.
Neither did Chavez deviate — nor has Maduro ever deviated — from these parameters.
Furthermore, economic policy is developed and implemented in the context of the state monopoly over the country’s key foreign revenue sources (oil, gold, rare minerals, foreign trade and so forth), which due to the government’s dexterity, persistent US economic aggression notwithstanding, has produced impressive results.
In his 2021 state of the union speech Maduro reported that Venezuela’s economy had grown 7.6 per cent, foreign trade had increased 33 per cent, households had augmented their consumption by 4.9 per cent, there was 60-70 per cent food self-sufficiency (more than 90 per cent in 2022), with over 90 per cent of what goes into the CLAP boxes (state food distribution program) being domestically produced, inflation was reduced to single digits and shortages of food and other items had disappeared.
Furthermore, in recent visit to a number of Eurasian countries (Turkey, Algeria, Iran, Kuwait, Qatar, and Azerbaijan) Maduro skillfully expanded Venezuela’s trading partners in the world (with China, Russia and Iran already among the most important). The combined effect of Venezuela’s huge assets and the anti-blockade and special economic zones has made the national economy an attractive foreign investment location.
Two factors stand out in Venezuela’s economic revival: the digitalization of its economy and the explosive rise of small and medium-sized productive enterprises. In 2020 there were 121,432,000 digital transactions — that went up to 201 million in 2021, covering 80 per cent of total domestic transactions (to be much greater in 2022). Saren, the body in charge of registering small enterprises, reports that 7,657 registered in 2020, 19,284 in 2021, and 13,096 by the end of May 2022.
Both developments were vigorously encouraged by the Bolivarian government with its expansion and consolidation greatly facilitated by the Homeland Card — a personalized QR identity available to all citizens — and a generous policy of state credit for new small entrepreneurs.
Bloomerism and Hope
For events that show that a better, more equitable, and happier world is possible than the neoliberal hell we inhabit.
- ‘Dictatorship Never Again’: Massive Pro-Democracy Protests Sweep Brazil Common Dreams
Protests—some of them massive—in defense of democracy and education and against far-right President Jair Bolsonaro’s coup-mongering were held in cities across Brazil Thursday, less than two months before the first round of the South American nation’s presidential election.
Demonstrations took place in at least 23 of Brazil’s 26 state capitals, as well as in the national capital of Brasília. Many of the protests featured readings of a pair of pro-democracy manifestos, including the “Letter to Brazilians in Defense of Democracy and Rule of Law.” The missive, which has been signed by nearly one million people, was inspired by a similar 1977 document that helped bring down a 21-year, U.S.-backed military dictatorship admired by Bolsonaro, who served in its army.
- Energy workers to stage more protests as companies raise bills but not pay OpenDemocracy
Energy workers are promising rolling protests at major sites across the UK as employers push up bills and profits soar despite falling real-terms pay.
Speaking from Drax power station in Yorkshire, where he described working conditions as “red hot,” industrial scaffolder Richard Foster said workers at 29 sites across the UK had committed to protesting every other Wednesday until their wage demands are met.
Workers taking part in the action demonstrated at a number of sites that are vital to the UK’s energy infrastructure yesterday, including Drax, Grangemouth oil refinery in Scotland, Pembroke oil refinery in Wales, and Humber oil refinery in England.
“All they’re doing is driving profits up and driving wages down,” said Foster, who described workers on the site as “incensed”.
“We’ve paid our taxes to these companies,” he added. “They’ve had millions for them to have the privilege to give out £4,000 electric bills.”
Some workers on the sites, he said, are on rates as low as £10.36 an hour. For them, he said, “it’s either going to be energy or food in the winter time. They’re only just above the minimum wage.”
The demonstrations are targeted at the Engineering Construction Industry Association, the main employers’ association for the UK’s engineering and construction industry, and are in response to a pay rise offer of just 2.5% – which would amount to a significant real-terms cut. Foster insisted the actions are not officially strikes – yet – although he said employees had lost pay as a consequence.
He accused company bosses of being “rogue employers who won’t come back to the table to renegotiate the cost of living crisis”, adding that he believes the firms are “waiting for a recession – and then they’ve got an excuse not to pay us again”.
- Boston Starbucks Workers Have Been on Strike for 3 Weeks Jacobin
Three weeks ago, in response to what workers say has been particularly flagrant union busting at a Boston Starbucks after their unanimous vote for a union, baristas have gone on strike. That strike is still going.
At about 5:15 AM on Monday, two police officers and a handful of strikebreakers showed up with a U-Haul at the Boston Starbucks store at 874 Commonwealth Avenue to take away patio furniture. Striking workers had been using the chairs and other gear. Organizers say the purpose of the visit was to intimidate strikers, who are maintaining a 24-7 picket at the site.
Baristas at the store have been on an unfair labor practice (ULP) strike for more than three weeks, marking the first open-ended strike of any significant length in the brief history of the national Starbucks Workers United (SBWU) movement. The trigger for the strike was what workers say is the company’s flagrant union busting at the store. Workers and observers around the country have claimed such tactics are central to the company’s response to the hundreds of union drives that have kicked off at Starbucks locations in the past nine months. (In response to the company’s conduct, labor scholar John Logan called Starbucks “one of the worst union busters in recent memory” earlier this summer.)
Spencer Costigan, a shift manager at the Boston store where the strike is underway, and their coworkers unanimously won a union on June 3. Less than a week later, they had a new manager who also manages a different, nonunion Starbucks location.
“We decided to go on strike to get rid of her because she’s terrible,” says Costigan.
The baristas at 874 Commonwealth Avenue are often picketing in scorching hot weather, day and night, to ensure that the store remains closed, that no deliveries are made, and to try to bend the $97-billion corporation to their will. Local politicians like Mayor Michelle Wu and Representative Ayanna Pressley and numerous community supporters, from Democratic Socialists of America members to rank-and-file union members like teachers, painters, and school bus drivers, have pitched in. City councilor Kendra Lara replaced the furniture that the strikebreakers took.
Then, last Monday, more than two weeks into the strike, Starbucks workers at four other Massachusetts stores decided to join the Commonwealth location workers on strike.
“If someone says they have a transphobic, racist, homophobic person in their store doing all the things they’re doing and the company will not say, ‘I’m so sorry this experience happened to you, let us fix it’ . . . Wild!” says Bailey Fulton, a barista at a store in Worcester that was on strike.
While one strike was always scheduled to last a week, three were extended from one-day strikes to two-day strikes, then three-day strikes, then weeklong strikes until they ended on Sunday.
About 115 Starbucks employees in Massachusetts in total were on strike from August 1 to August 7. But the other four stores didn’t just suddenly engage in strike action out of the blue.