Link back to the discussion thread.


  • Energy traders are making a killing exporting US natural gas to Europe as prices there soar — with single shipments bringing in $200 million Business Insider

Energy companies and traders are raking in huge profits selling US natural gas to Europe as prices on the continent skyrocket, with a single shipment netting around $200 million of profit, according to industry experts.

US exports of natural gas across the Atlantic have surged in 2022, as companies pounce on the huge earnings on offer while European governments facing a Russian supply squeeze desperately try to fill their storage tanks before winter.

“You’re not talking about a margin. You’re talking about a multiplier,” Laurent Segalen, an energy investment banker who hosts the Redefining Energy podcast, said about the so-called arbitrage trade.

“All in all, it’s insane,” he told Insider.

Segalen said companies with gas to sell in the US can fill a large ship and send it across the Atlantic for around $60 million, with the cargo then fetching around $275 million in Europe.

Buyers who locked in deals to purchase US natural gas before the latest surge in European prices would also be making huge profits, according to Segalen.

Felix Booth, head of liquefied natural gas analysis at Vortexa, said he thought companies could be making around $150 million on each shipment.


  • Major Ukraine Grower Says Russia Stole 200,000 Tons of Its Crops Bloomberg

Ukrainian farm company HarvEast said Russia stole as much as 200,000 tons of crops from its farms in eastern occupied areas, as Kyiv urges buyers to seize suspicious grain shipments.

Ukraine has repeatedly accused Russia of stealing grain from occupied regions and exporting it, and says Moscow has shipped out half a million tons of seized food. Russia has persistently denied the claims.

HarvEast, which was a top 10 Ukraine landowner before the war, said 50,000 tons of crops has been taken from storage by Russian lorries which then traveled in the direction of Russia, including from the villages of Manhush and Nikolske near Mariupol. It estimates that about another 150,000 tons have been harvested from its occupied fields it no longer controls, though can’t verify exact figures.

That combined volume would fill about three Panamax bulk vessels.

“The biggest loss is this year’s harvest,” HarvEast Chief Executive Officer Dmitry Skornyakov said in an interview. “In June they started to harvest our grain, and we don’t have access to this land.”

I would love to know what the alternative here is. For Russia NOT to harvest the grain, and thus result in more global hunger? For Russia to somehow allow Ukrainian farmers to cross the lines into territory that isn’t even really Ukrainian anymore?

  • With Western Funds Slow to Arrive, Ukraine Scrapes to Pay Its Soldiers WSJ

Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s invasion is gradually strengthening as its army grows and more Western weapons arrive. Sergii Marchenko’s problem is how to pay for it all.

The Ukrainian finance minister is struggling with a yawning gap between the cost of the war and depressed tax revenues in an economy battered by the invasion. Ukraine’s Western supporters—particularly the European Union—are sending promised financial help only slowly.

Ukraine’s central bank is having to make up the difference, printing money so the government can pay soldiers’ salaries and buy arms and ammunition. That is weakening the national currency, the hryvnia, pushing up inflation and raising fears that fragile finances could undermine Ukraine’s ability to sustain its war effort.

“Every day and night it’s a constant headache,” said Mr. Marchenko, a 41-year-old economist and government veteran picked as finance minister by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Ukraine was one of Europe’s poorest countries before the war, in terms of per-capita income. Several economic crises have set it back, while other Eastern European countries have joined the EU and grown strongly. Ukraine’s aspirations to reorient its economy westward, and Russia’s resistance, are among the causes of the conflict.

Lack of money threatens to become Ukraine’s Achilles’ heel. Before the war, the government’s budget was roughly balanced. Now, tax revenues only cover around 40% of government spending. War costs are more than 60% of the budget. Mr. Marchenko has cut nonessential spending to the bone.

The government needs about $5 billion a month to cover nonmilitary spending. Western governments have promised to support the civilian budget with grants and loans, leaving Kyiv able to use more of its own resources for the war.

But Western governments’ total pledges of around $30 billion for this year fall short of Kyiv’s needs. And disbursements are lagging behind promises.

Mr. Marchenko spends much of his time urging Western governments to act faster. “The support we get now gives us the opportunity to win this war and to do it sooner rather than later,” he said. “Without this money, the war will last longer and it will damage economies more.”

On Wednesday, he received some good news: Ukraine’s international bondholders approved his proposal to freeze debt payments for two years. The bond standstill, together with a similar agreement with official creditors last month, will save Kyiv around $5.9 billion over the next two years. But that only covers a small part of the financial shortfall.

  • Major rating agencies declare Ukraine in default RT

Global rating agencies S&P and Fitch have lowered Ukraine’s foreign currency ratings to ‘selective default’ and ‘restricted default’, respectively, as the country’s latest debt restructuring is seen as distressed.

Earlier this week, state-owned companies Ukrenergo and Ukravtodor requested a two-year freeze on payments on almost $20 billion in international bonds. The country’s overseas creditors agreed to suspend interest payments and postpone the maturity date of the bonds by two years.

This is expected to save Ukraine about $6 billion on payments, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denis Shmygal said, commenting on the move.


  • Russia-China trade to reach major milestone RT

Economic ties between Russia and China are showing steady growth despite the difficult international situation, Beijing’s ambassador to Moscow said on Friday, predicting that trade could hit $200 billion this year.

“Russian-Chinese trade and economic cooperation shows excellent results and sustainable development, despite the tests associated with the pandemic, the global economic downturn and the difficult international and regional situation,” Zhang Hanhui told RIA Novosti news agency.

In the first seven months of the year, Beijing-Moscow trade surged by 29%, reaching $97.71 billion, the ambassador said, citing Chinese customs data.

During that time, China’s exports to Russia totalled $36.26 billion, marking an increase of 5.2% from the same period of 2021. Imports from Russia jumped by 48.8%, to reach $61.44 billion.

  • Russia’s wealth fund could add China’s yuan as the Kremlin explores other currencies while sanctions keep dollar and euro assets frozen Business Insider

Russia’s central bank is looking to add China’s yuan, India’s rupee, and Turkey’s lira to its wealth fund, as Western sanctions keep the Kremlin’s dollars and euros frozen.

On Friday, the central bank disclosed its policy outlook for the coming three years, and noted that other currencies could also be added to the mix.

The diversification away from Western currencies could come via a budget mechanism that leverages excess income from energy revenue. Russia’s wealth fund held just under $200 billion in July.

Finance Minister Anton Siluanov has signaled previously that Moscow could look to alternative currencies to top up the fund. However, Bank of Russia Governor Elvira Nabiullina has cautioned against investing in volatile currencies.

The yuan has drawn particular interest from Russia since it invaded Ukraine amid a ramp-up in trade with China and the West’s shunning of commercial ties with Moscow.

Yuan-ruble currency trading hit a record last month, and President Vladimir Putin announced in June that China and Russia together are developing a new reserve currency with other BRICS countries.

China’s push to make the yuan a more dominant player on the world stage — to supplant the dollar, specifically — has accelerated in recent years. Still, economists have pointed out that the moves are primarily symbolic.

  • Moscow reveals ‘point of no return’ in Russia-US relations RT

If the US designates Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, it would represent “a point of no return” in relations between the two countries, and Washington is aware of that, Moscow has explained.

In an interview with TASS published on Saturday, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s North American Department, Aleksandr Darichev, was asked about the possibility of downgrading relations with the US over its support for Ukraine in the conflict with Russia and the unprecedented sanctions imposed on Moscow.

“I wouldn’t want to philosophize about what’s possible and what’s not in the current turbulent situation when the US-led West has trampled upon international law and absolute taboos in diplomatic practice,” he said.


  • In Lukashenko’s dictatorship, enemies are shamed and the West is shunned WaPo

I have nothing in particular to say or argue about in this article, other than the obvious: the fall of the Soviet Union and its consequences was a disaster for the human race.

Despite a barrage of Western sanctions that followed Alexander Lukashenko’s claim of victory in a fraudulent presidential election two years ago, the Kremlin-backed dictator of Belarus continues to brutally — and bizarrely — repress political dissent.

Among his regime’s favorite tools: the video of shame, in which citizens are forced to make humiliating “confessions” while stripped to their underpants, wearing Santa hats or draped with their own pro-democracy banners.

These “extremists,” arrested by the government’s anti-extremism unit GUBOPiK, mumble out details of their alleged crimes for videos that are posted on pro-government Telegram channels. The channels call it “self-denazification.” Many of the so-called offenders did little more than attend protest rallies, or subscribe to online independent media.

The persistent, pernicious persecution of innocent dissenters in Belarus highlights the failure of Western powers, including the United States, to deter Lukashenko or bolster the country’s democratic opposition, whose leaders are now mostly jailed or in exile. Not only did Lukashenko turn to Russian President Vladimir Putin for political and financial support in squashing the protests, he then allowed his country to be used as a staging ground for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

In different ways, the fates of Belarus and Ukraine underscore the limits of Washington’s diplomacy on Russia’s western borders, long a carrot-and-stick balancing act. Moscow views each as a strategic buffer. In Ukraine, Putin went to war to try to force capitulation to Moscow’s interests; in Belarus he succeeded without firing a shot.

The United States and Europe wooed Ukraine for years with billions in assistance. They punished Belarus with sanctions only to see Lukashenko sucked back into Putin’s orbit.

Yeah, makes you question why we ever sanction anybody.

This week, in commemoration of the second anniversary of Lukashenko’s fraudulent election, the United States announced new visa restrictions on 100 regime officials and their “affiliates,” including high-ranking officials in the presidential administration and the notorious GUBOPiK.

In a statement, the State Department said the targeted officials “have been implicated in torture; violent arrests of peaceful protesters; raids of homes and offices of journalists, members of the opposition, and activists; coerced confessions; electoral fraud; politically motivated sentences of political prisoners; expulsion of students for participation in peaceful protests; passage of legislation impacting the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms; and acts of transnational repression.”

In a symbolic move, Lukashenko’s rival in the 2020 elections Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who lives in exile in Lithuania, announced a transitional cabinet. But while Tikhanovskaya is regularly welcomed in Western capitals, and met President Biden at the White House last year, Lukashenko faces no internal threat to his power.

Instead, Lukashenko’s thuggish enforcers at GUBOPiK have a green light to rough up activists and target their families. They post spoof videos mimicking a popular Russian before-and-after apartment renovation show — but instead the homes are destroyed.

Wielding crowbars, they break up the apartments of parents of exiled Belarusian activists, the camera panning slowly across the view, “after the search,” showing floors pulled up, broken furniture, mirrors and fittings smashed, shards of glass and tangled clothes. GUBOPiK did not respond to requests for comment about the confession videos.

I’m under no illusions that Lukashenko is a nice person, though it does appear to me, just as a general vibe, that the choices that Belarus has are between him, which has its obvious problems, and a neoliberal who will make a pretty speech about democracy and freedom, and then will loot the country and rip the wiring out of every house in Belarus and sell it to America. I believe the former is preferable to the latter for the average Belarusian. It goes without saying that I hope a socialist leader will rise up and bring an end to the general post-Soviet malaise in the country and region.


  • Rhine water levels fall to new low as Germany’s drought hits shipping Guardian

The levels of the Rhine River fell to a new low on Friday due to the ongoing drought in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, further restricting the distribution of coal, petrol, wheat and other commodities amid a looming energy crisis.

The water level at Kaub near Frankfurt – a key waypoint where the fairway is shallower than elsewhere on the river – fell below 40cm on Friday afternoon, the level at which it is no longer economical for many barges to transit the river.

According to a daily bulletin by Germany’s Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration, water levels on the key waterway were at an unusually low level for this point in the year, and was estimated to drop by a further 10-15cm over the coming three or four days.

While 14-day weather forecasts predict rising water levels from the middle of next week, the administration said this was unlikely to have a significant impact.

Large German companies such as BASF and ThyssenKrupp rely on the Rhine for their supply of fuel, and vessels on the river also carry coal to power stations that the government has chosen to use more intensively in response to Russia throttling its pipeline delivery of natural gas.

While vessels were still able to travel on the Rhine last week, companies were forced to reduce their load, and capacity for switching transport to rail or road is limited. A river ship can usually carry about 1,000 tonnes of wheat, for example, which would require about 40 lorries to shift the same quantity of goods.

Hans-Heinrich Witte, the president of the General Directorate for Waterways, told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung he expected that the Rhine would not be closed for shipping this summer.

  • Berlin wants to reduce gas use by 2% with new regulations Reuters

New measures to reduce Germany’s gas consumption by 2% require strict cutbacks by public and private users as Europe battles a sharp reduction in Russian gas supplies, government officials said on Friday.

Economy Minister Robert Habeck told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper last week the state would order certain energy savings measures such as only heating public buildings to a maximum of 19 degrees Celsius (66.2°F).

Under the new measures, corridors or big halls should not be heated at all, except in hospitals or care homes, ministry officials told Reuters. Private pools may no longer be heated while the illumination of buildings and memorials should be switched off to save on electricity.

Illuminated advertisements should also be turned off from 2200 to 0600 each day.

  • Germans want to continue operations of remaining NPPs Tehran Times

According to a new survey from Der Spiegel, three-quarters of all Germans want to continue the operations of Germany’s remaining nuclear power plants, throwing into question the country’s much-touted plan to phase out nuclear energy. Is the country about to make a U-turn on the issue?

Seventy-eight percent of those surveyed are in favor of continuing to operate the plants until the summer of 2023, a variant that is being discussed in the political sphere as a “stretch operation” – in other words, continuing to keep them online for a few months, but without the acquisition of new fuel rods. Even among Green Party supporters, a narrow majority favors this approach.

Is this the crisis talking? The answers suggest that the attitude of Germans toward nuclear power has changed significantly. Sixty-seven percent are in favor of continuing to operate the nuclear plants for the next five years, with only 27 percent opposed to it. The only group without a clear majority in favor of running the plants for the next five years are the supporters of the Green Party. Backers of the center-right Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), as well as those supporting the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) are over 80 percent in favor of having the nuclear plants running for that long. On the question of whether Germany should build new nuclear power plants because of the energy crisis, 41 percent of respondents answered “yes,” meaning they favor an approach that isn’t even up for debate in Germany.

The results are astounding all around, especially compared with past surveys. Thirty-three years ago, a polling institute asked a similar question on behalf of DER SPIEGEL. At the time, only a miniscule 3 percent of respondents thought Germany should build new plants.

Oh, jeez! It would be so incredibly unfortunate if a nuclear accident occurred at a Ukrainian nuclear power plant that might upset this shift towards nuclear energy! Gosh, then the only thing that Germany could do is buy gas from the United States at massively elevated prices! What an absolute tragedy that would be!


  • ‘The water wasn’t there’: Shrinking of Italy’s Lake Garda shocks tourists Euro News

Tourists flocking to Italy’s largest lake ahead of the country’s long summer weekend have found a vastly different landscape than in past years.

Lake Garda in northern Italy has shrunk to nearly its lowest level ever recorded, revealing swathes of underwater rocks and warming the water to temperatures seen in the Caribbean.

“We came last year, we liked it, and we came back this year,” said tourist Beatrice Masi, as she sat on the sun-bleached rock, which now extended far beyond the normal shoreline.

“We found the landscape had changed a lot," she continued. “We were a bit shocked when we arrived because we had our usual walk around, and the water wasn’t there.”

Northern Italy is currently experiencing a historic drought linked to climate change, with a near absence of rainfall and snowmelt, besides soaring temperatures.

Vital rivers like the Po, running through Italy’s agricultural and industrial heartland, have all but dried up in the extreme conditions, significantly denting food production.

Italy is not alone in Europe, which experts warn is suffering its worst drought in 500 years.

Many European countries, including Spain, Germany, Portugal, France, the Netherlands and the UK, are enduring unprecedented droughts this summer, hurting farmers and prompting authorities to adopt emergency measures.

The drought is predicted to worsen in Europe, potentially reaching 47% of the continent.


  • Spain says gas pipeline to France possible in 8-9 months Reuters

A potential new gas connection between Spain and France could be ready to operate in less than a year’s time, Spanish Energy Minister Teresa Ribera said on Friday, if France and other European countries agreed on the project.

“This new interconnection, this gas pipeline could be operating in about eight or nine months on the southern side of the border, that is, from the Pyrenees to Spain,” Ribera told the national broadcaster TVE.

The France-Spain connection would require laying another segment of pipeline to connect the Spanish grid to the French one.

  • EU nation sees highest inflation since 1984 RT

Annual inflation in Spain rose to 10.8% in July, hitting the highest level in 38 years, data published by the Spanish Statistical Institute (INE) on Friday shows.

Despite significant drops in gasoline prices, soaring electricity and food costs led to a 0.6% rise in the inflation rate last month. The latest data confirms the INE’s preliminary outlook from late July.

In July, prices for energy products in the country skyrocketed 41% year-over-year, while some basic food products were up by over 20%. Spaniards have reportedly seen a significant surge in the price of eggs, milk, and other dairy products, as well as meat, bread, and cereals.

The inflation rate in Spain has increased for three consecutive months, after a drop of 1.5% in April. It surpassed the double-digit mark in June.


  • Carbon emissions from French wildfires hit record Reuters

Ongoing wildfires in France have already released record amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, new satellite data has shown.

The fires, which have burned large parts of the southwestern Gironde region, unleashed nearly 1 million metric tonnes of carbon from June to August, according to the European Union’s Copernicus Atmospheric Monitoring Service (CAMS).

That is roughly equal to the yearly carbon dioxide emissions from 790,000 cars.

United Kingdom

  • Apples are baking on branches and hosepipe bans hit millions as England falls into drought CNN

The UK’s Environment Agency on Friday announced that huge swaths of England had officially descended into drought, raising food security concerns and making more hosepipe bans, potentially for tens of millions of people, an inevitability.

England last month had its driest July since 1935, and the southern part of the country, including Lathcoats Farm, received just 17% of its average rainfall for the month, according to the UK Met office. No meaningful amount of rain is on the horizon either.

Water levels in reservoirs are dropping fast and rivers are drying up. Even the River Thames that flows through London has shrunk, its first 5 miles dried and disappeared. Thirteen rivers that the Environment Agency monitors are at their lowest levels ever recorded.

Asia and Oceania


  • US to boost Taiwan trade, conduct air, sea transits Philstar

The United States will boost trade with Taiwan in response to China’s “provocative” behavior, the White House said Friday, as it insisted on the right of air and sea passage through the tense strait.

A new trade plan will be unveiled within days, while US forces will transit the Taiwan Strait in the next few weeks, said Kurt Campbell, White House coordinator for Asia-Pacific issues and an adviser to President Joe Biden.


  • China’s Xi plans foreign trip including meeting Biden Reuters

Chinese officials are planning a possible trip by Xi Jinping to Southeast Asia in November for what could be the leader’s first foreign trip since the COVID-19 pandemic and include a meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

Biden’s team has long sought and has not yet confirmed an in-person meeting between the two leaders to lower tensions as the two countries spar over Taiwan, trade and a host of other issues.

The White House is continuing to work on doing so, according to one person familiar with the matter, who said Biden remains open to a face-to-face visit, including on the sidelines of November’s meeting of the Group of 20 nations in Indonesia.

“We don’t have any details on timing or location,” said a U.S. official.

  • China building world’s largest ‘green hydrogen’ factory SCMP

China is building the world’s largest solar-powered “green hydrogen” factory in Xinjiang as part of its efforts to reduce carbon emissions, state media has reported.

The project in Kuqa in the south of the region uses renewable energy sources, including solar and wind power, to produce hydrogen that can then be liquefied and transported long distances through natural gas pipelines and help tackle energy shortages in the most populated parts of the country.

The factory, built as part of the country’s Peak Carbon Dioxide Emissions plan, is designed to produce 20,000 tonnes of hydrogen a year.

  • China sending fighter jets to Thailand for joint drills SCMP

The Chinese air force is sending fighter jets and bombers to Thailand for a joint exercise with the Thai military on Sunday.

The training will include air support, strikes on ground targets and both small- and large-scale troop deployment, the Chinese defence ministry said in a statement posted on its website.

China’s expanding military activities in the Asia-Pacific region have alarmed the United States and its allies, and form part of a growing strategic and economic competition that has inflamed tensions between the world’s two largest economies.

Middle East


  • PetroChina Threatens To Withdraw From Iraq Oil Price

PetroChina is allegedly threatening to pull up stakes in the southern Iraqi governorate of Maysan after another round of protests outside the oil company’s headquarters demanding improved services and infrastructure. Police dispersed the protesters, but not before Iraqi media sources claimed that PetroChina had threatened that if protests continued they would withdraw to another governorate or from the country entirely, which would deprive Iraq of 500,000 bpd.


  • Syrians react furiously to Turkey’s call for reconciliation with Assad MEE

Mass demonstrations erupted in northwestern Syria on Thursday and Friday after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called for reconciliation between Syria’s opposition and the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Cavusoglu raised eyebrows during a news conference on Thursday in which he said that he met his Syrian counterpart in October and that the intelligence services of the two countries have resumed diplomatic contacts to discuss sensitive issues.

Diplomatic contacts between the two countries had been severed since 2012 over Assad’s mass killings of Syrian protesters and civilians following their uprising against him.

Demonstrations have been concentrated in northwest Syria’s Idlib city and areas under Turkish control north of Aleppo, in the cities of al-Bab, Azaz, Marea, Jarablus and Sajo, as well as other locations.

Turkish-backed Syrian rebel forces attacked the demonstrators in Jarabulus on Friday, drawing praise from Turkish opposition leader Umit Ozdag, who said the protesters were interfering in Turkey’s affairs. Three people were arrested, according to Middle East Eye’s sources.

“We are completely against Turkey’s calls, and against any parties in the opposition who want to reconcile with Assad,” Bashar al-Hassan, a civilian demonstrating near a Turkish military base in the town of al-Mastumah, south of Idlib, told Middle East Eye.

“We have lost thousands of martyrs, and half of the Syrian people are displaced. We refuse to reconcile with Assad, who bombed us with chemical weapons and warplanes, and killed children. We will continue to demand the overthrow of the Syrian regime even to the last day of our lives,” he said.

The demonstrators demanded the exit of Turkish troops from Syria, and burned Turkish flags on Thursday night in the city of Azaz, one of Turkey’s largest strongholds in northern Syria.


  • EU proposal to curb Iran sanctions revealed RT

The EU has proposed watering down the US sanctions on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in a move to salvage the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran, Politico reported on Friday, citing a draft of the agreement.

The text in question was submitted by the EU and negotiated in Vienna by all parties to the accord, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), on Monday after 16 months of talks. For the agreement to take effect, it must be approved by the governments in Iran and the US, which unilaterally pulled out of the deal.

According to Politico, the text’s provisions mean that the US is set “to make greater concession than expected” to revive the deal, including easing the US sanctions on the IRGC, an influential branch of the Iranian Armed Forces.

The issue of lifting or diluting the sanctions on the Revolutionary Guard Corps has been especially contentious, since Washington has designated it as a terrorist organization. Earlier, many high-profile US lawmakers and officials spoke against any efforts to drop the restrictions placed on the organization.

  • Iran Signals That Latest Nuclear Deal Proposal Could Be ‘Acceptable’ Oil Price

Iran considers that a European Union proposal for the restoration of the so-called nuclear deal could be “acceptable” if it provides assurances about the key demands of the Islamic Republic, a senior Iranian diplomat was quoted as saying on Friday. Speaking to Iran’s IRNA news agency, the unnamed Iranian diplomat said on Friday, as carried by Reuters: “Proposals by the EU can be acceptable if they provide Iran with assurance on the issues of safeguards, sanctions and guarantees.”

Iran has been seeking assurances that no other U.S. president could unilaterally withdraw from the deal and impose new sanctions if such an agreement is reached now.


  • How the US lost Africa to China over new disease control centre in Addis Ababa SCMP

Just south of Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, the US$80 million new African disease control headquarters, built and funded by China, is nearing completion amid disquiet in Washington.

Hu Changchun, China’s newly appointed head of mission to the African Union, inspected the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention construction site last month. The facility, being built by the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), will be completed at the end of the year.

“This flagship project between China and the AU will significantly improve the capacity for disease prevention and control in Africa,” Hu said.

The site covers an area of 90,000 square metres, with a total construction area of nearly 40,000 square metres.

When finished, the Africa CDC building will include an emergency operation centre, a data centre and a laboratory, resource, training and conference centres and briefing rooms, as well as offices and expatriate flats – all to be built, furnished and equipped by the Chinese government.

The second phase would involve the construction of the Africa CDC’s five regional collaborating centres in Egypt, Gabon, Kenya, Nigeria, and Zambia.

Wu Peng, director general of the Chinese foreign ministry’s African affairs department, said the Africa CDC headquarters was “a major project of China-Africa cooperation” which would “further enhance Africa’s public health capacities and become a new portrayal of China-Africa solidarity”.

The Africa CDC is modelled in form and function on the US CDC and the idea emerged from the role the US played in responding to the 2015 West Africa Ebola crisis. But what started as a US-China collaboration project to help African countries fight disease turned into a power rivalry under former US president Donald Trump.

In April 2015, the US and AU signed an agreement to create the Africa CDC, where the US agreed to provide technical expertise and seconded a dozen staff members to lead and support the project. It also agreed to support fellowships at the Africa CDC for 10 African epidemiologists.

In June of that year, during a bilateral meeting, a Chinese health official said the US and China planned to work together to support the AU to build the Africa CDC. And during President Xi’s September 2015 visit to the US, the two nations agreed to cooperate with the AU in the construction of the Africa CDC.

A China-AU deal was signed in 2016, where the Chinese side agreed to provide public health expertise.

But the US-China deal was scuttled when the US government moved to cut foreign aid.

As their rivalry escalated during the Trump era, the collaboration between the two superpowers collapsed. It left room for Beijing to offer to construct the building alone, followed by an announcement in June 2020 by President Xi Jinping that “China will start ahead of schedule the construction of the Africa CDC headquarters this year”.

As they sparred over who should build the Africa CDC headquarters, the US accused China of aiming to spy on “Africa’s genomic data”, the Financial Times quoted a US official as saying in February 2020.

“Hey! The only reason China wants to build these facilities is to harvest your DNA and thus figure out how to create diseases that would specifically affect you if your countries are ever in a position against their hegemony! Which we would never do. In fact, we wouldn’t even think of doing it. We just, uh, have spend a lot of time thinking about it. About how China would do that. Not us."

Sierra Leone

  • Sierra Leone president says protests aimed to overthrow the government Reuters

Sierra Leone’s president, Julius Maada Bio, said on Friday that this week’s anti-government protests, which led to the deaths of six police officers and at least 21 civilians, were an attempt to overthrow the government.

On Wednesday, police officers used tear gas and in some cases guns to disperse large crowds of protesters throwing rocks and burning tyres in the capital Freetown and several towns in the opposition’s northern heartland.

“This was not a protest against the high cost of living occasioned by the ongoing global economic crisis,” Maada Bio said in an address to the nation.

“The chant of the insurrectionists was for a violent overthrow of the democratically elected government,” he said, adding that the government would investigate all the deaths.

North America

United States

  • Worst-performing G7 economy revealed RT

The US was the worst-performing of the Group of Seven most advanced Western economies in the second quarter of 2022, the latest data from the UK Office of National Statistics (ONS) showed on Friday.

The ONS released the G7 comparison while also reporting that the British economy had contracted by 0.1% from April to June. The American economy dropped by 0.2% during the same period, according to the data.

Canada’s economy reportedly had the strongest showing, growing by 1.1%. The Italian and French economies were also up, while Germany stagnated.

Meanwhile, another G7 nation, Japan, is expected to report its GDP numbers on Monday, with an economist poll from FactSet Economics projecting growth of 0.8% quarterly, or 2.5% annualized.

GDP is a vaguely useful measure of economic activity at best and meaningless at worst, and doesn’t mean fuck all if your people can’t both feed themselves and heat themselves, but is it entertaining that the US is doing the worst? Absolutely.

  • American Consumers Feeling More Confident, Data Shows Forbes

Consumer sentiment improved this month after an all-time low reached in June, though consumers are still 21.6% less satisfied with the economy than this time last year, according to preliminary data released Friday morning from the University of Michigan’s monthly survey of consumer sentiment.

The Friday data showed that the Index of Consumer Sentiment stood at 55.1 this month, up 7% from 51.5 in July, but down from 70.3 in August 2021.

  • ‘All bad options’ as Biden administration faces Western water crisis Politico

Entrenched drought and chronic overuse have driven water levels on the Colorado River so low that the Biden administration may be forced to impose massive cuts to water deliveries in seven Western states — a politically perilous move certain to inflame tensions with farmers, tribes and cities.

Federal officials have given the states until Aug. 16 to come up with a plan to swiftly conserve as much as a third of the river’s flows, the amount they believe is necessary to keep Lake Powell — a key reservoir along the Arizona-Utah border — from reaching disastrous levels next year. But the pain of the potential solutions is so huge that the states are struggling to reach a deal, according to eight people familiar with the discussions.

Now, the Biden administration must decide whether to step in to make the unpopular choices instead.

The solutions could include politically incendiary steps that previous administrations have only threatened: making steep cuts to water deliveries that would hit tribes and cities first, telling farmers how they can use water that they legally own, or cutting water deliveries across the board, which could get tied up in court. But inaction could lead to worse consequences: hydropower turbines crucial to the stability of the Western electrical grid grinding to a halt, cities from Phoenix to Los Angeles losing a major source of water, large swaths of highly productive farmland drying up and a Grand Canyon with no water flowing through it.

  • Consumers still don’t feel great about the economy, despite lower gas prices CNN

Consumer sentiment in August continued to rebound from its June trough, but Americans' feelings about the economy remain profoundly depressed from a year earlier, weighed down by uncertainty about inflation and the job market.

  • California proposes to extend life of last nuclear plant at cost of $1.4 billion Politico

Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed keeping open California’s last nuclear plant for up to another 10 years as the state wrestles with how to meet power demand while it reduces its reliance on fossil fuels for energy.

Plans to start closing the Diablo Canyon Power Plant over the next three years would be halted at a cost of up to $1.4 billion under draft legislation Newsom sent to legislators late Thursday, angering some of the governor’s environmentalist allies.

Diablo Canyon provides nearly a tenth of the state’s electrical power. Critics have long sought its closure for reasons that include the potential danger of a radiation leak because of earthquakes along the seismically active central coast of California. It was scheduled to close by 2025.

The proposed legislation would direct the California Public Utilities Commission to set a new closure date of Oct. 31, 2029 for one unit, and Oct. 31, 2030, for the other, according to the governor’s office. By 2026, regulators could consider an extension, but not beyond Oct. 31, 2035.

  • Gulf Of Mexico Oil Outages Balloon Beyond Shell Oil Price

At least two other oil majors shuttered their Gulf of Mexico platforms on Friday following a leak in the Fourchon booster station, shutting down the flow of crude through the Amberjack Pipelines.

On Thursday, Shell halted production at its Mars, Ursa, and Olympus platforms, which can produce 410,000 bpd. Shell did not provide an estimate for when the platforms would resume production.

On Friday, Shell was joined by Chevron, which shuttered Jack/St. Malo (57,000 boepd), Tahiti, and Bigfoot (75,000 bpd) platforms, which also feed into the Amberjack lines. Equinor joined Shell and Chevron on Friday, shuttering its Titan platform—a minor platform in the Gulf of Mexico that typically produces just 2,000 boepd.

South America


  • Colombia’s New Leftwing President Is Hiking Taxes On Its Oil Industry Oil Price

To combat an untenable fiscal deficit while boosting government coffers to fund spending for ambitious social programs the newly installed Petro administration introduced a tax reform bill designed to boost fiscal income from taxation. The proposals include (Spanish) hiking taxes for Colombians earning over $10 million pesos or approximately $2,400 per month and placing a levy on heavily process foods as well as beverages. Reforms also include lifting dividend withholding tax, from 10% to 20%, for foreign investors owning shares in Colombian companies.

Then there is the proposal to increase taxes levied on extractive industries by implementing a 10% export tax on oil, coal, and gold. That levy will be payable when international oil and coal gold prices exceed a set threshold. The reference prices under consideration are $48 per barrel Brent for crude oil, $87 per metric ton for thermal coal, and $400 per ounce for gold. Colombia’s hydrocarbon regulator the National Hydrocarbon Agency (ANH – Spanish initials) will be tasked with setting the reference price.

It is also planned to reduce the deductions energy companies can make from royalty payments. This is on the basis that royalties are not an expense associated with the production of crude oil, but the fee levied by the state for private companies profiting from the extraction of a finite public asset. Petro’s tax reforms, according to Ministry of Finance estimates, will add $5.9 billion to government coffers annually.

These developments have triggered considerable market jitters, particularly for participants in Colombia’s petroleum industry. Not only is crude oil the crisis-riven country’s single largest export but the oil industry is struggling to return to pre-pandemic production volumes due to a range of significant headwinds. Then there is Petro’s determination to reduce Colombia’s dependence on extractive industries and transition to sustainable energy which will see an end to contracting for hydrocarbon exploration and ban hydraulic fracturing.

While existing production agreements will be allowed to continue plans to wind down Colombia’s petroleum industry, which is responsible for 20% of fiscal revenues, are afoot. Newly appointed Minister of Mines and Energy Irene Velez confirmed (Spanish) that the government will proceed with those plans. Such developments are weighing heavily on the outlook for the domestic oil industry, already under considerable pressure and facing a range of major headwinds, where production volumes of have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels.


The Ukraine War

  • Ukrainian POWs reluctant to be exchanged – Moscow RT

I mean… believe what you want. I won’t blame anybody for thinking this is just Russian propaganda, that’s a fairly good instinct to have, but I also won’t think anybody is stupid for thinking it’s real, either. It wouldn’t be surprising if it was.

Ukrainian soldiers that were captured as prisoners of war by Russia have decided to remain in the territory controlled by Moscow and allied forces, expressing reluctance to continue fighting, Russia’s Ministry of Defense claimed on Saturday.

“Ukrainian prisoners of war belonging to the units of the Naval infantry, National Guard, air assault and ground forces chose to stay in the territory controlled by Russia because of their reluctance to fight and fear of being sent to the frontlines again,” the ministry wrote on its Telegram channel.

The Defense Ministry said the Ukrainian POWs do not want to be used as “cannon fodder” and die on the battlefield while “carrying out criminal orders” issued by Kiev.

The Russian military also posted a video of what appears to be an interview with a Ukrainian POW who said he laid down his arms voluntarily and turned himself in to the allied forces.

According to the prisoner, he has been treated well and does not want to return to Ukraine as part of any future swaps.

Few soldiers manage to surrender voluntarily due to a crackdown by Ukraine’s nationalist battalions, the ministry claimed, noting that the nationalists threaten to shoot any soldiers that seek to abandon their combat positions.

  • Most German howitzers in Ukraine out of order RT

Most German PzH 2000 howitzers that have been supplied to Ukraine by the West have already broken down and are in need of repair, according to German Bundestag member Marcus Faber, who recently visited Ukraine.

In a Wednesday interview with the German news outlet NTV, the politician claimed he was surprised to learn from Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense that only five of the 15 German-made PzH 2000 howitzers supplied to Ukraine by Berlin and Amsterdam were still operational. He added that the cause of the failures was not Russian fire, but the fact that the guns were “massively used” by the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

While Kiev has yet to officially confirm Faber’s statements, it was reported last month by Der Spiegel that Ukraine had informed Germany that a number of PzH 2000 howitzers were malfunctioning after extensive use. According to the outlet, the German Ministry of Defense believed the issues may have resulted from high intensity firing, which may have impacted the artillery round loading mechanism. Der Spiegel said 100 shots a day was considered a “high level of shooting intensity” for the howitzer.

  • U.S. allies most vulnerable to Russia press for more troops, weapons WaPo

As the United States and NATO inject personnel and equipment into Eastern Europe in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, vulnerable allies such as Latvia are scrambling to scale up their defenses for fear they will be next to come under attack.

Like Ukraine, which is not a NATO member but considered a close partner of the alliance, the countries closest to Russia say they are desperate for more Western military aid. It is essential to arm themselves as well as Ukraine, Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks said during a visit from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin this month, because there is a real risk the war will “come to our borders.”

The Biden administration has vowed to boost side-by-side exercises in the region to hone proficiency in air-defense capability and other vital combat skills, not only in Latvia but across the Baltics and in other nations within easy striking distance of Russian forces. About 100,000 U.S. troops are deployed across Europe, an increase of 20,000 in recent months, with a growing center of gravity in the east. But for those on Russia’s doorstep, it’s not yet enough.

The NATO members bordering Russia and Belarus — which, once considered a buffer state, has functioned as a forward-operating base for Russian troops since the start of the Ukraine war — are pleased, they say, that the United States along with Europe’s financial powerhouses have embraced the view that Russia poses an existential threat to the West.

The military investments made over the past six months are accepted with gratitude, but leaders in the region believe the alliance must become more aggressive in the long term. They are mindful of the resistance from some corners of Congress to moving more U.S. personnel to Europe during a time of rising tensions with China, but most insist that having a greater American footprint in Europe is necessary to keeping Moscow at bay.

Even more vital, Baltic and Eastern European officials say, is a turbocharging of defense production lines to accelerate fulfillment of long-standing orders for weapons that these front-line countries say they require.

“HIMARS, Reapers, counter-battery radars: these are what we will need most in terms of military lethal power that is imminently needed to deter Russia,” Kusti Salm, secretary general of the Estonian Defense Ministry, said in an interview. He was referring to high-mobility artillery rocket systems, drones capable of conducting surveillance and precision strikes, and technology used to detect incoming fire.

“We are on the brink of taking risks,” Salm said. “Very heavy risks of our own national security tapping into some of our reserves. … And I know that there are other allies doing the same. So the only solution is rapidly ramping up the manufacturing power, and making sure the policy framework and policy financing signal support for this.”

Climate and Space

  • Coal Giants Are Making Mega Profits as Climate Crisis Grips the World Bloomberg

The globe is in the grips of a climate crisis as temperatures soar and rivers run dry, and yet it’s never been a better time to make money by digging up coal.

The energy-market shockwaves from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine mean the world is only getting more dependent on the most-polluting fuel. And as demand expands and prices surge to all-time highs, that means blockbuster profits for the biggest coal producers.

Commodities giant Glencore Plc reported core earnings from its coal unit surged almost 900% to $8.9 billion in the first half — more than Starbucks Corp. or Nike Inc. made in an entire year. No. 1 producer Coal India Ltd.’s profit nearly tripled, also to a record, while the Chinese companies that produce more than half the world’s coal saw first-half earnings more than double to a combined $80 billion.

The massive profits are yielding big pay days for investors. But they will make it even harder for the world to kick the habit of burning coal for fuel, as producers work to squeeze out extra tons and boost investment in new mines. If more coal is mined and burned, that would make the likelihood of keeping global warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius even more remote.

  • Rainwater is no longer safe to drink anywhere on Earth, due to ‘forever chemicals’ linked to cancer, study suggests Business Insider

Rainwater is no longer safe to drink anywhere on Earth by US contamination guidelines, according to a team of environmental scientists.

That’s because rainwater across the planet now contains hazardous chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). In a paper published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology on August 2, researchers at University of Stockholm, which has been studying PFAS for a decade, found evidence that these substances have spread throughout the entire atmosphere, leaving no place untouched.

There are thousands of PFAS, all human-made, used in food packaging, water-repellant clothing, furniture, carpets, nonstick coating on pots and pans, fire-extinguishing foams, electronics, and some shampoos and cosmetics. During manufacturing and daily use, they can be released into the air. They also leach into ocean water and get aerosolized in sea spray. From there, they spread through the atmosphere and fall back to Earth in rain.

  • China will continue to actively participate in international cooperation on Climate Change EU Reporter

Due to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to China’s Taiwan region, China had to announce eight countermeasures in response, including the suspension of bilateral climate talks with the US.

However, the US side claimed that “Suspending cooperation doesn’t punish the United States - it punishes the world, particularly the developing world”. This is purely reversing the truth, confusing the public and shirking responsibility – writes Cao Zhongming, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Belgium.

For quite some time, China has repeatedly stressed to the US side that the one-China principle is the political foundation of the establishment and development of bilateral relations between China and other countries. In disregard of China’s strong opposition, the US Government has allowed and endorsed Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. This has seriously violated China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and undermined the political foundation of China-US relations. China-US cooperation on climate change cannot be separated from the overall atmosphere of the bilateral relationship. It is the US that has acted recklessly and provocatively in the first place. China’s legitimate countermeasure does not come without warning. We say what we mean and mean what we say. The responsibility should be and must be borne by the US side.

China has always been and will continue to be committed to real actions on global climate governance. We have made a solemn pledge to strive to peak carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060. We are endeavoring to formulate and implement a “1+N” policy framework for low-carbon development and green transition. By the end of last year, China’s installed capacity of renewable energy totaled 1 billion kilowatts, accounting for 43.5 percent of the total installed power generation capacity. China’s contribution to energy conservation, energy efficiency, renewable energy development, green transportation and construction accounts for 30%-50% of the global total. China’s firm determination and concrete actions to address climate change have been highly recognized by the international community.

In contrast, the US, as the world’s largest cumulative emitter of greenhouse gases, emits 3.3 times more carbon per capita than the global average, and has an inescapable responsibility for global climate change. Yet, it has been going back and forth on its climate policy. Not long ago, the US Supreme Court decided to limit the US Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Besides, the US has been sanctioning and suppressing China’s solar companies under the pretext of so-called Xinjiang-related issues, which has dealt a heavy blow to the atmosphere of China-US bilateral cooperation as well as the climate response of China and other countries. These self-contradictory moves make the world question the US’s capability to and seriousness on addressing climate change.

Actions speak louder than words. If the US truly cares about climate change, what it should do is to make concrete efforts to genuinely honor its historical responsibilities and obligations. What it should not do is ignoring COVID-19, the food crisis, instability of industrial and supply chains and other global issues, violating the sovereignty of other countries, or stirring up confrontation and creating tensions everywhere. The US does not represent the world, still less all the developing countries. China’s suspension of China-US bilateral climate talks is a legitimate and reasonable countermeasure to Pelosi’s visit. As a responsible major country, China will continue to staunchly pursue its carbon peak and carbon neutrality targets, actively participate in international and multilateral cooperation on climate change, provide other developing countries with support and help as our ability permits, and make our own contributions to tackling the global climate challenge

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 U.S. Is Afraid of Losing in Ukraine—or Winning WSJ

This is some great analysis of Universe 942-Alpha-Lambda-D, where Ukraine isn’t losing tens of thousands of soldiers every month, Russia’s army is half destroyed, and NATO has sufficient strength to take on Russia. However, we live in Universe 2942-Gamma, where Ukraine’s army is halfway ground to dust with relatively small casualties on the pro-Russian side, and NATO does not have good enough planes to take on Russian air defense nor air defense to take on Russian hypersonic missiles, so it doesn’t really apply here. Good effort, though.

Is the Biden administration afraid of victory in Ukraine? Such has been the accusation, but while it may come down to nearly the same thing, a truer statement is that the U.S. fears being dragged in if it puts its chips on Ukraine and Ukraine starts losing and also if Ukraine starts winning. In fact, almost any victory scenario might require NATO intervention to seal the deal—to draw a red line against a Vladimir Putin desperation play.

Lots of things short of victory or defeat also would make U.S. intervention hard to avoid if the U.S. bet big on victory or even if it didn’t. With the degree that the two countries interpenetrate each other’s elite and intelligence establishments, think the Russian military couldn’t get a kill shot on President Volodymyr Zelensky? But Mr. Zelensky is a hero to Western publics and Mr. Putin can’t be sure of the consequences of such an act. Every time his air force drops a bomb, Mr. Putin has to worry about it falling on an orphanage or a visiting celebrity. He has to worry every time a Western prime minister or parliamentary delegation sets out on the roads of Ukraine.

Mr. Putin fears also the things that Ukraine might do to which he might have to respond—as does the U.S., which is why it discourages strikes on Russia proper. The Kremlin has warned of ominous consequences if Ukraine bombs a vital bridge in Crimea. Monday’s special-forces attack on a Russian air base in Crimea may fall in the same category depending on how Mr. Putin chooses to react. And remember Mathias Rust, the German pilot who landed his Cessna on Red Square at the height of the Cold War? Neither the Kremlin nor the U.S. can have confidence in Russian air defense to stop a Ukrainian MiG bent on bombing Moscow’s onion domes or Mr. Putin’s private office.

None of this means the West shouldn’t up its support—just the opposite. But be ready for what it entails. The problem with some of the go-for-victory calls is their magical element—the unspoken stipulation that Ukraine can supply victory without NATO getting its feet wet. NATO will have to get its feet wet if it wants anything other than a frozen conflict that carries on without resolution (unfortunately the preferred outcome of many in the West). Mr. Putin can’t lose to Ukraine, he has to lose to NATO. In their separate recent war updates, the Atlantic Council and Rand Corp. both emphasize the possibility of the Kremlin leader seeking an armed confrontation with the U.S. to rescue his position at home.

For all the dubious arguments offered about an alleged NATO role in provoking today’s war, notice that NATO is less a military alliance than a demilitarization alliance, its arsenal having shrunk massively since the Cold War. Countries like Poland and the Czech Republic sought membership to avoid having to develop their own deterrents. The Western alliance is an alliance of countries that prefer to shelter behind the U.S. rather than spend on defense. And yet NATO, backed by a collective GDP 25 times as great as Russia’s, is still massively superior to Russia in conventional military power, and Mr. Putin knows it. Thanks to his expensively failed war, he also knows he has less and less with which to counter a Western intervention except the threat of nuclear armageddon, which isn’t what the billionaire sybarites who undergird his regime signed up for.

This is most obvious in his laborious seven-veils dance over whether to annex Ukrainian territory and bring it under Russia’s nuclear umbrella. Mr. Putin dithers because if he makes the declaration and the U.S. and Ukraine decline to be impressed, he could face a personally disastrous dilemma between climbing down and using a nuke.

Recall his pre-war fretting about what would happen if Ukraine were allowed to join NATO and then tried to reclaim Crimea. Mr. Putin is bedeviled by problematic bets on red lines he can’t afford to enforce (and, in some sense, has been begging Europe and the U.S. to bail him out of).

This doesn’t mean the war is already over except the shooting, as some European Metternichs would like to have it. But settled is whether Ukraine is an independent country: Mr. Putin now knows it won’t become an annexed satrapy of Russia. That ship has sailed. But Mr. Putin has something to fight for yet, to avoid the worst consequences of his own botched aggression, with Ukraine becoming a regional military superpower, getting stronger and stronger with Western backing, while Russia gets weaker and weaker under sanctions, its Chinese captivity, and a war it doesn’t know how to get out of.

There’s an obvious solution for Russia: Accept Ukraine’s existence and grow prosperous and secure together. But this solution would require the departure of Mr. Putin.

  • Aid helps Ukraine achieve ‘outweighed gains.’ NYT

This is Universe 7833228-Violet-Foxtrot. The only real difference, aside from how the war is going compared to our universe, is that the planet Mercury is 11% smaller. Neat.

As the war drags on, Ukraine has managed to hold off Russian gains for the past month thanks in large part to continued support from the United States and its European allies, and help on the ground from partisans.

Nope, it’s because Russia was on operational pause after taking control of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk. They are now continuing to take territory from Ukraine all over the map.

Following months of grinding war in which Ukraine has lost territory, Kyiv has been able to stem Russian advances recently and force Russia to sustain heavy losses, with up to 500 Russian troops killed or injured every day, according to some estimates.

Oh, come on, dude. Seriously? Why should I even read this article if you’re just gonna start off with completely ridiculous figures?

John Spencer, a retired Army officer and chair of urban warfare studies for the Madison Policy Forum research institute, said that while Ukraine has lost tactical ground in some regions, its troops have succeeded in weakening Russia’s military.

“They have also made Russians expend resources that they can’t replenish,” Mr. Spencer said. “You don’t want to say they’re winning the war because there’s so much fighting to be done, but from really every measure you think about, especially geopolitically and militarily, they’re achieving outweighed gains.”

Every measure you think about, except for all the ones that are important, like the number of soldiers, the amount of weaponry, the territory held, the morale, the state of the economy, fuel lines, you know, things like that - if you take all those out and ONLY look at how Ukraine’s war is seen by foreign audiences using methods of complete fabrication and lying like this article, then Ukraine is winning.

Russia still maintains a huge advantage in the size of its weapons arsenal, and Ukraine has suffered heavily over the course of the war. As many as 200 soldiers were being killed each day at one point; the civilian death toll has topped 5,000, according to United Nations estimates; and several of the country’s cities have been flattened. But Moscow has had no major territorial gains since the capture of the eastern Luhansk Province in late June.

…which was like, a month and a bit ago? How long do you think wars last for when you aren’t constantly dronestriking defenceless guerrilla cells in desert regions, dude?

Ukraine was bolstered on Thursday when the defense ministers of 26 countries, including Britain and Denmark, pledged about $1.55 billion in military aid to Ukraine. Ben Wallace, Britain’s defense minister, said the aid would include additional multiple-launch rocket systems and long-range missiles.

“We are not getting tired,” Mr. Wallace said of his country’s continued support for Ukraine.

That’s a hell of a “we”.

Morten Bodskov, Denmark’s defense minister, said his country would not just help with weapons, but that it would also assist in training service members.

The aid, which Mr. Zelensky has called for repeatedly since the war began, added to another package from the United States that was announced earlier this week. The Pentagon said on Monday that it would send more ammunition in a new shipment of up to $1 billion worth of weapons and supplies. With that, the United States will have sent more than $9 billion in aid to Ukraine since Russia invaded the country on Feb. 24.

Mr. Spencer said that maintaining such continued support from Western countries has taken “as much fighting as actually fighting Russian forces, as far as showing the world that they’re fighting a just war.”

Support for the country has not only come in the form of aid packages, but also through help on the ground in the form of partisans, resistance fighters who aid the Ukrainian military on Russian-occupied territory.

At least five fighter bombers and three multi-role jets were “almost certainly destroyed or seriously damaged” this week in blasts at an air base in Crimea, according to a British military intelligence report on Friday. Crimea — which Moscow annexed in 2014 — has largely avoided attacks since February and the base was far from any recognizable front line.

One senior Ukrainian official said the attacks were carried out with the help of partisans, but the government has not taken responsibility for the attack.

The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, has reported that “the Kremlin is scrambling to find any reinforcements” to replenish its decimated ranks of troops.

It said Saturday there were growing indications that Moscow would continue to expand the Kremlin’s direct control over Russia’s weapons manufacturers and other military-related industries as it tries to bolster a prolonged war effort.

  • ‘It’s madness’: Ukraine holds breath as Putin turns nuclear plant into frontline Guardian

*Wow, Universe 932337-Mango! Where two opposite things can be true at the same time!”

On one side of the Dnieper River is the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, visible in the haze. Six nuclear reactors and a cooling tower loom over a Soviet-built reservoir. On the opposite bank is Nikopol, a city in southern Ukraine known for its Cossack past and modern tube and metallurgical factories.

The distance between them is seven kilometres. Or, measured in rocket terms, about 15 seconds: the time it takes for a Grad missile fired by Russian soldiers ensconced in the atomic station to slam into Nikopol’s chestnut tree-lined boulevards. It is a small and terrifying interval between life and death.

The sprawling nuclear plant is Europe’s largest. In March, Russian forces seized it, as part of Vladimir Putin’s blitzkrieg operation to capture the whole of Ukraine. They rolled into the nearby city of Enerhodar and took the station’s local staff hostage. The plant is now on the frontline between Russian-occupied and Ukrainian-controlled territory.

In the first phase of the war Nikopol was peaceful, a place of safety for refugees from the eastern Donbas and other troubled regions. And then, on 12 July, Moscow began lobbing incendiary devices across the river. The Russians are using the nuclear station as cover. They have mined the complex. Multiple rocket launchers and tanks nestle among the reactors.

Even by Putin’s amoral standards, it is an astonishing act of recklessness. In his latest address on Friday, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, accused Russia of “unconcealed nuclear blackmail”. A “terrorist state”, it was threatening the “whole world” with armageddon. He urged the UN and international community to do something.

On Friday, Russia’s permanent representation in the UN, Vasyl Nebenzia, said the country did not support a call by the UN secretary general, António Guterres, to create a demilitarised zone around the nuclear plant.

“Okay, good work, we have our narrative. Russia is occupying the plant, is using it as a shield, and Ukraine’s poor little meow meows are unable to do anything about it. Let’s stop the article here and…"

The situation is perilous. According to Ukraine’s state energy company, Energoatom, Russia has fired on the plant several times. Shells landed close to the fire station and director’s office, not far from a radioactive sources storage unit. Power cables and a wastewater pumping station were damaged. One worker was hospitalised, a shift rotation cancelled.

Never mind, then. We want both narratives at once. Okay.

Moscow blames Ukrainian artillery and claims it is acting responsibly. Zelenskiy suggests the Russians are shelling the plant as a deliberate provocation, designed to discredit Kyiv and to alienate it from its international partners. The Guardian did not see any evidence in Nikopol of Ukrainian military activity. There were a few thumps in the distance. It was unclear which side was firing.

The Kremlin is trying to do something unprecedented: to steal another state’s nuclear reactor. Engineers are working to connect the facility to the electricity grid in occupied Crimea and cut it off from Ukrainian homes. One reactor has already been knocked out. It is a ghoulish game of radioactive Russian roulette, in a country that has known the 1986 Chornobyl atomic disaster.

Before the invasion Nikopol was home to 106,000 people. About half have fled. On Thursday more were packing up to leave after a devastating and vandalistic night-time barrage. Russia unleashed 120 Grad missiles on the district, killing three people in Nikopol and another 13 in the neighbouring town of Marhanets, and wounding dozens, including a 13-year-old girl. All were civilians.

Etc etc, Russia commits several war crimes, we all know the drill, then:

It is unclear why Russia began offensive operations from inside the nuclear station and the adjacent settlement of Vodiane. One explanation is Moscow’s grandiose war is beginning to falter. Six months on, Russian troops have seized much of the east of the country, including the entirety of the Luhansk region, and a chunk of Donetsk. They are grinding forward, slowly and brutally.

The explanation for EVERY situation in this goddamn war is that Russia is beginning to falter, isn’t it? Every event is an ink blot test shown to the western media and every time, they say “Looks like it’s because Russia is losing and desperate”. Man, what if Russia DID take Kiev earlier in the war? “This was clearly a last-ditch effort by Putin in a losing war against Ukraine; such a giant move like seizing the capital of the opposing country would not be made by somebody who thought he was winning. Russia will run out of fuel and ammo tomorrow, but THIS time we swear we’re right, unlike when we said the same thing every single day of this war."

In the south, however, Russia suddenly looks vulnerable. Since July the Ukrainian army has used US-made precision-guided Himars weapons to destroy four key bridges over the Dnieper River. And on Tuesday Kyiv struck deep behind enemy lines, wiping out Saky aerodrome on the west of Crimea, destroying at least eight war planes, and prompting thousands to flee back to the Russian mainland.

A Ukrainian counter-offensive looks possible, though not inevitable. Until it happens, Russia can use Enerhodar as a full-scale military base, as it did with Chornobyl during the first six weeks of the conflict. Russia’s nuclear agency Rosatom says it is now in charge of the plant. The International Atomic Energy Agency has demanded access, and called on the Russians to demilitarise it.

“It’s complete madness from Russia. They know the Ukrainian army can’t fire back,” said Olexsandr Vilkul, the head of the military administration in Kryvyi Rih, 40 miles north of Nikopol. Vilkul, a former deputy prime minister responsible for emergency situations, said Russia had become a “totalitarian sect”, run by a mad dictator obsessed with his place in history.

“It’s a strange cult. There is Lenin and victory in the second world war and a religious faith in the nuclear arsenal. Their god is the nuclear button,” he said. He added: “Putin doesn’t really care about Russia. He wants to take his place alongside Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great and Stalin”. How would the war end? “Like Hitler, Putin will destroy his own country,” he predicted.

Only one country on the planet has dropped nukes in wartime, and it isn’t Russia.


  • China’s Computer Chips Are Down WSJ

America’s industrial-policy advocates see China as a technological juggernaut whose government direction the U.S. must imitate or become a declining power. Yet that’s not how it looks from Beijing, which is frustrated by its second-string semiconductor industry.

President Biden on Tuesday invoked the hobgoblin of Chinese technological superiority as he signed Congress’s $280 billion computer-chip subsidy bill. China has leapfrogged the U.S. in research and development, he claimed, and “is trying to move way ahead of us in manufacturing these sophisticated chips.” Beijing may be trying but it is struggling mightily despite spending enormous sums.

Bloomberg this week reports that Beijing is launching corruption investigations into government ministers and business leaders involved in its semiconductor initiative, which is a cornerstone of President Xi Jinping’s Made in China 2025 plan to achieve manufacturing self-sufficiency. Corruption crackdowns are Mr. Xi’s modus operandi when things don’t go according to Communist plan.

If corruption crackdowns only happen in communist countries and not in “““democracies”"”, then why would anybody dislike communism other than corrupt people?

When senior government officials last month reviewed the country’s chip-making progress, they reportedly grew dismayed that advances may have been overstated and investments weren’t paying off. Mr. Xi’s plan to throw money at the semiconductor industry, as with others, has resulted in many unproductive companies chasing government subsidies.

“Indeed, this is a truly Chinese phenomenon. Anyway, Elon Musk has a cool new idea about how to drill holes faster…"

About 15,700 new semiconductor companies registered in the first five months of last year. As it turns out, government is a poor allocator of capital –


– and semiconductor handouts have spawned cronyism and graft. These problems are intrinsic to industrial policy. But Mr. Xi is blaming China’s industrialists, rather than his planning model.

To take a step back - it’s incredible how the words of these people are so disconnected from reality. Like, if all you knew about China came from these kinds of articles, if you actually tried to formulate a comprehensive, non-contradictory viewpoint about China, then you would become INCREDIBLY confused about how China could possibly be at basically the same GDP as the United States - a nominally-but-not-actually free market country - and China is still growing in GDP (something the US is NOT doing right now, by the way) and yet also their planning model doesn’t work, their system doesn’t work, the government is incompetent, the industry is incompetent, the coronavirus response is a disaster, and so on. Like, how you’d mesh those two contradictory points is beyond me.


For when people accept reality, though often not fully and not for very long.

  • Falling global food and fuel costs offer poor countries little relief WaPo

This is a relevant article due to the Jacobin article on a similar topic that I posted yesterday.

Many of the global prices for food, fuel and fertilizer that spiked when Russia invaded Ukraine have returned to their prewar levels, defying the most dire forecasts even as policymakers warn of the continued risk of famine and financial crisis in the developing world.

Russia’s Feb. 24 attack on Ukraine sent a shock wave through commodity markets. Since then, however, fears that the war would cut off all exports through the Black Sea have proved unfounded.

Russian grain cargoes for months have sailed from the docks in Novorossiysk to customers in Africa and the Middle East. And limited grain shipments from the Ukrainian port of Odessa resumed Aug. 1 under a deal brokered by the United Nations.

Pressure on commodity markets also eased after Wall Street speculators began selling their holdings in response to the Federal Reserve’s interest-rate increases, which made bets on rising commodity prices less certain.

Wheat is now less expensive than when the war began. Brent crude oil, the global benchmark, hovers around its mid-February level of $97 per barrel. And the price of urea fertilizer, which almost doubled in the war’s first weeks, is back to its prewar level.

Yet, markets could again reverse course, and they are likely to remain volatile into next year, analysts have said.

“The worst didn’t happen. … But there’s a false sense of security in the markets right now,” said Sanjeev Krishnan, the chief investment officer at S2G Ventures, an investment firm in Chicago specializing in food and agriculture. “This fall could have a lot more volatility.”

Averting a deeper global crisis depends on the interaction between government policies in scores of countries, the climate, an unpredictable conflict in Europe and global diplomacy.

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.

  • The Trump-Voting Kansas Electorate Is a Better Protector of Abortion Rights Than the Supreme Court Jacobin

Kansas is, to put it mildly, not a particularly liberal state. The last Democrat to carry it in a presidential election was Lyndon Johnson in 1964 — and he was also the first Democrat to win there since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936. In 2004, the state was used as a case study in the triumph of conservatism in Thomas Frank’s best-selling book What’s the Matter with Kansas?

But last week voters rejected a ballot measure to strip abortion rights from the state’s constitution with a vote of 58.97 percent — an even bigger percentage than Donald Trump won there in 2020 (56.21 percent). It’s a striking reminder that our choices aren’t limited to giving up on basic rights or hoping that benevolent philosopher-kings in black robes will protect them for us. We can mobilize democratic majorities.

Individual rights don’t get much more fundamental than the right to control what goes on inside of your body. As moral philosopher Margaret Olivia Little points out in her classic paper “Abortion, Intimacy, and the Duty to Gestate,” even if we assume for the sake of argument that a literally mindless early-trimester fetus already counts a “person,” we’d still be talking about “a person whose blood is being oxygenated by another’s lungs, a person whose hormonal activity in turn affects that other’s brain and metabolism, a person whose growing size enlarges another’s physical boundaries.” Legally forcing a pregnant woman to maintain this state of “extraordinary physical enmeshment” against her will would still be a profound violation of her bodily autonomy.

How should fundamental rights be protected? According to the view widely taught in high school civics classes and prevalent in post–World War II liberal thinking, the best way to secure rights is to rely on democracy-limiting “checks and balances.” The rights of vulnerable groups are chiefly threatened, in this view, by the “tyranny of the majority” and the best defense is to empower unelected judges whose only loyalty is to the text of the Constitution.

This picture doesn’t survive contact with empirical reality. The court is often split along nakedly partisan lines in high-profile controversial cases. Republican lawyers are as good as Democratic lawyers at constructing legal arguments for whatever policy conclusions they want to reach. And unelected judges can and do use their power as legislators in robes to trample the rights of vulnerable groups. The Supreme Court spent much of its history doing things like striking down laws against child labor.

The fact that they don’t need to worry about reelection makes it more likely that they’ll take away rights that most of the electorate supports. Americans wanted Roe v. Wade to remain in place by a margin of 2 to 1. The Supreme Court ignored them in its Dobbs decision in June.

  • Climate bill passes: It could short-circuit EV tax credits, making qualifying for them nearly impossible The Conversation

Congress passed a far-reaching climate, energy and health care bill on Aug. 12, 2022, that invests an unprecedented US$370 billion in energy and climate programs over the next 10 years – including incentives to expand renewable energy and electric vehicles.

Rapid and widespread adoption of electric vehicles will be essential for the United States to meet its climate goals. And the new bill, which includes a host of other health and tax-related provisions, aims to encourage people to trade their gasoline-fueled cars for electrics by offering a tax credit of up to $7,500 for new electric vehicles and up to $4,000 for used electric vehicles through 2032.

But there’s a catch, and it could end up making it difficult for most EVs to qualify for the new incentive.

The bill, which now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk, requires that new electric vehicles meet stringent sourcing requirements for critical materials, the components of the battery, and final assembly to qualify for the tax credits. While some automakers, like Tesla and GM, have well-developed domestic supply chains, no electric vehicle manufacturer currently meets all the bill’s requirements.

At first glance, the revised EV tax credits seem like a smart move.

Existing U.S. policy allows credits for the first 200,000 electric vehicles a manufacturer sells. Those credits helped jump-start demand for EVs. But industry leaders, including Tesla and GM, have already hit that cap, while most foreign automakers’ vehicles are still eligible. The bill would eliminate the cap for individual automakers and extend the tax credits through 2032 – for any vehicle that meets the sourcing requirements.

Right now, China dominates the global supply chain for materials and lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles. This is no accident. Since the early 2000s, Chinese policymakers have adopted aggressive policies that have supported advanced battery technologies, including investments in mines, materials processing and manufacturing […]

Sen. Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat who stalled earlier efforts to get these measures through the sharply divided Senate, said he hopes the requirements will help scale up the U.S. domestic critical minerals supply chain.

The EV incentives would complement other U.S. policies aimed at jump-starting domestic EV manufacturing capacity. Those include $7 billion in grants to accelerate the development of the battery supply chain allocated in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 and a $3 billion expansion of the Advanced Vehicle Manufacturing Loan Program included in the current bill, formally known as the Inflation Reduction Act.

The problem is that the Inflation Reduction Act’s sourcing requirements come online so quickly, starting in 2023, and ratchet upward so rapidly, that the plan could backfire. Instead of expanding electric vehicle adoption, the policy could make almost all electric vehicles ineligible for the tax incentives.

The bill excludes incentives for any new vehicle which contains battery materials or components extracted, processed, manufactured or assembled by a “foreign entity of concern” – a category which includes China.

According to Benchmark Intelligence, a market research firm that tracks the battery industry, China currently controls 81% of global cathode manufacturing capacity, 91% of global anode capacity, and 79% of global lithium-ion battery manufacturing capacity. By comparison, the United States has 0.16% of cathode manufacturing capacity, 0.27% of anode manufacturing capacity, and 5.5% of lithium-ion battery manufacturing capacity.

Even the U.S.’s most advanced battery factories, such as Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory, currently rely on materials processed in China. Despite Ford’s plans to expand its domestic supply chain, its most recent deals are for sourcing batteries from Chinese manufacturer CATL.

In addition to excluding materials and components sourced from China starting in 2023, the bill also requires that a minimum percentage of the materials and components in batteries be sourced domestically or from countries the U.S. has a fair trade agreement with, such as Australia and Chile. The threshold starts at 40% of the value of critical minerals in 2023 and ramps up to 80% in 2027, with similar requirements for battery components.

If a manufacturer doesn’t meet these requirements, its vehicle would be ineligible for the tax credit. Whether the Treasury Department would come up with exemptions remains to be seen.

Although EV manufacturers are already pursuing plans to develop supply chains that meet these sourcing requirements, proposals for mines and processing facilities often face challenges. Indigenous and environmental concerns have slowed a proposed lithium mine in Nevada. In some cases, key materials, such as cobalt and graphite, are not readily sourced domestically or from fair-trade allies.

Proposed recycling projects could help meet demand. Redwood Materials projects its recycling facility, currently under construction in Nevada, will supply cathode and anode materials to support one million electric vehicles per year by 2025. Despite such optimistic projections, experts anticipate that recycling can only play a small role in offsetting the demand for raw materials needed to scale up electric vehicle adoption in the coming decade.

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