Link back to the discussion thread.
- Leaked paper reveals EU is unlikely to cap price of Russian gas Guardian
The EU executive is retreating from imposing a price cap on Russian gas, but pushing ahead with windfall taxes on energy company “surplus” profits, according to a leaked document.
A draft regulation on the “electricity emergency tool” seen by the Guardian contains neither a price cap on Russian gas nor on imported gas, after member states were unable to agree on restrictions last week. The EU is expected to levy windfall taxes on the high profits of fossil fuel companies, with a separate cap on revenues of low-carbon electricity producers.
The European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, is expected to publish Europe’s plan on dealing with surging electricity prices when she makes her annual state of the union speech on Wednesday.
The final text could still change, but the draft reveals the Commission’s doubts over gaining enough support from EU member states for its preferred option of putting a cap on Russian gas in response to what it has called the Kremlin’s weaponisation of supply.
EU member states that import large amounts of gas from Russia, including Hungary, Slovakia and Austria, have spoken out against a cap on Russian gas because they fear the Kremlin would halt all gas flows, plunging their countries into recession. The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has already threatened to halt energy exports to Europe if such a plan is agreed.
About a dozen countries, including France and Poland, would like to impose a price cap on all imported gas, which they see as a better way to curb surging prices. The Commission is unenthusiastic about this idea, because it fears the EU would lose out to countries prepared to pay more in the highly competitive market for liquefied natural gas.
The Netherlands and Denmark are wary of any price cap, while Germany fears a price cap on Russian gas would be divisive.
- Europe will spiral into a severe recession as the energy crisis hikes inflation and weighs on GDP, BlackRock says Business Insider
Europe will spiral into a severe recession, as the shortage in energy supplies is set to spike inflation even higher and weigh heavily on Europe’s GDP, BlackRock said in a note on Monday.
“The energy crunch will drive a recession in Europe, as we’ve argued since March. The crisis has worsened since then as Russia has halted gas supplies,” analysts warned, pointing to the indefinite cutoff of flows from Russia’s Nord Stream 1 pipeline.
Eurozone inflation reached 9.1% in August, causing the European Central Bank to issue its first-ever 75-point rate hike last week to control prices.
But that level of monetary tightening threatens to squash Europe’s economic activity, which is already under pressure from the energy crisis. Energy spending currently accounts for 11.7% of the EU’s GDP, compared to just 5.3% in the US.
“The European Central Bank isn’t acknowledging how it will crush activity further by trying to fight high inflation, in our view. We think the ECB will wake up to this sooner than markets expect – but not before it inevitably faces a severe recession,” BlackRock said.
Analysts expect it to remain hawkish through the end of the year and said the ECB’s downside scenario of a 0.9% contraction in the economy is looking more likely, which European stocks haven’t fully priced in yet.
- Ukraine asks for long term commitment on reconstruction from EU Euro News
Ukraine needs long-term commitment from the EU and other allies for its eventual post-war reconstruction. That was the message from the country’s Minister for Communities and Territories on a visit to Brussels. Oleksii Chernyshov was speaking to Euronews after presenting a report to the European Commission detailing Ukraine’s current and future needs.
He said that “right now we are focussing on our survival needs, the things needed to be prepared for the winter, and we have elaborated the amount of 3.4 billion dollars required for the next four months, that we are discussing now intensively. We will be setting up - and it is already in process - an appropriate trust fund run by the World Bank and it will be operational very soon."
- Ukraine’s Zelenskiy to speak with IMF chief on Tuesday Inquirer
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy will speak with International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva on Tuesday, two sources familiar with the plan told Reuters, as Ukraine continues to press the global lender for a full-fledged financing program.
Ukrainian officials have said they are seeking an IMF program worth as much as $15 billion to $20 billion, although such a large amount is seen as unlikey to win IMF approval.
- Ukraine threatens teachers with jail RT
Ukrainian forces detained an unknown number of teachers in Kharkov Region, after taking several cities in a major counteroffensive, Kiev confirmed on Monday.
Those who taught local children under the Russian curriculum will now face criminal charges in Ukraine, Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk told the Ukrainian media outlet Strana.
“They have committed a crime against our nation,” Vereshuk said, adding that “a court will determine their … punishment.” The deputy prime minister accused the detained teachers of engaging in “illegal activities” without elaborating which specific crime they had committed. According to Strana, Vereshchuk said they could be charged with “violating the laws of war” – a charge typically used against those engaged in torture, killings of civilians and looting.
She also “warned” that “Russian citizens” that have arrived in what she called “temporarily occupied Ukrainian territories” that they “would certainly face punishment unless they immediately leave our territory.”
- ‘United Russia’ Party Sweeps Subnational Elections TeleSUR
President Vladimir Putin’s “United Russia” Party swept the subnational elections that took place over the weekend in that Euro-Asian country.
Russian authorities called on citizens to elect 14 governors, regional lawmakers, and city councilors. According to official data, the ruling party and its allies managed to win with a turnout that exceeded 80 percent of registered voters.
Security Council Vice President Dimitri Medvedev commented that the people ratified their support for the United Russia’s program.
He said the results are also a sign of support for Putin’s domestic and foreign policies, which are marked by the Ukrainian conflict and the Western sanctions against Russia.
On Monday, Central Electoral Commission (CEC) President Ella Pamfilova confirmed that 30,668 subnational authorities representing 16 parties had been elected.
A demonstration of the citizen acceptance of the ruling party, for example, can be seen in the Penza region, where United Russia obtained 74.91 percent of the votes, followed by the Communist Party, which reached 8.53 percent of the polls.
For his part, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov stressed that the elections were held “without infractions capable of influencing” their outcome.
- US imports of Russian metals drop to near-zero RT
Russian ferrous metals exports to the US nosedived to $0.6 million in July compared to $201 million the previous month, and more than $1 billion in the first half of 2022, Russian business daily RBK reported on Monday, citing the data from the US Census Bureau.
In June, ferroalloys made up the lion’s share of ferrous metals exports to the US, which amounted to $112.5 million, along with semi-finished iron and steel produce, worth $88 million. In July, the shipments dropped to $0.4 million and zero respectively.
Last year, US imports of Russian ferrous metals including cast iron, iron, steel, and rolled metal amounted to $2.77 billion, an average of $230 million per month. Back then, the US accounted for nearly 9% of all Russian exports of ferrous metals.
In April, the Group of Seven nations revoked Russia’s “most favored nation” trade status in response to the conflict in Ukraine. The status had guaranteed low tariffs on Russian goods sold globally since 2012.
In late June, Washington released its final list of Russian goods targeted by 35% import tariffs as part of Ukraine-related sanctions. The items include steel and several types of steel products.
The prohibitive costs prompted Russia to reorient towards alternative markets. In June, the list of the major importers of Russian ferrous metals included Turkey, which purchased products worth $546 million.
China has significantly increased purchases of Russian iron and steel, from $163.5 million in June to $337.4 million in July, according to UN foreign trade data and the General Administration of Customs of China. In July 2021, Beijing imported just $84.5 million worth of Russian ferrous metals.
Mexico, Taiwan, Middle East countries and India are also reportedly becoming major buyers. In August, the Russian Trade Ministry reported that the share of the Asian states in metal exports topped 50% compared to 10-20% recorded earlier. However, Russian companies are having to sell metals at significant discounts of 25% or more, according to Fastmarkets data, quoted by the media.
- Liz Truss energy and tax plan ‘will give richest families twice as much support’ Guardian
Liz Truss’s plans for an energy price freeze and sweeping tax cuts will give Britain’s richest households twice as much financial support with living costs as the poorest households, according to a leading thinktank.
The Resolution Foundation said the prime minister’s energy package, announced hours before news of the death of the Queen last week, would come with a “colossal” price tag for taxpayers that was poorly targeted to help those most in need when combined with tax cuts promised in her leadership campaign.
It said the richest tenth of UK households would receive £4,700 in support, on average, from the government’s “energy price guarantee” and cuts to national insurance – far in excess of the £2,200 support for a typical household in the poorest tenth.
- Wary of Russia, Germany in talks to buy Arrow 3 missile defence from Israel Reuters
Germany is in talks to buy the Arrow 3 missile defence system from Israel as part of Berlin’s efforts to strengthen its armed forces after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said on a visit to the German capital on Monday.
Germany has ramped up its military spending after Russia sent troops into Ukraine in February, while shipping aid and heavy weapons to Kyiv as part of an international response.
“Israel … will play a part in building Germany’s new defence force, mainly in the field of air defence,” Lapid told reporters, speaking alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
“… it has to do with our total commitment to the safety of Germany, to the safety of Europe, to the ability of liberal democracies to defend themselves,” he added.
- Insolvencies Increase in Germany as Energy Crisis Bites TeleSUR
The number of business insolvencies in Germany rose by 6.6 percent in August month-on-month, according to preliminary figures published by the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) on Monday.
In July, insolvencies had still fallen by 4.2 percent month-on-month. In the first half of the year, business insolvencies in Europe’s largest economy declined 4.0 percent, while private insolvencies even dropped 20.2 percent.
“After a long period of low insolvency figures, a trend reversal has now set in,” Steffen Mueller of the Leibniz Institute for Economic Research in Halle (IWH) said, adding that high energy prices are putting a considerable burden on German businesses.
Compared to last year, insolvencies were up 26 percent in August. Ongoing supply chain problems, rising labor costs and the interest rate hike by the European Central Bank added to the strain on the economy.
- Germany Is Now Paying Russia More Money For Fewer Imports Oil Price
The value of Germany’s imports from Russia jumped by 10.2% to $2.94 billion (2.9 billion euros) in July, compared to the same month a year ago, mostly as a result of soaring oil and gas prices, the German Federal Statistical Office said on Monday.
In terms of volume, however, German imports from Russia slumped by 45.8% in July compared to a year earlier, the statistics office noted.
The value of crude oil and natural gas imports from Russia rose by 1.6% to $1.42 billion (1.4 billion euros), the data showed, despite the much lower volumes of those energy products compared to the same month of 2021.
The value of German imports of coke and petroleum products from Russia jumped by 72.5% while coal imports doubled in value a month before the EU’s embargo on Russian coal imports kicked in in August.
Meanwhile, Germany’s exports to Russia plunged by 56.8% in July from a year ago.
- Poland receives U.S. offer to build nuclear power plants Reuters
Poland has received an offer from the United States on how they can cooperate on building nuclear energy projects in Poland, the climate ministry said on Monday.
Poland plans to build nuclear power plants to reduce its carbon emissions and gradually phase out coal and Warsaw seeks a partner to build 6-9 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear capacity and provide 49% equity financing for the project.
- Czech government approves electricity, gas price cap Reuters
The Czech government agreed on Monday to cap electricity and gas prices next year to shield households from soaring prices on markets, Prime Minister Petr Fiala said.
The Czech Republic, like other European nations, has grappled to protect people and companies from power price surges amid cuts in supplies of Russian gas to Europe following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and European sanctions on Moscow.
“We are guaranteeing the price level, everybody will know what they will be paying, and it will be impossible that someone pays multiples of what they pay this year,” Fiala told a news conference shown live by news agency CTK.
Asia and Oceania
- China and Russia building ‘more just’ world order: Beijing Jakarta Post
China is willing to shape the international order together with Russia in a “more just and rational direction”, a senior Chinese diplomat said as the two countries' leaders prepare to meet this week.
Former Cold War allies with a tempestuous relationship, China and Russia have drawn closer in recent years as part of what they call a “no limits” relationship acting as a counterweight to the global dominance of the United States.
“Under the strategic guidance of President Xi Jinping and President (Vladimir) Putin, the relationship between the two countries has always moved forward on the right track,” the Communist Party’s foreign affairs chief Yang Jiechi told Russia’s ambassador to China Andrey Denisov on Monday, according to a foreign ministry readout.
- China is benefitting from LNG sales to Europe as some traders resell non-Russian cargoes at high prices while restocking with cheap Russian fuel Business Insider
China has become an unlikely supplier of natural gas to energy-strapped Europe, which is scrambling to load up on the fuel ahead of winter after Russia slowed supplies to the region.
The unusual development comes as China snaps up cheap liquefied natural gas, or LNG, from Russia amid boycotts and sanctions elsewhere over the invasion of Ukraine. China managed to get a 50% discount on some LNG supply from the Sakhalin 2 export plant at the far east end of Russia, Bloomberg reported last week.
With cheap Russian LNG cargoes secured, some Chinese traders are reselling cargoes from other sources at current high prices. S&P assessed LNG prices delivered to northwest Europe at $47.3 per one million British Thermal Units on September 8 — up around 65% from before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Depending on how much the non-Russian cargoes were acquired for earlier, the Chinese traders could be profiting off the resale. Due to the high-priced environment, Russia may also be profiting from the sales even though it’s selling supplies at steep discounts.
“It appears China is happy to take Russian LNG cargoes at discounts, swapping out alternative supply that can then be directed to Europe at higher prices,” Saul Kavonic, a Credit Suisse energy analyst, told Bloomberg.
- Shanghai Port to Halt Operations as It Faces Another Typhoon Bloomberg
Asia’s largest container shipping hub is bracing for its second major storm of this month, with ports in Shanghai and Ningbo preparing to halt operations as Typhoon Muifa approaches.
The typhoon is likely to make landfall late Wednesday between Ningbo and Zhoushan city in Zhejiang province, which has raised the level of emergency response to the storm, state broadcaster CCTV reported.
Muifa is currently located northeast of Taiwan, packing winds of 104 miles (167 kilometers) per hour with gusts up to 127 miles per hour, according to the US Joint Typhoon Warning Center. It follows close on the heels of Super Typhoon Hinnamnor, which brushed past the coast last week, temporarily closing Shanghai’s major container port of Yangshan.
Yangshan and other container terminals will begin halting some operations Tuesday evening, with all facilities shut by Wednesday morning, according to a statement from Shanghai Port. The Meishan container terminal in Ningbo will close down at midnight Tuesday.
The coastal region is taking additional precautionary measures. Some passenger train services connecting China’s east coast will be suspended from Tuesday, according to the local railway administration, while Ningbo said schools will be closed Wednesday.
- China gave tens of billions in secretive ‘emergency loans’ to vulnerable nations, emerging as world’s major creditor and IMF competitor Fortune
This reads a lot like “china bad” propaganda - it’s from Fortune, after all - but I’m not sure.
In recent years, China has shelled out tens of billions in opaque “emergency loans” for at-risk nations, indicating a shift to providing short-term emergency lending rather than longer-term infrastructure loans.
It’s a (largely) unforeseen development from Beijing’s $900 billion Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), launched in 2013.
Since 2017, Beijing has given a collective $32.8 billion in emergency loans to Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Argentina, according to AidData, a research lab at William & Mary University that focuses on China’s global financing activities.
China has also offered emergency loans to Eastern European nations Ukraine and Belarus; South American countries Venezuela and Ecuador; African nations Kenya and Angola; alongside Laos, Egypt, and Mongolia. Chinese overseas lending and credit relationships remain “exceptionally opaque,” according to World Bank researchers. “Chinese lenders require strict confidentiality from their debtors and do not release a granular breakdown of their lending,” they wrote.
But researchers have found that the bulk of China’s overseas lending—around 60%—is now to low-income countries that are currently mired in debt distress, or at high risk of it. Beijing’s pivot to short-term rescue lending highlights its growing role as an emergency lender of last resort, rendering it an alternative to the Western-backed International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Experts are concerned about what comes next, as many of the nations that took loans from China are facing an extraordinary debt crunch amid an era of inflation and climate change. For instance, a Pakistani official said just last week that the epic flooding that covered most of the South Asian country will cost upwards of $10 billion.
It’s really funny how like, there was this propaganda drive to tar China as a debt hawk preying on poor countries (as if that hasn’t been the sole purpose of the IMF and World Bank since they were created) and then China forgave a shitload of debts from African countries and then the media shut up about it for a few weeks. But now the narrative is back because everybody has goldfish brains.
- Laos’ Financial Crisis Can Be an Opportunity for Reform Laotian Times
This past June, Vientiane almost came to a standstill. Fuel shortages stunted traffic and long lines formed at gas stations around the Laotian capital, as motorists waited patiently to fuel up.
As the price of fuel skyrocketed, farmers who needed diesel for machinery to plow their fields could no longer afford the cost. Some abandoned farming altogether and instead went abroad in search of work.
Others decided to plant rice only for their own needs. Around 20% could not afford to plant any rice at all, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.
These are just some of the compounding impacts of the multiple shocks hitting Laos from the COVID-19 pandemic to the global food and fuel crisis following the war in Ukraine. These have derailed and set back decades of development progress.
Laos’ recent economic performance speaks to these realities. With a 7% growth rate of gross domestic product for over two decades, Laos has been one of the fastest-growing economies in Southeast Asia.
Its growth, though, began to slow in 2018 and 2019, partly due to natural disasters. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, GDP growth fell to its slowest pace in three decades. The war in Ukraine then further exposed some of the country’s structural weaknesses.
The economic stresses that have unfolded in Laos are reflected in its growth pathway. Quality job creation and productivity have lagged.
Hydropower and mining have rapidly expanded, becoming dominant sectors and accounting for 21% of economic output last year. These capital-intensive sectors represent just 1% of employment, however.
Investment to expand these two sectors, as well as transportation infrastructure, have been financed by external borrowing, but these projects have yet to yield revenue, due to long gestation periods.
Even before the pandemic, Laos was at high risk of debt distress, according to previous International Monetary Fund assessments. Public and publicly guaranteed debt went from about 70% of GDP in 2019 to 88% in 2021, according to government figures.
Economic expansion, meanwhile, has come at a cost to Laos’s most valuable resource, the environment, due to growing deforestation and forest degradation. As the economy grew, there has also been a sharp increase in income inequality. (was also a sharp increase in income inequality)
Changing course is not easy. Yet crises provide an opportunity for advancing reforms.
Immediate measures for Laos would center on addressing its debt and creating macroeconomic stability.
This can come about only through reforms in government expenditure, better management of revenue and debt, and addressing corruption. These steps can then allow the country to better absorb shocks associated with the interdependent risks of climate, environment, the economy, and the pandemic and other health emergencies.
Raising revenue domestically is vital for restoring fiscal stability. Such funds can then be reinvested in productive capacity like health care and education. Efforts have been underway to improve tax collection and administration, increase the tax base and introduce new tax instruments — such as royalties, duties, and tariffs — but implementation of these reforms could be expedited.
Reforming debt management and debt transparency will also be crucial so the country can diversify its creditors and build on its recent success in issuing bonds on the Thai financial market. Innovative instruments such as carbon trading or debt-for-nature swaps, that would provide debt relief in exchange for enhanced environmental protections, can be explored in the medium term.
Making sure reforms have a direct impact on people’s lives will require an empowered parliament, with the National Assembly and Provincial People’s Councils poised to take a leading role. They can provide financial and policy oversight as well as provide a healthy feedback loop by connecting the government with citizens.
- New Zealand food inflation highest for 13 years as vegetables and dairy drive prices Guardian
Shoppers may be forced to skip tomatoes, eggs and dairy products in New Zealand, as the country experiences the largest annual spike in food prices in 13 years.
Stats NZ released new figures showing food prices had grown by 8.3% to August – the largest annual increase since the global financial crisis in July 2009 when food prices jumped up by 8.4%.
“Increasing prices for eggs, yoghurt, and cheddar cheese were the largest drivers within grocery food,” said Katrina Dewbery, a Stats NZ spokesperson.
Like many nations, inflation is on the charge in New Zealand, with benchmark consumers price index (CPI) inflation at 7.3%, when last measured in July.
Fruit and vegetables – particularly capsicums, potatoes and onions – had jumped up 15% in the past year and were also the largest contributor to the monthly rise, influenced by higher prices for tomatoes, capsicums and cabbage, Dewberry said.
Grocery food prices were up 8.7% over the year, meat and fish up 7.6%, and beverages up 4.1%. The price of eggs also soared, up 6.7% in August alone.
- Indonesia, Norway ink deal to reward rainforest protection Iraqi News
Indonesia and Norway signed a deal Monday to reward deforestation reduction months after the collapse of a similar $1-billion agreement that was part of a UN-backed global initiative criticised for its ineffectiveness.
Protecting trees is key to meeting climate goals but environmentalists blame Indonesia — home to the world’s third-largest rainforest area — for a deforestation free-for-all by allowing companies to clear land for new plantations.
Jakarta claims it has made progress by reducing the rate of primary forest loss for five straight years and Oslo will now reward it with “results-based contributions” for cutting emissions, Norway’s ministry of climate and environment said in a statement.
“Today we are proud to embark on a new partnership to support the Indonesian government’s impressive results and ambitious plans,” said Norwegian Minister for Climate and Environment Espen Barth Eide in a statement.
But environmental activists say the deal will not change the situation in Indonesia with vast swathes of rainforest still being destroyed to make way for palm and timber plantations that threaten endangered species and push indigenous people off their lands.
“The agreement does not solve existing problems, including recognition of indigenous people,” Greenpeace Indonesia forest campaigner Iqbal Damanik told AFP.
“The point made is ‘successfully reducing deforestation’, not zero deforestation. It means there is still deforestation in Indonesia going forward.”
The countries had signed a landmark deforestation deal in 2010 with Norway offering Indonesia $1 billion to slash its emissions.
But Jakarta cancelled it last year saying it didn’t see enough of the money, while research showed it only made a small dent in Indonesia’s carbon-cutting targets.
- Is The Middle East Becoming Unhabitable? Oil Price
A climate report released ahead of the UN’s COP27 climate summit in Egypt in November has revealed that the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean are heating at nearly twice the global average, threatening potentially devastating impacts on its 400 million residents and economies. The study, based on data for 1981-2019, found an average increase of 0.45ºC per decade across the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean region, way higher than the global average rise of 0.27 degrees per decade.
The study covers the region stretching from Greece and Egypt in the west through to Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, and the Gulf states of Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates as well as Iran in the east. The report warns that barring swift policy changes, the region will face extreme heat waves, prolonged droughts and sea level rises. Without immediate changes, the region is on course to heat up by 5ºC by the end of the century, possibly exceeding “critical thresholds for human adaptability” in some countries, the report states.
Jos Lelieveld of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and the Cyprus Institute, which both provided support for the research, has written that people in these regions“will face major health challenges and risks of livelihood, especially underprivileged communities, the elderly, children and pregnant women.”
Alarmingly, the Middle East is set to overtake Europe as the biggest contributor of greenhouse gasses in a matter of years, the authors of the report have warned.
Lead author George Zittis has written that “business-as-usual pathways for the future” would expand arid climate zones, and the rising seas “would imply severe challenges for coastal infrastructure and agriculture”, particularly affecting Egypt’s densely populated Nile Delta.
- Ankara angered by anti-Turkish campaign in Ukraine – media RT
Ankara is demanding explanations from Kiev after a number of Turkish banks and businessmen were added to a Ukrainian government-linked website that calls to sanction those who support Russia, Aydınlık newspaper has reported.
Turkey addressed the Ukrainian ambassador in Ankara over the weekend and “expressed our strong response and specific expectations” regarding the situation, diplomatic sources told the paper on Tuesday.
The Turkish mission in Kiev has also asked Ukrainian authorities for explanations, they added.
“Considering our existing strategic partnership, solidarity and cooperation with Ukraine, it’s expected that Turkish individuals and organizations won’t be targeted by sanctions,” the sources said.
- Azerbaijan To Ramp Up Gas Exports To Europe By 30% Oil Price
Azerbaijan will increase natural gas exports to Europe this year by 30 percent as the EU seeks to lessen its dependence on Russian energy amid the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine. Azerbaijani Energy Minister Parviz Shahbazov said that over the eight months of this year, Baku “supplied to Europe 7.3 billion cubic meters of natural gas.”
“The overall volume of (gas) supplies to Europe in 2022 will amount to 12 billion cubic meters” – a 31 percent increase compared to 2021, he said on Twitter.
He also reported a nearly 10 percent increase in gas production, which reached 30.6 billion cubic meters in January-August 2022.
- German leader rules out nuclear deal with Iran in near future MEE
A nuclear deal with Iran will not happen “in the near future”, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Monday, providing the most senior-level indication to date from a Western official of the agreement’s faltering prospects.
Scholz’s assessment came during Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s visit - his latest diplomatic effort to try and persuade Western powers to ditch the agreement with Israel’s arch-nemesis.
- EU banks seeking to finance renewable energy projects in Iraq Iraqi News
The Ambassador of the European Union to the Republic of Iraq, Ville Varjola, during his meeting on Monday with the Governor of the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI), Mustafa Ghaleb, expressed the desire of European banks to finance renewable energy projects in Iraq, according to the CBI press statement cited by the Iraqi news Agency (INA).
The statement mentioned that Ghaleb and Varjola discussed the bilateral economic and banking relations, especially in the field of training.
Ghaleb confirmed that there are good relations with the countries of the European Union, and Iraq seeks to develop these relations, according to the statement.
- Africa’s first hydrogen power plant seen producing electricity in 2024 Reuters
French independent power producer HDF Energy (HDF.PA) expects its green hydrogen power plant in Namibia, Africa’s first, to start producing electricity by 2024, a senior company executive said on Monday.
Once operational, the 3.1 billion Namibian dollar ($181.25 million) Swakopmund project will supply clean electricity power, 24 hours a day all-year round, boosting electricity supply in the southern African nation that imports around 40% of its power from neighbouring South Africa.
Namibia, one of the world’s sunniest and least densely populated countries, wants to harness its vast potential for solar and wind energy to produce green hydrogen and position the country as a renewable energy hub in Africa.
- Nigeria’s Oil Exports Plunge To Record Low Oil Price
Crude oil exports out of Nigeria plunged to below 1 million barrels per day (bpd), their lowest level on record, last month, oil export analytics firm Petro-Logistics said on Monday.
Over the past three years, Nigeria’s crude oil exports have essentially halved, according to Petro-Logistics.
Persistent underinvestment in the Nigerian oil industry and the perennial problem of oil theft from pipelines have plagued the sector in recent years. Oil majors are not investing in Nigerian supply, and many foreign firms have either sold assets or signaled they would pursue divestments in Nigeria’s oil industry.
Crude oil production slumped to below 1 million bpd last month, the lowest level since at least 1990, according to data from the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission cited by Reuters last week.
- Air quality plummets as smoke from roaring wildfires chokes US west Guardian
California firefighters are battling large blazes across the state as the west’s fire season heats up, covering swaths of Oregon, Washington, California and Canada in heavy smoke that has also traveled across the US.
Rain from tropical storm Kay brought relief to firefighters in southern California after a punishing heatwave gripped much of the state for more than a week and sent some crews to the hospital.
In northern California, a large wildfire continues to threaten thousands of mountain homes in the foothills east of Sacramento and has forced the evacuation of 11,000 people. The Mosquito fire has scorched nearly 65 sq miles (168 sq km) and is 10% contained, according to the California department of forestry and fire (Cal Fire), the state’s firefighting agency.
“Cooler temperatures and higher humidity assisted with moderating some fire activity”, but higher winds allowed the flames to push to the north and north-east, according to a Cal Fire incident report Sunday.
The fire has sent smoke over a large portion of the northern Sierra region. California health officials urged people in affected areas to stay indoors where possible. Lake Tahoe, more than 50 miles away from the fire, is facing some of the worst effects, with smoke producing unhealthy to hazardous air quality in the region. For the second year in row, organizers of the Tour de Tahoe canceled the annual 72-mile bicycle ride scheduled for Sunday around Lake Tahoe because of heavy smoke.
- Megadrought in the American south-west: a climate disaster unseen in 1,200 years Guardian
Nearly four decades later, the consequences of a sweltering Earth are hitting home in the US south-west and mountain west – comprising states from California to Colorado. Over the past two decades, extreme heat and dwindling moisture levels have converged to create a “megadrought” deemed the driest period in 1,200 years.
The west is now in uncharted territory, as once singular conditions become the norm. Its mightiest reservoirs – Lake Mead and Lake Powell – are at record low levels and steadily shriveling. Prolonged, triple-digit heatwaves are making cities like Phoenix, Arizona, and Las Vegas, Nevada, almost unlivable during summers. And wildfires now spark year-round as parched forests and grasslands are more primed than ever to burn.
A recent analysis by the Washington Post found that, in some parts of the south-west, average annual temperatures have already risen by more than 1.5C, a threshold widely considered the tipping point at which devastating consequences for people and the environment take hold.
The extraordinary conditions offer a warning of what lies ahead for other arid regions that cross this line. It is also a reminder that despite all the modern innovations to circumvent an unforgiving climate, drought may once again have the final say unless drastic steps are taken quickly.
- The White House is racing to prevent a railroad worker strike, fearing it could cripple the economy and hurt Democrats in the midterms Business Insider
The Biden administration is rushing to prevent a railroad workers' strike that White House officials worry could badly hurt the economy and also blunt Democrats' momentum before the 2022 midterm elections, according to the Washington Post.
Railroad carriers and two unions have been negotiating for better benefits for vacation and sick days in their new contract and have until Friday to make a deal before the unions go on strike, CNBC reported.
Anonymous sources told the Post that White House officials are holding emergency meetings to discuss the potential strike, while also warning of the harm it could cause Democrats during the November elections.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is among those trying to broker a deal between the two sides to avert a strike, the Washington Post reported.
US Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Suzanne Clark said in a Monday statement that a strike would lead to “catastrophic economic impacts.”
“A national rail strike would be an economic disaster – freezing the flow of goods, emptying shelves, shuttering workplaces, and raising prices for families and businesses alike, but that is exactly what is likely to happen in less than four days,” she said.
She continued: “If action is not taken, the nation’s rail service will come to a halt, the negative impacts of which cannot be understated.”
- Gas prices could dip below $3 a gallon as summer driving season wraps up and oil declines: AAA Business Insider
The average price of a gallon of gas in the US fell to $3.71 Monday, which is $0.26 lower than four weeks ago but remains $0.54 higher than a year ago, according to AAA data.
The recent decline in oil prices have helped ease sticker shock at the pump. Currently, a gallon of gas is at its cheapest level since early March, and Brent crude is trading at about $94.
Andrew Gross, a spokesperson for AAA, said that typically cheaper oil means more relief for drivers, and that it bodes well for prices in the future.
“This trend has helped pump prices fall steadily for three straight months and, with fall approaching, more markets could soon see prices below $3 per gallon,” Gross said Monday, per AAA.
- Rising food and housing costs kept inflation high in August WaPo
Consumer prices in August climbed 0.1 percent compared to the month before, as food and housing costs pushed higher for millions of Americans.
A number of economists had been hopeful that falling energy prices in recent weeks would be enough to finally cool inflation, but government data released Tuesday showed how large price increases continue to persist on core items that make up a central part of most families’ budgets.
The figures came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which released its monthly Consumer Price Index. It showed that prices were up 8.3 percent in August compared to 12 months earlier, higher than analysts expected. The overall figure was lower than the inflation rate notched in the previous two months, but still higher than expected given the sharp decrease in gasoline prices in recent weeks.
“We thought we’d see inflation start to come down, and instead what we’ve seen is inflation really sort of entrenched,” said Betsey Stevenson, professor of public policy and economics at the University of Michigan and a former member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. “If there’s no real progress, then that says, ‘does the Fed need to take stronger action?’ And if the Fed needs to take stronger action, what does that mean for the risk to peoples’ livelihoods?”
- Increase in Fuel Prices Ignites More Protests in Haiti TeleSUR
On Sunday, Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry announced an increase in fuel prices in the midst of a very turbulent political context due to protests that have been going on for weeks.
“We will have to adjust the price of fuel,” he said, justifying the decision as a means for citizens “to have regular fuel again at some point in the not too distant future.”
He mentioned that such an increase will make it possible to eliminate fuel subsidies, which will free up some US$426 million that can be used to finance social protection projects.
This is the second increase in prices over the last year. In Dec. 2021, his administration also increased the prices of diesel, gasoline, and kerosene by 115 percent.
“The solution to the country’s problems does not lie in burning barricades, riots or the destruction of car windows or property,” Henry said during his message to the nation.
In this context, he assured that he will call elections this year to “allow all those who want to take charge of our country’s affairs to participate in a healthy and democratic competition.”
- Lula Widens Gap Over Bolsonaro to 15 Points: Brazil Poll TeleSUR
Former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2011) slightly widened his lead over the current president, Jair Bolsonaro, compared to last week, according to the Ipec poll released on Monday.
Lula advanced two points and went from 44 to 46 percent of voting intentions, while Bolsonaro remained stable at 31 percent, so the distance between the two is now 15 points.
- Chile: Experts To Accompany Process for a New Constitution TeleSUR
The deputy of the ruling party Convergencia Social (left) Diego Ibáñez said several consensuses were reached, “among them, that we will have a new Constitution, which will be drafted by a one hundred percent elected Constitutional Convention and that a commission of experts will accompany the process.”
On Monday, a meeting of parties and benches at the beginning of the process for a new Constitution was held in a room of the National Congress with the presence of 40 political leaders from the left and right.
The new Convention must have gender parity, as the previous assembly members were elected, and the body’s final text to be drafted must be submitted to a referendum.
In the following meetings to be held by the political authorities, the competencies of the commission of experts that will accompany the process will be analyzed and how they will be elected.
- WHO Urges Countries to Take Long COVID Seriously TeleSUR
At least 17 million Europeans experienced the post-COVID-19 condition (long COVID) in the first two years of the pandemic, said the World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday.
“Governments and health partners must collaborate to find solutions based on research and evidence,” said Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe.
With millions of people likely to be affected by the aftereffects of contracting COVID during the pandemic “for years to come,” WHO urged countries in the region to “take post COVID-19 condition seriously by urgently investing in research, recovery, and rehabilitation.”
The findings, which cover the years 2020 and 2021, come from a recent international “new modeling” study done for WHO Europe by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine in the United States.
The Ukraine War
- Ukraine and Russia interested in Zaporizhzhia protection zone, IAEA chief says Reuters
Ukraine and Russia are interested in the U.N. atomic watchdog’s proposal that a protection zone be created around the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the watchdog’s chief Rafael Grossi said on Monday, describing it as a ceasefire.
“I have seen signs that they are interested in this agreement,” he told a news conference when asked about the progress of talks with Russia and Ukraine on the zone. “What I see is two sides that are engaging with us, that are asking questions, lots of questions.”
- Israel sells anti-drone system to Ukraine via Poland MEMO
An Israeli firm has supplied anti-drone systems to Ukraine through Poland, Israeli media revealed yesterday.
According to the Hebrew news website, Zman Yisrael, a source in the firm said that the equipment was being sold to Poland to circumvent Israel’s refusal to sell advanced arms to Ukraine.
The Israeli firm, according to the newspaper, reported the sale of the anti-drone system to the Israeli Defence Ministry, telling it the buyer was Poland. The firm appeared not to know that Poland was just a mediator and was transferring the system to Ukraine.
The anti-drone system, which can intercept and disrupt unmanned aerial vehicles, is classified by the Israeli Defence Ministry as “advanced defensive technology” and as such can’t be sold to Ukraine.
However, the newspaper said, the Israeli government appeared unwilling to hinder the deal.
- Mexican president previews Ukraine peace plan after criticizing UN Inquirer
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Monday said his government would present a plan to the United Nations to end Russia’s war in Ukraine, moments after criticizing the world body and calling for it to be reformed.
Lopez Obrador, who expounds on the virtues of a non-interventionist foreign policy, said his plan involves the creation of a “mediation committee” that includes Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Pope Francis.
Modi in May called for a ceasefire in Ukraine and peace talks between the Kyiv government and Russia, which invaded its neighbor on Feb. 24.
Under Lopez Obrador’s plan, the mediators would immediately start talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to achieve “a truce of at least five years.”
The plan was scant on other details, but Lopez Obrador told a regular news conference he will discuss it further in a speech celebrating Mexico’s independence on Friday.
“I’m going to talk about world peace and I’m going to talk about Mexico’s position on the war in Russia and Ukraine, and I am going to present a proposal to the United Nations to achieve peace,” Lopez Obrador said.
Armenia and Azerbaijan
- Russia claims ceasefire reached between Armenia and Azerbaijan after fighting erupts along border CNN
Russia claimed it has brokered a ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan after fighting erupted on the border between the two countries this week, bringing a decades-old conflict to the brink of reigniting.
“We call on the parties to refrain from further escalation of the situation, exercise restraint and strictly observe the ceasefire in accordance with the trilateral statements of the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia of November 9, 2020, January 11 and November 26, 2021,” a Russian foreign ministry statement said.
“We are in close contact with Baku and Yerevan. An appeal was received from the Armenian leadership to assist in resolving the situation … We expect that the agreement reached as a result of Russian mediation on a ceasefire from 9.00 am Moscow time on September 13 will be carried out in full,” it added.
The statement follows a call between Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and President Vladimir Putin earlier Tuesday. Local media in Azerbaijan also reported on the ceasefire but said it had already been broken.
On Tuesday morning, the Armenian Defense Ministry claimed Azerbaijan Armed Forces conducted artillery strikes toward Armenian border towns. The strike included drones and large-caliber firearms fired in the direction of Goris, Sotk, and Jermuk, according to the Armenian Defense Ministry.
The Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense responded with a statement acknowledging the strikes, but said the strikes are “small-scale” and “aim to ensure the security of Azerbaijan’s borders.”
On Monday, Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense accused Armenian forces of firing in small arms in the directions of the Novoivanovka settlement of Gadabay region and Husulu settlement of Lachin region near the border of the two countries. Armenia denied the allegations.
Deadly clashes erupt between Armenia, Azerbaijan Al Jazeera
Armenia claims at least 49 killed in clashes along border with Azerbaijan Guardian
Armenia to appeal to Russia-led military bloc RT
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan convened an emergency security council meeting early on Tuesday to devise “countermeasures” following an escalation of hostilities along the border with Azerbaijan.
“In the face of the aggression against the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia, it was decided to officially appeal to the Russian Federation in order to implement the provisions of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, as well as to the Collective Security Treaty Organization [CSTO] and the UN Security Council,” the government in Yerevan announced after the national security meeting chaired by Pashinyan.
Climate, Space, and Science
- An uncrewed rocket from Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin failed just over a minute after launch Business Insider
Dipshittery and Cope
I don’t read any of these unless they’re particularly interesting. I’m happy for them tho. Or sorry that happened.
The quality of the MSM only gets worse.
Russian troops forced to retreat in Ukraine were meant to be elite forces tough enough to fight NATO, UK intel says Business Insider
How Does Ukraine Define Victory? Forbes
Is Russia losing the war in Ukraine? Al Jazeera
‘The Russians are in trouble,’ U.S. official says of latest war analysis WaPo
The rot runs deep in the Russian war machine. Ukraine is exposing it for all to see CNN
Ukraine round-up: Counter-attack continues, Kremlin remains defiant BBC
Collaborators with Russian forces are fleeing, say Ukrainian officials Guardian
Ukraine war: Kyiv claims to have recaptured 500 km2 from Russia in south of country Euro News
Zelensky says Ukraine retook 6,000 square kilometers of territory this month Jakarta Post
Ukraine war: Zelenskyy says 6,000 square kilometres liberated from Russians Euro News
Ukraine has retaken 6,000 sq km, Zelenskiy says, as he calls for air defence aid Guardian
Ukraine war: We’ve retaken 6,000 sq km from Russia, says Zelensky BBC
Zelenskyy says 6,000sq km of territory retaken in Ukraine blitz Al Jazeera
Ukraine live briefing: Russian retreat in northeast fuels cautious optimism for Kyiv and allies WaPo
Ukrainian surge throws Kremlin propagandists into disarray Politico
Russia’s budget surplus tanked in August amid sanctions and slowing natural-gas supplies to Europe Business Insider
UK says Russian forces ‘severely weakened’ as Ukraine’s troops reach border in north – live Guardian
Ukraine calls for more Western arms after Russian setback Reuters
Many retreating Russian troops near Kharkiv have exited Ukraine -U.S. official Reuters
Joy in northeast Ukraine as residents return after Russian retreat Inquirer
Russia Withdraws More Forces From Northeast Ukraine as Kyiv Presses Advance WSJ
Ukraine Signals Major Weapons Request for Long-Term Offensive Against Russia WSJ
As Russian Losses Mount in Ukraine, So Does Criticism Back Home NYT
Ukraine Deflates MAGA Macho Myths NYT
Western officials ‘surprised’ by Ukraine’s rapid gains in northern counteroffensive Politico
Ukraine’s Sudden Gains Prompt New Questions for Commanders NYT
Ukraine Just Punched Its Bully in the Nose. Now What? Bloomberg
Ukraine is turning the tide against Russia — no thanks to Germany Politico
Ukraine extends battlefield gains as Kremlin reels from setback WaPo
The Russian military’s stunning collapse in eastern Ukraine is injecting optimism into markets, analysts say Business Insider
Ukraine’s Sudden Success Could Bolster Europe’s Support — and Morale NYT
Ukraine’s Wins Make Russian War More Dangerous Bloomberg
Ukraine’s battlefield wins delight the West but could make the war more dangerous CNN
Losses in Ukraine Prompt Something New on Russian TV: Debate NYT
The Guardian view on Ukraine’s counteroffensive: a stunning breakthrough Guardian
Putin Could Use Battlefield Nuclear Weapons in Ukraine, Panetta Says Bloomberg
Ukraine Can Win the War Against Russia: Esper Bloomberg
Ukraine military clean up abandoned Russian positions Euro News
Those Who Doubted Ukraine Were Wrong, Says Zhovkva Bloomberg
Ukraine Needs More Heavy Weapons From the West: Zhovkva Bloomberg
‘Everybody was running away.’ Ukrainians in Kharkiv villages describe Russia’s retreat CNN
Hints of Russia’s Future in South Africa’s Sanctions Past Bloomberg
Russian troops likely losing already limited trust in military leadership as Ukraine’s lightning offensive forces a turn to ‘emergency’ defense, UK intel says Business Insider
Is Putin facing defeat? The ‘End of History’ author remains confident. WaPo
After stopping the Russians in their tracks, Ukrainian forces are now breaking through their lines and taking back territory in a masterful surprise move Business Insider
Ukraine celebrates victory in retaking parts of Kharkiv region Business Insider
These maps show Ukraine’s latest victories against Russia WaPo
Faced with war losses, Russian propagandists retreat to anger and patriotism WaPo
Russia’s Air Force Goes Missing At The Worst Possible Time—During Ukraine’s Counteroffensive Forbes
Opinion: Where Putin goes from here CNN
Russian state-media host calls for generals to be executed for allowing retreat from huge swaths of Ukraine Business Insider
‘Without gas or without you? Without you’: Zelensky’s words for Russia as Ukraine sweeps through northeast CNN
Russian troops fleeing after their lines were shattered left behind so much ammo and weaponry Ukraine struggled to handle it all Business Insider
Ukraine war: What will Russia’s losses mean for Putin? BBC
Questions loom over Ukraine’s counteroffensive in Kharkiv Al Jazeera
‘Now Russia fears us’: buildup to Ukraine’s southern counteroffensive - video report Guardian
Legendary Russian chess champion and Kremlin critic says Putin’s ‘war is lost’ in Ukraine but that won’t stop him Business Insider
The 4 factors that explain Ukraine’s extraordinary military success WaPo
Ukraine war: A successful surprise attack - but danger still looms BBC
Ukraine continues Kharkiv offensive despite apparent Russian retaliation Guardian
Russia post-Putin: What happens if the president suddenly dies? Al Jazeera
The Critical Moment Behind Ukraine’s Rapid Advance NYT
HIMARS rockets have been a ‘game changer’ in Ukraine, and the US Army is now looking for ways to build up to 500 more Business Insider
The meaning of Ukraine’s strike in Kharkiv — and Russia’s retreat WaPo
How Ukraine’s offensive changes the equation for Putin and Zelensky WaPo
The articles with even a slight degree of sense:
Ukraine’s Army Is Winning But Its Economy Is Losing Bloomberg
Ukraine’s wins turn focus back on Europe’s waning military aid Politico
Ukraine’s victories are exciting Wall Street. The boost could soon fade CNN
In remote Ili, China’s zero-Covid extremes push people beyond breaking point SCMP
As China targets the South Pacific, the U.S. urgently needs to push back WaPo, by John Bolton. Yes, that guy.
Few areas of the world seem more distant from the United States than the island states of the South Pacific. World War II reminiscences have faded, and the words “South Pacific” now resonate more as a Broadway musical title than a geographic locator. For U.S. national security, this needs to change, sooner rather than later.
Get the maps out; Chinese leaders, diplomats and the military have theirs nearly memorized. Hemmed in by what it calls the “first island chain” (stretching from the Kuril Islands, through Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and Indonesia), China has longed to break free into the broader Pacific Ocean. Beijing is interested in this wider horizon because its aspirations extend not merely to hegemony along its immediate Indo-Pacific periphery, but to far wider objectives, already reflected in its pursuit of economic interest in Africa and the Western Hemisphere.
Taiwan is thus important to China not just because of nationalistic fervor, but also because dominance over Taiwan would irretrievably pierce the first island chain. Another breakout strategy over the tyranny of geography is to leapfrog the close-in islands and stake out positions across the Pacific — which is precisely what Beijing appears now to be attempting.
The Pacific’s insular nations are small in land mass and lightly populated, although huge when their ocean territories are included. Xi Jinping has marked them as vulnerable, seemingly intent on going island-hopping, using intimidation, bribery or whatever it takes to achieve China’s ends.
The immediate crisis is in the Solomon Islands, where U.S. forces won a critical victory in 1942-1943 on Guadalcanal, a World War II turning point. In August, senior administration officials Wendy Sherman and Caroline Kennedy, whose fathers fought in the Solomon Islands, led a U.S. delegation to mark the 80th anniversary of the battle at Guadalcanal. Signifying growing Chinese hegemony, however, and perhaps issuing an insult at China’s behest, Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare failed to attend the ceremonies near Honiara, the capital. Weeks later, a U.S. Coast Guard vessel was denied permission to make a port call, another apparently intentional discourtesy. Most recently, elections scheduled for next May were postponed until 2024, a move that opposition leaders consider an ominous sign of China’s influence.
A Chinese base in the Solomons would directly menace Australia (about 1,200 miles away), harking back to the Japanese threat during World War II. I was recently in Sydney, and found that Australians need no persuading about China’s rising regional threat. What they seek is a more visible, vigorous U.S. presence in the region, and rightly so. The Solomons are in jeopardy now, and while “domino theory” inevitability might not yet obtain, other island states are clearly vulnerable.
America has for too long paid insufficient attention to the South Pacific. In 1945, the United States assumed Japan’s former League of Nations mandate over the new United Nations’ Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. After plebiscites in 1983, one island chain became the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, thereby remaining part of the United States, adjacent to Guam, long a U.S. territory. Three other island groupings — Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia — chose independence. (American Samoa is a separate territory.)
These three new nations all signed “compacts of free association” with the United States, which provide that Washington supervises their foreign affairs (short of declaring war), including prohibiting the presence of foreign military forces without U.S. permission. The compacts have been extended once and are now up for renegotiation because they expire over the next two years.
This is not a moment to falter or for shortsightedness. Fortuitously timed as the renegotiation is, the White House should take full advantage of the opportunity to cement long-term strategic relations with this trio of nations to keep China out. The costs of enhanced U.S. involvement are trivial in the context of global aid budgets; and the sea and land expanses involved are only somewhat smaller than the continental United States itself.
When I briefed President Donald Trump just before his meeting with the three leaders of these freely associated states in 2019, he asked, “Why am I meeting these people?” His successors should not need to ask.
South Pacific responsibilities need not rest on the United States alone. Australia, New Zealand and Britain all have contemporary relationships and regional histories, dating back to naval coaling or whaling stations. France retains three extensive overseas territories (New Caledonia, French Polynesia, and Wallis and Fortuna), represented in France’s Parliament, and whose territory is deemed part of the European Union.
Countering Chinese aggressiveness in the South Pacific should be a matter of urgent bipartisan agreement and action, rare as they might be today. The faraway island of Bali Hai, celebrated in a certain musical, is closer than we thought.
- ‘The strain is the worst of my lifetime’: how Bill Gates is staying optimistic Guardian
The figures are bad, progress has stalled and all the trends that had been building hope in the world becoming a fairer place are showing sharp about-turns. Yet Bill Gates, who has poured billions of his own dollars into eradicating poverty, remains “optimistic”.
“It would be awful to turn away just because we’re getting bad grades due to unexpected setbacks,” he told the Guardian in an exclusive interview ahead of Tuesday’s publication of the annual Goalkeepers Report from the foundation he co-chairs.
As the UN general assembly prepares to meet in New York next week, the report makes clear that most of the 17 sustainable development goals agreed by member countries in 2015, a “shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet”, will miss their 2030 deadline. “When we set the goals, we definitely did not expect something like the pandemic,” said Gates.
“If we keep funding development aid properly we’ll get back where we were before the pandemic within a couple of years and build from there. But at best you can say it was a three- or four-year setback. In some areas, even worse.
“If you just look at rates of childhood vaccinations then the pandemic was a huge setback,” he added. “We’re back at 2009 levels of vaccine coverage.”
But keeping funding flowing is key, and Gates fears generosity towards Africa’s needs could be affected by “costs and distraction” from the Ukraine war. Another distraction during the Covid pandemic was that the 66-year-old Gates became a target for conspiracy theorists.
- EU aid money drying up due to Ukraine – Bill Gates RT
The cost of the Ukraine conflict is emptying wealthy European countries' aid reserves and undermining their ability to meet UN development goals, Bill Gates has said.
“The Ukraine war is stretching their budgets with defense costs, refugee costs, electricity subsidies and shipping costs,” the billionaire philanthropist told the Financial Times in an interview published on Tuesday.
Gates spoke to the newspaper as the charity foundation that he and his ex-wife Melinda run released a report detailing how the UN Sustainable Development Goals program is on track to fail to meet any of its 2030 targets.
- Charles III saw climate change coming. Can he still speak out? WaPo
Will the head of the British monarchy do anything of substance about climate change? Of course he won’t. Will he make noises about it? I mean, maybe. Who cares? Lots of people have talked about climate change, some with even more authority than he has right now. Has it done much of anything?
- Let’s stop pretending America is a functioning democracy Canadian Dimension
I know what you’re thinking. “What? Why is this article in Dipshittery and Cope? You misplaced it!” No, I haven’t, and you’ll see why soon. It starts strong, and then…
There is a fatal disconnect between a political system that promises democratic equality and freedom while carrying out socioeconomic injustices that result in grotesque income inequality and political stagnation.
Decades in the making, this disconnect has extinguished American democracy. The steady stripping away of economic and political power was ignored by a hyperventilating press that thundered against the barbarians at the gate—Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, the Taliban, ISIS, Vladimir Putin—while ignoring the barbarians in our midst. The slow-motion coup is over. Corporations and the billionaire class have won. There are no institutions, including the press, an electoral system that is little more than legalized bribery, the imperial presidency, the courts or the penal system, that can be defined as democratic. Only the fiction of democracy remains.
The political philosopher Sheldon Wolin in Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism calls our system “inverted totalitarianism.” The façade of democratic institutions and the rhetoric, symbols and iconography of state power have not changed. The Constitution remains a sacred document. The US continues to posit itself as a champion of opportunity, freedom, human rights and civil liberties, even as half the country struggles at subsistence level, militarized police gun down and imprison the poor with impunity, and the primary business of the state is war.
This collective self-delusion masks who we have become—a nation where the citizenry has been stripped of economic and political power and where the brutal militarism we practice overseas is practiced at home.
Here’s where it all falls apart.
In classical totalitarian regimes, such as Nazi Germany or Stalin’s Soviet Union, economics was subordinate to politics. But under inverted totalitarianism, the reverse is true. There is no attempt, unlike fascism and state socialism, to address the needs of the poor. Rather, the poorer and more vulnerable you are, the more you are exploited, thrust into a hellish debt peonage from which there is no escape. Social services, from education to health care, are anemic, nonexistent or privatized to gouge the impoverished. Further ravaged by 8.5 percent inflation, wages have decelerated sharply since 1979. Jobs often do not offer benefits or security.
Oh, liberals. How you disappoint me so.
Good Takes that are Dope
For good, or at least decent, analysis of an event or situation - particularly one that hasn’t been covered endlessly before or has a fresh angle.
- In Sweden, the Barriers Against the Far Right Are Collapsing Jacobin
The far-right Sweden Democrats were the big winners in yesterday’s general election, rising to second place. Rooted in neo-Nazism, the party is blatantly racist — but the established parties seem less determined than ever to confront it.
As of today, the right-wing bloc of Moderates, Christian Democrats, Liberals, and the far-right Sweden Democrats have won 49.7 percent of the vote, against the 48.8 percent won by the other possible coalition of Social Democrats, Left, Greens, and Centre Party. The final votes will be counted on Wednesday but the Moderates leader Ulf Kristersson says he is ready to start forming a government.
After the 2018 election, it took four months of negotiations before a government could be appointed. Such a delay is unlikely this time, with the emergence to two distinct political blocs. These blocs do not signify a return to right and left as the dominating contest in Swedish politics, however, and there are big political differences within both coalitions. Indeed, the blocs were founded largely on the question of whether the far-right Sweden Democrats should be allowed to have an influence on the government or not. Four parties said no, four other parties said yes.
The “No to SD” bloc is led by the Social Democrats, who spent the election campaign triangulating the “Yes to SD” bloc in questions regarding migration and law and order, while being unable to articulate credible left economic policies since the bloc also included the neoliberal Centre Party. This also made the differences between the possible government coalitions minimal. If the result stands, the conservative right can form a government, but will do so in the shadow of the Sweden Democrats becoming the second biggest party.
The Left Party has attempted to break out of the shadow of the Social Democrats by going for a more classic social democratic profile, but in the end lost 1.4 percent from last election at the national level. The overarching strategy for the Left Party’s election campaign was to gain ground in “rustbelt” rural areas and this was not accomplished. The Left Party gained 2 to 3 percent in each of the three biggest cities Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmö – but this was not enough to offset the general decline.
Summing up the previous election in 2018, we argued that “the grand narrative of the election is the decline of the two largest parties, the Social Democrats and the Moderates, and the concurrent rise of the Sweden Democrats.” Unfortunately, this still holds true — even more so this time around. Some early votes, as well as votes from abroad, remain to be counted, but everything points to the right-wing conservative coalition winning by the slightest of margins. The Social Democrats gained 2.2 percent from the last election while the Moderates lost — but these shifts say much less about the current situation than the rise of the Sweden Democrats to the position of second biggest party in Sweden at 20.6 percent.
The Sweden Democrats were formed in 1988 out of the “Keep Sweden Swedish” movement and was composed of explicitly racist and neo-Nazi groups uniting under a common banner. The Sweden Democrats have spent the years since 1988 cleaning up their act, but it still remains an almost single-issue, anti-immigration party, whose members continuously slip up, forget the new communication plan put in place by the leadership, and write racist slurs under pseudonyms on the Internet.
The past eight years have seen a plethora of negotiations to form different minority constellations, particular one-off agreements to pass reforms, and the ever-looming threat of new elections or votes of no confidence. The Social Democrats have been the only party in government during the last year, after the Green Party left government when the last budget vote saw the passing of the budget proposal from the conservative-right coalition composed by the Moderates, Liberals, and Christian Democrats. The Green Party refused to govern on a budget proposal negotiated with the xenophobic Sweden Democrats and which entailed slashing climate reforms, so they promptly left government, while the Social Democrats stayed and governed on an opposition budget.
- Liz Truss’s Ascent Is Not a Victory for Women Jacobin
I’m confused as to why this even needs to be said by Jacobin but whatever, technically a good take.