Link back to the discussion thread.
- Borrell compares anti-Russia sanctions to ‘diet’ RT
The EU should not lift the sanctions it imposed on Russia over the Ukraine conflict even if they don’t have an immediate effect, because they work like a “diet,” the bloc’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said on Tuesday.
Speaking at a plenary session of the European Parliament, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs commented on calls from the Western Balkans urging Brussels to remove anti-Russian restrictions, saying it’s important for the EU “to press the point that sanctions are effective.”
Last week, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic predicted that Europe would face a “polar” winter next year, largely due to the sanctions the EU has levied on Russia, which impact the energy sector. While Serbia is not a part of the EU, the country’s energy supply routes run through countries that are, meaning that the nation would inevitably be hurt by the restrictions.
“We cannot lift [sanctions] until they have had their effect. They may not have an immediate impact. It’s like going on a diet to lose weight and being upset that you haven’t lost kilos and kilos after just a couple of weeks,” the diplomat said.
According to Borrell, the sanctions “diet” must remain in place, otherwise the “kilograms you’ve already lost will be very easily put on again.”
- Russian companies are issuing bonds in the Chinese yuan amid sanctions. Putin’s government may follow suit. Business Insider
Some Russian companies are issuing bonds denominated in the Chinese yuan amid sanctions over the war in Ukraine.
State-owned oil giant Rosneft was the latest to offer 15 billion yuan, or $2.1 billion, in a bond offering, Interfax reported on Tuesday. This followed a 4.6 billion yuan issuance from Polyus, Russia’s largest gold producer, in August.
Just weeks earlier in July, Russian aluminum giant Rusal issued 2 billion yuan of bonds. Demand for the bonds was more than double what was offered, the company said on July 29.
“It seems natural to us to choose yuan-denominated bond placement, given the current situation on the financial market,” Alexei Grenkov, the head of Rusal’s corporate finance, said at the time.
Russia’s finance ministry is also considering issuing bonds in the Chinese yuan, Vedomosti business newspaper reported on August 23, citing a source close to the government. The process could take up to two years, the media outlet added.
Russia’s interest in yuan-denominated settlements comes as some Russian banks have been banned from SWIFT, the Belgium-based messaging service that lets banks around the world communicate about cross-border transactions.
Since Russia and China have been trying to establish alternatives to the US dollar hegemony for years, they are also taking this opportunity to boost the use of alternative payments systems at a time when trade between the two is growing. Russian exports to China rose 60% in August from a year ago, while Chinese shipments to Russia grew 27% in the same period, according to Reuters' calculations based on Chinese customs data.
Earlier this month, Russian state-energy giant Gazprom said it will begin taking rubles and yuan payments, instead of euros, for natural-gas exports to China.
- Russia ‘spent hundreds of millions’ to target politicians and political parties in Europe, says US Euro News
Well, good news, US! It didn’t work! Your billions spent in Europe to influence political parties won out - so much so that they’re sacrificing their own economies on your blood-soaked altar!
Gazprom Doubles Export Revenue Despite Delivering 43% Less Gas To Europe Oil Price
Russia to become China’s largest gas supplier – Gazprom RT
Russian businessman’s body found in latest mysterious death CNN
Russian businessman Ivan Pechorin, the top manager for the Corporation for the Development of the Far East and the Arctic, has been found dead in Vladivostok, the latest in a string of mysterious deaths among Russian executives.
“On September 12, 2022, it became known about the tragic death of our colleague, Ivan Pechorin, Managing Director for the Aviation Industry of the Corporation for the Development of the Far East and the Arctic,” reads a statement from the company published Monday.
- France Raises 2022 Growth Forecast on Consumption, New Jobs Bloomberg
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire raised this year’s economic-growth forecast to 2.7% from 2.5% as consumption and corporate investment hold up, and job creation remains dynamic.
Le Maire said Wednesday in an interview with France’s CNews television that he expected inflation to start slowing next year, probably before the summer.
“France isn’t entering a recession,” Le Maire said. “France has had a good year in 2022.”
The boost to this year’s forecast comes after the government on Tuesday cut its projection for gross domestic product in 2023, citing disruption to businesses from volatile energy prices after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the impact on households of stronger inflation and difficulties for France’s main trading partners.
The economy is now expected to expand only 1% next year instead of the 1.4% it forecast in July.
“We’re in a situation of very high inflation – this will last until the beginning of 2023,” Le Maire told CNews. “We anticipate that afterwards this will be absorbed and that inflation will decrease during the course of the year.”
- Germany Weighs Nationalizing Uniper as Energy Crisis Worsens Bloomberg
The German government may increase its stake in Uniper SE above 50% and is open to taking the historic step of fully nationalizing the country’s biggest gas importer to prevent a collapse of the energy system.
Dusseldorf-based Uniper needs more help from the state after already tapping into a support package that could be worth as much as 20 billion euros ($20 billion), according to people familiar with the matter. A surge in natural-gas prices and Russian supply cuts have triggered millions in daily losses, prompting the government to step in with a rescue package in July which included a 30% stake.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s administration is ready to inject more capital and increase its stake above the 50% threshold, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is confidential.
A full nationalization is also being discussed, and Uniper’s Finnish parent company Fortum Oyj would have a say in that decision, the person said. Talks with the Finnish government – Fortum’s majority owner – are ongoing, and Germany has said it isn’t willing to buy out the Finnish stake.
- How Millions Of ‘Cheap’ Electric Heaters Could Crush Germany’s Power Grid Oil Price
Maybe they ran out of firewood to buy. A few weeks after we reported that google searches for “firewood” exploded in Germany, ground zero of what is sure to be a very cold winter. The country whose electric grid will be crippled for the foreseeable future after Russia’s decision to halt nat gas supplies via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, is now facing another crisis. According to Reuters, Germans could overload their power grid as they switch to inefficient electric heaters in an attempt to avoid gas shortages this winter, utilities warned in an article published on Sunday.
Fearing the worst, German households have been stocking up on electric fan heaters, including portable devices, sales figures show, amid fears that Russia could cut or further limit gas supplies in the wake of its war in Ukraine.
The managing director of the German association of energy and water utilities, BDEW, told daily Handelsblatt that customers could be left with even heftier power bills if they do not use the devices sparingly.
“And they can overburden the power grids, for instance when many households switch on their fan heaters in one part of town at the same time on a cold winter’s night,” BDEW director Kerstin Andreae was quoted as saying. She said she understood people’s fears of cold homes, but some of the coping mechanisms could backfire.
Asia and Oceania
- US mulls China sanctions to ‘deter Taiwan invasion’ – Reuters RT
The US government is considering whether to impose additional sanctions on China to prevent an invasion of Taiwan, Reuters has reported.
The news agency noted that Taipei is lobbying in both the United States and Europe amid rising tensions between Beijing and the island.
The White House is “considering options for a sanctions package” on China due to fears among both Taiwanese and Western officials that Beijing is preparing to launch an “invasion” to reunify with the island by force, according to unnamed sources cited by Reuters.
Though the sources provided few details on the measures under consideration, they said Taiwan is pressing American and European officials to impose penalties, though both lobbying efforts are reportedly “at an early stage.”
China ‘actively considering’ sending high-level delegation to Queen Elizabeth’s funeral SCMP
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in Kazakhstan on first trip abroad since pandemic began SCMP
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Kazakhstan on Wednesday afternoon for a three-day visit to the Central Asian nation and neighbouring Uzbekistan, state news agency Xinhua said of his first trip outside China in more than 2½ years.
A statement from Kazakhstan’s Akorda presidential palace said the two were expected to sign bilateral agreements after discussing “prospects for strengthening the Kazakh-Chinese comprehensive strategic partnership”.
Xi is expected to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in the Uzbek city of Samarkand, which begins on Thursday. Leaders of the Beijing-led Eurasian bloc of eight countries are meeting to discuss political, economic and regional security cooperation.
- Global Coal Market Receives A Boost From India Oil Price
India’s energy sector will be needing an additional 28GW coal-fired power generation capacity by 2032.
These additions will be needed on top of the 25GW in thermal coal projects currently under construction.
Until now, the Indian Ministry of Coal has successfully auctioned 43 coal mines with a peak rate capacity of 85.54 mtpa.
- Lao Coffee Export Concerns Grow Amid a Global Rise in Prices Laotian Times
According to recent reports, Vietnam’s traditionally massive stockpile of coffee beans is dwindling, which is anticipated to increase global coffee prices.
Amid fluctuating commodity prices, difficult logistics, and changing regulations and tax rates, Laos faces a number of challenges in exporting its coffee. Yet, with the emergence of new transportation corridors, and potential supply shortfalls in neighboring Vietnam, there could be opportunities for market development and increased tax revenue to offset Laos’ fiscal concerns.
Even though the harvest season for Lao coffee will start between the end of this month and the beginning of next month, Lao coffee producers are now coming across issues that may hinder its exports this year.
- Record Number of Australians Run Multiple Jobs to Make Ends Meet Bloomberg
A record number of Australians were working multiple jobs in the three months through June, highlighting surging cost of living pressures as well as widespread labor shortages in the economy.
The number of people with multiple roles jumped 4.3% to 900,000 in the second quarter, Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed Wednesday. That was the highest rate since the quarterly series began in 1994 and was 0.5 percentage point above the pre-pandemic level.
The result comes ahead of employment data Thursday that economists predict will show Australia added 35,000 roles in August and unemployment held at a 48-year low of 3.4%. A tight labor market is among factors giving the Reserve Bank confidence to rapidly raise interest rates to tackle accelerating inflation.
“Cost-of-living pressures have likely created the need for some people to take on additional work to keep their heads above water,” said Callam Pickering, Asia-Pacific economist at global jobs site Indeed Inc. and a former RBA official, predicting the trend would persist.
Despite strong employment momentum in recent months, Australian wages are growing at less than half the pace of inflation, which came in at 6.1% in the second quarter. Working multiple jobs was more prevalent in traditionally low-paying industries like arts and recreation, agriculture, and accommodation and food services, the ABS data showed.
- Clash erupts between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan border guards Al Jazeera
Kyrgyz and Tajik border guards have exchanged fire after a dispute over the border between the two Central Asian nations, officials on both sides said.
The clash on Wednesday, which took place on the eve of a regional security body meeting and against the background of fighting between Russia and Ukraine as well as Azerbaijan and Armenia, started after Kyrgyz border guards accused the Tajiks of taking positions at a part of the border that has not been demarcated.
- Israel does not rule out military escalation with Hezbollah, says official MEMO
A senior Israeli military official said today that he does not rule out a military escalation with Lebanon’s Hezbollah in the absence of an agreement between Tel Aviv and Beirut on the maritime borders. Aharon Haliva made his comment at the 13th annual International Conference of the International Institutite for Counter-Terrorism, organised by Israel’s Reichman University.
- Lebanon: Central Bank stops fuel import subsidy MEMO
Lebanon’s Central Bank has said that it has stopped providing US dollars for petrol imports, Reuters has reported. The move has caused prices to soar and increased pressure on the local currency, which has been losing value steadily.
Although the bank had said last year that it would stop providing dollars at heavily-subsidised exchange rates due to dwindling foreign currency reserves, it continued to do so at a rate below market prices on its Sayrafa exchange platform.
A spokesperson for the bank said that fuel importers will now have to source US dollars from the black market, where the Lebanese currency was trading at around 35,000 pounds to the dollar on Monday. The Sayrafa rate sat at around 28,000 last week.
“If there is more volatility in the exchange rate there will be more volatility in the fuel price,” a member of the Association of Petroleum Importing Companies, Maroun Chammas, told Reuters.
- Egypt wheat reserves sufficient for 6 months, says minister MEMO
Egypt’s strategic wheat reserves are “sufficient” for 6.5 months, the Supply Minister Aly Moselhy announced yesterday.
His statement comes days after the conclusion of the country’s wheat production and supply season.
In September, Egypt said it had purchased a total of 4.2 million tonnes of wheat from local farmers.
According to official data, the North African country consumes some 22 million tonnes of wheat per annum, 13 million of which is imports from abroad. Experts say that Egypt’s wheat stock was experiencing shortages following the Russian-Ukrainian war.
Egypt, one of the world’s biggest wheat importers, has sought to diversify its suppliers since facing higher global prices and disruptions to purchases from the Black Sea after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
- Photos: Thousands continue anti-military coup protests in Sudan Al Jazeera
Thousands of Sudanese protesters have taken to the streets to demand a return to civilian rule following a military coup in the country last year.
Demonstrators at Tuesday’s rally in the capital Khartoum called for the military to “go back to the barracks”.
Sudan has been rocked by waves of demonstrations since the armed forces led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan grabbed power in October.
The takeover upended a transition to civilian rule that was launched after the 2019 removal of President Omar al-Bashir, following 30 years of authoritarianism.
- South Sudan Won’t Let OPEC+ Stand In Way Of Increasing Oil Output Oil Price
South Sudan has threatened to quit the OPEC group if it interferes with its ability to meet its ambitious oil production plans, first vice-president Riek Machar said on Tuesday.
Speaking at an industry conference on September 13, Machar said that South Sudan’s petroleum minister has had difficulties with OPEC+ over its crude oil targets. South Sudan has ambitious plans to increase crude oil production to 230,000 bpd by 2024.
South Sudan’s August production cap, agreed to by OPEC+, was significantly below that, at 130,000 bpd. Its actual production for August, however, came in at 160,000 bpd, according to Argus estimates.
“Our minister of petroleum has had issues with Opec over the increment of crude production but we shall instead quit the organisation if we are hindered from increasing oil production. Our target is to increase crude production right now and become an oil hub in the east African region and foster economic development for our people,” Marchar said at the industry event on Tuesday.
- U.S. Incomes Were Flat Last Year, Census Figures Show WSJ
Median household income was essentially unchanged last year on an inflation-adjusted basis from the previous year and was recorded as about $70,800, the U.S. Census Bureau said Tuesday in its annual report on the nation’s financial well-being.
The lack of any significant growth for 2021 follows a decrease in incomes recorded in 2020, the first year of the pandemic.
The 2021 report, which offers insight into how households fared during the pandemic’s second year, arrives ahead of a midterm election where inflation and the economy are expected to be top issues.
The Labor Department said in a separate report Tuesday that the consumer-price index, a measure of what consumers pay for goods and services, rose 8.3% in August from the same month a year earlier, down from 8.5% in July. Even amid signs of slowing, inflation remains close to a four-decade high.
- Flour Inflation in US Is Worst Ever as Bakers Squeezed by War Bloomberg
Six months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent wheat prices to a record, the cost for flour and prepared flour mixes is surging by the most ever, putting increasing pressure on already elevated inflation.
Consumer prices surged again in August, with both the core and headline figures topping forecasts, according to a Labor Department report Tuesday, despite relief at the gasoline pump. A primary culprit continues to be food. The cost of eating at home soared 13.5% from a year ago, the largest increase since March 1979.
Aside from just flour, spikes in bakery products like bread, muffins, cupcakes and cookies are also at historical highs. That’s exacerbating the pain for American consumers, who have been squeezed by soaring housing and medical costs, and could dampen demand for discretionary categories like holiday shopping.
Egg prices shot up almost 40% in August from a year ago — the biggest jump since 2007 — while fruits and vegetables increased 9.4%, and dairy and related products saw a 16.2% gain.
- Where the New Climate Law Means More Drilling, Not Less NYT
Oil and gas wells and drilling equipment are a persistent threat to the fishing industry in the Gulf. In addition to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, there have been dozens of less-noticed oil spills. Last month, on the first day of Louisiana’s inshore shrimp season, a tank platform collapsed, pouring 14,000 gallons into Terrebonne Bay and ruining the catch.
Now, more drilling may be on the way.
Under a new climate and tax law, the federal government will lease hundreds of millions more acres for offshore drilling in the Gulf in the next decade, even as it invests $370 billion to move the country away from fossil fuels and develop wind, solar and other renewable energy.
More Gulf leasing was among the concessions that Democrats and President Biden made to Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a Democrat who champions fossil fuels and whose vote for the legislation was crucial in the evenly divided Senate.
It came despite Mr. Biden’s promise as a candidate to end new drilling on public land and in federal waters “period, period, period.” And it came even though Deb Haaland, who will oversee the leasing as the interior secretary, said as a congresswoman in 2020 that “we need to act fast to counteract climate change and keep fossil fuels in the ground.”
- Inflation’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day Bloomberg
How bad was the August US inflation report? Let me count the ways. It’s a while since a macroeconomic release has come as such a nasty surprise, but on balance the extremely negative market reaction to the numbers was justified; they’re awful.
The headline inflation rate fell very slightly, as had been made more or less inevitable by falling oil prices. But a range of underlying inflation measures actually increased to fresh multi-decade highs. This is far more important to the Federal Reserve, which has limited power to affect oil prices, and also to the rest of us.
In another sad echo of the “transitory” debate, the Bureau of Labor Statistics last year started publishing a measure of CPI excluding food, shelter, energy and used cars and trucks. This combination left a basket of goods that few people would find settled all their needs, but it had the virtue of leaving out more or less everything that seemed to be transitory and that people wanted to exclude. Sadly, even this Stepford measure of inflation has hit a new high. This is not at all about just gas prices or used cars, despite the hopes of last year […]
“Expectation is the root of all heartache.” So the great poet William Shakespeare is supposed to have said — although there’s no evidence that he ever actually did. But it certainly played out in American markets Tuesday, which saw US stocks fall in a broad-based selloff after the CPI announcement. Overconfidence leading into the day created the biggest selloff in more than two years […]
Across the board, selling sent the S&P 500 down more than 4.3% to its worst day since June 2020, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 losses reached 5% with the big mega-cap technology names taking the biggest hit. Two-year yields rallied the most in more than a month, while the euro’s brief rebound against the dollar wavered.
“The biggest selloffs always come when expectations and reality collide,” Victoria Greene, founding partner and chief investment officer at G Squared Private Wealth, said. “Not unexpected with the inflation print we got. Expectations of falling inflation were very strong, so an uptick in August was a nasty surprise to investors that had bought into the ‘peak inflation is behind us’ narrative.”
Bridgewater’s co-chief investor says the US is at the center of a global financial bubble - and warns a crushing recession is on the cards Business Insider
Stocks tumble in worst day since June 2020 CNN
- Chinese Manufacturers Get Around US Tariffs With Some Help From Mexico Bloomberg
When César Santos was growing up in the 1960s, he spent his weekends surrounded by horses and cattle on his father’s ranch outside Monterrey, Mexico. Today, a red monolith emblazoned with the words “Hofusan Industrial Park” announces that the patch of dusty wasteland has a new purpose.
Located in a prime spot between Mexico’s industrial capital and the US border, Hofusan has become a haven for Chinese manufacturers looking to sidestep US tariffs and shorten supply chains that have been strained to a breaking point during the pandemic. The 11 plants and warehouses on the 850-hectare (2,100-acre) estate are part of the latest chapter in Chinese capitalism: The country dubbed the world’s factory now also exports white-collar managers to set up and run operations in places such as Vietnam, Thailand, and Mexico.
Three years ago there was just one building on the site. Today, 10 Chinese companies have plants there and three more are being built, say the park’s officials, who expect to have 35 businesses within two years. They predict there will eventually be 15,000 people working at Hofusan—about 10% of whom would be Chinese managers—and plan to build restaurants to cater to them as well as homes to house them. There’s already “more than $1 billion in investments here,” says Santos, sheltering in a glass office from the blazing heat and din of construction.
Proximity to the world’s biggest consumer market isn’t Mexico’s only selling point. Thanks to the country’s free trade pact with the US and Canada, a chair made at Kuka’s factory in Hofusan can travel across the border duty-free, whereas one shipped to the US from China would be hit with a 25% tariff, according to Huang.
Chinese investment in Mexico jumped from $154 million in 2016 to $271 million the following year, when Donald Trump took office threatening a trade war. The pandemic’s supply-chain snarls and the angst caused by Chinese President Xi Jinping’s tech crackdown have catapulted yet more Chinese companies across the Pacific, with investment in Mexico hitting just under $500 million last year.
“China’s looking to service the world, and not all of it is going to happen from China itself because of a lot of these tensions,” says Shannon K. O’Neil, author of the forthcoming The Globalization Myth: Why Regions Matter and a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion. “So, Chinese companies setting up in Mexico is part of this process of shifts in globalization.”
- Mountain glacier in Chile’s Patagonia collapses amid high temperatures Inquirer
Higher temperatures and rainfall that weaken ice walls caused part of a hanging glacier to break off at a national park in Chile’s Patagonia region in an event captured on video by tourists.
In a video that went viral Monday, a glacier that sits atop a mountain about 200 meters (656 feet) high rumbled and broke off at Queulat National Park, located more than 1,200 kilometers(746 miles) south of Chile’s capital.
Detachments between masses of ice are normal, says University of Santiago climate scientist Raul Cordero, but he noted that the frequency of these events is troubling.
“Because this type of event is triggered by heat waves or by intense liquid precipitation events and both things are also happening more and more frequently throughout the planet, not only in Chile,” Cordero said.
- Venezuela: Guarantor of Colombia’s Peace Process With ELN TeleSUR
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accepted on Tuesday the request of his Colombian counterpart, Gustavo Petro, to be a guarantor in the peace process with the National Liberation Army (ELN) to be held in Cuba.
“Once again, President Gustavo Petro and Colombia, we say Venezuela accepts the character of guarantor of the negotiations and peace agreements of Colombia with the ELN, and we will put our best will in the name of God almighty father for the total peace of Colombia,” the president said in a speech.
- Venezuela Successfully Deploys Polyvalent Vaccination Campaign TeleSUR
On Monday, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) praised the work that Venezuela is doing to increase immunization coverage against measles, rubella, and polio through a national vaccination campaign.
“The campaign seeks to preserve the achievements made against polio in 1989 and against rubella in 2007, as well as to reverify the elimination of measles,” the PAHO said, adding that these actions allow “to continue protecting all boys and girls in Venezuela.”
Venezuela began this multipurpose campaign in June with the technical support from PAHO, which donated 38 million syringes, 4.4 million polio vaccines, and 3.8 million meals.
Currently, the Bolivarian health ministry is carrying out the childhood vaccination campaign simultaneously with the COVID-19 vaccination program.
- US Southern Command Gen. Laura Richardson Visits Ecuador TeleSUR
On Tuesday, Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso met Gen. Laura Richardson, the commander of U.S. Southern Command (SouthCom). She arrived in Quito on Monday to participate this week in the Regional Defense Conference (SouthDec).
“The meeting was an excellent opportunity to articulate actions of cooperation and technical exchange in matters of national and citizen security,” the office of the Ecuadorian presidency said without offering further details about the encounter.
- Putin’s invasion of Ukraine threw energy prices into chaos. Now the price of a key metal is surging Fortune
They’re talking about uranium. Clickbait, man, I swear.
Nuclear power is having something of a moment right now.
After years of being called too expensive and too dangerous, a mounting energy crisis kickstarted by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is forcing countries to reconsider their plans to rid themselves of nuclear energy. Even nations like Japan, that were previously leading the charge to reduce nuclear energy use, have reneged on their prior commitments to phasing out nuclear energy.
In a clear sign that nuclear energy could be on the rise, the price for uranium—the critical metal that fuels nuclear reactors—is soaring, and analysts don’t expect it to come back down to Earth any time soon.
The price of yellowcake—a powdery material obtained from milling uranium ore which is then used for nuclear fuel production—is now $52 a pound, a 24% increase from the beginning of the year, and one of its highest price points in a decade, according to data from nuclear fuel market research firm UxC.
Investors have been bullish on nuclear’s prospects and uranium this year. Last month, Bank of America strategists forecasted uranium prices to hit $70 a pound next year, citing rising demand and tight uranium supply.
The soaring prices—and strong performances from nuclear industry stocks over the past several months—suggest that the rally may be far from over, and reveal just how wide-reaching the impact of Putin’s energy crisis is.
“There is a very clear push for expanding nuclear power now in many markets, and the supply side needs to react to that,” Jonathan Hinze, president of UxC, told Fortune.
The Ukraine War
Russia is holding the river that runs north-south near Kharkiv’s eastern border and Ukraine has been unable to penetrate it. Ukraine has been throwing troops at Liman, which is in the DPR but near the border of Kharkiv, with little success. Russian troops are slowly but steadily taking control of Bakhmut, on the DPR front lines, which could have a similar importance as Popasna did in ultimately liberating the LPR (though, again, it will likely take a few months - Russia doesn’t do blitzkriegs.) Ukraine is building up forces on the Zaporozhye front; Russia clearly knows about it and has for some time, but the plan is not yet known. Retreat? (there are no rivers to hide behind, really) Hold the line? Start carpet bombing it before it advances? Your guess is as good as mine. The Kherson counteroffensive remains a disaster for Ukraine, though they still haven’t stopped trying.
- Putin and Macron trade blame over Ukraine nuclear plant security EU Reporter
Climate, Space, and Science
- Where Thick Ice Sheets in Antarctica Meet the Ground, Small Changes Could Have Big Consequences Inside Climate News
Scientists studying the physics and thermodynamics of Antarctica’s ice sheets say they’ve discovered a potential new weak spot that could accelerate melting and sea level rise over the next several hundred years.
The international team of researchers modeled how the giant slabs of ice behave where they meet the ground, sometimes thousands of feet below the surface, and the results suggested that just a little bit of thawing could make the region a big new source of sea level rise, said Eliza Dawson, a Ph.D. candidate at Stanford’s radio glaciology lab who led the study published today in Nature Communications.
There’s very little research on what happens at the bottom of the ice in the remote region, but clear signs in ancient climate records that there can be big changes in that basal state over the span of a few centuries, she said, adding that it’s important to understand that there are important differences within the various ice fields.
Fast-flowing glaciers reaching the sea have been studied, she said, “but in between, there are frozen patches, sometimes separating them and interweaving them. And no one has really looked at what if some of those frozen patches thaw, and how that could affect the total mass loss,” she added.
- Research Shows That Renewable Jobs Can Replace Those From Coal Forbes
Last year I looked at the potential for renewables, such as solar, to drive the next, clean industrial revolution. As we transition to a cleaner and more sustainable world, there are understandable concerns about communities that are already struggling with post-industrial decline.
A recent study from the University of Michigan suggests that those jobs can successfully transition towards roles in wind and solar. This is significant, as the researchers highlight that in 2019, coal-fired generators still employed around 80,000 workers across the United States in 250 different plants. The researchers wanted to explore the feasibility of those jobs transitioning to clean energy jobs in each location.
“According to the EY Europe Attractiveness Survey published in May this year, cleantech and renewables ranked just behind the digital economy as a driver of Europe’s growth in the coming years,” says Julie Linn Teigland, EY EMEIA Area Managing Partner. “But this will not happen without major investment in skills development. Business leaders responding to the survey also cited the presence of a workforce with the right skills and competencies to facilitate sustainability projects as the leading factor when choosing a country to invest in.”
The Michigan researchers found that this transition was generally possible, albeit with the new jobs being located within a 50-mile radius of the existing coal plant. Doing this will increase the costs of the energy transition, however, and the researchers suggest a figure of around $83 billion is likely. They believe that such a cost is manageable, however, and will pay off in the long term.
“These costs are significant in isolation but are small relative to annual U.S. power investments of $70 billion and to the total costs of transitioning the U.S. energy system away from fossil fuels, which have been estimated to be as high as $900 billion by 2030,” the researchers explain.
- Africa: Why China, African Nations Are Cooperating in Space All Africa
China and African nations are increasingly collaborating in space to develop their own ambitions in the next frontier analysts say.
Chinese astronauts known as taikonauts have been playing a role in space diplomacy while on a six-month mission on the Tiangong space station currently under construction.
Just last week, three taikonauts spoke to students from eight African countries via video link during an event hosted by the China Mission to the African Union.
“This event is a reflection of the ongoing collaboration between China and African countries. The space industry in Africa is growing at an incredible rate, hence countries and regions like China, Europe, Russia and the U.S. are beginning to compete for a stake in the industry,” Temidayo Oniosun, a Nigerian space scientist and managing director of the website ‘Space in Africa,’ told VOA.
A young Ethiopian wanted to know what astronauts eat in space and how they shower. A Somali student wanted to know about the future of space tourism and a female student from Egypt wanted to know whether it’s difficult for women to become astronauts.
The three taikonauts answered the questions in detail, showing them the food they eat in orbit, including “delicious purple rice porridge, tasty sautéed sweet corn with pine nuts, and sautéed diced beef in black pepper sauce,” and explained that because of zero-gravity it’s impossible to take a shower in space.
The event was not only a show of soft power on Beijing’s part, but also indicates the importance China is placing on the role Africa can help it play in the global space race, experts said.
- China’s top weapons scientist says nuclear fusion power is 6 years away SCMP
The Chinese government has approved construction of the world’s largest pulsed-power plant with plans to generate nuclear fusion energy by 2028, according to the top nuclear weapons scientist leading the project.
“Fusion ignition is the jewel in the crown of science and technology in today’s world,” said Peng Xianjue, a professor with the Chinese Academy of Engineering Physics, in an online meeting organised by Beijing-based think tank Techxcope on September 9.
“Being the world’s first to achieve energy-scale fusion energy release will lay the most important milestone in the road to fusion energy for human beings.”
Peng, 81, has developed some of China’s most advanced small nuclear warheads and served as a top adviser to the country’s nuclear weapons programme, according to openly available information.
The Z-pinch machine – which replicates the fusion reactions of a thermonuclear bomb through magnetic pressure created by an extremely strong electric pulse – is expected to be completed around 2025 in Chengdu the capital of the southwestern province of Sichuan.
The machine will produce 50 million amperes of electricity – about twice as much as the record-holding Z pulsed power facility, a similar device at the Sandia National Laboratory in the US, Peng said.
Nuclear powers like the US, Russia and China have built a number of Z-pinch machines over the past few decades – some of which have never been officially disclosed – to simulate the extreme conditions needed to develop atomic weapons.
These facilities can store a huge amount of electricity and release it in just a few nanoseconds. The electric pulse can create extreme pressure and enough radiation for two lightweight atoms to “fuse” into a heavier one, and give up some mass in the form of energy.
But building a machine that can produce more fusion power output than input is extremely difficult and so far, no country has been successful.
According to Peng’s presentation, the Chinese researchers will try to create a nuclear fusion reaction by using the strong electric charge to ignite a small number of the hydrogen isotopes deuterium and tritium.
By carefully controlling the process, they hope to be able to cap the pulse energy released to a few hundred million joules – about as powerful as a 20kg (44lbs) bag of TNT.
And in a departure from previous designs, the fusion energy produced by the Chinese facility will not go to the power grid, but drive a swamp of superfast particles to hit uranium – the fuel which will power the facility’s fission component.
In his conference presentation, Peng said this inclusion of fusion and fission reactors is responsible for the Chinese design’s designation as Z-FFR.
The intention is for the walls of the fusion ignition chamber to be filled with uranium which will absorb the flying neurons produced by the explosion, causing it to split into two lighter elements – the same process used in existing nuclear power facilities.
The uranium fission will increase the facility’s total heat output by 10 to 20 times, significantly accelerating the application of fusion energy and making it ready for commercial power production by 2035, according to an estimate by Peng’s team.
If China’s machine is to succeed, it will need many high-performance capacitors to store the electricity and laser-powered switches that can operate instantly without causing a shortage.
Other challenges include special wires able to transmit the strongest electric currents on Earth, and a peanut-sized target device to efficiently convert electricity to an ignition charge.
Peng said many of these problems had been solved, thanks to new scientific discoveries and technical breakthroughs by Chinese nuclear scientists in recent years. And some of their approaches are fundamentally different from what has been tried in the West.
The researchers said the future power plant could use natural uranium ore, the nuclear waste produced by today’s reactors, or thorium, which could meet energy demand for thousands – or even tens of thousands – of years while producing little radioactive waste.
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.
Why is Vladimir Putin so obsessed with Ukraine? Guardian
Russia Forced to Import North Korean Military Kit, Ministry of Defence Says Bloomberg
Ukrainian counter-offensive ‘is not finished yet’ – Petro Poroshenko Euro News
Zelensky visits reclaimed Izyum; Biden warns of ‘long haul’ WaPo
In liberated Ukraine town, locals sob with relief, relate harrowing accounts Inquirer
An Unarmed Putin Wants a Culture War With the West Bloomberg
Ukraine Takes the Offensive WSJ
The curtain protecting the dignity of Russia’s military has been pulled back CNN
Ukraine aspires to free all Russian-occupied land after days of military success Inquirer
A Hundred Wrecked Tanks In A Hundred Hours: Ukraine Guts Russia’s Best Tank Army Forbes
Opinion: Putin is fooling no one – certainly not Xi CNN
In Reclaimed Towns, Ukrainians Recount a Frantic Russian Retreat NYT
Ukraine’s Achievement Is Biden’s, Too NYT
Rapid loss of territory in Ukraine reveals spent Russian military WaPo
Ukraine reclaims more territory from Russia in counteroffensive Al Jazeera
Ukraine to Germany: Send armored vehicles to keep pressure on Russia WaPo
Former US general says he is ‘even more concerned’ about Putin using nukes as Ukraine makes astonishing progress in its counteroffensive Business Insider
Putin has been embarrassed in Ukraine. So have his Western apologists. WaPo
Balakliia residents take stock after Ukraine recaptures frontline town Guardian
Kremlin under pressure from hawks after Ukrainian successes Iraqi News
What are Vladimir Putin’s options after Russian military setback in Ukraine? Reuters
CNN reporter: Russians appear to be ‘stunned’ in wake of Ukraine’s counteroffensive CNN
As Europe tilts right, Putin is heartened WaPo
Putin, tone deaf and isolated, pursues war ‘goals’ and refuses to lose WaPo
Ukraine Vows To Recapture All Territory From Russia As It Urges West To Step Up Weapons Supply Forbes
Ukraine’s advances pose question for world: can Kyiv actually win? Guardian
Putin’s Kharkiv disaster is his biggest challenge yet. It has left him with few options CNN
This is what Chevron’s CEO thinks about climate change CNN
The G7’s price cap on Russian oil begins to take shape Reuters
For when people accept reality, though often not fully and not for very long.
- Russia’s retreat in Ukraine won’t save Europe from recession this winter CNN
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.
- Redefining Antisemitism to Protect Israel From Scrutiny Won’t Make Jews Safer Jacobin
Over the past few years, antisemitism has become one of the most controversial political topics on both sides of the Atlantic. From Jeremy Corbyn to Rashida Tlaib and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, left-wing politicians have faced grave accusations of stoking up prejudice against Jewish people and communities. Yet some of those making such accusations have been willing to embrace figures like Donald Trump and the Hungarian leader Viktor Orbán, despite their record of promoting conspiracy theories about the Jewish philanthropist George Soros that are ominously similar to classic antisemitic themes.
Underlying this controversy is a bitter argument about the term antisemitism itself. The protagonists of the debate do not simply disagree about whether a particular charge of antisemitism is justified or not: there is no shared understanding of what evidence might justify that charge. One especially fraught question is whether and when criticism of Israel should be considered antisemitic.
Antony Lerman has stepped into this debate with his book Whatever Happened to Antisemitism? Redefinition and the Myth of the Collective Jew. Lerman, whose integrity and commitment to the truth, however uncomfortable, is long established, brings a valuable perspective to the table, informed by the author’s years of research into the Jewish communities of the world. The main target of his criticism is the concept of the “new antisemitism.”
This is a definition of anti-Jewish racism that Jewish establishments in Israel and the diaspora have aggressively imposed as an orthodoxy over the past two decades. However, it has been equally strongly resisted by progressive Jewish activists and scholars. The “Working Definition of Antisemitism” that the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) promotes has become a major flashpoint for these debates.
- Degrowth is the only path to a sustainable future Canadian Dimension
There is no time left. Entire regions of the Earth’s surface bake at regular intervals, killing thousands in brutal and now-routine heat waves. The immolation of incomprehensibly large swathes of woodland is going on, somewhere, right now. Climate refugees are already a reality, as the floods in Pakistan demonstrate. The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change asserts that “any further delay in concerted anticipatory global action on adaptation and mitigation will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.”
Humanity has already surpassed four of the nine planetary boundaries established by the Stockholm Resilience Centre: climate change, biodiversity, land-system change, and biogeochemical flows (nitrogen and phosphorus imbalance). The United States and Europe are primarily responsible for this.
Overall, the countries of the Global North account for 92 percent of carbon dioxide emissions since 1850. The US makes up 40 percent of this total, and Europe 29 percent. We also see this disparity illustrated in quantifications of resource use: on average, the amount of resources used by North Americans is 1.5 times larger than that of Europeans, and seven times larger than that of Africans.
It is incumbent upon us as a species, especially us in the Global North, to seriously consider alternative futures from an anti-capitalist, dialectical, ecological point-of-view. This will unavoidably entail challenging the ideology of growth that pervades the political institutions of Northern countries.
Dialectics is, in Engels’ words, “the science of universal interconnections.” Economic matters germinate in, arise from, and change within what Marx recognized as “a metabolism prescribed by the natural laws of life itself,” but in capitalist societies, dominant models of economic growth lack any real consideration of the limitations of Earth’s resources. Additionally, growth-obsessed capitalists have managed to successfully correlate economic growth with human development, standard of living with quality of life, and GDP with social well-being in the minds of many (Simon Kuznets, who designed the GDP indicator, himself stated that his model should not be taken as a representation of social well-being in a given country).
As Alberto Garzón Espinosa demonstrated in a recent article for Monthly Review, economic models and policy proposals workshopped by almost all governments around the world totally ignore the dialectical relationship between economic organization and the finitude of natural resources. Espinoza explains:
“[T]here is absolutely no vision of the social metabolism, which entails starting from a worldview where the economy is seen as a subsystem of the biosphere and not the other way around. This lack, wholly illegitimate in our times, relates to the physical aspects of the economic process, the use of energy and natural resources, and the ecological pressures and impacts of the production process.”
“Growth for growth’s sake” remains the stubborn motto of an increasingly beleaguered global capitalist system. From the headquarters of the capitalist behemoth, the slogan strikes a more jingoist tone: “The American way of life is not up for negotiation. Period.”
While this is a fitting encapsulation of the US ruling class’s stance on meaningful economic progress generally, it was actually said by George H.W. Bush at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro—the same summit where Fidel Castro asserted that “an important biological species is in danger of disappearing with the rapid and progressive destruction of its life-sustaining conditions: man.”
Fidel Castro’s remarkably prescient speech at the Rio Earth Summit remains crucial to this day, not only because of its foregrounding of the ecological crisis at a time when leaders in the US, Canada, and Western Europe were too preoccupied with tearing the meat from the bones of the Soviet Union to give a damn. The speech is also important because it emphasizes the fact that responsibility for the environmental degradation of the Earth is not distributed evenly across the globe. Castro’s words are worth quoting at length:
“It must be said that consumer societies are chiefly responsible for this appalling environmental destruction. With only 20 percent of the world’s population, they consume two thirds of all metals and three fourths of the energy produced worldwide. They have poisoned the seas and the rivers. They have polluted the air. They have weakened and perforated the ozone layer. They have saturated the atmosphere with gases, altering climatic conditions with the catastrophic effects we are already beginning to suffer. The forests are disappearing. The deserts are expanding. Billions of tons of fertile soil are washed every year into the sea. Numerous species are becoming extinct. Population pressures and poverty lead to desperate efforts to survive, even at the expense of nature. Unequal trade, protectionism and the foreign debt assault the ecological balance and promote the destruction of the environment. If we want to save humanity from this self-destruction, wealth and available technologies must be distributed better throughout the planet. Less luxury and less waste in a few countries would mean less poverty and hunger in much of the world.”
Washington’s response? “The American way of life is not up for negotiation.”
It is hard to imagine a more confoundingly arrogant statement. It carries the sound of Nero’s fiddle playing with a backing band of flames and crumbling infrastructure. And it has an obvious subtext: “You can all die in the floods and the droughts and the heat waves, we’ll happily die in our beds, AC blasting, munching snacks and sipping soda, the TV turned up so loud we can’t hear your screams.”
Without using today’s lefty parlance, Castro clearly drew a division between not only the states of the Global North and South, but the consumption habits of their societies. It is worth noting that Castro isn’t just blowing hot air. In 2006, the World Wildlife Fund named Cuba the only country in the world to have reached a condition of sustainable development, meaning that the rise of Cubans’ human development indicators is no longer accompanied by a rising ecological footprint.
It is thus demonstrably possible to decouple human development from consumption—although Cuba is admittedly an extreme example given that the US economic blockade has made unsustainable consumption an impossibility in that country, especially since the early 1990s. But if, as this data seems to indicate, human beings are able to separate development from consumption, shouldn’t it also be possible to separate development from the ideology of growth? And shouldn’t we make this change now, given that our ability to organize and prepare for the continued effects of environmental catastrophe shrink more and more each year?
Working-class people appear to be far ahead of their rulers in this regard. In his book Less is More, economist Jason Hickel explains that “when people have to choose between environmental protection and growth, ‘environmental protection is prioritised in most surveys and countries.’” Up to 70 percent of people in the European Union and the United States agree that environmental protection should not be sacrificed for growth.
Polls are imperfect, as authors Paul Murphy and Jess Spear point out: they are “snapshots of people’s ideas and mood, and are undoubtedly affected by the state of the economy when the poll is taken.”
“But, still,” they add, “it shows that people can be convinced.”
Bloomerism and Hope
For events that show that a better, more equitable, and happier world is possible than the neoliberal hell we inhabit.
- China Is Running Covert Operations That Could Seriously Overwhelm Us NYT
It’s kind of a dipshittery article but it’s also nice to know that there is some panic about China’s intelligence capabilities in the West.
In my three-decade career with Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, China was never seen as a major threat.
If we lost sleep at night, it was over more immediate challenges such as Soviet expansionism and transnational terrorism. China’s halting emergence from the chaotic Mao Zedong era and its international isolation after Chinese soldiers crushed pro-democracy demonstrations at Tiananmen Square in 1989 made it seem like an insular backwater.
It’s a different picture today. China has acquired global economic and diplomatic influence, enabling covert operations that extend well beyond traditional intelligence gathering, are growing in scale and threaten to overwhelm Western security agencies.
The U.S. and British intelligence chiefs — the F.B.I. director, Christopher Wray, and the MI5 director general, Ken McCallum — signaled rising concern over this with an unprecedented joint news conference in July to warn of, as Mr. Wray put it, a “breathtaking” Chinese effort to steal technology and economic intelligence and to influence foreign politics in Beijing’s favor. The pace was quickening, they said, with the number of MI5 investigations into suspected Chinese activity having increased sevenfold since 2018.
The culture of the Chinese Communist Party has always had a clandestine nature. But as the party has become an even more dominant force in China since President Xi Jinping took power a decade ago, this has metastasized in state institutions. China can best be described as an intelligence state. The party views the business of acquiring and protecting secrets as an all-of-nation undertaking, to the point that rewards are offered to citizens for identifying possible spies and even schoolchildren are taught to recognize threats.
The West cannot fight fire with fire. Mobilizing government, society and economic and academic systems around competition with foreign foes the way China does would betray Western values. But leaders of democracies need to internalize the sea change that has taken place in China and ensure that engagement with Beijing is tempered by a hardheaded sense of reality.
The last state intelligence threat of comparable magnitude was posed by the Soviets. But the Soviet Union was isolated and impoverished. China’s successful economy, on the other hand, is a key engine of global growth, vastly increasing Beijing’s reach.
Barely visible on the world stage 30 years ago, China’s intelligence agencies are now powerful and well resourced. They are adept at exploiting the vulnerabilities of open societies and growing dependence on China’s economy to collect vast volumes of intelligence and data. Much of this takes place in the cyber domain, such as the 2015 hack of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, in which sensitive data on millions of federal employees was stolen. Chinese intelligence operatives also are present in state-owned enterprises, state media organizations and embassies and consulates. China’s consulate in Houston was closed by the Trump administration in 2020 after it served as a national hub for collecting high-tech intelligence.
But Chinese covert operations don’t stop there.
China’s Intelligence Law which was enacted in 2017 required its citizens to assist intelligence agencies. But this legislation simply formalized a situation that had already been the norm. The wider China challenge comes from organizations and actors engaged in activities that may not conform to normal concepts of espionage.
Much of this is organized by the United Front Work Department, a party organization that seeks to co-opt well-placed members of Chinese diaspora communities — and whose scope has been expanded under Mr. Xi. China also endeavors to entice other Western citizens. A textbook case, exposed this year, involved a British politician whose office received substantial funding from an ethnic Chinese lawyer who thereby gained access to the British political establishment. One Chinese approach is to patiently cultivate relationships with politicians at the city or community level who show potential to rise to even higher office. Another is known as elite capture, in which influential Western corporate or government figures are offered lucrative sinecures or business opportunities in return for advocating policies that jibe with Chinese interests.
For China, this work is about survival. Technology and business intelligence must be acquired to keep China’s economy growing fast enough to prevent social instability. Mr. Xi has stressed the need to adopt “asymmetrical” means to catch up to the West technologically.