- Europe’s Wartime Economy Will Last Beyond the Winter Bloomberg
The European “way of life” has always been a vague concept, but — after Covid-19 — it chimed with a new generation looking for la dolce vita.
Citigroup Inc. is one unlikely poster child. At its new office in Malaga, Spain, junior bankers can expect to be paid half the salary of their London peers — $100,000, reportedly — in exchange for the chance to live continentally. More traditional working hours, the Mediterranean, a lower cost of living and longer life expectancy — the kind of soft power Europe wants to be known for.
That’s the dream, anyway. But the economic reality facing Europe as Russia steps up its war in Ukraine looks very different. A multiyear shock to living standards looms large across countries such as Spain, Italy, France and especially Germany, as real wages fall faster than for their counterparts in the US, where life will look sweeter. Europeans will have to contend with less energy, less output, less disposable income, more inflation and higher import costs. Social unrest is a real risk.
As Europe scrambles to unpick a German-led dependency on cheap Russian gas, hope is fading that the economic pain will be over by spring. Despite an admirable effort to fight Vladimir Putin’s gas shutoffs by building up reserves for the winter, most of that could be depleted by March. High energy prices and scarce supply will linger. Economists at Deutsche Bank AG and Barclays Plc respectively forecast a euro-area economic contraction of 2.2% and 1.1% next year.
Europe’s track record on containing inequality also faces a big test. Energy and food account for a much bigger share of spending for the bottom 20% than the top 20%. European governments have earmarked an estimated 500 billion euros ($496 billion) to cushion the impact of higher prices on consumers and businesses, according to think tank Bruegel, but that figure might just be the start. The UK, whose Brexit headaches hurt trade openness even before tanks rolled into Donetsk, will also have to spend big to protect its population.
Hence why some European firms now dream of an American quality of life. The US’s stable gas prices and government support for manufacturers have seen firms such as Volkswagen AG shift production there, while Tesla Inc. pauses German investment plans, according to the Wall Street Journal. Soaring energy costs have seen one in 10 German companies cut or interrupt production, according to one industry-association survey. This will ripple through trade partners’ supply chains inside and outside Europe, including in China — another place where the EU is reducing its dependency.
Sure, the US has seen inflation rise, but it also has the advantage of being a net energy exporter; two-thirds of its LNG exports through June went to Europe. The tumbling euro and pound show how Europe’s import bills are rising, from pricier energy to Apple Inc.’s price hikes. As French President Emmanuel Macron gravely tells his people that the age of “abundance” is over, Americans are spending more as gas prices fall. Those who make it to Paris have found luxury distinctly more affordable.
As apocalyptic as this sounds, the EU has endured recessions before. There’s still hope that governments will realize the best way of defending their citizens is through unity, by sharing energy and financial resources in a similar way to Covid.
But getting there will be tortuous. Governments around the world loaded up on debt during the pandemic, supported by loose monetary conditions that are now tightening fast. Even countries that avoided Germany’s energy errors — such as France with nuclear or Spain with renewables — are contending with their own issues of underinvestment and high debt piles. Rekindling solidarity will be hard.
There are worse places to be than Malaga in a crisis like this . But Europe’s soft-power advantage will likely be less about quality of life and more about building coalitions abroad and managing a wartime economy at home. Whatever the weather, Europe’s dolce vita is about to become a lot less sweet.
In a similar vein:
Europe’s Energy Crisis Will Not Be “A One Winter Story” Oil Price
EU Flip-Flop on Russian Coal Sanctions Brings Doubts for Oil Bloomberg
A U-turn by the European Union that’s allowing Russian coal to move more freely has led to uncertainty in insurance and shipping markets about whether a key part of the bloc’s oil sanctions could also be watered down.
The EU published new guidance this week saying that the transfer of coal and fertilizer to countries outside the bloc is now allowed, citing energy security concerns. That followed an intervention in August that surprised insurers and shipwowners because it had indicated a full prohibition on Russian coal shipments.
The coal pivot could be important for for oil because the bloc has imposed similar measures for crude and fuels that don’t enter into force until December and February respectively. The US is alarmed that Europe’s steps – including a ban on providing insurance that’s central to trade – could drive up oil prices. It is trying to get G-7 nations to support a Russian oil price cap to give companies access to those key services.
“If they go about the oil sanctions and price cap in the same way, it would be quite difficult for industry,” Mike Salthouse, global claims director at The North of England P&I Association Ltd., said of the shift on coal. “The point about effective sanctions, ones that everyone understands and can comply with, is that they have to be consistent and clear. The position that the EU has adopted on coal and fertilizer has been anything but that.”
Salthouse is also chair of the sanctions committee of the International Group of P&I Clubs, whose member organizations cover 95% of the world’s tankers against risks including oil spills.
The shift on coal has created wider uncertainty for vessel owners and their insurers, according to Salthouse.
“You’re still in the back of your mind saying saying: ‘this time last week they made it clear it was unlawful and could do the same in a week’s time’,” he said.
When it made its adjustment on coal, the European Commission did stipulate that “EU operators remain, however, forbidden from insuring and financing the transport, in particular through maritime routes, of oil to third countries.”
- Ukraine Donates 50,000 MT Wheat to Ethiopia, Somalia All Africa
Ukraine’s Cabinet Ministry announced that Ukraine will reimburse Ethiopia and Somalia for $11.4 million worth of wheat.
In his speech at the General Debate of the 77th session of the UN, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy, stated that despite all the difficulties caused by the war, Ukraine decided to provide humanitarian aid to Ethiopia and will send an additional amount of Ukrainian wheat for Ethiopian people.
“Despite its own suffering in the face of Russia’s brutal invasion, Ukraine has donated 30,000 metric tons of grain through the World Food Program (WFP) to alleviate Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis and funded another 50,000 metric tons of grain for Ethiopia and Somalia,” Secretary Antony Blinken tweeted.
On 17 September, Ukraine’s infrastructure ministry said a ship carrying 30,000 metric tons of grain departed for Ethiopia from Odesa Oblast via the UN-backed grain corridor. “The vessel is headed for Ethiopia. According to UN estimates, Ethiopia is on the verge of a food crisis,” the ministry said in a statement.
- Swiss bank UBP returns to Chinese markets Inquirer
Swiss private bank Union Bancaire Privée (UBP) is back in Chinese markets, its chief investment officer said, making its way back to the world’s second-largest economy after withdrawing last year.
UBP has more than $150 billion of assets. It returned to China in August after having exited all positions in mainland equities and credit in the third quarter of 2021, Norman Villamin, CIO of wealth management, told Reuters.
- Swiss to vote in national poll on banning factory farming Guardian
Swiss voters will vote on Sunday on whether to ban factory farming as unconstitutional and end imports of intensively farmed meat.
The latest polling shows 52% of voters oppose a ban, and 47% support one. If the factory-farming ballot initiative is passed, Switzerland’s constitution, which already protects the “welfare and dignity of animals”, would be modified to include an animal’s right “not to be intensively farmed”, and new laws would lower animal stocking rates to meet organic standards.
Under current Swiss law, “you can keep 27,000 chickens in one barn and their room to move is about the size of an A4 sheet of paper,” said Silvano Lieger, managing director of the animal protection group Sentience Politics, which proposed the vote in 2018.
“Pigs are kept in barns too, up to 1,500 per farm, with 10 pigs sharing the space of an average parking spot. It is not possible to treat animals in a dignified way in those conditions,” he said.
Groups supporting the ban include Switzerland’s Small Farmers’ Association, Greenpeace, Les Vertes (The Green party) and animal protection groups. The only political party in government to support the ban is the Parti Socialiste Suisse (Social Democratic party).
A ban would protect the environment by reducing reliance on soya-based animal feed linked to deforestation, said Lieger, who also pointed to the need to reduce the consumption of animal proteins.
His team calculates that only 5% of farms would be affected by the potential ban. Although no exact figures exist for the proportion of small farms in the country, the overall number of Swiss farms is declining while farm size is increasing, according to the national statistics office.
A campaign against the ban, spearheaded by the Swiss Farmers’ Union (SBV), argues that existing laws limiting farm animal numbers mean intensive farming in Switzerland does not exist.
Swiss farmers can keep up to 18,000 laying hens and 27,000 meat chickens, said the SBV’s head of production, market and ecology, Michel Darbellay. If the ban is approved, the maximum number would be 4,000 laying hens and 500 meat chickens, while changes to pig standards would mean a 50% drop in pork production, he said.
For pigs and cows, Lieger said, the maximum limits have yet to be defined but animals would be kept in small groups, have indoor and outside space, and the opportunity to play.
Opponents of the ban say it will fail to prevent cheaper imports of factory-farmed meat.
Swiss welfare laws were already “among the strictest in the world”, said Darbellay, who pointed to existing bans on caged hens and limits on the time pigs can be kept in pens (or logettes, as the Swiss call them), to 10 days compared with several weeks in other countries.
However, only 3% of consumers in Switzerland wanted higher-welfare organic poultry and pork, Darbellay claimed. Although a ban would significantly reduce Swiss chicken, egg and pork production, it would not prevent imports nor reduce consumption, he said.
About 80% of Swiss meat is produced domestically, but Darbellay expects imports to “increase massively” if the ballot initiative is passed, while any attempt to enforce a ban would be nullified by existing trade agreements.
- Bank of England raises rates to 2.25%, despite likely recession Reuters
The Bank of England raised its key interest rate to 2.25% from 1.75% on Thursday and said it would continue to “respond forcefully, as necessary” to inflation, despite the economy entering recession.
The BoE estimates Britain’s economy will shrink 0.1% in the third quarter - partly due to the extra public holiday for Queen Elizabeth’s funeral - which, combined with a fall in output in the second quarter, meets the definition of a technical recession.
UK may already be in recession - Bank of England BBC
The UK lifted its ban on fracking to pursue energy independence as power bills soar, but experts say it’s unlikely to help the energy crisis this winter Business Insider
The UK has lifted a ban on fracking for shale gas, aiming to cut its reliance on energy imports as power bills soar.
“In light of Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and weaponization of energy, strengthening our energy security is an absolute priority,” UK Business and Energy Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg said in a statement on Thursday.
Fracking companies welcomed the lifting of the ban, but some experts raise doubts over the impact of the move on UK consumers and the size of their energy bills.
A Thursday report from the London School of Economics said it’s a “false assumption” that shale gas produced at home would be priced significantly below international market prices.
It also takes time to develop an industry substantial enough to make an impact.
“Even if the risks proved to be manageable and acceptable, shale gas would only make a significant impact to UK supply if, over the next decade, thousands of successful wells were to be drilled at hundreds of sites across northern England,” Professor Andrew Aplin at Durham University’s earth sciences department said in a statement on Thursday.
In a similar vein:
- Why Removing The UK Fracking Ban May Have Been Pointless Oil Price
- Over 300 French Companies Ask for Solutions to the Price Crisis TeleSUR
The Macron administration has no plans to extend the energy tariff shield to companies with more than 10 employees.
On Tuesday, over 300 French companies alerted the French government to the negative effects of the surging energy prices, Minister Delegate for Industry Roland Lescure said.
According to Lescure, these companies have long-term supply contracts that protect them from the increase in energy prices. More than one out of two French industrial companies said they had suffered consequences from the energy crisis and that their production bottlenecks had affected profitability.
According to recent surveys, 80 percent of the country’s small and medium-sized enterprises fear for their survival.
- Greece urged to address anti-LGBTQI+ discrimination and intolerance Guardian
Europe’s top human rights watchdog has urged Greece to take action against the “serious forms” of discrimination and intolerance faced by the country’s LGBTQI+ community, especially children in schools.
Equality rights for intersex people often subject to sex “normalising” surgery at a young age must also be enhanced, according to a report released on Thursday by the Council of Europe.
“Training should be introduced for teachers on how to address LGBTI-phobic intolerance and discrimination in schools while promoting understanding of and respect for LGBTI pupils,” it said. “As a matter of priority the authorities [should] take action to prevent intolerance and discrimination against intersex persons, in particular children.”
Drawn up by the watchdog’s specialist body on racism and intolerance, ECRI, the report called for specific legislation to prohibit what it described as medically unnecessary sex “normalising” surgery and other non-therapeutic treatments “until such time as the intersex child is able to participate in the decision, based on the right to self-determination and on the principle of free and informed consent”.
Singling out medical professionals who recommended abortion of intersex children to expecting parents, ECRI said it was vital that teachers and healthcare providers were given guidelines on intersex equality rights.
“These efforts should include the preparation and production of further appropriate teaching materials and the establishing of school policies to prevent, monitor and respond to LGBTI-phobic incidents, including bullying,” the report’s authors wrote.
Greece has made strides in recent years to improve minority rights. In the nearly six years that had elapsed since ECRI’s last assessment, it was noted that good practices had been made in a number of fields.
The centre-right Greek government, following groundbreaking legislation implemented by its leftwing predecessor – including civil unions for same-sex couples – had announced a 2021-25 national strategy for LGBTQI+ equality and, for the first time, placed openly gay individuals in official posts.
“A further welcome step towards such equality is the inclusion of transgender persons in the Greek Manpower Employment Organisation’s (OAED) programmes for providing work for members of vulnerable groups,” the watchdog said. Similarly, a national action plan against racism and intolerance was adopted in 2020.
But as one of Europe’s most socially conservative societies, the Mediterranean country has faced criticism for its failure to properly implement policies and root out deep-seated homophobia espoused by leading members of the Greek Orthodox church. Bishops have publicly denounced homosexuality as a crime.
The killing of Zak Kostopoulos, a gay activist and drag performer, in broad daylight in Athens four years ago, did much to highlight a culture of abuse and impunity in the country’s police force. Amnesty International, which has previously accused Greek authorities of failing to properly protect LGBTQI+ people, described Kostopoulos’s death as an “assassination”, saying the victim and his family had been the targets of “stigmatisation, prejudice and hateful rhetoric” even after the brutal killing.
Protesters marking the anniversary of Kostopoulos’s death marched through Athens late on Wednesday amid cries for justice to be meted out, after a controversial court decision to exonerate four police officers accused of causing fatal bodily harm.
In its most recent report, ECRI also underlined the worrying hate speech directed at refugees, asylum seekers, migrants and members of the Roma and LGBTQI+ communities in Greece, pointing out that politicians and even state officials indulged in discriminatory rhetoric that had no place in civil society. As such, it said, it was crucial that the Greek ombudsman, the country’s only recognised equality body, was allowed to provide aid and representation to victims of discrimination and intolerance in court.
- Swedish Krona Falls to Record Low Against US Dollar TeleSUR
The krona weakened despite Tuesday’s decision by the Swedish central bank (Riksbank) to raise its main policy rate by 100 basis points to 1.75 percent.
The Swedish krona fell to a historic low against the U.S. dollar on Thursday.
For a brief, the krona traded at 0.090 dollars, its lowest ever, against the backdrop of staggering inflation and a string of domestic and international rate hikes, TT news agency reported.
The krona weakened despite Tuesday’s decision by the Swedish central bank (Riksbank) to raise its main policy rate by 100 basis points to 1.75 percent.
Asia and Oceania
- Asian coastal cities sinking fast: study Iraqi News
I swear I’ve seen a similar headline before, maybe a couple months ago. I guess it’s a newer study.
Sprawling coastal cities in South and Southeast Asia are sinking faster than elsewhere in the world, leaving tens of millions of people more vulnerable to rising sea levels, a new study says.
Rapid urbanisation has seen these cities draw heavily on groundwater to service their burgeoning populations, according to research by Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU), published in the journal Nature Sustainability last week.
“This puts cities experiencing rapid local land subsidence at greater risk of coastal hazards than already present due to climate-driven sea-level rise,” the study says.
Vietnam’s most-populous urban centre and main business hub, Ho Chi Minh City, was sinking an average of 16.2 millimetres (0.6 inches) annually, topping the study’s survey of satellite data from 48 large coastal cities around the world.
- ‘Red alert’ in China as drought dries up country’s biggest lake Al Jazeera
The central Chinese province of Jiangxi has declared a water supply “red alert” for the first time as a prolonged drought dried up much of the water in the country’s biggest lake.
The provincial government said on Friday that water levels in Poyang Lake, usually a flood outlet for the Yangtze River, had fallen from 19.43 metres to 7.1 metres over the last three months.
The Jiangxi Water Monitoring Centre said the level was expected to fall even further in coming days, given the lack of rain.
Precipitation since July is 60 percent less than it was a year ago, it added.
As many as 267 weather stations across China reported record temperatures in August, and a long dry spell across the Yangtze river basin has hampered hydropower output and hindered crop growth ahead of this season’s harvest.
Though heavy rain has relieved the drought in much of southwest China, central regions continue to suffer, with extremely dry conditions now stretching for more than 70 days in Jiangxi.
A total of 10 reservoirs in neighbouring Anhui province have fallen below the “dead pool” level, meaning they are unable to discharge water downstream, the local water bureau said earlier this week.
- Microsoft plans 1,000 new jobs in China despite slowing economy and widespread tech lay-offs SCMP
US technology giant Microsoft Corp has pledged to add 1,000 jobs in China in the coming year, in a sign of confidence in the world’s second-largest economy, bucking widespread job cuts in the Chinese tech industry.
The Redmond, Washington-based company plans to grow its workforce in China to over 10,000 next year, up from the current size of 9,000, according to a statement published on its account on Chinese social media platform Weibo on Tuesday.
- Japan Takes Action To Curb Yen’s Slide TeleSUR
The Japanese government on Thursday took steps to intervene in the foreign exchange market to stem the yen’s decline for the first time since 1998, according to a senior Finance Ministry official.
Masato Kanda, vice finance minister for international affairs, told the press that the government “took a decisive step” by confirming such intervention.
Earlier in the day, Kanda said Japan could intervene in the foreign exchange market “anytime” to prevent the yen from falling further, and the yen rose sharply against the dollar on Thursday upon the intervention.
Despite the Federal Reserve’s decision to raise its key policy rate, the Japanese central bank announced to maintain its easing monetary policy at the end of a two-day policy meeting.
- Philippines sea level rising 3 times faster than world average ANN
The sea level in the Philippines is rising three times faster than the global average, putting many of its coastal villages in peril, according to a climate scientist of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).
With 70 percent of the country’s municipalities facing large bodies of water, including the Pacific Ocean, that could spell a “big impact” on those populations, Rosalina de Guzman, chief of the state weather bureau’s climate data section, said on Thursday.
- Myanmar plans to build a small-scale nuclear power plant in next few years Inquirer
The establishment of nuclear technology information centers will start in Yangon and the construction of a small-scale nuclear power plant will be done in the next few years, said Major General Zaw Min Tun, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Information and leader of the information team of the State Administration Council (SAC).
Major General Zaw Min Tun answered a reporter’s question about when Myanmar will start using nuclear energy at the press conference of the State Administration Council held at the Ministry of Information in Nay Pyi Taw on September 20.
“Department of Atomic Energy under the Ministry of Science and Technology has to start working to establish nuclear technology information centers in Yangon by obtaining the public’s positive views on nuclear energy from the two memorandums and to implement the cooperation memorandum,” Major General Zaw Min Tun said.
As far as Myanmar is concerned, the method that will be used in relation to nuclear weapons will only be used in a peaceful way. As part of the process, a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the field of nuclear energy training and skill development and a memorandum of understanding on cooperation to achieve positive public opinion on nuclear energy were signed in Moscow, Russia in January and July 2022, said Major General Zaw Min Tun.
Major General Zaw Min Tun said, “The main thing is that we are going to use this nuclear energy peacefully. However, we will not do this without informing the public. The first step is to educate the public about the process of peaceful use of nuclear energy. We will work to achieve cooperation.”
- Myanmar civil society tells UN to stop giving regime ‘legitimacy’ Al Jazeera
A group of hundreds of civil society groups has written an open letter to United Nations chief Antonio Guterres telling him to stop UN agencies, funds and others connected with the organisation from engaging with the generals who seized control of the country from its elected government in a coup last year.
The letter condemned “in the strongest terms” the continued presentation of letters of appointment and the signing of agreements such as MoUs with the coup leaders by various UN agencies. It noted that the practice had continued despite a request in December last year for the UN and its agencies not to engage with the military in any way that could give them some kind of legitimacy.
“We call on you and all UN entities to immediately cease all forms of cooperation and engagement that lends legitimacy to the illegal murderous junta,” read the letter, signed by 638 civil society organisations.
“We urge you to intervene for a principled, coordinated UN response to the crisis in Myanmar.”
- Tensions as Bangladesh accuses Myanmar of firing in its territory Al Jazeera
The firing from Myanmar has escalated tensions between the neighbours, raising concerns of a new Rohingya exodus into Bangladesh as well as diminishing prospects of their repatriation into Myanmar.
The Bandarban administration said it has started the process of relocating some 300 families living in Ghumdhum to a safer place further inland. The no-man’s land in the frontier area is also home to about 4,500 Rohingya refugees.
Last Friday, a Rohingya teenager was killed and four other Bangladeshi nationals injured when mortar shells fired from Myanmar exploded on a strip of land along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border.
Bangladesh has the world’s largest refugee camp with nearly a million mainly Muslim Rohingya, most of whom fled a brutal crackdown by the Myanmar military in 2017, which the United Nations said was carried out with “genocidal intent”.
Myanmar has been charged with genocide at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Myanmar’s military denies the charges.
Bangladesh is lobbying with international agencies to repatriate the Rohingya back to their homeland, but the refugees have refused, citing safety concerns, and continue to stay in squalid and cramped camps.
Now, weeks of relentless gunfire and shelling by the Myanmar military along its border with Bangladesh have added to the tensions between the neighbours.
Bangladesh foreign minister A K Abdul Momen this week said the government has sealed its border with Myanmar to prevent a further influx of Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh.
“We won’t take any more Rohingya people,” Momen told a press briefing on Wednesday.
- Sri Lanka to unveil debt restructuring plan to creditors Inquirer
Sri Lankan authorities will formally hold talks with international creditors on Friday to start the process of restructuring billions of dollars of its debt and share plans to tackle the island’s worst economic crisis in more than seven decades.
The success of the restructuring process is critical for the nation of 22 million to secure final approval for a $2.9 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund and subsequent financing from other global agencies.
The money will help the island nation overcome an acute shortage of food and fuel that sparked sweeping street protests for months this year and led to the ouster of then-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
- Australia sees ‘long road’ to repairing China ties Jakarta Post
Fraught relations between Australia and China will be repaired only gradually, Canberra’s top diplomat warned Thursday, after a rare meeting with her Chinese counterpart.
Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong described her New York sitdown with State Councillor Wang Yi as “constructive” but cautioned against talk of a quick normalisation of ties.
“I think it is a long road in which many steps will have to be taken by both parties to a more stable relationship,” she said.
- Inflation-hit Turkey cuts rate for second month Iraqi News
Turkey’s central bank on Thursday cut its policy rate for the second straight month despite an annual inflation rate that has reached 80 percent and is still moving higher.
The central bank said it was cutting its one-week repo rate to 12 percent from 13 percent and blamed skyrocketing consumer prices on external factors such as the global jump in the cost of energy and food caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The decision highlights Turkish policymakers’ strong focus on economic growth nine months before a general election that polls show President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is on track to lose.
- Turkey is looking at alternatives to Russian Mir card system MEE
Turkey is looking at possible alternatives to the Russian payment system Mir following US sanctions, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a group of journalists in New York on Thursday.
The US Treasury Department last week sanctioned top Mir executives and warned third-party facilitators that they also might be subjected to sanctions over concerns relating to illicit trade and funds.
Isbank and Denizbank, two of the five Turkish banks that process Mir, this week suspended the administering of payments over the system following the decision.
Erdogan said the US decision on the Mir system was out of the ordinary.
“My ministers are holding talks on the alternatives, we are looking into the alternatives,” he said.
The president also said he would hold a top-level economic meeting on Friday to discuss the issue and make a final decision on Mir. The meeting is also expected to focus on bilateral Turkish-Russian economic engagement and investments as well as other domestic financial issues.
- Saudi readies to send astronaut to space MEMO
Saudi Arabia has launched an astronaut programme, state news agency SPA reported today, with the first journey to space set for 2023 carrying the country’s first female astronaut.
The programme, launched by the Saudi Space Commission, will enable Saudi astronauts to conduct scientific experiments and research “for the betterment of humanity in priority areas such as health, sustainability and space technology”, the news agency said.
The Saudi Astronaut Program is part of the kingdom’s Vision2030 programme.
United Arab Emirates
- Israel to supply air defence system to the UAE Al Jazeera
Israel will sell an advanced air defence system to the United Arab Emirates capable of defending the Gulf country against drone attacks, in a further sign of the growing alliance between the two countries.
The Reuters news agency reported that Israel had approved a request from the UAE for the Rafael-made SPYDER mobile interceptors, according to two sources.
A third source said that the UAE would be acquiring Israeli technology that would be able to prevent a repeat of the drone attacks that hit Abu Dhabi earlier this year.
- Iran discloses surface-to-surface ballistic missile with 1400-km range Tehran Times
Iran unveiled a surface-to-surface ballistic missile with range of 1400 kilometers on Thursday morning.
The one-stage ballistic missile, named Rezvan, is powered by solid fuel and equipped with a detachable warhead.
It was disclosed by the IRGC Aerospace Force while an annual military parade was held near the shrine of Imam Khomeini in southern Tehran to mark Saddam Hussein’s military invasion of Iran on September 22, 1980.
- Mahsa Amini: Protester death toll rises amid unrest in Iran over woman’s death in police custody Euro News
The number of people killed in violent protests in Iran over the past six nights shot up on Thursday as unrest spreads across the country in response to a woman’s death in police custody.
Official figures announced on state television said at least 17 people were killed in clashes between Iranian security forces and protesters. But Oslo-based NGO Iran Human Rights (IHR) has estimated that number is much higher, reporting at least 31 civilians have been killed so far.
The protests began last week after a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, was found dead in a cell at a police station in Tehran. She had been arrested by the Islamic Republic’s so-called “morality police” for allegedly wearing her headscarf, or hijab, improperly.
But what was at first an expression of collective grief over Amini’s death has transformed into an open challenge to Iran’s theocratic regime, with many protesters chanting anti-government slogans and burning their hijabs.
It’s the worst unrest the country has seen in years, and the government has taken steps to quash the protests, including restricting internet access and blocking messaging apps such as WhatsApp.
Internet monitoring group Netblocks has described the restrictions as the most severe since 2019 when protests erupted over a government fuel price hike.
- Iran to Join Naval Drills in Indian Ocean With Russia and China TeleSUR
The Iranian navy will take part in joint exercises with Russian and Chinese warships “this autumn,” Major General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri announced on Thursday in Tehran.
The chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces did not provide many details about the planned maneuvers, but mentioned the possibility of other countries such as Oman and Pakistan joining as well.
- ‘Africans Face Shared Opposition in Transnational Activism to Advance LGBTQI+ Rights’ All Africa
In April 2022, the Centre for Human Rights (CHR) and the Centre for Sexualities, AIDS, and Gender (CSA&G) at the University of Pretoria together with the Center for Gender Studies and Feminist Futures (CGS) and the Center for Conflict Studies (CCS) at the Philipps-University Marburg launched the first edition of the Pretoria-Marburg Queer Conversations. The conversations come from common interests in work on LGBTQI+ and queer identities among the centres.
This six-event series, themed Scholarly and Activist Perspectives on LGBTIQ+ Lived Realities in Africa, creates a monthly space for in-depth discussions that bring together scholars and LGBTQI+ activists.
On September 8, at the sixth event of the series focusing on Prospects and Challenges for Transnational Activism to Advance LGBTIQ+ Rights in Africa - Njeri Gateru, who works for the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission in Kenya and Keval Harie, the director of the gay and lesbian memory and action archives GALA based at the University of the Witwatersrand Johannesburg in South Africa led a conversation on strategic litigation and activism within the LGBTQI+ communities.
Most African countries have a similar colonial past, and colonial histories, and because of that and other factors, they end up with similar types of legal landscapes and similar types of cultural, religious and political rhetoric, that surrounds the work that LGBTQI+ activists do and the lives that they live.
“Within the conversation of strategic litigation it’s been very clear what solidarity has looked like, for different countries working on specific issues, for example, in Kenya when were litigating around decriminalization, we had not only technical support from different countries, we actually had people traveling from Kampala, Gaborone, Johannesburg to come and attend court sessions, to sit with lawyers and activists to talk about the case … We drew a lot of strength from people flying in from Lagos to celebrate within the little means that we were making, and that was really important. I think that truly reinforces the belief that we have in our community and in the work that we do, and the people that we surround ourselves with”, says Gateru.
According to Harie, GALA is an archive that has an incredible historical repository or collection, which speaks to kind of lived experiences of queer life in South Africa and more. They are looking to engage with organisations and partners all across the continent in terms of really uncovering queer history and their objective stems from speaking against a narrative of homosexuality being unAfrican, which is heard all across the continent.
“I think in that sense, there’s already this thread of commonality in which the work that we’re doing all across the continent or activists are doing all across the continent is really pushing against that narrative”, says Harie.
- Fed: Third Straight Big Hike To 3.25% Amid Persistent Inflation TeleSUR
The U.S. Federal Reserve on Wednesday enacted the third consecutive three-quarter-point rate hike, as it continues to ramp up its fight against surging inflation.
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), the Fed’s policy-setting body, decided to raise the target range for the federal funds rate to 3 to 3.25 percent and “anticipates that ongoing increases in the target range will be appropriate,” the Fed said in a statement after a two-day policy meeting.
The statement showed that all 12 committee members voted for the decision.
- Russia’s Invasion Of Ukraine Is No Reason To Increase The Pentagon Budget Forbes
Very true. Russia’s army is clearly completely incompetent, as you repeatedly insist. Therefore, why spend money on NATO? Might as well just disband that too!
- SCOTUS has a legitimacy problem: People don’t think it represents them, and want to see term limits, polling finds Business Insider
There’s more evidence that the US’s highest court has a legitimacy problem: A new poll has found the American public doesn’t think the Supreme court represents their best interests.
In the Morning Consult/Insider poll from September, Americans of all ages said they thought the Supreme Court was “out of touch” on several key issues, especially abortion access, and gun regulations. The survey is part of Insider’s “Red, White, and Gray” project, which explores the ongoing gerontocracy in the US and its ramifications for a younger generation.
- On Second Thought, Maybe Housing Was in a Bubble After All Bloomberg
Bubble identification isn’t easy, requiring careful analysis of both data and vibes. You must also beware of personal biases; Bitcoin at $70,000 was clearly a bubble to most of us, but blockchain hypebeasts had incentive to insist that no, it was the children who were wrong.
Then there’s the housing market. There was certainly a bubbly vibe around bidding wars earlier this year for shacks that hadn’t been updated since the Carter administration. But the data suggested maybe that fixer-upper really was worth $800,000, if you squinted at it the right way. And us homeowners — especially those proud new proprietors of $800,000 shacks — had a strong bias to squint.
Unfortunately, both the vibes and the data have moved against us lately, warns Aaron Brown. Up until fairly recently, home prices, ludicrous as they were, had not come too untethered from fundamentals. Interest rates, in particular, were working in their favor, as this rather unattractive chart demonstrates:
The gray dots there show housing was pretty expensive up until the pandemic but still nestled comfortably inside its long-term relationship with interest rates, Aaron writes. The yellow dots show what has happened lately: Prices have soared beyond bubble-era heights and, more worryingly, kept on soaring even as interest rates rise.
This is classic bubble behavior, Aaron writes. Prices in some markets have started to fall lately as mortgage rates soar. But our best hope — if that’s the right word — is that rents keep ballooning too, supporting demand for houses. Maybe the Fed jacking up rates will discourage new homebuilding and make that happen. Of course, then we’ll have a whole other mess of problems. But no burst bubble, maybe? Yay?
- One Million Puerto Ricans Still Without Power As Grid Crisis Persists Oil Price
- Cuba Rejects Imposition of Unilateral Sanctions Against Russia TeleSUR
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez reaffirmed on Wednesday before the United Nations General Assembly his country’s rejection of the sanctions against Russia, unilaterally imposed by the West since the beginning of the year for its special military operation in Ukraine.
“We reaffirm our rejection of the imposition of unilateral sanctions against the Russian Federation,” said Rodriguez, who advocated a diplomatic and realistic solution to the conflict in Ukraine.
The head of Cuban diplomacy specified that such a solution must be peaceful and in accordance with the norms of international law, in addition to guaranteeing the sovereignty of all.
- UN: Latin American Leaders Call For End to US Blockade of Cuba TeleSUR
At the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Alberto Fernández of Argentina, Xiomara Castro of Honduras, and Luis Arce of Bolivia demanded an end to the economic, commercial, and financial blockade imposed by the U.S. on Cuba for over half a century.
The President of Argentina said that “according to the UN Charter, the only legitimate sanctions are those imposed by the Security Council to enforce its decisions on the maintenance of peace and security.”
“Argentina joins the demand of the peoples of Cuba and Venezuela for the lifting of the blockades that those nations are suffering,” Fernandez added.
- Haiti’s descent into chaos has further to go WaPo
Obviously the vast, vast majority of western reporting on Haiti is inadequate to terrible, but this appears to be a pretty decent overview of the situation, even if the causes - historical and modern - of Haiti’s suffering are very much unaddressed.
No one relishes the idea of another international intervention in Haiti, nor does recent history give much reason for optimism that a new one would go smoothly. Yet in the absence of muscular action by outside actors, there is now no plausible scenario in which that tormented Caribbean country, already the Western Hemisphere’s poorest, will not be sucked deeper into a vortex of anarchy, street violence, economic meltdown and humanitarian suffering.
That chaotic brew is a recipe for death and despair, in addition to a steady or swelling tide of refugees. The Biden administration, having already deported more than 25,000 Haitians, might imagine it can maintain that status quo, ignoring Haiti’s turmoil. It should think again, for it is folly to imagine that things in Haiti cannot deteriorate.
Mounting pandemonium and pervasive gang warfare have seized the country in the 14 months since President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated, a crime that remains unsolved. A power vacuum has contributed to the chaos; no elections have been held in six years, meaning the government lacks legitimacy. That goes for the prime minister, Ariel Henry — himself implicated in the Moïse assassination — whose grip on power owes more to backing from Washington than to popular support in Haiti, where he is broadly reviled and regarded as impotent.
With the economy in a tailspin and inflation surging, Mr. Henry this month slashed fuel subsidies, causing the price of gas at the pump to more than double. That triggered furious protests that some regional leaders described as a “low-intensity civil war,” along with demands for his resignation. In some neighborhoods, street barricades, wanton vandalism and marauding demonstrators had paralyzed transport and the delivery of basic goods, including food and water.
Mr. Henry’s grip on the levers of government is extremely weak; his administration’s authority and ability to maintain order are anemic. More than 100 civic and faith groups last week called on the Biden administration to withdraw its support for him, accusing him of corruption and complicity with the gangs that have paralyzed life in the capital city of Port-au-Prince.
By propping up the prime minister, Washington might think it is forestalling an even more complete power vacuum. U.S. officials might also shrug at growing disorder and the absence of democracy in Haiti as long as the Henry government continues to accept deportees.
Yet it is unlikely that the status quo can hold. Prominent gang leaders and opposition figures are calling for wider protests, which will translate into more violence. Major Western embassies have closed to the public and advised their diplomats to hunker down. According to reports, police have started refusing to show up for work in the face of spiraling violence. The Dominican Republic has sent troops to its border with Haiti, to prevent any spillover.
The situation is not tenable, and waiting for worse to come is not a policy; it is an abdication of responsibility. The United Nations, the Organization of American States and key governments, including the Biden administration, must face Haiti’s collapse squarely, and act to prevent further carnage and suffering.
- Guatemalan Farmers Demand Resignation of President Giammattei TeleSUR
On Wednesday, thousands of Guatemalan farmers and students took to the streets of the capital city to protest corruption and demand the resignation of President Alejandro Giammattei and Attorney General Consuelo Porras.
They arrived from the interior of the country despite the difficulties caused in the mobilization by the torrential rain that hit a large part of the Guatemalan territory during the last hours.
Farmers are gathering in various places before heading to the National Palace of Culture, which is the seat of government.
This massive social protest was organized by the Committee for Rural Development (CODECA), an organization that brings together more than 200,000 people in Guatemala.
- Nicolas Maduro: Imperialism Continues To Threaten Venezuela TeleSUR
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro denounced on Thursday that the United States continues to threaten his country and also seeks to manipulate the citizens of this Caribbean nation.
“Imperialism continues threatening our homeland, imperialism continues arrogantly and arrogantly manipulating, trying to manipulate Venezuela and Venezuelans,” Maduro said during a speech broadcast through the state-run Venezolana de Televisión channel.
The president said that despite the threats, his country is still standing and that 2022 has been a year of progress.
“I call on you compatriot of the deepest Venezuela to consolidate 2022 as a great year of economic growth, economic expansion, social recovery and consolidation of the greatest political force that exists in Venezuela and Latin America,” he stressed.
On September 15, Joe Biden’s administration threatened Maduro’s administration with intensified sanctions if it did not return to negotiations with the opposition in Mexico, suspended in October 2021 following the extradition of Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab from Cape Verde to the United States.
On Tuesday, Maduro demanded Biden not manipulate the issue of migration from Latin America and The Caribbean.
“We demand that President Joe Biden not manipulate with the issue of migration from Latin America and the Caribbean, and even less with the issue of Venezuela, a victim of the cruelest sanctions of the U.S. empire,” he said.
Maduro stated that the United States lies about the number of migrants and said that his country suffered attacks and sanctions, which is why part of the population decided to migrate.
The president also said that more than half of the population that migrated between 2018 and 2021 returned to Venezuela.
- Colombia: Possible Multilateral Ceasefire in Coming Days-Petro TeleSUR
President Gustavo Petro’s “total peace” project seeks agreements with all armed groups currently in Colombia.
Today, in New York, on the occasion of the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN), Petro told the media that in a few days, a multilateral ceasefire would be proposed with all the armed groups that have expressed their intention to join the total peace.
With this project, 22 structures have announced their interest in joining the “total peace” project to the government. In Petro’s presidential campaign, he asked illegal groups to stop taking up arms, while the government, in response, suspended armed actions and avoided fighting them.
“It will involve all those who want a negotiation process with justice in Colombia to dismantle criminal organizations. We propose to them the cessation of hostilities, death, ceasefire,” Petro said.
Twenty-two structures have announced their interest in joining the “total peace” project to the government. Danilo Rueda, Peace Commissioner of Petro’s government, has said that this move has come from guerrilla groups, drug traffickers and narco-paramilitaries.
- Unprecedented events creating ‘extremely severe’ risk of global recession – economist Adam Tooze Guardian
Tooze predicted the current policies of central banks and governments would be marked in future textbooks as a “classic moment of failed technocracy”.
The US Fed Reserve lifted its cash rate target range by 75bp to 3% to 3.25% on Wednesday, US time. It also indicated it expected increases of as much as another 125bp this year even as Fed chairman Jerome Powell warned of a possible recession.
Tooze said other central banks will be under pressure to follow. Australia’s Reserve Bank governor, Philip Lowe, said last week the bank would probably lift its cash rate 25bp or 50bp on 4 October, making it a record six increases in as many months.
- Ramping Up Renewables Won’t Save The World From A Cold Winter Oil Price
We usually don’t think about the wonderful service fossil fuels provide in terms of being a store of heat energy for winter, the time when there is a greater need for heat energy. Figure 1 shows dramatically how, in the US, the residential usage of heating fuels spikes during the winter months.
Solar energy is most abundantly available in the May-June-July period, making it a poor candidate for fixing the problem of the need for winter heat.
In some ways, the lack of availability of fuels for winter is a canary in the coal mine regarding future energy shortages. People have been concerned about oil shortages, but winter fuel shortages are, in many ways, just as bad. They can result in people “freezing in the dark.”
In this post, I will look at some of the issues involved.
 Batteries are suitable for fine-tuning the precise time during a 24-hour period solar electricity is used. They cannot be scaled up to store solar energy from summer to winter.
In today’s world, batteries can be used to delay the use of solar electricity for at most a few hours. In exceptional situations, perhaps the holding period can be increased to a few days.
California is known both for its high level of battery storage and its high level of renewables. These renewables include both solar and wind energy, plus smaller amounts of electricity generated in geothermal plants and electricity generated by burning biomass. The problem encountered is that the electricity generated by solar panels tends to start and end too early in the day, relative to when citizens want to use this electricity. After citizens return home after work, they would like to cook their dinners and use their air conditioning, leading to considerable demand after the sun sets.
Figure 3 illustrates how batteries in combination with hydroelectric generation (hydro) are used to save electricity generation from early in the day for use in the evening hours. While battery use is suitable for fine tuning exactly when, during a 24-hour period, solar energy will be used, the quantity of batteries cannot be ramped up sufficiently to save electricity from summer to winter. The world would run out of battery-making materials, if nothing else.
 Ramping up hydro is not a solution to our problem of inadequate energy for heat in winter.
One problem is that, in long-industrialized economies, hydro capabilities were built out years ago.
It is difficult to believe that much more buildout is available in these countries.
Another issue is that hydro tends to be quite variable from year to year, even over an area as large as the United States, as shown in Figure 4 above. When the variability is viewed over a smaller area, the year-to-year variability is even higher, as illustrated in Figure 5 below.
The pattern shown reflects peak generation in the spring, when the ice pack is melting. Low generation generally occurs during the winter, when the ice pack is frozen. Thus, hydro tends not be helpful for raising winter energy supplies. A similar pattern tends to happen in other temperate areas.
A third issue is that variability in hydro supply is already causing problems. Norway has recently reported that it may need to limit hydro exports in coming months because water reservoirs are low. Norway’s exports of electricity are used to help balance Europe’s wind and solar electricity. Thus, this issue may lead to yet another energy problem for Europe.
As another example, China reports a severe power crunch in its Sichuan Province, related to low rainfall and high temperatures. Fossil fuel generation is not available to fill the gap.
 Wind energy is not a greatly better than hydro and solar, in terms of variability and poor timing of supply.
For example, Europe experienced a power crunch in the third quarter of 2021 related to weak winds. Europe’s largest wind producers (Britain, Germany and France) produced only 14% of their rated capacity during this period, compared with an average of 20% to 26% in previous years. No one had planned for this kind of three-month shortfall.
In 2021, China experienced dry, windless weather, resulting in both its generation from wind and hydro being low. The country found it needed to use rolling blackouts to deal with the situation. This led to traffic lights failing and many families needing to eat candle-lit dinners.
Even viewed on a nationwide basis, US wind generation varies considerably from month to month.
US total wind electricity generation tends to be highest in April or May. This can cause oversupply issues because hydro generation tends to be high about the same time. The demand for electricity tends to be low because of generally mild weather. The result is that even at today’s renewable levels, a wet, windy spring can lead to a situation in which the combination of hydro and wind electricity supply exceeds total local demand for electricity.
 As more wind and solar are added to the grid, the challenges and costs become increasingly great.
There are a huge number of technical problems associated with trying to add a large amount of wind and solar energy to the grid. Some of them are outlined in Figure 7.
One of the issues is torque distortion, especially related to wind energy.
There are also many other issues, including some outlined on this Drax website. Wind and solar provide no “inertia” to the system. This makes me wonder whether the grid could even function without a substantial amount of fossil fuel or nuclear generation providing sufficient inertia.
Furthermore, wind and solar tend to make voltage fluctuate, necessitating systems to absorb and discharge something called “reactive power.”
 The word “sustainable” has created unrealistic expectations with respect to intermittent wind and solar electricity.
A person in the wind turbine repair industry once told me, “Wind turbines run on a steady supply of replacement parts.” Individual parts may be made to last 20-years, or even longer, but there are so many parts that some are likely to need replacement long before that time. An article in Windpower Engineering says, “Turbine gearboxes are typically given a design life of 20 years, but few make it past the 10-year mark.”
There is also the problem of wind damage, especially in the case of a severe storm.
Furthermore, the operational lives for fossil fuel and nuclear generating plants are typically much longer than those for wind and solar. In the US, some nuclear plants have licenses to operate for 60 years. Efforts are underway to extend some licenses to 80 years.
With the short life spans for wind and solar, constant rebuilding of wind turbines and solar generation is necessary, using fossil fuels. Between the rebuilding issue and the need for fossil fuels to maintain the electric grid, the output of wind turbines and solar panels cannot be expected to last any longer than fossil fuel supply.
 Energy modeling has led to unrealistic expectations for wind and solar.
 Competitive pricing plans that enable the growth of wind and solar electricity are part of what is pushing a number of areas in the world toward a “freezing-in-the-dark” problem.
In the early days of electricity production, “utility pricing” was generally used. With this approach, vertical integration of electricity supply was encouraged. A utility would make long term contracts with a number of providers and would set prices for customers based on the expected long-term cost of electricity production and distribution. The utility would make certain that transmission lines were properly repaired and would add new generation as needed.
Energy prices of all kinds spiked in the late 1970s. Not long afterward, in an attempt to prevent high electricity prices from causing inflation, a shift in pricing arrangements started taking place. More competition was encouraged, with the new approach called competitive pricing. Vertically integrated groups were broken up. Wholesale electricity prices started varying by time of day, based on which providers were willing to sell their production at the lowest price, for that particular time period. This approach encouraged providers to neglect maintaining their power lines and stop adding more storage capacity. Any kind of overhead expense was discouraged.
In fact, under this arrangement, wind and solar were also given the privilege of “going first.” If too much energy in total was produced, negative rates could result for other providers. This approach was especially harmful for nuclear energy. Nuclear power plants found that their overall price structure was too low. They sometimes closed because of inadequate profitability. New investments in nuclear energy were discouraged, as was proper maintenance. This effect has been especially noticeable in Europe.
The result is that about a third of the gain from wind and solar energy has been offset by the decline in nuclear electricity generation. Of course, nuclear is another low-carbon form of electricity. It is a great deal more reliable than wind or solar. It can even help prevent freezing in the dark because it is likely to be available in winter, when more electricity for heating is likely to be needed.
 The world is a very long way from producing enough wind and solar to solve its energy problems, especially its need for heat in winter.
The Ukraine War
- Russia and Ukraine Swap Prisoners TeleSUR
The Zelensky regime also released Viktor Medvedchuk, an opposition politician who was charged with treason against the State and violation of the rules of war.
On Thursday, Russia’s Defense Ministry spokesperson Major General Igor Konashenkov confirmed the reception of 55 Russian servicemen after a prisoner swap with Ukraine.
The regime of Volodymyr Zelensky freed Russian soldiers and military personnel belonging to the Armed Forces of the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. They received medical and psychological care in Russian facilities, where they were able to contact their relatives.
Ukrainian authorities also released former Ukrainian lawmaker Viktor Medvedchuk, an opposition politician who was charged with treason against the State and violation of the rules of war.
For their part, the Russian authorities returned 215 Ukrainian soldiers who were captured when Russian troops seized the port of Mariupol in May.
Russians are unhappy about this deal, but I personally think there are some very high-level diplomatic games being played here that we have no privy to. That’s not to necessarily be like “Oh, it’s 5D chess by Russia, this bad thing is good actually”, just that there’s a some weird stuff in and around the deal that suggests that this wasn’t literally just Russia getting swindled in a Trump-esque dealmaking process.
Climate, Space, and Science
- Water found in asteroid dust may offer clues to origins of life on Earth Guardian
Specks of dust that a Japanese space probe retrieved from an asteroid about 186 million miles (300m kilometres) from Earth have revealed a surprising component: a drop of water.
The discovery offers new support for the theory that life on Earth may have been seeded from outer space.
The findings are in the latest research to be published from analysis of 5.4 grammes of stones and dust that the Hayabusa-2 probe gathered from the asteroid Ryugu.
“This drop of water has great meaning,” the lead scientist, Tomoki Nakamura of Tohoku University, told reporters before publication of the research in the journal Science on Friday.
“Many researchers believe that water was brought [from outer space], but we actually discovered water in Ryugu, an asteroid near Earth, for the first time.”
Hayabusa-2 was launched in 2014 on its mission to Ryugu, and returned to Earth’s orbit two years ago to drop off a capsule containing the sample.
The precious cargo has already yielded several insights, including organic material that showed some of the building blocks of life on Earth, amino acids, may have been formed in space.
The team’s latest discovery was a drop of fluid in the Ryugu sample “which was carbonated water containing salt and organic matter”, Nakamura said.
That bolsters the theory that asteroids such as Ryugu, or its larger parent asteroid, could have “provided water, which contains salt and organic matter” in collisions with Earth, he said.
“We have discovered evidence that this may have been directly linked to, for example, the origin of the oceans or organic matter on Earth.”
- Hot gas bubble spotted spinning around Milky Way black hole Inquirer
Astronomers said Thursday they have spotted a hot bubble of gas spinning clockwise around the black hole at the center of the galaxy at “mind blowing” speeds.
The detection of the bubble, which only survived for a few hours, is hoped to provide insight into how these invisible, insatiable, galactic monsters work.
Just minutes before ALMA’s radio data collection began, the Chandra Space Telescope observed a “huge spike” in X-rays, Wielgus told AFP.
This burst of energy, thought to be similar to solar flares on the Sun, sent a hot bubble of gas swirling around the black hole, according to a new study published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.
The gas bubble, also known as a hot spot, had an orbit similar to Mercury’s trip around the Sun, the study’s lead author Wielgus said.
But while it takes Mercury 88 days to make that trip, the bubble did it in just 70 minutes. That means it traveled at around 30 percent of the speed of light.
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 reaction by the media to Russia’s partial mobilization is exactly what everybody predicted it would be, so it’s not worth putting any of them here.
- Putin’s self-sanctioning of Russian energy supplies will be absorbed by Europe, but Moscow will never be able to replace those customers, Kremlin critic Bill Browder says Business Insider
This has exactly the same vibe as a person at McDonalds being angry because their food was 5 minutes late and then yelling at the cashiers “I will take my business somewhere else! You just lost a valuable customer!” Except that person is also starving to death.
- Europe is scrambling to put a price cap on Russian oil after Putin stepped up threats over Ukraine, report says Business Insider
They’re still trying!
- This Is What Life’s Like in the World’s Strictest Covid Zero City Bloomberg
“Say the line, Bart!"
”…sigh…but at what cost…"
- Fauci says the Chinese government is ‘probably’ hiding something about the origins of COVID, but he’s not sure it’s a lab leak Business Insider
Dr. Anthony Fauci says he’s dedicated to “keeping a completely open mind” about how the coronavirus first emerged in Wuhan, China in 2019, but he still wishes he had more information to go on from the Chinese government.
“You wanna keep an open mind that it could have been anything that happened,” Fauci said Wednesday during a conversation with Atlantic editor Ross Andersen. “But the evidence that they have been working on for years strongly favors a natural occurrence.”
Andersen also asked Fauci whether he thought the Chinese government could help “clear this up” once and for all.
“Yeah,” Fauci said.
But the doctor was careful to note that he was only referring to “Chinese authorities” stonewalling, and not average Chinese citizens, nor his scientific colleagues in China, who he said “have made major contributions to our knowledge.”
“The fact is, as a society, when something occurs that looks like — even if it’s naturally coming out of China — they will be secretive about it,” Fauci said of the Chinese government. “Because of this feeling that they’re gonna get blamed for something.”
It might be because America keeps blaming them for everything.
“It’s natural, totally natural for conspiracy people who are thinking it’s a conspiracy to say, ‘see? they’re hiding something.'”
And, “they probably are,” Fauci said, but it may not have anything to do with a lab leak at all.
- The Pentagon’s alleged secret social media operations demand a reckoning WaPo
Translation: The Pentagon’s alleged secret social media operations will not receive even the slightest degree of serious pushback by anybody. This will be the last article on it by the mainstream media.
The U.S. military has apparently adopted a new national security strategy: internet trolling. The Post reports that the Pentagon will conduct a sweeping review of its policies regarding clandestine information warfare, after Facebook and Twitter removed fake accounts suspected of being run by the Defense Department.
The news raises the question of whether social media companies should crack down on fake accounts that exist for benign purposes, such as promoting democracy. On the other hand, it is also reasonable to ask whether the U.S. government should conduct offensive cyberoperations to influence foreign peoples. Though it seems contradictory, the answer to both questions is yes.
I don’t even really know what to say to that.
Social media sites need rules against platform manipulation, and those rules need to have a bright line: A site can’t pick and choose which false personas it likes and which it doesn’t based on the countries they come from or values they promote — doing so would make effective enforcement nearly impossible.
Huh, it’s weird that that’s impossible, because I receive warnings when a tweet is made by somebody connected to China’s government in any way.
At the same time, the U.S. government cannot leave the online influence battlefield. U.S. adversaries are all too present on the front of online influence, from China’s so-called 50-Cent Army of propagandists, which spreads misinformation about Hong Kong, Taiwan, the cultural genocide of the Uyghur Muslim minority and more, to Russia’s Internet Research Agency, which sought to magnify racial tensions among American feminists preparing for the 2017 Women’s March.
Fighting back is tricky. The U.S. military’s reluctance to cede the clandestine information space to malign foreign forces makes sense — but in trying to seize some of the territory for itself, the Defense Department also risks undermining this country’s own objectives. Spreading truthful information, such as the facts about the coronavirus pandemic, through false means, such as inauthentic personas, reflects this nation’s values better than spreading false information through false means. But inauthentic personas themselves can prove a problem: Their widespread use, when uncovered, promotes an internet-era nihilism, suggesting that nothing on the internet can really be believed.
Have you tried spreading true information through true means? Like, the United States has spent basically the entire pandemic getting tied up in knots over its coronavirus response. Are masks good or bad? Are vaccines good or bad? When should you get them, or wear them? Where should you get them, or where them? How long should you quarantine for? Who knows! Not the US government! That information changed almost on a monthly basis.
Under narrow circumstances, deception might be the best or the only option. But the Pentagon’s alleged efforts don’t seem to have been effective: The operations uncovered by Facebook and Twitter and documented by researchers show the indiscriminate creation of fake accounts, sometimes with faces generated by artificial intelligence, spamming platforms with petitions, memes and hashtag campaigns, all boosted inorganically. They did not succeed; overt operations generated more engagement. And, of course, they could not hide their fake nature; the platforms managed not only to disrupt them but also to identify them as likely associated with the U.S. military.
This is actually kind of a good point, but equally I think they’re pretending that the waters of US propaganda spread through inauthentic means is a shallow puddle, when in fact it is a deep ocean.
The Defense Department should ensure that any policy emerging from its audit treats platform manipulation not as a default but as an intervention that demands careful justification. Meanwhile, the government as a whole, from the Pentagon to the State Department to intelligence agencies, ought to rethink, with the help of academic input and public debate, what a digital-age hearts-and-minds campaign looks like. U.S. information operations should elevate the truth and expose falsehoods, and any clandestine tactics should be based on research about what works. Those conducting these salvos should be trained in how to do the job right. They should also make sure not to get caught.
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.
- Biden trashes what remained of US One China policy, strategic ambiguity Responsible Statecraft
President Biden has moved us all a very large step closer to conflict with China. In a 60 Minutes interview, he repeated his past statements saying that the US would go to war with China if it were to attack Taiwan. In doing this as part of a prepared interview (and not, as in the past, as a seemingly spontaneous, off-the-cuff remark), he has now removed all ambiguity as to whether he really meant what he said on those other occasions. There is no longer any doubt that this represents a change in U.S. policy.
All Americans and U.S. allies should regard the president’s statement with great alarm, for many reasons. First, he has committed the United States to engage in what would be a major war (and with a nuclear power no less) without having obtained congressional approval, as required by the U.S. Constitution. Even in the case of America’s several formal security treaties, signed with allies such as Japan and South Korea, the U.S. only commits itself to “…act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional processes.”
Biden went well beyond this in committing the U.S. to send troops to defend the island if attacked, apparently under virtually any circumstances. He did not condition a U.S. defense on an unprovoked Chinese attack on Taiwan, instead implying that such an attack would need to be “unprecedented.” Well, any direct attack on the main island of Taiwan would be unprecedented. So, forget constitutional processes or conditionality. Biden will initiate a war with China on his own if Taiwan is attacked, thereby endangering U.S. lives and resources.
Second, Biden has now largely trashed what little remains of the U.S. One China policy and the strategic ambiguity that underlies it — a policy that, in the seventies, caused Beijing to commit itself to seeking peaceful unification as a top priority. That understanding, which has kept the peace in the Taiwan Strait for decades, is now on life support (if not already dead). Of course, many have asserted with great confidence that Beijing had already dropped its support for peaceful unification, so Biden’s commitment is simply a response to that new reality. Yet those seemingly rock-solid assertions rest on thin ice.
There is no conclusive proof that Beijing has given up on peaceful unification, although it has certainly increased its own military deterrence efforts many-fold, which is and should be of great concern. And yet Biden has given up on strategic ambiguity. Therefore, it has now become laughable, not just to the Chinese, but probably to many U.S. allies, for U.S. spokespeople to keep trying to clean up after Biden by stating that nothing in U.S. policy has changed. Washington cannot both provide a security guarantee to Taiwan, thereby treating it as an ally tied to vital U.S. security interests, and at the same time credibly assure the Chinese that it does not treat the island as a sovereign state.
Third, Biden’s statement puts U.S. allies in harm’s way and gives them no say in avoiding such a path. The U.S. could not intervene successfully in a war with China over Taiwan without using American bases in Japan, and possibly South Korea. That would leave both countries open to a Chinese attack. And yet the U.S. president has now committed the country to a course of action that would directly endanger those allies, without gaining their approval beforehand. And it is by no means clear that either Tokyo or Seoul would grant such approval if they had not been attacked by Beijing first. Biden has thus placed them in a near-impossible situation. They must not be happy.
Fourth, China will not in any sense be deterred by Biden’s remarks. Most analysts believe that Beijing already assumes that Washington will attempt to intervene militarily if China attacks Taiwan and is building its capabilities to deal with that eventuality, while also striving to improve its non-military influence over the island. All Biden’s remarks do is give further ammunition to those in China who argue in favor of putting more stress on military deterrence over any type of reassurance or non-military leverage. And make no mistake: China could plow a much higher level of its resources into accelerating its military threat to Taiwan and the U.S. In other words, Biden’s clear statement will further intensify the already escalating vicious circle driving toward conflict without compelling Beijing to behave in a more restrained manner.
Fifth, Biden’s statement further encourages Taiwan to free ride on its own defense. With a clear commitment by the U.S. president to defend the island, those on Taiwan who argue against increased sacrifices to greatly augment the island’s military capabilities will have more running room. The reality is that Taiwan needs to do much more to provide for its own defense. And yet, by his remarks, Biden has now undermined efforts by Washington and some in Taipei to encourage such Taiwanese self-strengthening. And so U.S. lives are now on the line to defend a people who will not do what is necessary to defend themselves.
In addition, by stating in his interview that it is “their [i.e. Taiwan’s] decision” to decide if it wishes to be independent, Biden contradicts past U.S. statements asserting that the fate of Taiwan should be determined peacefully and without coercion by both sides of the Strait. More troubling, he implies that the U.S. would have no say regarding such a decision, which of course is absurd. If such a decision could draw the United States into conflict with China, there is no doubt that Washington would exert decisive leverage over Taipei in taking it. There is also little doubt that the bulk of the international community would balk at any such move if it were made without Chinese acquiescence or approval.
Finally, Biden’s statement provides more running room for those U.S. politicians and officials who believe that Taiwan should be regarded as a strategic asset that must be denied to China. From this perspective, if the U.S. is unambiguously committing itself beforehand to defending Taiwan if attacked, it must be because the loss of the island would constitute a major blow to vital U.S. security interests. Therefore, the argument goes, the U.S. needs to ensure that China cannot take the island by vastly increasing America’s military presence near Taiwan, including, perhaps, by stationing U.S. forces on the island. That would be a sure path to war.
Finally, what makes the Biden remark particularly amazing is that it directly contradicts the arguments he made in a May 2001 Washington Post op-ed. Then-Senator Biden extolled many of the benefits of the U.S. policy of strategic ambiguity in criticizing a statement in which George W. Bush casted doubt on the policy.
Apparently, all those benefits have disappeared, and the above dangers can be neglected, simply because China’s military poses a greater potential threat to Taiwan. That is a reckless calculation. President Biden needs to rethink his view of the Taiwan issue and start speaking more responsibly.
- In mind-blowingly hypocritical UN speech, Biden tries to rewrite history Multipolarista
US President Joe Biden spoke at the United Nations General Assembly on September 21. He used the platform to try to portray the United States, the world’s leading violator of international law, as its protector.
Biden called “to hold Russia accountable for the atrocities and war crimes” it allegedly committed in Ukraine.
Biden himself strongly supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq. As vice president under Barack Obama and now president, he personally oversaw the US wars against Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan, as well as the drone bombing of Somalia and Pakistan.
But Biden declared from the UN podium: “If nations can pursue their imperial ambitions without consequences, then we put at risk everything this very institution stands for, everything.”
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- 87% of world doesn’t support West’s new cold war on Russia Multipolarista
Two former US diplomats have acknowledged that the vast majority of the global population does not support the West’s new cold war on Russia.
In a Newsweek op-ed titled “Nearly 90 Percent of the World Isn’t Following Us on Ukraine,” ex diplomats Michael Gfoeller and David H. Rundell wrote:
“While the United States and its closest allies in Europe and Asia have imposed tough economic sanctions on Moscow, 87 percent of the world’s population has declined to follow us. Economic sanctions have united our adversaries in shared resistance. Less predictably, the outbreak of Cold War II, has also led countries that were once partners or non-aligned to become increasingly multi-aligned.”
They acknowledged that new multilateral institutions like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the BRICS are growing, and offer new opportunities for countries in the Global South.
The diplomats also commented on the weakening of the Washington-controlled financial system and growing de-dollarization:
“The dollar’s reserve currency status remains a pillar of the global economic order, but trust in that order has been damaged. Economic sanctions have weaponized parts of the international banking and insurance sectors including the SWIFT fund transfer system. Assets have been seized and commodity contracts canceled. Calls for de-dollarization have become louder. When Russia demanded energy payments in rubles, yuan or UAE Dirhams, China and India complied.”
“Many Asian economies are now being hit by both rising oil prices and the depreciation of their own currency against the dollar. As a result, they are expanding their use of bilateral currency swaps which allow them to trade among themselves in their own currencies. Eighty years ago the British pound lost its preeminent position among the world’s currencies. This is precisely what America’s adversaries are trying to do to the dollar and if the Saudis ever stop pricing oil in dollars, they may very well succeed.”
- ‘Give workers an equal seat’: pressure builds for Levi’s to protect factory employees Guardian
Workers and activists have been campaigning to push Levi’s, one of the world’s largest clothing brands, to sign on to an international accord for workers’ health and safety in Bangladesh and Pakistan.
On 24 April 2013, the Rana Plaza building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which housed five garment clothing factories, collapsed, killing 1,134 people and injuring approximately 2,500, in the deadliest disaster in the garment industry’s history.
In the wake of the incident, fashion brands signed on to an international accord that legally bound them to pay for safety inspections in the Bangladeshi garment industry, which is the second largest exporter of clothing in the world, behind China. But since 2013, numerous top clothing brands have held out on signing on to the accord and subsequent extensions.
In 2021, an expanded international accord was developed to include more safety and worker health provisions beyond fire, electrical and structural inspections and repairs of factories. It covers garment factories in Pakistan as well as Bangladesh.
The worker health and safety provisions include covering complaints of excessive overtime, lack of maternity leave, regular breaks, access to clean water and bathrooms, and workplace accidents such as heat exhaustion and injuries. It also provides a worker complaint mechanism where employees can confidentially report violations and bind signatories to supporting the complaint process.
Over 170 fashion brands have signed on to the accord, including Adidas, American Eagle, Fruit of the Loom, H&M, Zara, Hugo Boss, Puma, Primark, and PVH which owns the brands Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger.
The US-based non-profit Remake, in partnership with the Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation, which represents 70,000 female garment workers in Bangladesh, the Labour Education Foundation in Pakistan, the US-based Service Employees International Union affiliate Workers United and Netherlands-based Clean Clothes Campaign, which includes 235 worker organizations, have formed a partnership to pressure Levi’s to sign on to the accord.
“The newly expanded international accord looks beyond building safety. So it is really a lifeline and a way for workers to share any wellbeing or workplace concerns,” said Ayesha Barenblat, founder and CEO of Remake.
She explained workers had singled out Levi’s due to its sizable presence in Pakistan and Bangladesh, which has more than 20 factories.
“We abjectly push back on the alleged effectiveness of Levi’s own safety program. The reason being that garment workers themselves have said – through Covid-19 [and] against the backdrop of the economic slowdown – their lives, and their wellbeing have simply been threatened and they do not have a direct line to the brands,” Barenblat said.
She added: “The accord gives workers an equal seat at the table. Private auditing programs do not do that and they have simply, in the last 30 years, not been effective.”