Global Events, the United Nations, and Disease
Climate Home News: World leaders not invited to attend critical UN biodiversity summit
Heads of government haven’t been invited to attend an important biodiversity summit in Canada, raising concerns nature is slipping down the global agenda amid fraught geopolitical relations.
The biodiversity conference, or Cop15, is a moment for countries to agree on a global framework to halt the destruction of nature by the end of this decade. Negotiators meet in Montreal, Canada, 7-19 December, to finalise the deal, widely billed as the “Paris Agreement for nature”.
But after four years of talks, the issue has failed to gain the attention of world leaders. First the coronavirus pandemic, then Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and soaring inflation pushed nature conservation down the agenda.
That is unlikely to change as China, which presides over the talks, hasn’t invited political leaders to attend the conference. President Xi Jinping isn’t expected to show up amid deteriorating relations with host Canada.
“As the plans go, we may not have the heads of state and government,” Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, head of UN Biodiversity, told Climate Home News during an event at think tank Chatham House in London.
But “pressure from many quarters” is building on China and Canada to reconsider, she added.
Campaigners have warned that without political leadership, the talks risk collapsing with no deal.
The draft deal outlines 21 targets but nearly all the text remains disputed. The version dated 26 June has more than 900 pairs of square brackets, enclosing proposed language that hasn’t got consensus.
Iraqi News: World Bank spent almost $15 bn on fossil fuel projects since Paris deal: report
The World Bank has pumped $14.8 billion into fossil fuel projects globally in the period following the landmark Paris climate accord, a report said Thursday.
Though the multilateral lender pledged in 2018 to end financing for upstream oil and gas, the move failed to include indirect financing via intermediaries, according to the report compiled by an NGO coalition called The Big Shift Global.
MEE: UN rejects debate on treatment of Uyghur Muslims in win for China
The UN Human Rights Council on Thursday voted against a western-led motion to hold a debate on alleged widespread abuses against Uyghurs and other Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region after intense lobbying by Beijing.
The United States and allies last month presented the first draft decision targeting China to the UN’s top rights body, seeking as a bare minimum a discussion on Xinjiang.
The move came after former UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet released her long-delayed Xinjiang report, citing possible crimes against humanity against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the far-western region.
Western countries thought that by going no further than simply seeking to talk about the findings, they would be able to muster up enough support against blocking it from the agenda.
But in a moment of drama, countries on the 47-member council in Geneva voted 19-17 against holding a debate on human rights in Xinjiang, with 11 nations abstaining.
Amnesty International branded the vote farcical, while Human Rights Watch said it betrayed abuse victims.
“The United States condemns today’s vote preventing a discussion about Xinjiang," tweeted Michele Taylor, US ambassador to the UN human rights council.
Inaction “shamefully suggests some countries are free from scrutiny and allowed to violate human rights with impunity”.
In a significant blow to western efforts, Muslim-majority countries and US partners voted against the debate, including Pakistan, Qatar, Sudan, and the United Arab Emirates.
Central Asian states Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, which share linguistic, cultural and religious ties to Muslims in China’s far western region, also voted against the move. Malaysia and Libya abstained.
“We are extremely disappointed by the treachery of Muslim-majority countries who voted against the motion and thereby shamelessly supporting China’s atrocities against the Turkic Muslim majority people of East Turkistan,” Salih Hudayar, prime minister of the East Turkistan Government in Exile, told MEE.
The East Turkistan Government in Exile (ETGE) was established in Washington DC in 2004 and is pushing for an independent state in China’s northwest, what is known officially as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. They are not officially recognised by the US.
Reuters: China, Russia at odds with US over UN meeting on North Korea
The United States asked the U.N. Security Council to meet on North Korea on Wednesday after Pyongyang fired a ballistic missile over Japan, but diplomats said China and Russia are opposed to a public discussion by the 15-member body.
Nuclear-armed North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile farther than ever before on Tuesday, sending it soaring over Japan for the first time in five years and prompting a warning for residents there to take cover.
“We must limit the DPRK’s ability to advance its unlawful ballistic missile and weapons of mass destruction programs,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, posted on Twitter, after calling for a public Security Council meeting.
Britain, France, Albania, Norway and Ireland joined the United States in making the request. North Korea is formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
However, China and Russia told council counterparts they are opposed to a public meeting, arguing that the reaction of the council should be conducive to easing the situation on the Korean Peninsula, diplomats said.
It was not immediately clear whether the council would meet publicly or behind closed doors on Wednesday. Any meaningful council action is unlikely, diplomats say.
Climate Home News: EU ministers back €20 billion plan to ditch Russian fossil fuels
European Union finance ministers reached a deal on Tuesday to raise €20 billion ($20bn) from the bloc’s carbon market to support the transition away from Russian energy, opening the way for talks with the European Parliament to finalise the plan.
Tuesday’s deal is part of a wider €300 billion ($300bn) plan tabled by the European Commission in May to speed up the energy transition in the wake of Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine.
“Today we achieved a major step forward in strengthening Europe’s autonomy from Russia’s fossil fuels,” said Zbyněk Stanjura, the finance minister of the Czech Republic, which holds the rotating EU presidency.
“Given the geopolitical context since Russia started its military aggression against Ukraine, and given the latest attacks on energy infrastructure in Europe, I am sure it is necessary to push for a fast agreement on this proposal,” he added.
Fortune: A low Mississippi River is about to deepen Europe’s energy crisis
The Mississippi River is a vital U.S. waterway that ferries key commodities between the heart of America and the Gulf Coast—and drought is putting waterborne trade in jeopardy.
Drought depleted river levels so much that in some spots vessels are getting stuck. One shipping company said low water levels are causing severe impacts to navigation not seen since 1988. It’s a key concern for transporting goods from a river basin that produces 92% of the nation’s agricultural exports, especially during harvest season.
The Mississippi River is the main artery for U.S. crop exports, with covered barges full of grain floating to terminals along the Gulf of Mexico. Petroleum and imported steel also transit through sections of the waterway as does fertilizer traveling from New Orleans. The dryness—and the low water levels it brings—imperils such commerce. In 2012, for instance, the Great Plains drought led to $35 billion in losses for the US, including closing the river at least three times.
The Mississippi River is currently closed near Stack Island, Mississippi, causing a backup of 117 vessels and 2,048 barges in the area as of midday Thursday, while a shutdown near Memphis, Tennessee has caused a smaller logjam, according to the Coast Guard. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is dredging near Stack Island and the Coast Guard intends to reopen the waterway with restrictions at some point Friday.
“Chronic low water conditions throughout the inland river system have had a negative effect on many who rely on the river,” said John Roberts, chief executive officer of Ingram Barge Co., the top U.S. barge operator. Low water levels are affecting part of the company’s operations below Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he said Thursday in an emailed statement.
Major barge lines on the river are turning away spot business as they struggle to meet demand for grains, metals and other raw materials already contracted well in advance. Shipping prices are soaring.
Al Jazeera: No nuclear power ‘renaissance’ as Europe wrestles energy crisis
But after eight months of fighting in Ukraine, and an energy crisis compounded most recently by the alleged sabotage of the arterial Nord Stream 1 and 2 Russia-to-Europe pipelines in the Baltic Sea, European governments long opposed to nuclear power have shown only incremental shifts in their attitudes, which have been informed by years of concerns about nuclear waste and safety.
A wider pivot has remained absent.
“We’re not talking about a nuclear renaissance, as such,” Nicolas Berghmans, an energy and climate expert at the France-based Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI), told Al Jazeera, “but maybe more of a change of tide.”
“A real nuclear renaissance would be if Europe decides to invest in more nuclear power plants.”
Said Mark Hibbs, a Germany-based non-resident senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, “I don’t see a major [nuclear power] watershed from what’s happening in Ukraine.”
Instead, the situation has reinforced some trends among countries already bought into nuclear energy, he said, while slowing some opponents’ phase-outs of the technology.
Euronews: Hungary and Turkey are the last two roadblocks to NATO membership for Finland and Sweden
In September the Finnish foreign minister said his Hungarian counterpart had promised to proceed with the ratification and assured the Finns there were no objections to Finland or Sweden’s accession.
A few weeks earlier at the end of August, Hungary’s Minister for Regional Development (and former EU Commissioner) Tibor Navracsics visited Helsinki and told Finnish MPs that his country would ratify their NATO membership application without delay.
“Hungary supports Finland’s NATO membership, but the ratification process in the Hungarian parliament is still under way,” a Finnish government press release noted at the time.
This week, however, Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz politicians blocked the introduction of a motion in parliament that would have speeded up a vote on the NATO accession process for both Finland and Sweden, in a move that drew sharp criticism from the opposition.
“This is an incomprehensible and unjustified decision,” said Bertalan Tóth, the Hungarian MP who tried to introduce the motion.
“Finland and Sweden are committed partners of NATO, have been involved in the Alliance’s Partnership for Peace programme since 1994 and have played and are playing an active role in past and present NATO-led peace support operations,” he added.
The discussion of the accession process is still on the Hungarian parliament schedule, in theory. However, no date has been set which means, for the time being, the issue is on the back burner.
Behind the scenes in Helsinki and Stockholm, there will be a certain degree of frustration among ministers and officials, thinking they’ve come so far, so fast with NATO membership, only to be blocked at the last hurdles.
So is there anything that either country can do to bring more pressure on Viktor Orbán and his government?
“There may not be much Finland can do about this,” said Minna Ålander, a researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs in Helsinki.
“Possibly Fidesz hopes to link Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership to the recent EU commission proposal to freeze funds for Hungary due to rule of law concerns,” she told Euronews.
“However in this case it looks like Orban is just joining the Turkish bandwagon when it comes to Finnish and Swedish NATO membership. As long as Erdogan keeps announcing that he’ll keep blocking their accession, as he did a couple of days ago, Hungary is unlikely to move either,” Ålander said.
And we already know what’s up with Turkey, so I’ll end the article there.
Responsible Statecraft: Zelensky’s NATO bid falls flat
On September 30, in the tailwind of Russia’s announcement that Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia would be annexed by Russia, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky issued a renewed plea for Ukrainian membership in NATO.
The Ukrainian president made his case for membership by pointing out that “de facto, we have already made our way to NATO.” With that statement, he lifted up Russia’s claim that it is “now in a direct war with the U.S.” or, as Putin said on September 21, that Russia is fighting “the entire Western military machine.”
In other words, Zelensky’s request has further fed into Russian fears that Ukraine has already become a Western vassal. For Ukraine and its allies, it also highlighted, once again, that Kyiv is not a member of NATO. And, judging by the muted response from NATO leaders, that’s not going to change anytime soon.
Take NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who repeated that the door is open to all European countries before slamming the door shut again by saying that “our focus now is on providing immediate support to Ukraine to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia’s brutal invasion.”
If that wasn’t enough, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan then pretty much locked the door, saying Ukraine’s application “should be taken up at a different time.”
RT: US and Russia make headway in nuclear talks – media
Russia and the US have managed to achieve “significant progress” in talks over resuming nuclear inspections within the New START treaty, Russian newspaper Izvestia reported on Thursday, citing the Foreign Ministry. The sides are also apparently mulling face-to-face negotiations to remedy remaining issues.
According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, as quoted by the outlet, Moscow and Washington are looking into reviving mutual inspection of nuclear arsenals. The ministry noted that the US and Russia are negotiating “over relevant channels” on how to return “to the full implementation of the treaty” in the element relating to verification mechanisms.
It went on to say that the sides are holding virtual talks within the New START bilateral consultative panel. “At the moment, the possibilities for holding its next session in face-to-face format are being explored,” the ministry added.
Russia and the US are also discussing “what organizational and technical problems need to be solved,” it told the outlet, adding that “significant progress” has been made to remedy a number of issues, but some “considerable difficulties remain.”
RT: EU sanctions new Russian territories
The European Council on Thursday extended its anti-Russian sanctions to Zaporozhye and Kherson, the former Ukrainian regions which joined the Russian Federation this week. The EU governing body announced its decision in a statement on the eighth package of sanctions imposed on Moscow over what it called the “illegal annexation” of Ukrainian territories.
“The Council also decided that as of today, the geographical scope of the restrictions introduced on February 23, including notably the import ban on goods from the non-government controlled areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, will be extended to cover also the non-controlled areas of the oblasts of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson,” the statement reads.
RT: Russia and Iran agree to swap supplies of oil and gas – senior official
Russia’s deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Novak announced on Thursday that Moscow and Tehran may agree a swap of supplies, of five million tons of oil and ten billion cubic meters of gas, to be completed by year’s end.
He added that the two countries were currently working out routes and technical arrangements for the exchange of supplies.
“At first stage it will be about five million tons (of oil) a year and ten billion cubic meters of gas,” Novak specified, pointing out that the countries are now focused on “transportation, logistics and price issues.” He said that economists should first work out commercial contracts in detail, adding that the work is underway.
RT: Inflation rate falling in Russia – Putin
Inflation in Russia has been slowing and dropped to 13.5% last week, President Putin said on Thursday at a meeting on economic issues, referring to the year-on-year rate of the consumer price index.
Putin also spoke about inflation rates across Europe, which have been on the rise over the past few months.
“By the way, in the Eurozone it is 10%, in the Federal Republic [Germany] - 10.9%, in the Netherlands - 17.1%, in Latvia - 22.4%, in Lithuania - 22.5%, in Estonia - 24.2%, I think,” Putin said as quoted by RIA Novosti, referring to official figures for September. Prices are rising, continent-wide, due to surging energy costs, among other factors.
Inflation in Russia started to spike in late February against a backdrop of Western sanctions, peaking at 17.83% in April. However, as the economy started to recover, trade continued to flow and the national currency, the ruble, strengthened to multi-year highs against the major currencies, inflation in Russia began to slow and as of September 26 stood at 13.71%, according to official statistics.
SCMP: China’s yuan becomes most traded foreign currency on Russian exchange amid efforts to ‘de-dollarize’ economy
The yuan surpassed the US dollar for the first time this week to become the most traded foreign currency on the Moscow exchange as tensions with the West push the Russian economy closer to China.
A total of 64,900 yuan-rouble transactions were completed on Monday, with the volume of trading reaching 70.3 billion roubles (US$1.17 billion), data from the Moscow Exchange Group showed.
In comparison, spot trading of the US dollar-rouble pair totalled 68.2 billion roubles over 29,500 transactions.
EU Reporter: Supply of fertilizers to the poorest countries frozen, Russian private companies take initiative
The head of EU diplomacy Josep Borrell and other top European officials have repeatedly declared and continue to declare that no sanctions are imposed on the critical humanitarian goods such as energy, grain, and fertilizers. However, their words are at odds with their deeds. No effective efforts have been made to lift the bans.
One of the latest assurances of a de facto lifting of the ban on Russian fertilizer, coal, cement, and timber shipments was made by high-ranking EU officials on September 28. However, this was done not out of humanitarian considerations but in order to encourage Greece, Cyprus, and Malta to support restrictions on the transportation of Russian oil by tankers. Hence, transport and insurance companies have been banned from transporting or insuring Russian oil if it is sold in the amounts exceeding an EU-defined threshold. As we can see, the problem of providing the most needy countries with food and fertilizers stays where it cannot be solved.
Currently, about 300,000 tons of various types of fertilizers have been stuck in European ports. Russia is ready to hand them over to African countries free of charge; however, they are not released from the ports. What is this if not the conscious desire of the EU to doom hundreds of millions of people in Africa to starvation?
In this situation, Uralchem, a Russian producer of potash, nitrogen, and complex fertilizers, decided to take initiative and act independently. In the end of September, Uralchem sent more than 23,000 tons of complex fertilizers NPK 27:6:6 to Africa as a humanitarian batch. Since it is impossible to supply fertilizers and other vital products from the EU ports, the products were shipped from a Russian port. The ship went to the port of Lome, Togo, for the subsequent free delivery of fertilizers to Burkina Faso. The shipment is expected to reach the African continent in mid-October.
The actions of the EU preventing the transportation of vital products entail devastating consequences for the third-world countries. The decline of agriculture, food shortages, and the spread of starvation among billions of people – this will be an outcome of the EU policy. This is unacceptable. For many months the EU has been publicly claiming that supplies will resume soon, but dependent countries and companies in fact must comply with many onerous conditions that turn these statements into nothing. So far, the “battle for food and fertilizers” is going on without any participation of third countries, that is, those who are most interested in the supply of these products. The continuation of this battle for the sake of the political ambitions of the developed countries puts half of the Earth’s population on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe never seen before.
Euronews: Macron and Truss kiss and make up in Prague after ‘friend or foe’ row
Liz Truss has said that Emmanuel Macron is a friend of Britain, having declared during the summer that “the jury’s out” on whether the French president was a friend or foe.
“I work very, very closely with President Macron and the French government and what we’re talking about is how the UK and France can work more closely together to build more nuclear power stations and to make sure that both countries have energy security in the future,” the British prime minister told reporters in Prague, where she has been attending the first summit of the European Political Community.
When asked whether the French leader was a friend, she replied: “He is a friend.”
WSWS: Truss’s mini-budget debacle costs UK economy £300 billion
The fallout from UK Prime Minister Liz Truss’s September “mini-budget” threatens the survival of the Tory government. £300 billion have been wiped off the country’s stock and bond markets in the month since she came to power, mostly in the past two weeks.
With the markets in turmoil and the Bank of England hiking interest rates, mortgages have become far more expensive. The rate for a two-year fixed deal topped 6 percent Wednesday for the first time since 2008, in the wake of the financial crash. This is an extraordinary rise. Just two weeks ago the average was 4.7 percent. Last December it was 2.3 percent.
Five-year deals are also nearing 6 percent, the highest since 2010.
WSWS: Child hunger “single biggest challenge” facing UK schools
School children are eating erasers (rubbers) to curb hunger pains while others are hiding at playtime or pretending to eat from empty lunch boxes to disguise that they have no food.
These are just some of the harrowing accounts made to the Observer by charities and teaching staff across the UK. Their Dickensian accounts of families and children left without food comes ahead of a report by healthy eating charity, Chefs in Schools on the scale of hunger among school children.
There is a “heart-breaking” increase in hungry children, the charity reports, with school chefs “actively going out and finding the kids who are hiding in the playground because they don’t think they can get a meal and feeding them.”
“We are hearing about kids who are so hungry they are eating rubbers [erasers] in school,” said Naomi Duncan, chief executive of Chefs in Schools. “Kids are coming in having not eaten anything since lunch the day before.”
Currently all infant school children from reception to year two are entitled to free school meals. After that, strict regulations mean that only those whose parents earn less than £7,400 can claim.
Almost two million children receive free lunches, and some 2,000 schools are currently signed up to a national programme to provide subsidised breakfasts.
Child hunger became a political issue at the start of the pandemic in 2020 when children lost their only meal of the day during lockdowns. A campaign by footballer Marcus Rashford led to free school meals being made available for a limited period but only in the face of bitter resistance by the then Johnson government.
But child poverty is rising—from 4.1 million in 2018 to 4.3 million this year. A report by the Childhood Trust in December forecast nearly one-third of all children would go hungry that winter. The situation is much worse this year. Headteachers describe child hunger as the “single biggest challenge” schools face, amid reports of teachers buying toasters to feed children too hungry to learn.
Al Jazeera: UK could face 3-hour power cuts this winter, National Grid warns
WSWS: UK train drivers mount further national strikes as rail unions seek a sell-out deal with Tory government
More than 9,000 train drivers at 13 train operating companies joined national strike action on October 5 as part of a determined fight for a wage increase after three years of a government-backed pay freeze.
The strike by members of the ASLEF union that covers 96 percent of train drivers impacted train services at Avanti West Coast, Chiltern Railways, Cross Country, Greater Anglia, Great Western Railway, Hull Trains, LNER, London Overground, Northern Trains, Southeastern, TransPennine Express, West Midlands Trains and East Midland Railways.
This roll call demonstrates that train drivers are fighting a coordinated offensive by train operating companies backed by the Tory government.
Train operating companies (TOCs) were handed £16 billion of taxpayers’ money during the pandemic, yet they are denying key workers a pay increase for a third consecutive year with inflation at 12.3 percent and set to rise. ASLEF has stated, “the companies with whom we are in dispute have not offered us a penny.”
In the face of this onslaught, ASLEF, the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), Transport Salaried Staff Association (TSSA) and Unite are working to block unified action that is necessary to defeat the government’s agenda. The rail unions are continuing to stagger and divide industrial action against a massive assault on pay, jobs, terms and conditions.
WSWS: Further pay strike set to bring Liverpool docks to a standstill as Felixstowe threatens more walkouts
Dockers in Liverpool, northwest England, are to extend their strikes at the UK’s second largest port with a further stoppage planned from October 11 to 17.
Dockers at the UK’s largest port, Felixstowe on the southeast coast, are threatening to resume their stoppage. Felixstowe dockers previously walked out for eight days from September 27. This coincided for seven days with the 15-day strike by Liverpool dockers which ended on Monday.
Senior control room operators and control room operators at Liverpool voted to join the 560 port operators and engineers, who first walked out on September 19 after rejecting a pay offer of between 7 to 8.3 percent. Inflation is currently at 12.3 percent, but is set to increase after the government’s mini budget sparked a run on the pound, coupled with rising interest rates.
The Guardian: Holyrood committee backs self-declaration for transgender people
A Holyrood committee tasked with scrutinising the Scottish government’s gender recognition reform bill has given its support to the key principles for simplifying how transgender people can update their birth certificates – including the introduction of self-declaration.
The report comes a day after the Equality and Human Rights Commission, in its second public intervention on the bill, detailed concerns about the cross-border impact of the legislation and raised the prospect the Westminster government may not recognise the new Scottish certificates in the rest of the UK.
Thursday’s report by Holyrood’s equalities, human rights and civil justice committee recommends, by a majority of five to two, the move to statutory self-declaration before the registrar general for legal gender recognition, thus removing the need for a psychiatric diagnosis of gender dysphoria.
It also supports reducing the age at which people can apply for a gender recognition certificate (GRC) from 18 to 16, in line with wider Scots law on legal capacity, as well as reducing the time someone must have been permanently living in their gender before they can apply, from two years to three months.
Euronews: Backlog for Dutch asylum applicants as high as during the 2015 migrant crisis
The backlog of asylum applications in the Netherlands is almost as high as during the 2015 refugee crisis, according to new data.
Figures from Eurostat show that the Dutch immigration service has not yet responded to almost 30,000 asylum seekers.
A total of 29,460 asylum applications to the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) are pending, Eurostat noted.
This is only 180 applications fewer than the backlog in 2015, even though the number of new applications in 2022 is much less.
Martijn van der Linden, a spokesperson for the Dutch Council for Refugees, said they were “very concerned” about the impact of the backlog on refugees and asylum seekers.
RT: German MEPs call for expulsion of Berlusconi
Several German MEPs have called on the European Parliament’s main conservative group to kick out Silvio Berlusconi and his party if he chooses to support Giorgia Meloni and her “extreme right-wing” coalition in Italy.
In a letter published by Politico on Wednesday, three German MEPs demanded that Manfred Weber, the leader of the European People’s Party (EPP), which holds the most seats in the European Parliament, eject Forza Italia from the coalition unless its leader and former Italian PM Berlusconi abandons Meloni.
Last month, Meloni and her Brothers of Italy (FI) party led a right-wing bloc – which included Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and Matteo Salvini’s League parties – to a landslide victory in snap parliamentary elections, securing a majority in both houses of the nation’s parliament.
Meloni is now set to form Italy’s most right-wing government since World War II and will likely become the country’s first ever female prime minister.
However, some in Brussels have grown concerned by the prospect of a right-wing group coming to power in Italy. “It is not too late to prevent a far-right government of Giorgia Meloni in Italy,” wrote the German MEPs, branding the FI party extremists and insisting that their populist positions are “incompatible with core European values.”
Euronews: At least 22 dead and dozens missing after migrant boats sink near Lesbos and Kythira
At least 22 people have died and dozens were still missing after two boats carrying migrants sank in Greek waters on Wednesday.
The vessels, which may have travelled from neighbouring Turkey, were hit by stormy weather in the Mediterranean Sea.
Authorities said at least 15 women and one young man had died near the island of Lesbos. A second man was later found dead by divers from the European Union’s Frontex border agency.
Rescuers pulled ten people from the stormy waters but 12 migrants were still missing early on Thursday, Greece’s coastguard said.
In a separate incident on Wednesday, at least 11 people were believed to be missing after another boat hit rocks near the island of Kythira – several hundred kilometres west of Lesbos.
Euronews: Spain approves law banning praise of former dictator Francisco Franco
Spain’s senate has approved a landmark bill that will ban expressions of support for the former dictator Francisco Franco.
The new “Law on Democratic Memory” will also enshrine the memory of Franco’s victims and also make the state responsible for searching for missing civil war casualties.
The bill was approved by 128 lawmakers in the Senate on Wednesday, with 113 votes against and 18 abstentions.
The legislation had already been passed by Spain’s parliament in July after a lengthy debate.
I know I’m just Making Up Guys In My Head To Get Angry At, but given the brainworms that everybody has, I think this guy probably exists: “Banning supportive statements about leaders, even fascist ones, makes you worse than the dictators themselves, because you’re violating free speech.” Okay, got that out of my system.
WSWS: Poland discusses hosting American nuclear weapons as US buys up anti-radiation drugs
Amid growing warnings that the war between Russia and NATO in Ukraine could turn nuclear, Polish President Andrzej Duda said Wednesday that he has spoken to Washington about stationing American nuclear weapons in the country.
Poland shares a 120-mile border with the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.
“The first problem is that we don’t have nuclear weapons,” Duda told Gazeta Polska. “There is always a potential opportunity to participate in the Nuclear Sharing program. We spoke to American leaders about whether the United States was considering this possibility.”
The announcement comes as authorities in Kiev have started distributing potassium iodine tablets—used to protect from radiation exposure from nuclear detonations—in evacuation centers throughout the city.
On Thursday, the department of health and human services announced that it has purchased more than $290 million worth of Nplate, “for use in radiological and nuclear emergencies.”
According to the National Institutes of Health, Nplate has “expanded the toolbox of medical countermeasures available in case a catastrophic event exposes people to high doses of radiation. Such an event could be a nuclear explosion, an accident at a nuclear reactor, a radiotherapy accident, or the escape of radioactive waste”
I believe the United States has since shot this proposal by Poland down.
RT: Belarus in nuclear danger – president
Belarus is facing the possibility of a tactical nuclear attack from Poland, President Alexander Lukashenko said on Thursday, in response to revelations that Warsaw and Washington have been in “nuclear sharing” talks. Lukashenko said he will discuss the matter with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Polish President Andrzej Duda said yesterday that they’ve already agreed with the Americans to host the arsenal in Poland. What’s that tell us? That we really face an attack with tactical nuclear weapons,” Lukashenko told the TV channel STV.
As Belarus has no nuclear weapons of its own, it needs to take “appropriate measures” in response, Lukashenko said, adding he will discuss this with the Kremlin.
TeleSUR: Germany Criticizes US For Charging High Gas Prices
On Wednesday, Germany’s Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action Robert Habeck criticized the “excessive” gas prices charged by “friendly” supplier countries, such as the United States.
“Some countries, even the friendly ones, are charging astronomical prices in some cases. Of course, this brings problems that we must talk about,” Habeck told the Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung (NOZ) newspaper.
Gas prices in Europe are twice as high as before the start of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
“The United States turned to us when oil prices soared, and the national oil reserves were tapped in Europe as well,” Habeck said. “I think such solidarity would also be good for curbing gas prices.”
WSWS: In Germany, more and more depend on food banks
As more and more people in Germany now need support from Tafeln (food banks), food donations are declining. A study shedding light on this increasingly precarious situation is already outdated. As a result of war, inflation and the energy price explosion, the number of people seeking help has doubled in two years from 1.1 million to more than 2 million.
The DIW (German Institute for Economic Research) study examined who and how many people use food banks in Germany. The results cover the first half of 2020, during which time 1.1 million people who did not have enough money to provide themselves with food used food banks.
In the meantime, this number has already doubled. In mid-July 2022, Jochen Brühl, chairman of the umbrella organization Tafel Deutschland, was already talking about a new record level. According to him, as more people are affected by poverty that ever before, “well over two million” are using food banks, which are increasingly unable to cope with the onslaught.
Oil Price: Germany Needs To Slash Natural Gas Consumption To Avoid A Winter Emergency
Germany may be unable to avoid a gas emergency this winter if all consumers don’t significantly cut consumption in Europe’s biggest economy, according to Klaus Müller, the president of the Federal Network Agency, Bundesnetzagentur.
“The situation may become very serious if we do not significantly reduce our gas consumption,” Müller told Reuters on Thursday, adding that households, industry, and businesses need to cut consumption by at least 20%. According to the regulator, German households and small businesses used nearly 10% more gas than the four-year average for that week.
Reuters: Norway expects to earn record $131 bln from oil and gas in 2023
The Norwegian government expects record income next year from its oil and gas industry, it said on Thursday, predicting a rise of 18% from this year’s level and a fivefold increase over 2021 as production rises and prices soar.
European gas prices have roughly tripled in 2022 following Russia’s cut in supplies both before and after its invasion of neighbouring Ukraine, and the price is up tenfold compared to levels seen prior to last year.
Norway, Europe’s number one gas supplier and a major global crude producer, expects to pump 4.3 million barrels of oil equivalent per day next year, up from an expected 4.1 million barrels in 2022 and ensuring big financial gains from the spike in energy prices.
The Norwegian finance ministry in its draft budget for 2023 said oil and gas revenue next year was seen rising to a record 1.38 trillion crowns ($131 billion) from 1.17 trillion crowns in 2022 and 288 billion crowns in 2021.
East Asia and Oceania
Inquirer: Thailand-Laos railway project steams ahead, operations to start in mid-2023
The Thailand-Laos rail project linking the China-Laos railway is on track, with services expected to commence in mid-2023 and both countries agreeing that Thanaleng station in Vientiane’s Hadxayfong district will be an international one, the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) said on Wednesday.
TeleSUR: India’s Falling Rupee Hits All-time Low, What It Signifies
A multitude of factors, including the ongoing Ukraine crisis, the raising of interest rates by the U.S. Federal Reserve, and investors selling Indian stocks to buy foreign ones, are believed to be the reasons behind the falling rupee.
Indian rupee has fallen to a record low against the U. S. dollar. The rupee declined last week against the U.S. dollar and is currently close to inching toward 82.
In 2022 so far, the rupee has depreciated 8.9 percent against the U.S. dollar.
India’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), has burnt forex reserves at a dramatic pace this calendar year to prevent exchange rate volatility, an intervention aimed at defending the currency at a particular level.
According to a report in the local daily Business Line, as the RBI sold dollars to arrest the fall of the rupee, India’s forex reserves depleted the most among all emerging economies. Since the beginning of 2022, India’s reserves have fallen 13.88 percent from 633.6 billion U.S. dollars to 545.6 billion U.S. dollars as of Sept. 16.
Euronews: North Korea carries out sixth missile launch in two weeks
North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles in Japan’s direction on Thursday.
They were launched 22 minutes apart and landed in the sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
It is the sixth missile launch by North Korea in under two weeks, in response to joint US and South Korean military drills in the region.
It comes two days after North Korea fired an intermediate-range missile over Japan for the first time in five years.
This missile launch on Thursday occurred as Pyongyang condemned the US for meeting with the UN Security Council to discuss North Korea’s recent missile launches, which it justifies as a counteractive measure.
Central Asia and the Middle East
TeleSUR: People Injured in Iran From Earthquake Exceeds 1,100 People
“According to the latest data, 1,127 people suffered injuries from the earthquake in Khoy county,” an ambulance representative said.
Earlier, some 530 people were reported injured from the quake, of whom 135 were hospitalized.
Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi ordered regional authorities to help those affected by the quake and provide temporary housing for people whose houses were damaged.
He also called for urgent measures to rebuild damaged residential buildings before winter.
According to the Euro-Mediterranean Seismological Center, a 5.7 magnitude earthquake struck northwestern Iran near the border with Turkey on Wednesday at 00.21 GMT; its epicenter was located 15 kilometers southeast of the city of Khoy, capital of the eponymous county. The hypocenter was found at a depth of five kilometers.
Mint Press News: Israel Using Palestinians as Lab Rats with AI-powered Gun at Checkpoint
The Israeli military installed an automatic weapon at a heavily-trafficked checkpoint in the occupied West Bank city of al-Khalil in September. While it was initially reported that the weapon will fire a wide range of projectiles, the army now states the device is only capable of firing sponge-tipped bullets. Reiterating the remote-controlled gun will not use live fire, the IDF hopes this system will be used to test approved crowd dispersal methods. But critics assert the device is yet another example of Israel using Palestinians as guinea pigs so they can market their military technology as field-tested to governments around the world.
The weapon was placed at a military checkpoint on Al-Shuhada Street, a once vibrant center of Palestinian life in al-Khalil, but is now recognized as a symbol of Israel’s occupation. After Israeli-American settler Baruch Goldstein gunned down 29 worshipers at the Ibrahimi Mosque in 1994, Israel shut down the busy road and eventually declared it a closed military area where only residents can pass through. According to Issa Amro, an al-Khalil resident and founder of Palestinian activist group Youths Against Settlements, the area is home to 200 families and the checkpoint is used by around 300 families every day.
The army argues this weapon will be used for riot dispersal, given the checkpoint’s history of demonstrations. But Amro says this area is not a security threat. “There is no security need to install this automatic weapon there,” he told MintPress News. “There is no violence. The checkpoint is well-protected with many fences, doors, and gates.”
While the weapon will not shoot live fire, sponge-tipped bullets have proven to be fatal, with several cases of Palestinians being seriously injured (such as Palestinians losing their eyes after being hit by sponge rounds) or killed by these bullets. The Al-Shuhada Street checkpoint has also been the site of several killings of Palestinians by Israeli forces.
Amro, who passes through the checkpoint daily, is concerned about the accuracy and potential failure of this machine technology. “I’m afraid every time I pass [through this checkpoint] that this weapon is pointing at me, pointing at children, or women,” he said. “People are terrified.”
MEMO: Saudi Arabia plants over 12m trees to reverse desertification
Saudi Arabia has planted more than 12 million wild trees and shrubs in a bid to combat desertification.
According to the Saudi Gazette, the National Centre for Vegetation Development and Combating Desertification (NCVC) planted the trees while starting the Integrated Management and Sustainable Development of Pastures Project, which is part of the Kingdom’s National Pasture Strategy Initiative, in line with Saudi Arabia’s Visio 2030.
Africanews: WHO launches suicide prevention in Africa, home to six countries with the highest suicide rates
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Thursday the launch of a suicide prevention campaign in Africa, a region it says has the highest rate of suicide deaths in the world.
“About 11 people per 100,000 die in the African region, which is higher than the global average of nine cases of suicide per 100,000 people,” the WHO regional office for Africa said in a statement.
Africa “is home to six of the ten countries with the highest suicide rates in the world,” it continued. The most common methods used are “hanging, pesticide poisoning and, to a lesser extent, drowning, use of a firearm, plunging into a void or overdosing on drugs”.#
This situation is explained “in part by the limited means of action available to treat and prevent risk factors, including mental disorders,” the text adds.
The region “has one psychiatrist for every 500,000 inhabitants, which is 100 times less than the WHO recommendation,” it says.
Africanews: NGO’s denounce Uganda oil project
A report released on Wednesday by two environmental NGO’s has warned of potentially “unacceptable” damage caused by a controversial project involving French oil giant TotalEnergies and China’s National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC).
The two companies signed a $10-billion agreement earlier this year to develop Ugandan oilfields and ship crude through a 1,445-kilometre pipeline to Tanzania’s Indian Ocean port of Tanga.
“In concrete terms, we are talking about a pipeline that will be over 1,400 kilometres long. And the promoters of the project boast that it will be the longest heated pipeline in the world. Why heated? It will be heated to 50 degrees because the oil in Uganda is too viscous and so they need to heat it to liquefy it and make it go through the pipeline easily. So it’s a climate aberration”, denounced Juliette Renaud, Campaigner for Friends of the Earth France.
The report said the pipeline would emit “up to 34 million tonnes of CO2 per year into the atmosphere – far more than the combined greenhouse gas emissions of Uganda and Tanzania”.
The NGO’s accuse the oil companies of not putting in place adequate measures to safeguard communities and the environment.
“Lake Victoria, but also Lake Albert, where the oil drilling is going to take place, are sources of the Nile, so the impacts go far beyond Uganda and Tanzania. And unfortunately, what the experts who have studied Total’s social and environmental impact studies tell us is that there will definitely be leaks. Moreover, Total has not yet put in place adequate measures to prevent these leaks”, said the activist.
Reacting to the report, TotalEnergies said it would “do everything possible to make it an exemplary project in terms of transparency, shared prosperity, economic and social progress, sustainable development, environmental awareness and respect for human rights”.
The European Parliament has already passed a resolution saying that more than 100,000 people were at risk of being displaced by the pipeline and called for them to be adequately compensated.
Climate Home News: Ugandan police ‘brutally arrest’ anti-pipeline protesters outside EU embassy
Ugandan police have been accused of brutality towards students protesting against Total Energies’ East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (Eacop).
About 50 protesters delivered a petition to the European Union’s embassy in Uganda’s capital Kampala yesterday.
Protester Nabuyanda John Solomon told Climate Home they were attacked by police officers who “brutally arrested” nine, broke one man’s arm and hit another’s eye with a baton.
The arrested protesters are being held in the maximum security Luzira prison until they appear in court on Monday, charged with “common nuisance”, Solomon said.
RT: President apologizes for son’s invasion threat
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has had to apologize to Kenya following his son Muhoozi Kainerugaba’s tweets that included threats to seize the capital Nairobi and remarks about recent elections.
“I ask our Kenyan brothers and sisters to forgive us for tweets sent by General Muhoozi, former Commander of Land Forces here, regarding the election matters in that great country,” the Ugandan president said in a statement.
Museveni fired his son, known as the “Tweeting General,” from being the head of land forces but at the same time promoted him from lieutenant-general to full general. The Ugandan leader explained that there are “many other positive contributions the general has made and can still make”.
Museveni added that it was not correct for officials or military officers to “comment or interfere in any way, in the internal affairs of brother countries.” Kainerugaba, who is widely considered as a potential future successor of his father, has also retained his post as a military adviser.
MEMO: Egypt calls for return of Rosetta Stone 200 years after it was deciphered
Prominent Egyptian archaeologists have renewed a call for the return of the Rosetta Stone from the British Museum to Egypt, 200 years after the deciphering of the slab unlocked the secrets of hieroglyphic script and marked the birth of Egyptology.
The archaeologists' online campaign has gathered 2,500 signatures, so far, and aims to “tell Egyptians what has been taken from them”, said Monica Hanna, acting Dean of the College of Archaeology in the Egyptian city of Aswan.
TeleSUR: Thousands Displaced Following Weija Dam Spillage in Ghana
Thousands of residents of the southwestern part of Accra, the Ghanaian capital, have been displaced due to the spillage of the Weija Dam, which was caused by excess water following torrential rains over the weekend.
Stanley Martey, communications manager for the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL), said the spillage was necessary as the water behind the dam had exceeded its maximum holding capacity.
“We informed the communities days ahead of the spillage, but many did not heed the warning,” Martey said, adding that there were no reported deaths yet, but thousands of residents were displaced and their properties destroyed.
“My house is flooded with the water at my waist level now… Four of my employees have left because they fear for their lives, and I understand them. It is that bad. Most people have left the area, but this is where I have resided for a decade, so I can’t leave,” said Philip Owusu-Afriyie, an entrepreneur.
Power was cut off in the communities as electricity transformers were inundated by flood waters. Water supply lines were also not working, creating the possibility of sanitation-related infections should the situation persist.
WSWS: Kenyan President Ruto auditions for US and British imperialism
As the NATO powers escalate against Russia in the Ukraine, bringing the world to the brink of nuclear war, and dramatically escalate tensions with China over Taiwan, Kenyan President William Ruto travelled to London and New York.
Ruto’s first stop after winning the August presidential election was the UK, to attend the Queen Elizabeth’s funeral service in London. Ruto groveled before the late figurehead of British imperialism, stating: “We will miss the cordial ties she enjoyed with Kenya and may her memories continue to inspire us, we join the Commonwealth in mourning and offer our condolences to the Royal Family and the United Kingdom during these difficult moments.”
Ruto was silent on British imperialism’s brutal role in Kenya. Queen Elizabeth became the monarch in 1952 while visiting Kenya, after her father, King George VI, died. She served as Kenya’s Head of State as a mass anti-colonial armed revolt broke out from 1952 to 1960, led by the Kenya Land and Freedom Army, commonly known as the Mau Mau rebellion.
London’s reaction was brutal, claiming an estimated 150,000 Kenyan lives according to historian Caroline Elkins’s work Britain’s Gulag: The Brutal End of Empire in Kenya. Her study showed how the UK detained half a million people in camps and fortified villagers. Thousands were beaten to death or died from malnutrition, typhoid, tuberculosis or dysentery. Inmates were used as slave labour and subjected to sexual assault. Interrogation under torture was widespread.
After paying his respect to Kenya’s former colonial overlord, Ruto travelled to the United States for the 77th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). There, he used his tour to reassure the US ruling establishment that Washington can count on his government as a loyal partner to help it maintain its strategic grip over Eastern and Central Africa, where Washington has launched a long series of interventions, drone strikes and proxy wars.
After meeting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Ruto tweeted: “We pledged to advance our strategic partnership at both bilateral and multilateral levels. We acknowledge the strong ties between Kenya and the United States and commit to step up cooperation in the areas of trade, investment, food security and stability in the Horn of Africa for the benefit of the people.”
Although the details of the meeting have not been revealed, Ruto later promised the 3,500-strong Kenyan Defence Forces (KDF) would prolong its decade-long stay in Somalia. He told France24: “those troops will be back home as soon as we’ve done with the assignment that we have in Somalia.”
In recent weeks, the KDF has reportedly worked with the national Somali army, killing hundreds of Al-Shabaab fighters in the Hiiraan, Galgaduud and Bay regions.
Kenya functions a key US proxy against the Al-Shabaab insurgency in Somalia. This strategically located country sits on the Indian Ocean and the entrance to the Red Sea, through which around $700 billion in maritime shipping passes every year. This includes nearly all Europe’s trade with Asia, including from Washington’s rival, China.
Should war with China break out, Washington would seek to use Somalia as a chokepoint to strangle Chinese trade through the Suez Canal with Europe.
Africanews: Kenyan NGOs protest approval of GM crops
The Kenyan government’s decision to reverse a ban on the import and cultivation of genetically modified organisms was “hasty,” activists and agricultural lobby groups denounced Thursday, calling for the prohibition to be “reinstated.”
The government of new President William Ruto on Monday allowed the import and cultivation of GMOs, banned since 2012, to address the country’s severe drought.
“The hasty decision to lift the ban on GMO imports into the country was taken without public debate,” according to a statement signed Thursday by a dozen organizations, including Greenpeace Africa.
“Food security is not only about the quantity but also the quality of food,” according to the organizations' statement, which called for “the ban to be restored.”
Kenya had banned the cultivation of GMOs in 2012, in part to protect small farms, which account for the majority of farms in the country.
The country, the economic engine of East Africa, had been criticized after taking this decision, including by the United States, a major producer of GMOs.
In a statement issued on Monday, Kenyan authorities said they wanted to “significantly redefine agriculture in Kenya” and announced the authorization of “crops that are resistant to pests and diseases”.
The authorities claimed to have relied on advice from the World Health Organization and the FAO before making their decision.
Iraqi News: Demonstrators rally in support of new Burkina Faso leader
Demonstrators gathered in the capital of Burkina Faso on Thursday to show their support for the country’s new junta leader, as rumours swirled of internal divisions in the army.
Ibrahim Traore was declared president on Wednesday after a two-day standoff that ousted Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Damiba, who had seized power only in January.
Traore was at the head of a core of disgruntled junior officers — but there were rumours just a few days later of discussions among some other army generals over potentially replacing him.
Al Jazeera: South Africa’s rail and port workers go on strike over wages
Workers of South Africa’s freight and rail operator Transnet commenced an industrial action on Thursday as a wage dispute between the company and two major unions seems set to paralyse services and disrupt exports.
The state-owned Transnet has been operating below capacity due to a shortage of locomotives, poor maintenance and vandalism and theft of its infrastructure, costing miners billions of rand in potential revenue.
Al Jazeera: South Africa submits $8.5bn plan for greener energy
South Africa has submitted an investment plan to donors who have pledged $8.5bn to help the country’s transition to renewable energy, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
On Thursday, presidency spokesperson Vincent Magwenya confirmed that the plan was ready but declined to say whether it had been submitted.
“A draft of the investment plan, which outlines the investments required to achieve South Africa’s ambitious climate targets … has been finalised and will be shared with key stakeholders before it is submitted to cabinet for approval,” he said.
The officials are racing to finish the deal before the COP27 climate talks that will take place in Egypt, starting on November 6. The proposal could become a potential model for other emerging economies that seek to transition from coal to renewable energy.
Responsible Statecraft: Dems propose full withdrawal from Saudi Arabia, UAE after ‘hostile act’ from OPEC
It seems OPEC’s major snub to the Biden Administration has done what the war in Yemen and the murder of Jamal Khashoggi could not: get members of Congress mad enough to call for the dissolution of the entire relationship with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The OPEC+ decision to cut oil production by two million barrels yesterday has been described as “a blow against (President) Biden”, and members on both sides of the congressional aisle have been fuming. But a trio of House members are taking it one step further, introducing a bill that would take all U.S. troops, weapons, and missile defense systems out of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. From a statement by Reps. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), Sean Casten (D-Ill.) and Susan Ellis Wild (D-Penn.):
“Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s drastic cut in oil production, despite President Biden’s overtures to both countries in recent months, is a hostile act against the United States and a clear signal that they have chosen to side with Russia in its war against Ukraine. Both countries have long relied on an American military presence in the Gulf to protect their security and oil fields. We see no reason why American troops and contractors should continue to provide this service to countries that are actively working against us. If Saudi Arabia and the UAE want to help Putin, they should look to him for their defense.
This decision is a turning point in our relationship with our Gulf partners. If Saudi Arabia and the UAE hope to maintain a relationship with the United States that has been overwhelmingly beneficial to them, they must show a greater willingness to work with us — not against us — in advancing what is now our most urgent national security objective: the defeat of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.”
MEMO: US eyeing ‘alternatives’ after OPEC+ cut, Biden says
US President Joe Biden expressed disappointment on Thursday over announced plans by OPEC+ nations to cut oil output, and he and officials said the United States was looking at all possible alternatives to keep prices from rising, Reuters reports.
Despite that move, Biden said he did not regret his summer trip to Saudi Arabia, which he said was focused on the Middle East.
OPEC+ agreed to steep oil production cuts on Wednesday, curbing supply in an already tight market and raising the possibility of higher gasoline prices right before the US mid-term elections in November, when Biden’s Democrats are defending their control of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
“We’re looking at what alternatives we may have,” Biden told reporters at the White House when asked about the OPEC decision.
“There’s a lot of alternatives. We haven’t made up our minds yet,” he said.
Common Dreams: US Jobless Claims Jump as Fed Shoves Economy to ‘Precipice of Global Recession’
Labor Department data published Thursday showed that new applications for unemployment benefits jumped by 29,000 last week, a possible signal that the job market is slowing as the Federal Reserve continues to aggressively hike interest rates and brush off warnings of a devastating recession.
For the week ending October 1, total initial jobless claims were 219,000, more than analysts expected and up from 190,000 the previous week. The weekly increase in unemployment applications was the largest since June, according to the new federal numbers, though the job market remains strong overall for the time being.
Around 1.4 million people were receiving unemployment benefits as of the week ending September 24, the Labor Department said.
The unemployment figures were released a day ahead of the Friday publication of September’s jobs report, which could provide a better indication of how the labor market is handling the Fed’s efforts to curb inflation by tamping down demand—an approach that many economists have said is misguided and risks mass job loss.
During a press conference following the Fed’s policy meeting last month—when the central bank opted to impose another large rate increase—Chair Jerome Powell acknowledged that rate hikes are likely to fuel a rise in layoffs but said “that is something that we think we need to have.”
Inside Climate News: Beset by Drought, a West Texas Farmer Loses His Cotton Crop and Fears a Hotter and Drier Future State Water Planners Aren’t Considering
Severe droughts have left many agricultural communities in Texas, the nation’s largest cotton producer, with water scarcity. Gaona, 64, is just one of the many farmers who have to deal with extreme conditions, which will make the 2022 cotton crop less than half of what was produced in 2021, according to the Texas State Farm Bureau. He has been unable to harvest any cotton this year.
According to a study published in October 2021 by Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon, global warming is exacerbating droughts and causing extreme temperatures in parts of Texas. But climate change, he said, has been politicized in the state, which is deeply supportive of the fossil fuel industry, and the Texas State Water Plan, conducted by the Texas Water Development Board, doesn’t take into account the likelihood of future declines in water availability due to the warming and drying climate.
With little irrigation in Fisher County, Gaona, relies solely on rainwater for his crops and cattle. When there is no rain, crops can die, and cattle have to be sold.
“If we don’t have rain we don’t make a crop,” Gaona said. “We don’t have any source of water.”
Every person living in Fisher County is affected by drought, according to the National Integrated Drought Information System, which serves as a federal aridity monitoring network.
The entire county is parched.
“It has hurt us over the years,” Gaona said. “Our area used to get 20 to 25 inches of rain a year. Now we’re in the 15 to 20 inches range. It’s dropped that much in the 40 years that I’ve been farming.”
“I’ve definitely seen droughts become much more common.”
Responsible Statecraft: Young people want to cut defense budget, end arms sales to Israel and Saudi Arabia: poll
Young Americans appear highly skeptical of Washington’s ability to improve the world through military force, according to a new poll from the Eurasia Group Foundation (EGF).
A majority of respondents aged 18 to 29 told pollsters that the United States should cut its military budget, end arms sales to Israel and Saudi Arabia, and emphasize diplomacy over other tools when engaging with the world.
Zuri Linetsky, a research fellow at EGF, argued that youth respondents have likely been formed by the failures of recent U.S. military policies.
“If you are 29 right now, you came of voting age towards the end of the Obama years,” Linetsky said. “You saw the Iraq surge. […] You’ve seen pushes in Afghanistan that haven’t worked. You’ve just seen the limits of American power.”
The wide-ranging poll, which was conducted via online survey in early September, received more than 2000 responses from a diverse sample of Americans. While respondents reflected U.S. demographics in most areas, the poll reflected a somewhat disproportionate number of responses from women and Democrats.
Unlike many other polls, the EGF survey also provided respondents with substantial factual background about the various issues included in the poll before they were asked to give their opinion.
Compared to other groups, younger respondents showed significantly greater concern about human rights abuses committed by the United States and its allies and expressed doubts about Washington’s ability to create change through military force. Notably, a majority of young survey respondents (55 percent) rejected the idea that America is an “exceptional nation.”
On Israel, young respondents were the only age group that said Washington should stop selling weapons to Tel Aviv, with most of them justifying this decision as a response to Israeli human rights violations stemming from its “enduring occupation of Palestine.”
Human rights concerns also appeared to drive youth concerns about America’s use of drone strikes, according to Linetsky. A majority of younger respondents (56.7 percent) held a negative view of the tactic, while older groups largely viewed drones as a valuable tool for fighting terrorism.
When it comes to China, 56.5 percent of younger survey takers said the U.S. should reduce its military footprint in Asia and shift the burden to regional allies. Support for increasing our troop presence in the region tracked directly to age, with more than 63.6 percent of respondents over 60 years old arguing in favor of such an increase.
Respondents were much less split when it came to arms sales to Saudi Arabia: nearly 70 percent said Washington should stop selling weapons to Riyadh, and that majority held across differences in age and party affiliation.
On Ukraine, a plurality of respondents (39.8 percent) approved of President Joe Biden’s response to the Russian invasion, while 24.9 percent disapproved and 35.3 percent remained neutral. Survey takers emphasized that Washington’s primary goal in Ukraine should be to avoid direct war with Russia and prevent the suffering of Ukrainians. “Weakening Russia to punish it for its aggression” was the least popular reason for supporting Ukraine.
Common Dreams: ‘Next Up? Legalize It’: Advocates Cheer Biden Move to Pardon Marijuana Convictions
He couldn’t have done this two years ago? How very cynical to do it now.
Reasserting that “no one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana,” U.S. President Joe Biden said on Thursday that he is planning to issue an executive order pardoning everyone convicted of low-level marijuana possession, a move that drew applause from drug policy reform advocates.
“Sending people to jail for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives—for conduct that is legal in many states.” That’s before you address the clear racial disparities around prosecution and conviction,” Biden—who as recently as 2019 called cannabis a “gateway drug”—tweeted. “Today, we begin to right these wrongs.”
“First: I’m pardoning all prior federal offenses of simple marijuana possession,” the president stated. “There are thousands of people who were previously convicted of simple possession who may be denied employment, housing, or educational opportunities as a result. My pardon will remove this burden.”
“Second: I’m calling on governors to pardon simple state marijuana possession offenses,” he continued. “Just as no one should be in a federal prison solely for possessing marijuana, no one should be in a local jail or state prison for that reason, either.”
“Third: We classify marijuana at the same level as heroin—and more serious than fentanyl. It makes no sense,” Biden asserted, adding that he’s asking U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and Attorney General Merrick Garland “to initiate the process of reviewing how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.”
According to the most recently available figures from the U.S. Sentencing Commission, less than 100 people were federally sentenced for simple marijuana possession in 2017.
However, campaigners against the failed War on Drugs hailed the president’s announcement, with the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen tweeting, “This is huge.”
Common Dreams: At Least 66 Clinics in 15 States Have Ended Abortion Care Post-Dobbs
Since the U.S. Supreme Court gutted reproductive rights this summer, at least 66 clinics across 15 states have stopped offering abortion care, the Guttmacher Institute revealed Thursday.
Fortune: U.S. to begin screening air passengers from Uganda for Ebola
WSWS: Massive vote in favour of strike against Ford government’s austerity agenda by 55,000 Ontario education support workers
An overwhelming vote to strike for improvements to wages and working conditions by 55,000 Ontario education support workers was announced yesterday by the Ontario School Board Council of Unions (OSBCU). The workers, including custodians, librarians, early childhood educators and administrative staff, voted by 96.5 percent on a turnout of 82 percent for a strike in opposition to Premier Doug Ford and his Progressive Conservative government, which is planning to criminalize any job action.
The vote proves that rank-and-file workers are determined to strike to put an end to over a decade of declining real-term wages and miserable working conditions under both union-backed Liberal and Conservative governments. But the OSBCU, which is affiliated with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the country’s largest union with over 700,000 members, has no intention of calling a work stoppage. Instead, the OSBCU leadership’s main concern is to work out a sellout agreement with Ford at the “bargaining table” and prevent a mass mobilization of education workers that could escape its control.
Caribbean and South America
TeleSUR: Thousands of Haitians Demand Resignation of PM Henry
On Tuesday, thousands of citizens took to the streets of Port-au-Prince to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who decided to increase fuel prices amid an endless economic and social crisis.
“Who is Ariel Henry not to demand his departure?” and “He must leave” were some of the cries echoed by the protesters, who assured that they would continue in the streets until until Henry and his officials were removed from power.
Accompanied by a popular music band, Haitians denounced the high cost of living and the insecurity that further complicates the lives of the poorest. Despite the peaceful nature of their demonstration, the police dispersed the people with tear gas.
Haiti is facing an unprecedented crisis, which is marked by rampant inflation and persistent fuel shortages. In recent weeks, the situation has deteriorated further due to an outbreak of cholera in some of the poorest neighborhoods in Latin America’s poorest country.
Black Agenda Report: Neo-Nazis in the Dominican Republic Work with the Government to Prevent Solidarity with Haitian People
The deployment of dozens of Members of the National Police, in coordination with a smaller group of neo-Nazi militants, occupied the surroundings of the Independence Park of Santo Domingo on Thursday to block the realization of an act of solidarity with the mobilizations in Haiti against imperialist interference. The event had been convened by the National Popular Coordinator, which brings together dozens of Dominican social organizations. Under police protection, neo-Nazis chanted slogans calling for the murder of “the traitors,” a term by which they commonly refer to human rights defenders and left-wing activists.
Since the previous day, neo-Nazis of the Old Dominican Order, a group that publicly vindicates Mussolini and Trujillo, as well as other groups had threatened the organizers of the act of solidarity, claiming that they were Haitians, and calling on their supporters to attend armed with sticks and stones to the Independence Park. Using conspiracy theories similar to that of the “great replacement” that neo-Nazis agitate in the US and Europe, the Dominican far right claims that there are “globalist” plans by institutions such as the UN for an alleged merger between the Dominican Republic and Haiti. These same groups often propagate anti-vaccine conspiracy theories, against sex and reproductive education, and against the rights of women and the LGBTQ community.
A press release from the National Police indicated that “prohaitianos” were denied the right to carry out peaceful activity, another term commonly used by the far right to refer to members of democratic, leftist or anti-racist organizations. “The issue of the sovereignty of the country and the defense of the best national interests will never be questioned during the administration of President Luis Abinader,” the note added, coinciding with the neo-Nazi discourse on the alleged anti-national character of the convocation of the National Popular Coordinator.
Man, Nazis are the same everywhere. It’s pretty incredible honestly.
TeleSUR: Cuba and Russia Resume Direct Flights
On Wednesday, the Varadero airport in Cuba received a flight from Russia, the first one since the European Union (EU) banned Russian planes from entering its airspace in February.
The charter of the Russian airline Nordwind Airlines landed at the aerodrome of the main tourist hub of the Caribbean country after a 13-hour flight. This Russian airline will also fly three times a week to the tourist center of Cayo Coco, an islet located in the central zone of Cuba.
In September, Cuban Tourism Minister Juan Carlos Garcia paid a visit to Moscow where he declared that the conditions were created so that Russian airlines and tourists could visit the island again.
In the first half of this year, over 52,000 Russian tourists visited Cuba. Authorities estimate that tourism from that country increased by 40 percent until the end of August.
TeleSUR: Lula Consolidates Political Alliances Before Ballot in Brazil
On Thursday, Brazilian parties and politicians expressed their support for the Workers' Party (PT) presidential candidate Lula da Silva in the second round scheduled for October 30.
“In this second round, I will vote in favor of a history of struggle for democracy and social inclusion. I will vote for Lula,” said the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) leader Fernando Henrique Cardoso, the former President of Brazil (1995-2003) who was a traditional political rival of Lula da Silva.
The Democratic Labor Party (PDT) will support Lula’s candidacy because current President Jair Bolsonaro is “an absolutely incompetent president, who left millions of Brazilians to their fate, and is responsible for the deaths of 700,000 people during the pandemic.”
Simone Tebet, whom the Brazilian Democracy Movement (MDB) sponsored as a presidential candidate during the first round, publicly stated that she will support Lula due to “his commitment to democracy and the Constitution, a commitment that I do not observe in the current President”.
WSWS: Pseudo-left union in Argentina imposes sellout contract on tire workers after following nationalist strategy
On Friday, the Argentine Tire Workers Union (SUTNA) led by the pseudo-left Partido Obrero (Workers Party) shut down a week-long strike and announced a meager deal with the tire companies before any vote by the workers.
The Ukraine Proxy Conflict
TeleSUR: Putin Issues Decree to Ensure Safety of Zaporizhia Plant
On Wednesday, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to form a state-owned company that will be in charge of managing the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant and the facilities necessary for its operation.
This company will have to guarantee the security of the facilities, which have been repeatedly attacked by the Ukrainian forces over the last two months.
Putin has also amended Russia’s constitution to add the four regions to Russia.
TeleSUR: Kremlin on Ukraine’s Decree Banning Negotiations With Putin
Faced with such a decree, Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov said what Russia will wait for to resume peace talks is a new position of Ukraine or its new leader.
Speaking to journalists, Peskov referred to Russia’s role as an “advocate of the idea of achieving the terms proposed by the Russian side by diplomatic means” even before the country’s special military operation in Ukraine.
“It takes two sides to negotiate.” In this regard, the spokesman said there is willingness on the Russian side to reach a solution to the current conflict negotiated between the two nations.
TeleSUR: Russia: Over 200 000 Reservists Recruited -Defense Minister
In a conference call on Tuesday, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said that more than two-thirds of plans to mobilize reservists for deployment to Ukraine in connection with the ongoing conflict have been fulfilled.
The mobilized recruits are receiving the necessary training with the provision of the required equipment, Shoigu said. “Preparation of the personnel of the units that have been formed is being carried out at 80 polygons and six training centers.”
“A large number of volunteers come to military registration and enlistment offices during the partial mobilization. It is extremely important to approach each of these requests with care and not to turn anyone away unless there are serious reasons,” the minister said.
Recruits called up in the last two weeks will first complete their training and develop combat coordination with units already participating in the special military operation before being sent to the front lines.
RT: Kremlin accuses Zelensky of trying to start a world war
The Kremlin has accused Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky of trying to spark a third world war, after he demanded that NATO carry out preventive strikes on Russia to deter the use of nuclear weapons.
Speaking to the Australian Lowy Institute on Thursday, Zelensky stated that NATO must ensure Moscow does not use nukes against Kiev’s forces. To do this, he called on the US-led military bloc and the international community to carry out preventive strikes against Russia so that it “knows what to expect" if it decides to use them.
“What should NATO do? Eliminate the possibility of Russia using nuclear weapons,” Zelensky said during the online conference. “I once again appeal to the international community, as it was before February 24: preemptive strikes so that they [Russia] know what will happen to them if they use it, and not the other way around.”
Moscow has slammed Zelensky’s suggestion, with Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stating that the Ukrainian leader’s comments are nothing short of an attempt to spark a world war, which would lead to “unforeseeable disastrous consequences.”
Analysis and Retrospectives
The Left, Broadly Construed
Current Affairs: How Do We Overcome Capitalism?
Tom Wetzel’s book Overcoming Capitalism: Strategy for the Working Class in the 21st Century is both a primer on the basic left critiques of capitalism and a handbook for creating a new economic system. Wetzel explains in clear, accessible language why exploitation, waste, and environmental destruction are built into the capitalist model and then explores possible alternative economic structures and shows how we might get there. He asks important questions like “What is the role of electoral politics?” “What kinds of unions do we need?” and “What cautions does the history of Marxism-Leninism offer us?”
In the best libertarian socialist tradition, Wetzel is a critic not only of domination and hierarchy in the contemporary capitalist economy but also of attempts to bring about socialism through authoritarian institutions. He explains the importance of democracy and why it must guide everything we do. Overcoming Capitalism is the product of over a decade of research and is an important contribution to the literature of the Left. Wetzel came on the Current Affairs podcast to talk with editor-in-chief Nathan J. Robinson to explain the basics of his ideas. This interview has been edited and condensed for grammar and clarity.
WSWS: The global strike wave and the crisis of revolutionary leadership
Across the world, a surge of working-class opposition to inequality and capitalist exploitation is developing in the form of strikes and protests.
The growth of the class struggle comes after three years of a global pandemic that has needlessly claimed the lives of tens of millions of people, and seven months into a war in Ukraine that has fueled starvation, poverty and inflation for billions more. It is this objective movement that has the power to take control out of the hands of the imperialist madmen driving the world toward the nuclear abyss and to inaugurate a new era of socialist equality.
The international working class has tremendous potential power, but to unlock this power it must break free from the stranglehold of the reactionary apparatuses of the trade unions and obtain consciousness of its role as the revolutionary social force.
The trade unions, controlled by massive bureaucracies that are entirely integrated into the structures of the state and finance capital, serve as instruments of imperialism, and are working in every country with the corporations and capitalist parties to suppress this growing movement and to isolate the most militant struggles. The task that directly confronts the working class is to smash the bureaucratic dictatorship and transfer power to the rank and file.
Everywhere the working class is fighting back against inflation and the spiraling cost of living, greatly exacerbated by the US/NATO war against Russia in Ukraine.
In Argentina, 5,600 tire workers at Bridgestone and Pirelli have affected the entire country’s auto production after launching a powerful strike against the corporations and the pro-corporate unions. In Haiti, strikes and mass demonstrations are continuing for the seventh week as the country’s infrastructure essentially collapses and workers die of thirst, starvation, violence, coronavirus and now cholera.
The class struggle is developing across Africa, population 1.5 billion. In South Africa, a general strike appears to be developing as tens of thousands of workers plan to shut down the country’s railroads and ports on Thursday after the state-owned Transnet company offered wage increases of just 1.5 percent. In July, South Africa’s former president Thabo Mbeki predicted an “Arab Spring-type uprising” in the country.
In Tunisia—where protestors sparked the Arab Spring uprising 11 years ago—the head of the UGTT union warned that it will be unable to prevent mass strikes in the weeks ahead against IMF austerity measures. Air traffic controllers are currently on strike in 18 African countries, including Cameroon, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Côte D’Ivoire.
Strikes are taking place across the Middle East and Asia, including Iran, where workers’ protests are coinciding with widespread demonstrations over the brutal police murder of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini for wearing a hijab “improperly.” In neighboring Iraq, large protests took place across the country over the weekend in response to growing inequality and poverty worsened by decades of US war and occupation.
In Lebanon, a national teachers strike is taking place as demonstrators stormed into four banks demanding their deposits. A Beirut woman became a national hero after she broke into a bank with a fake pistol to demand that she be allowed to withdraw her own money to pay for her 23-year-old sister’s cancer treatment. In Sri Lanka, strikes and protests by agricultural and industrial workers continue to envelop the island.
Powerful strike movements are also developing in the centers of world imperialism. As governments pour billions and billions of dollars into fueling the NATO war against Russia, masses of people in cities like London, Berlin and Paris confront intolerable conditions, exacerbated by the rising cost of living.
In France, ongoing strikes by energy workers have shut 60 percent of the country’s oil refining capacity. A quarter of a million workers struck last week against the cost of living.
In the UK, strikes by 170,000 railroad workers, postal workers, dockworkers in Liverpool and Felixstowe, and other sections of the working class have broken out in defiance of efforts by the British ruling class to use the death of Queen Elizabeth II to effect “national unity.”
In Germany, warning strikes are developing as the contracts for seven million workers expire simultaneously and protests grow over the cost of living. A strike wave of teachers is sweeping Europe, including in Germany, Greece, Norway, Kosovo, Hungary and Serbia. Rail workers are also on strike in Belgium. In Canada, 55,000 education support staff are preparing to strike against the Ford government’s austerity regime.
The development of the class struggle in the cockpit of world imperialist reaction, the United States, is particularly significant. After decades in which the AFL-CIO has artificially suppressed the class struggle, workers are confronting these massive union bureaucracies and striving for a path to carry their struggles forward.
Over 125,000 railroad workers are eager to strike and have begun to hold independent protests against the railroad unions, which are conspiring with the rail carriers to block a strike that would effectively shut down the US economy.
Strikes are developing across the northeast among drivers and warehouse workers employed by Sysco, with the Teamsters warning that “this could spread.” Grocery store workers employed by Kroger in Columbus, Ohio recently rejected a pro-corporate deal reached by the United Food and Commercial Workers for the third time and are currently being forced to vote on the same contract a fourth time.
On the West Coast, 25,000 dockworkers have been working without a contract since June, while the contracts for 50,000 California university employees and 50,000 Southern California grocery workers are expiring. Amazon workers at JFK8 in Staten Island, New York walked out spontaneously yesterday after management attempted to send them back into a facility that was partially on fire.
According to Cornell University, there were 180 strikes involving 80,000 workers in the first half of 2022, triple the number of workers who struck in the first half of 2021. Johnnie Kallas, director of Cornell’s labor action tracker, told The Guardian, “Strikes appear to be increasing as we head into the fall.”
As winter approaches in the Northern Hemisphere, analysts are predicting a further explosion of the class struggle.
Verisk Maplecroft warned in September that “the world is facing an unprecedented rise in civil unrest as governments of all stripes grapple with the impacts of inflation on the price of staple foods and energy.”
The World Economic Forum reported last week that workers’ real wages are declining and that “social unrest is on the rise.” The report warns that in many countries, “further spending is constrained or impossible, with some governments running out of fiscal space, reducing their ability to manage the cost of living crisis.”
In other words, while the capitalist governments spent trillions to bail out the banks and corporations after the 2008 financial crash and again in 2020 at the onset of the pandemic, it is “impossible” to even heat the homes of workers in the world’s “richest” countries during the winter.
This movement has the power to stop the imperialist war, to implement policies necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19 once and for all, and redistribute the world’s wealth to meet the human needs of the international working class. But the spontaneous development of the class struggle is not enough to break the decades-long suppression of the workers’ movement by the trade union bureaucracies. This requires political leadership.
In the founding document of the Fourth International, Leon Trotsky wrote, “The world political situation as a whole is chiefly characterized by a historical crisis of the leadership of the proletariat.” This is as true today as it was in 1938, on the eve of the Second World War.
The working class is larger and more technologically advanced than ever before. But the task of workers engaged in each struggle is to broaden their fight, to tap into the immense social power of the international working class by unifying with other sections in struggle, to win allies among the mass of workers who are not organized in trade unions, and to reach across national boundaries in common struggle against transnational corporations. This means directing the struggles consciously as struggles not against this employer or that politician, but against the capitalist system as a whole.
This is the purpose of the International Workers Alliance of Rank-and-File Committees (IWA-RFC), founded by the International Committee of the Fourth International in May 2021, which aims to coordinate and draw together all the disparate struggles of the international working class into one unified world movement. Above all, what is needed is the building of a socialist leadership to direct the emerging struggles in the direction of a challenge to the capitalist system and imperialist war.
Inside the Imperial Core
Moon of Alabama: EU Pushes For More Sanctions Which Will Come Back To Bite It
On February 22, two days before Russian troops entered the Ukraine, the U.S. and the EU put reams of sanctions onto Russia. They also confiscated some $300 billion of Russia’s reserves that were invested in the ‘west’. The sanctions had been negotiated between the EU and the U.S. and prepared for over several months.
The idea was to bankrupt Russia within a few weeks. The deluded people behind those sanctions had no idea how big and sanctions proved Russia’s economy really is. The sanctions failed to influence Russia in any way but their consequences led to a shortfall of energy in Europe and increased the already high inflation rates. Inflation in Russia is sinking and its general economic numbers are good. The now higher energy prices generate sufficient additional income to completely finance its war efforts.
A sane actor would conclude that the sanctions were a mistake and that lifting them would help Europe more than it would help Russia. But no, the U.S. and European pseudo elites are no longer able to act in a sane manner. They are instead doubling down with the most crazy sanction scheme one has ever heard of:
[T]he European Union pushed ahead on Wednesday with an ambitious but untested plan to limit Russia’s oil revenue.
If the global price of oil remains high, it would complicate the European Union’s effort to impose a price cap on Russian oil that was expected to gain final approval on Thursday, after E.U. negotiators reached an agreement on the measure as part of a fresh package of sanctions against Moscow.
Under the plan, a committee including representatives of the European Union, the Group of 7 nations and others that agree to the price cap would meet regularly to decide on the price at which Russian oil should be sold, and that it would change based on the market price.
Several diplomats involved in the E.U. talks said that Greece, Malta and Cyprus — maritime nations that would be most affected by the price cap — received assurances that their business interests would be preserved, the diplomats said.
The countries had been holding up what would be the eighth sanctions package the European Union has adopted since the Russian invasion of Ukraine because of worries that a price cap on Russian oil exported outside the bloc would affect their shipping, insurance and other industries, the diplomats said.
With oil prices at a high, Russia is raking in billions of dollars in revenue, even as it sells smaller quantities. The cap — part of a broad plan pushed by the Biden administration that the G7 agreed to last month — is intended to set the price of Russian oil lower than where it is today, but still above cost. The U.S. Treasury calculates that the cap would deprive the Kremlin of tens of billions of dollars annually.
How do you make a big producer of a rare commodity sell those goods below the general market price? Unless you have a very strong buyers cartel that can also that product from elsewhere you can not do this successfully. It is an economic impossibility.
To make the measure effective, and cut Russian revenue, the United States, Europe and their allies would need to convince India and China, which buy substantial quantities of Russian oil, to purchase it only at the agreed upon price. Experts say that even with willing partners, the cap could be hard to implement.
Russia has declared that it will not sell any oil to any party that supports the G7 price fixing regime. That is why neither China nor India nor any other country besides the EU and U.S. will agree to adhere to it.
The whole idea is crazy and way too complicate to achieve anything:
Under the new rules, companies involved in the shipping of Russian oil — including shipowners, insurers and underwriters — would be on the hook for ensuring that the oil they are helping to transport is being sold at or below the price cap. If they are caught helping Russia sell at a higher price, they could face lawsuits in their home countries for violating sanctions.
Russian crude will come under an embargo in most of the European Union on Dec. 5, and petroleum products will follow in February. The price cap on shipments to non-E.U. countries has been championed by U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen as a necessary complement to the European oil embargo.
Under the E.U. deal, Greece, Malta and Cyprus will be permitted to continue shipping Russian oil. Had they not agreed to place their companies at the forefront of applying the price cap, they would have been forbidden from shipping or insuring Russian oil cargo outside the European Union, a huge hit for major industries.
More than half of the tankers now shipping Russia’s oil are Greek-owned. And the financial services that underpin that trade — including insurance, reinsurance and letters of credit — are overwhelmingly based in the European Union and Britain.
This is of course an open invitation to other countries to enter the oil shipping and related financial services businesses at the cost of European companies.
China and India will both it to increase their market shares in those fields. Their ships will transport Russian oil to whoever wants to buy it for the market price minus the always negotiable Russian rebate. Greek ships will sit idle or will be sold off while Indian and Chinese and other Asian tankers will be very, very busy. China’s big insurance companies will happily join that new global services business.
That European bureaucrats agreed to his stupid U.S. idea, which will foremost hurt European businesses, is another sign that Brussels has given up on having any agency.
Today OPEC+ countries, the seller cartel for oil, reacted to the crazy sanctions idea and the upcoming global depression by agreeing to decrease their daily output by 2 million barrels. This was not done out of Saudi solidarity with Russia. Saudi Arabia needs oil at above $80/bl to finance its budget.
Brent Crude, which had fallen to $83/bl on September 26, has since risen to $93/bl.
The global demand for oil is around 100 million barrels per day. Should the demand stay up the 2% reduction in OPEC+ production will have significant price effects and $100 per barrel will be in easy reach.
But OPEC+ is committed to stable prices, not to significant price increases. During the OPEC+ session today the Saudi Prince Abdulazis showed this table:
Since the beginning of the year the prices for all forms of carbon based energy except crude oil have increased considerably. Abdulazis argued that the chart shows that OPEC+ is managing oil prices responsibly. The EU is certainly not doing similar.
The Biden administration has meanwhile nearly halved the content of the U.S Strategic Petroleum Reserve. This to keep U.S. pump prices down and the Democrats in power.
Neither is a responsible step to take.
Wall Street On Parade: New Study: Wall Street Banks Are Doubling Down on Risk by Selling Credit Default Swaps on their Risky Derivatives Counterparties
Last Thursday, while news outlets focused on videos of the devastating impact of Hurricane Ian on the southwest coast of Florida, two researchers at the Office of Financial Research published a breathtaking and almost surreal analysis of how the mega banks on Wall Street are once again doubling down on unprecedented risk with derivatives and threatening the financial stability of the U.S. The report was ignored by mainstream business media.
The Office of Financial Research was created under the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation of 2010 to make sure that Wall Street mega banks could never again ravage the economy and financial system of the United States — as they did in 2008 – by engaging in reckless derivative trades and toxic bets. OFR describes its mission as follows:
“Our job is to shine a light in the dark corners of the financial system to see where risks are going, assess how much of a threat they might pose, and provide policymakers with financial analysis, information, and evaluation of policy tools to mitigate them.”
OFR also notes that its research is done “principally to support the Financial Stability Oversight Council and its member agencies.”
The Financial Stability Oversight Council (F-SOC) was also created under Dodd-Frank. It states on its website that its role is to provide “comprehensive monitoring of the stability of our nation’s financial system.” It includes the head of every federal regulator of banks and Wall Street, including the Treasury Secretary who chairs F-SOC, the Fed Chair, and heads of the SEC, OCC, FDIC, etc.
But the new research report from OFR ignites the hair-raising question of how asleep at the switch are the members of the Financial Stability Oversight Council to have allowed a worse derivatives mess to exist today than existed in 2008 when Wall Street banks blew themselves up and required the largest bailouts from the taxpayer and the Fed in global banking history.
The research paper does not provide the names of the banks it studied. But it doesn’t have to. We know from the report published quarterly by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency that the bank holding companies of JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley hold more than 80 percent of all derivatives held at all banks in the U.S. today.
The report is authored by Dasol Kim, a Research Principal at OFR, and Andrew Ellul, a Visiting Fellow at OFR and Professor of Finance at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. In a blog post last Thursday, they summarize their findings as follows:
“In a recent working paper analyzing who banks chose as counterparties in the over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives market, the authors found that banks are more likely to choose riskier nonbank counterparties that are already heavily connected and exposed to other banks, which leads to an even more densely connected network. Furthermore, banks do not hedge these exposures, but rather increase them by selling rather than purchasing credit derivative swaps against these counterparties. Finally, the authors found that common counterparty exposures are correlated with systemic risk measures despite greater regulatory oversight following the 2008 financial crisis.” (Italic emphasis added.)
Financial Times: Bank of England £65bn gilt intervention staved off UK financial ‘spiral’
The Bank of England has defended last week’s intervention in the UK government debt market, saying it stepped in to prevent a £50bn fire sale of gilts that would have taken Britain to the brink of a financial crisis.
The central bank said on Thursday that had it not launched its emergency bond-buying scheme in the wake of chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s “mini” Budget, pension funds would have been forced to sell £50bn worth of long-term UK government debt “in a short space of time”. This would far exceed the average daily trading volume of £12bn.
The BoE’s defence of the £65bn scheme is the clearest sign yet of how close the UK came to market meltdown following the Kwarteng’s “mini Budget with £45bn in unfunded tax cuts.
Had the central bank not intervened, it feared there would have been a “self-reinforcing spiral” that threatened “severe disruption of core funding markets and consequent widespread financial instability,” said Sir Jon Cunliffe, the BoE’s deputy governor for financial stability in a letter to the chair of parliament’s Treasury committee.
The letter also provided details on warnings received by the BoE ahead of its intervention. Cunliffe said that managers of the liability-driven investment strategies at the centre of a crisis in Britain’s pension fund industry had warned as early as Friday 23 September that the huge moves in gilt yields would force them to dump large quantities of government debt.
Outside the Imperial Core
AntiWar: The Global South’s Revolt against Biden’s Russia Policy
President Biden’s boast shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that the world stood united against Moscow’s aggression is increasingly detached from reality. Indeed, it has reached the point of deserving mockery. Walter Russell Mead, a scholar at the Hudson Institute, provided a devastating, early assessment of how Washington’s effort to isolate Russia was failing. “The West has never been more closely aligned. It has also rarely been more alone. Allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization plus Australia and Japan are united in revulsion against Vladimir Putin’s war and are cooperating with the most sweeping sanctions since World War II. The rest of the world, not so much.”
In other words, only Washington’s network of security dependents signed on to its policy. Even a cursory look at a global map confirms that Mead’s observation remains valid. Outside of NATO and traditional U.S. partners in East Asia, virtually no governments have imposed economic sanctions on Russia, despite enormous pressure from the Biden administration. That void is graphic with respect to Central and South Asia, Latin America, and Africa – the developing countries in the so-called Global South.
African countries especially fail to see any advantage for themselves in supporting the West’s policy. Although Washington insists that repelling Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is essential to preserve the “rules based, liberal international order,” governments and populations in Africa see matters differently. To them, the war looks more like a mundane power struggle between Russia and a Western client state. As one African scholar put it: “many in Africa and the rest of the Global South do not regard – and never have regarded – the liberal international order as particularly liberal or international.”
More tangible economic interests reinforce Africa’s inclination toward neutrality. A June 3 New York Times analysis concluded succinctly: “A meeting on Friday between the head of the African Union and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia highlighted the acute needs each one hopes the other can fill: Africa needs food, and the Kremlin needs allies.” An Africa heavily dependent on food and energy imports that Russia controls is not about to antagonize Moscow.
There also is trouble for Washington elsewhere in the Global South. Despite being in Washington’s sphere of influence since the early years of the Monroe Doctrine, even major portions of Latin America balk at waging economic war against Russia. Both Brazil and Mexico – the region’s two most important political and economic players – continue to dissent. Brazil’s resistance to the administration’s anti-Russia policy has become evident again when the UN Security Council voted on a resolution condemning Moscow’s annexation of four territories in Ukraine following sham referendums there.
Since it was obvious that Russia would veto that resolution, it would have been easy for Brazil and all other members of the Council to vote in favor of the measure. That stance would have signaled discontent, if not outrage, at the Kremlin’s land grab, which had significantly escalated the Ukraine crisis. Instead, Brazil joined with India and China to cast an abstention, emphasizing the government’s continuing neutrality with respect to the Russia-Ukraine war.
Washington’s inability to enlist India and China in a common front to actively oppose Moscow’s actions in Ukraine, highlights the bankruptcy of US policy. Mildly negative comments from Indian and Chinese officials in September about Vladimir Putin’s policy following Ukraine’s surprisingly successful military counteroffensive generated speculation that Beijing and Delhi were growing impatient with Putin and the disruption of the global economy that his war helped ignite. The UN Security Council vote confirmed that such speculation was decidedly premature and excessive. China and India (along with the rest of the Global South) still seem firmly committed to a stance of neutrality. And without the participation of the Global South (especially the two demographic and economic giants), there is little chance that Washington’s strategy of forcing Moscow to capitulate because of mounting economic pain can succeed.
Indeed, the Biden administration needs to worry that the Global South’s neutralist sentiment about the Russia-Ukraine war may spread to the Western bloc. There are multiple signs of fissures developing within NATO. Turkey openly advocates heightened diplomacy to end the war, rather than trying to defeat and humiliate Russia. Hungary has warned the European Union countries have “shot themselves in the lungs” by imposing sanctions on Russia, especially on energy supplies. Prime Minister Viktor Orban has pledged to “poll” Hungarian voters with respect to both proposed and current sanctions. Europeans fear a complete cut-off of Russian natural gas, leading to a winter of cold, hunger, and economic recession. That concern has grown following the mysterious sabotage of the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 gas pipelines in late September. Even before that incident, at least 10 EU members expressed opposition to price caps on Russian energy shipments, mandated by the U.S.-dominated G-7. Thus far, the EU has not implemented those caps.
Washington’s goal was to isolate Russia, making the country a pariah in the international system. That strategy clearly has failed, and absent Moscow’s use of tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine, the refusal of the Global South to embrace the Biden administration’s strategy likely will persist. Indeed, such neutralist sentiment now seems to be penetrating the Western bloc. Ironically, the administration’s approach may end up isolating the United States more than Russia.