Global Events, the United Nations, and Disease
RT: UN to appoint human rights monitor in Russia
A dedicated official will be appointed to investigate human rights issues in Russia, the UN Human Rights Council has decided. A resolution establishing the position was passed with 17 votes in favor, six votes against and 24 abstentions.
The move was backed mostly by the Western nations and their allies like South Korea or Japan. China, Bolivia, Venezuela, Cuba, Eritrea and Kazakhstan voted against the resolution. Among those who abstained were Brazil, Mexico and India.
The special rapporteur, who is yet to be appointed, will be tasked with assessing the level of observance of human rights in Russia. The UN official will be expected to submit their first report on the issue at the next session of the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly next year.
It is the first time a special rapporteur is being sent to monitor the situation in one of the UN Security Council’s five permanent members. Similar positions have been created for over a dozen other nations, however, including Syria, Myanmar, Iran, North Korea, Belarus and several African nations.
EU Reporter: Russia wants secret UN vote on move to condemn ‘annexation’ of Ukraine regions
Russia will lobby for a secret vote instead of a public one when the 193 member UN General Assembly considers next week whether to condemn Moscow’s decision to annexe four regions in Ukraine. It did this after holding what it called referendums.
Naked Capitalism: IMF Just Flagged Another Multi-Trillion Dollar Threat to the Global Financial System: Open-End Funds
Open-end funds have grown significantly over the past two decades and now manage around $41 trillion in assets globally. And the risks they pose to the global economy are growing, says the IMF.
A new report from the International Monetary Fund underscores the dangers that so-called open-end (or open-ended) funds could pose to the global financial system, including potentially tightening financial conditions and exacerbating market volatility during times of heightened stress. Open-end mutual funds are investment vehicles that use pooled assets and are always open to investment. In other words, investors can take out part or all of their money any day of the week.
WSWS: Millions driven into poverty by pandemic, soaring prices and recession
The World Bank report on the growth of global poverty released earlier this week presents a graphic picture of the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on hundreds of millions of people in the world’s poorer countries, now being exacerbated by rising inflation and the shift of the world economy into recession.
According to the report, the pandemic dealt the biggest blow to poverty reduction in decades. The number of people pushed into “extreme poverty,” defined as receiving less than $1.90 per day, rose by 70 million to reach a total of 700 million, or 9.3 percent of the world’s population in 2020.
Under conditions of rising inflation, exacerbated by the US-NATO war against Russia in Ukraine and the downward movement in the currencies of developing markets, produced by the interest rates hikes of the US Federal Reserve, the situation shows no signs of improvement.
By the end of this year, as many as 685 million people could still be living in extreme poverty, making 2022 the second worst year for poverty reduction in two decades, after 2020.
The pandemic, as in so many other areas of economic and social life, was a trigger that accelerated processes already underway.
As the report noted, in the five years leading up to it, poverty reduction had slowed and by 2020 “the world was significantly off course on the global goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030.” It estimated that on present trends, seven percent of the world’s population—574 million people—will still be in extreme poverty by the end of the decade.
Even before the pandemic struck, nearly half of the world’s population (47 percent) were living in poverty, defined as receiving less than $6.85 a day.
Common Dreams: Russian, Belarusian, and Ukrainian Rights Activists Awarded Nobel Peace Prize
A jailed Belarusian activist, a shuttered Russian human rights organization, and a Ukrainian civil society group were awarded the Nobel Peace Price on Friday for their efforts to “document war crimes” and “protect the fundamental rights of citizens.”
“By awarding the Nobel Peace Prize for 2022 to Ales Bialiatski, Memorial, and the Center for Civil Liberties, the Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to honor three outstanding champions of human rights, democracy, and peaceful co-existence in the neighbor countries Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee said in a statement.
Reuters: Biden signs order to implement EU-U.S. data privacy framework
U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday signed an executive order to implement a European Union-United States data transfer framework announced in March that adopts new American intelligence gathering privacy safeguards.
The deal seeks to end the limbo in which thousands of companies found themselves after Europe’s top court threw out two previous pacts due to concerns about U.S. surveillance.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told reporters the executive order “is the culmination of our joint effort to restore trust and stability to transatlantic data flows” and “will ensure the privacy of EU personal data.”
Reuters: EU leaders reaffirm support for Ukraine, squabble over gas price cap
European Union leaders on Friday agreed to give more financial and military aid to Ukraine, but a full day of talks in Prague’s ornate royal castle seemed to bring them no closer to deciding on whether or how to cap gas prices.
Most of the EU’s 27 countries want a cap on gas prices, but disagree on the details, with options including a cap on all gas, a “dynamic corridor”, a price ceiling on gas used for power generation specifically or on Russian gas only.
The EU has been discussing the matter for weeks, so far without result, although the 27 have agreed other joint steps to help them weather an acute energy crunch as runaway prices threaten to bring about a recession in the bloc.
Reuters: Amid war crisis, Putin turns 70 with a prayer for his health
President Vladimir Putin turned 70 on Friday amid fawning congratulations from subordinates and a plea from Patriarch Kirill for all lay and clergy to pray for the health of the longest serving paramount leader of Russia since Josef Stalin.
RT: Russian cities cancel New Year celebrations
Almost a dozen Russian cities, and at least three regions, have decided to either cancel or limit the upcoming New Year’s Eve celebrations amid the protracted conflict between Moscow and Kiev.
Local officials will instead allocate the intended funds towards supporting people joining the Russian Armed Forces as part of the ongoing partial mobilization.
The mayor of the city of Kaluga, Dmitry Denisov, was one of the first to announce the measure on Wednesday. Kaluga, which is located just around 200 kilometers southwest of Moscow, would cancel all the festivities planned for late December and early January, he said, adding that it would be better to spend money on local draftees.
“The men should be equipped better than it is expected under regular supply standards,” Denisov said, adding that the city would not host concerts and fireworks displays and would instead “spend all the money” on supports for the local draftees.
ANN: After months of shutdown, Hyundai’s Russia woes deepen
Half a year has passed since Hyundai Motor Group suspended operations of its Russian plant over global logistics issues, without a clear vision for a breakthrough while global competitors have already exited the market. But market experts say Hyundai simply leaving Russia is not an answer, due to massive investment and significant market share.
According to a report recently released by Hyundai Motor Group, Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Russia shipped zero cars in August, as opposed to the 17,649 units it shipped in January. When the plant suspended operations in March due to a supply crunch, the number sharply dropped to 3,708 units from 17,402 in February.
Last year, Hyundai Motor sold an accumulated 171,811 cars in Russia, with its sister company Kia selling slightly better at 205,801 units. The Korean duo took the second and third largest market share with combined 23 percent, trailing France’s Renault.
As the Russian market is responsible for not-so-small 6 percent of Hyundai Motor Group’s global sales, the automaker has made bold investment in recent years by purchasing General Motor’s old manufacturing plant at 50 billion won ($35 million) in 2020 and conducting a large-scale renovation at Kia plant. In 2019, the company announced that it would invest 640 billion won into the Russian market by 2027 to increase production volume there.
Oil Price: EU Bans Russia From Using Crypto Services
Just days after Russia’s Ministry of Finance announced plans to let any industry in the country to accept bitcoin and cryptocurrencies for international trade without restriction, the EU has imposed a sweeping ban on providing crypto services to Russians as part of its eighth round of sanctions.
The new measure steps up restrictions that had been in place since April.
“The existing prohibitions on crypto assets have been tightened by banning all crypto-asset wallets, accounts, or custody services, irrespective of the amount of the wallet (previously up to €10,000 [$9,900] was allowed),” reads a press release published on the European Commission’s website.
The increased measures are intended as punishment for “Russia’s continued escalation and illegal war against Ukraine,” including its mobilization of additional troops and open issuance of nuclear threats.
Euronews: Ukraine war: How Russian propaganda has found a way of ‘avoiding detection’ online
Russia has devised a new strategy to spread disinformation to potentially millions of people while avoiding detection, experts say.
The Kremlin’s propaganda wing is considered a key weapon in its war against Ukraine but it has faced a crackdown in recent months.
Now, Russia is using social media network Telegram to help it bypass telltale signs that would identify content as Moscow-backed propaganda to tech giants like Twitter, according to a report by Nisos, a US-based intelligence firm.
Researchers found a channel on Telegram being used as a digital warehouse storing thousands of videos translated into up to 18 languages, including English, Arabic and Chinese.
Once on Telegram, the videos can be downloaded and shared on Twitter and other networks without any indication that they were produced by Russian state-affiliated media, Nisos said.
It means Kremlin propaganda could be spread without it being flagged by mainstream social media companies that have tried to cut down on disinformation on their networks.
“The genius of this approach is that the videos can be downloaded directly from Telegram and it erases the trail that researchers try to follow," Nisos' senior intelligence analyst Patricia Bailey said.
The Telegram group, which researchers say is sponsored by RT, writes that it is attempting to “break the information blockade around the events in Ukraine” in its description.
“All the truth in the most important videos from Ukraine in 17 foreign languages. Share these videos with your friends abroad. Join the information militia!” the group’s bio reads.
Over 8,000 videos have been shared such as apparent testimonies from alleged victims of Ukrainian shelling and messages of support for Russian troops by people living in Ukraine.
Whatever, some proportion of it might be fake or propaganda or whatever - but the fact that the western media thinks that this is beyond the pale and obviously unbelievable, that there are “alleged victims” of Ukrainian shelling and that people in Ukraine are expressing support for Russia - it really shows just how disconnected they are from reality.
RT: Putin gets heavy-duty birthday gift from Belarusian leader
Vladimir Putin has received the unusual gift of a tractor as a birthday present from Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. The Russian leader turned 70 on Friday.
Lukashenko was asked what he would give Putin as he arrived at the Konstantinovsky Palace in St. Petersburg for an informal summit of leaders from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
“A tractor,” he told journalists. “It’s the same as I work on, Belarus. The very best. It’s manually assembled.”
‘Belarus’ tractors are iconic four-wheeled vehicles which have been produced by the Minsk Tractor Works since the 1950s. It’s one of the most recognizable Belarusian brands and the vehicles are sold to around 100 countries worldwide.
The Guardian: Liverpool to host Eurovision song contest on behalf of Ukraine
The Eurovision song contest will be hosted by Liverpool next year after it beat 19 other cites to stage the event on behalf of war-torn Ukraine.
The annual extravaganza will be held in the UK for the first time in 25 years on 13 May as Ukraine is unable to host the event due to the Russian invasion.
Euronews: Energy crisis: ‘We can get through this winter,’ insists UK PM Liz Truss, amid blackouts warning
Prime Minister Liz Truss has insisted the UK has enough energy supplies to get through the winter despite industry warnings there could be blackouts.
Energy giant the National Grid warned British households could lose power for up to three hours if gas supplies run low.
“We do have good energy supplies in the UK, we can get through the winter,” said Truss. “But of course, I am always looking for ways we can improve the price for consumers, that’s why we put into place the energy price guarantee as well as making sure that we have as much supply as possible.”
I think we’re gonna see a lot of shifting of goalposts as the months go by. “Getting through the winter” can mean anything from “no impact on our economies” to “literally everybody died of frostbite”, and I get the feeling that the European definition will shift to increasingly drastic definitions beyond the troubles of the time so they can come out in spring and go “See! We made it! Putler has been owned!"
Inquirer: UK recruiters report weakest hiring growth in 19 months
British recruiters saw the weakest growth in hiring in more than a year and a half last month, as signs of an economic downturn made workers more wary about changing jobs and businesses more cautious about hiring, a survey showed on Friday.
The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) said job vacancies rose in September at the slowest pace since February 2021 – when many businesses still faced lockdown restrictions – while starting salaries rose at the weakest pace in 15 months.
WSWS: French refinery strikes defy Macron’s policy of inflation and war
Fuel shortages are emerging across France after strikes in Total and Exxon refineries began on September 27. This sets the stage for a confrontation between refinery workers, on the one hand, and President Emmanuel Macron’s government backed by the NATO alliance.
Refinery workers are demanding a 10 percent raise, pointing to inflation and the tens of billions of euros in super-profits realized by their employers. Total refineries at Gonfreville-l’Orcher, La Mède, Feyzin, Donges and Grandpuits are affected, as are Exxon refineries at Notre Dame-de-Gravenchon and Fos. While strike actions at Donges and Grandpuits halted this weekend, it has continued in the other refineries.
TeleSUR: Petrol Queues in France Stoke Scarcity Fears
The ongoing strikes at TotalEnergies' six refineries in France and the petroleum group’s fuel price policy that has attracted throngs of customers to its gas stations are causing supply issues, which in turn has sparked fears of a major fuel shortage in France even if the energy operators want to be reassuring.
Nearly half of the gas stations operated by TotalEnergies in and around Paris no longer sell either petrol or diesel due to the supply crunch TotalEnergies stations have been taken by storm since the introduction of a rebate of 20 eurocents per liter of fuel on top of the 30-eurocent rebate granted by the French government.
Oil Price: France Considers Boosting Uranium Enrichment Capacity To Cut Reliance On Russia
France is considering increasing its capacity for uranium enrichment as the Western allies look to reduce their reliance on Russian nuclear power plant fuel.
French state-held uranium conversion and enrichment specialist Orano SA is reviewing options to boost the capacity at its Georges Besse II plant to 11 million separative work units (SWU) from 7.5 million SWU now, a statement from France’s public debate committee says.
Jacobin: Spain’s Government Is Turning a Blind Eye to Killings at Its Border
Along the seafront of Spain’s North African enclave Melilla, I meet Imran. A twenty-year-old from Chad, he is washing locals’ cars at €5 a vehicle. It’s early September, and the pristine Cárabos Beach largely resembles any other stretch of the Mediterranean coastline — from the open-air bars blasting reggaeton to the children playing in the waves. Yet also visible in the background is Melilla’s seven-meter-high border fence, marking one of only two land frontiers between the European Union and an African nation.
Like many Sudanese and Chadian nationals earning a living informally along the seafront, Imran is a survivor of last June’s Melilla massacre. According to international NGOs, at least thirty-seven people were killed by police when immigrants attempted to storm the Spanish-Moroccan border. But the figure of confirmed missing people, seventy-four, suggests the actual death toll could be much higher.
“We came to the wire together as a big group of 1,500 people,” Imran tells Jacobin. “But the police were ready for us. When we reached the border crossing, they surrounded us on both sides of the fence — the Moroccan police were on one side and the Spanish on the other.” He continues:
There was tear gas being fired from both sides and a Spanish [Guardia Civil] helicopter spying on us from above. People could not see or breathe [because of the gas], and they were becoming desperate. The Moroccans were also firing rubber bullets and throwing stones at us.
I was one of the lucky ones who made it across, at which point the Spanish police tried to beat me. I escaped [into the interior of the territory], but many of the others were forced back across the border.
Further along the beachfront, I talk to Magdy, twenty-two, from Sudan:
The Moroccan police killed so many people. One person died right in front of me. He was shot in the head with a rubber bullet when he was at the top of the fence. He lost consciousness and fell. We tried to pick him up, but he did not move.
I also lost my best friend on that day, who suffocated [in a crush] against the barrier. I am devastated. We had been through so much together in the last few years.
Al Jazeera: Catalan separatist gov’t in turmoil as hardliners vote to quit
Catalonia’s pro-independence coalition government is on the verge of collapse after its junior member decided to abandon it, in the most significant crisis within the Spanish region’s separatist movement in the past decade.
In an internal vote on Friday, 55.7 percent of members of the Junts party approved leaving the regional coalition government amid a dispute with the Republican Left of Catalonia (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya) party spearheading the administration, Junts said in a statement.
WSWS: Coronavirus deaths in Germany reach 150,000
Last weekend, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) officially reported the 150,000th coronavirus death in Germany. This shocking milestone is the result of the profits-before-lives policy that all federal and state governments, and governments throughout the world, have pursued since the beginning of the pandemic.
This catastrophic loss of life is unprecedented in peacetime. In two and a half years, as many people have died as there are residents of a medium-sized city. Life expectancy for girls fell by 0.4 years and for boys by as much as 0.6 years compared to 2019.
WSWS: Eurowings pilots in Germany go on 24-hour strike
Pilots employed by the Lufthansa subsidiary Eurowings went on a 24-hour strike on October 6. A large proportion of the airline’s approximately 500 flights planned for that day had to be grounded, with more than 30,000 passengers affected.
Well over 300 flights had to be cancelled. According to the individual airports, 118 flights were cancelled at Eurowings’ main base in Düsseldorf, 61 in Cologne/Bonn, 72 in Hamburg and 64 in Stuttgart. For its part, Eurowings claimed it had salvaged “half” of the planned flights. For some of the long-haul routes, the airline used aircraft from the non-striking Austrian subsidiary, Eurowings Europe, and partner companies.
In August, a ballot among Eurowings pilots produced a result of 97.7 percent in favour of strike action, based on 90 percent participation.
RT: Lasting peace in Europe only possible with Russia’s input – Merkel
Sustainable peace in Europe may only be achieved if Russia is part of it, former German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday.
Speaking during the 77th anniversary of the German newspaper ‘Suddeutsche Zeitung,’ Merkel explained that while the West has been adamant in its support for Ukraine as the nation remains locked in conflict with Russia, it should also keep its mind open about what might seem as “unthinkable” now – Moscow’s future role in Europe’s affairs.
She stressed that “a future European security architecture within international law will meet the requirements” only if it involves Russia. “As long as we haven’t achieved that, the Cold War is not really over either,” she added.
RT: Serbia unveils plan to plug into Russian pipeline
Belgrade is considering options to connect to the Druzhba oil pipeline in Hungary amid a new batch of EU sanctions, which are set to prevent crude deliveries from Russia to Serbia through Croatia, the country’s energy ministry said on Friday.
In an effort to secure oil supplies, the country is looking at two ways of plugging into the Druzhba, with both routes going partially through Hungary. One involves the construction of a new 128km pipeline to Seged, a city in southern Hungary. According to the Serbian energy ministry, this pipeline would cost about €83 million and provide “partial capacity for supplying the refinery in Pancevo.”
Another option for connecting to the Russian pipeline near Budapest is the construction of a 400km pipe from Novi Sad to Szazhalombatta, which would require an estimated investment of around €240 million.
East Asia and Oceania
SCMP: China calls Xinjiang vote at UN Human Rights Council a win against US ‘coercion’
The international community is “clearly aware” that the United States and other Western nations intend to use accusations of human rights abuses in Xinjiang as a “tool” to meddle in China’s internal affairs, China’s foreign ministry said on Thursday.
The remark came after the United Nations’ top human rights body rejected a US-led proposal to debate alleged abuses targeting Uygurs and other Muslim minority groups in the far western Chinese region.
“For some time now, the US and some other Western countries have been misinforming the public about Xinjiang and seeking political manipulation in the name of human rights simply to smear China’s image and contain China’s development … the international community would not be easily misled,” a foreign ministry spokesman said.
Inquirer: Samsung, SK Hynix to be spared brunt of China chip crackdown by U.S. -sources
The Biden administration plans to spare SK Hynix and Samsung from the brunt of new restrictions on memory chipmakers in China aimed at thwarting Beijing’s technological ambitions and blocking its military advances, sources said.
The Commerce Department, which plans to release new curbs on exports of technology to China this week, will likely deny requests by U.S. suppliers to send equipment to Chinese firms like Yangtze Memory Technologies Co Ltd (YMTC) and ChangXin Memory Technologies, Inc (CXMT) if they are making advanced DRAM or flash memory chips, the sources said.
However, license requests to sell equipment to foreign companies making advanced memory chips in China will be reviewed on a case by case basis, sources said, potentially allowing for them to receive the equipment.
“The goal is not to hurt non-indigenous companies,” one of the people briefed on the matter said.
The White House and Commerce Department declined to comment. SK Hynix Inc, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, YMTC, and CXMT did not respond to requests for comment.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington on Thursday described the expected rules as “sci-tech hegemony.” It accused the United States of using its “technological prowess … to hobble and suppress the development of emerging markets and developing countries.”
The move could assuage the worst fears of South Korean memory chipmakers that the United States might hobble their China-based manufacturing business in its effort to thwart China’s rise, cripple YMTC and protect vulnerable U.S. memory chipmakers.
They still worry, however, that the case-by-case review standard is far from an explicit greenlight for U.S. equipment to be shipped to their Chinese facilities and could result in bickering with regulators over what shipments to approve.
RT: Zelensky declares Russian islands as Japanese
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky signed a decree on Friday recognizing the southern Kuril Islands as Japanese territory. The symbolic pronouncement came two days after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed laws accepting four former regions of Ukraine into the Russian Federation.
Zelensky’s decree recognizes the islands of Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and the Habomai as Japan’s. While the entire Kurili archipelago has been Russian territory since the end of World War II, Japan claims these southernmost four as its own, referring to them as its “Northern Territories.”
“An important decision was made today. Fair. Legally impeccable. Historical. Ukraine has reaffirmed its respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Japan, including its Northern Territories, which are still under Russian occupation,” Zelensky said in a video address.
Financial Times: Sri Lanka debt talks with China a test of creditor appetite for bailout
Sri Lanka has begun debt restructuring talks with China that will test whether Beijing and rival lenders such as India can put aside their differences to help the island escape its economic crisis.
“We are sure that China will assist us in these difficult times,” Sri Lanka’s president Ranil Wickremesinghe said in parliament on Thursday as he announced the launch of talks with Beijing. “It is our expectation now to come to a common agreement as soon as possible.”
Jakarta Post: Kim touts “strengthened” Russia cooperation in message to Putin
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said cooperation between his country and Russia has been “strengthened as never before” in a message sent Friday to celebrate Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 70th birthday, state-run media said.
In the message, Kim said he has “rejoiced” in the strengthened mutual support and cooperation enabled through the struggle “to defend the regional peace and stability and realize…international justice,” according to the official Korean Central News Agency.
“Today, Russia is reliably defending the dignity of the state and its fundamental interests from the challenges and threats by the US and its vassal forces. Such reality is unthinkable without your distinguished leadership and strong will,” KCNA quoted Kim as telling Putin.
“I wish you happiness in good health and great success in your responsible work for the prosperity of Russia,” he said.
WSWS: Health experts, disabled workers and others denounce Australian government’s “forever COVID” policies at online meeting
Last week’s unanimous decision by Australian federal and state government leaders to end all compulsory isolation periods for COVID-19 infected people and to abolish pandemic leave payments has been angrily denounced by workers and middle-class people across the country.
Within hours, social media was awash with condemnations of Labor Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and the “National Cabinet” whose actions guarantee a massive wave of coronavirus deaths and infections.
Albanese’s Facebook page was peppered with hundreds of enraged comments over the weekend, many of them Labor voters vowing to never support the party again. Albanese’s social media directors quickly removed the comments, posting a photograph of the prime minister on Monday holding a koala and cynically tweeting his concerns that these and other animals were endangered in many parts of Australia. This sparked even more angry responses, noting the fact that the National Cabinet decision would eliminate thousands of human lives.
Central Asia and the Middle East
Reuters: Armenia and Azerbaijan agree to civilian EU mission alongside border
The European Council on Friday said Armenia and Azerbaijan have agreed to a civilian EU mission alongside the countries' border, where the worst fighting between the two ex-Soviet states since 2020 killed more than 200 people late last month.
It also said the next meeting of a border delimitation commission will take place in Brussels by the end of October.
The agreement was reached after Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, French President Emmanuel Macron and European Council President Charles Michel met in Prague on Thursday on the margins of the first gathering of the European Political Community.
Reuters: Erdogan and Putin discuss improving ties, ending Ukraine war -Turkish readout
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan spoke by phone with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin about improving bilateral ties and he repeated Ankara’s willingness to do its part to peacefully resolve the war in Ukraine, Erdogan’s office said on Friday.
The latest developments in Ukraine, which Russia invaded earlier this year, were also discussed in the call, according to Turkey’s Directorate of Communications.
“Please Putin, oh god please, let me be the person who makes peace! I’d be so popular! Please!"
RT: Erdogan will only back one Nordic country’s NATO bid
Türkiye is now ready to greenlight Finland’s entry into NATO but is not prepared to do the same for Sweden, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday, suggesting that the two Nordic countries could join the alliance at separate times.
Speaking at a press conference in Prague, the Turkish leader revealed that Ankara’s relations with Finland “are different from those with Sweden.” In Erdogan’s opinion, “Finland is not a country where terrorists are roaming freely,” while Sweden is “a place where terror is rampant.”
“So, regarding Finland and Sweden, NATO will have to make a decision. If they make a decision that is in favor of Finland, of course we will do everything that we are required to,” Erdogan said.
MEE: Neom: Saudi Arabia sentences tribesmen to death for resisting displacement
A Saudi court sentenced three members of the Howeitat, a tribe forcibly ejected to make way for the $500 bn Neom megacity, to death earlier this month for resisting displacement, a UK-based rights group has reported.
Shadli, Atallah, and Ibrahim al-Howeiti were arrested in 2020 for opposing the eviction of their tribe for the project and were handed down death sentences on 2 October by Saudi Arabia’s Specialised Criminal Court, according to UK-based rights group Alqst.
MEMO: US approves potential $3bn in defence sale to Kuwait- Pentagon
The US State Department has approved the potential sale of the National Advanced Surface-To-Air Missile System (NASAMS) and Medium Range Air Defence System to Kuwait in a deal valued at an estimated $3 billion, the Pentagon said yesterday, Reuters reports.
“The proposed sale will improve Kuwait’s capability to meet current and future threats by enhancing the ability to defend itself against regional malign actors and improve interoperability with systems operated by U.S. forces and other Gulf countries,” it said.
The principal contractor will be Raytheon Missiles and Defence, the Pentagon added. The State Department’s approval kicks off the 30-day congressional review period, and the final cost of the deal will on
Reuters: U.S. accuses Russia of exploiting Africa resources to fund Ukraine war
The United States accused Russian mercenaries on Thursday of exploiting natural resources in the Central African Republic, Mali, Sudan and elsewhere to help fund Moscow’s war in Ukraine, a charge Russia rejected as “anti-Russian rage.”
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said the Wagner Group of mercenaries are exploiting natural resources and “these ill-gotten gains are used to fund Moscow’s war machine in Africa, the Middle East, and Ukraine.”
Africanews: Buhari presents his final budget as president with plans to end petrol subsidy
Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari has confirmed plans to remove a costly petrol subsidy as he presented Friday his final budget as leader of the west African foreseeing deep revenue shortfalls. Despite being a major oil exporter, Nigeria imports the bulk of its petrol and a subsidy keeps the prices at the pump low for consumers.
While popular with Nigerians, the subsidy is costly, with the price tag estimated at $9 billion this year. “Petrol subsidy has been a recurring and controversial public policy issue in our country since the early eighties,” Buhari told a joint session of the National Assembly in Abuja on Friday. “However, its current fiscal impact has clearly shown that the policy is unsustainable,” he said.
TeleSUR: Experts: US Bracing for Severe Flu Season Amid Fall COVID Wave
Health experts warned that the United States is bracing for a severe flu season and another fall wave of COVID-19 cases, urging the public to get flu shots and COVID-19 boosters.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is calling on everyone 6 months and older to get their flu shot.
Public health officials are concerned about a false sense of security after two milder flu seasons due to COVID precautions, said a report of CNN.
“I don’t want to be alarmist, but I am concerned. We know that it’s going to be a strain of flu that tends to be more severe,” said Michael Phillips, an infectious disease expert at New York University Langone Health.
Common Dreams: Covid Inaction Leaves US Facing ‘Major Storm Without Even an Umbrella in Hand,’ Experts Warn
Refuting President Joe Biden’s recent claim that “the pandemic is over,” a group of physicians, epidemiologists, and other experts warned in an open letter published Friday that Covid-19 remains a deadly and disabling threat, including in the United States, which is ill-prepared for a possible winter surge “fueled by the emergence of new Omicron strains.”
Reuters: Biden’s new Arctic strategy foresees competition with Russia, China
The United States on Friday unveiled a new strategy for the Arctic that foresees increasing competition with Russia and China in the strategic U.S. government presence in the Arctic region as region.
“We will exercise required to protect the American people and defend our sovereign territory,” said a fact sheet about the new strategy released by the White House.
Russia has reopened hundreds of Soviet-era military sites in the region, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in August, adding that Russian capabilities there pose a strategic challenge to the 30-nation alliance.
Inside Climate News: Pressing Safety Concerns, Opponents of the Mountain Valley Pipeline Gear Up for the Next Round of Battle
The 303-mile pipeline, which would carry fracked gas from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia, has stirred significant safety concerns and faced a series of legal and regulatory hurdles since it was first proposed in 2014. For those living near the pipeline, which is mostly completed, those worries remain front and center despite the latest political setback to the project.
Last week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer agreed to a request by Manchin to withdraw a provision tying the pipeline’s approval to a must-pass budget bill, leaving the 8-year-old project’s completion in limbo. The provision, which had drawn bipartisan opposition, would have sped approval by revising the federal permitting process.
Still, foes of the pipeline are bracing for more. Manchin, who chairs the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has vowed to continue to push for a permitting bill that would speed approval of the $6.6 billion project. And Schumer, a New York Democrat, is in his corner: Over the summer, he pledged to help ease the way for the pipeline’s completion in exchange for Manchin’s recent support of the Inflation Reduction Act, which included more than $350 billion in climate and clean energy funding.
Caribbean and South America
Al Jazeera: Haiti to request aid of foreign forces as violence rages: Reports
The Haitian government plans to seek assistance from foreign armed forces, officials have said, as the Caribbean country struggles to respond to escalating gang violence.
TeleSUR: Uruguayans Demand a Larger Educational Budget
On Thursday, around 50,000 people joined a march to support public education called by the Coordinator of Uruguayan Teaching Unions (CSEU).
The concentration, which took place on the University of the Republic’s esplanade, occupied more than two blocks of the “July 18,” the most important avenue in the city of Montevideo.
The “March in Defense of Public Education” went to the vicinity of Parliament to denounce cuts at different levels of the education system.
Hector Cancela, the president of the Public University’s Teacher Association (ADUR), assured that one of the demonstration’s central axes is to show rejection of the low budget granted by President Luis Lacalle’s administration.
TeleSUR: Venezuela Sends 4,000 TN of Ammonia to Colombia for Fertilizers
To serve the regional market, a ship from Venezuela arrived in Colombia on Thursday with more than 4,000 tons of ammonia that will be used to produce NPK fertilizers and ammonium sulfate.
People’s Daily: Biden doesn’t rule out easing sanctions on Venezuela as countermeasure to OPEC+ slashing oil production
U.S. President Joe Biden didn’t rule out the possibility of easing sanctions on Venezuela, telling reporters on Thursday his administration has “a lot of alternatives” to counter the effect of a decision by a group of the world’s most prominent oil-producing countries to reduce production.
“There’s a lot of alternatives. We haven’t made up our mind yet,” Biden said before departing the White House, calling the announcement made the previous day by the group known as OPEC+ a “disappointment.” He was answering to a shouted question from the press whether easing sanctions on Venezuela was one of the options.
TeleSUR: Colombia Holds Second Humanitarian Summit
On Friday, over 200 Colombian social leaders from the territories most affected by armed violence hold the Second Humanitarian Summit in Bogota.
It is a space for meeting and dialogue whose purpose is to find negotiated political solutions to the prevailing structural violence in this South American country.
“The participants will propose to the National Government and armed actors a set of urgent actions to achieve a ceasefire and peace,” the Episcopal Conference of Colombia (CEC) said, recalling that the first summit also took place in the Colombian capital in July.
Al Jazeera: Under Bolsonaro, Amazon deforestation hits new September record
Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has broken a record for the month of September, continuing a trend that has accelerated during the tenure of the country’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.
About 1,455sq km (562sq miles) of rainforest were cleared in September, according to satellite data from the Brazilian space research agency INPE. That is up 48 percent from a year ago and beating the September 2019 record in a data series that began in 2015.
The Guardian: Easter Island fire causes ‘irreparable’ damage to famous moai statues
A forest fire that tore through part of Easter Island has charred some of its monumental carved stone figures, known as moai, authorities have said.
The blaze reportedly swept through the Rapa Nui national park, 3,500km (2,175 miles) off the west coast of Chile, causing “irreparable” damage to the archaeological site.
“More than 100 hectares (247 acres) were affected in the Rano Raraku sector which includes the wetland and moai sector,” the national park said in a statement on its official Facebook page on Thursday.
The Ukraine Proxy Conflict
RT: Drone explodes at Russian military airport
An explosion occurred at a military airbase in Kaluga region located southwest of the Russian capital when an unidentified drone hit the ground, local authorities said on Friday, adding that there have been no casualties or major damage.
According to Kaluga’s Governor Vladislav Shapsha, a blast occurred at military airport ‘Shaikovka,’ with an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), which “presumably flew from [this] side of the border,” hitting the ground in the area.
“There are no casualties. The airfield infrastructure and equipment didn’t sustain any damage,” the official said, adding that there is no threat to the airport’s current operations while investigators are already looking into the incident.
Shaikovka is located about 600 kilometers from the Russia-Ukraine border and 300 kilometers southwest of Moscow. Moreover, according to media reports, the facility is home to a regiment of Russian strategic supersonic bombers.
It looks like this was a response to Russia sending drones into Kiev’s airspace, showing that Ukraine’s air defenses are not quite as functional as they would like to believe. My impression is that it was a probing attack for a future offensive.
Reuters: France’s Macron announces fund to buy arms for Ukraine
French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday announced plans to create a fund worth 100 million euros at first to buy arms to support Ukraine directly from arms manufacturers.
Financial Times: Ukrainian forces report Starlink outages during push against Russia
Ukrainian troops have reported outages of their Starlink communication devices on the frontline, hindering efforts to liberate territory from Russian forces, according to Ukrainian officials and soldiers.
Thousands of Starlink terminals, made by Elon Musk-owned SpaceX, were purchased by the US government and crowdfunded by donors to help Ukrainian troops operate drones, receive vital intelligence updates and communicate with each other in areas where there are no other secure networks. The systems which connect a small antenna to a 35-centimetre-high terminal also provide internet for Ukrainian civilians.
Some of the outages led to a “catastrophic” loss of communication in recent weeks, said one senior Ukrainian government official with direct knowledge of the issue. Many were reported as soldiers breached the frontline into Russian-controlled territory and some during pitched battles, the official said, speaking under the condition of anonymity.
They were acute in the south around the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, but also occurred along the front line in eastern Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk, the official said.
Reuters: Four IAEA specialists to visit Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant on Friday, Interfax reports
A four-member team of IAEA experts is due to arrive at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on Friday to replace the previous team of two specialists from the agency, Interfax reported on Friday citing Russian-installed authorities.
The Guardian: Biden’s ‘Armageddon’ warning wasn’t based on new intelligence, US says
The White House has said that Joe Biden’s warning of “Armageddon” if Russia uses a nuclear weapon in Ukraine was not based on any new intelligence suggesting such nuclear use is imminent.
The US president issued his warning at a private fundraising event in New York on Thursday evening, in his most outspoken remarks yet on the threat of wartime nuclear weapons being used for the first time since 1945.
Biden described the current standoff over Ukraine, with Vladimir Putin threatening to use all means at his disposal to defend Russia and the territory it has seized in Ukraine, as the most dangerous nuclear moment since the Cuban missile crisis 60 years ago this month.
“He is not joking when he talks about the potential use of tactical nuclear weapons,” Biden told donors. “I don’t think there’s any such thing as an ability to easily use a tactical nuclear weapon and not end up with Armageddon.”
Moon of Alabama: Biden’s Fearmongers About A Russian Nuclear Threat That No One Has Made
The Biden administration is spewing ridiculous fear mongering propaganda […]
A copy of the pool report can be seen here. It quotes Biden as saying: “[Putin] is not joking when he talks about potential use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons because his military is you might say is significantly underperforming.”
Fact is that Putin has not talked about the “potential use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons.” Not. At. All.
On September 21 Putin announced a partial mobilization of reservists. In his TV speech he mentioned nuclear weapons only with regards to ‘Western’ threats of using them:
They have even resorted to the nuclear blackmail. I am referring not only to the Western-encouraged shelling of the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant, which poses a threat of a nuclear disaster, but also to the statements made by some high-ranking representatives of the leading NATO countries on the possibility and admissibility of using weapons of mass destruction – nuclear weapons – against Russia.
I would like to remind those who make such statements regarding Russia that our country has different types of weapons as well, and some of them are more modern than the weapons NATO countries have. In the event of a threat to the territorial integrity of our country and to defend Russia and our people, we will certainly make use of all weapon systems available to us. This is not a bluff.
The citizens of Russia can rest assured that the territorial integrity of our Motherland, our independence and freedom will be defended – I repeat – by all the systems available to us. Those who are using nuclear blackmail against us should know that the wind rose can turn around.
Note that Putin does not mention Russia’s nuclear weapons. He instead empathizes that Russia has new ‘different’ weapons that are ‘more modern’ than those of the ‘West’. He means hypersonic missiles which can avoid ‘western’ air defenses and hit decision centers in Brussels, London and Washington even without nuclear warheads.
Also for the record: Russia has signed and ratified the Biological Weapons Convention which prohibits the development, production, acquisition, transfer, stockpiling and use of biological weapons. Russia has also signed and ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention. In November 2017 it destroyed its last (Soviet) chemical weapons as mandated by the convention. It is the U.S. that still has not destroyed its chemicial weapons.
Analysis and Retrospectives
Inside the Imperial Core
Naked Capitalism: The U.S. Is Preparing Its Response to the “Short-Sighted” Strategy of OPEC+
One of the leading stories tonight is how furious the Biden Administration is over the OPEC+ agreement to cut oil production by 2 million barrels a day. Team Biden is taking it personally, depicting it as a surprise, maliciously timed so as to hurt Democratic party prospects in the midterms, and proof that the Saudis, one of America’s long-standing allies in the Mideast, is working in concert with Russia.
What is striking about this temper tantrum is that it comes off as yet another demonstration of US geopolitical immaturity.
First, Mr. Market was not surprised and oil prices moved little on the news, raising questions as to how the Biden crew missed what investors saw as obvious. Undue confidence in the power of the hegemon? However, the tepid market response appears also due to the cut not being fully met. From the Financial Times:
The actual fall in output from the Opec+ group’s lowered target is likely to be closer to 1mn b/d, rather than the headline of 2mn b/d, as many of its weaker members have struggled to hit production targets in recent months.
Yet Biden officials claimed that the Saudis didn’t warn them that this might be coming. From Bloomberg:
Top Biden energy adviser Amos Hochstein said Thursday on Bloomberg Television that after a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman less than two weeks ago, he did not have the impression that OPEC+ was poised for its most dramatic cut since the beginning of the pandemic.
That may be accurate, but why should the Saudis have to spell out what the Biden Administration has made clear it not want to hear, that the Saudis are not going to refrain from lowering production just to save Biden’s bacon? As as the heavyweight in an oil cartel, they are going to manage production as they see fit to manage prices.
Remember that Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salam refused to take a call from Biden last March to discuss the oil price crisis triggered by US sanctions on Russia. That is a very strong signal that MbS does not see Riyadh as taking marching orders from Washington.
Also remember, that despite the Administration whinging that this production cut is a dastardly Russian plot (everything bad that can’t be attributed to Trump must be due to Putin), as Alexander Mercouris pointed out in his video on Thursday, the Kremlin was opposed to the modest production cut last month.
In keeping, the Saudi energy minister dressed down a Reuters reporter yesterday over the new agency’s claims of Saudi-Russian collusion and said it had not happened in the recent claimed instances or now […]
A second sign of geopolitical immaturity is making threats on threats on which you cannot deliver, which is what this fulminating amounts to. Again from Bloomberg:
Furious congressional Democrats urged retaliation against Riyadh, a government seen as an increasingly unreliable ally. Many aired suspicions that the timing of the announcement was intended by the crown prince, whose country Biden once vowed to make a “pariah,” to have maximum impact on the election.
Yet Biden and his team have no good options to respond to the OPEC+ move and would see little benefit from an extended dispute highlighting the president’s inability to influence the cartel.
Third, Team Biden appears not to be bright enough to work out that the G7 oil price cap scheme that it sponsored and still apparently plans to implement despite lack of buy-in outside the “collective West” sphere, is tantamount to trying to break OPEC. So it is possible that the timing was deliberate and retaliatory, and not merely a response to “prices lower than we like for too long.”
Fourth, some of the Biden Administration statements confirm the US-as-colonialist attitude that Putin described pointedly in his speech last week. Notice this section from a Wall Street Journal story:
In Washington, lawmakers focused their attention on Saudi Arabia, saying the country has aligned with Russia despite its attack on Ukraine, making the kingdom unfit for U.S. support.
They are pitching bills that would potentially seize the assets that OPEC member countries own in the U.S., or mandate the removal of U.S. armed forces from Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E.
“The royal Saudi family has never been a trustworthy ally of our nation,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.), the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, tweeted Thursday. “It’s time for our foreign policy to imagine a world without their alliance.”
As Lambert would put it, this is wonderfully clarifying. The US thinks it’s reasonable to steal from countries that won’t bend to its will.
Outside the Imperial Core
Counterpunch: How Cuba is Dealing With the Devastation of Hurricane Ian
On September 27, 2022, a tropical cyclone—Hurricane Ian—struck Cuba’s western province of Pinar del Río. Sustained winds of around 125miles per hour lingered over Cuba for more than eight hours, bringing down trees and power lines, and causing damage not seen during previous tropical cyclones. The hurricane then lingered over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, picking up energy before striking the U.S. island of Cayo Costa, Florida, with approximately 155 mph winds. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) called it “one of the worst hurricanes to hit the area in a century.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center said that this year will be the “seventh consecutive above-average hurricane season.” Both Cuba and Florida have faced the wrath of the waters and winds, but beneath this lies the ferocity of the climate catastrophe. “Climate science is increasingly able to show that many of the extreme weather events that we are experiencing have become more likely and more intense due to human-induced climate change,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.
Cuba, said the WMO, is one of the “world leaders in terms of hurricane preparedness and disaster management.” This was not always the case. Hurricane Flora hit the eastern coast of the island on October 4, 1963. When news of the approaching hurricane reached Fidel Castro, he immediately ordered the evacuation of the homes of people who lived in the projected path of the storm (in Haiti, former dictator François Duvalier did not call for an evacuation, which led to the death of more than 5,000 people). Castro rushed to Camagüey, almost dying in the Cauto River as his amphibious vehicle was struck by a drifting log. Two years later, in his Socialism and Man in Cuba, Che Guevara wrote the Cuban people showed “exceptional deeds of valor and sacrifice” as they rebuilt the country after the devastation caused by Flora.
In 1966, the Cuban government created the Civil Defense System to prepare for not only extreme weather events such as hurricanes but also the outbreak of epidemics. Using science as the foundation for its hurricane preparedness, the Cuban government was able to evacuate 2 million people as Hurricane Ivan moved toward the island in 2004. As part of disaster management, the entire Cuban population participates in drills, and the Cuban mass organizations (the Federation of Cuban Women and the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution) work in an integrated manner to mobilize the population to respond to disasters.
The day before Hurricane Ian hit Cuba, 50,000 people were evacuated and taken to 55 shelters. No private vehicles or public transportation was visible on the streets. Work brigades were mobilized to work on the resumption of electricity supply after the storm had passed. In Artemisa, for instance, the Provincial Defense Council met to discuss how to react to the inevitable flooding. Despite the best efforts made by Cubans, threepeople died because of the hurricane, and the electrical grid suffered significant damage.
The entire island—including Havana—had no power for more than three days. The electrical grid, which was already suffering from a lack of major repairs, collapsed. Without power, Cubans had to throw away food that needed to be refrigerated and faced difficulty in preparing meals, among other hardships. By October 1, less than five days after landfall, 82 percent of the residents of Havana had their power restored with work ongoing for the western part of the island (the amount of time without power in Puerto Rico, which was hit by Hurricane Fiona on September 18, is longer—a quarter of a million people remain without power more than two weeks later).
The long-term impact of Hurricane Ian is yet to be assessed, although some believe the cost of damages will surpass $1 billion. More than 8,500 hectares of cropland have been hit by the flooding, with the banana crop most impacted. The most dramatic problem will be faced by Cuba’s tobacco industry since Pinar del Río—where 5,000 farms were destroyed—is its heartland (with 65 percent of the country’s tobacco production). Hirochi Robaina, a tobacco farmer in Pinar del Río, wrote, “It was apocalyptic. A real disaster.”
Mexico and Venezuela immediately pledged to send materials to assist in the reconstruction of the electrical grid on the island.
All eyes turned to Washington—not only to see whether it would send aid, which would be welcome, but also if it would remove Cuba from the state sponsors of terrorism list and end sanctions imposed by the United States. These measures cause banks in both the United States and elsewhere to be reluctant to process any financial transactions, including humanitarian donations. The U.S. has a mixed record regarding humanitarian aid to Cuba. After Hurricane Michelle (2001), Hurricane Charley (2004), and Hurricane Wilma (2005), the U.S. did offer assistance, but would not even temporarily lift the blockade. After the fire at a Matanzas oil storage facility in August 2022, the U.S. did offer to join Mexico and Venezuela to help the Cubans put out the fire. Cuba’s Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Fernández de Cossio offered “profound gratitude” for the gesture, but the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden did not follow through.
Rather than lift the sanctions even for a limited period, the U.S. government sat back and watched as mysterious forces from Miami unleashed a torrent of Facebook and WhatsApp messages to drive desperate Cubans onto the street. Not a moment is wasted by Washington to use even a natural disaster to try to destabilize the situation in Cuba (a history that goes back to 1963, when the Central Intelligence Agency reflected on how to leverage natural disasters for political gains). “Most people don’t shout out freedom,” a person who observed one of these protests told us. “They ask for power and food.”
Climate Home News: International air travel set for ‘aspirational’ 2050 net zero goal
Governments approved a net zero by 2050 emissions target for international air travel on Friday despite opposition from Russia and China.
The “aspirational goal” was signed off by transport ministers at the International Civil Aviation Organisation (Icao) assembly in Montreal, Canada.
But there is currently no viable technology to eliminate planes’ emissions and airlines and governments at Icao have not contemplated reducing flying itself.
Airlines have largely chosen to use much-criticised carbon offset schemes to meet their climate targets.
A group of mostly high-income countries calling itself the “climate ambition coalition” pushed for the 2050 net zero goal against opposition from Russia and China.