Global Events, the United Nations, and Disease
Common Dreams: Clean Energy Production Must Double by 2030 to Stave Off Catastrophe: WMO
The worldwide supply of electricity from clean energy sources must be doubled by the end of the decade to limit global temperature rise—or else there is an increased risk that worsening extreme weather disasters turbocharged by the fossil fuel-driven climate crisis will further diminish energy security and even imperil renewable power generation.
That’s according to the annual World Meteorological Organization (WMO) State of Climate Services report, published Tuesday, which includes input from 26 partners and focuses on energy this year because it “holds the key” to international agreements on sustainable development and climate action, with urgent and far-reaching changes needed to improve public and planetary health.
“The energy sector is the source of around three-quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement. “Switching to clean forms of energy generation, such as solar, wind, and hydropower—and improving energy efficiency—is vital if we are to thrive in the 21st century.”
“Net-zero by 2050 is the aim,” said Taalas. “But we will only get there if we double the supply of low-emissions electricity within the next eight years.”
Common Dreams: Activists Disrupt Meeting to Demand ‘Loan Sharks’ IMF and World Bank Cancel All Debt
Two activists from the women-led peace group CodePink crashed a Tuesday afternoon debt restructuring panel during the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group annual meetings to demand that the international financial institutions “cancel all debts.”
CodePink organizers Olivia DiNucci and Nancy Mancias disrupted the “Debt Restructuring: Why Too Little and Too Late” session at the IMF’s Washington, D.C. headquarters.
The activists unfurled a banner imploring the institutions to “cancel all debts.” The women shouted “cancel all debt, reparations now,” even as they were removed from the venue by security personnel.
“The IMF and World Bank are loan sharks trapping countries into debt. We need localization and ecological sustainability for the people, planet, and peace,” said CodePink campaign organizer Nancy Mancias.
“We are calling on the IMF and World Bank to end its debt trap monetary practices which are causing countries to sink further down into economic crises,” she added. “We are calling on them to cancel all debt.”
Al Jazeera: NATO chief says long-planned nuclear exercises to go ahead
NATO head Jens Stoltenberg says the Western military alliance will go ahead as planned with its annual routine nuclear deterrent exercises, scheduled to be held next week amid rising tensions with Russia over the war in Ukraine.
The drills, dubbed “Steadfast Noon”, are held annually and usually run for about one week. They involve fighter jets capable of carrying nuclear warheads, but do not involve any live bombs. Conventional jets along with surveillance and refueling aircraft also routinely take part.
Fourteen of the 30 NATO member countries join in the exercise, which was planned before Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
The main part of the manoeuvres would be held more than 1,000km (625 miles) from Russia, said an official from NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Reuters: Energy crisis could cut Europe’s car output nearly 40% - S&P Global Mobility
Auto forecaster S&P Global Mobility warned on Tuesday that, under a worst case scenario, Europe’s energy crisis could cut its car production by close to 40%, or more than 1 million vehicles, per quarter through the end of 2023.
In a report titled ‘Winter is Coming,’ S&P Global Mobility said the auto industry’s supply chain - already reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine - “may face extensive pressure” from soaring energy costs or even power cuts.
RT: Russia to nationalize assets of Japanese carmaker – trade ministry
Japanese carmaker Nissan will sell all its Russian assets to state-owned research and development firm NAMI, the trade ministry has said.
The deal, worth a symbolic sum of €1, was approved by the Japanese corporation and includes a plant in St. Petersburg and sales and marketing facilities in Moscow.
“We have managed to reach a formant where the enterprise remains operational. Key competencies, the production cycle and jobs are preserved,” Russia’s Trade Minister Denis Manturov said in a statement on Tuesday.
Nissan has some 2,000 employees in Russia and after the transfer is completed NAMI will be able to attract other companies as production partners to create joint ventures.
According to the minister, Russian carmaker AVTOVAZ will carry out maintenance services for Nissan vehicles, as well as supply spare parts. The deal will give Nissan the right to buy back the business within six years, the trade ministry said.
The scheme is almost identical to the withdrawal of Renault, a member of an alliance with Nissan. In May, the French carmaker’s 68% stake went to NAMI and its factory in Moscow, which produced cars under the Renault and Nissan brands, was transferred to the city government.
Meanwhile, Nissan reported on Tuesday an estimated loss of $686.2 million from leaving the Russian market.
Reuters: Russia’s financial monitoring agency adds Meta to ‘extremists’ list -agencies
Russia’s financial monitoring agency, Rosfinmonitoring, has added U.S. tech giant Meta Platforms Inc. (META.O) to its list of “terrorists and extremists”, Russian news agencies reported on Tuesday.
A Moscow court in June rejected an appeal by Meta - owner of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp - after it was found guilty of “extremist activity” in Russia in March. In court, Meta’s lawyer at the time said Meta was not carrying out extremist activity and was against Russophobia.
WSWS: UK economic crisis leading to soaring housing costs
The combined effects of interest rate rises pursued by the world’s leading central banks and Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini budget of giveaways to the super-rich is hiking up UK mortgages and rent. A wave of arrears, bankruptcies, repossessions and evictions is threatened.
Roughly 600,000 mortgages will be renewed in the next six months, meaning nearly 3,300 households a day will have to take on hundreds of pounds a month in extra repayments. Around 2 million coming to the end of a fixed rate deal will have to do the same in the next year. Another 2 million already on variable rate deals will see an immediate increase.
After Kwarteng’s September 23 budget, investors led a run on the pound and UK bonds, signalling they expect the Bank of England to raise interest rates to 6 percent by early next year.This led to a mass withdrawal of mortgage deals by high street banks—as much as 40 percent of offers. They have gradually returned, but at much higher repayment rates.
According to data provider MoneyFacts, the average cost of a two-year fixed rate mortgage is 6.43 percent, and a five-year fixed rate mortgage is 6.29 percent—both the highest since the 2008-9 financial crash. These figures sat at just 2.25 percent and 2.55 percent a year ago and have continued to increase over the last three weeks.
Two months before Kwarteng’s budget, UK Finance, the banking trade body, was warning that much smaller expected rises in interest rates would lead to two-year mortgage holders losing a quarter of their disposable income to increased repayment charges. Five-year mortgage holders would lose a fifth.
Now the fall will be significantly worse. The Royal Bank of Canada has calculated that average mortgage repayments will rise by between £250 and £470 a month, or £3,000-£5,640 a year. As an example, MoneyFacts predicts that a household with a £200,000 mortgage paying back over 25 years would be charged over £400 more a month for a two-year deal than they would have been last December.
Reuters: AstraZeneca’s COVID vaccine suffers a setback in nasal spray trial
Attempts by Oxford University researchers and AstraZeneca Plc (AZN.L) to create a nasal-spray version of their jointly developed COVID-19 shot suffered a setback on Tuesday as initial testing on humans did not yield the desired protection.
An antibody response in the respiratory mucous membranes was seen in only a minority of participants in the trial, which was in the first of usually three phases of clinical testing, the University of Oxford said in a statement on Tuesday.
Regulators in India and China have already cleared products that are administered through the airways.
TeleSUR: French PM to Order Refineries Workers Back as Strike Continues
On Tuesday, French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne ordered local authorities to requisition workers needed to ensure petrol supply to service stations across the country as France struggles with strikes at oil refineries operated by TotalEnergies and ExxonMobil.
“A salary disagreement does not justify blocking the country,” Borne told the National Assembly. “To refuse to discuss is to make the French the victims of an absence of dialogue.”
Reuters: France says Belarus could face more sanctions if it gets increasingly involved in Ukraine conflict
Belarus could face more sanctions if it gets more and more involved in the Ukraine conflict, French Foreign Affairs Minister Catherine Colonna told French radio on Tuesday.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Monday that he had ordered troops to deploy with Russian forces near Ukraine in response to what he said was a clear threat to Belarus from Kyiv and its backers in the West.
The remarks from Lukashenko, who has held power in Belarus since 1994, indicate a potential further escalation of the war in Ukraine, possibly with a combined Russian-Belarus joint force in the north of Ukraine.
FXStreet: German government expects economy to contract by 0.4% in 2023
The German government still expects the economy to tip into recession next year despite the gas price brake that was presented on Monday, Reuters reported on Tuesday, citing government sources.
The economy is now expected to contract by 0.4% in 2023 and inflation is seen at 8% and 7% in 2022 and 2023, respectively.
Reuters: Germans told to unite over energy crisis amid EU divisions
Germany can weather a winter gas shortage caused by Russia’s war on Ukraine provided companies and households pull together, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday ahead of a meeting of EU ministers divided over the best response to the energy crisis.
Financial Times: Viktor Orbán says only Donald Trump can end Ukraine war
Viktor Orbán, the Hungarian prime minister, said only former US president Donald Trump could end the war in Ukraine, as he called for direct talks between the US and Russia on establishing a ceasefire.
Speaking at a panel discussion in Berlin, Orbán said US president Joe Biden had gone “too far” in calling Russian president Vladimir Putin a war criminal and saying in March that he “cannot remain in power”.
“That would make it very hard for [Biden] to make peace,” Orbán said. “This is going to sound brutal, but hope for peace goes by the name of Donald Trump.”
Orban is a dipshit but given what the electoral stage will likely look like in 2024, the situation may in fact be between the Democrats with their terminal Russia brainworms dragging the world into oblivion to own Putler, and the Republicans instead wanting to go after China. Of course, that might be the rhetoric - their actions will likely be quite different. But elections are won on empty promises.
TeleSUR: Sweden Rejects to Share Nord Stream Leaks Probe Findings
Sweden will not share the findings of the crime scene investigation with Russia following the blasts that damaged the Nord Stream gas pipes two weeks ago, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said on Monday, citing confidentiality.
“In Sweden, we have pre-trial confidentiality. We are working on exactly how we formulate our answer,” Swedish Television (SVT) quoted Andersson as responding to the Russian request.
“This is an exceptional event,” Andersson told journalists on one of the Swedish Coast Guard’s vessels in the port of Karlskrona not far from the leak sites.
RT: One in three of NATO member’s military reservists go AWOL
A third of Estonian reservists called up for the country’s annual flash defense exercises failed to show at the assembly point, Martin Herem, commander of the Estonian Defense Forces, revealed on Tuesday. He nevertheless called the showing “quite satisfactory.”
“These percentages are slightly better than usual,” he said, according to public broadcaster ERR, and acknowledged that “we would still like to get better results.” He stressed the improvement over last year’s flash call-up and noted that Finland had gotten similar results.
Of the 2,861 reservists called up for the training exercise, called OKAS/QUILL, about 1,800 showed up, according to Herem, who explained that a tenth of those called had not even looked at their summons.
That was no excuse, however, as Tallinn is very thorough when it comes to reminding reservists of their military duties. Notices are sent to reservists’ official eesti.ee email address – part of Estonia’s vaunted digital state – and often to their personal email addresses as well.
They also receive text messages and can log in to the Estonian Defense Forces website with their digital ID. “If a person knows which division he belongs to – and this is mentioned in the media several times a day…he must look at the site or call the appropriate phone number” once the exercise is announced, Herem explained.
East Asia and Oceania
SCMP: ‘If this is not provocation, what is it?’: Taiwan says mainland China sends 4-6 warships every day
The People’s Liberation Army has deployed between four and six warships in waters close to Taiwan every day since August, the island’s defence minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said on Tuesday.
Jesus. Imagine a country doing something like that to China itself. Imagine if the United States was sitting its Coast Guard off the coast of China. What a crazy thought!
Chiu said Beijing’s deployments were in addition to the PLA sending multiple daily warplane sorties to the self-ruled island’s air defence identification zone or across the median line in the Taiwan Strait – a de facto line separating the island and the mainland.
Calling the actions proof of provocation from the mainland side, he said the island’s military had tried as much as it could to avoid escalating tensions in the Taiwan Strait.
“But even in peacetime, the PLA has dispatched more than 20 warplanes to fly by Taiwan and cross the median line. Each day it has also deployed four to six warships, or more, in waters around us,” Chiu said.
Reuters: China steps up anti-COVID measures in megacities as infections mount
Shanghai and other big Chinese cities, including Shenzhen, have ramped up testing for COVID-19 as infections rise, with some local authorities hastily closing schools, entertainment venues and tourist spots.
Infections have risen to the highest since August, with the uptick coming after increased domestic travel during the National Day “Golden Week” earlier this month.
Authorities reported 2,089 new local infections for Oct. 10, the most since Aug. 20.
SCMP: China’s rapid LNG expansions power its push to maintain energy security in the face of crises
China is ramping up construction of liquefied natural gas (LNG) infrastructure – including receiving terminals and storage facilities – as the country secures more long-term buying contracts for the fuel amid growing concerns over energy security.
“China is among the countries with a long list of LNG terminals under construction,” said Anne-Sophie Corbeau, a researcher with the Centre on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University.
While some are being constructed from scratch, many existing terminals are undergoing expansions, she added.
Late last month, a carrier from Qatar offloaded 210,000 cubic metres of LNG to a storage tank at the Yancheng Green Energy Port in eastern Jiangsu province, commencing operation of China’s largest LNG reserve base, according to local authorities.
The new LNG port is an example of Yancheng thoroughly implementing President Xi Jinping’s energy-security strategy, the Yancheng government said on its website.
The strategy, put forth by Xi in 2014, aims to revolutionise China’s energy consumption, supply, technology and systems, while enhancing international energy cooperation.
Al Jazeera: India to weigh Russia’s offer on Sakhalin-1 oil project
India maintains a “healthy dialogue” with Russia and will look at what is offered following an announced ownership revamp to the Sakhalin-1 oil and gas project, Petroleum Minister Hardeep Singh Puri has told the Reuters news agency.
Russia last week issued a decree allowing it to seize Exxon Mobil’s 30 percent stake and gave a Russian state-run company the authority to decide whether foreign shareholders, including India’s ONGC Videsh, can retain their participation in the project.
RT: Seoul to end blackout on North Korean media
South Korea is preparing to allow its citizens to access North Korean media outlets, ending a Cold War-era ban that made it illegal to look at what Pyongyang’s broadcasters and newspapers are saying.
Nearly three months on from delivering a policy report to President Yoon Suk-yeol, the South Korean Unification Ministry is working with government agencies and lawmakers to craft the legislation and rules needed to end the blackout on North Korean media, the Korea Times reported on Tuesday.
Access will be opened up gradually, starting with enabling South Koreans to watch North Korean broadcast content, such as the state-run Korean Central News Agency, Unification Minister Kwon Young-se told National Assembly members on Friday. Other outlets, such as the Rodong Sinmun newspaper, will follow later.
Kwon added that it hasn’t been determined whether citizens should be allowed to visit North Korea’s government-run websites. The ban goes back to South Korea’s National Security Law, passed in 1948 as the newly divided, fledgling nations began blocking their citizens from cross-border communications and media access. For instance, when North Korea sent propaganda fliers across the heavily fortified border in the 1960s and 1970s, South Koreans who found the messages were required to report them to government authorities.
The idea behind ending the ban is to promote freedom of expression and mutual understanding. However, observers such as Konkuk University professor Jeon Young-sun have said that Pyongyang won’t likely reciprocate. Giving North Koreans unfettered access to South Korean cultural and media content would pose “a really huge threat” to Kim Jong-un’s regime, Jeon told the Associated Press earlier this year.
Central Asia and the Middle East
Euronews: Lebanon and Israel agree to ‘historic’ deal on maritime border and gas fields
Lebanon and Israel have reached a “historic” deal to resolve a decades-long dispute over their shared maritime border.
The agreement comes after months of talks mediated by the United States. If approved by the governments of both countries, it would give Israel complete control over the Karish gas field that sits around 80 kilometres west of the Israeli city of Haifa.
Its neighbour, the Qana field, would then be shared between Lebanon and Israel.
However, its exploration would restricted to Lebanon, while Israel could receive future revenues.
Officials are unsure of how much gas is in the Qana field. But the Karish field, and its Israeli-controlled neighbor Tanin field, holds as much as 2.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
TeleSUR: Drought-Related Displacements Hit 1.17 Million in Somalia
On Tuesday, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) confirmed that the number of drought-related displacements has increased to over 1.17 million in Somalia between January 2021 and September 2022.
Some 68,393 people were displaced by drought in Sept., a 3 percent increase compared to the previous month. The new arrivals have been observed in the Bay region (26 percent), followed by Gedo (14 percent), Banadir (11 percent) and Bakool (11 percent).
Financial Times: Westinghouse to be sold for $7.9bn in sign of nuclear power revival
Westinghouse Electric, a US nuclear power company, is being bought by a private equity-backed consortium in a $7.9bn deal four years after it emerged from bankruptcy, as the war in Ukraine spurs fresh interest in an industry that had fallen out of investor favour.
Brookfield Renewable Partners, one of the world’s largest clean energy investors, and Cameco, a supplier of uranium fuel, are buying the company in a bet that climate and energy security concerns will revive the nuclear sector’s fortunes.
They will purchase the group, which makes technology used in about half the world’s roughly 440 nuclear reactors, from a separate division of Brookfield Asset Management that runs its private equity investments.
“We’re witnessing some of the best market fundamentals we’ve ever seen in the nuclear energy sector,” said Tim Gitzel, chief executive of Cameco, which is based in Saskatchewan, Canada. “[Nuclear] energy is becoming increasingly important in a world that prioritises electrification, decarbonisation and energy security.”
SCMP: US ‘self-defeating’ ban on F-35 alloy from China an attempt to decouple
The Pentagon’s temporary ban on a rare alloy used in the F-35 fighter jet was a “self-defeating” attempt to decouple from China and had nothing to do with safety concerns, according to a Chinese social media account affiliated with party mouthpiece People’s Daily.
Two days after the US Department of Defence walked back its pause on the cobalt and samarium alloy from China, an article on the account said the Pentagon had worked “consistently” with Congress to decouple US defence companies from Chinese supply chains.
Deliveries of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 jets were halted on September 7 to comply with US law and Pentagon regulations banning the use of “specialty metals” from China.
“In business, it is natural for parties to be mutually involved and, given the complexities of the American military industry chain, eliminating a party is very difficult,” the article said.
It said the US was facing off a Chinese manufacturing chain that was “large in scale and variety”.
“The US knows best whether Chinese-made components are safe or not … Business is business, [it is about] win-win cooperation. To develop a persecutory delusional disorder over a small piece of metal is self-defeating.”
The article said the alleged concerns over the safety of Chinese-origin metals were actually about the number of Chinese suppliers to the Pentagon, said to be more than 650.
Financial Times: Uber, Lyft sink after Biden administration proposes new gig work rule
Shares in the largest gig economy companies in the US tumbled after the Biden administration proposed a new rule that would make it more likely that gig workers will be classified as employees instead of independent contractors.
Ride-hailing app Uber fell as much as 16.7 per cent, while shares in rival Lyft and food delivery service DoorDash hit record lows during trading in New York on Tuesday as investors worried the US labour department’s proposal would dramatically raise wage costs.
The proposal would establish a “test” that the labour department could use to determine if workers are employees or independent contractors based on how much control they have over their hours and their job responsibilities. It lowers the bar to employee status from the rule written under the Trump administration.
Because these companies, and some other businesses, classify their workers as contractors, they are not legally required to provide them with some job benefits due to employees, such as a minimum wage, overtime pay and contributions to unemployment insurance and Social Security. Adding these benefits would “throw the business model upside down”, Wedbush Securities analysts Daniel Ives and John Katsingris wrote in a research note.
About 9 per cent of US adults had earned money through an online gig platform in the past 12 months, according to a 2021 Pew Research Center report, and could receive new job benefits under the proposed rule. Cleaners, construction workers and home health workers could also gain employee status.
But the probability of the Biden administration forcing gig companies to reclassify their workers is “low”, according to RBC analyst Brad Erickson, because it could force ride-hailing companies to lay off 3mn to 4mn part-time drivers and substantially raise prices for their services.
Uber’s head of federal affairs, CR Wooters, said in a statement the company’s drivers prefer the flexibility of the current arrangement and that the proposed rule is “essentially returning us to the Obama era, during which our industry grew exponentially”.
Lyft said that the proposal poses “no immediate or direct impact” on its business because drivers worked as contractors under a similar Obama-era rule. DoorDash said it believes its workers are already properly classified and that it does not expect the proposed rule to change their status as independent contractors.
Common Dreams: US Makes Progress—But Not Nearly Enough of It—on Child Soldiers
The Biden administration is finally putting firmer pressure on governments using child soldiers. On October 3, it announced that a majority of the 12 governments implicated in using child soldiers would be ineligible for certain categories of military assistance until they addressed the problem.
In 2008, Congress passed a landmark law, the Child Soldiers Prevention Act, which withholds certain types of US military assistance from governments using children in their forces or supporting militias that recruit children. The law is designed to pressure governments to end child recruitment and release children from their forces.
In some cases, it’s worked. For example, after the US announced it would stop providing training for military battalions in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Congolese government signed a United Nations action plan to end its recruitment and use of child soldiers. In the decade since, the UN has documented only a handful of child recruitment cases by Congolese government forces.
In many other cases, however, US administrations – including under both Barack Obama and Donald Trump – waived the law’s prohibitions for governments using child soldiers, citing national security as a reason to continue military aid. According to the Stimson Center, these waivers have allowed governments using child soldiers to receive over US$7 billion in arms sales and military assistance since 2010. It found that only 3 percent of aid prohibited by the Child Soldiers Prevention Act was actually withheld.
The result is that countries exploiting children as soldiers have little incentive to change their practices. For example, Somalia has received waivers for 10 years straight, allowing over $2 billion in US military assistance. Not surprisingly, the security forces continue to recruit child soldiers. Last year, the UN documented 135 cases of child recruitment by Somali army and police forces.
This year, for the first time, the White House gave no full waivers to the countries on its list, meaning that at least some military assistance will be withheld from governments using child soldiers. Seven of the 12 countries received no waivers at all, a record high.
While this is progress, four countries using child soldiers will receive at least $234 million in US military aid next year. The US needs to make clear to these countries that if they want aid beyond next year, they need to stop using child soldiers.
Caribbean and South America
TeleSUR: Chilean Congress Approves Entry Into Trans-Pacific Partnership
The Chilean Senate approved on Tuesday the entry of this South American country to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP11), an economic integration agreement involving 11 countries.
“The Senate approved by 27 votes in favor, 10 against and one abstention, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, known as TPP11. The draft agreement passes to the Chamber of Deputies to communicate to the Executive the approval of the National Congress,” indicated the Senators' Twitter account.
The support of the upper chamber approves the project, which, however, must be ratified by the Executive Power.
The Ukraine Proxy Conflict
Reuters: U.S. working to expedite shipment of NASAMS air defenses to Ukraine -White House
The United States will work to expedite the shipment of sophisticated NASAMS air defenses to Ukraine as soon as they can, White House spokesperson John Kirby said on Tuesday.
RT: Russia’s victory will be NATO’s defeat – Stoltenberg
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters on Tuesday that a military victory for Russia in Ukraine would spell defeat for the entire Western alliance.
However, despite providing “unprecedented support” to Kiev, Stoltenberg still claims that the US-led bloc is not a party to the conflict.
RT: Zelensky wants international observers on Belarus border
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky urged G7 leaders on Tuesday to send “international observers” to his country’s border with Belarus.
Minsk has accused Kiev of plotting an imminent attack, but Ukraine has insisted that the warnings are actually cover for a possible offensive from the other side.
His Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko announced on Monday that he would form a joint security force with Russia in response to “aggravation” from Ukraine and the West. With officials in Minsk accusing Ukraine of blowing up bridges and amassing tens of thousands of troops along the Ukraine/Belarus border a day earlier, Lukashenko claimed that “Kiev is not just discussing, but is planning an attack on the territory of Belarus” at the behest of its Western backers.
Kiev denies the accusations, with Zelensky telling the Group of Seven on Tuesday that “Ukraine did not plan and does not plan military actions against Belarus,” and accusing Lukashenko of creating the pretext to launch an attack of his own on Ukraine, which would result in Zelensky’s forces being split across two fronts.
As a “solution,” Zelensky proposed that “a mission of international observers may be stationed on the border of Ukraine and Belarus to monitor the security situation.”
“The format can be worked out by our diplomats,” he continued, asking the G7 “to support this initiative of ours.”
In a joint statement after the virtual address by Zelensky, the G7 leaders called on Lukashenko to “stop enabling the Russian war of aggression” by allowing Russian soldiers on Belarusian soil, and urged his government to “fully abide by its obligations under international law.” Zelensky’s proposed observer mission was not mentioned.
Analysis and Retrospectives
Inside the Imperial Core
Naked Capitalism: Central Bank Myths Drag Down World Economy
Responsible Statecraft: Five ways Biden can ‘re-evaluate’ the Saudi relationship now
This article appears to broadly agree with the Democrats' position on Saudi Arabia now that they’ve “sided with Russia”. I put the article here in order to outline what the thinking is from the think tanks. To skip the preamble:
One: Freeze all U.S. security support to Saudi Arabia.
Freezing support would make clear to the Saudis that U.S. partnership is not unconditional, while also allowing cooperation to resume if Riyadh decided to again act as a partner.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Robert Menendez has already called for such a freeze, “including any arms sales and security cooperation.” Rep. Ro Khanna and Sen. Richard Blumenthal have also proposed bipartisan legislation to pause all arms sales and military supplies. Such measures could be useful. However, merely pausing and then resuming security cooperation may prove inadequate to change Saudi behavior.
Two: Pass the Yemen War Powers Resolution in Congress.
Passage of the Yemen War Powers Resolution would achieve two objectives simultaneously: it would both signal U.S. discontent with the Saudi decision on reducing oil production and cripple the Saudis’ ability to bomb and blockade Yemen, finally ending U.S. complicity in that devastating conflict, one of President Biden’s earliest foreign policy commitments.
Members of Congress have introduced a bill that would end all U.S. military support for Riyadh’s military intervention in Yemen; however it has not yet been brought up for a vote.
Three: Withdraw U.S. troops and military assets from the Kingdom and the region.
About 3,000 U.S. troops are based in Saudi Arabia, while the UAE hosts around 2,000 more.
Reps. Tom Malinowski, Sean Casten, and Susan Wild plan to introduce a bill to require the removal of U.S. troops and missile defense systems from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, another key OPEC+ member that also relies on Washington for national defense.
The bill is similar to one introduced by Republicans in 2020, when Trump also sought to pressure the Saudis to increase oil production. However, it was Trump who sent American servicemembers back to Saudi Arabia in 2019 after a 16-year absence: in response to concerns that the presence of U.S. soldiers was aiding terrorist recruitment across the region, the Pentagon withdrew them from the kingdom.
Clearly, the removal of U.S. troops from the Kingdom did not lead to the downfall of the House of Saud. Losing the security provided by the presence of U.S. troops and missile defenses would remind Saudi Arabia, as well as the UAE, that they remain dependent on Washington’s good will. The Saudis and Emiratis are likely to turn to China or Russia, but, although Beijing and Moscow may sell them weapons, they will be unable to provide the same security. Preoccupied by its faltering invasion of Ukraine, Russia cannot do so, and China does not see such a move as in its interests.
Four: Enforce the Leahy Laws regarding the transfer of weapons to Saudi Arabia.
At present, the U.S. does not consider Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations to constitute a violation of the Leahy laws that prohibit the transfer of military assistance to states that engage in gross human rights violations, including torture, extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearance, and rape. However, credible allegations of such behavior by the Saudi state, including the 2018 murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, would arguably justify the application of the Leahy Laws to Saudi Arabia. Enforcing U.S. law would pressure Saudi Arabia to address its worst human rights violations while also underlining the Kingdom’s reliance on U.S. security cooperation.
Five: Increase investment in alternative energy to reduce U.S. dependence on oil.
Although oil will remain important to the global economy for the foreseeable future, the impact of the price of gasoline on American politics reflects a massive vulnerability. By investing more heavily in alternatives, like electric vehicles, public transportation, and less car-dependent communities, the outcomes of American elections could no longer be swayed by oil exporters. This would also help shield American elections from interference by foreign actors.
The Biden administration has realized, however belatedly, that the U.S.-Saudi relationship is broken and that appeasing Riyadh will not fix it. If the Saudis continue to insist on behaving in a manner that not only undermines U.S. objectives in Ukraine but also threatens to undermine the American democratic process, Washington must cease pretending that Riyadh is a friend. Only by taking strong action can the U.S. re-establish a functional relationship with Riyadh, one based on shared interests and mutual respect.
Outside the Imperial Core
Jacobin: How the Cold War Shaped Kenyan Politics and Its Pursuit of African Socialism
In the United Kingdom, the death of Queen Elizabeth II last month sparked a round of public discussions around the legacy of empire. In Kenya, these legacies have been particularly complicated. The last decade of colonial rule in the East African nation was dominated by the Mau Mau uprising. In October 1952, the colonial governor announced a state of emergency which led to thousands of deaths, tens of thousands of detentions, and torture and abuses sanctioned by Britain.
In 2013, Mau Mau veterans, who had sued the British government, received a settlement of £19.9 million. The British foreign and commonwealth secretary at the time, William Hague, announced that “The British government recognises that Kenyans were subject to torture and other forms of ill treatment at the hands of the colonial administration. The British government sincerely regrets that these abuses took place, and that they marred Kenya’s progress towards independence.” Nevertheless, the government continued to “deny liability” for these crimes.
The court case also led to the revelation that colonial officials had taken with them thousands of files and transferred them to the UK. These documents were not released into the National Archives but remained concealed at Hanslope Park, an obscure government-owned building near Milton Keynes, a small city more famous for its roundabouts than for hiding state secrets. The largest single collection of files came from Kenya. While prominent historians such as David Anderson and Caroline Elkins had already exposed Britain’s role in suppressing the Mau Mau uprising, the “migrated archives” provided written evidence of the extent of the UK government’s knowledge of the crimes committed in its name.
One would expect that these disturbing colonial legacies of torture and abuse would have cast a long shadow over the relationship between Britain and Kenya since independence. Despite the fact that Kenya’s first president Jomo Kenyatta had been arrested and imprisoned by the colonial state for being the supposed leader of the uprising, the country maintained close ties with its former colonizer, as well as the West more generally. The main reason for this was that Kenyatta turned out to be far from the radical African nationalist leader which many had expected him to be.
To understand why a close relationship between former metropole and colony continued after independence, it is vital to look back to the period immediately after Kenya’s independence and the choices made by the nation’s first president. These must be understood within the context of the Cold War. No political contest existed outside of the broader global struggle between communism and capitalism; Kenyan politics was no exception.
Jacobin: Africa Is Not Immune to the Rising Tide of Xenophobia
In South Africa there seems to be a seasonal shift: discussions around Zimbabwe and Lesotho workers permits are being hosted by cabinet; laws and administration around visa renewals and working permits have been changed in the last few months; members of the governing party, the African National Congress, are asking for border reinforcement and openly associating foreigner activities in the country with insecurity as opposed to economic growth. Finally, news highlights in South Africa now include scenes of burnt shacks, palpable fear, and public protests as angry mobs frantically search for undocumented foreigners. To fully understand why South Africa and its democratic institutions are entering a nationalist winter, a snippet of African political history is helpful.
Naturally, xenophobia is not a new phenomenon for the rainbow nation; xenophobic violence dates back to 2008 and has already been largely commented on through an array of media platforms. However, what seems to be surfacing is a new form of institutionalized xenophobia rising from within the state. A few years ago, no political entrepreneurs had seriously taken ownership of the xenophobic agenda. The issue mainly emerged from an impoverished population that focused their efforts on looting local spaza shops typically owned by foreigners from other African countries, as opposed to retail giants owned by white South African capital (which was what happened during the July riots of 2021).
Elsewhere on the continent, other historical examples of such narrow nationalism abound. In 1989, in the middle of a long economic crisis and after many marches contesting his power, president Abdou Diouf of Senegal signed a decree to expel approximately 170,000 Mauritanians. At that point, the Parti Socialist Senegalais of Léopold Sédar Senghor had been in power since independence in 1960, and Diouf was Senghor’s successor. President Diouf did what many had done before him in response to an economic meltdown: blame the “aliens” and “foreigners” in a clumsy attempt to gain back political legitimacy without addressing the inequities of a rapacious neoliberal economic order.
In 1968, only two years after toppling the Ghanaian father of independence and pan-African hero, Kwame Nkrumah, Ghanaian prime minister Kofi Busia fell into the same trap: blaming foreigners, rather than the national bourgeoisie for the country’s economic downfall. In 1968, Legislative Instrument 553 decreed that all non-Ghanaians had to have a work permit before they could act as employer, self-employed person, or employees. A Compliance Order was issued in the same year giving all foreigners without residence permits two weeks to obtain them or leave the country. Naturally, very few Africans had the necessary papers, and could not even claim it from their institutionally weak embassy. The police and the army were sent to search for and arrest all foreign nationals lacking papers. Ghanaians were encouraged to believe that the departure of the “aliens” would solve all the country’s economic problems. Most of them were Nigerian and ended up coming back in the middle of the Biafra civil war.
Busia’s fall from power was even faster than Diouf ’s in Senegal. It took Ghanaians only a few months to realize they had been played and he was forced into exile in England the following year. The rise of xenophobic politics from within the state itself did not bring back economic growth in the country. Instead, inflation skyrocketed and food was scarce. Unable to address these economic challenges and faced with rising popular anger, the state responded militarily to discipline its own citizens, forcing millions of Ghanaian youth to leave the country on the very same roads that were once used to expel foreign nationals.
Millions of them arrived in Nigeria, where a petroleum-driven economy was booming. As petrol prices began to rise, Nigeria had nationalized the industry and attained a production level of more than two million barrels of crude oil a day. By 1982, the oil industries had generated more than US$101 billion for the country’s elites. Not only were there West Africans entering Nigeria, but there was an influx of people from rural areas migrating to the cities. Life was good. However, due to a recession in the large petroleum consumer market in the early 1980s, the economic boom in Nigeria waned significantly. President Shehu Shagari, then, found himself in the same position as his Ghanaian counterpart a few years before. The state under his leadership responded similarly, and in 1982, began expelling nonnationals, criminalizing their activities and blaming them for the failing economy. Most businesses they owned crumbled and the few that survived were shared within power circles and extended to the party patronage. Like in Ghana and Senegal, it did not make the economic situation better for all, but rather reinforced a kleptocratic elite.
By the time the Nigerian national election of 1983 came about, Shagari and the policemen in charge of the “Ghana Must Go” operation directed their violence toward impoverished Nigerian citizens demanding change where none was forthcoming after the expulsion of foreign nationals. For the Nigerian governing elite, institutionalizing xenophobia was a step to reinforce the state’s capacity to discipline the masses, while at the same time politically trying to gain back legitimacy. Less than nine months after Shagari was kicked out of power, he had to flee the country like Kofi Busia. A year later, then military ruler General Muhammdu Buhari (who is now Nigeria’s incumbent president), announced another round of expulsions, this time, of all foreigners, including those with residence permits. About seven hundred thousand people were forced out of the country.
Returning to present-day South Africa, after twenty-nine years of neoliberal failure, xenophobia appears a satisfying answer for a national bourgeoisie that has thus far avoided redistributing sufficient wealth to the majority of South Africans, who remain impoverished and exploited. South African exceptionalism is a myth; we are not alone in facing the morbid symptoms of postcolonial decay, where national elites, often erstwhile liberators, lack political imagination.
Institutionalized xenophobia offers false narratives of better days to come. Indeed, African political history teaches us that for a short period of time the national elite is safe, being seen as “doing its job” for the people, but the chimera won’t last. If and when foreigners leave, the situation will not improve. People’s anger will be redirected to the national elite, as demonstrated in Nigeria, Ghana, and Senegal.
Common Dreams: 1 in 3 of World’s Poorest Countries Spend More on Debt Repayments Than Education
A report published this week by Save the Children revealed that 1 in 3 of the world’s poorest nations spend more on paying off debt to wealthy countries and investors than on educating its own children.
The U.K.-based charity’s report—entitled Fixing a Broken System: Transforming Education Financing—shows that 21 out of 70 low- and lower-middle-income countries with available data spent more on external debt repayment than on education in 2020. According to the publication, interest payments are expected to account for an average of 10% of the annual budget in this category of countries by 2024, up from 7% in 2015.
Meanwhile, nearly 1 in 3 children in low-income countries still do not finish primary school.
“Education systems desperately need more and better funding across low- and lower-middle-income countries. Instead, they are being gutted to service unmanageable debts,” Hollie Warren, Save the Children U.K.’s head of global education policy and advocacy, said in a statement.
“It is wrong that the world’s poorest children are having to suffer because of a debt crisis that was not of their making,” she continued. “The world has a moral imperative to ensure that they are adequately funding education to ensure that all children are in school and learning.”
Naked Capitalism: 600 Million Metric Tons of Plastic May Fill Oceans by 2036 If We Don’t Act Now
Originally from TruthOut.
As the private transportation sector shifts focus to batteries, biofuels, and green hydrogen, fossil fuel stakeholders have been seeking new avenues of revenue in the petrochemical industry in general, and in plastics in particular. That’s bad news for a world already swimming—literally—in plastic pollution. Product manufacturers and other upstream forces could reverse the petrochemical trend, but only if they—along with policymakers, voters, and consumers—continue to push for real change beyond the business-as-usual strategy of only advocating for post-consumer recycling.
Some signs of change are beginning to emerge. Public awareness is growing over the plastic pollution crisis, including the area of microplastics. A study commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund in 2020 found 86 percent of consumers in the United States were willing to support measures to cut down on plastic pollution, such as single-use plastic bag bans and increased recycling. Private sector efforts to reduce plastic packaging are also beginning to take effect.
However, these trends won’t necessarily lead to a global slowdown in plastic production or use, let alone a reversal. The United States, for example, is both a leading producer of plastic and the largest source of plastic waste in the world. The OECD estimates that, under a “business-as-usual” scenario, plastic waste will triple globally by 2060. Petrochemical producers are also eyeing growing markets in Asia and Africa.
Even if some nations kick the plastic habit, the global benefit of their efforts could easily be offset by rising demand for plastics elsewhere in the world. In a 2016 report titled, “The New Plastics Economy,” the World Economic Forum (WEF) noted that global plastic production totaled 311 million metric tons in 2014, up from just 15 million metric tons in 1964. The WEF also anticipated that the total plastic production would double to more than 600 million metric tons by 2036.
One key driver that is fueling plastic production is the increased availability of low-cost natural gas in the U.S., which was a result of the George W. Bush administration’s successful efforts to lift Clean Water Act protections on shale gas operations, resulting in “billions of gallons of toxic frack fluid from being regulated as industrial waste,” according to Greenpeace USA. By 2018, the shale gas boom of the early 2000s was credited with stimulating a decade-long petrochemical buildout in the U.S. totaling 333 chemical industry projects since 2010, with a cumulative value of $202.4 billion. Of interest from a global perspective, almost 70 percent of the financing was from direct or indirect foreign sources.
Another driving force on the supply side is the shift from crude oil (petrol) to oil for plastic production, a trend fostered in part by a glut of ethane produced by the fracking boom. The decarbonization of the transportation sector does not necessarily slow down crude oil production to refineries. “As traditional demands for oil—vehicle fuels—are declining as the transport sector is increasingly electrified, the oil industry is seeing plastics as a key output that can make up for losses in other markets,” noted a November 2021 article in the Conversation. Consequently, refiners are becoming more dependent on the petrochemical market.