Global Events, the United Nations, and Disease
People’s Daily: Inter-Parliamentary Union lawmakers commit to overcoming gender inequality
The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) affirmed working in partnership with national parliaments to push forward gender equality and responsive legislation.
At the conclusion of its 145th assembly in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, Saturday, the lawmakers adopted the Kigali Declaration, highlighting actions to be undertaken to achieve gender equality including enacting gender-responsive laws and ensuring parity in political decision-making.
Reuters: OPEC+ members line up to endorse output cut after U.S. coercion claim
OPEC+ member states lined up on Sunday to endorse a steep production cut agreed this month after the White House, stepping up a war of words with Riyadh, claimed Saudi Arabia had coerced some other nations into supporting the move.
Oh, so NOW coercing other nations to adopt your point of view is bad? Regardless, I find it difficult to imagine any significant oil-producing state not opposing this production cut if the West is serious about its clownish oil price cap idea.
Washington noted on Thursday that the cut would boost Russia’s foreign earnings and suggested it had been engineered for political reasons by Riyadh, which on Sunday emphatically denied it was supporting Moscow in its war with Ukraine.
“There is complete consensus among OPEC+ countries that the best approach in dealing with the oil market conditions during the current period of uncertainty and lack of clarity is a pre-emptive approach that supports market stability and provides the guidance needed for the future,” Iraq’s state oil marketer SOMO said in a statement.
Multipolarista: In neocolonial rant, EU says Europe is ‘garden’ superior to rest of world’s barbaric ‘jungle’
The European Union’s top foreign-policy official showed how the colonialist mentality is still very much alive on the continent.
EU foreign-policy chief Josep Borrell said “Europe is a garden,” which is “beautiful” and superior to the vast majority of the countries on Earth. On the other hand, he claimed, “Most of the rest of the world is a jungle, and the jungle could invade the garden.”
Borrell argued that “the world needs Europe,” because it is a “beacon” that must civilize the rest of the world.
The enlightened Western “gardeners have to go to the jungle,” he insisted, because if the supposed barbarians are not tamed, “the rest of the world will invade us.”
Borrell delivered this overtly racist rant at the inauguration of the European Diplomatic Academy in Brussels on October 13.
Reuters: EU leaders set to explore gas price cap options
European Union leaders meeting at the end of this week will explore a range of options for gas price caps, over which they have been divided for weeks, according to a new draft of conclusions for the Oct. 20-21 summit seen by Reuters.
The EU’s 27 countries have been deadlocked for weeks over whether and how to cap gas prices as part of efforts to tame soaring energy prices, as Europe heads into a winter of scarce Russian gas, a cost of living crisis and a possible recession.
WSWS: Over a million excess deaths in Britain due to decades of social inequality
Several reports published in Britain over the last few years attest to the fact that staggering levels of social inequality, fuelled by austerity policies, have claimed the lives of around a million people.
Earlier this month a paper led by the University of Glasgow and the Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH), found as a “a conservative estimate” that there were 334,327 excess deaths beyond the expected number in England, Wales and Scotland over the eight-year period from 2012 and 2019. GCPH is a partnership between NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Glasgow City Council and the University of Glasgow.
The report by authors David Walsh, Ruth Dundas, Gerry McCartney, Marcia Gibson and Rosie Seaman, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, notes, “Mortality rates across the UK stopped improving in the early 2010s, largely attributable to the “UK Government’s austerity policies which have cut both the income of the poorest and a range of important public services.”
It states, “Such policies—introduced from 2010 onwards, and following ‘the great recession’ of 2008—have removed billions of pounds from both social security and vital services, and have thus particularly impacted on poorer, more vulnerable, populations. Similar adverse effects of austerity measures on population health have been seen in other high-income countries.”
The most groundbreaking study by the University College London was published in 2019 in The Lancet Public Health. It found that between 2003 and 2018, a staggering 877,000 people died as the result of rocketing social inequality. The authors concluded that “nearly 900,000 deaths in England could have been avoided in a more equal society, according to a UCL study of 2.5 million premature deaths over the last 16 years.” Over the 16 years, the number of deaths annually averages 54,812. This is significantly higher than the 41,790 annual average of the GCPH.
WSWS: As COVID surges in Germany, studies show more risks from infections for children
As a massive coronavirus wave develops in the autumn and hospitalization rates skyrocket, more and more studies are revealing the dangerous consequences of COVID infection, even for children.
The number of coronavirus infections in Germany has increased exponentially in recent weeks, with more than 100,000 people becoming infected daily. On Thursday alone, 145,000 infections were reported to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). Just a week ago, an average of “only” 62,000 people were being infected every day. According to official figures, 1.4 million people in Germany are currently infected: about one in 60 inhabitants.
The actual figures are much higher. Only positive PCR tests are included in the RKI statistics. However, many people do not take a PCR test after a positive lateral flow test. The testing infrastructure and mandatory testing have been almost completely scaled back. The high positive test rate of 47.8 percent gives an indication of the high number of unreported cases.
RT: German hospitals face bankruptcies
Many hospitals in Germany may be forced into bankruptcy due to soaring energy prices and inflation, unless the federal government comes up with some form of assistance, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said on Sunday.
“If we do not react quickly and really drastically, there will be closures,” Lauterbach told ARD broadcaster. He stopped short of assessing the scale of the potential crisis, but admitted that “the hospitals will face a very drastic liquidity problem in the next few months.”
The German Hospital Federation complained last week that the funding gap could add up to around €15 billion in 2022 and 2023, but Lauterbach brushed aside that estimate saying that nobody can predict how expensive electricity will be next year. The federation, however, said that extra energy costs account for just about a third of that sum, while the rest of it was “non-refinanced increases in material costs” due to the soaring inflation.
The health chief is set to meet finance minister Christian Lindner on Tuesday to discuss potential forms of assistance the government could provide, but has for now ruled out creating a specialized federal fund to help keep the healthcare facilities afloat.
The Guardian: Italy: Berlusconi calls Meloni ‘patronising’ and ‘bossy’ as relations fray
Silvio Berlusconi has described Giorgia Meloni, who is poised to become Italy’s prime minister, as “patronising” and “bossy” as the fragile dynamic between the pair unravels as they scramble to form a government.
Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, which has neo-fascist roots, won the biggest share of the vote in general elections on 25 September, helping to secure the largest majority of any coalition government in Italy since 1994.
The country’s president, Sergio Mattarella, is expected to give Meloni a mandate this week to create a government with her allies, including Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and Matteo Salvini’s far-right League.
But her powerful position is not sitting well with three-time former prime minister Berlusconi, 86, especially after she outsmarted him over the election of Ignazio La Russa, a Brothers of Italy cofounder who collects fascist memorabilia, as speaker of the upper house of parliament last week.
Sitting in the senate, the billionaire media magnate scribbled on a piece of paper, which was photographed by the press and published by La Repubblica, that Meloni was “patronising, bossy, arrogant and offensive”.
Tensions between the pair escalated after Meloni vetoed Berlusconi’s demands over the cabinet, which included giving the justice ministry to a Forza Italia politician, in other words somebody loyal to Berlusconi who could protect his interests as his legal woes continue.
He then sought revenge by snubbing the vote on La Russa, but that backfired because Meloni had already enlisted votes from opposition members, paving the way for his election without Forza Italia’s support.
Berlusconi’s scribbled note ended: “No willingness to change, she is one with whom you cannot get along.” Meloni fired back: “An adjective is missing: I am not blackmailable”.
WSWS: Strikes grow as Macron postpones threat to crush French refinery strike
As the French refinery strike enters a third week, with a third of gas stations facing shortages, other layers of workers are entering into struggle, protesting against inflation and pension cuts. Rail, transit, energy, health and education workers are set to participate in a one-day nationwide protest strike called by the Stalinist General Confederation of Labor (CGT) tomorrow.
Significantly, workers in a number of private industries will join the strike, as will broader layers of public sector workers. Garbage collection workers in cities including Paris, Bordeaux, Toulouse and Rouen are set to strike. Industrial firms where workers will join the strike to protest below-inflation wage increases include automaker Stellantis, defense contractor Dassault, and airplane engine manufacturer Safran.
This movement is not a French but an international struggle against policies of inflation and war pursued by capitalist ruling classes internationally. In recent weeks, port and transport workers have gone on strike in Britain and South Africa, as did air traffic controllers across Africa, and teachers across Europe from Germany and Norway to Serbia, Kosovo and Greece. In the US, workers’ anger is rising in the auto and rail industries, with the growing possibility of a national rail strike.
The French refinery strike has revealed anger throughout the working class to surging prices, especially after European sanctions imposed on Russian gas amid the NATO-Russia war in Ukraine. For broad layers of workers and youth struggling to make ends meet as European corporations make super-profits from a speculative run-up in energy prices, official attempts to blame inflation entirely on Russian President Vladimir Putin have no credibility. A mass movement in the working class against the Macron government, the banks and the NATO military alliance is looming.
WSWS: French motorists support striking refinery workers
A team of WSWS reporters visited a petrol station in Drancy, in the outskirts of Paris, to interview motorists struggling with petrol shortages against the backdrop of the refinery strike. Motorists expressed their support for the refinery workers who have been on strike for two weeks against inflation and for wage increases.
The WSWS spoke to Rachid, a clothes seller on the Bobigny market who admits that with the increase in prices, he has had to “increase the prices of my clothes” which people buy less of, which affects his standard of living: “People have less money to buy my stuff so it’s difficult for me to live. I don’t have the money; all the prices of food and essential things are too expensive for me. It’s very difficult to live.”
Guy, a mechanic who was queuing at the petrol station, said: “This is the first time in my life that I have queued like this. It’s true that little by little it affects us.” Still, Guy said he had sympathy for the refinery workers’ strike: “people demanding to have a better salary, a more equal distribution of income, that’s normal.”
Support for striking refinery workers also came from Rayan, a delivery driver: “I’ve already been on strike and it’s always positive. We went on strike with the yellow vests, we had demands that were not met. So, I can understand them. I personally understand it.”
East Asia and Oceania
SCMP: China will ‘unwaveringly’ back private sector but scrutiny to stay, Communist Party congress spokesman says
China’s ruling Communist Party has vowed to continue to push for the development of the private sector, while highlighting the importance of increased market scrutiny.
As delegates gathered in Beijing for a pivotal twice-a-decade meeting, the party also reaffirmed its resolve to “unwaveringly” open up the market further to foreign investors and continue to improve the country’s business environment.
This comes as foreign investors and private entrepreneurs alike – hard-hit by nearly three years of strict zero-Covid measures – anxiously wait for policy signals from the 20th party congress. Starting on Sunday, the weeklong event is expected to introduce a new line-up of top leaders and help the nation set course for the next five years.
While repeatedly hailing the contribution of private firms to economic growth and jobs, decision makers in Beijing declared in late 2020 that curbing the “disorderly expansion of capital” was a top priority. The drive for “common prosperity” also rose up the political agenda last year.
But those policy moves softened in 2022, after the economy was buffeted by the coronavirus pandemic and successive regulatory efforts to rein in private capital, such as crackdowns on tech giants, off-campus tutoring firms, property developers and wealthy celebrities.
However, earlier this year President Xi Jinping still stressed the need to “regulate and guide the healthy development of all types of capital” with a “red and green” traffic light system, and urged tighter scrutiny of the market.
Curbs on unregulated capital expansion should not be seen as conflicting with facilitating sound development of the non-public sector, 20th congress spokesman Sun Yeli said.
“The private sector is an important part of the economic basis for upholding and developing socialism with Chinese characteristics. Entrepreneurs are an important force that the party must rally and rely on in the long term,” Sun said in response to a question from the Post.
RT: Japan sees record surge in corporate bankruptcies – media
The number of corporate bankruptcies in Japan saw a year-on-year increase of 6.9% to 3,141 over April-September, the first increase in three years, Kyodo News reported on Sunday, citing a survey by Tokyo Shoko Research.
The surge stems from the challenges Japanese businesses encountered in repaying government financial aid they had received in response to the pandemic, the credit research company said.
The analysts added that cases of insolvency have been on a steady rise since August due to high raw material prices triggered by a drop in the yen against the US dollar and other major currencies.
In September alone, the number of bankruptcies in Japan was up 18.6% from a year earlier to 599, the survey showed.
WSWS: Large swathes of south-eastern Australia hit by floods
A flood crisis which began last Thursday is continuing to expand, with the disaster impacting directly on tens of thousands across south-east Australia and imperiling hundreds of thousands or even millions more. The two largest east-coast states— Victoria and New South Wales (NSW)—have been affected, along with Tasmania, while there are warnings of possible flooding in Queensland.
While in some areas, residents are beginning the painful process of cleaning up inundated homes, the dangers are far from over. In large parts of Victoria, authorities have warned that swollen rivers have yet to peak, meaning that there are ongoing dangers of greater flooding. The threat includes regional and rural areas along the Victoria and NSW border, with the danger extending into the latter state.
WSWS: Australian teachers’ union leader concedes to government wage cutting offensive
New South Wales Teachers Federation (NSWTF) president Angelo Gavrielatos issued a video recorded speech on Wednesday addressing public school teachers. He made clear the union will mount no opposition to the substantial real wage cut being imposed by the state Liberal government through the pro-business Industrial Relations Commission (IRC).
Gavrielatos’s speech was prompted by an IRC hearing on the finalisation of an award for NSW teachers, including a nominal pay increase of just 2.53 percent. This is a cut in real terms as official inflation is at 6.1 percent, set to reach 7.75 percent by the end of the year.
Gavrielatos told teachers that the government wants to impose this pay cut in a three-year award and that their “legal team” will “do everything possible to avoid the government’s desired outcome.” What this amounted to was requests at the IRC hearing for the new award to be over a two-year period, rather than three.
Foreshadowing an IRC ruling that delivers everything the government wants, and raising the white flag in advance, Gavrielatos stated that the IRC “cannot operate outside the corrupted legal parameters set by the government on the salary cap. And as you also know, the IRC is incapable of addressing matters related to your workload.”
Instead of outlining any form of strategy to combat Premier Dominic Perrottet and his anti-public education agenda, Gavrielatos effectively stated that the NSWTF will do nothing until March 2023 when it will campaign for the Labor Party in the state election. The current government, he complained, had “no desire to deliver what is needed.” Therefore, he continued, “We have no choice but to now make our issues an election issue. To take this to marginal seats where this will be decided in March. We must put pressure on every single candidate to reveal what they will do about the teacher shortages and secure for teachers what we need for the future.”
The NSWTF bureaucracy is attempting to redirect the mass anger and hostility to the conditions facing teachers into an election platform for the state Labor party.
Central Asia and the Middle East
RT: Minister wants Israel to pick sides in Ukraine conflict
Israel should begin supplying military aid to Ukraine, Minister of Diaspora Affairs Nachman Shai announced on Twitter on Sunday, claiming that Iran was reportedly transferring ballistic missiles to Russia.
“There is no longer any doubt where Israel should stand in this bloody conflict,” the politician tweeted. “The time has come for Ukraine to receive military aid as well, just as the USA and NATO countries provide.” Israel has already been supplying Ukraine with non-lethal aid, including military equipment and – allegedly – missile defense systems supplied via the private sector.
Inquirer: Iran prison fire kills four, injures 61 as protests persist
A fire at Iran’s Evin Prison late on Saturday killed four detainees and injured 61, state media reported, as anti-government protests sparked by a woman’s death in police custody continued on Sunday, including at several universities.
Iranian authorities said on Saturday that a prison workshop had been set on fire “after a fight among a number of prisoners convicted of financial crimes and theft.” Evin holds many detainees facing security charges, including Iranians with dual nationality.
People’s Daily: Biden meddles in Iran’s state matters by supporting riots: Iranian spokesman
The Iranian foreign ministry said on Sunday that U.S. President Joe Biden meddled in Iran’s “state matters” by supporting “riots” in the country, state-owned Press TV reported.
“On Saturday, Biden interfered for the umpteenth time in Iran’s state matters by supporting the riots as he has done ever since the outbreak of recent developments in Iran,” the Foreign Ministry Spokesman Nasser Kanaani was quoted as saying by Press TV.
Iran has not given in to the U.S. “cruel sanctions and idle threats” and will be unfazed by its interventionist policies and the futile campaign, Kanaani added.
A day earlier, Biden said he “was surprised by the courage of the people taking to the streets in protest in Iran.” Protests broke out across Iran following the death of 22-year-old woman Mahsa Amini on Sept. 16 at a hospital in the capital Tehran after police custody.
“You (U.S. officials) are accustomed to fishing in troubled waters. Since the 1953 coup until today, the anti-Iranian policies by the U.S. government have been well recorded in our minds,” Kanaani said.
TeleSUR: Death Toll Rises to 41 After Türkiye Mine Explosion
The number of workers killed in an explosion at a coal mine in northern Türkiye rose to 41, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who went to the scene of the incident, said Saturday.
Speaking to the press, Erdogan said, “How the explosion occurred and who is responsible, if any, will be revealed through administrative and judicial investigations.”
People’s Daily: Türkiye’s energy hub ambition needs more countries than Russia to join: experts
Türkiye’s endorsement of Russia’s proposal to establish a natural gas distribution center in the country reflects its ambition to become an international energy hub, but the plan needs the participation of more producers than Russia to become practical, said experts.
After meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday in Kazakhstan, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters on Friday that he agreed to Putin’s proposal to set up a gas hub in Türkiye and recommend the northwestern Thrace region bordering Bulgaria and Greece as the best spot for the plan.
“There will be no waiting,” said Erdogan, who ordered the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources to carry out joint work with the Russian side immediately.
The proposal comes at a time when the Nord Stream pipelines transporting Russia’s gas to Europe were recently damaged in a series of explosions.
Türkiye is playing along with Putin’s idea but the project would be realistic when other producers such as Iran, Azerbaijan or Turkmenistan are also involved, Serkan Demirtas, a Turkish foreign policy analyst, told Xinhua.
“If a big international distribution center is established in Thrace, as President Erdogan has suggested, and there are different gas suppliers besides Russia … It would be a more sensible and viable project,” Demirtas said.
The project will convince European countries, which want to reduce their dependency on Moscow, to buy gas from the new gas hub, the analyst noted.
Financial Times: Tunisia reaches preliminary agreement on $1.9bn IMF loan
Tunisia has reached a preliminary agreement with the IMF on a $1.9bn loan designed to help alleviate the North African economy plagued by food and fuel shortages.
The deal, which was announced late on Saturday and is yet to be ratified by the IMF board in December, is expected to open the door to loans from other donors awaiting the reassurance that the heavily indebted country was committed to reforms, which form part of the package. Before the agreement, some analysts were predicting Tunis would not be able to meet its debt repayments and would likely default.
This will be the third agreement between Tunisia and the IMF since 2013 and diplomats have warned in recent months that the country has failed to implement previously agreed reforms. These included reducing subsidies, privatising state-owned enterprises and cutting civil service wage cost, which is seen as one of the highest in the world relative to the size of the economy.
People’s Daily: China-aided project helps 100,000 people in rural Uganda access satellite TV
China on Saturday officially completed the installation of the satellite television project in 900 Ugandan villages that face connectivity challenges.
Chris Baryomunsi, Ugandan minister of Information, Communication, Technology and National Guidance, officiated at the handover ceremony held in Katabi village in the central Ugandan district of Wakiso. He praised China for its technical support to Uganda, noting that the support will drive development in communities.
Aoge Mengdai, chief executive officer of StarTimes Uganda, the project contractor, said 900 villages have been connected to satellite television service since 2018 when the project was executed. And more than 100,000 people in 18,000 households, 2,700 schools and health centers have access to satellite television.
WSWS: Ahead of winter surge, CDC covers up COVID-19 variant data
On Friday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its variant monitoring graphs to show that the highly contagious and immune-evasive descendants of the Omicron BA.5 subvariant, known as BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, now account for a combined 11.4 percent of all sequenced variants.
However, the “update” came one day after epidemiologist Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding tweeted these same data, which he noted were leaked to him from a “CDC-insider source” which informed him that the CDC had been sitting on this crucial information regarding the state of the variants in the US. After Feigl-Ding’s tweet went viral, garnering over 10,000 likes and over 5,000 retweets within hours, the CDC was forced to release the data publicly.
This is among the most significant cover-ups by the foremost health agency in the US since the start of the pandemic. It is clear that the CDC deliberately concealed this vital information from the public for weeks, as part of the relentless propaganda campaign by the Biden administration and the corporate media to falsely claim that “the pandemic is over.”
WSWS: After third rejection of contract proposal, Port of Mobile dock workers poised to strike
Around 800 members of International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) Local 1410 at the Port of Mobile in Alabama are poised to strike this week after rejecting a new company contract for the third time last month. Workers at the CSA Equipment Company have been without a contract since October 2018, and already voted down two previous proposals in October 2020 and April 2021. While the union is continuing to negotiate with the company, workers will strike if no deal is reached by midnight on October 20.
Local 1410 President Mark Bass reported to Al.com that three of the membership’s demands are: union control over tying up vessels, more workers assigned per unit, and retroactive payout of benefits and pensions since the last contract expired. For four years, including three during the COVID-19 pandemic, union members have had their benefits and pension funds frozen, but CSA has agreed to backpay only from October 2020.
CSA, formed in 1999 out of partnership between parent company Cooper/T. Smith Stevedoring and SSA Marine, is one of several bulk, container, cargo, and rail terminals that operate out of the 3,600-acre deep-water Port of Mobile. A strike by ILA members would be a major development which would impact Alabama’s infrastructure expansion projects and the entire national supply chain.
Common Dreams: ‘We Won!': Workers Vote to Become Second Unionized US Apple Store
The labor movement sweeping the United States notched another win Friday when workers in Oklahoma City voted to become the second unionized Apple Store in the nation, following the first victory in Maryland earlier this year.
Jacobin: Democrats Are Not Talking About the Economic Issues That Most Americans Care About
Even as polling shows Americans’ top concern in the upcoming midterm is the economy, Democrats have barely amplified any message on the issue in their midterm House and Senate election advertising campaigns, according to new data reviewed by us.
Republican candidates and political groups have spent $44 million on TV ads focused on the economy and inflation since Labor Day, according to a tally from AdImpact, which tracks campaign spending throughout the country. In the same period, Democrats have spotlighted these issues in just $12 million worth of ads, less than 7 percent of the party’s total ad spending during that time. The party has put another $18 million into ads mentioning jobs and infrastructure — but overall, Republicans are significantly outspending them on messaging around economic issues.
The takeaway is clear: caught between a bad economy and not wanting to offend big donors, Democrats have not aired a unified populist message hammering the business profiteering fueling inflation. Instead, they have spent much of their resources — $67 million — on ads related to abortion rights, a topic of heightened significance after the repeal of Roe v. Wade, but one that does not raise the ire of their corporate sponsors nor generate as much interest from midterm voters this year, according to recent survey data.
The lack of focus from Democrats on the economy and inflation comes as recent polls from the Washington Post and Monmouth University found that the top two most important issues among voters are the economy and inflation — far outpacing abortion.
According to the Post poll, 54 percent of voters say they trust Republicans more than Democrats to handle the economy, compared to 37 percent who say they trust Democrats more on the issue. In 2020, voters were evenly split on whom they would trust to better handle the economy, between President Joe Biden and Donald Trump.
Caribbean and South America
Haiti: Haiti Receives Armored Vehicles From Canada and the U.S.
On Saturday, Haiti received a batch of armored vehicles from Canada and the United States (U.S.) to support the local police in the fight against armed gangs that dominate the chaos in that country.
The equipment is to confront the gangs that for the past month have been controlling the most important fuel terminal in the capital Port-au-Prince, hindering the economy and the pumping of drinking water to communities immersed in violent popular protests and a growing outbreak of cholera.
The arrival of equipment will continue until next Friday, according to a communiqué from the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince, in the midst of a process in which gangs are occupying police stations and stealing armored equipment, with no response from local authorities.
Cuba: Western Cuban Province Recovers More Than 53% Of Electric Service
The first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba in Pinar del Río, Yamilé Ramos, reported today the reestablishment of 53.09 percent of the electric service in that territory, the most affected by hurricane Ian.
The Ukraine Proxy Conflict
This Reuters headline summarizes the situation quite well, tbh:
Reuters: Russia says its forces repelled Ukrainian advances in several regions
Overall, the front is not quiet, but it is stable. Russian bombardment of Ukraine hasn’t significantly decreased in intensity, though reporting on it has due to a crackdown by the government on civilians filming the attacks. Just today, Russia flew several drones above Kiev, a couple of which were shot down, but the rest found their targets. Deeply concerning that the air defense over Ukraine’s capital city is this bad. My personal opinion is that these are more probing attacks to see what Ukraine’s capable of and how they react, in preparation for a much larger Russian offensive on the scale of the first month or two of the war, maybe even larger than that. Russia probably doesn’t want this war to extend into the Spring.
Reuters: Belarus says it will host just under 9,000 Russian troops
The defence ministry in Minsk on Sunday said just under 9,000 Russian troops would be stationed in Belarus as part of a “regional grouping” of forces to protect its borders.
“The first troop trains with Russian servicemen who are part of the (regional grouping) began to arrive in Belarus,” Valeriy Revenko, head of the defence ministry’s international military cooperation department, wrote on Twitter. “The relocation will take several days.
Analysis and Retrospectives
Inside the Imperial Core
Monthly Review: How much longer can the U.S. continue to wage economic war on Europe, and much of the World, without a major blowback effect?
On September 26, the world was put on edge when “blasts equivalent to the power of several kilograms of explosives,” according to a UN report, severely damaged Russia’s undersea Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, an engineering marvel which had been scheduled to begin transporting natural gas from Russia to Germany before the Ukraine war broke out in February.
Suspicion of U.S. involvement was fueled by the fact that a U.S. Navy’s warship, the USS Kearsarge, had announced the completion of work in the Bornholm area in the Baltic Sea off the coasts of Denmark and Sweden where the explosion took place, just a few hours after the pipeline had been attacked.
According to blogger Moon of Alabama, parts of the Kearsargeoperation off Bornholm were dedicated to testing special underwater mine destruction technologies. Exercises had also been performedthere by the Navy’s 6th Fleet Task Force 68 with unmanned underwater vehicles.
On February 7, 2022, U.S. President Joe Biden had promised to put an end to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, stating that, if Russia invaded Ukraine, then “there will no longer be a Nord Stream 2. We will bring an end to it.” When a reporter asked how Biden would do that since the project was under Germany’s control, Biden responded: “I promise you, we will be able to do that.”
What Biden did not say was that by blocking Russian natural gas deliveries, it would force Germany and other European nations to turn to U.S. liquefied natural gas suppliers instead of Russia, giving the U.S. a major victory in the “great game” of geopolitical competition and the new Cold War.
The sabotage of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline appears to have been part of a longstanding economic war carried out by the U.S. against not only Russia but also European nations.
On February 27, 2004, the Washington Post reported that Ronald Reagan had agreed to a CIA plan [in January 1982] to sabotage the Soviet economy by covertly feeding it, among other things, contaminated software that later caused a gigantic explosion of the Siberian gas pipeline in the summer of 1982.
This revelations was taken from the memoirs of former Air Force Secretary Thomas C. Reed, who reported that the explosion was just one example of the “cold blooded economic warfare” that the CIA waged against the Soviet Union in the final years of the Cold War.
The biggest loser in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline sabotage is not only Russia but also Germany, whose ability to access cheap energy has underlain its ability to finance the Eurozone over the last decade. The biggest winner is the Anglo-American axis whose global hegemony can only be sustained with Russia, Germany and the European Union weakened.
Frédéric Pierucci, a one-time executive of Alstom, a prominent French power company, gained special insights into U.S. economic warfare during a five and a half year ordeal in which he was imprisoned on bribery charges as part of a scheme by which 70% of Alstom was bought by General Electric (GE).
According to Pierucci, over the last two decades, the U.S. has succeeded in destabilizing the largest European multinationals by jailing their executives under the veneer of fighting corruption while netting billions of dollars in fines and coercing their companies to plead guilty.
Experts call these practices “lawfare,” which consists of using the legal system against an enemy in order to delegitimize it, causing it maximum damage and forcing it to comply through coercion.
Between 2008 and 2019, 30 corporations paid out fines above $100 million to the U.S. Treasury, with the majority being European.
The threat of huge fines and long legal battles has also been used to cajole the takeover of European firms by U.S. corporations like GE while preventing them from developing closer partnerships with China-based companies.
NakedCapitalism: Is the UK About to Hit the Wall?
It’s not very nice to engage in an economic death watch of sorts, particularly when the underlying disease looks likely to spread. But who will go critical first? Is the rapidly accelerating political crisis in the UK a sign that the sceptered isles will be first to enter the economic ICU?
Many commentators have discussed the near-certainty of de-industrialization of Germany due to high energy costs and how the loss of revenues and jobs would propagate rapidly through its economy and then to the rest of the EU, since Germany is a major driver of EU activity. Credit Suisse analyst Zoltan Pozsar wrote in late August that $2 trillion in German value added depended on $20 billion of cheap Russian gas.
The last two months have featured stories of Germany companies suspending operations or cutting production, from stainless steel to aluminum to papermaking to chemicals, and that list is not complete.
The EU is engaged in yet another rearranging-deck-chairs-on-the-Titanic exercise of trying to come up with gas price caps. Gazprom has already said that’s a no go. From RT:
Plans to set a price cap on Russian gas sales, which are currently being considered by Western leaders, would cause supplies to be halted, according to Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller.
“We rely on the contracts that have been signed. A unilateral decision of the kind is, of course, a violation of essential terms of the agreements which would lead to a termination of supplies,” Miller said on Sunday in an interview with Russia 1 TV.
It’s not clear why any other gas suppliers whose customers contracted for spot or other variable prices should go along either. The EU is trying to solve this problem by calling the cap something else. From Reuters:
The latest draft conclusions showed that the leaders would agree to “explore a temporary dynamic price corridor” on natural gas until an alternative EU gas price benchmark is in place.
Belgium, Greece, Italy and Poland want a price corridor for wholesale transactions, which would mean a price range with a central value below the market price.
The draft said the leaders would also “explore a temporary EU framework to cap the price of gas in electricity generation at a level that helps bring down electricity prices without … leading to overall increased gas consumption.”
Now there are bad design elements in the European electricity scheme that likely does to some degree lead to price distortions on the upside. However, the EU is facing a chronic gas shortage. It not only will have trouble getting through the winter, but its supply woes will continue in 2023 and will be even worse next winter unless Europe kisses and makes up with Russia, which seems impossible at this juncture.
Yet instead of focusing on the necessity of rationing, the European Commission is dithering with the fantasy of technocratic fixes, which is likely to result in disruptive, unplanned rationing in the form of blackouts.
Italy, Europe’s other industrial engine, is also a heavy user of Russian gas, but the business press has yet to focus as intently on its developing tsuris.
The reason for the long-winded German detour is to suggest, despite Germany having a poor prognosis, that the UK might hit the acute phase sooner.
In particular, the UK entered this crisis in weaker condition than major EU countries thanks to Brexit. And Brexit is also exacerbating inflation. From Euronews in July:
In June, a study by the CER’s Deputy Director John Springford examined the economic cost of the UK’s departure from the EU so far, setting out to disentangle it from that of COVID-19….
His “sobering” conclusion is that in the final quarter of 2021, GDP (gross domestic product) was 5.2% smaller, investment 13.7% lower, and goods trade 13.6% lower than what they would have been had the UK remained in the EU.
“The UK had a particularly deep recession in 2020, but it ended COVID restrictions sooner than many of its peers, thanks in part to starting its vaccination campaign early in 2021. That should have made its recovery from COVID faster than other countries, not slower,” he says.
“It should trouble Labour and the Conservatives that the economy is lagging so far behind its peers.”….
….another report from June noted a decline in some aspects of Britain’s trade with both EU and non-EU countries that was “not explained by changes in the pattern of global trade during the pandemic”….
Inflation figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published in June put the UK’s rate at 9.1%, as measured by the consumer prices index. The figure for the eurozone in May was 8.1%, before rising to 8.6% in June according to Eurostat data.
Yet inflation in the UK is worse than in other high-income economies, as the Peterson Institute for International Economics noted in a report in May. This is despite the fact that Britain and its neighbours have suffered the same economic shocks from Russia’s war on Ukraine and soaring energy prices.
“Brexit has amplified the inflationary impact of a simultaneous common shock,” the institute says.
The fact that the UK imports a lot of food and is structurally vulnerable to a triple crisis (a simultaneous currency, banking and fiscal crisis a la Iceland) by virtue of being a small open economy with an outsized banking sector does not help.
If you read Richard Murphy’s post below, it’s not hard to see that his erstwhile suggestions will help only at the margin. In particular, he appears not to appreciate that investing in renewables will do nothing to alleviate the energy shortfall bearing down on the UK now, and is unlikely to have much impact before (optimistically) 2024. Similarly, letting the pound fall will increase the price of food and energy imports. And if any big financial players have significant net dollar or Euro liabilities, a further fall in sterling could put them in crisis.
And while we are comparing the severity of the UK’s and Germany’s pathologies, let us also consider a warning from Pozsar that doesn’t appear to have gotten as much attention as his conclusion about the economic leverage of Russian gas:
More broadly, the three “moments” of reckoning we discussed above mean thatglobal supply chains, whether they produce military or civilian goods, are facing a Minsky Moment – a Real Minsky Moment. Paul McCulley’s term referred to the implosion of the long-intermediation chains of the shadow banking system that marked the onset of the Great Financial Crisis.
Today, we are witnessing the implosion of the long-intermediation chains of the globalized world order: masks, baby formula, chips, missiles, and artillery shells, for now. The triggers aren’t a lack of liquidity and capital in the banking and shadow banking systems, but a lack of inventory and protection in the globalized production system, in which we design at home and manage from home, but source, produce, and ship everything from abroad, where commodities, factories, and fleets of ships are dominated by states – Russia and China – that are in conflict with the West.
Inventory for supply chains is what liquidity is for banks. In 2007-08, big banks ran on “just-in-time” liquidity: the dominant form of liquidity was market liquidity, for which you could always sell assets into a deep market without moving prices, so you did not have to have liquidity reserves at the central bank. Similarly, big corporations today run “just-in-time” supply chains for which they assume that they can always source what they need without moving the price. But not really: the U.S. military has to wait a little bit as Raytheon “will take a little while”; Taiwan and Saudi Arabia have to wait as well until the conflict in Ukraine is over; and if your washing machine broke recently, you’ll have to wait a bit too until defense contractors are done buying them up to rip chips out to make missiles.
We’re borrowing from “here” to make things “there”. Do you remember the three units of Minsky? Hedge units can cover their payments from their incomes. Speculative units have to borrow to be able to make payments. And Ponzi units can make their payments only if they sell some of their assets and are thus the most exposed to rising interest rates. As our chip examples demonstrate, Minsky would classify our military supply chains as “speculative” units at best, which are exposed to a further escalation of geopolitical tensions that could easily turn them into Ponzi supply chains. We can also apply Minsky’s framework in Europe, where Germany can’t cover its payments without Russian gas and the government is asking citizens to conserve energy to leave more for industry…
Protection by Pax Americana for global supply chains is what capital is for banks. In 2007-08, big banks didn’t have enough capital to deal with systemic events, because they were Too Big to Fail. The assumption was that the state will bail them out. The state did provide a bailout, but at a cost, which was Basel III…
Today, the assumption among investors is that globalization is Too Big to Fail… …but globalization is not a bank in need of a bailout. It’s in need of a hegemon to maintain order. The systemic event is someone challenging the hegemon, and today, Russia and China are challenging the U.S. hegemon. For the current world order and its trade arrangements and network of global supply chains to survive the challenge, the challenge must be squashed quickly and decisively, in the spirit of the Powell Doctrine. But Ukraine and Taiwan aren’t Kuwait, Russia and China aren’t Iraq, and Top Gun 2 isn’t the same movie as Top Gun.
With that context, it becomes even clearer why any remedies for the woes afflicting the UK, Europe, and eventually the US will not come quickly, if at all.
AntiWar: Westerners Live in Denial, Convinced They’re the Good Guys
No one took responsibility for the explosion over the weekend that ripped through a section of the Kerch Bridge that links Russia to Crimea and was built by Moscow after it annexed the peninsula back in 2014.
But it was not just Kyiv’s gleeful celebrations that indicated the main suspect. Within hours, the Ukrainian authorities had released a set of commemorative stamps depicting the destruction.
Russian President Vladimir Putin was under no illusions either. On Monday, he struck out with a torrent of missiles that hit major Ukrainian cities such as Kyiv and Lviv. It was a pale, Slavic echo of Israel’s intermittent bombardments of Gaza, which are expressly intended to send the Palestinian enclave “back to the Stone Age”.
If the scenes looked familiar – an attack by one party, followed by a massive retaliatory strike from the other – the mood and language that greeted the Ukrainian attack and the Russian counterattack felt noticeably different from what passes for normal western commentary about Israel and Palestine.
The blast on the Kerch Bridge was welcomed with barely concealed excitement from western journalists, politicians and analysts, while Moscow’s strikes on Kyiv were uniformly denounced as Russian brutality and state terrorism. That is not the way things work when Israel and Palestinian factions engage in their own rounds of fighting.
Had the Palestinians openly celebrated blowing up a bridge in East Jerusalem, a territory illegally annexed by Israel in the 1960s, and killed Israeli civilians as collateral damage in the process, who can really imagine western media reports being similarly supportive?
Nor would western academics have lined up, as they did for Ukraine, to explain in detail why destroying a bridge was a proportionate act and fully in accordance with the rights in international law of a people under belligerent occupation to resist.
Instead, there would have been thunderous denunciations of Palestinian savagery and “terrorism”.
In reality, Palestinian resistance nowadays is far more modest – and yet still receives western censure. Palestinians need only to fire a homemade rocket, or launch an “incendiary balloon”, usually ineffectually out of their cage in Gaza – where they have been besieged for years by their Israeli persecutors – to incur the wrath of Israel and the western powers that claim to constitute the “international community”.
Even more perversely, when Palestinians solely target Israeli soldiers, as they are unambiguously entitled to do under international law, they are similarly reviled as criminals.
But the double standards do not end there. Western media and politicians were unreservedly appalled by Moscow’s retaliatory strikes on the Ukrainian capital. Despite the media’s emphasis on Russia’s targeting of civilian infrastructure, the number of civilians killed across Ukraine by the wave of missile hits on Monday was reported to be low.
Western media are far less horrified when it comes to Israel’s regular rampages across Gaza – even when Israel “retaliates” after much less provocation and when its strikes inflict far greater suffering and damage.
And, of course, it is not just Israel that is benefiting from this hypocrisy. The United States’ “Shock and Awe” bombing campaign that initiated the war on Iraq in 2003 – and so impressed western commentators – killed many thousands of Iraqi civilians. Russia’s strikes on Kyiv pale in comparison.
There are other glaring inconsistencies. After Russia’s missile strikes, Ukraine is gaining an even more receptive ear in western capitals to its demands for additional weaponry to help regain the eastern territories Moscow has annexed.
By contrast, no one in the West is suggesting that the Palestinians should be armed to help them fight off decades of Israeli occupation and siege. Quite the reverse. It is invariably western weapons that rain down on Gaza, supplied to the belligerent Israeli occupier by the very parties now condemning Russia.
And in stark contrast to Britain’s wholehearted support as Ukraine battles to stop Russia’s annexation of its eastern territories, the UK’s prime minister Liz Truss stated only last month that she may reward Israel for its illegal annexation of Jerusalem by moving the British embassy there.
Whereas Palestinians are constantly inveigled to postpone their liberation struggle and wait for their occupier to agree to peace talks, even when Israel openly scorns engagement, Ukrainians are pushed by the West to do the exact opposite. They are expected to delay any negotiations with Russia and focus on the battlefield.
Similarly, those who promote talks between Israel and Palestine that are never going to take place are praised as peacemakers. Those who advocate for talks between Ukraine and Russia – when Moscow has expressed a repeated willingness to negotiate, even if its overtures are disparaged by the West – are rounded on as appeasers.
Russia, meanwhile, faces sustained and comprehensive sanctions imposed by western states to bring it to heel.
By contrast, those proposing a far weaker tool – grassroots boycotts – to pressure Israel to loosen its choke-hold on Gaza are smeared as antisemites and face legislation to outlaw their activities by the same western states sanctioning Moscow.
It is almost as if the “freedom-loving” West has an entirely inconsistent agenda when it comes to the plights of Ukraine and Palestine. Israel’s hold on Palestine is unfortunate but justified; Russia’s over Ukraine is emphatically not.
Ukrainian resistance to Russia’s “unprovoked aggression” is heroic. Palestinian resistance to Israel’s violence – invariably presented as self-defense– is terrorism.
Western news at the moment is a litany of these double standards and legal and ethical contradictions – and yet barely anyone seems to notice.
Westerners, for example, are currently cheering the protests in Iran, where women and girls have taken to the streets and created mass disturbances in schools. Their protests were sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini after she was taken into custody for wearing her hijab head covering too loosely.
Western media celebrate these young women casting aside the hijab in defiance of the unaccountable clerics who rule over them. The West bewails the beatings and attacks they receive from a tyrannous, patriarchal Iranian theocracy.
And yet there is no comparable solidarity with Palestinians when they collectively defy an unaccountable Israeli occupation army that rules over them. When they turn out to protest at the fence Israel has built all around Gaza to imprison them, preventing them from leaving for work or to see family overseas, or to reach hospitals much better equipped than their own that have been under Israeli blockade for years, they are shot down by Israeli snipers.
Where is the applause for those brave Palestinian protesters standing up to their oppressors? Where are the denunciations of Israel for compelling Palestinians to endure a tyrannous, apartheid-enforcing Israeli military?
Why is it entirely unremarkable that Palestinians – young and old, men and women – are regularly beaten or killed by Israel, while the death of a single Iranian woman is enough to reduce the western media to paroxysms of outrage?
And why, just as pertinently, does the West care so much about the lives of young Iranian women and their hijab protests when it appears not to give a damn about these women’s lives, or those of their brothers, when it comes to enforcing decades of western sanctions? Those restrictions have plunged parts of Iranian society into deep and sustained poverty that puts Iranian lives at risk.
Such is the reflexive hypocrisy that Israeli women who have shown no solidarity with Palestinian women abused and killed by the Israeli army turned out last week to cut their hair in a public act of sisterhood with Iranian women.
There is nothing new about these double standards. They are entrenched in western thinking, based on a profoundly racist, colonial worldview – one that sees “the West” as the good guys and everyone else as morally compromised, or irredeemably evil, if they refuse to bow to western dictates.
That is highlighted by the current battle of an 88-year-old Palestinian businessman, Munib al-Masri, to win an apology from Britain.
At his instruction, two eminent lawyers – Luis Moreno Ocampo, a former chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, and Ben Emmerson, a former United Nations expert on human rights – have been reviewing evidence of crimes committed by British forces in the years before 1948, when the UK ruled Palestine under a mandate.
When Britain withdrew, it effectively allowed Zionist institutions to take its place and create a self-declared Jewish state of Israel on the ruins of the Palestinians’ homeland.
The evidence documented by Ocampo and Emmerson – which they describe as “shocking” – includes crimes such as arbitrary killings and detentions, torture, use of human shields, and home demolitions weaponized as collective punishment.
If that all sounds familiar, it should. Israel has been terrorizing Palestinians with these same exact policies over the past 74 years. That is because Israel incorporated the British mandate’s “emergency regulations” permitting such crimes into its legal and administrative codes. It simply continued what Britain had started.
Masri hopes to present the 300-page dossier to the UK government later this year. According to the media, it will be “reviewed thoroughly” by the Ministry of Defense. But do not hold your breath waiting for an apology.
The reality is that Ocampo and Emmerson did not need to conduct their research. Nothing they tell the UK government will be a revelation. British officials already know about these crimes. And there is no remorse – as demonstrated by, if nothing else, the fact that Britain continues to back Israel to the hilt even while the Israeli military continues the same reign of state terror.
Israel’s task was to rebrand as a “western-style democracy” the British mandate’s brutal colonial rule over the Palestinian population. It is the reason Israel receives billions of dollars in aid from the US every year, and why it never faces consequences for any of the crimes it commits.
The ugly truth is that westerners dwell permanently inside their own bubble of disinformation, one puffed up by their leaders and the media, that allows them to imagine themselves as the good guys – whatever the evidence actually proves.
The double standards in the West’s treatment of Ukraine compared to Palestine should be a moment when that harsh realization finally dawns. Sadly, western publics just seem to sink ever deeper into the comforting illusion self-righteousness.
Outside the Imperial Core
The Next Recession: China: Xi’s third term – part one: growth, investment and consumption
Monthly Review: Inside the global garment industry
Clothing and footwear manufacturing is characterised by a globalised “value chain”, in which each phase of production is concentrated in a different region.
Giant retailers in the developed economies make huge fortunes in concert with smaller-scale textile and garment factories, the bulk of them in Asia and other parts of the global South. The factory owners act as junior partners in a global network of profiteering. Far from liberating some of the world’s poorest people, export-oriented development has brought luxury for a privileged few but plunged millions into a vast matrix of exploitation.
Hundreds of millions of workers are involved in making garments in some way, united by an enormous value chain that spans tiny, impoverished farms, large sweatshop factories and the shopping malls of Sydney, Shanghai and New York. At each step, individual capitalists endeavour to squeeze out as much profit as possible for themselves.
There is a fortune to be made. According to one estimate, clothing and footwear are a US$1.55 trillion retail market. Lower down the value chain, industry analyst IBISWorld puts the total wholesale value of manufactured garments at around US$850 billion, a lucrative trade for aspiring capitalists in the global South.
The creation of this wealth begins with the production of fibres such as cotton, jute and polyester, which are turned into textiles to be cut and assembled into garments. Cotton is by far the most popular natural fibre, most of which is produced in China, India, Pakistan, the United States and Brazil.
Brazilian and American cotton is produced by large, mechanised farms. In Asia, it’s a different story. Industry group Better Cotton estimates there are 5.8 million smallholder cotton farmers in India and another 1.5 million in Pakistan. The Discover Natural Fibres Initiative estimates that total employment in natural fibre production, including part-time and seasonal workers, is a staggering 300 million people.
Smallholding cotton farmers are extremely poor. Indian daily the Hindu last year reported that average income for Indian farmers was A$5 per day. Fluctuations in global prices, which are under downward pressure from mechanised production, can drastically impact farmers’ lives. According to the International Labour Organization, in India children often work on these farms, and many farmers are forced to work as casual labourers to supplement their low incomes.
Polyester, a petroleum-based plastic and the most common synthetic material used in garment manufacturing, is produced and processed in factories in China, Taiwan, India, South Korea and Japan. Production for textiles consumes more than 300 million barrels of oil annually.
Most of the fibres are bought and processed, not by big global brands, but by regional capitalists. Often these bosses directly own both textile weaving and garment manufacturing plants, “vertically integrating” production to cut out the middleman and leave higher margins for the bosses when they eventually on-sell to wholesalers or retailers. The process of turning fibres into usable textiles employs 50 million people in India and more than 150 million in China.