Global Events, the United Nations, and Disease
Counterpunch: US Again Isolated on UN Vote Against Its Cuba Blockade
For the 30th consecutive United Nations vote, the US again lost. A landslide margin of 185 to 2 condemned its blockade of Cuba on November 3. Only the apartheid state of Israel voted with the US, while Brazil and Ukraine abstained.
Since 1960, the bipartisan policy of the US has been to overthrow the Cuban Revolution by fomenting “disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship.” According to the US State Department, punitive economic measures are imposed to deny “money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation, and the overthrow of [the] government.”
The US blockade daily costs Cuba $15 million; $6.3 billion since Biden took office. Cuba’s income for the first quarter of 2022 exceeded $493 million, but imports of goods amounted to more than $2 billion. A report from Cuba admonishes: “It is a dilemma for Cubans to make ends meet. Wages are not enough to face the very high prices that the lack of offers, real inflation, and speculation bequeath to us.”
Climate Home News: China, India set to snub Cop27 leaders’ climate summit
More than 100 heads of states and governments are expected to attend the two-day summit, on the theme of “implementation”, in the Red Sea beach resort of Sharm el-Sheikh 7-8 November.
Amid soaring inflation and deepening geopolitical tensions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the high-level event is a moment for leaders to recommit to international climate cooperation.
But a provisional list of speakers, dated 31 October, shows that neither China’s Xi Jinping nor India’s Narendra Modi are expected to attend.
US president Joe Biden won’t make the leader segment because of an agenda clash with the US mid-term elections on 8 November. A handful of tight races will determine whether the Democrats keep hold of the Senate.
Instead, Biden will travel to Sharm el-Sheikh on the 11 November, the White House has confirmed.
“The absence of China and India doesn’t help inject much-needed political momentum into the talks,” Tom Evans, of think tank E3G, told Climate Home News.
In fact, showing from the G20 group of major economies is expected to be poor.
Australia’s Anthony Albanese is skipping the meeting. Defending his decision, he told reporters he “can’t be in all places at once”. “This Cop is one of implementation. It’s not one of a new policy and program,” he said.
Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau, who has the worst emissions record in the G7, isn’t on the list. A government spokesperson confirmed he isn’t going to Sharm el-Sheikh.
Reuters: G7 coalition has agreed to set fixed price for Russian oil -source
The Group of Seven rich nations and Australia have agreed to set a fixed price when they finalize a price cap on Russian oil later this month, rather than adopting a floating rate, sources said on Thursday.
U.S. officials and G7 countries have been in intense negotiations in recent weeks over the unprecedented plan to put a price cap on sea-borne oil shipments, which is scheduled to take effect on Dec. 5 - to ensure EU and U.S. sanctions aimed at limiting Moscow’s ability to fund its invasion of Ukraine do not throttle the global oil market.
“The Coalition has agreed the price cap will be a fixed price that will be reviewed regularly rather than a discount to an index," said a coalition source, who was not authorized to speak publicly. “This will increase market stability and simplify compliance to minimize the burden on market participants.”
Inquirer: World food price index slips in Oct despite higher cereal prices -FAO
The United Nations food agency’s world price index edged slightly lower in October, the seventh consecutive monthly fall and 14.9 percent down from its all-time high recorded in March.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Friday that its price index, which tracks the most globally traded food commodities, averaged 135.9 points last month versus a revised 136.0 for September.
The September figure was previously put at 136.3.
The index has fallen from a record of 159.7 in March, but remained 2 percent higher than a year earlier.
While prices dipped overall, the cereal index rose 3 percent , with wheat up 3.2 percent , mostly reflecting uncertainties related to exports from Ukraine and also a downward revision for U.S. supplies. International rice prices increased 1 percent .
By contrast, FAO’s vegetable oil index fell 1.6 percent in October and was down nearly 20 percent on its year-earlier level. Rising international quotations for sunflower seed oil were more than offset by lower world prices of palm, soy and rapeseed oils.
Euro News: Europeans €3,000 poorer per year after financial crisis, new report claims
European citizens could have lost out on nearly €3,000 a year because of the austerity measures implemented by EU governments since the 2007 financial crisis, a new report has claimed.
The study by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) and Finance Watch released on Friday also claimed that EU countries could have been spending up to €1,000 more annually per person on public services if less harsh cutbacks had been applied.
The news comes at a time when EU states are racking up levels of debt unseen during modern peacetime to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic and effects of the war in Ukraine.
Frank Van Lerven, programme lead of macro-economics at NEF, said austerity measures have been a failure.
“The last decade of austerity policies has damaged European economies and stopped our living standards from improving,” Van Lerven said.
Canadian Dimension: Amid historic inflation, social unrest boils in Europe
As inflation and energy prices continue skyrocketing in Europe, people across the continent are protesting against the war in Ukraine and the anti-Russian sanctions, which have raised living costs to intolerable levels, the New York Times reported Friday.
This is making politicians nervous, as winter approaches. “The resignation on Thursday of Prime Minister Liz Truss sent perhaps the clearest signal yet that political peril awaits those who fail to address inflation and the erosion of living standards, no matter the cause,” according to the Times. Studies are showing significant decreases in support for Kyiv and the Western proxy war.
The European Union’s annual inflation rate is currently reaching heights not seen in decades—10.9 percent, compared to 3.6 percent this time last year. This is largely driven by the Washington-led sanctions blitz, which has cut the bloc off from the cheap Russian gas upon which it has long relied. As winter approaches, people are making their voices heard. The demonstrations cut across the political spectrum, with the left, right, union members, and poor people all expressing severe discontent. “Strikes and protests over the rising cost of living proliferate, ushering in a period of social and labor unrest not seen since at least the 1970s,” the report says.
Former Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced he will join a large demonstration demanding peace in Ukraine and an end to military aid shipments. Italians are becoming restless, “the pressure is everywhere. Trade unions want the government to spend more on energy subsidies to help companies like pottery makers, who need to power their furnaces, but also farmers, who are getting slammed on the cost of fertilizers, which are produced with gas or potassium from Russia.”
Last month, Prague saw massive demonstrations of 70,000 people, across the political spectrum, protesting against NATO’s proxy war in Ukraine and rising energy prices caused by the anti-Russian sanctions. In the Czech Republic, the inflation rate is 17.8 percent.
Home energy prices continue surging in Hungary where inflation is more than 20 percent. In response, Prime Minister Viktor Orban has “doubled down on his policy of denouncing sanctions against Russia in pursuit of deals with Russia’s state-owned Gazprom for supplies of natural gas.”
In Germany, Europe’s economic powerhouse, tens of thousands of people are protesting against inflation and support for the proxy war in Ukraine. This is occurring particularly in the eastern states which are “among the country’s poorest, and most conservative.” However, the left is organizing similar demonstrations which “mirror the complaints of the right.” For instance, roughly 1,300 protesters gathered in downtown Leipzig with signs that said “Our country first.”
In France, the gross domestic product will shrink by an estimated $73 billion and there will be a concurrent 1.4 percent drop in purchasing power next year, according to a recent study cited in the report, “with the effect felt largely in poorer households.”
Reuters: Putin orders one-time $3,200 payment for mobilised and contract soldiers
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday ordered a one-time payment of 195,000 roubles ($3,200) for contract soldiers and those who have been mobilised to fight in Ukraine, the Kremlin said.
Last week Moscow said the “partial mobilisation” of 300,000 reservists was over but conceded there had been problems. Over 2,000 people were arrested at protests amid public outcry over cases of men being called up despite medical exemptions, or a lack of military experience.
WSWS: Bank of England lifts rates and forecasts “prolonged” recession
The Bank of England (BoE) yesterday lifted its base interest rate by 0.75 percentage points as part of the deepening class war being waged by the major central banks against the working class.
The decision, carried by a 7‒2 majority on its Monetary Policy Committee (MPC), came in the wake of the decision by the US Federal Reserve to again hike its base rate by 75 basis points for the fourth time in a row on Wednesday, targeting what it continually refers as the “tight” labour market.
The BoE rate increase was the largest in 30 years, taking the base rate to 3 percent, the highest point since 2008.
In its economic outlook, the bank forecast a significant contraction for the UK economy as inflation continues to surge. If the BoE interest rate remains at its present level of 3 percent, it forecast a contraction in the economy over the next five quarters because of rising energy prices and mortgage costs.
But financial markets are at variance with this scenario. They expect that the BoE’s rate will rise to 5.25 percent. According to the MPC projections, if that were to take place there would be eight quarters of contraction—the longest UK recession since World War II.
Guardian: Bank of England warns of longest recession in 100 years as it raises rates to 3%
RT: UK business confidence drops – survey
The UK’s service businesses have posted their biggest decline in activity since January 2021, according to a report by Standard and Poor’s released on Thursday.
The S&P Global UK Services Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to 48.8 points in October, down from 50.0 in September, marking the worst reading since the pandemic-affected numbers of 20 months ago.
According to the survey, political uncertainty, rising borrowing costs, and “stubbornly” high inflation dented business investment and encouraged a wait-and-see approach to new undertakings.
“There were also many reports that higher energy bills had led to reduced spending on non-essential services,” economics director at S&P Global Market Intelligence Tim Moore said.
He noted that the latest rise in business expenses, driven by further steep increases in energy costs and staff wages, was faster than at any time in the survey’s history prior to the pandemic.
Reuters: Germany’s Scholz tests China ties with inaugural visit, to discuss Ukraine
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrives in China on a one-day trip on Friday, becoming the first G7 leader to visit since the start of COVID-19 and President Xi Jinping solidifying his grip on power with a third term as Communist Party general secretary.
The trip comes amid rising voices within Scholz’s ruling coalition calling for a rethink of Germany’s China policy, and growing public concern about Berlin’s commercial reliance on the global economic powerhouse.
One in two Germans wish that Germany’s economy could be more independent from China, a survey published by ARD broadcaster showed on Thursday.
China has been Germany’s biggest trading partner for the past six years, with volumes reaching over 245 billion euros ($238.9 billion) in 2021.
During the trip, where Scholz will meet Xi and prime minister Li Keqiang, the German Chancellor is expected to discuss Russia’s war in Ukraine, hoping that China can convince Russia to end hostilities.
Scholz has also been asked to press China on topics including its human rights record and opening its markets, but it is yet to be seen whether the visit will result in any real change on Beijing’s side.
“If Scholz expects he might make China publicly criticize in any way Russia’s war and threats in Europe, he would surely be disillusioned,” Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing told Reuters.
Jakarta Post: Xi, Scholz seek closer ties in controversial summit
Xi Jinping welcomed German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to Beijing Friday, with both sides seeking to deepen economic cooperation on a trip that has prompted criticism over Berlin’s growing reliance on an increasingly authoritarian China.
Scholz is the first G7 leader to visit China since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen the world’s number two economy close its borders and Xi largely eschew in-person diplomacy.
The German leader’s trip has sparked controversy at home, coming so soon after Xi strengthened his hold on power and as tensions run high between the West and Beijing on issues ranging from Taiwan to alleged human rights abuses.
Received by a smiling Xi at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People shortly after arriving, Scholz said he hoped to “further develop” economic cooperation – while alluding to areas of disagreement.
“It is good that we are able to have an exchange here about all questions, including those questions where we have different perspectives – that’s what an exchange is for,” Scholz said.
“We also want to talk about how we can further develop our economic cooperation on other topics: climate change, food security, indebted countries.”
“Noting the complex and fluid international landscape, Xi underscored the need for China and Germany, two major countries with great influence, to work together in times of change and instability and contribute more to global peace and development,” according to Beijing’s Xinhua News Agency.
TeleSUR: Unions in Spain Demand Wage Increase
Workers' Commissions (CCOO) and the General Union of Workers (UGT) led the massive workers' demonstration in Madrid to demand a collective wage increase in the face of inflation.
Unai Sordo, leader of CCOO, and Pepe Álvarez, of UGT, said that wage increases are essential to combat inflation. They warned that conflict would continue as long as there is no progress on the matter.
The unions are demanding negotiations with the employers so that they agree on a wage increase in line with the rise in prices. In this sense, the general secretary of CCOO, Paloma López, said the request is that wages be increased to protect workers' purchasing power.
Claiming that “either there is a wage or there will be conflict,” the secretary general of UGT, José María Álvarez, said, “Where there has been conflict, we have achieved wages and dozens of agreements have been signed with increases that allow workers to maintain their purchasing power, in companies with high profits and with lower profits.”
East Asia and Oceania
Al Jazeera: S Korea scrambles warplanes as 180 North Korean aircraft detected
South Korea scrambled 80 military aircraft, including advanced F-35 fighter jets, after detecting 180 North Korean warplanes flying within North Korean territory – the latest defiant show of military strength by the nuclear-armed country.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said on Friday the North Korean warplanes were detected in various areas inland and along the country’s eastern and western coasts, but they did not come particularly close to the inter-Korean border.
WSWS: Blood tests reveal at least two-thirds of Australians have contracted COVID-19
Two serological surveys released on Thursday suggest that at least two-thirds of the Australian population, or 16.9 million people, have been infected at least once with COVID-19. It is estimated that one-fifth of all adults in the country contracted the virus between June and August.
For the first time, blood samples from children and teenagers were tested. The rate of COVID-19 infection among those aged under 20 was similar to the overall population, with 64 percent of samples testing positive, although the rate was slightly higher among school-aged children.
These results make clear that official infection figures are a vast understatement of the extent of the virus. Since the start of the pandemic, around 10.4 million cases have been reported across the country, an undercount of at least 6.5 million according to these surveys.
In fact, the true figure is likely higher still. Previous studies have established that nucleocapsid protein antibodies are not detectable in 15 to 20 percent of vaccinated people infected with Omicron. These antibodies are produced at lower levels and wane more quickly when an individual has received at least a partial course of COVID-19 vaccine.
Given Australia’s high vaccination rate, at least for the initial two-dose course (96 percent), it is likely that more than 20 million people in the country have been infected.
Almost all of these infections have occurred in 2022. On December 31, 2021, the official total for Australia stood at 395,504.
The mass infection of the population with a highly contagious and deadly virus is the result of the deliberate and bipartisan adoption of “let it rip” policies by all Australian governments, state, territory and federal.
Central Asia and the Middle East
EU Reporter: Uzbekistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan rail link moves up the agenda
At present Uzbekistan Railways’ link with Afghanistan runs for 75 kilometres from the border to Mazar-i-Sharif. But plans are getting underway to extend the line to Kabul and to Peshawar in Pakistan, writes Political Editor Nick Powell.
A rail link that would allow far more Uzbek imports and exports to use Pakistan’s ports has long been proposed but it has moved closer to reality thanks to Uzbekistan’s policy of ‘positive neutrality’ towards Afghanistan. The President of Uzbekistan’s special representative for Afghanistan, Ambassador Ismatulla Irgashev, told a briefing in Brussels how his country had responded to what he called “the complex and deteriorating” situation that has followed the withdrawal of the United States and its allies from Kabul in August 2021.
He spoke of a “critical and pragmatic” dialogue with the Taliban, reflecting Uzbekistan’s obligation to support Afghan people suffering hunger and cold as well as the foreign policy priority of promoting regional peace and stability. The Ambassador said he had personally been engaging with all sides in Afghanistan since the 1990s and the difference between the Taliban then and now was stark.
He spoke of the international community’s obligation to bring about a lasting peace in Afghanistan, where war had been endured for 40 years, not through the choice of the Afghan people but as a result of a clash between global powers. Uzbekistan was respected by all sides in Afghanistan, as was demonstrated when it saved the lives of tens of thousands of people last year, some of them foreign diplomats, many of them refugees whom the Taliban was persuaded to allow to return home.
Ambassador Irgashev said there was no denying that Afghanistan had its most independent government in 40 years, the problem was that the Taliban didn’t want to share power with other Afghans. He emphasised the need to build a more moderate leadership in Kabul, one that did not believe that women had no rights.
As a next step towards the proposed rail link, Afghans were receiving training at a facility in Uzbekistan and some of those Afghan trainees were women. It was a sign of greater cooperation than had been seen from previous governments in Kabul, with more willingness to advance the railway project, as well as proposed power supply links between the two countries.
The Vice-Chair of Uzbek Railways, Akmal Kamalov, gave a presentation about the $5.96 billion rail link, which would take an estimated five years to build. The Uzbek and Pakistani governments had paid for an expedition in July and August to survey the 187 kilometre route, which would include five tunnels.
Common Dreams: Global Alarm as Netanyahu to Form Israel’s Most Right-Wing Government Ever
People around the world have expressed concerns about Israelis empowering indicted former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form the nation’s most far-right government in history since Israel held its fifth election in less than four years on Tuesday.
“If you are shocked and horrified by this growing, emboldened Israeli fascist movement, ask yourself how you’ll commit to opposing Jewish supremacist ideology, policies, and institutions in days and years ahead,” Simone Zimmerman, co-founder of the American Jewish group IfNotNow, tweeted late Wednesday. “Fighting fascism, authoritarianism, and racism everywhere is our only hope.”
The results were confirmed Thursday. Netanyahu’s party, Likud, secured 32 seats in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, followed by outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid with 24 seats. The bloc breakdown, as Haaretz reported, is 64 seats for the Netanyahu camp and 51 for the current coalition.
MEE: Israeli fighter jets bomb Gaza in first such operation since August
Israeli fighter jets early on Friday targeted what the Israeli army claimed was a rocket manufacturing site in the Gaza Strip, in the first such bombing since Israel’s offensive against the besieged enclave in August.
The Israeli army said the attack on the facility, which they said belonged to Hamas, was in response to rockets fired towards Israel.
One of the rockets was intercepted and three others “exploded inside the Gaza Strip”, the Israeli army said earlier on Thursday.
MEE: Jordan seeks closer coordination with Russia over Syria
Russia and Jordan agreed to ramp up coordination on Syria during a visit Thursday by Russia’s top diplomat to the Hashemite Kingdom, underscoring how even one of the US’s closest allies in the region has continued to engage with Russia despite the war in Ukraine.
Syria is a top concern for the resource-poor kingdom, whose budget has been strained by hosting more than 1.3 million Syrian refugees. Jordan has also warned about the presence of Iranian-backed militias along its border, which has recently seen an upsurge in drug smuggling.
“There is a need for coordination and this is the focus of expansive discussions,” Ayman al-Safadi, Jordan’s foreign minister, said at a news conference alongside his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, and added: in order to “neutralise the potential dangers of instability” in southern Syria.
Lavrov met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and the two discussed efforts to reach a political solution to the crisis in Syria, while safeguarding the war-torn country’s unity and territorial integrity, and guaranteeing the safe and voluntary return of refugees, according to state media. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was not mentioned in the press readout.
Jordan is a stalwart US ally and heavily dependent on Washington for aid. In September, the US granted Jordan its largest aid package in history with $10.15bn in assistance slated for the next seven years. The kingdom is home to US military bases and a key staging ground for counter-terrorism operations.
Like other regional states, however, Jordan has walked a careful line over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, continuing to engage with the Kremlin while it has been shunned by most western powers.
During a visit to Washington in September, Safadi said “there are many issues with which we still need to engage with Russia”.
“The truth is [the] Russian presence in Syria has been a stabilising factor in the south because the vacuum would be filled by militias and other groups that will not be able to ensure stability in those places,” he said.
AllAfrica: Govt to Complete Rail Projects With Loans From China, Portugal, Turkey
Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Jaji Sambo, said yesterday that the Federal Government hoped to complete the ongoing rail projects across the country with multi-billion dollar loans from financial institutions based in China, Portugal and Turkey.
Sambo stated this yesterday when he appeared before the Joint National Assembly Committee on Land and Marine Transport, chaired by Senator Danjuma Goje.
He explained that the ministry was committed to the implementation of the Nigeria Railway Modernisation project.
He said the Railway network was being progressively expanded through yearly budgetary appropriations since the federal government was facing challenges in securing counterpart funding through loans.
The minister said, “Currently, the implementation of the Kaduna-Kano, Port Harcourt to Maiduguri and Kano - Maradi Segments of the Railway Modernisation is ongoing with the Federal Government counterpart funding in the 2022 appropriation.
TeleSUR: Sudan Registers Record Trade Deficit Amid Deepening Crisis
Sudan has registered a record trade deficit of US$3.5 billion in the first nine months this year, amid signs of a deepening economic crisis.
“For many years, the trade balance did not achieve a surplus because of the problem of decline in exports and increased imports,” economic analyst Ali Ismail said, adding that the problem of weak exports should be blamed on more than one party, with the state, producers and exporters all responsible for the situation.
Al Jazeera: New Tunisia electoral law ‘eliminates’ gender parity: HRW
A new law introduced by Tunisian President Kais Saied’s government in September has “eliminated the principle of gendered parity” in elected assemblies, the United States-based group Human Rights Watch has warned.
The law passed on September 15 requires that candidates secure 400 signatures from registered voters in their constituencies.
“The new law strips gender parity provisions from a previous electoral law that strove to ensure equal representation between men and women in Tunisia’s elected assemblies, although Tunisia’s new constitution explicitly upholds this principle,” Salsabil Chellali, Tunisia director at HRW, said on Wednesday.
“Ensuring gender parity in elected assemblies was one of the major accomplishments for women’s rights following Tunisia’s 2011 revolution,” she added.
Moreover, the law bars election hopefuls from having their political campaigns financed publicly, which critics say favours men and those with wealthier backgrounds.
“These requirements especially disempower women who are less likely to have the same powerful local networks to sponsor their candidacy as men and the same financial means as their male counterparts. Together this is likely to contribute to their political exclusion,” Chellali noted.
Parliamentary elections in Tunisia are scheduled for December 17.
TeleSUR: Ethiopian Government and Rebels Agree to Ceasefire
On Wednesday, the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) announced an agreement to end a two-year-long conflict in Northern Ethiopia.
The peace accord was signed in Pretoria (South Africa), days after an African Union (AU)-led negotiation, which was facilitated by Olusegun Obasanjo, the AU high representative for the Horn of Africa, along with the former president of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta, and former deputy president of South Africa Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.
The two parties in the Ethiopian conflict have formally agreed to the cessation of hostilities and orderly disarmament, Obasanjo said, adding that the deal includes restoring law and order, restoring services and unhindered access to humanitarian supplies.
TeleSUR: Kenya Provides $16 Million for Drought Mitigation Amid Hunger
On Tuesday, Kenyan President William Ruto said his government has allocated US$16.47 million for food relief to counties affected by the severe drought across the country.
His administration will also collaborate with development partners and the private sector to raise additional funds to tackle the crippling drought which has affected more than 4 million Kenyans.
“We are working with development partners to raise another 10 billion shillings (US$82.36 million) to ensure no part of the country is unfairly affected by drought,” Ruto made the remarks while being installed as the Patron of the Kenya Red Cross Society.
Wall Street on Parade: Fed Chair Powell Sends Stocks on a Wild Ride; Says “Premature to be Thinking about Pausing” Rate Hikes
The Fed released its FOMC decision to raise interest rates by 0.75 percent at 2 p.m. yesterday, bringing its benchmark Fed Funds rate to a range of 3.75 to 4.00 percent. The decision contained this statement: “In assessing the appropriate stance of monetary policy, the Committee will continue to monitor the implications of incoming information for the economic outlook. The Committee would be prepared to adjust the stance of monetary policy as appropriate if risks emerge that could impede the attainment of the Committee’s goals.”
That statement was greeted as bullish by the stock market. As Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s press conference started at 2:30 p.m., the Dow had soared by 277 points. By 2:34 p.m., the Dow was up 400 points. But things dramatically changed when Powell started taking questions from the press. By 3:15 p.m. when the press conference ended, the Dow was down by 157 points and it continued to tumble for the next 45 minutes, ending the trading day at 4:00 p.m. with a loss of 505.44 points – a wild swing of 900 points in an hour and a half.
The market didn’t like most of what Powell had to say at his press conference, including that it he felt it was premature to be thinking about the Fed pausing its interest rate hikes.
Common Dreams: ‘Drowning Our Democracy’: US Billionaires Have Pumped Nearly $900,000,000 Into Midterms
With under a week until the U.S. midterm elections, Americans for Tax Fairness revealed Thursday that billionaires have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into campaigns this cycle, largely to benefit Republican candidates.
Xinhua: U.S. manufacturing activity slowest in almost 2.5 yrs in October: Reuters
The United States' manufacturing activity grew at its slowest pace in nearly 2.5 years in October while a measure of prices paid by businesses for inputs slid for a seventh straight month, Reuters has reported.
It linked the slowdown with the Federal Reserve’s aggressive push to raise interest rates in order to quash inflation, an effort that also cools demand for goods.
The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said on Tuesday that its manufacturing PMI fell to 50.2 last month from 50.9 in September, both the lowest readings since May 2020, Reuters reported on Tuesday.
It said a reading above 50 signals expansion in manufacturing, which accounts for 11.9 percent of the U.S. economy, adding that economists polled by Reuters had forecast the index declining to 50.0.
Inside Climate News: Over 130 Power Plants That Have Spawned Leaking Toxic Coal Ash Ponds and Landfills Don’t Think Cleanup Is Necessary
A new report based on electric utilities’ own records reveals a significant challenge confronting the Biden administration as it grapples with enforcing coal ash regulations adopted seven years ago in the wake of natural disasters.
The Environmental Protection Agency waited until January to take its first significant enforcement actions to protect communities from the hundreds of polluting piles of coal ash and other coal-burning waste scattered across the country, often leaking toxic contaminants.
But only half of 265 power plants with ash ponds or landfills that are known to be contaminating groundwater agree that cleanup is necessary, and 96 percent of these dissenters are refusing to propose any groundwater treatment, according to the 212-page report, “Poisonous Coverup: The Widespread Failure of the Power Industry to Clean Up Coal Ash Dumps,” by the Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice.
The report, released Thursday, claims that some power companies are illegally manipulating data and monitoring systems to avoid cleanup requirements and proposing inadequate strategies that will not restore groundwater quality.
Lisa Evans, a senior Earthjustice attorney, described the EPA’s task as immense and blamed that reality in part on the nature of the regulations, which were designed to be “self-implementing,” without requiring any action by a regulatory agency, according to EPA.
Naked Capitalism: The Best Climate News You May Not Have Heard About
A treaty adopted 35 years ago and meant to solve an entirely different problem is also protecting the climate. And with bipartisan support from the Senate and President Joe Biden’s Oct. 26 signature, the U.S. became the world’s 139th nation to adopt a key amendment to that agreement — the first time the U.S. has joined a legally binding global measure specifically to combat climate change.
What is the Kigali Amendment and Why Did the U.S. Senate Support It?
Enter the Kigali Amendment.
Adopted at a United Nations meeting held in the Rwanda capital in October 2016, it uses a variety of policy approaches to throttle back on both the production and consumption of HFCs. The amendment has put the world on track to eliminate more than 80% of HFCs by midcentury.
One reason the Kigali Amendment passed the Senate with bipartisan support (69-27, including 21 of the chamber’s 50 Republicans) is that national action on HFCs along the lines of Kigali was already in gear. The pandemic stimulus bill of late 2020 specified an 85% cut in HFC production by 2030. Many lawmakers, especially those from states with major chemical manufacturing, had recognized that cutting HFCs made sense. For one thing, nations that have not ratified the amendment cannot trade HFCs with those that have.
Bringing down HFCs is an undisputed climate win. If HFCs were to grow at an uncontrolled pace, as they were doing just 20 years ago, they could add close to 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.9 degrees Fahrenheit) to the amount of global heating expected by 2100.
“I think U.S. ratification of Kigali shows that there is no fundamental barrier to stepping up ambition on greenhouse-gas reduction,” Solomon said. “If we can do it with today’s fractured Congress, we can do other things too, like carbon-dioxide reduction.”
Caribbean and South America
People’s Daily: Cubans celebrate UN vote against U.S. embargo
Cubans on Thursday celebrated the overwhelming support they received from the international community at a United Nations vote condemning the U.S. trade embargo against the Caribbean nation.
In the Cuban capital, hundreds of people gathered at University of Havana’s campus to demand the lifting of the six-decade-long U.S. unilateral policy against the island as Cuban state TV broadcast the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session on outdoor giant screens.
The UNGA has now voted 30 consecutive times in favor of the small island’s request to lift the U.S. embargo.
Canadian Dimension: Canada pushes for Caribbean troops to occupy Haiti
Canada is acting just like the junior imperial power it is in a part of the world this country has long considered its backyard.
Washington is asking Ottawa to lead a military mission to Haiti. The Canadian government in turn is leveraging its influence to get Caribbean countries to staff and sell a Haiti force.
Justin Trudeau would prefer to put a black face on his military intervention and Caribbean Community (CARICOM) troops are his preference. On Friday Canada’s prime minister said, “I’m so pleased that there is such an interest by the Caribbean countries to be part of any solution” in Haiti.
Trudeau has repeatedly met with CARICOM officials to discuss Haiti. On Tuesday the Jamaica Gleaner reported, “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has, within a one-week period, held a second round of talks with Caribbean Community leaders on the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian and security situation in Haiti.”
The direct outreach to CARICOM is on top of a broader Canadian campaign which has included Caribbean leaders. Last month Trudeau hosted a meeting on Haiti at the United Nations headquarters in New York while Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly held a gathering to discuss the embattled and poverty-racked Caribbean nation at the Organization of American States summit in Peru.
Bahamian Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis said he would send troops if CARICOM okayed the mission. “If CARICOM decides that the Haitian situation requires the deployment of security troops, then the Bahamas will abide by the outcome of the organization’s resolution,” he declared. Jamaica’s Information Minister Robert Morgan echoed that comment.
If Ottawa convinces CARICOM members to join its imperial endeavor it would highlight Canada’s leverage among the political and economic union of mostly small 15 member states. Ottawa’s influence in the region dates to when the Canada First Movement sought “a closer political connection” with the British West Indies in the 1870s.
TeleSUR: Truckers’ Blockades Lifted in Brazil
Brazil’s Highway Police confirmed Thursday that the totality of the blockades that completely obstructed the passage on the country’s roads, orchestrated by bolsonarista truckers who did not accept the triumph of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as president-elect, were lifted.
“All federal highways (are) free of blockades,” the agency said in a message on Twitter.
According to the highway authority, 936 demonstrations blocking the passage on the main roads of the South American giant were lifted.
TeleSUR: Monomeros: More Than 30,000 Tons of Fertilizers After Recovery
The Venezuelan petrochemical company Monómeros, based in the Colombian city of Barranquilla (north), distributed more than 30,000 tons of fertilizers one month after the government of Nicolás Maduro regained control of it, the Venezuelan oil minister, Tareck El Aissami, said on Friday.
The Ukraine Proxy Conflict
People’s Daily: IAEA finds no sign of undeclared nuclear activities in Ukraine
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Thursday it did not find any indications of undeclared nuclear activities and materials at three locations it had inspected in Ukraine.
“Our technical and scientific evaluation of the results we have so far did not show any sign of undeclared nuclear activities and materials at these three locations,” IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi said, according to a statement on the IAEA website.
A team of IAEA inspectors also collected environmental samples for analysis at the inspected locations and soon will report on their results, Grossi said.
Gray Zone: Leaked documents: British spies constructing secret terror army in Ukraine
Documents obtained by The Grayzone reveal plans by a cell of British military-intelligence figures to organize and train a covert Ukrainian “partisan” army with explicit instructions to attack Russian targets in Crimea.
On October 28th, a Ukrainian drone attack damaged the Russian Black Sea fleet’s flagship vessel in the Crimean port of Sevastopol. Moscow immediately blamed Britain for assisting and orchestrating the strike, as well as blowing up the Nord Stream pipelines – the worst acts of industrial sabotage in recent memory.
The British Ministry of Defense issued a blustery denial in response, branding the accusations “false claims of an epic scale.” Whoever was behind those specific attacks, suspicions of a British hidden hand in the destruction are not unfounded. The Grayzone has obtained leaked documents detailing British military-intelligence operatives inking an agreement with the Security Service of Ukraine’s Odessa branch, to create and train a secret Ukrainian partisan terror army.
Their plans called for the secret army to conduct sabotage and reconnaissance operations targeting Crimea on behalf of the Ukrainian Security Service (SSU) – precisely the kind of attacks witnessed in past weeks.
As The Grazyone previously reported, the same coterie of military-intelligence operatives was responsible for drawing up plans to blow up Crimea’s Kerch Bridge. That goal was fulfilled on October 8th in the form of a suicide truck bomb attack, temporarily disabling the sole connecting point between mainland Russia and Crimea, and triggering a major escalation in Moscow’s attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure.
These blueprints were produced by a military veteran named Hugh Ward, at the request of Chris Donnelly, a British military-intelligence operative best known for hatching the covert, Foreign Office-funded Integrity Initiative information warfare program.
The plans were circulated throughout Donnelly’s private transnational network of military officials, lawmakers and intelligence officials. Such high-level connections underline that he is far from a passive observer in this conflict. He has used his position and contacts to secure the resources necessary to train up the secret saboteur battalion in order to attack Russian targets in Crimea. This wrecking strategy is certain to escalate the war, and undercut any momentum toward negotiation.
Branded “support for maritime raiding operations,” the planned assault on Crimea aims to “degrade” Russia’s ability to blockade Kiev, “erode” Moscow’s “warfighting capability”, and isolate Russian land and maritime forces in Crimea by “denying resupply by sea and overland via Kerch.”
Analysis and Retrospectives
The Right, Broadly Construed
Monthly Review: Lessons from the rise of Mussolini, 100 years on
Outside the Imperial Core
Responsible Statecraft: Warning of ‘imminent’ Iranian attack in Saudi Arabia raises eyebrows
The Saudi government has reportedly shared intelligence with the Biden administration that there are preparations underway for an “imminent” Iranian attack against their country.
According to The Wall Street Journal’s report on Tuesday, the U.S. and several other states in the region have raised the alert level of their militaries in response to this claim. For the record, Iranian officials have denied the substance of these reports.
The Saudi claims raise the specter of a new crisis with Iran and the escalation of regional tensions. The Biden administration must be on guard against being manipulated by the Saudis to extract more U.S. military support, and under no circumstances should it allow the U.S. to be drawn into a new Middle Eastern conflict.
The reports come at a time when U.S.-Saudi relations have worsened significantly and members of Congress have been floating possible punitive measures, including legislation that would require the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The Biden administration has been talking about the need to reevaluate the Saudi relationship, and they have even been considering slowing military assistance to the kingdom.
A sudden security scare involving Iran is exactly what pro-Saudi hawks in the U.S. need to distract attention from the diverging interests of the United States and Saudi Arabia. It should go without saying that the Saudi claims should not be taken at face value. The Saudi government may be trying to tie the hands of its critics in Washington, and it may be trying to box in the Biden administration to stop them from slowing or halting military aid.
Common Dreams: Many of World’s Most Prized Glaciers ‘Will Disappear’ by 2050, UN Warns
Glaciers in one-third of the 50 World Heritage sites where they are found are set to disappear by 2050 even if planet-heating emissions are curbed, the United Nations warned in a report published Thursday.
Extant greenhouse gas pollution has locked in so much global warming that even if temperature rise is limited to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels—a goal the U.N. said last week is unattainable without “urgent system-wide transformation”—many of the world’s most prized glaciers, including those in Yellowstone and Yosemite national parks in the U.S. as well as in Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro National Park, “will disappear” by mid-century, according to the U.N. Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Two-thirds of World Heritage site glaciers can be preserved “if emissions are drastically cut” and warming is capped at 1.5°C, says the study, prepared in partnership with the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). Existing climate targets and policies are so weak that the planet is currently projected to be 2.1 to 2.9°C hotter by 2100.
Iraqi News: Arctic fires could release catastrophic amounts of C02: study
Global warming is responsible for bigger and bigger fires in Siberia, and in the decades ahead they could release huge amounts of carbon now trapped in the soil, says a report out Thursday.
Researchers fear a threshold might soon be crossed, beyond which small changes in temperature could lead to an exponential increase in area burned in that region.
In 2019 and 2020, fires in this remote part of the world destroyed a surface area equivalent to nearly half of that which burned in the previous 40 years, said this study, which was published in the journal Science.
These recent fires themselves have spewed some 150 million tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, the scientists estimate, contributing to global warming in what researchers call a feedback loop.
The area above the Arctic circle heats up four times faster than the rest of the planet and “it is this climate amplification which causes abnormal fire activity,” David Gaveau, one of the authors of this study, told AFP.
Researchers concentrated on an area five and a half times the size of France and with satellite pictures observed the surface area burned each year from 1982 to 2020.
In 2020, fire charred more than 2.5 million hectares (6.2 million acres) of land and released, in CO2 equivalent, as much as that emitted by Spain in one year, the scientists concluded.
That year, summer in Siberia was on average three times hotter than it was in 1980. The Russian city of Verkhoyansk hit 38 degrees Celsius in summer, a record for the Arctic.
The average air temperature in summer, from June to August, surpassed 10 degrees Celsius only four times in the period under study: in 2001, 2018, 2019 and 2020. These turned out to be the years with the most fires too.
The team fears that this threshold at 10 degrees Celsius will be a breaking point that is surpassed more and more often, said Gaveau.