Global Events, the United Nations, and Disease

Multipolarista: IMF warns of ‘wave of debt crises’ coming in Global South, with war, interest rate hikes, overvalued dollar

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said a “wave of debt crises” may be coming in the Global South, and “the global economy is headed for stormy waters,” as the world faces a “geopolitical realignment” that will be “permanent.”

The US-dominated financial institution warned “the worst is yet to come,” as the depreciation of most currencies against the dollar and rising interest rates make it hard for both governments and companies to service their dollar-denominated debt.

The director of the IMF’s research department, Pierre‑Olivier Gourinchas, made these comments in a press briefing on October 11.

Countries comprising a third of the entire global economy are expected to contract in 2022 or 2023, he prognosticated.

“In short, the worst is yet to come; and for many people, 2023 will feel like a recession,” he said.

Gourinchas explained that “the energy crisis, especially in Europe, is not a transitory shock. The geopolitical realignment of energy supplies in the wake of the war is both broad and permanent.”

Furthermore, the rallying of the US dollar against most other currencies could fuel a global economic crisis, he warned.

“The strength of the dollar is also a major challenge. The dollar is now at its strongest since the early 2000s, mostly against advanced economies but also against emerging markets,” the top IMF researcher said.

He advised Global South nations to conserve “valuable foreign exchange reserves for when financial conditions really worsen,” cautioning, “as the global economy is headed for stormy waters, now is the time for emerging market policymakers to batten down the hatches.”

“Too many low‑income countries are close to or are already in debt distress. Progress toward orderly debt restructuring,” he said, “is urgently needed to avert a wave of sovereign debt crises. Time may soon run out.”

He acknowledged, “there is, effectively, a serious issue of debt restructuring that is needed for a number of especially low‑income countries.”

TeleSUR: G20 Announces Fund To Prepare for Future Pandemics

The Group of 20 (G20) announced this Sunday in Indonesia, a fund of 1.4 billion dollars to prepare for future pandemics, a sum considered insufficient by the country hosting the summit of leaders of the organization to be held this Tuesday and Wednesday.

During a press conference, Indonesian President Joko Wikodo explained that this fund, in which 24 countries are participating, aims to “prevent and prepare for a pandemic”.

The initiative, taken by the Ministers of Health and Finance, and also by three charities, aims to strengthen health systems and control budget gaps over five years.

TeleSUR: Presidents Xi and Biden Meet in Bali

On Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden met ahead of the Group of 20 summit in Indonesia’s resort island of Bali.

Both leaders reaffirmed their willingness to work together and reduce the tensions that have brought the bilateral relationship between their countries to one of its lowest points. Biden expressed his desire to keep the lines of communication between China and the United States open due to the responsibility shared by the two powers.

“Our two nations share a responsibility to manage their differences, we must prevent competition from escalating into something akin to conflict. We must find ways to work together on urgent global issues that require our cooperation,” the U.S. president said.


Reuters: U.S. may skirt recession in 2023, Europe not so lucky - Morgan Stanley

Britain and the euro zone economies are likely to tip into recession next year, Morgan Stanley said, but the United States might make a narrow escape thanks to a resilient job market.

At the same time, China’s expected reopening after almost three years of COVID-19 curbs is set to lead a recovery in its own economy and other emerging Asian markets, the investment bank’s analysts said in a series of reports published on Sunday.

“Risks are to the downside,” the reports said, projecting the global economy to grow by 2.2% next year, lower than the International Monetary Fund’s latest 2.7% growth estimate.

Financial Times: European stocks resume gains after 3% rise last week

European and Asian stocks rose on Monday, while US futures fell, even as cooler than expected inflation data for the world’s biggest economy released last week boosted investors’ hopes that the Federal Reserve could soon slow the pace of monetary tightening.

I swear I’ve seen this shit a few times now. Every time, stocks rise due to hopes that the Fed will stop raising interest rates. Every time, the Fed doesn’t stop raising interest rates.


RT: Most Russian businesses have adapted to sanctions – survey

The majority of Russian entrepreneurs say they have adjusted to Western sanctions and continue to work as usual, according to a recent poll.

The survey was conducted in October by a research team working for the Russian Ombudsman for Entrepreneurs' Rights and polled 5,760 business leaders from all regions of the country. A total of 55.4% of respondents said that they had completely adapted to the restrictions or were getting used to the new conditions.

“That is, most of the [business] community has endured the aftermath of the sanctions. Only 10.5% of the respondents said they could not cope with the consequences of the restrictions, while 16.3% said they did not notice them at all,” the study said.

Just 9% of those polled claimed that they had retained stable income growth, while 30.4% recorded a decline in profit but stressed that the situation was under control. A serious slump was reported by 27% of entrepreneurs, and 7% said they were facing a crisis. The survey found that only 6% had closed their businesses or were planning to do so.

United Kingdom

WSWS: PCS union delays strike date announcement after largest ever vote by 100,000 UK civil servants

On Thursday the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union announced that 100,000 civil servants in Britain had voted for strike action for a pay increase and in defence of jobs and pensions.

The action was voted for across 126 employer areas including museum staff, driving examiners at the Department for Transport, job centre staff and those processing benefits at the Department of Work and Pensions, Border Force officials and passport workers. The average vote in favour was 86.2 percent, the largest mandate in the history of the union.

This pent-up opposition among civil service workers is a shared sentiment throughout the working class against the demand for further sacrifice and renewed austerity as the profits of the corporations and chief executives have soared throughout the pandemic.

In total 150,000 members of the PCS were balloted with an average turnout of 51.6 percent above the 50 percent threshold required under law. But the vote was conducted on a disaggregated basis. This means that 86 employer areas where the threshold was not met are excluded from taking action. In eight employer areas the turnout shortfall was as low as by one vote.

The PCS did not register a protest, such is the level of servility within the union hierarchy regarding the draconian anti-strike legislation used against their members. Civil service workers can be denied the right to strike by a government headed by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, appointed by the votes of just 200 Tory MP’s through a palace coup leading to the coronation of the third Tory prime minister in three months. PCS members are now staring down the barrel of the austerity measures being prepared by Sunak, the near billionaire and personification of the financial oligarchy that placed him in power.

Iraqi News: France, UK sign new deal on thwarting migrant Channel crossings

France and the UK on Monday signed a new agreement to work together to stop migrants crossing the Channel to England in small boats, a source of huge bilateral tension.

Under the agreement, Britain will pay France 72.2 million euros ($74.5 million) in 2022-2023 so that Paris can increase by 40 percent the numbers of security forces patrolling its northern beaches, the French interior ministry said.

This means some 350 additional members of the French security forces will be patrolling following the deal, signed in Paris by French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin and British counterpart Suella Braverman.

London and Paris also pledged to use technological and human resources on the French coast to better detect, monitor and intercept boats.

They want to collect and use information, in particular from intercepted migrants, to better dismantle smuggling networks and deter crossings.

For the first time, teams of observers will be deployed on both sides of the Channel to “strengthen common understanding”, improve the debriefings of migrants and increase exchanges of information.

The deal comes after the UK government said on Sunday that more than 40,000 migrants have crossed the Channel to Britain so far this year, a new record.

The provisional total for this year stands at 40,885, most of them Albanians, Iranians and Afghans — well in excess of last year’s 28,561, the Ministry of Defence said.


RT: EU country sees record jump in food costs

Food inflation in Finland saw the biggest year-on-year increase of 15.7% last month, TASS reported on Monday, citing the latest data released by the country’s statistics center.

The price surge, which is reportedly the steepest since Finland joined the European Union 27 years ago, has been attributed to “a rise of prices for fertilizers and energy carriers caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine.”

East Asia and Oceania


Iraqi News: China unveils sweeping measures to rescue property sector

Chinese authorities have unveiled sweeping measures to rescue struggling property sector, as regulators seek to offset years of harsh pandemic curbs and a real estate crackdown that have stalled the world’s number-two economy.

The banking regulator and central bank on Friday issued a 16-point set of internal directives to promote the “stable and healthy development” of the industry, which were verified by Chinese media on Monday.

The measures include credit support for debt-laden housing developers, financial support to ensure completion and handover of projects to homeowners, and assistance for deferred-payment loans for homebuyers.

That came on the same day the National Health Commission issued 20 rules for “optimising” Beijing’s zero-Covid policy, where certain restrictions were relaxed to limit the policy’s social and economic impact.


WSWS: Japan, UK to sign military agreement next month

Japan and the United Kingdom are preparing to sign a new agreement in December that will facilitate and further develop military cooperation between the two and with the United States. It comes as part of Washington’s efforts to tighten its network of alliances throughout the Indo-Pacific as part of its war drive against China.

Citing two anonymous sources familiar with the discussions between London and Tokyo, the Financial Times (FT) reported on November 6 that the deal, known as a Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA), will make joint military exercises and logistics between the UK and Japan easier, while also simplifying the process of troops from one country entering the other. Talks on the deal began in May when Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida met then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London.


SCMP: China-Australia relations: Canberra confirms PM Anthony Albanese to hold talks with China’s President Xi Jinping

Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has confirmed that he would meet Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Group of 20 Summit in Indonesia on Tuesday, marking a possible turning point in bilateral ties that have been largely frozen in recent years.

Albanese would be the first Australian leader to have a formal meeting with Xi in six years, according to Australian media.

Central Asia and the Middle East


WSWS: Bomb attack in Istanbul: At least six people killed, 81 injured

Yesterday afternoon, at least six people were killed and 81 injured, two of them seriously, in a bomb attack on Istiklal Avenue, one of the most crowded areas in Istanbul.

While no one has yet claimed responsibility for this murderous terrorist attack targeting civilians, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu made a statement this morning, claiming that the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) was behind the attack and that the real “killer” was the United States.

Soylu said, “The person who left the bomb was detained. Within the framework of the findings we have obtained, [the organization that carried out the attack] is the PKK/PYD terrorist organization.” The US-backed Democratic Union Party (PYD) is the Syrian sister organization of the PKK.


People’s Daily: Thousands of Iranians died of COVID-19 due to U.S. sanctions: official

A top Iranian human rights official on Sunday blamed U.S. sanctions that deny Iranians access to essential medicines for thousands of deaths in the country during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kazem Gharibabadi, secretary of the Iranian High Council for Human Rights and deputy chief of the Iranian Judiciary for international affairs, made the remarks while speaking to Iranian media in New York, Iran’s official news agency IRNA reported. During the visit, he will attend the United Nations General Assembly Third Committee meetings, according to IRNA.

Gharibabadi noted that the sanctions, preventing Iran from transferring money through financial channels, made it difficult for the country to import COVID-19 vaccines and the necessary medicine during that period.

The United States and some European countries claimed to support Iranians' human rights, particularly during the recent “riots” in Iran, while the lives of millions of Iranians have been affected by the U.S. unilateral sanctions and some European countries' compliance, he said.


Al Jazeera: Imran Khan’s U-turn: No longer blaming US for his ouster as PM

Imran Khan, Pakistan’s former prime minister, has signalled his readiness to mend ties with the United States after repeatedly accusing Washington of conspiring to remove him from power in April.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s over, it’s behind me. The Pakistan I want to lead must have good relationships with everyone, especially the United States,” he said in an interview with the Financial Times published on Saturday.

While he expressed a willingness to work with the US if he is re-elected and said he wants a “dignified” relationship with the US, the 70-year-old also criticised Pakistan’s relationship with the US.

“Our relationship with the US has been as of a master-servant relationship, or a master-slave relationship, and we’ve been used like a hired gun. But for that I blame my own governments more than the US,” he said.


Guardian: Increasing demand for oil and fuel threatens African nations’ economies, analysis finds

Expanding oil and gas exports would threaten the economic stability of many African countries, new analysis has found, despite soaring fossil fuel prices.

Demand for fossil fuels is likely to fall sharply in the medium term, according to a report published on Monday by the Carbon Tracker thinktank. That makes relying on gas exports to fuel economic growth a short-term, risky strategy, while boosting solar power would prove a better long-term bet, the analysis found.

Although gas prices are high now, and the top five oil and gas companies alone have made profits of more than $170bn so far this year, gas revenues would fall by half by 2040, and the gas market would see record low prices owing to shrinking demand, the report forecast.

That would leave Africa with huge investments in gas infrastructure, but no export market, if countries pursued a “dash for gas” now, the analysis found.


Al Jazeera: East Africa bloc announces peace talks for eastern DRC

East African leaders on Sunday announced peace talks in a bid to stabilise the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where M23 rebels clashed with troops just north of its key city of Goma over the weekend.

The seven-nation East African Community (EAC) stated that it would hold a “peace dialogue” on eastern DRC on November 21 in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

The announcement came as Congolese troops clashed anew with the M23 north of the volatile region’s main city Goma, officials said.


TeleSUR: Mozambique Starts Exporting Liquefied Natural Gas

Mozambique made the first export of liquefied natural gas under the Coral Sul project, in the Rovuma basin, announced President Filipe Nyusi.

“Today Mozambique enters the annals of world history as one of the countries exporting liquefied natural gas, which in addition to representing an alternative source of supply, contributes greatly to the energy security of the countries with the highest consumption,” Nyusi said, quoted by Noticias newspaper.

The tanker British Sponsor, according to the president, is the first to leave the territorial waters to the international market under a long-term sale and purchase agreement with BP.


TeleSUR: UN Chief Urges Implementation of Peace Agreement in Ethiopia

On Sunday, the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged parties to the conflict in Ethiopia to take concrete steps to implement the recently signed peace agreement.

The African Union (AU) announced Saturday that after a four-day meeting sponsored by the organization, the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) have agreed to facilitate humanitarian access in conflict-hit parts of northern Ethiopia.

The parties to the conflict have agreed to promote unhindered humanitarian access for all in need in Tigray and neighboring regions, and facilitate the movement of humanitarian aid workers, the AU said.

Guterres welcomes Saturday’s agreement between the parties and reiterates the United Nations' readiness to support, said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN chief.

North America

United States

Counterpunch: Conservative Governance has Undermined U.S. Life Expectancy

Although, in recent decades, American conservatives have embraced what they call the “Right to Life,” they have certainly done a poor job of sustaining life in the United States. That’s the conclusion that can be drawn from a just-published scientific study, “U.S. state policy contexts and mortality of working-age adults.”

Funded by a grant from the U.S. National Institute on Aging and prepared by a group of U.S. and Canadian researchers, the study found a close relationship, in the period from 1999 to 2019, between the mortality rates of Americans between 20 and 64 years of age and the conservative or liberal control of their state governments.

Specifically, the study concluded that a state’s liberal policies promoting gun safety, environmental protections, labor rights (e.g., minimum wage and paid leave), progressive taxation, and tobacco control lowered mortality rates. By contrast, a state’s conservative policies in these areas increased a state’s death rate. Thus, in 2019, life expectancy in conservative Mississippi stood at 74.4 years; in liberal Hawaii, at 80.9 years.

The authors estimated that if all states had had a maximum liberal orientation in the public policy areas studied, 171,030 working-age lives would have been saved in 2019 alone. On the other hand, if all states had had a maximum conservative orientation that year, an additional 217,635 working-age deaths would have occurred.

WSWS: Doctors and nurses warn of “breaking point” in hospital ERs

A letter to the Biden administration jointly penned last week by 33 medical groups, that include the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) and Emergency Nurses Association (ENA), paints a devastating picture of the ongoing crisis that is overtaking emergency departments across the country.

The letter was sent to President Joe Biden with a copy to Secretary Xavier Becerra of the Department of Health and Human Services and Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas of the US Department of Homeland Security.

The letter’s authors asked for a summit of health care leaders to carry out urgent collective action to address the evolving crisis, in which “Emergency departments (EDs) have been brought to a breaking point.”

There has not been a word by the Biden administration in response to the nine-page letter. In the wake of the midterm elections, prosecution of the war in Ukraine and otherwise pursuing the interests of American imperialism remain foremost on the White House’s agenda. While all its attention goes to foreign policy, all mitigation measures against the COVID pandemic lifted ahead of what is likely to be a devastating winter of disease and death.

WSWS: “These living conditions are without dignity”: University of California academic workers begin powerful strike across 10 campuses

On Monday, 48,000 academic workers throughout the entire University of California (UC) school system will launch a powerful, indefinite strike. Workers are protesting poverty wages and the soaring cost of living in one of the most expensive parts of the world. Academic workers, like all other sections of the working class, are increasingly burdened by the soaring cost of living and stagnant wages. In the United States, university student workers, many of whom are international students, are paid an average of $23,000.

The UC system is one of the largest employers in the state of California and is a multibillion-dollar enterprise. As the cheap labor that runs the expansive organization, UC workers are a powerful social force that is capable of winning all of their demands.

The World Socialist Web Site spoke with academic workers over the weekend at UC San Diego and UC Irvine about the conditions they face and why they will be striking.

Caribbean and South America


Guardian: Peruvian Amazon Indigenous leaders to lobby banks to cut ties with state oil firm

Native leaders from the Peruvian Amazon are to travel to the US this week to lobby banks to cut financial ties with Peru’s state oil company, Petroperú.

Leaders from the Achuar and Wampis peoples say the state company is responsible for oil spills in their territory that violate their human rights by polluting their water sources and irreparably damaging their fishing and hunting grounds.

They are also demanding the Peruvian government and banks stop oil exploration and investment in all Indigenous territories in the Peruvian Amazon, the second largest part of the rainforest after Brazil.

Nelton Yankur, the president of the Achuar Federation, said Petroperú had “caused so much damage to our population” over 40 years of drilling for oil and transporting it through their territory.

The Ukraine Proxy Conflict

Naked Capitalism: Kherson, Cognitive Dissonance, and the Under-the-Radar Electrical War

Even though Russian officials seemed to have calmed the nerves of their public over the unexpected but well-executed Kherson withdrawal, there’s a surprisingly high level of upset among Western commentators. That may in part be due to use of the emotion-multiplier known as Russian Telegram. But is it particularly striking given the muted reaction from Ukraine, which had apparently lost an opportunity to push Russia out and claim a clear military victory

And as I’ll get to shortly, all of the tearing of hair and rending of sackcloth about Kherson ignores the way the electrical grid damage is festering and set to become gangrenous.

Some commentators have been explicit that they are upset with the Russian military for going too slowly and therefore deem it to incompetent.

But the peanut gallery does not get to set the pace of this conflict. Russia has maintained from the get-go that they do not have a timetable. We’ve pointed out that Russia is running a multi-fronted war: geopolitical (where Russia has done extremely well in winning the tacit and even overt support of China, India, Saudi Arabia, and much of the Global South), economic, political, information, and of course military.

According to critics, Russia has been too leisurely and the Kherson retreat is one of the consequences. But Russia trying to conduct a limited campaign and spare civilians as the West piled on innocent-bystander-punishing sanctions helped win over much of the world. These quiet allies are critical from an economic perspective as Russia reorients away from the West.

Those shock and awe sanctions also constrained Russia early on. Its public was rattled, concerned about whether the war was necessary, where it was going, and whether jobs and even basic services would be gutted. An early large call-up of forces could have been seen as an admission that the Kremlin had miscalculated, on top of the miscalculation of the massive economic sanctions. Even in June, I doubt there would have been enough public support. It took time for the US/EU hatred of Russia to sink in, that Putin had been right about the inevitability of the conflict and the need for Russia to turn its back on Europe.

Time was also on Russia’s side. The sanctions were doing ever-growing damage to the West, particularly Europe, while Russia was recovering. A slow, grinding war would conserve Russian forces as it ate through Western weapons stocks and increasingly, seasoned fighters. A longer conflict also drains US and European coffers directly now that the Ukraine economy has collapsed and is now needing billions a month to stay afloat, on top of the cost of the war effort.

Having said all that, both Western and some high-profile Russia-friendly commetators early on pumped the idea that Russia could or should be moving quickly. Those costly “big arrow” moves across Ukraine set expectations. And Dmitry Medvedev, former President and Deputy Chairman of the Security Council, didn’t help by cheekily publishing his proposal for the end-game way back in July.

I will confess I did not appreciate how hard it would be to crack the layered fortifications constructed over eight years in Donbass. Brian Berletic gives a good explanation below, staring at 1:15:40:

Berletic says the way to speed up the process is, if possible, cutting supply lines. It’s not apparent from his discussion that throwing more men at a bunkered area would necessarily clear it faster. There is likely a point of diminishing returns in a concentrated area. Recall also that some on Russian Telegram have claimed that most of the Russian casualties in Mariupol were from friendly fire!

Recall also that before the “liberated” territories were formally made part of Russia in the first week of October, Russia had a kludgey command structure: DPR and LPR militias as key coalition partners, Chechens and the Wagner group adding to on-the-ground muscle, Russian artillery and air support in the Donbass, and mainly Russian BTGs holding the line in the south. Until then, Russia was somewhat hostage to the wishes of the DPR and LPR. Recall defense chief Sergei Shoigu paid a visit to their political leaders and as a result, Russia moved more forces opposite Donetsk city, despite that being an exceptionally well-fortified area, and away from the campaign to retake the Sloviansk-Kramatorsk area.

So why did so many commentators, including yours truly, wrong-foot Kherson despite newly-appointed theater commander Sergey Surovkin mentioning the possible need to make “difficult decisions” and most analysts taking that to mean a possible Kherson pullout? Oh a high level, an issue is cognitive dissonance. Even though Putin described one of the three objectives of the Special Military Operation as demilitarization plus Russia having a long history of being willing to cede territory if it better enables them to hurt the enemy (whether via encirclement, falling back to a better position, or merely not wasting manpower in a poor spot to fight), that’s not how wars are reported. They are about who owns what on a map and who is hoisting their flag over a captured government building. You can’t very readily tell which side is inflicting more deaths and casualties. However, we can see that a mere nine months into the conflict, that Russia is severely depleting not just Ukraine but even US/NATO weapons caches, as attested by the lower and lower resupply numbers of everything from tanks and armored vehicles to 155 mm shells.

I accepted the logic of the Kharkiv withdrawal, that it was strategically unimportant and not worth keeping, maybe because it too clearly resembled the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

I didn’t examine the situation in Kherson carefully enough till after the retreat. Despite accepting the “military necessities take priority over politics,” and “if you destroy the army, the terrain will follow,” I didn’t look at the military necessity part other than casually. Kherson is a Black Sea port, albeit not a big one. Kherson is on a rail line going to Nickolaev, then Odessa. Presumably roads run that way too. Seems mighty important!

But it turned out with the Antonovsky Bridge being largely disabled, supplying even a Kherson force of 20,000ish using pontoon bridges and ferries was almost untenably hard. That meant building up the fighting force needed to move further west of 3 to 5 times that size was a non-starter. Surovkin points that out in passing in his staged conversation with Shoigu.

Note Surovkin mentioning that the Kherson city troops were in a “restricted” area, hinting that offensive operations would be difficult. In addition, even if Russia could have staged an attack force in Kherson, it would have been vulnerable to attacks on its flank as it moved parallel to the Black Sea coast.

Finally, I had accepted the views of some commentators who had argued that dams and bridges are hard to destroy. However, the Russian seemed mighty worried about the possibility of Ukraine eventually succeeding in blowing up the Nova Kakhovka dam, which would then flood Kherson city, killing civilians and making Russian troops sitting ducks for a Urkaine attack.

Finally, Russia is very carefully playing a trump card, which is the destruction of big sections of Ukraine’s electrical grid. Russia has been framing this campaign as taking out dual use infrastructure, which means “It’s OK if it serves civilians if it also has a meaningful military use.” So far, Russia has been focusing on transmission lines, junctions, and transformers, and sparing generating capacity. However, if Russia continues to balkanize the grid, some areas near major power plants will be more or less OK while others will become desperate.

Russia has been saying very little about it. The Ministry of Defense does not include these attacks in its daily “clobber list”. For the most part, these attacks get only a passing mention from regular commentators and sites like Rybar. But there was a round of strikes last Wednesday morning and overnight Saturday into Sunday, so they seem to be proceeding at a pace of at least twice a week. And if Ukraine pulls a stunt like its attack on Sevastopol, whether successful or not, Russia is sure to use that as an excuse for a big set of strikes on the grid, with license to be not so sparing of more civilian-ish targets.

Thus given the relative silence about this campaign, it’s hard to see what Russia’s aims are. Will these 2x a week attacks keep the Ukraine grid at a reduction of 40% of capacity, or is it intended to keep degrading it from there? Note that General Winter is also effectively taking out even more juice. From Kiev Novyny on the 13th, via machine translation:

In Kyiv, they may start turning off electricity for a longer period of time. The reason is a decrease in air temperature.

This was announced by the executive director of DTEK Dmytro Sakharuk during the telethon

“When the temperature drops in our country, consumption will increase. Every 5-7 degrees of temperature decrease is 10% of consumption on the territory of Ukraine on average,” Sakharuk said.

According to him, if specialists do not have time to repair and increase the amount of electricity that can be supplied to the capital, the periods of power outages may increase.

Mathematically guesstimating, if Ukraine is at 60% of regular output, if we generously take 10% of that level (as opposed to 10% of the original 100%), that would mean 54% effective output at colder temperatures. And it’s only going to get colder.

In addition, there’s been remarkably little discussion of the impact on Ukraine businesses. How many can function with frequent blackouts? Ukraine’s economy is already in desperate shape. The power shortages will only intensify its crisis. That also means the West will have to provide even more dough if it hopes to stave off collapse.

Ukraine and the West are oddly quiet too, which seems odd given that having mothers and babies sitting in the cold and dark make for great grist for yet more Russia demonization. However, the Ukraine paper Stana reports that some officials are encouraging Kiev residents to leave:

If the people of Kiev have the opportunity to spend the winter “in more comfortable conditions,” “then it can be done,” said Andriy Vitrenko, a member of the Kyiv City Council, referring to the problems with energy that many predict in winter.

That is, he hinted that it was better to leave the capital if possible.

There is the wee question of where they go, particularly given that Kiev has (or had) about 3 million residents. It’s not likely that nearby areas will be all that much better situated. That means, as John Helmer pointed out early on, Russia has enormous leverage via its ability to trigger a mass exodus of refugees, with Poland likely the biggest recipient.

So is the Russia “go slowly” approach to have plausible deniability? Or in hope that the West recognizes this source of leverage and reacts accordingly as more Ukrainians cross the borders?

The problem is, of course, that the US is driving this train and has perilous concern for the costs inflicted on Europe, as we can infer from its almost certain endorsement of/participation in the Nord Stream pipeline attacks.

Like those half a million dead Iraqi babies, millions of suffering Europeans is not too high a price for achieving US ends, most of all since we aren’t the ones who pay.

Gray Zone: UN envoy admits fabricating claim of Viagra-fueled rape as ‘Russian military strategy’

UN Special Representative Pramila Patten has been exposed for fabricating her claim that Russia was supplying its troops with Viagra as a part of its “military strategy” in the Ukraine conflict. The widely publicized lie was recycled from baseless NATO propaganda deployed during its 2011 Libyan regime change war.

In a November 10 call with Russian pranksters Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexey Stolyarov, better known by their aliases Vovan and Lexus, UN Envoy on Sexual Violence Pramila Patten admitted that there was no evidence to back up her widely publicized claims from October that the Russian government was using Viagra-fueled mass rape as a weapon of war.

During the call, Vovan and Lexus pressed Patten on whether she had any proof of her incendiary allegation. Clearly flustered, Patten responded: “No, no, no. And I don’t — like I said, it’s not my role to go and investigate. I sit in New York, in an office in New York, and I have an advocacy — and I have an advocacy mandate. My role is not to investigate.”

She continued: “The investigation is going on by the Human Rights Monitoring Team and the International Commission of Inquiry. In their reports so far, there’s nothing about Viagra.”

Patten told the pranksters that the claim was relayed to her “from survivors and service providers” and “in the presence of” high-ranking Ukrainian officials while she was in Kiev in early May.

AntiWar: Congressional Amendment Opens Floodgates for War Profiteers and a Major Ground War on Russia

If the powerful leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senators Jack Reed (D) and Jim Inhofe (R), have their way, Congress will soon invoke wartime emergency powers to build up even greater stockpiles of Pentagon weapons. The amendment is supposedly designed to facilitate replenishing the weapons the United States has sent to Ukraine, but a look at the wish list contemplated in this amendment reveals a different story.

Reed and Inhofe’s idea is to tuck their wartime amendment into the FY2023 National Defense Appropriation Act (NDAA) that will be passed during the lameduck session before the end of the year. The amendment sailed through the Armed Services Committee in mid-October and, if it becomes law, the Department of Defense will be allowed to lock in multi-year contracts and award non-competitive contracts to arms manufacturers for Ukraine-related weapons.

If the Reed/Inhofe amendment is really aimed at replenishing the Pentagon’s supplies, then why do the quantities in its wish list vastly surpass those sent to Ukraine?

Let’s do the comparison:

The current star of U.S. military aid to Ukraine is Lockheed Martin’s HIMARS rocket system, the same weapon US Marines used to help reduce much of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, to rubble in 2017. The US has only sent 38 HIMARS systems to Ukraine, but Senators Reed and Inhofe plan to “reorder” 700 of them, with 100,000 rockets, which could cost up to $4 billion.

Another artillery weapon provided to Ukraine is the M777 155 mm howitzer. To “replace” the 142 M777s sent to Ukraine, the senators plan to order 1,000 of them, at an estimated cost of $3.7 billion, from BAE Systems.

HIMARS launchers can also fire Lockheed Martin’s long-range (up to 190 miles) MGM-140 ATACMS missiles, which the US has not sent to Ukraine. In fact the US has only ever fired 560 of them, mostly at Iraq in 2003. The even longer-range “Precision Strike Missile,” formerly prohibited under the INF Treaty renounced by Trump, will start replacing the ATACMS in 2023, yet the Reed-Inhofe Amendment would buy 6,000 ATACMS, 10 times more than the US has ever used, at an estimated cost of $600 million.

Reed and Inhofe plan to buy 20,000 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles from Raytheon. But Congress already spent $340 million for 2,800 Stingers to replace the 1,400 sent to Ukraine. Reed and Inhofe’s amendment will “re-replenish” the Pentagon’s stocks 14 times over, which could cost $2.4 billion.

The United States has supplied Ukraine with only two Harpoon anti-ship missile systems – already a provocative escalation – but the amendment includes 1,000 Boeing Harpoon missiles (at about $1.4 billion) and 800 newer Kongsberg Naval Strike Missiles (about $1.8 billion), the Pentagon’s replacement for the Harpoon.

The Patriot air defense system is another weapon the US has not sent to Ukraine, because each system can cost a billion dollars and the basic training course for technicians to maintain and repair it takes more than a year to complete. And yet the Inhofe-Reed wish list includes 10,000 Patriot missiles, plus launchers, which could add up to $30 billion.

ATACMS, Harpoons and Stingers are all weapons the Pentagon was already phasing out, so why spend billions of dollars to buy thousands of them now? What is this really all about? Is this amendment a particularly egregious example of war profiteering by the military-industrial-Congressional complex? Or is the United States really preparing to fight a major ground war against Russia?

Our best judgment is that both are true.

Looking at the weapons list, military analyst and retired Marine Colonel Mark Cancian noted: “This isn’t replacing what we’ve given [Ukraine]. It’s building stockpiles for a major ground war [with Russia] in the future. This is not the list you would use for China. For China we’d have a very different list.”

President Biden says he will not send US troops to fight Russia because that would be World War III. But the longer the war goes on and the more it escalates, the more it becomes clear that US forces are directly involved in many aspects of the war: helping to plan Ukrainian operations; providing satellite-based intelligence; waging cyber warfare; and operating covertly inside Ukraine as special operations forces and CIA paramilitaries. Now Russia has accused British special operations forces of direct roles in a maritime drone attack on Sevastopol and the destruction of the Nord Stream gas pipelines.

As US involvement in the war has escalated despite Biden’s broken promises, the Pentagon must have drawn up contingency plans for a full-scale war between the United States and Russia. If those plans are ever executed, and if they do not immediately trigger a world-ending nuclear war, they will require vast quantities of specific weapons, and that is the purpose of the Reed-Inhofe stockpiles.

Analysis and Retrospectives

The Left, Broadly Construed

WSWS: Chilean dockworkers and the role of the unions and the pseudo-left: Lessons from the 2014 and 2018 strikes

Port workers ended a 48-hour protest walkout in Chile on October 28, but threatened an indefinite strike if the pseudo-left administration of President Gabriel Boric fails to fulfill promises it made to the sector.

The protest action was called amid a worsening situation caused by spiraling inflation and rising interest rates that are pushing the economy into recession. It is part of a wider mobilization among youth and workers; student protests and a number of strikes among teachers, health professionals, pharmaceutical employees and migrant delivery workers broke out in October.

In light of this growing militancy in the working class, political lessons need to be drawn from the perfidious role of all the present organizations—including the Chilean unions, the pseudo-left backers of Boric and various Pabloites tendencies—that dominate the working class in order to prevent yet another series of betrayals invariably sold off as victories.

This is a very long article, so I won’t include it all here.

Inside the Imperial Core

Jacobin: Canada’s Liberals Expect the Working Class to Bear the Brunt of the Economic Downturn

No one expected the Liberal government’s fall economic statement to be transformative — and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland delivered on that anticipated lack of ambition. While the budget update wasn’t an austerity plan — and while a handful of measures ought to be welcomed — the thrust of the statement was business as usual at a time that begs for doing things differently in a big way. “We are keeping out powder dry,” Freeland said of the insipid statement in a speech that warned of a looming recession, should the potential downside of the country’s economic projections come to pass.

As you’d expect in a suite of Liberal priorities, the economic update had a handful of tax measures and retraining funds to encourage and facilitate investment here and there, with a focus on greening the economy. As ever, the party’s running assumption is that we can tinker our way out of climate catastrophe with a tax credit. The statement also promised to facilitate easier access to the Canada workers benefit through advance payment to previous qualifiers, which is good. Such programs should be low-barrier and easy to access.

Freeland is also promising to move beyond the government’s pandemic measure of freezing student and apprentice loan interest to permanently eliminating it beginning in April 2023. As senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives David Macdonald puts it, the move is “literally the very least the government could do for students.” Indeed. Tuition rates are up in Canada and student debt is crushing those who choose to pursue postsecondary education, especially in the midst of an affordability crisis.

The economic update was delivered in the context of rising interest rates, soaring costs, a potential recession, and surging corporate profits. Freeland tried to put a positive spin on the current imbroglio, boasting that “Canadians are tough and the Canadian economy is resilient. And that’s why we can all be confident we will get through this, just as we have gotten through so much over these past two-and-a-half years.” Of course, not all Canadians need to be “tough” in the same way and to the same extent. Not those who run corporations heavy with excess profits that won’t be taxed, as the New Democratic Party had hoped they would.

“In fact, there is no country in the world better placed than Canada to get through the coming global slowdown,” Freeland continued. In the face of continuing — and probably increasing — hardship, those who are struggling will have to struggle just a little longer. Isn’t that always the way? Help is coming. It’s just over the horizon. Just keep waiting, it’ll arrive.

As Macdonald points out, after-tax corporate profits just hit 20 percent of GDP. That’s a record. The standard-bearer for corporate largesse, Loblaw, just reported an extra $1 million in profits per day, in the last quarter, as food prices jumped about 11 percent year over year. Across the board, grocery chains are reaping massive profits while people struggle to feed themselves.

But the suffering will pay off, Freeland promises. If we can just hold out a few years “with our fundamental economic strengths preserved, and the pandemic recession behind us,” well, then the world is our oyster. Because “there is no country in the world better placed than Canada to thrive in a post-COVID global economy.”

Outside the Imperial Core

Jacobin: How Oil Workers in Trinidad and Tobago Fought to Revolutionize Fossil Fuels

For a hundred fifty years, petroleum has shaped the face of the Caribbean working class. It was oil workers who led the “British West Indian labor unrest” of the 1930s, and it was this industry that formed the basis of socialist economies in Cuba and Venezuela. The importance of petroleum — both to the class struggle under capitalism and as the potential basis of a transformative economic vision — is thus a key consideration for organized labor across the region. Trinidad and Tobago is no exception, and in this former British colony lies a significant reserve of over seven hundred million barrels, making it an important economic hub in the hemisphere.

Today, this industry remains the site of an ongoing clash between two competing visions of society. Faced with recent closures that are threatening jobs, the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) has not just responded with the labor movement’s historical demands for nationalization. Rather, it has sought to build a radical model of employee ownership in which the nation’s refineries are run by the workers themselves.

Following independence in 1962, hopes that the island’s wealth could be used for the benefit of the people were cut short by multinationals such as BP and Texaco, who continued to extract millions of dollars from the twin islands for private profit, carrying on elements of the plantation model and colonialism by other means. In 1993, the state took over the sector, founding the Petroleum Company of Trinidad and Tobago (Petrotrin), but this short-lived victory failed to deliver the dream of a “people’s economy,” recreating many of the same problems as private ownership. With the state struggling to manage the industry in the decades that followed, Keith Rowley’s liberal-inclined government announced its closure in 2018, sending shock waves throughout the country.

It was against this backdrop that the OWTU, led by Ancel Roget, presented its own “Alternative Plan” — a radical proposal not for Petrotrin to stay open under state control, but rather to bring its assets under direct worker-ownership. In so doing, it hoped to fulfill organized labor’s historic mission to overcome the lingering legacy of the exploitative plantation model, to move past the limitations of nationalization, and put workers themselves in control of the commanding heights of the economy. The plan meant building true democracy at work and lasting employee ownership, moving toward something fundamentally new and radical — while saving sixty-five hundred union jobs in the here and now.

The plan for a worker-owned refinery also had a broader social mission. Seeking to shield its assets from foreign corporations, it hoped to provide gasoline to small farmers and fishermen and reintroduce much-needed apprenticeship programs for young people. More than that, it promised to use oil profits to enrich the population and finance community-wealth building through partnerships with groups as varied as Artist Coalitions, credit unions, and cooperatives. It sought to build a new kind of trade unionism in the Caribbean, in which workers could become masters and owners of the core economy.

Echoing the struggle of Lucas Aerospace workers’ fight to reorient production in 1970s Britain, the refineries were not ultimately brought into employee ownership. But the OWTU’s temporary setback is only the start of an ongoing development — one which raises fundamental questions about the objectives and role of trade unions themselves, the importance of democracy at work to that vision, and how workers in fossil fuel industries can lead the charge to restructure society for the many.

Link back to the discussion thread.