WSWS: Study finds that COVID was the leading cause of death globally in 2021
The scale of human devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is emerging more clearly as scientists and epidemiologists pore over the available data and draw inferences where data are lacking. A major study released last week found that COVID-19 was one of the leading causes of death in 2020 and the leading cause of death in 2021 globally, ahead of even ischemic heart disease, which killed 8.9 million in 2019, and cancer, which killed 9.5 million in 2018.
The study was a follow-up on the World Health Organization (WHO) Technical Advisory Group’s May 2022 report on excess deaths associated with COVID-19. The authors estimate that global excess deaths had reached 14.83 million by the end of 2021, a figure 2.74 times higher that the 5.42 million reported deaths due to COVID-19 for the period.
Reuters: Saudi ends higher on oil prices; most Gulf markets in red
Oil prices settled about $3 per barrel higher on Friday for a second straight week of gains after Moscow said it could cut crude output in response to the G7 imposing a price cap on Russian exports.
TeleSUR: Over 74 Pct of Russians Approve of Putin: Poll
RT: Leaving Russia cost Western IT-firms billions – ministry
Foreign information technology (IT) companies that have left the Russian market following Western sanctions this year lost roughly $10 billion in profits, the head of Russia’s Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media, Maksut Shadaev, said on Tuesday.
RT: Russia explains potential oil output cut
Russia will halt oil supplies to nations that impose a price cap on its crude exports, the country’s finance minister, Anton Siluanov, said on Sunday. He also admitted the possibility of cuts to production.
The minister said that Russia would seek new markets and logistics solutions even if they are more expensive.
TeleSUR: Putin Lauds Russia’s Economy Performance Amid Economic Warfare
Referring to macroeconomic indicators and GDP volume, Putin told the press that “Russia demonstrates much better results than many G20 countries, and consistently proves it.”
RT: Russia keeps amassing forex reserves
TeleSUR: EU Should Re-examine Green Transition Plans, Says Energy Expert
The European Union (EU) will have to re-examine its commitment to cut the use of fossil fuels by 30 percent and reach a target of producing 40 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2030, Charles Ellinas, an energy expert with a long international experience in hydrocarbons, said.
TeleSUR: Cost-of-Living Crisis Casts Shadow Over Christmas in Europe
With the year-end holidays just around the corner, the pre-Christmas shopping frenzy is quieter than usual across Europe, as the soaring prices of energy and food have taken a heavy toll on consumer confidence, disrupting people’s spending plans.
WSWS: Plant closures and mass layoffs in Germany continue at Christmas
TeleSUR: Swedish Government Expects Recession To Last Until 2025
Inflation is expected to reach an average of 8.9 percent in 2023, and combined with the rapidly increasing interest rates and the weakened demand in the rest of the world, this is expected to lead to GDP shrinking by 0.7 percent next year – a downward adjustment from the previous forecast.
Euro News: Free dinners and healthcare for Poland’s homeless and needy this Christmas
Volunteers in the Polish city of Krakow have served some 50,000 free Christmas dinners to the homeless and needy.
Common Dreams: Will Britain’s Migrant Deportation Plan Get Off the Ground?
In spite of the court’s green-lighting of the plan, there is currently no airline willing to carry asylum seekers to Rwanda, with the last company pulling out following pressure from activists. Having already spent £120 million on the deportation scheme, the coming year will see the British government wrangle new ways to make the plan – and its effort to reduce migrant numbers – a success.
East Asia and Oceania
RT: China responds to US ‘provocation’
The colonel called the drills “a resolute response to the escalating collusion and provocation by the United States and Taiwan,” adding that the PLA would take “all necessary measures” to defend China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Chinese officials did not reveal the nature of the alleged US “provocation,” but the drills took place just two days after President Joe Biden signed the 2023 US National Defense Authorization Act into law. America’s military budget for fiscal year 2023 authorizes $10 billion in security assistance and fast-tracked weapons procurement for Taiwan.
Al Jazeera: China defends Ukraine war stance, aims to deepen ties with Russia
Yahoo: China’s Zhejiang has 1 million daily COVID cases, expected to double
China’s Zhejiang, a big industrial province near Shanghai, is battling around a million new daily COVID-19 infections, a number expected to double in the days ahead, the provincial government said on Sunday.
SCMP: Japan defence stance sours mood ahead of foreign minister’s China trip
Despite the schism on security and geopolitical issues, the first Xi-Kishida meeting in three years rekindled hopes for a detente between the two countries.
But last week’s unveiling of Japan’s biggest military build-up since World War II and Tokyo’s framing of China as an “unprecedented strategic challenge” have soured the mood – and could set the Asian rivals on a collision course over the next decade, pundits have warned.
Central Asia and the Middle East
Iraqi News: Thousands rally in Nagorno-Karabakh to protest land blockade
MEMO: Turkiye: Over 15M tons of grain exported from Ukraine
More than 15 million tons of grain have been carried by hundreds of ships via the Black Sea grain under the Istanbul grain export deal, a Turkish minister said on Sunday, Anadolu reports.
RT: Israel grounds top-notch US fighter jets
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has decided to ground 11 of its F-35A fighter jets on Sunday, following an incident in Texas last week that saw a US Air Force F-35B Lightning II crash during an attempted landing.
“From the findings and the information transmitted, it was found that these planes require a dedicated inspection in order to rule out the possibility of a repeated malfunction in the Israeli system,” an IDF spokesperson told the media.
RT: West holds Iranian military drones in high regard – top general
By making allegations that Russia is using Iranian-made military drones in the ongoing conflict with Ukraine, the West has basically acknowledged the effectiveness of Iranian technology, Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri argues. The military official insists, however, that the claims are spurious, describing them as “part of the enemy’s psychological warfare.”
Multipolarista: UN experts: US sanctions violate Iranians’ human rights
Top United Nations experts wrote a letter to the United States government, emphasizing that its illegal unilateral sanctions on Iran violate the human rights of the Iranian people, calling for them to “be eased or lifted completely.”
The suffering is the point.
TeleSUR: Severe Drought in Horn of Africa Affects 20.2 Million Children
SCMP: How the political seeds of China’s growing Africa ties were planted long ago
TeleSUR: US Midwest Slapped by Record Cold Before Christmas
On Thursday, a massive Arctic front stretched from West to East some 3,200 kilometers, from Portland to Chicago, and North to South from Fargo to Dallas, a 1,700-km distance.
WSWS: Colorado River crisis accelerates as water use negotiations stall
The Colorado River Water Users Association (CRWUA) concluded its annual convention last week in Las Vegas, Nevada, amid a severe crisis facing the water supply in the American Southwest. The Colorado River Basin, which supplies water to 40 million people and hundreds-of-thousands of acres of farmland, is suffering through a more than 20 year “mega-drought,” the worst in 1,200 years.
TeleSUR: US National Defense Act Includes Ukraine, Taiwan, and Ecuador
WSWS: USW forces through wage concessions at US Steel after isolating workers for months
On Tuesday afternoon, the United Steelworkers union (USW) announced that a four-year sellout contract for 11,000 workers at facilities owned by US Steel was ratified. The contract includes wage concessions and no tangible protections for jobs and safety for workers. The union bureaucracy claims that the contract was “overwhelmingly” ratified by members but has yet to release vote totals.
Monthly Review: As New Cold War ramps up, Cuba and Russia fortify historic geo-political alliance
On November 22, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin and offered a defense of the Russian war in Ukraine, accusing NATO of encroaching on Russia’s borders with its actions.
The two leaders in turn pledged to deepen bilateral relations—at a time when a declining U.S. empire is threatening a hot war with Russia while tightening its embargo on Cuba.
TeleSUR: Social Organizations Reject State of Exception in El Salvador
TeleSUR: Brazil’s Economy To Face Major Hurdles in 2023, Say Experts
Brazil’s economy will face major challenges in 2023, including an uncertain global landscape, raging inflation and staggering economic recovery, while President-elect Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s administration grapples with its first year in office, experts have said.
TeleSUR: Bolivian President Highlights the Country’s Economic Stability
During the launching ceremony of the Storage Capacity Increase Project at the Palmasola Plant, in the department of Santa Cruz, Arce referred to the favorable standards of the Bolivian economy, stating that the country expects to break export records this year.
The Ukraine Proxy Conflict
Responsible Statecraft: New Ukraine aid is a go — and it’s more than most states get in a year
TeleSUR: US Spent Months Arranging Zelensky Visit to Prolong War
The idea of inviting Zelensky for an in-person speech to members of the U.S. Congress had been floated by the outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as early as October at a summit in Zagreb, Croatia. Meanwhile, officials in the Biden administration have for the last several months been discussing with their Ukraine the feasibility of a White House visit by Zelensky.
GrayZone: Zelensky’s diaspora delegation led by economic hit-woman who led plunder of Ukraine
The Grayzone intercepted Volodymyr Zelensky’s Ukrainian diaspora delegation outside the US Capitol and encountered Natalie Jaresko, the corporate operative who helped guide Wall Street’s pillaging from Kiev to Puerto Rico. Jaresko indignantly justified Zelensky’s banning of his political rivals as a necessary wartime measure.
RT: Majority of Germans against sending tanks to Ukraine – poll
In its report on Sunday, media outlet Das Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND), citing a YouGov survey, said 45% of respondents opposed the shipment of Leopard 2 tanks to the eastern European country, while another 33% spoke in favor of the transfer, with the remaining 22% undecided.
Retrospectives, History, and Theory
Jacobin: Many Have Tried to Kill Santa. None Have Succeeded.
…until, one fateful day in 2022…
Jacobin: Eugene V. Debs on the 1914 Christmas Truce
Jacobin: Guinea-Bissau’s Liberation Struggle Transformed the Face of World Politics
A movement led by Amílcar Cabral fought against Portuguese rule in Guinea-Bissau and won independence against seemingly overwhelming odds. It also contributed to the end of white-settler rule in Southern Africa and the democratic revolution in Portugal itself.
Jacobin: The Taiwanese Left Was Once Rooted in the Radical Labor Movement
In the 1920s, Taiwan had a radical anti-colonial movement similar to those in other parts of the colonized world — and central to it was a powerful organized labor movement. Today, with a weak and divided left, that memory needs to be recovered.
Monthly Review: Our survival depends on a world without billionaires
A recent report from Oxfam entitled “Carbon Billionaires: The Investment Emissions of the World’s Richest People” points the finger at the wealthiest individuals for causing and continuing to fuel climate change through not only their individual carbon footprints but more importantly their investments in polluting industries. The study looks at the impact of 125 of the richest billionaires globally, whose carbon emissions equal those of France, or 67 million people, and shows that just the richest 10 of those individuals own more wealth than the poorest 40% of humanity. The average billionaire in the study is responsible for carbon emissions over one million times higher than the average person in the bottom 90% of humanity.
The Left and the Right
Monthly Review: The moral panic around drag makes even less sense in the UK’s pantomime season
The moral panic around drag queens currently sweeping America has arrived in Britain. Conservative and homo/transphobic reactionaries are working themselves into a froth around the idea of (usually, not necessarily) a man in a dress entertaining children. The problem? It makes zero sense in a country with a proud tradition of… a man in a dress entertaining children. Of course, there’s no way a bigot would let a little cognitive dissonance stop them.
Inside the Imperial Core
Naked Capitalism: NATO’s Ghosts of the Past Return in Kosovo-Serbia
As Russia grinds down NATO proxy forces in Ukraine, the West is turning its ire against the one country in Europe not to join sanctions against Moscow. Washington and Brussels have had enough of Serbia playing nice with Russia and are now pushing a conflict to punish Belgrade.
The emerging conflict, coming amid the ongoing NATO proxy war against Russia in Ukraine, brings full circle nearly a quarter century of NATO bellicosity that began with its 1999 bombing of Serbia, which confirmed to Moscow that it was an aggressive alliance determined to expand.
Outside the Imperial Core
Jacobin: Central Bank Capitalism Is Forcing the Global South Into a Debt Crisis
The Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank are withdrawing money from markets in the name of fighting inflation. But the move is aggravating the pressures of debt on the Global South — and pushing states toward ruinous austerity measures.
Monthly Review: Why Chinese ‘debt trap diplomacy’ is a lie
Generally, there are three problems with this “debt trap diplomacy” myth.
The first problem is that this myth assumes China unilaterally dictates Belt and Road Initiative projects to lure other countries into taking on these predatory loans. In reality, Chinese development financing is largely recipient-driven through bilateral interactions and deals. Infrastructure projects are determined by the recipient country, not China, based on their own economic and political interests.
The second problem with the narrative is that it relies on the assumption that it is Chinese policy to advance predatory loans with onerous terms and conditions to ensnare countries into debt. In reality, China often advances loans at fairly low interest rates, and is often willing to restructure the terms of existing loans to be more favorable to the borrowing country, or even forgive loans altogether. In fact, in August of 2022, the Chinese government announced it was forgiving 23 interest-free loans in 17 African countries. Prior to that, between 2000 and 2019, China had also restructured a total of $15 billion of debt and forgiven $3.4 billion in loans they had given to African countries.
And lastly, the third problem with this debt trap diplomacy narrative is that despite what it claims, China has never seized an asset because a country defaulted on a loan.
Monthly Review: South Africans are fighting for crumbs: A conversation with trade union Leader Irvin Jim
In mid-December, the African National Congress (ANC) held its national conference where South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa was reelected as leader of his party, which means that he will lead the ANC into the 2024 general elections. A few delegates at the Johannesburg Expo Center in Nasrec, Gauteng—where the party conference was held—shouted at Ramaphosa asking him to resign because of a scandal called Farmgate (Ramaphosa survived a parliamentary vote against his impeachment following the scandal).
Guardian: Can geoengineering fix the climate? Hundreds of scientists say not so fast
As global heating escalates, the US government has set out a plan to further study the controversial and seemingly sci-fi notion of deflecting the sun’s rays before they hit Earth. But a growing group of scientists denounces any steps towards what is known as solar geoengineering.
The White House has set into motion a five-year outline for research into “climate interventions”. Those include methods such as sending a phalanx of planes to spray reflective particles into the upper reaches of the atmosphere, in order to block incoming sunlight from adding to rising temperatures.
Inside Climate News: Why Chinese Aluminum Producers Emit So Much of Some of the World’s Most Damaging Greenhouse Gases
More than half of the aluminum in the world is produced in China, but it is responsible for 81 percent of the industry’s emissions of PFCs. Simple automation could go a long way toward cutting them.