Events


Globally


Common Dreams: After Repeated Interest Rate Hikes, IMF Warns a Third of World Will Suffer Recession in 2023

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After numerous warnings in recent months from economists and economic justice advocates alike that repeated interest rate hikes could help send the world into a recession, the International Monetary Fund is warning that a third of the global economy will likely face a downturn in 2023.

With the world’s three largest economies—the United States, European Union, and China—“all slowing down simultaneously,” IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva toldCBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday, “even countries that are not in recession, it would feel like recession for hundreds of millions of people.”


Europe


Common Dreams: ‘Absolute Madness’: Record-Shattering Heat Dome Hits Europe

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As Europe closed the books on its warmest year ever recorded, an exceptionally potent winter heat dome descended on much of the continent over the holiday weekend, with thousands of daily and monthly high-temperature records shattered from Spain to Russia.

“The intensity and extent of warmth in Europe right now is hard to comprehend,” meteorologist Scott Duncan toldThe Times of London. “There are too many records to count. Literally thousands. Overnight minimum temperatures are like summer.”

The Washington Postnoted that at least seven countries—Belarus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Poland—recorded their warmest January temperatures ever.

Incredible how I’m now actively hoping that Europe can in fact keep its industry intact despite what dipshits they’ve been throughout this war, for the sole fact that America gets stronger the more that Europe collapses. But I doubt these sorts of weird weather conditions will make a big difference, with the Nord Stream pipelines gone.

Euro News: Poll for UK newspaper finds large numbers want another Brexit vote

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A poll commissioned by The Independent newspaper, found 65% of Britons, almost two-thirds of those questioned, want a repeat of the 2016 vote on Brexit. Just one year ago that number was 55%.

The Brexit benefits promoted so passionately by its most prominent advocates such as Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson, haven’t materialised, or at least not yet. And the country’s global influence has worsened significantly.

Now, the poll finds a majority of those questioned would like to see a return to the European family - 54% as opposed to 46% previously.

But there is a snag, only 22% of the same sample group believe it would be possible to call a new referendum within five years.

WSWS: UK firefighters voting for first national strike since 2003

Oil Price: German Finance Minister Calls For Reverse Of Fracking Ban

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Amid Russia’s war on Ukraine and a European energy crisis, German Finance Minister Christian Lindner is calling for a lifting of the ban on fracking, citing the high prices the country is paying for liquefied natural gas (LNG). 

Fracking was banned in Germany in 2017. 

Speaking to Germany’s Bild am Sonntag, Lindner said Germany should lift the fracking ban and “then private investors can decide whether extraction is economical.”

Reuters: German minister reignites coalition row with call to review nuclear exit

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Germany’s transport minister called for an expert committee to examine whether the lifespan of the country’s nuclear plants should be extended, reopening a row within Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition.

Germany’s rush to free itself from imported Russian fuels after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine spurred calls for the country’s three remaining nuclear plants to be kept open rather than shut at the end of 2022.

Guardian: Spain ‘ready for any scenario’ as Gibraltar talks with UK falter

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Spain and the EU are prepared for all possibilities – including a hard Brexit – when it comes to the bloc’s relationship with Gibraltar, Spain’s foreign minister has said, adding that the ball was now in London’s court after 11 rounds of negotiations.

“Spain doesn’t want a ‘no deal’ scenario,” the Spanish foreign minister, José Manuel Albares, told Europa Press. “The government of Spain and the EU, which is ultimately the signatory on the agreement with the UK, are ready for any scenario.”

FT: ECB rate rises expose fears for Italy as eurozone’s weakest link

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Italy is the eurozone country most susceptible to a debt crisis as the European Central Bank raises interest rates and buys fewer bonds in the coming months, economists say.

Nine out of 10 economists in a Financial Times poll identified Italy as the eurozone country “most at risk of an uncorrelated sell-off in its government bond markets”. 

TeleSUR: Sweden Assumes Six-Month EU Council Presidency


East Asia and Oceania


Reuters: China Dec manufacturing contracts sharply as COVID infections soar

Reuters: India raises windfall tax on crude, diesel, aviation fuel

RT: Kim Jong-un fires powerful military leader – state media

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No reason was offered for the shake-up, but North Korea’s government regularly reshuffles those in leadership positions.

Oh Gyeong-sup, a fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul, told Reuters that Pak may have taken responsibility for a “failure of security operations” following an incident in which North Korean drones intruded into the South’s airspace. 

When Seoul sent three drones back across the border, there was apparently no response from Pyongyang, indicating its defenses may have failed to detect UAVs.

The past year hasn’t been a terribly encouraging year for air defense. Though, of course, we only really care about the times where it doesn’t work.

Guardian: Dramatic change, severe obstacles: Fiji enters 2023 with a new government, but many of the same problems

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On New Year’s Day in Fiji, a former coup leader delivered a typically pugnacious attack on his country’s new government. Frank Bainimarama, the former military commander who became prime minister in the wake of a 2006 coup, and who has ruled Fiji with an iron fist for 16 years, lost an election on 14 December.

On Christmas Eve, he ungraciously conceded defeat, but insisted that his successors remained bound by a constitution his government imposed in 2013. He then left the country to attend the wedding of his son, who is on bail facing charges in relation to domestic violence-related allegations.

Now returned, Bainimarama called on constitutional office-holders, including police commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho, to reject the new government’s call for their resignations. Ominously, he also reminded his successors that the 2013 constitution contains a provision that entitles the military to intervene to safeguard the ‘security, defence and wellbeing of Fiji and all Fijians’.

The December election left no side with a clear majority. Bainimarama’s FijiFirst party gained 26 seats, as did the opposition led by 1987 coup leader, Sitiveni Rabuka. The balance of three seats in the 55-member parliament is held by Sodelpa, hitherto the largest opposition party until it ditched Rabuka as its leader in 2020.


Central Asia and the Middle East


Tehran Times: Iranian VP, Saudi FM hold talks in Brazil

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Hosseini and bin Farhan first met on the sidelines of Lula da Silva’s inauguration as the new president of Brazil.

The Iranian official emphasized the need for continuing the bilateral negotiations between Riyadh and Tehran to restore diplomatic ties.

These negotiations began in Iraq with help from Iraqi authorities.

Iraqi News: Iran to host negotiations with Iraq on Qasem Soleimani’s assassination

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The Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, announced on Monday that Iran will host a fourth round of negotiations with Iraq over the assassination of the commander of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards, Qasem Soleimani, in the coming days, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) mentioned.

Abdollahian, during a ceremony commemorating the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, said that Iran accelerated the legal procedures in this matter and informed the U.S. administration about some measures through the Swiss embassy in Tehran.

Abdollahian elaborated that the Iranian diplomatic efforts will continue until those involved in the assassination of Soleimani are brought to justice, according to IRNA.

Mint Press News: The Price of Betraying Palestine: Morocco Challenges Normalization with Israel

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Two years ago, Morocco and Israel signed the US-brokered “Joint Declaration”, thus officially recognizing Israel and instating diplomatic ties. Though other Arab countries had already done the same, the Moroccan official recognition of Apartheid Israel was particularly devastating for Palestinians.

Years ago, a close Moroccan friend told me that the ‘first time’ he was arrested was during a solidarity protest for Palestine in Rabat which took place many years ago.

The reference to the ‘first time’ indicated that he was arrested again, though mostly for other political activities, suggesting that Palestine, in many ways, has become a local struggle for many Moroccans.

Whenever Moroccans protest for Palestine, they would do so in large numbers, sometimes in their millions. Such solidarity has historically served as the foundation of regional and global solidarity with the Palestinian struggle.

FT: Turkish exports hit record high in 2022

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Sales of Turkish exports hit a record high last year as the slump in the value of the lira made businesses’ products more competitive overseas, with the country also benefiting from closer economic ties to Russia.

Turkey recorded a 13 per cent rise in exports by value, with sales hitting $254bn in 2022, said Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the country’s president, in a televised speech on Monday.

Tehran Times: Tehran national parks in danger

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One of the main threats to protected areas is habitat destruction, which may be done by government agencies to implement development projects, or in a more limited area by the locals.

The next challenge is mining and mining activities. Mines are the most incompatible activities against protected areas, poaching is another challenge for protected areas.

Drought, dust, human-made, and natural hazards such as wildfires are other challenges that threaten these areas, and on the other hand, the development of villages in or around protected areas also threatens the dynamism of these areas.


Africa


Al Jazeera: Malawi keeps schools shut as cholera deaths surge

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Malawi has delayed the opening of public schools in its two major cities of Blantyre and Lilongwe, the health minister said on Monday, to try to slow down a surge in cholera deaths.

The total number of cases has surged to 17,824 and the number of deaths to 595 since cases were first reported in March, with the mortality rate increasing to 3.34 percent, according to the Ministry of Health.


North America


FT: Tesla deliveries fall short of Wall Street expectations

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Tesla’s new vehicle deliveries fell short of Wall Street expectations in the fourth quarter, adding to worries that higher interest rates and an economic slowdown could crimp demand for the US electric carmaker’s models in 2023.

The disappointment came despite record quarterly deliveries in the latest three months, as Tesla’s new plants in Berlin and Texas continued to increase production. The company said on Monday it delivered 405,278 vehicles in the three months to the end of December, an increase of 11 per cent from the record it hit in the preceding quarter. Most analysts had expected deliveries to reach 420,000-430,000.

The late-year jump in sales meant that Tesla delivered just over 1.3mn new vehicles to customers in 2022, an increase of 40 per cent from the previous year. Chief executive Elon Musk had predicted early in the year that the company would hit its longer-range goal of expanding deliveries by 50 per cent annually, though he grew more cautious as the year wore on and the company was hit by Covid-related production shutdowns in China, supply chain challenges and early signs of weakening demand.


South America


TeleSUR: Transition Council to Ensure the Holding of Elections in Haiti

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On Sunday, Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry announced the establishment of a High Transition Council (HTC), which will be charged with facilitating elections.

“We will have to officially install them this week and give them the means to start working hand in hand with the Government,” Henry said, adding that he will issue a decree creating the HTC, which will be published in the official newspaper Le Monitel with the names of the three people who will direct it.

“We have finally been able to close the year 2022 with the signing of a national commitment for an inclusive transition and transparent elections,” said Henry, who took office a few weeks after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise on July 7, 2021.

Multipolarista: Brazil’s President Lula is back – and Bolsonaro fled to Florida

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Lula da Silva returned as Brazil’s president, calling for fighting poverty and hunger, re-industrializing, strengthening the BRICS, and deepening Latin American integration. Far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro fled to Florida, fearing legal consequences for his corruption.

TeleSUR: Brazilian Supreme Court Receives Arrest Request for Bolsonaro

TeleSUR: Bolivia: Pro-Coup Groups Set Fire to Buildings in Santa Cruz

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On Sunday, the Cruceñista Youth Union (UJC) and other groups supporting Governor Luis Fernando Camacho set fire to one of the branches of the state-owned Banco Union, the offices of the Police Command, and other public buildings in Santa Cruz.

Citizens filed complaints with the Bolivian authorities pointing out that far-right paramilitaries seized, looted, and burned central government offices such as the Prosecutor’s Office, and National Taxes.

“The irregular groups, which attempted against democracy and attacked the police and public institutions, used Molotov cocktails,” Interior Minister Eduardo Del Castillo said and announced the existence of two injured officers.

Reuters: Colombia’s plan to replace fighter planes hits a snag

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Initial negotiations between Colombia, France’s Dassault Aviation (AM.PA) and Sweden’s Saab AB (SAABb.ST) to replace part of the South American country’s aging air force fleet have collapsed, the defense minister said on Monday.

Canadian Dimension: Ottawa backs Canadian mining giant in dispute with Panama

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In Panama, a dispute has emerged of a type that is common to countries in Central and South America: a huge transnational company has invested in the country’s resource wealth, resulting in a conflict over suitable payments to the government that draws in officials from the company’s nation of origin in defence of corporate profits. In this case, the company in question is First Quantum Minerals, a mining giant with lucrative investments across the Global South—and the country of origin is Canada.

This summer, Panamanians rose up in nationwide protests against the neoliberal status quo imposed on the country by the government of Laurentino Cortizo. Beginning on July 1, these protests brought together diverse groups including teachers, students, trade unionists, farmers, and Indigenous organizations, all of whom called for the state to guarantee the public’s economic security in the face of rising food and fuel prices. Following state repression, the protestors’ broadened their concerns beyond the inflation crisis to include the government’s inaction on poverty, unemployment, housing, corruption, Indigenous rights, and more.

The causes of the summer 2022 protests go back decades and help illustrate the dynamics of the current conflict between First Quantum (and their backers in Ottawa) and the Panamanian state.


The Ukraine Proxy Conflict


RT: Israel signals Ukraine policy shift

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Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen has signaled that Tel Aviv will be making fewer public statements regarding the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, but confirmed that its “significant” humanitarian aid to Kiev will continue.

“We will do one thing for sure–in public, we will talk less,” Cohen said of the Ukraine conflict, in his inaugural speech to Foreign Ministry staff on Monday.

He said that his ministry is preparing “a detailed advisory” to be sent to the new cabinet “in order to formulate a responsible policy.”

“In any case, the significant humanitarian aid to Ukraine will continue,” Cohen added. He also confirmed he would be speaking directly with his counterpart Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday.


Analysis


Inside the Imperial Core


Naked Capitalism: Biden “Vax-Only” Strategy of Mass Infection Lies in Ruins, Destroyed by Vaccine Escape, Immune Dysregulation

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As is well known, the Biden Administration has pursued a “Vax-only” policy from its first days in office (augmented, to be fair, with various over-hyped yet profitable pharmaceutical treatments of less-than-stellar effectiveness; remdesivir, paxlovid). The hallmark of Administration policy has been a thorough-going rejection of a layered strategy (“Swiss Cheese Model“) that would mandate non-pharmaceutical interventions to decrease airborne transmission, whether through recommendations (“3C’s“), ventilation, or masking. (Such is the Democrat commitment to the bit that Acela Corridor media figures are now coming forward to stigmatize mask-wearers, making them objects of derision and hatred; see the New York Times and The New Yorker.) In practice, the Biden Administration has pursued a policy of mass infection, since the vaccines are not sterilizing, and eliminate neither transmission nor reinfection.

The Biden Administration’s Covid policy of mass infection has so far — I will assert for the purposes of this post — been cost-free politically, for a number of reasons: Business support, an incoherent Republican response, denial of airborne transmission by powerful institutional forces in healthcare and academia, a shift in focus from shared responsibility for public health to “personal risk assessment” (engineered by the public health establishment, ironically enough), and destruction of data gathering, but above all through a Goebbels-level propaganda campaign, waged by all components of the Democratic party apparatus and its (hegemonic) PMC class base in favor of “Vaxed and done.” (To be fair, “convenience” and “living your life” are not hard sells for Americans, our culture being what it is. Nor is working through illness.) However, time may be running out.

The Biden Administration’s Covid policy of mass infection has always been vulnerable to facts on the ground. Another surge equivalent to January 2022’s Omicron surge would do it in; so would “something awful” in the form of vascular or neurological (epithelial) damage of an undeniable scale. (Long Covid doesn’t seem to be awful enough, sadly; but that could change, given a solid mechanism and possibly a few celebrities to help with the narrative.) In this post, I’ll first present the case for vaccine escape from recent variants, and then the case for immune dysregulation as a sequel to accute covid. In terms of facts on the ground, the first would create a surge; the second, “something awful.” In either case, even the most coughing, exhausted, several-times-injected, “I’ve got a cold I can’t shake” vaccine militant might be gently led to the conclusion that the Biden Administration’s policy of mass infection has failed[1], and we must try something else.


Outside the Imperial Core


SCMP: Beyond China, as more nations reject the US-led order, 2022 will go down as the year of ‘de-Westernisation’

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Western media tends to focus on the G2 scenario of US-China competition – when the world is presenting a dual-track scenario of Western hegemony vs a de-Westernised and more independent development.

The West cannot stop this trend. The US led the world in major crises in the past century but its leadership has become less convincing in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and war in Ukraine. This has come as it faced unprecedented domestic challenges in addressing its own Covid-19 epidemic, racial conflict, economic recovery and political order.

Meanwhile, Europe’s share of the global economy continues to fall. And India’s economy has become bigger than that of Britain, its former colonial master, in a year that also saw a man of Indian descent become the British prime minister.

Inshallah.