Events


Globally


People’s Daily: How to feed 8 bln people – a look at global food security in 2023

2022 saw a rapid increase in food prices and shortages of food supplies around the world. “The world is facing a food crisis of unprecedented proportions, the largest in modern history,” the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said in a report last year.

In its joint research with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the WFP found that as many as 828 million people go to bed hungry every night.

The compounding food security crisis in various parts of the world was caused by a combination of geopolitical and economic crises, as well as global warming. Unfortunately, the factors that contributed to the crisis last year are still in place.

TeleSUR: Cuba to Assume the Pro Tempore Presidency of the G77 + China

On Thursday, Cuba will assume the pro tempore Presidency of the Group of 77 + China, which is a coalition of 134 developing countries, designed to create an enhanced joint negotiating capacity in the United Nations.


Europe


Monthly Review: Zelensky complicit in corporate takeover of Ukraine

WSWS: Zelensky government expands media censorship

Amid the intensification of its NATO-backed war with Russia, the government of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has passed a bill that grants Ukraine’s National Council of Broadcasting sweeping and arbitrary powers of censorship over nearly all of the country’s media.

I’m pretty sure that the government already effectively had this power.

People’s Daily: Ukraine’s foodstuff exports reach 17 mln tons under grain deal

Ukraine’s foodstuff exports reached 17 million metric tons since August under a deal on the export of grain and fertilizers from Black Sea ports, the Interfax-Ukraine news agency reported Tuesday.

RT: Sharp decline in number of Russian billionaires

Alexey Mordashov, the chairman of steel giant Severstal, has led the list of the biggest losers, with his wealth dropping $11.1 billion during 2022 to $18.4 billion.

“Western sanctions have forced many of [billionaires] to bail out their multibillion-dollar empires, while the stock market crash has lowered fortune estimates,” Forbes Russia reported on Tuesday, adding that 68 Russian businessmen, whose capital exceeded $1 billion in December 2022, saw their fortunes fall over the year.

Mordashov was followed by Tatyana Bakalchuk, the CEO of Russia’s largest e-commerce and delivery giant Wildberries, whose fortune nearly halved to $4.7 billion. Tinkoff Bank founder Oleg Tinkov, who revealed that he had renounced his Russian citizenship in October, lost $5.9 billion. His fortune reportedly stood at around $870 million as of the end of last year.

Jacobin: The NHS Is Struggling Because of Years of Austerity

Britain’s National Health Service is in crisis, with sky-high and still-rising waiting lists and huge delays in emergency services. It’s the predictable result of over a decade of Tory-imposed austerity.

Reuters: More than half of German companies report labour shortages

The proportion of companies facing difficulties hiring was at its highest ever level, the DIHK found in its survey of 22,000 companies, with 53% reporting shortages.

WSWS: German postal workers ready to strike

Reuters: Volkswagen Group deliveries lowest in over a decade

Reuters: Sweden makes regulatory push to allow new nuclear reactors

Kristersson has made expanding nuclear power generation a key goal for his right-wing government, seeking to reverse a process of gradual closures of several reactors in the past couple of decades that has left the country relying more heavily on renewable but sometimes less predictable energy.

Reuters: Sweden’s LKAB finds Europe’s biggest deposit of rare earth metals

Swedish state-owned mining company LKAB said on Thursday it had identified mineral resources of more than one million tonnes of rare earth oxides in the Kiruna area, the largest known such deposit in Europe.

LKAB said it planned to submit an application for an exploitation concession in 2023 but added that it would be at least 10-15 years before it could potentially begin mining the deposit and shipping to market.

RT: Poland appeals to US in $1.3 trillion row with Germany

Polish officials have called on Washington to pressure Germany into paying out $1.39 trillion in reparations for war damages sustained during World War II. Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Arkadiusz Mularczyk stated that an appeal to the US Congress was the next step in the “internationalization” of Polish claims for war damages from Berlin.

“We believe that the US is a country that determines the global order today, a key country when it comes to respecting the international order, human rights, the rule of law and international justice,” Mularczyk said.


East Asia and Oceania


MEE: Uyghurs condemn Islamic scholars' ‘propaganda’ trip to Xinjiang

Uyghur activists described a visit by a delegation of Islamic scholars to Xinjiang province as “propaganda” that serves China as it continues to deny claims it has imprisoned thousands of Uyghur Muslims. 

Thirty Muslim scholars from 14 Muslim-majority countries, including pro-government clerics from Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and the UAE, visited Xinjiang province as part of a delegation organised by the World Muslim Communities Council (WMCC).

Pictures posted by Chinese state media showed the WMCC delegation, headed by Emirati academic Ali Rashid al-Nuaimi, visiting various sites as part of their multi-city tour of Xinjiang province. 

Founded in the United Arab Emirates, the WMCC said its aim is to support Muslims in non-Muslim majority countries and to protect them “intellectually, spiritually, and from racial discrimination or ethnic cleansing”. 

In a press statement by the WMCC, Nuaimi, who has championed normalisation between Israel and the Arab world, repeated China’s claims that its crackdown on Uyghurs is part of its policy to combat terrorism in the Xinjiang province. 

But Dolkun Isa, president of the World Uyghur Congress, hit back at Nuaimi’s claims and said China often used the pretext of combatting terrorism to justify criminalising “everyday and legal forms of religious behaviour, such as wearing a beard or hijab and possessing a Quran. 

Disgraceful that China is pulling Ughyur babies out of incubators. Shit, that was in Kuwait. Uh, I mean, it’s just sickening that China is using chemical weapons on its own people. Goddamn it, that was Syria! My propaganda notes are all out of order today, sorry guys…


Central Asia and the Middle East


MEMO: Kremlin announces Putin, Raisi discussion about Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Iranian counterpart Ibrahim Raisi have discussed bilateral cooperation and the Syrian issue, the Kremlin said on Wednesday. Issues of mutual benefit on the agenda included energy projects, transportation and logistics.

“During their discussion of international matters, the two showed a positive assessment of the existing close coordination within the framework of the Astana Process, which plays a fundamental role in Syria,” said the Kremlin. They also expressed their determination to continue cooperation in order to settle the situation in Syria and restore its territorial integrity.

MEE: Saudi Arabia eyes strategic minerals with new mining fund

The new fund aims to take equity stakes in existing assets and companies to supply the raw metals the kingdom needs for development, with investments in iron ore, copper, nickel, and lithium. The company plans to make two to three deals this year, he said.

MEMO: Saudi Arabia plans to use domestic uranium for nuclear fuel

Saudi Arabia plans to use domestically-sourced uranium to build up its nuclear power industry, Energy Minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, said on Wednesday, Reuters reports.

MEMO: Palestine official warns of forced displacement of 13,000 Jerusalemites

Some 13,000 Jerusalemites are threatened with forced displacement from the occupied Old City of Jerusalem in order to make way for Jewish-only homes, synagogues, biblical gardens and museums, the Adviser to the Palestinian President’s Office for Jerusalem Affairs, Ahmed Al-Ruwaidi, warned.

MEE: Israel recognition opposed by vast majority in Arab world, says major poll

The vast majority of Arabs continue to oppose establishing diplomatic ties with Israel two years after countries in the region signed recognition agreements, an annual survey has revealed.

The 2022 Arab Opinion Index, a survey of 33,300 individual respondents in 14 Arab countries, showed only very small percentages sympathetic to their country establishing relations with Israel.

The highest support was in Morocco, which established relations in December 2020 as part of a US-brokered deal, with 20 percent of respondents saying they supported recognition.

The lowest support was in Algeria and Mauritania, with 0 and 1 percent respectively supporting recognition.

Israel also topped the poll as the regional country most threatening to the respondents' home country, peaking at 79 percent for Palestinians and 53 percent for Lebanese. For Iraqis, Iran was seen as the most dangerous, followed by Turkey.

The US was the second-most threatening country for most respondents.

Despite the widespread opposition to Israeli recognition, only 1.5 percent said the Israeli occupation was the most pressing issue facing their region.

Inflation and the cost of living came top of respondents' concerns, followed by “negative economic conditions” and unemployment.

RT: Deadly explosion in Kabul kills 20

A blast in the Afghan capital of Kabul killed at least 20 people on Wednesday, a Taliban official said. The explosion apparently took place outside the Taliban government’s foreign ministry building, with photos from the scene purportedly showing the street littered with debris and corpses.


Africa


RT: China warns West on Africa

“Africa should be a big stage for international cooperation, not an arena for competition between major countries,” Qin said at a press conference with AU Commission chair Moussa Faki.

Africa News: China FM on Africa visit sidesteps call for UN council seat

Speaking at the opening of the Chinese-built headquarters of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, Qin instead emphasized China’s partnership with Africa in security and economic development.

African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat told a joint press conference that Africa’s lack of permanent representation on the Security Council is a “burning issue” considering that most issues on the council agenda are related to African countries.

“It is unacceptable that others decide in the place of others. It is not fair. We need a new order at the international level which will respect the interests of others,” he said.

China is one of the council’s five permanent members.

Open Democracy: Murder of gay activist triggers trauma for Kenya’s LGBTIQ community

MEMO: 1,067 migrants rescued off Libya coast in a week

MEMO: US air strikes on Somalia up 30% in 2022

MEE: Egyptian pound plunges again as government makes painful IMF adjustments

Africa News: Benin opposition leader rejects preliminary results of parliamentary vote

Africa News: Morocco-Spain high level meeting confirmed for February 1 in Rabat


North America


RT: All US domestic flights grounded after software glitch

A software glitch in the US Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) system, which is used to send essential information to aircraft, has prompted the regulator to halt all further domestic departures in the US.

People’s Daily: U.S. crude oil inventories up: API

The American Petroleum Institute (API) on Tuesday reported an increase of 14.865 million barrels of crude oil in U.S. inventories for the week ending Jan. 6.

Analysts had expected a drop of 2.375 million barrels for this week.

Circle of Blue: Proposed Hydropower Project Threatens Sacred Yakama Nation Food-Gathering Lands

WSWS: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pledges to “put aside” differences with Democratic leadership after Republican concessions to far right


South America


TeleSUR: Cuba Strengthens Relations With 9 Countries

On Wednesday, Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel strengthened diplomatic relations with Greece, Colombia, Syria, Pakistan, Austria, Azerbaijan, Jamaica, Gambia, and Malta at the ceremony for the presentation of the credentials of their new ambassadors.

TeleSUR: Trump-Era Policy Towards Venezuela Has Failed: President Maduro

RT: VP dodges assassination attempt

Colombian Vice President Francia Marquez said on Tuesday that her security team had foiled an attempt to assassinate her with a roadside bomb. The discovery came days after President Gustavo Petro announced a major truce in the country’s decades-long armed conflict.

Monthly Review: Mapuche Political Prisoners Hunger Strike Reaches Critical Stage


The Ukraine Proxy Conflict


RT: Share prices of NATO weapons makers surge

Major Western arms manufacturers involved in military supplies to Ukraine increased their value by $124 billion last year, a report finds

RT: Switzerland blocking military shipments to Ukraine

Switzerland is vetoing the delivery of certain Swiss-made war materials from Madrid to Kiev, Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles said on Tuesday. However, she did not provide further details as to what equipment would apply to the ban, local media reported.


Analysis

Retrospectives, History, Theory, and Technology


Michael Roberts: ASSA 2023 part two: the radical – monopoly and war

In some ways, the radical sessions at ASSA were disappointing. As far as I could tell there were no papers on the causes of the rise in inflation or on what policies to adopt to support labour on this issue. Maybe this is sour grapes from me, as URPE rejected my own paper on a Marxist theory of inflation for inclusion in their ASSA sessions.

Instead, the sessions focused on whether monopoly power was the dominant development in 21st century capitalism. And of course, Ukraine was also a key issue – and it is interesting to compare the approaches of the mainstream sessions (see ASSA part one) to that of the radical sessions. 

Jacobin: A Marxist View of Tolkien’s Middle Earth

J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantasy world is a medieval utopia with poverty and oppression airbrushed out of the picture. But Tolkien’s work also contains a romantic critique of industrial capitalism that is an important part of its vast popular appeal.

StatNews: For most mild infections, long Covid symptoms clear after a year, large study finds

Well, that’s great! Thank goodness we haven’t made coronavirus extremely prevalent and it isn’t constantly mutating so we definitely won’t catch it more than once per year or so!

Responsible Statecraft: New study reveals rampant conflicts of interest at think tanks

The study, “No such thing as a free donation: research funding and conflicts of interest in nuclear weapons policy analysis,” authored by Kjølv Egeland and Benoît Pelopidas of the Center for International Studies in Paris, was released in late December by Sage. After an exhaustive review of the world’s top foreign policy think tanks — including the Brookings Institution, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Atlantic Council, and many more — the authors found that they all receive “donations from actors with interests in the perpetuation of the extant nuclear order.” The study then answers the question posed in its title — “No such thing as a free donation?” — by showing exactly how these donations provide funders with considerable influence over these institutions’ work and the marketplace of ideas.

Through interviews with grant managers and former and current employees at these think tanks, the authors identified numerous instances where funding biased these organizations’ work through outright censorship, self-censorship, and perspective filtering.

The authors found that outright censorship was rare, but could have dramatic effects on these organizations’ products. One former think tank employee explained that a research project had been canceled at the request of a major funder. Another recounted how an entire think tank they were working at had been bankrupted when a nuclear umbrella state abruptly canceled its funding. By his account, this was “unquestionably done for political reasons,” as the institution “had been doing a lot of critical work on nuclear deterrence and security, questioning orthodox thinking.” 

An analyst at yet another think tank recounted how funder pressure led to direct censoring of its report “away from controversial or critical analysis,” with analysts there being told, “Don’t talk about government militarism…talk about what the terrorists are doing instead.”

Self-censorship, on the other hand, is much more commonplace, according to the study. In fact, nearly all of the analysts interviewed said they engaged in it, as did their colleagues. 

“Self-censorship is the greatest threat to our democracies in the West. A lot of think tank experts posture as experts with complete academic freedom — this is absolutely not the case,” one analyst explained to the study authors. Other think tank analysts never write or publicly comment in ways that may be construed as antithetical to funder interests.


Inside the Imperial Core


Naked Capitalism: 180 Million Barrels Of Crude May Never Be Returned to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve

Geopolitical Economy: How Western sanctions blow back, hurting Europe, deepening Asian integration

Open Democracy: Why Fortress Europe won’t solve the migration crisis – and what will

It’s time to rethink EU migration policy. New walls are being built in Europe, but they will not solve the present crisis – and the money could be far better spent.

Around 1800 kilometres of border walls and fences have been built on the perimeter of the EU in the past decade. The hefty prices include cameras, heat sensors, drones, armed vehicles and guards to patrol and keep the outsiders out, as well as the costs of reduced trade between neighbours and damaged wildlife.

Yet these expensive walls are unlikely to stop the refugees. If the wall can’t be scaled with ladders, it can be walked around: the wall on the Polish-Belarusian border may be 186 kilometres long, but that leaves 232 kilometres of the border unfenced.

Nevertheless, these longer walls do force would-be migrants to take more dangerous routes. They also permit higher profits for smugglers and traffickers of people. For example, even though fewer refugees were apprehended in Hungary after the fence was built, the number of human smugglers arrested increased, and thousands of migrants continued to cross the southern Hungarian borders heading for western Europe.

Naked Capitalism: Italy and the EU Are on Collision Course as Economic Conditions Worsen 

Open Democracy: How a war on porn is endangering US sex workers

An ‘anti-trafficking’ US law that has been accused of endangering sex workers faces a crucial hearing this week.

The Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act and Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (FOSTA/SESTA), which became law in 2018, claims to hold websites liable for promoting or facilitating prostitution or sex trafficking.

But critics say it has actually increased trafficking, as well as threatening sex workers and free speech.

Under the law, a website can be sued if a user discusses prostitution or sex trafficking – and the site’s owner can be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison. This means some platforms have introduced bans on all content relating to sex work.

Former sex worker and sex-trafficking survivor Justice Rivera told openDemocracy that this is “pushing people to more risky forms of work, like full-service sex work, or something that’s on the street”.

Naked Capitalism: Militarized Japan and the Biden-Kishida Summit Signal Moment in the New Cold War


Outside the Imperial Core


Monthly Review: The smoldering Moldovan crisis

The battle between Russia and the West for Moldova has been ongoing since the Soviet collapse, despite the country’s constitutional ban on joining alliances, presumably applying only to military ones. That battle has been slowly escalating ever since the February 2014 Western-backed Maidan putsch, rise of the oligarchic-ultranationalist Maidan regime, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and the Donbass conflict. Many aspects of the situation in Moldova mirror those that led to war in Ukraine: (1) a cleft state cobbled together as a result of World War II; (2) a ‘stateness problem’ with divisions between pro-Western and pro-Russian elements; (3) corresponding ethnic and religious cleavages; (4) NATO and EU encroachment on the country in opposition to Moscow’s interests and security; (5) Russian gas supply issues; and (6) worsening tensions inside the country exacerbated by Western and Russian involvement.

Monthly Review: Peru and capitalist extraction–the imperial mining powers behind the throne


Climate Change


Inside Climate News: Relentless Rise of Ocean Heat Content Drives Deadly Extremes

Ocean heat content reached a new record high for the fourth year in a row, scientists said Wednesday as they released their annual measurements of ocean heat accumulating down to a depth of more than a mile.

Naked Capitalism: Atmospheric Rivers Over California’s Wildfire Burn Scars Raise Fears of Deadly Mudslides – This Is What Cascading Climate Disasters Look Like

Reuters: UAE names oil boss to lead climate summit, worrying activists

The United Arab Emirates said on Thursday that the head of state oil giant Abu Dhabi National Oil Company would lead this year’s COP28 climate summit, fuelling activists' worries that big industry is hijacking the global response to environmental crisis.

Like, obviously I agree that this isn’t good, but like… what’s he gonna do, have countries sign less completely non-binding treaties? The vast majority of climate summits up to this point have been essentially pointless anyway.