WSWS: UK students face severe housing shortage amid cost-of-living crisis

University students face an unprecedented housing crisis, with more than three students for every bed available in purpose-built student accommodation. The shortage and soaring rents have forced students into poor-quality accommodation, couch-surfing, or commuting to university from parents’ homes and nearby cities.

Open Democracy: Comparing UK anti-strike law to Europe is ‘b*llocks’, say continental unions

European trade unions say the UK government’s claim that its controversial anti-strike bill is similar to laws on the continent is “bollocks”.

Business secretary Grant Shapps unveiled plans this week that could force people to work during strikes to maintain so-called “minimum service levels” in key industries.

The prime minister echoed Shapps and health secretary Steve Barclay on Wednesday when he sought to justify the bill by arguing that similar measures already exist in France, Italy and Spain.

But unions on the continent have flatly rejected the comparison and said the proposals would widen the gulf between the labour rights in the EU and the UK.

Open Democracy: Revealed: Conservatives took more than £800,000 from private health firms

There’s no way that number isn’t actually orders of magnitudes higher.

RT: Food costs in Spain soaring

The cost of food in Spain rose at a record pace in December, jumping 15.7% year-on-year, according to data released on Friday by the country’s National Institute of Statistics.

MEE: Germany in talks with Iraq for gas imports

The Iraqi leader said his country had offered opportunities to German companies to invest in Iraq’s natural gas and gas generated as a byproduct of oil production.

Despite holding the world’s 12th-largest proven gas reserves, Iraq depends on Iran for about 40 percent of its power supplies, mainly gas imports. Iraq flares most of the gas that it could capture extracting oil because it lacks the facilities to process it into fuel or export it.

TeleSUR: Hungary’s Average Inflation for 2022 Rises to 14.5 Pct

Hungary’s annual average inflation rate was 14.5 percent in 2022, up from 5.1 percent in 2021, the country’s Central Statistical Office (KSH) said on Friday. The official target of the National Bank of Hungary (MNB) was 3.0 percent for 2022.

Reuters: Lithuania-Latvia gas pipeline hit by explosion, operator says

Reuters: Poland, Lithuania want lower Russian oil cap, nuclear curbs in new EU sanctions

Reuters: Russia suggests Sweden has ‘something to hide’ in Nord Stream blast probe

Russia questioned on Thursday whether Sweden had “something to hide” over explosions that damaged the Nord Stream gas pipelines last year, as it slammed Stockholm for not sharing information in the ongoing investigations into the blasts.

East Asia and Oceania

TeleSUR: China’s Monetary Policy to Boost Domestic Demand

China’s prudent monetary policy will focus on coordinating the expansion of domestic demand and supply-side structural reform, Xuan Changneng, vice governor of the People’s Bank of China, said on Friday.

To increase domestic demand, measures will be taken to maintain reasonably sufficient liquidity, guide financial institutions to release credit supply reasonably and in accordance with market principles and the rule of law, Xuan told a press conference.

Reuters: China demand optimism sets oil on track for strong weekly gain

Oil prices rose on Friday and were on track to gain over 7% on the week due to solid signs of demand growth in top oil importer China and expectations of less aggressive interest rate rises in the United States.

Reuters: U.S. House passes bill banning exports of reserve oil to China

The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill on Thursday to ban releases of oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve from being exported to China, though the measure faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

People’s Daily: Russia welcomes China’s optimization of COVID-19 response

Yeah, I bet they do.

“We are interested in a strong, dynamically developing China and interested in strengthening and diversifying our multifaceted practical ties,” the ministry’s spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, said at her weekly briefing when answering a question about the prospects for China’s economic development after the adjustment of COVID-19 response policies.

RT: Japanese cut spending amid highest inflation in 40 years – survey

More than half of Japanese households have experienced worsening living standards as a result of soaring inflation, the latest survey conducted by the Bank of Japan has shown.

In its quarterly report, the BOJ said 53% of people surveyed admitted that their wealth had slumped last year compared to 2021, while only 3.7% said their livelihood had improved. This is the highest percentage of households reporting financial problems in almost 13 years.

Common Dreams: ​'Outrageous': South Korean President Under Fire for Considering Nuclear Weapons

“It’s possible that the problem gets worse and our country will introduce tactical nuclear weapons or build them on our own,” Yoon said during a policy briefing with his defense and foreign ministries, according toThe New York Times. “If that’s the case, we can have our own nuclear weapons pretty quickly, given our scientific and technological capabilities.”

South Korea, which previously had a nuclear program in the 1970s, would have to leave the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to develop such arms. The United States—one of the nine official nuclear-armed nations—withdrew its nukes from the country in 1991.

FT: Sri Lanka to slash size of its military by a third by 2024

Sri Lanka plans to reduce the size of its bloated military by about a third by 2024 as the government of the bankrupt island struggles to contain a devastating financial crisis.

RT: High-level official reveals he wore Nazi uniform

The leader of the Australian state of New South Wales, Dominic Perrottet, has confessed to wearing a Nazi uniform at a party celebrating his 21st birthday. The premier, who is now 40 years old, told a news conference on Thursday that he is “deeply ashamed” of what he did but stressed that he is not the “naive” man he used to be.

Seems like an extremely normal thing to do, and very cool. Are we REALLY going to blame somebody for the acts they did at the very young age of 21? Oh, what’s next, people in their late 20s have to take responsibility for their actions? Ridiculous.

“At that age in my life, I just did not understand the gravity of what that uniform meant,” said Perrottet, adding “who I am today is formed by the good things I’ve done in my life, not the mistakes I’ve made.”

Yeah, exactly, who on earth could possibly understand what a Nazi uniform means when they’re not even 30 years old? Children that young don’t even know what the Holocaust is yet!

He also stated the incident has caused him anxiety for many years and that he has on numerous occasions considered opening up about it in public. The premier said he ultimately decided to make a public admission after a ministerial colleague warned him two days ago that people knew about the incident.

lol. lmao, even.

Central Asia and the Middle East

MEE: Saudi Arabia and UK to invest in space-based solar power development 

The UK and Saudi Arabia have discussed investing in joint, space-based solar power (SBSP) projects.

A collaboration between Neom megacity and UK company Space Solar could see “significant investment” into the project by both governments in the coming years, according to a UK government press release.

SBSP is an ambitious yet untested concept of using solar panels in space to collect solar energy and transmit it wirelessly to Earth. 

Jesus christ.

MEE: Debt-ridden Jordan follows Egypt’s lead and plans new city in the desert

The Jordanian government on Tuesday announced a grand plan to follow in Egypt’s footsteps and begin construction of a new city 40km east of Amman.

Set to be constructed on 266,000 dunums of land, the prospective city will be located at a crossroads where highways connect Jordan with Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

Jordanian officials say they expect a million people to eventually move to this corner of desert, with 157,000 residents by the end of the first phase in 2033. The overall project, they say, will be completed by 2050, and ease the pressure of growing populations in large cities such as Amman and Zarqa.

Clearly, this is a very expensive plan. And that’s concerning for many Jordanians struggling in the kingdom’s wheezing economy, where the 2023 budget stretches to just $2.5bn and national debt stands at $45bn.

MEE: Israel: One in four families now live under the poverty line

MEE: Biden administration to ask Congress to approve F-16 sale to Turkey: Report

The Biden administration plans to ask Congress to approve a $20bn sale of new F-16 jet fighters to Turkey alongside a separate sale of next-generation F-35 jets to Greece, in one of the largest weapons sales in recent years, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

According to US officials, the arms sale is contingent upon Turkey agreeing to Sweden and Finland’s accession to Nato. Turkey has held off on agreeing to their joining the alliance over what it claims is their support for Kurdish militants, and Sweden last week said it cannot fulfill all of Turkey’s demands.

People’s Daily:Türkiye enters new year with pay hikes but falling living standards


Africa News: Benin: presidential camp wins majority in Parliament

President Patrice Talon’s camp won the majority of seats in parliament, the country’s Constitutional Court said on Thursday, after a vote marking the return of the opposition after a four-year absence.

Africa News: Cholera outbreak in Malawi claims 750 deaths

MEMO: Food prices in Algeria up 13.6%, World Bank says

North America

WSWS: Fed chief Powell defends the dictatorship of finance capital

A speech by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell earlier this week provided an insight into the anti-democratic and outright dictatorial character of the central banks, acting in the interests of finance capital, as they pursue a policy of deliberately increasing unemployment in an effort to slash workers’ wages.

Speaking at a symposium in Stockholm, Sweden Powell said, “Restoring price stability when inflation is high can require measures that are not popular in the short term as we raise interest rates to slow the economy.”

Jacobin: It Turns Out Hillary Clinton, Not Russian Bots, Lost the 2016 Election

A new study of Russia-based Twitter posts by New York University researchers buries the liberal canard that Russian bots played any significant role in swinging the 2016 election for Donald Trump.

Common Dreams: GAO Study Finds 34% of Large, Profitable Corporations Pay Zero in Federal Income Taxes

Monthly Review: Union organizing surged in 2022: Let’s push for a radical labor movement in 2023

McKinsey: One billion days lost: How COVID-19 is hurting the US workforce

COVID-19 has gradually become a part of the US landscape. Changes in official policy have indicated as much, as has the public’s clear acceptance of the risks of the disease. These shifts are consistent with the scenarios that we and others have described: COVID-19 is now endemic in the United States.

“The public’s clear acceptance of the risks of the disease”?! Only after the constant droning of American state propaganda outlets that we must return to normal and that coronavirus is just the flu now.

However, that does not mean that we have defeated the disease. Every day, between 250 and 400 US families lose a loved one to COVID-19. That’s roughly 2.5 to 4.0 times the average number of daily deaths from the flu in the decade preceding the pandemic. For these families (and those of the more than one million victims since 2020), COVID-19 is an unalloyed tragedy.

Another ongoing effect of COVID-19 is less critical, and less obvious, but nevertheless substantial: more than two years after the lockdown, the disease continues to exert a brake on the US economy through productive workdays lost to worker illness, caregivers’ responsibilities for children and seniors, and compliance with isolation guidelines. And some analysts are starting to notice.

If only we could have possibly seen this coming!

StatNews: Routine vaccinations drop among U.S. kindergartners for the third year in a row

Vaccinations among children remain high, but the trend — with coverage dropping from about 95% in the 2019-2020 school year to 94% in 2020-2021 to 93% in 2021-2022, according to the data released Thursday — has health officials concerned. Having that rate of kindergartners vaccinated against measles, for example, means that at least 250,000 kindergarteners could be unprotected.

South America

TeleSUR: Brazil to Ask the U.S. to Extradite Bolsonaro’s Former Minister

On Friday, Justice Minister Flavio Dino warned that the administration of President Lula da SIlva will ask the United States to extradite former Justice Minister Anderson Torres if this citizen does not voluntarily return to Brazil by Monday the 16th.

TeleSUR: 251 Venezuelans Return Thanks to Voluntary Repatriation Plan

Monthly Review: U.S.-backed coup regime has murdered 46 demonstrators

In Peru, the death toll has risen to at least 46 following the December 7 U.S.-backed coup overthrowing democratically elected socialist President Pedro Castillo.

The Ukraine Proxy Conflict

RT: Ukraine reveals date for ‘peace summit’ without Russia

The Kiev government is pressing ahead with a “global peace summit,” Ukrainian ambassador to Türkiye Vasily Bodnar said on Thursday. The event will be held at the UN headquarters in New York on February 24, Bodnar told Anadolu Agency. Though Russia has said it was open to talks, there was no indication that it would be invited.

RT: Iconic Russian arms maker reveals bumper year

The Kalashnikov Group has had the biggest year in its history, massively increasing both production and the scope of contracts, the company announced on Thursday.

The Izhevsk-based group is Russia’s biggest manufacturer of small arms and which also makes machine tools and motorcycles. In the past year, the firearms production division achieved a 20-year record, producing 40% more military and civilian small arms than in 2021, Kalashnikov said. The tool-making division’s output also rose by 8% over the previous year.

TeleSUR: France Is Absolutely Involved In The Ukrainian Conflict: Russia

On Thursday, Russia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova rejected the declaration made by French Foreign Affairs Minister Catherine Colonna, who alleged that sending military vehicles to Kyiv does not make Paris part of the armed conflict in Ukraine.

WSWS: Britain confirms plan to send heavy battle tanks to Ukraine

RT: US-Russian nuclear arms control has become a hostage to the conflict in Ukraine – here’s why it’s so dangerous


Retrospectives, History, Theory, and Technology

Monthly Review: America’s theater of the absurd

Our political class does not govern. It entertains. It plays its assigned role in our fictitious democracy, howling with outrage to constituents and selling them out. The Squad and the Progressive Caucus have no more intention of fighting for universal health care, workers’ rights or defying the war machine than the Freedom Caucus fights for freedom. These political hacks are modern versions of Sinclair Lewis’s slick con artist Elmer Gantry, cynically betraying a gullible public to amass personal power and wealth. This moral vacuity provides the spectacle, as H.G. Wells wrote, of “a great material civilization, halted, paralyzed.” It happened in Ancient Rome. It happened in Weimar Germany. It is happening here.

Governance exists. But it is not seen. It is certainly not democratic. It is done by the armies of lobbyists and corporate executives from the fossil fuel industry, the arms industry, the pharmaceutical industry and Wall Street. Governance happens in secret. Corporations have seized the levers of power, including the media. Growing obscenely rich, the ruling oligarchs have deformed national institutions, including state and federal legislatures and the courts, to serve their insatiable greed. They know what they are doing. They understand the depths of their own corruption. They know they are hated. They are prepared for that too. They have militarized police forces and have built a vast archipelago of prisons to keep the unemployed and underemployed in bondage. All the while, they pay little to no income tax and exploit sweatshop labor overseas. They lavishly bankroll the political clowns who speak in the vulgar and crude idiom of an enraged public or in the dulcet tones used to mollify the liberal class.

Donald Trump’s seminal contribution to the political landscape is the license to say in public what political decorum once prohibited. His legacy is the degradation of political discourse to the monosyllabic tirades of Shakespeare’s Caliban, which simultaneously scandalize and energize the kabuki theater that passes for government. This burlesque differs little from the German Reichstag, where the final cri de coeur by a mortally ill Clara Zetkin against fascism on August 30, 1932, was met with a chorus of taunts, insults and jeers by Nazi deputies.

Foreign Policy: Why the World Feels Different in 2023

The non-Western world—the long-ignored global south, or the “Rest,” as it’s often called—is making its voice heard. These parts of the planet, younger and faster-growing than the West but also more vulnerable to climate change, are becoming increasingly powerful and more assertive stakeholders in global politics. Policymakers and businesses in the West will need to adapt.

Inside the Imperial Core

Resumen: The North American Leaders’ Summit: Real Change or Just Talk

A bit of both, it seems.

Outside the Imperial Core

M.K. Bhadrakumar: Biden stoops to conquer Brazil’s Lula

Third, Lula is expected to make official trips to China and the US in his first three months in office. There is no question that under China’s “old friend” Lula, the economic and trade cooperation is set to deepen. The left-wing regimes usually “pull away” from the US and advocate a diversified and balanced diplomacy. 

Actually, though, the deepening of China-Brazil relations follows the trend and has a strong internal driving force in terms of the complementarity between the two economies. The bilateral exchanges between China and Brazil have never been demarcated by ideology. Under Bolsonaro, China-Brazil trade still hit the record of about $164 billion in 2021 despite the pandemic. 

Nonetheless, the US will be concerned because Brazil is an international powerhouse and shares extensive common interests and responsibilities with China at a time when the left-wing wave highlights the weakening of US’s global leadership and the massive erosion in Washington’s control over Latin America. (Argentina has also sought BRICS membership.)

Lula’s victory will significantly advance the process of Latin American cooperation to explore a new alternative world order. Against this backdrop, Biden’s best hope lies in encouraging Lula to pursue a moderate diplomatic line and adopt a strategy of balance between great powers. The US feels encouraged by Lula’s previous two terms in office and his record of being a left-leaning moderate. 

The Cradle: Russia and its national Arctic passage: Pushing trade frontiers eastward

In 2007, the Northwest Passage completely opened up to shipping for the first time in the history of observation, and 2020 was a record year for the Northern Sea Route: it was entirely clear of ice already in the middle of July.

The newer Northeast Passage, a 3,500 mile northern sea route between Asia and Europe, will be an essential maritime component of an Arcto-Pacific region.

The commercial – and potentially military use – of this new route, which is perceived by many in Russia as an analogue of the Suez Canal, has already led to the establishment of an icebreaker fleet and terminals along the Russian northern coast.

The Rosneft flagship project, Vostokoil also aims to bring oil and gas from these still untapped fields to clients in the east. Vostokoil was in progress long before the Ukraine war started.

Millions of new barrels of crude oil are expected to enter the market as a result, and this market is located east rather than west of Suez or Moscow. Prior to 24 February, 2022, this was obvious for economic and demographic reasons as well.

From a West Asian perspective, where so much of the world’s energy resources are situated, this promises a notable shift in transport corridors. The Suez Canal was the waterway of the European era, the Panama Canal marked the American century, and the new scheme of trade corridors across Eurasia will shape contemporary relations for an entirely new era.

Tricontinental: The Winds of the New Cold War Are Howling in the Arctic Circle: The Second Newsletter (2023)

Climate Change

People’s Daily: UN agency says past 8 years warmest on record

Science: Assessing ExxonMobil’s global warming projections

For decades, some members of the fossil fuel industry tried to convince the public that a causative link between fossil fuel use and climate warming could not be made because the models used to project warming were too uncertain. Supran et al. show that one of those fossil fuel companies, ExxonMobil, had their own internal models that projected warming trajectories consistent with those forecast by the independent academic and government models. What they understood about climate models thus contradicted what they led the public to believe.

People’s Daily: Global warming driving shift in water cycle: Australian study

The Global Water Monitor Consortium, led by the Australian National University (ANU), on Thursday released its first report, warning that flash droughts will become more common in the short-term future.

According to the report, the water cycle in 2022 was dominated by warmer-than-average ocean waters in the western Pacific and eastern and northern Indian Ocean, driving severe heat waves in South Asia and a severe monsoon that caused flooding in Pakistan.

In Europe and China, it said heat waves caused droughts to develop rapidly while a third consecutive La Ni a event caused catastrophic flooding in Australia but exacerbated droughts in North and South America.