Common Dreams: If This Global Austerity Continues, So Will Angry Protest


Naked Capitalism: Natural Gas Futures in Europe Plunge 15% Today, Down 84% from Crazy Spike

To quote Yves' foreword:

Lady Fortune has smiled on Europe, at least as far as gas prices are concerned. As Wolf Richter lists below, many factors have broken their way, presently taking the pressure off what was close to universally predicted to be price hell or at least price pain.

However, Wolf’s tally omits some key items:

Europe having loaded up on Russian gas in 2022

The suspensions of activity and even closure of facilities in energy-intensive industries, such as BASF’s decision to permanently cut operations at its main plant in Ludwigshafen

China’s stop and go growth under Zero Covid, which looks set to remain dampered under “Let ‘er rip” (unless China proves more adept at managing a chronically tight labor market than the US)

Borderline recessionary global outlook for 2023. The World Bank forecast this year to show the weakest growth since the financial crisis and Covid

In other words, Europe may continue to have favorable gas prices. But at what cost?

As I said months before winter, Europe is systemically screwed even if it’s the hottest winter they’ve ever had (and, hell, it just might be in fact) - the temperature only determines the degree (haha) to which they are screwed. Even if most European industry somehow manages to stagger forward without closing, the higher energy prices will make them much less competitive compared to other manufacturers around the world. It’s a slow death or a fast death. It is a physical impossibility for Europe’s industry to continue on as it was before the war without Russian gas. A warm winter just means fewer people will freeze to death in their homes.

RT: Russia moves to end European treaties

President Vladimir Putin asked the Russian lawmakers on Tuesday to adopt a law that would formally end the country’s participation in 21 treaties and charters related to the Council of Europe. Moscow withdrew from the human rights body last March, saying it was captured by the US and its allies in service of Western political objectives.

Common Dreams: Tories Advance ‘Indefensible’ Anti-Worker Bill as Thousands March to Defend Right to Strike

WSWS: Britain’s trade unions promote future Labour government as answer to Tory anti-strike laws as they head towards statute books

“Maybe Red Tories can fix this?"

WSWS: National Health Service nurses take second round of national strike action across England

WSWS: UK recorded 50,000 more excess deaths in 2022 than in 2019

Reuters: British government to block Scottish gender reform law

The British government will block a bill passed by the Scottish parliament that makes it easier for people to change their legal gender, its Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said on Monday, the first time it has invoked the power to veto a Scottish law.

The move sparked a fresh argument with the devolved Scottish government, which has also been thwarted in its attempts to hold a new independence referendum.

Almost comically evil.

Open Democracy: Can the UK survive Westminster’s attack on trans rights in Scotland?

“Before this situation, I was concerned that a lot of people who pushed for independence as their main priority had largely turned a blind eye to a lot of the problems within Scotland, and viewed independence as a panacea,” said Esme Houston, an Aberdeen-based queer activist.

“Now, I understand that independence is the only way to achieve [progressive] goals in the face of a highly conservative UK government,” she explained.

MEMO: Sweden will not probe hanging Erdogan’s effigy

Swedish newspaper, Aftonbladet, reported the spokesman saying that Public Prosecutor, Lucas Eriksson said: “I did not think it [hanging the effigy] could amount to defamation.”

MEMO: Major Sweden bank hosts account which raises funds for PKK

MEMO: Sweden, Finland must send up to 130 ‘terrorists’ to Turkiye for NATO bid

Climate Change News: Italy’s climate envoy resigns, leaving diplomacy in doubt

Alessandro Modiano resigned three months into a new far-right government and it is unclear if he will be replaced as climate envoy or if the position will be scrapped

East Asia and Oceania

Reuters: China’s first population drop in six decades sounds alarm on demographic crisis

The country’s National Bureau of Statistics reported a drop of roughly 850,000 people for a population of 1.41175 billion in 2022, marking the first decline since 1961, the last year of China’s Great Famine.

MEMO: South Korea and the UAE agree $30 billion investment deal

Reuters: Vietnam president quits as Communist Party intensifies graft crackdown

Vietnam President Nguyen Xuan Phuc has resigned after the ruling Communist Party blamed him for “violations and wrongdoing” by officials under his control, the government said on Tuesday, in a major escalation of the country’s anti-graft campaign.

Phuc, a former prime minister widely credited with accelerating pro-business reforms, held the largely ceremonial post of president since 2021 and is the highest-ranking official targeted by the party’s sweeping corruption crackdown.

WSWS: Indonesia’s new criminal code: A major assault on democratic rights

Much of the attention in the Western corporate media has centred on articles in the code that criminalise sexual relations and cohabitation outside marriage—in particular, the impact this will have on tourism and foreign investment in Indonesia.

The new law, however, includes over 624 articles and contains a broad range of sweeping attacks on the basic rights of Indonesian workers and their ability to express political opposition, under conditions of growing social tensions.

Central Asia and the Middle East

MEMO: China supports Arab nations ‘independently exploring development paths’

MEE: More than 90 countries slam Israel over ‘punitive measures’ against Palestine

MEMO: Israel: 42.4% of Arab families are experiencing food insecurity

MEMO: Putin and Erdogan discuss Ukraine, Syria

MEE: UN’s Yemen envoy says prospects for peace growing

Saudi Arabia and Houthis revive back-channel talks, UN, Saudi and Yemeni officials tell Associated Press

MEE: Saudi Arabia open to trading in currencies besides the US dollar

Saudi Arabia will consider trading in currencies other than the US dollar, the country’s finance minister said Tuesday, in one of the clearest signs yet that the oil-rich kingdom is open to diversifying away from the greenback.

RT: India’s imports of Russian oil increase 33 times – data

India’s purchases of Russian crude oil increased year-over-year by a factor of 33, marking an all-time high in December, Bloomberg reported on Monday, citing data from Vortexa.

RT: Production of upgraded iconic Russian rifle kicks off in India

New Delhi and Moscow have launched a joint venture to make new Kalashnikov AK-203

Reuters: Lessor says Air India to order around 500 jets

Reuters: Siemens signs 3 bln eur train deal in India

Siemens will deliver 1,200 electric locomotives and provide servicing for 35 years under the agreement, also its biggest ever in India.

Climate Change News: World Bank adaptation funds slept through Pakistan’s record flooding

When it was announced, the World Bank’s Solid Waste Emergency and Efficiency Project (Sweep) was touted as one of the lifelines that would help Pakistan’s biggest city, Karachi, with its urban flooding nightmare. But that hasn’t happened.

A major problem is trash clogging the nullahs, so stormwater overflows. Sweep was supposed to help by improving solid waste management, but two years into the five-year project, there is no sign of progress. Less than 3% of its $100 million budget has been spent, and none of it on new infrastructure.


MEMO: Egypt pardons more prisoners

MEMO: Egypt expands access to subsidised bread

MEMO: US to build military industrial base in Morocco

US President Joe Biden has instructed Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin to prepare an emergency plan to establish an American military industrial base in the Kingdom of Morocco, the New York Daily News has reported. The plan was proposed during a high-level meeting at the end of December when Biden and Austin discussed America’s new global military strategy.

North America

People’s Daily: U.S. COVID surge a “big risk”: report

COVID-19 is spreading again across the United States, driven by factors including the recent holidays and fewer precautions, British newspaper The Guardian has reported.

Vaccine booster uptake has been “pitiful,” Neil Sehgal, an assistant professor of health policy and management at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, was quoted as saying in the report published on Sunday.

Antiviral uptake has been low, and few mandates on masking, vaccination and testing have resumed in the face of the winter surge, which is once again putting pressure on health systems, said the report.

Circle of Blue: Federal Government Advances Big Water Projects

Before ending its session and swearing in new members, Congress passed a fiscal year 2023 budget with key provisions for water infrastructure and disaster recovery. That’s in addition to approving legislation that authorizes Army Corps of Engineers projects for flood protection, navigation, and environmental restoration.

Combined, the two bills run to more than 8,000 pages. Water sector advocates, though confounded by how some infrastructure funds are being allocated, were generally pleased with what the bills contain.

Common Dreams: Eating One Freshwater Fish Equals a Month of Drinking Water With ‘Forever Chemicals’: Study

Inside Climate News: Arizona’s New Governor Takes on Water Conservation and Promises to Revise the State’s Groundwater Management Act

South America

Reuters: Jamaica seizes $80 million worth of cocaine from cargo ship

TeleSUR: Venezuelan Green Peas Output Increases 250 Percent

Between 2021 and 2022, the production of this grain went from 20,800 tons to 73,000 tons, that is, production increased by 250 percent in just 12 months.

Communism… yes food?

TeleSUR: Thousands of Farmers Continue Advancing Towards Lima

TeleSUR: Chilean Environment Defenders Reject Dominga Mining Project

On Tuesday, environmental organizations asked Chile’s President Gabriel Boric to reject the Dominga mining project as it poses a serious threat to a unique natural reserve in the world.

Promoted by former President Sebastian Piñera, this project contemplates the construction of a port for the commercialization of iron and copper on the central coast of Chile next to an area in which 80 percent of Humboldt penguins live there.

“We reiterate our rejection of the Andes Iron company’s Dominga port mining project, which intends to settle in the heart of the Humboldt Archipelago,” said the NGOs in their letter addressed to the Boric administration.

The Ukraine Proxy Conflict

RT: Half of citizens in nine EU nations want quick end to Ukraine conflict – poll

Roughly half of the people in nine EU nations favor a swift end to the armed conflict in Ukraine, even if it means Kiev would have to relinquish its claims on some of its former territory, a new opinion poll has suggested.

The results of the survey, which was conducted in Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Spain, were reported on Tuesday by Euroskopia – an alliance of polling agencies.

RT: Top Zelensky aide resigns amid apartment-block blast uproar

Aleksey Arestovich apologized for disclosing that Ukrainian defenses brought down a Russian missile that caused a deadly explosion in Dnepr

Reuters: Ukraine pushes for tanks as holdout Germany says new minister to decide

kraine came a step closer on Tuesday in its bid to win a fleet of modern battle tanks it hopes could turn the course of the war with Russia, after the West’s big holdout Germany said this would be the first item on its new defence minister’s agenda.


Retrospectives, History, Theory, and Technology

Geopolitical Economy: China, socialism, and value: How Western scholars turn Marx upside down

Elias Jabbour argues that Western scholars turn Marx upside down in analysis of China, failing to see how it is developing a new socio-economic formation, an “embryonic socialism”, that cannot be simplistically reduced to the relations of production.

Michael Roberts: Davos 23: going pear-shaped

Jacobin: At Davos, Capitalists Are Trying to Solve the Problems They Themselves Create

At the World Economic Forum’s conference in Davos this week, elites will try to address problems from climate change to the threat of worldwide recession. But these elites’ endless thirst for profit created these problems — and will doom their efforts to fail.

Inside the Imperial Core

Geopolitical Economy: The US is already preparing for its next war: on China

NATO labeled China a “malicious actor” in the alliance’s latest Strategic Concept document, and pledged to play a larger role in curbing the so-called “threats” presented by its rise.

A series published just after the new year in Foreign Policy, however, has blown the lid off of any subtleties to the U.S.’s preparations for a war with China.

Titled “Lessons for the Next War,” the series features 12 essays from all corners of the U.S. foreign-policy establishment. Contributors include former Obama-era CIA director and US army commander David Petraeus, former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, and former Under Secretary of State and Trump-era NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller.

Also included are representatives from a litany of hawkish think tanks, such as the US government-funded Center for a New American Security (CNAS) and the neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).

Their essays cover 12 areas of economic, cyber, military, diplomatic, and propaganda warfare. An important thread runs through each contribution: Russia has failed in Ukraine (a fabrication mixed with imperial hubris), making the present moment a perfect opportunity to prepare for an upcoming war in Taiwan against China.

Canadian Dimension: Canada’s airline industry doesn’t need more competition. It needs a public alternative

Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s recent statement that increasing competition in Canada’s airline industry would improve services has raised eyebrows amongst Canadian progressives, not least because New Democrat supporters have historically supported public, rather than private, solutions to Canada’s endemic transportation problems.

Increased competition seems like a plausible solution to improve service and potentially lower prices. Assuming there are no extenuating factors—like disruptions to global supply chains or major spikes in the price of oil—healthy competition helps provide consumers with a wide variety of options, and this can keep prices relatively stable.

Air transport is a bit of a different animal, however, and simply increasing competition likely won’t deliver the service improvements Singh hopes for.

To begin with, there’s plenty of competition in the transport sector in the United States, but this hasn’t always been beneficial to travelers. Alcohol, meals, and checked baggage used to be complimentary, but these have virtually disappeared from all airlines.

Outside the Imperial Core

Developing Economics: The labor of land

Contemporary land grabs and agricultural investments have generated huge attention. The transformations in land tenure, production and social reproduction in the aftermath of land rushes have generated a rich literature. A central question is about labor, and its implications for structural transformation and agrarian futures.

People’s Daily: U.S. has problem with primacy in Asia: Foreign Affairs magazine

The United States' global power has diminished over the past generation, making it harder for Washington to direct the world and maintain its self-presumed prowess in Asia, said an article published in the Foreign Affairs magazine on Monday.

“Even if U.S. primacy was once a source of regional stability, there is little basis to think it will promote harmony today,” said the article.

Two of the most recent U.S. presidents – Barack Obama and Donald Trump – charged themselves with the task of “indefinitely propping up the sun,” and President Joe Biden has picked up where both presidents left off, according to the article.

“Biden has increased the U.S. military buildup, facilitated a regional military buildup, and attempted to assemble the beginnings of an anti-Chinese containment coalition along with local Asian powers,” it said.

Climate Change

Common Dreams: Outrage After Kerry Backs UAE Oil Exec as President of UN Climate Summit

My Kerrywatch alarm activated, and I am reporting for duty.

Progressives on Monday reacted with outrage and disbelief after U.S. climate envoy John Kerry backed the appointment of Sultan al-Jaber to lead the the United Nations' annual conference on the climate emergency, saying the CEO of the United Arab Emirates' state-run oil company was not only qualified to preside over the summit, but that his background strengthened the case for his presidency.

God damn it, John.

Common Dreams: Despite Net-Zero Vows, Wall Street ‘Climate Arsonists’ Still Pumping Billions Into Fossil Fuels

Completely unforeseeable.