Events


Globally


Naked Capitalism, quoting Oil Price: Oil Prices Rally As Confidence In A Global Economic Rebound Grows

Wellie, if you read our earlier post on sentiment at Davos, you would have noticed that the Financial Times decided to flog an IMF economic upgrade very hard as a proof of rising animal spirits among the super rich. The Wall Street Journal, which actually talked to attendees, had a much more downbeat take.

Nevertheless, speculators are running with the upbeat IMF/Financial Times spin…even though the World Bank had just slashed its 2023 forecast to just above economic stall speed.

In fairness, a related OilPrice story contends that the Saudis are also bullish on oil prices based on signals they are getting from China. Mind you, we have said that China rebounding would have a big impact on oil prices and growth generally. Your humble blogger is discounting optimistic talk from China for the moment. The Xi government has to depict its abrupt about turn on Zero Covid as a big success until it actually does succeed or cannot be denied to have been a belly flop, or worse.

Common Dreams: 200+ Millionaires to World Leaders at Davos: ‘Tax the Ultra-Rich and Do It Now’

A group of more than 200 millionaires from 13 countries published an open letter Tuesday calling on world leaders gathered in Davos to tackle skyrocketing inequality by taxing rich people like themselves, warning that extreme concentrations of wealth at the top are “unsustainable.”

“We are living in an age of extremes,” states the letter from global millionaires, which was hand-delivered to World Economic Forum attendees. “Rising poverty and widening wealth inequality; the rise of anti-democratic nationalism; extreme weather and ecological decline; deep vulnerabilities in our shared social systems; and the shrinking opportunity for billions of ordinary people to earn a livable wage.”

“Why, in this age of multiple crises, do you continue to tolerate extreme wealth?” the letter asks. “The solution is plain for all to see… Tax the ultra-rich and do it now. It’s simple, commonsense economics. It is an investment in our common good and a better future that we all deserve, and as millionaires we want to make that investment.”

How very noble of them! Of course, their positions shouldn’t be fundamentally challenged or abolished, nor the economic logic that created them in the first place even remotely questioned.


Europe


RT: Russia’s biggest bank to open in Crimea

TeleSUR: Russia’s Oil Output up 2 Pct in 2022 Despite Sanctions

RT: ‘Banned’ Russian oil in high demand – Bloomberg

Demand has been soaring for oil storage tanks in Singapore due to a rise in interest and profits from mixing cheap fuel supplies from Russia with shipments from other suppliers, Bloomberg reported on Thursday, citing sources.

People’s Daily: UK inflation eases slightly to 10.5 pct in December: ONS

The United Kingdom’s (UK) inflation slowed for a second month in December 2022, but the cost-of-living crisis continued as food inflation remained record high, official figures showed on Wednesday.

RT: Greece doubles trade with Russia

It reported on Tuesday that during that period the value of imports amounted to €8.465 billion ($9 billion), recording an increase of 125.3% in annual terms. The value of Greek exports to Russia during the same period was €148.1 million (over $161 million), down by 18.8%.


East Asia and Oceania


TeleSUR: New Zealand PM To Resign Next Month

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Thursday that she will step down as prime minister and leader of the Labor Party in February as she will not be seeking re-election this year.

Ardern’s last day as prime minister is Feb. 7. Her resignation will take effect on the appointment of a new prime minister.

WSWS: Police attack protest by Sri Lankan students against state repression

Last Monday, more than 3,000 university students from across Sri Lanka protested in Colombo against the state repression unleashed by the government of President Ranil Wickremasinghe. The protest was organised by the Inter University Students Federation (IUSF), which is controlled by the pseudo-left Frontline Socialist Party (FSP).

Pseudo-left or Stalinist are the only two things you can be, according to WSWS.


Central Asia and the Middle East


MEMO: John Bolton: Turkiye should be expelled from NATO for ‘not acting like an ally’

This would be so fucking funny.

MEMO: Drought hits Turkiye’s Lake Sapanca as water recedes by 40 meters

Lake Sapanca, the main drinking water source in Turkiye, has set off alarms in Sakarya and Kocaeli as water levels have receded to 40 meters, Anadolu News Agency reports.

According to the report, the lake, being one of the few lakes in Turkiye that provides drinking water to the two big cities, has been exposed to drought due to low precipitation and increased urbanisation.

MEMO: President Biden urged to ‘save Israel’ from turning into an ‘illiberal bastion of zealotry’

I’m sure Biden will, after his admin cures cancer, make that time machine and go back half a century and fulfill that request.

MEMO: UNRWA called upon to end workers' pay rise crisis

The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and its workers have been called upon to end the pay rise crisis and pay attention to Israel’s plan to force the UN agency out of Jerusalem. The call was made by Commission 302 to Defend Refugees' Rights.

MEE: Israel wants to bring Saudis into ‘circle of peace’, says Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed normalising ties with Saudi Arabia in talks with visiting White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Thursday, his office said, saying they wanted to bring the Saudis into the “circle of peace”.

MEMO: Syria has no solution without Iran, says senior official

A senior advisor to the Iranian foreign minister has said that there will be no solution in Syria without Tehran. His country is involved in all issues related to the Syrian crisis, added Ali Asghar Khaji.

None of the platforms formed to solve the Syrian crisis, whether in Geneva or elsewhere, can play a significant role in helping to resolve the issue, he insisted. “The Astana process is the only one that has played its role, achieved positive successes and is ongoing.”


Africa


Africa News: Morocco, Israel agree to expand military cooperation

Africa News: Senegalese transporters on strike against road safety measures

The transport sector in Senegal went on strike this Wednesday. A number of unions joined forces to denounce the measures taken on January 9 to combat road insecurity.

MEMO: Egypt: economic crisis pushes middle class to brink of poverty

Currency devaluation and rampant inflation are forcing many families to take radical decisions and change their lifestyles.

Africa News: Deforestation threatens national park in DRC

The Virunga National Park in eastern DRC is under threat. The conflict between government forces and the M23 rebels, allegedly supported by Rwanda, has led tens of thousands of civilians to flee the conflict. Many of the internal displaced have resorted to cutting down trees for firewood and charcoal.

Africa News: South Africa to stage joint naval drills with Russia, China in February

“South Africa will host the Chinese and Russian Federation navies in a multilateral maritime exercise between February 17 and 27,” the South African military confirmed in a statement.

“In order to strengthen the already flourishing relations between South Africa, Russia and China,” the joint maneuvers will take place off Durban, the largest port in southern Africa, and Richards Bay some 180 km further north, the statement said.

Africa News: Escaped tiger in South Africa found and euthanized

A tiger that escaped from a private farm in South Africa and attacked a man and killed two dogs and a pig while on the loose for days was euthanized on Wednesday.

The tiger’s escape has prompted animal welfare organizations to question South Africa’s laws around keeping exotic animals as pets. Animal protection group the SPCA said it was concerning that a license was not required to have exotic animals in the Gauteng province where Sheba was kept.


North America


WSWS: Microsoft announces 10,000 layoffs as jobs bloodbath in US accelerates

Tech giant Microsoft announced Wednesday that it will lay off 10,000 workers, or 5 percent of its global workforce, as the wave job cuts in the US tech, banking and retail sectors accelerates.

Microsoft made its job cutting plan public the same day that Amazon began sending out layoff notices to 18,000 workers in the US, Canada and Costa Rica as part of its previously announced move to cut 6 percent of its global workforce.

Inside Climate News: Renewables Projected to Soon Be One-Fourth of US Electricity Generation. Really Soon

Common Dreams: Docs Reveal Hundreds of US Agencies Spying on Americans' Money Transfers

“Ordinary people’s private financial records are being siphoned indiscriminately into a massive database, with access given to virtually any cop who wants it,” said the ACLU’s Nathan Freed Wessler.

Common Dreams: University of Illinois Chicago Faculty Strike After Contract Negotiations Fail

Climate Change News: Mexico plans to ban solar geoengineering after rogue experiment

Mexico announced this Tuesday a set of measures to ban solar geoengineering experiments in the country, after a US startup began releasing sulfur particles into the atmosphere in the northern state of Baja California.


South America


TeleSUR: China Makes Official Donation of $100 Million to Cuba

Cuba’s ambassador to China, Carlos Pereira, and the vice-president of the China International Development Cooperation Agency, Tang Wenhong, signed a cooperation agreement formalizing the donation of 700 million yuan, equal to 100 million dollars, on Wednesday.

TeleSUR: Over 8,000 Families Benefit From Housing Program in Paraguay

TeleSUR: Petroecuador Workers on Indefinite Strike Over Wage Demands

On Wednesday, workers of the state-owned oil company Petroecuador began an indefinite strike in Quito, Ecuador, demanding fair wages and better working conditions.


The Ukraine Proxy Conflict


There’s an ongoing saga with Leopard tanks and Germany’s refusal (perhaps, maybe) to send them. One gets the sense that Scholz isn’t particularly keen to send his tanks over, but he’s also somebody who doesn’t have a backbone, so it’s likely that before very long there will be western tanks other than the Challenger 2s in Ukraine.

People’s Daily: Canada to donate 200 additional armoured vehicles to Ukraine

Canada will donate 200 Senator Armoured Personnel Carriers to Ukraine as a new package of military assistance, Defence Minister Anita Anand announced Wednesday.

WSWS: US “likely” to send long-range missiles to Ukraine

The United States will “likely” announce that it is sending long-range missiles with a range of over 100 miles to Ukraine this week, US officials told Politico.

The weapons system, known as the ground-launched Small Diameter Bomb, is a rocket-launched maneuverable glide bomb with double the range of the HIMARS missiles that Washington has already provided.

AntiWar: War in Ukraine: When International Laws Collide

On the question of NATO expansion, the US cites the principle of the free and sovereign right of states to choose their own security alignments. At the same time, Russia cites the principle of the indivisibility of security: the assurance that the security of one state should not be bought at the expense of the security of another. Both principles are enshrined in international law and in international agreements. Both are legitimate, but the two are contradictory. Hence the conflict.

The former isn’t really applicable if the government is overthrown in a coup sponsored by another country. Nor, for that matter, when fascism is involved.

People’s Daily: IAEA completing stationing of missions at Ukraine’s nuclear plants

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is finalizing the stationing of permanent missions at Ukrainian nuclear power plants (NPPs), the Ukrainian government press service reported Wednesday.


Analysis

Retrospectives, History, Theory, and Technology


Monthly Review: Practical nuclear fusion is still just hype

While most honest writers have at least acknowledged the obstacles to commercially-scaled fusion, they typically still underestimate them–as much so today as back in the 1980s. We are told that a fusion reaction would have to occur “many times a second” to produce usable amounts of energy. But the blast of energy from the LLNL fusion reactor actually only lasted one tenth of a nanosecond–that’s a ten-billionth of a second. Apparently other fusion reactions (with a net energy loss) have operated for a few nanoseconds, but reproducing this reaction over a billion times every second is far beyond what researchers are even contemplating.

We are told that the reactor produced about 1.5 times the amount of energy that was input, but this only counts the laser energy that actually struck the reactor vessel. That energy, which is necessary to generate temperatures over a hundred million degrees, was the product of an array of 192 high-powered lasers, which required well over 100 times as much energy to operate.

And we are told that nuclear fusion will someday free up vast areas of land that are currently needed to operate solar and wind power installations. But the entire facility needed to house the 192 lasers and all the other necessary control equipment was large enough to contain three football fields, even though the actual fusion reaction takes place in a gold or diamond vessel smaller than a pea.

All this just to generate the equivalent of about 10-20 minutes of energy that is used by a typical small home. Clearly, even the most inexpensive rooftop solar systems can already do far more. Mark Jacobson’s group at Stanford University has calculated that a total conversion to wind, water and solar power might use about as much land as is currently occupied by the world’s fossil fuel infrastructure.

Jacobin: The Story of Palm Oil Is a Story About Capitalism

Palm oil is in everything: what we eat, wear, read, drive. And like so much else that we consume and can’t disentangle ourselves from, palm oil is enmeshed in global supply chains that rely on brutal working conditions and the destruction of the planet.

WSWS: World Economic Forum’s global risk report: A devastating picture of the capitalist crisis

Down through the years, the ideologists of the ruling classes have repeatedly accused Marxists of exaggeration and even “catastrophitis,” as they drew out the deepening contradictions of capitalism, which threaten the very future of civilisation.

Those who agree with such assessments, endlessly regurgitated through media and academic outlets, would do well to examine the “Global Risks Report 2023” of the World Economic Forum (WEF) prepared for the annual gathering that is taking place this week in Davos, Switzerland.

The report paints a devastating picture of a socioeconomic system hurtling towards disaster, outside of the control of the ruling elites for which the WEF speaks.


Inside the Imperial Core


Current Affairs: US Hypocrisy on Foreign Policy Undermines the ‘Rules-Based’ Order it Claims to Defend

This article is basically for widdle baby liberals who haven’t even once considered the viewpoints of people outside of the golden billion and as such is couched in the standard “of course, Putin and Russia are doing horrible things, we must condemn them for this, but…” stuff. So not really worth anybody here reading, I just thought I’d put this article in.

In the United States, for instance, where the invasion has gotten more media coverage than almost any war of the past 30 years, it’s not surprising many have come to view it as a singular, unprecedented crime whose outcome will make or break the fragile liberal global order that has existed since World War Two. But to citizens of the Global South, who for years have watched or directly experienced the same crimes and outrages at the hands of Western governments or forces backed by them, the conflict seems like yet another disastrous great power conflict that doesn’t involve them, yet they are forced to endure.

In the West, calling attention to this history is often cast as a form of “whataboutism” by critics who claim that the discussion is simply meant to excuse Moscow’s wrongdoing—to the point that it has been declared taboo. But this history matters greatly to the world’s citizenry, who might join the Western push to isolate Russia at considerable cost but are less likely to stick their necks out on principle if that principle seems selective and self-serving for the West.


Outside the Imperial Core


Gray Zone: Iran’s unrest triggers explosion of fake news

Some of the most incendiary accusations made against Iran’s government by corporate media, celebrity influencers and Western leaders in the past months are little more than fabrications. And most remain uncorrected.

While Western media outlets from the BBC to the New York Post have spun out a series of reports accusing Iran of killing more protesters than civilians killed by Russia in Ukraine, think tank pundits and leaders of NATO governments have claimed that Tehran has sentenced 15,000 people to death simply for participating in anti-government demonstrations.

These horrific stories would certainly seem to legitimize the calls for regime change, but there’s just one problem: they are just stories.

Indeed, some of the most incendiary accusations leveled against Iran’s government by legacy media outlets, celebrities and Western leaders in the past months are simply fabrications, while others lack critical context that deadens their impact. And as we will see, few, if any, of the bogus reports and phony social media posts have been retracted or corrected by official fact-checkers. 

The examples of regime change disinformation listed below represent a mere snapshot of the propaganda war launched against Iran since protests and violent anti-government riots erupted in September 2022. Taken together, however, they expose the near-total refusal of corporate media and social media fact-checkers to exercise even the most basic standards of integrity whenever Iran’s government is the subject.

Monthly Review: Venezuela’s Seed Law should be a global model

Venezuelans have decided to take an entirely different approach to seed politics. With the election of Hugo Chávez in 1999, rural development and self-government were foregrounded through laws focused on agrarian reform and land redistribution. Additionally, the new constitution, approved by popular referendum in December 1999, emphasized the importance of food security “through the promotion of sustainable agriculture as a strategic basis for integrated rural development.”

Chávez himself railed against transgenic foods on many occasions, highlighting the ways in which this model of agriculture dismantles a nation’s food sovereignty. In 2004, for example, he terminated a contract with Monsanto to plant 500,000 acres of transgenic soybeans on Venezuelan soil, announcing instead that the land would be used to grow yuca, an indigenous crop.

The Venezuelan government promoted local organization via participatory measures like the Organic Law of Communal Councils, placing more democratic control of production in the hands of both rural and urban communes and thus eroding the central role of national and multinational agricultural companies.

In addition to supporting grassroots production in urban centres, Chávez sought to engineer a rural renaissance by encouraging migration out of cities and into agricultural careers. He stressed the need to attain national food sovereignty by moving away from imports toward self-sustaining networks producing indigenous crops in ecological ways. He explained that people in Venezuela were drawn to the cities by a “centripetal force,” and that his policies aimed to reverse the trend in order to “occupy the geographic space of the country in a more harmonious and balanced way.”

One of the most progressive steps toward protecting small-scale agriculture in the country came after Chávez’s death, with the National Assembly’s passage of a new Seed Law in 2015. But while the Seed Law was approved after his death, its roots can be found in the agricultural philosophy and doctrine of popular participation espoused by his government from 1999 to 2013.

Telesur contributor Quincy Saul referred to the passage of the 2015 Seed Law as “arguably the biggest thing to happen in Venezuela since the death of Hugo Chavez,” an occurrence in which “a movement of small farmers took on one of the largest corporations in the world [Monsanto], and won.”

Naked Capitalism: Why China’s Shrinking Population Is a Big Deal – Counting the Social, Economic and Political Costs of an Aging, Smaller Society

In which Yves dunks on the article:

Articles like this are maddening. They take the view that demographic growth is necessary, when global population was largely static for prior to the Industrial Revolution. Moreover, given natural resource limits, it would behoove advanced and middle income economies to adapt to no/negative population growth. It has also been no secret that China had a demographic crunch coming, so it finally having arrived should not be treated as earth-shattering news.

In fact, the results of the US census in 2000 were a surprise. Demographers had expected the US to show little to no population growth. They had not allowed for a big immigrant influx, and then higher Hispanic birth rates.

And the article weirdly underplays how China can adapt. It acts as if it having a manufacturing-oriented economy is a negative. Your humble blogger has pointed out that many clients and contacts have said they sent manufacturing offshore even though the economic case was weak (and remember, the supposed advantage was cheap labor). They could have gotten the cost savings domestically but the fad was offshoring and no one wanted to seem like a management dinosaur.

So if China has labor-intensive activities (likely less so than stereotyped; China has been moving up the value chain for over a decade), more automation can address increasing labor scarcity and costs. Other routes are to encourage more to work after normal retirement age, even if part time, and of course bring in immigrants.

In fact, thanks to Covid, the US may be closer to China’s fate than we think. IM Doc quoted a story that reported that in his state had more births than deaths from July 2021 to July 2022 per US Census data. This is the first time that has ever occurred since his state started keeping that information. 23 other states reported more deaths than births over that period, and the US as a whole showed only a 0.4% increase, including 1 million immigrants. My trusty calculator says o.4% of a 331.9 million population is 1.33 million. So US population growth overall is at stall speed.

Naked Capitalism: Collapse Revisited: Climate Change and the Development of Middle-Income Countries


Climate Change


Inside Climate News: One of the World’s Coldest Places Is Now the Warmest it’s Been in 1,000 Years, Scientists Say

Global warming is spiking in one of the world’s coldest places, atop the 2-mile thick ice sheet in central Greenland, where new research shows that the first decade of the 2000s was clearly the warmest 10 years on record in at least 1,000 years.

Common Dreams: Rainforest Carbon Offsets Used by Major Corporations ‘Largely Worthless’: Analysis

Common Dreams: Would Direct Air Capture Actually Reduce Climate Pollution?

New research shows that direct air capture (DAC), the fledgling climate emissions mitigation technology hyped by the fossil fuel industry and a wide range of political leaders, would actually increase greenhouse gas pollution, once accounting for the emissions created by the additional power generation necessary to run the technology in the first place.

Despite years of hype and substantial investment, DAC still plays no meaningful role in emissions reductions. The buzz around an $811 million facility being built by Occidental in Texas – touted as the largest DCA facility in the world – is instructive: The facility could one day capture “up to” 500,000 metric tons per year, which only amounts to one hundredth of one percent of the country’s CO2 emissions.

As the new Food & Water Watch research shows, this underwhelming reality obscures a more serious problem: The emissions created by generating the power needed to run DAC systems. According to the group’s calculations, capturing 1 ton of CO2 from the atmosphere using electricity from fossil fuels would create greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 3.5 tons of CO2. Using power from the current mix available on the U.S. electrical grid, capturing 1 ton of CO2 would create 2.2 tons of CO2-equivalent emissions.

The power needs of the technology are considerable; if all of the electricity currently generated in the United States were used to power DAC, it would still only capture only about one quarter of the carbon emissions generated each year.

Inside Climate News: ‘Advanced’ Recycling of Plastic Using High Heat and Chemicals Is Costly and Environmentally Problematic, A New Government Study Finds


I Love My Trans Comrades!

StatNews: Mental health benefits of gender-affirming hormones for teens persist for two years in new study

Trans and nonbinary teenagers who receive gender-affirming hormones experience less depression and anxiety and more satisfaction with life than before the treatment, according to a new study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers followed over 300 adolescents across the U.S. for two years after initiating hormone treatment. The results augment a substantial body of research that shows gender-affirming care improves mental health, but most previous studies had been done with smaller, single-location cohorts and shorter follow-up windows. The new paper also focuses primarily on hormone therapy, while earlier work often included a variety of care options, including drugs to delay onset of puberty.