Common Dreams: ‘Unprecedented Danger’: Doomsday Clock Set at 90 Seconds to Midnight

“We are living in a time of unprecedented danger, and the Doomsday Clock time reflects that reality.”

That’s what Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists president and CEO Rachel Bronson said in a statement Tuesday about the historic symbol being set at 90 seconds to midnight, or global catastrophe, after three years at 100 seconds to midnight.

As the bulletin’s annual statement explains, the clock—created in 1947—has reached its current position due to “an exceedingly dangerous nuclear situation,” largely from Russia’s war on Ukraine; inadequate global action to tackle the climate emergency; a “daunting array” of biological threats, exemplified by the Covid-19 pandemic; and “disruptive” technologies enabling the spread of disinformation.

“90 seconds to midnight is the closest the clock has ever been set to midnight, and it’s a decision our experts do not take lightly,” Bronson noted. “The U.S. government, its NATO allies, and Ukraine have a multitude of channels for dialogue; we urge leaders to explore all of them to their fullest ability to turn back the clock.”

This is why we must escalate and send Leopards and Abrams and even more equipment to Ukraine! Or dastardly Russia will turn the clock even closer to midnight!

TeleSUR: BRICS Partnership Differs From NATO Command Structure: Lavrov

“The BRICS is a new kind of partnership. It operates on the consensus principle, which is far from the ‘master-slave’ command structure that we currently see in NATO,” Lavrov stated.

“If any BRICS member has a problem with a particular proposal, such a proposal is not accepted. All members make efforts to find mutually acceptable solutions,” he insisted.

As a sign of agreement between the BRICS countries, the Russian chancellor cited the recent decision to increase payments in national currencies in trade and financial operations to fight the dollar instability.


TeleSUR: Russia Downgrades Diplomatic Ties With Estonia in Retaliation

Reuters: NATO’s Baltic States, Russia remove ambassadors as diplomatic relations downgraded

NATO and EU members Estonia and Latvia told their Russian ambassadors to leave after Moscow said it was downgrading diplomatic relations with Estonia, accusing it of “total Russophobia.”

Reuters: Ford to cut up to 3,200 European jobs, union says, vowing to fight

Reuters: Tank maker Rheinmetall raises sales view, asks Berlin for firm orders

German defence group Rheinmetall on Tuesday raised its sales expectations for 2025 on higher demand for weapons due to the war in Ukraine and called on Berlin to speed up planned big orders and make good on a pledge to boost its armed forces.

TeleSUR: Macron Keeps His Regressive Pension Reform Despite Protests

Despite massive social protests, President Emmanuel Macron will not make concessions and will keep his proposal to raise the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64.

“Our goal is to return to financial balance from 2030. Giving up the proposed retirement age would mean giving up the balance,” Labor Minister Olivier Dussop said after the Council of Ministers approved the pension system reform draft.

Lawmaker Jean-Luc Melenchon forcibly criticized that initiative, which he stressed the Macron administration backs to satisfy the interests of those who promote “the laws of the market.”

“We are defending the right to live fully and humanely in a free time. What does the Macron administration yet want to do? Turn all our lives into merchandise,” he lamented.

TeleSUR: Average Italian Family Faces 3,000-Euro Annual Price Hikes

East Asia and Oceania

Central Asia and the Middle East

People’s Daily: China-made trains enter service in Istanbul’s new metro line

MEE: Turkey: Sweden and Finland Nato bid likely to be postponed until after elections

Turkey is likely to hold off on ratifying the Nato membership of Sweden and Finland until after the Turkish presidential elections in May, the Finnish foreign minister suggested on Tuesday.

MEMO: Ireland calls on Israel to pay compensation after destroying EU-funded buildings

MEE: Israel’s greatest threat in 2023 is ‘breakdown of relations with West’: Report

The biggest strategic threat currently facing Israel is a deterioration in its foreign relations, particularly with the United States, mainly due to the new government’s attempts to weaken the judiciary, a leading Israeli security think tank has warned. 

MEMO: Kuwait’s government resigns over debt relief bill deadlock

People’s Daily: Distribution system breakdown triggers power outage across Pakistan

Millions of Pakistanis encountered power outage on Monday morning after the power distribution system of the South Asian country broke down, said the ministry of energy.

The energy ministry said in a statement the countrywide power breakdown was triggered after the frequency of the national grid decreased suddenly.

Open Democracy: Uzbekistan’s energy crisis reveals authoritarian habits die hard

Insiders have shone a light on the shadowy workings of Uzbekistan’s presidential office during the country’s ongoing energy crisis, openDemocracy can reveal today.

Two Uzbekistan government sources have told openDemocracy that Sardor Umurzakov, the head of the country’s presidential administration, ordered the immediate arrest of a senior energy official who was present at a high-level government meeting in December.

“Those who got us into this situation will not come out of it untouched. Several of them are sitting here among us,” Umurzakov had said in a previous meeting two days before the arrests, which came as people across Uzbekistan lost gas and electricity during extremely cold weather.

Umurzakov, 45, who has been tipped as a possible candidate for the presidency, was apparently angry at the way officials had been dealing with Uzbekistan’s severe energy shortages.


Reuters: Russia’s Lavrov visits ally South Africa amid Western rivalry

Africa News: Russia’s Lavrov welcomed in South Africa

MEMO: Somalia strongly condemns Quran burning in Sweden

Africa News: Nigeria’s Buhari inaugurates $1.5 billion deep seaport to boost ailing economy

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has marked the opening of a $1.5 billion, Chinese-funded deep seaport in the commercial hub of Lagos that authorities hope will help grow the West African nation’s ailing economy.

The Lekki Deep Sea Port is one of the biggest in West Africa and will create hundreds of thousands of jobs in addition to easing cargo congestion that costs billions of dollars in annual revenue, Lagos Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu said Monday (Jan. 23).

Africa News: Uganda starts first oil drilling operations with eye on 2025

Uganda on Tuesday launched the drilling of its first oil well, a key milestone as the country races to meet its target of first oil output in 2025.

Climate Change News: Portugal agrees to swap Cape Verde’s debt for environmental investment

Cape Verde owes around $150m to the Portugese state – but Portugal says it will write off the debt if the African island nation spends the money on environmental measures

North America

Reuters: 3M to cut 2,500 jobs as demand weakens, profit drops

3M Co said on Tuesday it would cut 2,500 manufacturing jobs after reporting a lower profit, as the U.S. industrial conglomerate faces a demand slowdown in its unit that sells products including notebooks, air purifiers and respirators.

Reuters: Aerospace major Raytheon beats profit estimates on strong travel demand

WSWS: Far-right Texas attorney general attempts to compile list of transgender residents

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has requested that the state Department of Public Safety provide a list of people who have changed their gender on Texas driver’s licenses. No plausibly legitimate reason for this ominous and menacing request has been given. Considering the record of Paxton, Governor Greg Abbott and the Texas Republican Party, it is clear that there is every reason to suspect the worst. 

Common Dreams: ‘He Didn’t Deserve to Die, But…’ Writes Pompeo of Dismembered Journalist

As excerpts from Pompeo’s book, Never Give an Inch: Fighting for the America I Love, became public a day before its publication date, Hanan Elatr Khashoggi told NBC News she wishes she were able “to silence all of these people who publish books, disparage my husband, and collect money from it.”

Elatr Khashoggi fired back after NBC News reported that in Pompeo’s book, he writes of Jamal Khashoggi, “He didn’t deserve to die, but we need to be clear about who he was—and too many in the media were not.”

Reuters: Consumer Reports urges dark chocolate makers to reduce lead, cadmium levels

Last month, Consumer Reports said 23 of the 28 dark chocolate bars it tested included potentially harmful levels of lead, cadmium or both for people who eat more than one ounce of chocolate a day.

Monthly Review: The lawsuit that could freeze speech against billionaires

Since Elon Musk took over Twitter, the national debate over free speech has narrowly focused on tech companies’ social media censorship. But offline in a Texas court, a lawsuit could send an intimidating message to political candidates across the country: If you suggest billionaire donors buy political influence, you could face severe punishment.

At issue is a suit brought by Texas oil and gas billionaire Kelcy Warren. It accuses former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke of defamation for slamming Warren’s $1 million donation to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) in 2021.

Warren’s lawyers have asserted the natural gas tycoon experienced “mental anguish” from comments, ads, and social media posts in which O’Rourke’s campaign suggested the money was a reward for Abbott going easy on Warren’s pipeline company, Energy Transfer Partners, before and after a deadly storm that shut down power to more than four million people.

South America

TeleSUR: Cuban Revolution Will Not Give Up, Says Díaz-Canel in Argentina

Reuters: Venezuela’s inflation slows to 234% in 2022, vice president says

TeleSUR: Venezuela & Brazil Discuss Work Plan To Resume Cooperation

TeleSUR: Bolivian President Arce Shows Dismay At Peru’s Political Crisis

“During the recent social protests, dozens of Peruvians were killed, and hundreds of people were severely injured. We express our solidarity with these victims of violence,” Arce highlighted.

“Bolivia respects, like the other CELAC countries, international law and non-interference in the internal affairs of other states. However, we cannot simply ignore the situation that this brother people is going through,” he insisted.

The Ukraine Proxy Conflict

TeleSUR: EU Grants 500 Million Euros More Military Aid to Ukraine

Reuters: Belarus leader says he has been asked to seal a non-aggression pact with Ukraine

Extremely funny given the outcome of the Minsk agreements and Merkel’s statements. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me… you can’t get fooled again.


Retrospectives, History, Theory, and Technology

Open Democracy: Borders & Belonging: How did China become a world student hub?

Geopolitical Economy: Exaggerating China’s military spending, St. Louis Fed breaks all statistical rules with misleading graph

The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis published a jaw-droppingly misleading graph that portrays China as spending more on its military than the US. In reality, the Pentagon’s budget is roughly three times larger.

The St. Louis Fed listed the world’s top six countries by military expenditures, but used two separate axes: the spending of China, Russia, Britain, India, and Saudi Arabia was depicted on the left axis, which went from $0 to $300 billion; but a separate right axis was created just for the United States, which went from $400 billion to $1 trillion.

Valdai Club: Russian Policy in the Field of Educational Migration

The Left and the Right

Jacobin: Greece’s Left Needs to Unite Behind an Alternative to Syriza

Syriza’s surrender to the troika in 2015 continues to hang over Greece’s radical left. With general elections coming this spring, it needs to break out of its impasse — and create a real alternative to the country’s permanent austerity regime.

Inside the Imperial Core

Jacobin: Rishi Sunak Isn’t the Leader Britain’s Tories Need — but He’s the One They Deserve

Britain’s current prime minister, Rishi Sunak, exemplifies a political class whose members are hermetically sealed off from the realities of everyday life. Sunak is the latest much-hyped figure to make the journey from hero to zero — but he won’t be the last.

Outside the Imperial Core

Valdai Club: ‘Sanctions Tsunami’ in Uncharted Waters: Will Russian Assets in the West Be Confiscated?

Gray Zone: US Africa Leaders Summit promises more exploitation for Africa, record profits for US mining firms

Recent deals between US Secretary of State Tony Blinken and African heads of state promise eye-popping profits for US mining multinationals and fewer protections for African laborers “toiling in subhuman conditions” to drive the digital revolution.

Naked Capitalism: Monroe Doctrine Redux: US Military Trying to “Box Out” China and Russia from Strategic Resources in Latin America

“In a lot of our countries in this region, [the PRC] is the number one trade partner, with the United States number two in most cases”: General Laura Richardson, USSOUTHCOM.

As regular readers are by now probably aware, the Commander of US Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM), General Laura Richardson, has a rare talent for saying the quiet parts out loud. That talent was on full display in a recent interview with Washington-based think tank, the Atlantic Council last Thursday (Jan 19). In one 90-second clip (featured below) Richardson laid out in disarmingly frank terms why the US is showing a renewed interest in Latin America: the region’s abundant natural resources.

“Our” Countries in Latin America

Those resources include rare earth elements, lithium, gold, oil, natural gas, light sweet crude (huge deposits of which have been found off the coast of Guyana), copper, abundant food crops, and fresh water. And the US government and military, and the corporations whose interests they serve, have their eyes on all of them. As the Argentinean journalist and news presenter Carlos Montero lamented in a tweet, it would be nice to live in a would where the US wasn’t interested in Latin America for the riches it could plunder but to help it break free from being the world’s most unequal region.

Of even greater concern to the US is that many of Latin America’s resources are now being sold to its number-one adversary, the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Its number-two adversary is, of course, Russia, with whom a number of LatAm countries have close military ties. As Richardson told the Atlantic Council’s virtual audience (emphasis my own), “in a lot of our countries in this region, [the PRC] is the number one trade partner, with the United States number two in most cases.” She then clumsily corrected herself: “Not in most cases, I would say in some cases.”

Tellingly, she did not correct the Freudian slip, “our”. As I said, she has a gift of saying the quiet parts out loud.

The reality is that China is already South America’s biggest trading partner. The US still holds sway over Central America and is still the region’s largest trading partner as a whole. But that is primarily due to its gigantic trade flows with Mexico, which account for 71% of all US-LatAm trade. As Reuters reported in June, if you take Mexico out of the equation, China has already overtaken the US as Latin America’s largest trading partner. Excluding Mexico, total trade flows — i.e., imports and exports — between China and Latin America reached $247 billion last year, far in excess of the US’ $173 billion.

The US is now in a desperate race to turn back the clock. To do so, it is rejigging the Monroe Doctrine, a 200-year old US foreign policy position that opposed European colonialism on the American continent. It held that any intervention in the political affairs of the Americas by foreign powers was a potentially hostile act against the United States. Now, it is applying that doctrine to China and Russia.

Gen Richardson detailed how Washington, together with US Southern Command, is actively negotiating the sale of lithium in the lithium triangle to US companies through its web of embassies, with the goal of “box[ing] out” out adversaries.

Richardson said these remarks while in a military uniform. I’m unsure if the US is really just making it obvious beyond all doubt what the consequences of not “engaging in your own SELF-INTEREST, nudge nudge, with the United States, protecting the freedom of the world” will be, or if it’s just careless incompetence, so used to ruling the Americas with an iron fist.

Climate Change

Common Dreams: Climate Crisis Making Millions Too Poor to Escape… the Climate Crisis

“Ongoing climate change is keeping many people in the Global South in poverty, making it more difficult for them to migrate,” said the co-author of a new study. “Thus climate change deprives people of an important way to adapt to its impacts and increases the gap between rich and poor.”

This is why I’m an early invester in Shapiro’s Mermaid Real Estate business.

Common Dreams: Staring an Ecological and Humanitarian Disaster in the Face

The Red Sea is a rich marine haven, diverse and home to hundreds of species of fish and coral colonies. At its southern mouth, it also harbors an almost half-century old static oil tanker.

If one were to recount the history of FSO Safer, this fuel storage and off-loading (FSO) vessel, most would find it impossible to believe. Thirty years ago, it was grounded about five miles off the west coast of Yemen; it is still there! To make matters worse, it is also loaded with almost all of its original cargo. This amounts to 1.1 million barrels of oil or four times what was on the Exxon Valdez, which caused the worst environmental disaster in US history.

Maintenance of the ship stopped in 2015 when the Yemen civil war began, presumably because the operation was based in Yemen. Built 45 years ago, the rusting vessel is now in danger of breaking up.