Circle of Blue: The Stream, January 25, 2023: Sediment Buildup Will Shrink Reservoir Storage, UN Study Shows

In Pakistan, 20 bottled water brands have been declared unsafe for people to drink due to microbial or chemical contamination.

A new study maps, for the first time, peatland coverage in the Angolan highlands — a region that acts as a crucial carbon sink and a key regional water source.

A new United Nations study suggests that by 2050, sediment buildup could cause thousands of the world’s largest dams to lose a combined 26 percent of their storage capacity.

Columbia’s president vowed to block mining projects that threaten the country’s water sources.


WSWS: UK schools sinking under teacher retention crisis and billions in funding cuts

The UK’s education trade unions have just completed a round of strike ballots on pay but at the heart of workers discontent is a perfect storm of staffing shortages that has been building for years.

“A period of unprecedented turmoil” in teacher vacancies is unfolding according to the TeachVac job website report. shows that 107,063 roles were advertised in 2022. This is substantially more than pre-pandemic numbers. “2022 has been a period of unprecedented turnover in the labour market for teachers and especially for classroom teacher vacancies in the secondary sector”, it reported.

Open Democracy: ‘Don’t use me as an excuse’: Paramedics slam anti-protest bill

The Tories justify the Public Order Bill by saying protests ‘block emergency services’. Ambulance workers don’t agree

Jacobin: Amazon Just Saw Its First Strike in Britain

Yesterday, staff at Amazon’s Coventry warehouse did something no British workers at the company had previously done: they walked off the job.

Common Dreams: ‘Shameful’: UK Approves ‘Emergency’ Use of Banned Bee-Killing Pesticide

Despite U.K. guidance affirming that emergency applications should not be granted more than once, the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) announced for the third straight year that it will permit the use of sugar beet seeds coated with thiamethoxam under certain conditions in England.

Ah, bees probably aren’t that important to agriculture anyway.

Reuters: Strikes disrupt French fuel deliveries, but participation waning

Protests against French government plans to raise the retirement age had a muted impact on the energy sector on Thursday, the first day of 48-hour strikes, lowering hydropower output and curbing some refinery deliveries.

In electricity, supply from the Belleville 1 nuclear reactor was lowered 1 gigawatt (GW) due to the strike, data from operator EDF showed. Hydropower supply was unaffected after dropping by 1.7 GW earlier, the data showed.

That’s compared to a steep fall in power production during a nationwide day of strikes on Jan. 19, when output was down some 6.6 GW, roughly 10% of the country’s total, forcing France to import power from neighbours.

WSWS: Ford cuts more than 3,200 jobs in Cologne, Germany

TeleSUR: German Government Expects Country To Avoid Recession in 2023

Despite the ongoing challenge of the energy crisis, the German government expects that a recession in 2023 will be avoided, raising its forecast for the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) from minus 0.4 percent to plus 0.2 percent.

“We are now assuming that the recession will be shorter and milder, if it happens at all,” Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action Robert Habeck told a press conference. Germany has made the crisis “manageable,” he added, but it is “not over.”

They still aren’t out of the Denial stage of grief. Who knows what will happen when they hit Anger. AfD-ruled government?

TeleSUR: Italian Fuel Station Operators Stage Strike Amid Rising Prices

MEE: Finland permits first defence export to Turkey since 2019

Finland’s defence minister, Mikko Savola, granted a military export permit to Turkey on Tuesday, a first since 2019, when European countries placed an arms embargo on Ankara over a military operation in Syria.

Last year, Turkey said it would only ratify Sweden and Finland’s accession to Nato if they removed their arms exports restrictions on the Turkish defence sector.

TeleSUR: Swedish Households' Unpaid Debts Hit Record High

TeleSUR: Sweden Mulls Building New Small Nuclear Reactors

Sweden’s state-owned energy company Vattenfall is investigating the possibility of installing new small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) at the site of an existing nuclear power plant to secure power supply, Aftonbladet newspaper reported on Wednesday.

Reuters: Volvo Cars recalls around 106,900 cars worldwide

East Asia and Oceania

RT: UN report labels China ‘a bright spot’

China will outpace Western economies this year, having abandoned its zero-Covid rules and eased monetary and fiscal policy, a United Nations’ report has predicted.

But at what cost? Unironically.

Open Democracy: China gives scholarships to Africans but then moves the doctoral goalposts

“Self-reliance and strength in science and technology”. That was the phrase General Secretary Xi Jinping used six times in his two-hour speech to China’s five-yearly Communist Party congress last October. It wasn’t a new policy: geopolitical rivalry has put research collaborations with the US under strain, Chinese universities have sought to nurture home-grown talent.

But “self-reliance and strength” has also meant strengthening research links with countries other than the US and Europe. As a result, about 26,000 foreign doctoral candidates were enrolled in Chinese universities in 2019 – around 20% of all doctoral registrations. Of these more than 6,000 were citizens of African countries.

China has supported many of these African students with scholarships. But much less well known is how some doctoral candidates struggle to receive their PhD. Even as China moves away from requiring these students to acquire publications in international journals, Chinese universities and supervisors have their own publishing requirements that can delay African scholars from graduating.

In 2016, the Chinese government issued a policy on the internationalisation of education, seeking to “build the brand of ‘Study in China”. By 2018, the official number of African PhD candidates in China was around 6,385, with almost 60% receiving Chinese scholarships. At that year’s summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Beijing, Xi announced that China would provide an additional 50,000 government scholarships to African students at all levels.

Reuters: North Korea locks down capital city over ‘respiratory illness’

Jacobin: South Korea’s Conservative Government Is Cracking Down on the Country’s Militant Labor Unions

Common Dreams: Amnesty Says India and Egypt Must End ‘Unrelenting Assault on Human Rights’

WSWS: Sri Lankan plantation trade union leader elevated into cabinet

Last week Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) leader Jeevan Thondaman was sworn in as a cabinet minister in President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s anti-working-class government. The CWC, which is the largest plantation workers trade union, also functions as a political party.

TeleSUR: Chris Hipkins Sworn in as New Zealand Prime Minister

Central Asia and the Middle East

TeleSUR: Israeli Forces Kill 9 Palestinians, Including an Elderly Woman

Open Democracy: What’s next for the Azerbaijani blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh?

The blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh by Azerbaijani protesters claiming to be environmental activists has entered its second month, sparking a humanitarian crisis in the disputed territory and condemnation from the international community.

MEE: Iranian hackers increasingly targeting politicians and journalists, UK warns

British cyber security analysts warn of Iranian and Russian operations aimed at extracting information from British civil society, academia and media

TeleSUR: Pakistan, Russia Reaffirm Commitment to Peace in Afghanistan


Climate Change News: Africa objects to US chairing UN climate fund, citing unpaid $2bn

Africa News: Dakar 2 summit: ‘Africa must learn to feed itself’, says Macky Sall

“To transform our potential into reality, we need to allocate at least 10% of the national budget to the agricultural sector”, Sall told the gathering that included several African heads of state.

President Sall is hosting numerous counterparts like the heads of state of Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Mauritania, and Zambia at the AfDB co-organized conference on food sovereignty. The heads of state all emphasised the importance of food security for political stability and security of their nations.

Africa News: Up to 6 million birds are on the verge of dying in Western Kenya

Africa News: France recalls envoy to Burkina Faso after expulsion of its forces

TeleSUR: France To Withdraw Troops From Burkina Faso Within a Month

The French government announced Wednesday that it would withdraw its troops from Burkina Faso within a month at the request of the Burkinabe government.

Africa News: Cholera outbreak in Malawi claims over a 1,000 lives

People’s Daily: First phase of China-built light rail project inaugurated in Nigeria

The first phase of a China-built electric-powered light rail project in Nigeria’s southwestern state of Lagos was officially open for service on Tuesday.

Climate Change News: Despite killer floods, Nigerian presidential frontrunners dismiss climate change

A month away from general elections, Nigerian climate expert professor Chukwumerije Okereke told Climate Home that, in spite of the extreme floods last year, climate change was still not a decisive issue in the country’s elections.

The leading candidate in the latest polls, Peter Obi, has dismissed the importance of addressing the climate crisis, while the second place, Bola Tinubu, has supported coal expansion. Atiku Abubakar is polling in third place.

Okereke said that Obi was the only one to even visit flood victims.

I mean, what are they meant to do about it?

Africa News: South African farmer warns of ‘lots of food shortages’ amidst ongoing power cuts

From dairy farms unable to keep milk refrigerated, to chickens suffocating en masse as ventilators fall idle, an energy crisis is taking a heavy toll on South Africa’s food sector, industry groups said.

North America

People’s Daily: U.S. economy continues to weaken

The U.S. economy continued to weaken in January, with the rate of decline “among the steepest seen since the global financial crisis,” said U.S. financial information and analytics provider S&P Global in a press release published Tuesday.

“The U.S. economy has started 2023 on a disappointingly soft note, with business activity contracting sharply again in January,” Chris Williamson, chief business economist at S&P Global Market Intelligence, was quoted as saying by the release.

Reuters: Dow forecasts dour quarterly revenue, says will slash 2,000 jobs

Dow Inc on Thursday forecast current-quarter revenue below estimates and said it would cut about 2,000 jobs as the chemical giant navigates challenges including inflation and supply chain disruptions.

Jacobin: Joe Biden’s Rooseveltian Ambitions Are Officially Dead

I don’t think they were ever alive?

Common Dreams: Biden Restores Vital Protections for Alaska’s Tongass National Forest Gutted by Trump

MEE: Biden’s human rights pick withdraws after criticism of stance on Israel

Sarah Margon faced opposition from a senior Republican lawmaker over her tweet celebrating an Airbnb decision to boycott Israeli settlements

Open Democracy: Anti-trans trend in US will inevitably lead to violence

The legal and cultural situation for LGBTIQ Americans – especially transgender Americans – has got worse and worse with every passing year. This trend shows no signs of abating in 2023.

We’re just three weeks into the year, and at least 225 anti-LGBTIQ bills have already been introduced in state legislatures, according to a list compiled by trans rights activist Alejandra Caraballo. Many target gender-affirming healthcare. A smaller number are focused on drag shows, because the anti-trans right tends to incorrectly conflate dressing and performing in drag with being transgender.

Last year, more than 300 anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced in 26 states, with 13 states passing some of those bills into law. In some cases, when extreme proposals failed to clear a state’s legislature, right-wing governors and officials circumvented the legislative process. This is how Texas ended up targeting the loving parents of trans children with phony ‘child abuse’ investigations, and how Florida managed to ban gender-affirming healthcare for trans minors and defund it for trans adults.

South America

TeleSUR: Honduran Lawmakers Don’t Agree On Supreme Court Judges Election

Reuters: Trinidad offers to pay for Venezuelan gas with humanitarian supplies

Trinidad and Tobago would pay Venezuela for natural gas produced at an offshore development with humanitarian supplies like food and medicine, Prime Minister Keith Rowley said, to comply with a U.S. license prohibiting cash payments to the government of President Nicolas Maduro.

The U.S. Treasury Department on Tuesday issued a license allowing Trinidad to co-develop the Dragon gas field, which holds 4.2 trillion cubic feet of reserves on the Venezuelan side of the maritime border with Trinidad. The project would have Trinidad import the gas and turn it into exportable liquefied natural gas (LNG).

“We have done that before. So we buy the gas and we pay for it in a variety of ways,” Rowley told journalists late on Tuesday. Trinidad previously supplied Venezuela with about $50 million in humanitarian goods, he said.

TeleSUR: Venezuelan President Gets Credentials From Spain’s Ambassador

Venezuela had no ambassador from Spain since 2020 and now both nations are re-establishing diplomatic relations.

AntiWar: In Venezuela, the US Recognizes a Nonexistent Government

In a piece of bizarre political theater, the US now officially recognizes a government in Venezuela that does not exist. Despite the termination of the government recognized by the US, State Department spokesman Ned Price assured a press briefing that “our approach has not changed.” The US still considers the elected President illegitimate – an increasingly isolated position – and the assembly the unelected president led legitimate, though he no longer leads it, and they are no longer the assembly.

The Ukraine Proxy Conflict

Geopolitical Economy: German foreign minister: ‘We are fighting a war against Russia’

“We are fighting a war against Russia”, Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told the Council of Europe. “We can fight this war only together” she said, calling to send tanks and more weapons to Ukraine.

RT: France denies the West is at war with Russia

“We are not at war with Russia and none of our partners are,” ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre said on Thursday, according to AFP. “The delivery of military equipment… does not constitute co-belligerence.”

Reuters: Britain wants Challenger tanks in Ukraine by end of March - minister

TeleSUR: Colombia Refuses To Donate Russian Weaponery To Ukraine

“I prefer that such old Russian weapons remain as scrap on Colombian land rather than using them to promote the armed conflict in Ukraine,” the Colombian President insisted.

RT: Russia didn’t blow up gas pipeline – Nord Stream boss

Russia is unlikely to be behind an attack last September on the Nord Stream gas pipelines, according to Matthias Warnig, the head of Nord Stream AG and Nord Stream 2 AG – two Swiss-based companies operating the undersea Russian gas pipelines. Warnig, who is said to have long-standing personal ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, spoke to German newspaper Die Zeit recently.

Warnig, who has been the managing director of the Nord Stream AG company since it was founded in 2006, provided no definitive answer to a question on who might be behind the incident. When asked whether London might have been behind it, he called it “speculation” and suggested that the journalist “think about it.”

Hope you have a good rest of your life before the alphabet boys put you in a bodybag floating down the river.

RT: ‘Unthinkable’ Russia would lose in Ukraine conflict – ex-Japanese PM

It is “almost unthinkable” that Russia would lose in the Ukraine conflict, former Japanese prime minister Yoshiro Mori has said, questioning the US-led drive to support Kiev, which Tokyo has joined.

“Is it fine to put so much effort into Ukraine?” the former official asked, as quoted by Japanese media. “It’s almost unthinkable that Russia will lose,” he added, during a meeting of the Japan-India Association in Tokyo on Wednesday.


Retrospectives, History, Theory, and Technology

Valdai Club: China and Europe: What Was It? The Rise and Crumbling of the ‘16+1’ Format

In retrospect, the first half of the 2010s was one of the most productive periods in the development of European-Chinese relations. At the time, the European Union was looking for new growth points, having felt the opportunity and ability to diversify external relations after withstanding the economic crisis, and the PRC sought new markets for the accumulated capital and labour. Xi Jinping and his team chose a proactive course of action, which led, among other things, to the launch of a number of structural initiatives for cooperation with European regions. In particular, the possibilities of creating formats according to the “X + 1” model with the countries of Northern, Southern, Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) were considered.

The “star” of the “16+1” format as a mechanism for China’s cooperation with the CEE countries rose rapidly: in 2012, 11 EU countries joined it (Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania) plus five Balkan states. Greece joined in 2018-2019 — given that since 2008 the Greek port of Piraeus had been in concession with the Chinese transport company COSCO, which subsequently bought 67% of its shares, the event could have happened earlier, but required a final decision on the issue of renaming Macedonia. By this time, all countries in the group had also signed Memorandums of Understanding with China on cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative: in 2015 — Hungary, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia, in 2016 — Latvia, in 2017 — Croatia, Estonia, Lithuania and Slovenia, and in 2018 — Greece. In the late 2010s relations between Brussels and Beijing, on the contrary, had started to worsen. The structure began to be rapidly politicised by the EU as a “Trojan horse” and an expression of China’s “divide and rule” policy.

As a result, Lithuania left the group in May 2021, followed by Latvia and Estonia in August 2022. Even though there may be no further decisive steps on the part of the remaining 14 players, cooperation is practically frozen. Naturally, several questions arise: What was it all about? Was it that dangerous? What does this mean for contemporary relations between the EU and China?

Inside the Imperial Core

Naked Capitalism: Biden’s Documents Dilemma

Tom Neuburger amplifies Matt Taibbi’s view that Obama is behind the sudden press knowledge of Biden having classified records in his possession. While this is a sensible explanation, given visible facts, I find it striking that Taibbi wasn’t willing to say so in a straightforward manner, with appropriate caveats.

The fact that Obama likely does have the clout to have been in the loop regarding the Biden classified documents exposure and then getting it public is straight up third world Big Man behavior. Yet neither Neuburger nor Taibbi seem to regard that as scandalous, much the less call it out as rank corruption.

I love having absolutely no idea what’s going on in this case. Apparently Obama’s part of the story again? My man just can’t stop getting involved.

Naked Capitalism: Why Are We So Afraid of Nuclear Power?

Yves' foreword:

In keeping with changing public views, Germany is set to beat a retreat from its commitment to phase out nuclear power. From OilPrice in In Unexpected Swing, Germany’s Public Now Favors Nuclear Power:

For decades, Germany has maintained a love-hate relationship with nuclear power. Currently, Germany has three existing nuclear reactors that produce ~6% of the country’s power supply, a far cry from the 1990s when 19 nuclear power plants produced about a third of the country’s electricity supply….

But Russia’s war in Ukraine is forcing a rethink of energy security not only in Germany but also by the entire continent….

Nuclear energy is seen as a preferable energy source to a fall back to burning coal. According to Dutch-based anti-nuclear group WISE, nuclear plants produce 117 grams of CO2 emissions per kilowatt-hour, much lower compared to burning lignite which emits over 1,000 grams of CO2 per kilowatt-hour…..

According to the Washington Post, coal mines and power plants that closed 10 years ago have begun to be repaired in Germany.

However, some readers have said that un-mothballing a nuclear plant takes a lot of time, and I inferred years. I hope knowledgeable parties will pipe up in comments.

And there is the wee issue that European leaders like Ursula von der Leyen keep talking up sanctioning Russian nuclear fuel. My understanding is that this move would considerably constrain Western supplies.

Europe has some obsession with repeatedly stepping on rakes, Sideshow Bob style.

Jacobin: Poland and Hungary Are Testing the Limits of the EU’s Liberalism

Before their illiberal turn, Poland and Hungary were lauded as postcommunist poster children. Both nations have combined moderately redistributive welfare states with attacks on civil liberties — but inflation is putting their growth model to the test.

Outside the Imperial Core

RT: Goodbye empire? US sanctions are failing in the face of multipolarity

Foreign Affairs, a highly influential US magazine – effectively a US empire house journal – has published an article detailing how sanctions are quickly losing their efficiency as a weapon in Washington’s global arsenal.

Published by the Council on Foreign Relations NGO, Foreign Affairs provides space for officials within the US military industrial complex to communicate with one another on matters they believe to be of the utmost significance. Therefore, it is important to pay attention when the magazine makes major pronouncements on any issue.

It recently published an appraisal of US sanctions – the conclusion being that they are increasingly ineffective, have prompted Beijing and Moscow to create alternative global financial structures to insulate themselves and others from punitive actions, and that Washington and its acolytes will no longer be able to force countries to do their bidding, let alone destroy dissenting states, through such measures in the very near future.

Responsible Statecraft: The Global South is reshaping the world order. The US should take notice.

The article conducts an interview with a dude who’s viewpoint is basically “Yeah, the United States should still be the ruling hegemony but we’ve gotta allow developing countries to make their own decisions as to who they wanna trade with, and America needs to do more to improve relationships with them” which would be an incredibly funny opinion if he wasn’t serious, and yet STILL has more concern and acknowledgement for the global terror empire’s decline and inability to continue to subjugate and exploit countries than the mainstream media has.

Valdai Club: Political Earthquake in Argentina: Judicial Meddling and Political Uncertainty

In the context of yet another chapter of judicial meddling in the regional politics of Ibero-America, a new political earthquake is taking place in Argentina, one that produces great uncertainty due to the statements of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, in which she argued that she would be willing to renounce the continuation of her public aspirations.

Climate Change

Inside Climate News: When Will We Hit Peak Fossil Fuels? Maybe We Already Have

Not if the fossil fuel industry has anything to say about that. In lieu of revolution, we’ll hit peak fossil fuel extraction not long before there’s nothing left to extract.

I Love My Trans Comrades!

Current Affairs: Understanding What Trans Justice Means

Shon Faye has written for The Guardian, The Independent, and Vice, among others, and her first book is The Transgender Issue: Trans Justice is Justice for All, about which the legendary Judith Butler has said, “It is a monumental work and utterly convincing, crystal clear in its understanding of how the world should be.” Faye’s book is a manifesto for a socialist form of trans liberation, which she contrasts with the politics of liberal inclusion, which is often “inclusion within deeply unequal at best and at worse quite oppressive systems.” Faye argues that the things that make trans people’s lives difficult (lack of housing and healthcare, incarceration) often oppress others as well and that we do not just need representation/diversity at the top but a caring society in which everyone has what they need. Faye prefers the language of “liberation” over “rights” and “equality” (though rights and equality are important), and argues that “the liberation of trans people would benefit the lives of everyone in our society.”

Faye came on the Current Affairs podcast to talk to editor-in-chief Nathan J. Robinson about her ideas as well as the difference between U.S. and U.K. feminists’ approaches to trans issues, how the Right has tried to push a moral panic around one of the most marginalized groups of people, and what it really means to live in a “cisnormative society,” plus the infamous “Harry Potter lady.” This interview was lightly edited for grammar and clarity.