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Thursday 21st of July 2022
 
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Raymond Depardon "The trip was too short, we had to go back, we promised we would, the editing needed to start. We headed back through Las Vegas and the Death Valley." From the book the Amercian Desert. Monument Va
Misc.


Raymond Depardon "Why do I make images? A trip without a camera / a trip without memory. To travel is a fiction." From the book The American Desert. Sun City. Arizona, USA. 1982. © Raymond Depardon | Magnum Photos


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Running From Empty
Law & Politics


Running From Empty

Until quite recently, Sri Lanka was a pretty good country. With a GDP-per-capita exceeding $4,000 in 2018, the World Bank classified it as an “Upper Middle-Income” nation. 

As benchmarks, consider that Ukraine had a GDP-per-capita of roughly $3,000 in the same year, and India about $2,000. 

As is widely known by now, Sri Lanka has undergone what can only be described as a complete societal collapse – its government in chaos and its desperate citizens rioting in the streets.

For more than a decade, Germany has been doing its best Rajapaksa impersonation in pursuit of its disastrous Energiewende policy, a plan meant to transition the country to a “low carbon, environmentally sound, reliable, and affordable energy supply.”

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The Failure of Sanctions @Consortiumnews
Law & Politics


Economic sanctions against countries whose behavior is reproached by the West operate as punishment although they fail in their declared political objectives

and in cases such as Venezuela the contrast is clearly on display in the windows of high-end stores that sell imported goods.

“Experience has shown that sanctions are an instrument that does not achieve the supposed objective, political change, as in the cases of Cuba and now also in Venezuela,” Luis Oliveros, professor of economics at the Metropolitan and Central universities of Venezuela, told IPS.

Moreover, “there is a club of sanctioned countries, they feed off each other, share information and mechanisms to circumvent sanctions, and they cooperate with each other, such as Russia with China or Iran, or Cuba and Iran with Venezuela, even obtaining support from third party countries such as Turkey,” said Oliveros.
The most commonly used sanctions are bans on exports and imports, financial transactions, obtaining technology, spare parts and weapons, and travel and trade; the freezing of assets; the withdrawal of visas; bans on entering the sanctioning country; the expulsion of undesirable individuals; and the blocking of bank accounts.
Russia became embroiled in a thick web of sanctions since its troops invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, and measures against its products, operations, institutions and authorities, which numbered 2,754 before the conflict, according to the private organization Statista, have now climbed to 10,536 and counting.
Following Russia on that list of punishments of various kinds are Iran, which faces 3,616 sanctions, Syria (2,608), North Korea (2,077), Venezuela (651), Myanmar (510) and Cuba (208).
The major sanctioners are the United States, the European Union, Canada, Australia, Japan, Israel and Switzerland.
In the case of Iran and North Korea, sanctions have mainly punished their nuclear development programs. 

Pyongyang has not stopped its missile tests and Tehran flips the switch on its nuclear program according to the vagaries of Washington’s international policy.
The Russian Impact
Like a boomerang, sanctions sometimes hurt their proponents, and in the case of Russia their effects are felt in every corner of the planet.
Chinese President Xi Jinping warned on June 23 that sanctions “are becoming a weapon in the world economy.”
“Economic sanctions deliver bigger global shocks than ever before and are easier to evade,” observed Nicholas Mulder, author of The Economic Weapon: The Rise of Sanctions as a Tool of Modern War.
Mulder, an assistant professor in the history department of Cornell University in New York State, argues that “not since the 1930s has an economy the size of Russia’s been placed under such a wide array of commercial restrictions as those imposed in response to its invasion of Ukraine.” He was referring to measures against Italy and Japan after the invasions of Ethiopia and China.
The difference is that “Russia today is a major exporter of oil, grain, and other key commodities, and the global economy is far more integrated. As a result, today’s sanctions have global economic effects far greater than anything seen before,” says Mulder.
Industrialized economies in Europe and North America have been impacted by energy price hikes, and as sanctions remove Russian raw materials from global supply chains, prices are rising and affecting the cost of imports and the finances of less developed countries, says the author.
In Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, there are fears of increased food insecurity as supplies of grain, cooking oil and fertilizers from Ukraine and Russia have been disrupted and the costs have been driven up.
“The result of these changes is that today’s sanctions can cause graver commercial losses than ever before, but they can also be weakened in new ways through trade diversion and evasion,” Mulder warned in a paper released in June by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Nazanin Armanian, an Iranian political scientist exiled in Spain, argues that “the tactic of shocking the economy of rivals and enemies suffers from two problems: neglecting the risk of radicalization of those who feel humiliated and ignoring the network of connections in a world that is a village.”
She cites the example of Iran, which has found multiple ways to export its oil. That is also the case of Cuba, which has endured and circumvented U.S. sanctions for more than 60 years.
With respect to Cuba, it was then President Barack Obama (2009-2017) who said on Dec. 17, 2014 that
“It is clear that decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a democratic, prosperous and stable Cuba.”
The Case of Venezuela
U.S. sanctions against Venezuela do not prevent luxurious commercial establishments like this one in Caracas from selling U.S. and European imports  to a minority of people who can afford them in a country with widespread poverty. (Humberto Márquez/IPS)
It was also Obama who on March 15, 2015 declared in an executive order the government of Venezuela as an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States,” and that year sanctions were initiated against Venezuelan authorities, companies and public institutions.
Since then, Washington has sanctioned — with a range of measures — dozens of officials and their families, military commanders, government leaders, businesspersons who negotiate with the government and some one hundred companies, both public and private.
The E.U. also adopted sanctions, as did Canada and Panama, and U.S. sanctions also affect third country companies that do business with the Venezuelan government.
When the United States stopped buying Venezuelan crude oil and banned the sale of supplies to produce gasoline, Caracas appealed with some success to Iran, which has also sent equipment and personnel to refurbish Venezuela’s rundown refineries.
But the most visible demonstration of the ineffectiveness of the sanctions is that imported products are displayed and sold in hundreds of stores in Caracas and other cities and towns, even if only a minority can afford to buy them regularly.
There has been a proliferation of “bodegones,” the name given to new or quickly refurbished stores to give them a sophisticated appearance and satisfy tastes or the need to acquire imported foodstuffs and other perishable products, after years of widespread shortages. Up to 800 have been counted in Caracas, a crowded city of 3.5 million people located in a valley surrounded by mountains.
The bodegones, as well as appliance stores and a handful of high-end restaurants and bars, have been the battering ram of the de facto dollarization that reigns in Venezuela, alongside the disdain for the bolivar as currency and the use of the Brazilian real and the Colombian peso in the border areas with those two countries.
Washington allows the export of food, agricultural, medicinal and hygiene products, while U.S. brands or imitations are imported from Asia, as well as household appliances, telephone and computer equipment and accessories. 

Wines, liquors and cosmetics arrive without major problems from Europe.
An apparent “bonanza bubble” has arisen, limited to trade and consumption by a minority, fed with income from the State – which sells minerals and other resources with a total lack of transparency — and with remittances from the millions of Venezuelans who have migrated to escape the crisis over the last eight years.
In that period, poverty has expanded until reaching four-fifths of the country’s 28 million inhabitants and they have also suffered three years of hyperinflation. 

For this crisis, the government of President Nicolás Maduro tirelessly and systematically blames the sanctions from abroad.
The sanctions “have been an excellent business for the Maduro administration, because not only did it unify its forces based on a common external objective, but it forgot about paying the foreign debt and, under a state of emergency, exports without transparency or accountability, in a black market,” said Oliveros.
In addition, “a good part of the opposition put all its eggs in the sanctions basket and forgot about doing political work, and that is why the public, after so many years of difficulties, are questioning the results of that strategy,” he added.
In short, “instead of helping to bring about political change, what the sanctions have done is to keep Maduro in power,” said Oliveros.
In the cases of Venezuela and Iran, Washington and its European partners are interested in obtaining gestures of change – in the Venezuelan case, resumption of dialogue with the opposition – that would justify a relaxation of sanctions, which in turn would lead to an increase in oil supplies, now that Russian oil is facing restrictions.
Despite these failures, with respect to Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba, as well as countries opposed by the West on other continents, sanctions still function, in the eyes of public opinion in the countries that impose them, as a sign of political will to punish governments considered enemies, troublemakers or outlaws.

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A ''Fairy Tale'' reality and a geoeconomic boomerang effect which is shredding the standard of living in the West
Law & Politics


A ''Fairy Tale'' reality and a geoeconomic boomerang effect which is shredding the standard of living in the West 


a ''Fairy Tale'' reality and a geoeconomic boomerang effect which is shredding the standard of living in the West and whose consequence will be Regime Change in Western Capitals long before Moscow.

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Sunday, April 10, 2022 Apocalypse Now
Law & Politics


Sunday, April 10, 2022 Apocalypse Now

The democratization of authority spurred by the digital revolution has flattened cognitive hierarchies along with other hierarchies, and political decision-making is now driven by often weaponized babble. @FukuyamaFrancis

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According to him, "The West behaves like a child" at a time when events require its leaders to be on top. @AZmilitary1
Law & Politics

 


According to him, "The West behaves like a child" at a time when events require its leaders to be on top. @AZmilitary1

According to the author, France risks being the most vulnerable country in the impending "reset" of the world. According to him, "The West behaves like a child" at a time when events require its leaders to be on top.

 

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Reading the Runes of War Alastair Crooke
Law & Politics


Reading the Runes of War Alastair Crooke

Putin’s policy of cleansing the Augean Stables of ‘predatory western capital’ is music to the ears of the Global South, Alastair Crooke writes.
Of course, the conflict, to all intents, is settled – though is far from over. 

It is clear that Russia will prevail in the military war – and the political war too – by which is meant that whatever emerges in Ukraine after the military action is complete will be dictated by Moscow on its terms.
Plainly, on the one hand, the regime in Kiev would collapse were it to have terms dictated to it by Moscow. 

And, on the other hand, the entire western agenda behind the Maidan coup d’état in 2014 would implode, too. (This is why an off-ramp, short of a Ukrainian rout, is next to impossible.)
This moment thus marks a crucial point of inflection. 

One American choice might be to end the conflict – and there are many voices calling for a deal, or a ceasefire, with the understandably humane intent of ending the pointless slaughter of Ukrainian young men sent to ‘the front’ to defend indefensible positions, only to be cynically killed for no military gain, merely to keep the war going.
Though rational, the argument for an off-ramp misses the bigger geopolitical point: The West is so heavily invested in its fantastical narrative of imminent Russian collapse and humiliation that it finds itself ‘stuck fast’.

 It cannot move forward for fear that NATO might not be up to the task of confronting Russian forces (Putin has made the point that Russia had not even begun to use its full force). 

And yet, to cut a deal, to move back, would be to lose face.
And ‘losing face’ roughly translates to the liberal west losing.
The West thus has made itself hostage to its unrestrained triumphalism, posing as info-war

It chose this unrestrained jingoism. Biden advisers however, reading the runes of the war – of relentless Russian gains – have begun to scent another foreign policy débacle fast heading their way.
They see events, far from reaffirming the ‘rules-based Order’, rather the stark laying bare before the world of the limits to U.S. power – giving front of stage to not just a resurgent Russia, but one carrying a revolutionary message for the rest of the world (albeit a fact to which the West has yet to awaken).
Moreover, the western alliance is disintegrating as war fatigue settles in and as European economies stare at recession. 

The contemporary instinctive inclination to decide first, and think later (European sanctions), has landed Europe in existential crisis.
The UK exemplifies the wider European conundrum: The UK political class, frightened and in disarray, first ‘determined’ to knife its’ leader, only to realise afterward, that they had no successor to hand with gravitas to manage the new normal, and no idea how to escape the trap in which it is ensnared.
They dare not lose face over Ukraine and have no solution that meets the coming recession (except a return to Thatcherism?). 

And the same can be said for Europe’s political class: they are as deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming fast vehicle.
Biden and a certain network which spans Washington, London, Brussels, Warsaw and the Baltics view Russia from a height of 30,000 feet above that of the Ukraine conflict. 

Biden reportedly believes he is in an equidistant position between two dangerous and ominous trends engulfing the U.S. and the West: Trumpism at home and Putinism abroad

Both, he believes, present clear and present dangers to the liberal rules-based order in which (Team) Biden passionately believes.
Other voices – mainly from the U.S. Realist camp – are not so besotted with Russia; for them, ‘real men’ take on China. 

These want just to keep the Ukraine conflict at a face-saving stalemate, if possible (more weapons), whilst the pivot to China is activated.
In a speech at the Hudson Institute, Mike Pompeo made a foreign policy statement that clearly had an eye to 2024 and his taking the Vice-President spot. 

The gist of it was about China, yet what he said about Ukraine was interesting: Zelensky’s importance to the U.S. was contingent on his keeping the war going (i.e. saving western face). 

He did not explicitly refer to ‘boots on the ground’, but it was clear he did not advocate such a step.
His message was weapons, weapons, weapons to Ukraine, and ‘move on’ – through pivoting to China NOW. 

Pompeo insisted the U.S. recognise Taiwan diplomatically today, irrespective of what occurs. (i.e. regardless of whether this action triggers war with China.) 

And he rolled-up Russia into the equation by simply saying that Russia and China effectively should be treated as one.
Biden however, seems moved to let pass the moment, and to carry on with the present trajectory. This is also what the many participants in the boondoggle want. 

The point is that Deep State views are conflicted, and influential Wall Street bankers certainly do not warm to Pompeo’s notions. 

They would prefer de-escalation with China. Carrying-on therefore is the easy option, as U.S. domestic attention becomes fastened on economic woes.
The point here is that the West is comprehensively stuck: It cannot move forward, nor back. 

Its structures of politics and of the economy prevent it. Biden is stuck on Ukraine; Europe is stuck on Ukraine and on its belligerence towards Putin; ditto for the UK; and the West is stuck on its relations with Russia and China. 

More importantly, none of them can address the insistent demands from Russia and China for a restructuring of the global security architecture.
If they cannot move on this security plane – for fear of losing face – they will be unable to assimilate (or hear – given the ingrained cynicism that attends any words spoken by President Putin) that Russia’s agenda goes far beyond security architecture.
For example, the veteran Indian diplomat and commentator, MK Badrakhumar writes:
“After Sakhalin-2, [on an Island in the Russian Far East] Moscow also plans to nationalise Sakhalin-1 oil and gas development project by ousting U.S. and Japanese shareholders. The capacity of Sakhalin-1 is quite impressive. 

There was a time before OPEC+ set limits on production levels, when Russia extracted as much as 400,000 barrels per day, but the recent production level has been about 220,000 barrels per day.
The overall trend of nationalising the holdings of American, British, Japanese and European capital in Russia’s strategic sectors of economy is crystallising as the new policy. 

The cleansing of theRussian economy, freed of Western capital, is expected to accelerate in the period ahead.
Moscow was well aware of the predatory character of Western capital in Russia’s oil sector — a legacy of the Boris Yeltsin era — but had to live with the exploitation as it didn’t want to antagonise other potential western investors. 

But that is history now. The souring of relations with the West to almost breaking point rids Moscow of such archaic inhibitions.
After coming to power in 1999, President Vladimir Putin set about the mammoth task of cleaning up the Augean stables of Russia’s foreign collaboration in the oil sector. 

The “decolonisation” process was excruciatingly difficult, but Putin pulled it through”.
Yet that’s just the half of it. Putin keeps saying in speeches that the West is the author of its own debt and inflationary crisis (and not Russia), which gives rise to a great deal of head scratching in the West. 

Let Professor Hudson however, explain why much of the rest of the world sees the West having taken a ‘wrong turn’ economically. In brief, the West’s wrong turn has led it to a ‘dead end’, Putin implies.
Professor Hudson argues (paraphrased and rephrased) that there are essentially two broad economic models that have descended through history: 

“On the one hand, we see Near Eastern and Asian societies organized to maintain social balance and cohesion by keeping debt relations and mercantile wealth subordinate to the general welfare of the community as a whole”.
All ancient societies had a mistrust of wealth, because it tended to be accumulated at the expense of society at large – and led to social polarization and gross inequalities of wealth.

Looking over the sweep of ancient history, we can see (Hudson says)that the main objective of rulers from Babylonia to South Asia and East Asia was to prevent a mercantile and creditor oligarchy from emerging and concentrating ownership of land in their own hands. This is one historic model.
The great problem that the Bronze Age Near East solved – but classical antiquity and Western civilization have not solved – was how to deal with mounting debts (periodic debt jubilees) without polarising society and ultimately impoverishing the economy by reducing most of the population to debt dependency.
One of Hudson’s key tenets is how China is structured as a ‘low cost’ economy: cheap housing, subsidised education, medical care and transport – means that consumers do have some free disposable income left over – and China as whole, is made competitive. 

The financialized debt-led model of the West, however, is high cost, with swathes of the population becoming increasingly impoverished and bereft of discretionary income after paying debt servicing costs.
The Western periphery however, lacking the Near Eastern tradition, ‘turned’ to enabling a wealthy creditor oligarchy to take power and concentrate land and property ownership in its own hands. 

For public relations purposes, it claimed to be a ‘democracy’, and denounced any protective government regulation as being, by definition, ‘autocracy’. 

This is the second grand model, but with its overhang of debt and now in an inflationary spiral, it too is stuck, lacking the means to step forward.
That latter model is what occurred in Rome. And we are still living in the aftermath. Making debtors dependent on wealthy creditors is what today’s economists call a ‘free market’. 

It is one without public checks and balances against inequality, fraud or privatization of the public domain.
This neoliberal pro-creditor ethic, Professor Hudson asserts, is at the root of today’s New Cold War. 

When President Biden describes this great world conflict aimed at isolating China, Russia, India, Iran and their Eurasian trading partners, he characterizes this as an existential struggle between ‘democracy’ and ‘autocracy’.
By democracy he means oligarchy. And by ‘autocracy’ he means any government strong enough to prevent a financial oligarchy from taking over government and society and imposing neoliberal rules – by force – as Putin has done.

The ‘democratic’ ideal is to make the rest of the world look like Boris Yeltsin’s Russia, where American neo-liberals had a free hand in stripping away all public ownership of land, mineral rights and basic public utilities.
But today we deal with shades of grey – there is no truly free market in the U.S.; and China and Russia are mixed economies, albeit ones leaning to prioritising a responsibility for the welfare of the community as a whole, rather than imagining that individuals left to their own selfish devices will somehow result in maximising national welfare.
Here is the point: Adam Smith economics plus individualism is ingrained in the western zeitgeist. It will not change. 

However, President Putin’s new policy of cleansing the Augean Stables of ‘predatory western capital’ and the example set by Russia of its metamophose toward a largely self-supporting economy, immune to dollar hegemony, is music to the ears of the Global South and to much of the Rest of the World.
Taken together with Russia and China’s lead in challenging the West’s ‘right’ to set rules; to monopolise the means (the dollar) as the basis for settling inter-state trade; and with BRICS and SCO steadily acquiring ‘bottom’, Putin’s speeches reveal their revolutionary agenda.
One aspect remains: How to bring about a ‘revolutionary’ metamorphosis, without incurring war with the West. The U.S. and Europe are stuck. 

They are unable to renew themselves, as the structural political and economic contradictions have locked their paradigm solid. How then to ‘unstick’ the situation, short of war?
The key, paradoxically, may lie with Russia and China’s deep understanding of the flaws to the western economic model. 

The West is in need of Catharsis to ‘unstick itself’. Catharsis can be defined as the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed, emotions attached to beliefs.
To avoid military catharsis, it seems that the Russian and Chinese leadership – understanding the flaws to the western economic model – must then visit the West with an economic catharsis.
It will be painful, no doubt, but better than nuclear catharsis. We may recall the ending to CV Cafavy’s poem, Waiting for the Barbarians,

Because night has fallen and the barbarians haven’t come.
And some of our men just in from the border say
there are no barbarians any longer.

Now what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
Those people were a kind of solution.

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Another Apocalypse is possible @ROAR_Magazine @HorvatSrecko
Law & Politics



Another Apocalypse is possible @ROAR_Magazine @HorvatSrecko


I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air

— Lord Byron, “Darkness”
Summer, 1816

Everyone speaks about the Apocalypse as if it means “the end of the world.” 

But, if we really want to grasp the complexity of the contemporary threats that are leading to mass extinction, we should return to the original Greek meaning of apokalyptein as of “unveiling”, “uncovering” something. 

What is happening today — from the ongoing climate crisis to the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic — is luckily not the end of the world just yet, but in its horrifying destruction it is a warning, a “revelation” about the near future to come.
If there is one poem that comes to my mind when I see the images of red and orange skies above California caused by devastating wildfires in the midst of a pandemic in the rapidly disintegrating United States; when I look at the fire — and now floods — in the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesvos as a symbol of a collapsing European Union; it is Lord Byron’s poem “Darkness.”
The poem was written in 1816, which was called the “year without summer.” 

A year earlier, Mount Tambora — the most powerful volcanic eruption in human history — erupted in the Indonesian archipelago and sent millions of tons of ash and sulfur-dioxide gas into the atmosphere, turning into a massive cloud that covered Earth. 

This event immediately caused abrupt changes in the climate across the world. First it cooled the air, then the land and finally the oceans across the globe, causing crop failures and food shortages.
This new sudden catastrophe hit as Europe was still recovering from the Napoleonic Wars and already suffering from famine. 

The climate anomalies lead to internal migration and densely crowded settlements, which in turn led to severe typhus epidemics in southeastern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean region, while the disruption of Indian monsoons caused harvests to fail and led to famine across the subcontinent, contributing to the first cholera pandemic.
As Tambora’s stratospheric aerosol cloud began to cool the global temperatures, it produced sublime optical phenomena, like the spectacular red and orange sunsets in London in the summer and autumn of 1816. 

Paintings from the years following the Tambora eruption used these colors, most remarkably Turner’s paintings of the unusually spectacular sunsets of this period.
During the summer of 1816, an unexpected rainfall forced Lord Byron along with his four companions — John William Polidori, Mary Shelly, Percy Shelly and Claire Clairmont — to stay indoors overlooking Lake Geneva and writing about “the day when the fowls all went to roost at noon and candles had to be lit as at midnight.” 

The darkness was sudden and the writers — like in times of Decameron when a group of young women and men sheltered in a secluded villa outside of Florence to avoid the Black Death — were passing their time telling scary stories by the fireside and devising some of their own, like Shelley’s Frankenstein and Polidori’s The Vampyre.
Besides immense suffering, it was this major planetary catastrophe that led to some of the most beautiful artefacts of human creativity — painting, literature and music— through which, even today, we can get a better understanding of the particular apocalyptic Zeitgeist of 1816.
When we are faced with our present “Darkness,” we might find comfort in the fact that other people before us had similar experiences and also had “the sense of an ending,” the title of an influential book by the British literary critic Frank Kermode who famously claimed that eschatological thinking is inscribed into our very understanding of the world.
Nevertheless, the difference is that, unlike our ancestors who at that time did not know that the darkness above Geneva in 1816 was in fact caused by the eruption of the Tambora in a seemingly distant part of the world, today the news of the California wildfires travels across the world via our Twitter and Instagram feeds in a matter of seconds. And we know exactly what caused it; the climate crisis.
Yet, what many still do not seem to know, paralyzed by the daily images of the instagrammed Apocalypse, is that our current crisis is only a footnote to a much bigger planetary catastrophe that will finally lead to mass extinction. 

It is not only the climate crisis that is already leading to abrupt weather patterns, turning our skies into Turner paintings and our collective unconscious into Byron’s dark poem, it is also the permanent nuclear threat that could easily turn this already dystopian reality into something much more sinister.
In January 2020, the “Doomsday Clock” of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was for the first time set at 100 seconds to midnight, or, as the scientists put it, it has been set “closer to Apocalypse than ever.” 

They stated that “humanity continues to face two simultaneous existential dangers — nuclear war and climate change — that are compounded by a threat multiplier, cyber-enabled information warfare, that undercuts society’s ability to respond.” 

Then came the pandemic. Then the wildfires in California, the Amazon, the Russian tundras, Syria, Lebanon and now Mount Kilimanjaro in Kenia is on fire as well.
The “revelation” (Apocalypse) of both Byron’s poem from 1816 and the recent wildfires across the planet might read as follows: What if a nuclear winter produces hundreds of firestorms that would lead to an unprecedented global climatic cooling effect? 

If volcanic eruptions can cause the climate to cool by several degrees, a nuclear catastrophe could have much more devastating planetary effects. 

What if due to the accelerating climate crisis soon some parts of the world will turn into permanent “year without summer,” an eternity without sun, while in other parts of the world it will be eternal summer without rains?
ESCHATOLOGICAL TIPPING POINTS
And once again, our daily reality has surpassed science-fiction. While the Bay Area was covered by Blade Runner skies, in Colorado heatwaves turned into snowstorms. 

In fact, abrupt climate changes were happening not only in one country, but in one region and one city — Denver — where the temperature dropped from 33 to 2 degrees Celsius in a single day. 

In Los Angeles temperatures hit nearly 50 degrees Celsius with wildfires leading to such a bad air quality that it was safer to stay indoors, despite the fact that the coronavirus had previously caused many social activities to move to the relative safety of the outdoors.
This tension between two contradictory eschatological threats reminded me of my hometown city Zagreb that was hit by a strong earthquake in March while in coronavirus lockdown.

 For weeks politicians and epidemiologists have been telling the people that they had to stay at home and in isolation, and now suddenly the only way to be safe was to run out to the streets as quickly as possible.
What we encounter here, is what in my new book After the Apocalypse I call “eschatological tipping points.” The term “tipping point,” widely adopted by climate scientists today, usually refers to a nonlinear rapid change in parts of the climate system that irreversibly “tips” from one state to another. 

What I suggest is that, if we really want to grasp the multiplicity of threats humanity and the planet is facing today, we need to bring the term “tipping point” closer to eschatology, to the doctrine of the last things.
In short, besides just taking into account climate events — heatwaves, global warming, sea-ice thinning, permafrost melting — we should broaden the very concept of “tipping points.” 

We have to reflect on the interconnectivity and the current planetary cascade of tipping points that beside the climate crisis, include the everlasting nuclear threat, pandemics, the virus of racism, disintegration of societies and civil wars across the world.
While in 2020 we have to “flatten the curve” of the spread of a virus, we must now also make it our priority to “flatten the curves” of the climate crisis and that of the impending nuclear threat — and it is not one or the other, but both, or rather all eschatological threats at the same time. 

If we just flatten the curve of the spread of a virus without a radical transformation of how we treat nature — extraction of resources, destruction of habitat, meat-consumption — and other human beings — inequality, racism, exploitation — nothing guarantees that another, even deadlier, virus will not appear next time, whether that will be in ten years’ time or whether it is already around the corner.
In other words, both the current COVID-19 pandemic and wildfires in California are part of a bigger picture, they are part of a deep transformation of our planet on the verge of mass extinction. 

And this is not only a consequence of the so-called Anthropocene, it is a result of the Capitalocene. The more extraction, expansion and exploitation — the three E’s of the Apocalypse called global capitalism — the less chances for survival.
What is happening in our era — or what the still neglected philosopher Günther Anders called the “End-Time” — is not just a consequence of humans; it is a consequence of a particular world system that is grounded in the very destruction of worlds and the planet itself. 

The Apocalypse — even if it quickly becomes commodified in our Instagram era (turned from the sublime into a simulacrum) — is a political event par excellence.
Faced with the COVID-19 crisis, our contemporary ruling class is well aware that we are in the midst of an unprecedented political event. 

They know that a deep transformation is taking place and that the only way for things to remain the same is the emergence of a new social, political and even biological re-arrangement that can keep them in power.
What other proof is needed of the “Apocalypse as political event” but the spiking of Jeff Bezos’s fortune by $13 billion in a single day in July 2020, while, at the same time, Amazon workers have been dying of COVID-19 and protesting their inhumane working conditions? 

What other proof than Elon Musk, the embodiment of the capitalist expansionist dream, who, when challenged with the claim that the United States coup against Evo Morales occurred to enable him to obtain Bolivia’s lithium, simply answered: “We will coup whoever we want! Deal with it.”
And this is not the first time that the ruling class has openly proclaimed that there is a class war going on. Remember Warren Buffet? Another billionaire, who famously said: “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” 

With the COVID-19 crisis, which is exacerbating existing inequalities and enhancing the accumulation of profit for exactly those driving the planetary catastrophe, it has never been so tangible that a brutal class war is happening. And they are, again, trying to win.
Only, their “victory” would this time mean mass extinction.
FROM LAKI TO THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
While each crisis — even the contemporary unprecedented planetary crisis — serves as a good opportunity for further capital accumulation, major disruptions can, at the same time, also lead to major social transformations. 

The eruption of the super-volcano Tambora did not only lead to various conspiracy theories — as is the case with COVID-19 today — and produced Byron’s “Darkness,” Turner’s paintings as well as many other great works of art, it also sparked many instances of social unrest all across the world, leading to social and political transformations that changed the course of history.
If there is another volcano — even if volcanologists would refrain from doing this sort of “political volcanology” — that exemplifies the “Apocalypse as a political event” even more than Tambora, it is the eruption of super-volcano Laki in Iceland in 1783.
Not only did its effects contribute to the increase in poverty and misery all across Europe, the aftermath of the eruption might as well have contributed to the events leading to the French Revolution in 1789. 

Remember the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland in 2010 which ash led to over 100,000 flight cancellations and cost the global economy around £3 billion? 

Now imagine the 2010 eruption, but several hundred times more powerful and you will get an idea of this past catastrophic event and its consequences.

 According to the volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer in his book Eruptions that shook the world, the activity of Eyjafjallajökull “was rather trivial in terms of magnitude or intensity” compared to Laki.
The eruption of Laki was the largest-known lava-flow eruption in the past millennium that led to the death of around a quarter of the Icelandic population and caused an environmental crisis all across Europe. 

As Oppenheimer vividly shows in his book, the haze reached continental Europe less than two weeks after the eruption. In Sweden it was referred to as sol-röken (sun smoke) and in Germany Höhenrauch (lofty smoke).
The effects of the volcanic supereruption in Iceland soon reached Switzerland, Poland, Italy and France, where Benjamin Franklin, one of the “founding fathers” of the United States, while he was in Paris to sign the Treaty of Paris, observed that the “dry fog” plunged Europe into a bitter winter. 

Three weeks after the eruption, the haze reached Russia, Syria, Iraq and four weeks later even China. 

The world went through climate extremes: while Europe was experiencing a blazing summer in 1783, in Alaska this year is remembered as “the time when summer did not come,” writes Oppenheimer
As winter approached, rivers froze across Europe, traffic crossed the iced surface of the Thames in London, while major European cities like Vienna, Paris and Bratislava experienced some of the most devastating floods in history. 

In Prague, the Vltava rose four meters in just 12 hours, a record that was not even surpassed during the catastrophic flooding in 2002. 

Then the volcanic winter came, one of the most severe in the past 500 years in Europe, and with it, crop failure, loss of livestock and famine.
Food prices rose to a point where the majority of people could not even afford their daily bread. 

And even if that event was still several years in the future history, everything was leading to the fall of the Bastille. 

In other words, the effects of the eruption of the Laki volcano in Iceland were not just spatial, they were not just felt in places across the world, they traveled through time too, they had effects on the political reality of that time and future history itself.
As Oppenheimer notes, “the official response to the disasters across Europe had significant political repercussions, reminiscent of the situation following Hurricane Katrina in the USA in 2005.” 

For instance, in December of 1783, Marie Antoinette, the notorious Queen of France, had let it be known she wished the snow to remain on the streets of Paris as long as possible so she could continue to enjoy sledging. 

When she realized her faux pas, she donated 500 gold coins to support Parisians stricken by the flooding. 

And on March 14, 1784, King Louis XV himself issued a decree providing for compensation of three million pounds to victims of the flooding. 

Though this represented a trivial 1 percent of the annual royal revenue, it was nevertheless the first time the monarchy had extended such financial assistance to the kingdom.
Whether the eruption of Laki was the catalyst for the coming French Revolution or not, we still cannot say with certainty. 

What is certain, however, is that the response of the elites, their arrogance and mismanagement of a devastating crisis, created a fertile ground for a social revolution.
AFTER THE APOCALYPSE
The lesson of this historical episode is that if we want to fully grasp not our contemporary moment that could as well be described as an “eternal present,” we urgently need to develop a perspective of the longue durée. 

And this perspective, which, as long as humans are not extinct, necessarily has to take into account the class question, namely the structural inequality grounded in the political economy of the late Capitalocene that is leading to irreversible planetary catastrophe.
“How can I save you? It already happened!” says James Cole (Bruce Willis) in the movie 12 Monkeys, when a psychiatrist in a mental institution in 1990 asks him: “Are you going to save us?” 

He is considered crazy for claiming to be coming from the year 2035, a future in which almost the entire population of the world was annihilated by a deadly virus.
To think of our present period as the time after the Apocalypse requires, first and foremost, a similar shift in temporality. 

The Apocalypse as “revelation” has already happened. But if we are unable to understand the “revelation” of the rapidly unfolding planetary events and if we are not capable of radically reinventing the world in the time that remains, 

it might very well be that the end itself — the destruction of the biosphere and mass extinction — has already happened too.

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Currency Markets at a Glance WSJ
World Currencies

Euro 1.021350 
Dollar Index 106.787
Japan Yen 138.1905
Swiss Franc 0.97028
Pound 1.199100
Aussie 0.690745
India Rupee 80.0088
South Korea Won 1309.26 
Brazil Real 5.4716 
Egypt Pound 18.952600
South Africa Rand 17.099085 

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Tunisia Once Again Is a Test for Arab Democracy @opinion via @washingtonpost @ghoshworld
Africa

Tunisia Once Again Is a Test for Arab Democracy @opinion via @washingtonpost @ghoshworld 

It is the last-chance saloon for Tunisian democracy. 

A week from today, the country where the 2011 Arab Spring first bloomed will have what may be the final opportunity to prevent its president from institutionalizing a new dictatorship.

On July 25, exactly a year after Kais Saied fired the government, suspended parliament and assumed absolute authority, Tunisians will vote in a referendum on a new constitution that would cement the president’s complete control of their country. 

As Zaid al-Ali, the preeminent scholar on constitutions in the Arab world, wrote in the Washington Post:

 “The draft looks very much like the 1959 constitution, which laid the framework for Tunisia to be governed as an autocracy for half a century, until the breakdown that led to the 2011 uprisings.”
The outcome of the referendum may not make the international headlines that accompanied those uprisings. 

But it will be watched closely in other Arab countries, especially in Iraq and Libya, where democratic shoots are shriveling as political parties prove, just as in Tunisia, incapable of delivering good governance. 

The vote also will be followed with interest in Algeria and Sudan, where pro-democracy uprisings of the past two years are withering under sustained pushback from entrenched elites.  
Where the tiny Mediterranean nation once raised aspirations across the Arab world by ejecting its tyrant, a vote for a return to one-man rule would represent a body blow to democratic movements across the Middle East and North Africa.
The Tunisian president has put his fingers on the scale to ensure things go his way. 

He has interfered with the drafting of the constitution itself: The head of the committee appointed for the job resigned in protest. 

Saied has jailed opponents, muzzled the media and extended his authority over the judiciary. 

In May, he appointed a new election commission — one member has already quit.
Saied is hoping to capitalize on despair about democracy at home and apathy abroad. 

He grabbed power just as Tunisians were giving up hope that their dysfunctional government and gridlocked parliament would be able to look past petty political bickering to address deep-seated economic problems. 

Many hoped the president, unbeholden to any political faction, would be able to do just that.
The initially positive response to the coup from many Tunisians allowed the international community to absolve itself of any responsibility to protect the democratic institutions that Saied was undermining. 

The United Nations wrung its hands ineffectually; the US and European nations wagged a disapproving finger, weakly. 

France, which exercises considerable influence over Tunisian affairs because of its colonial history and trade ties, treated the autocrat with kid gloves.
It didn’t take long for Tunisians to realize Saied was less interested in solving their problems than consolidating his power. 

Their hopes of last fall had turned to ennui by this spring, when few bothered to participate in an online survey that was meant to inform the new constitution. 

Turnout in municipal elections in March was even lower than in 2018 — undermining the president’s claim that direct democracy, centered on local elections, is a better fit for the country than the parliamentary system enshrined in the current constitution.
But the international community hasn’t gotten off the fence: 

The Biden administration, for instance, has only expressed mild concern about Saied’s systematic appropriation of authority over the past year. 

Sterner measures, such as targeted sanctions against the president and his enablers, haven’t even been threatened.

So the Tunisians are on their own against an autocrat, just as they were in 2011. 

This time, they may not need to take to the streets, although there have been scattered protests in recent days. 

The referendum gives them a chance to defeat Saied at the ballot box. 

Although he has the support of the armed forces, the generals have historically bowed to public pressure. 

A wholesale rejection of his constitution will leave the president no choice but to restore power to Parliament.
Much more than Tunisia’s democracy depends on the outcome.

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January 15, 2011 Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution @csmonitor
Africa


January 15, 2011 Tunisia's Jasmine Revolution @csmonitor 

Mr. Ben Ali in a speech on Monday called the riots “terrorist acts” that were the work of “masked gangs” operating for foreign parties.
"We are not afraid, we are not afraid, we are afraid only of God," the crowds chanted on Tuesday in Tunis.
On Thursday, the American secretary of State said the following in Qatar.
“In too many places, in too many ways, the region’s foundations are sinking into the sand,” said Secretary Hillary Clinton. 

“Those who cling to the status quo may be able to hold back the full impact of their countries’ problems for a little while, but not forever, If leaders don’t offer a positive vision and give young people meaningful ways to contribute, others will fill the vacuum.”
The day’s seismic events in Tunisia were described by the broadcaster Abeer Madi al-Halabi as serving “a lesson for countries where presidents and kings have rusted on their thrones.”

John Donne wrote:

"...Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee..."

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Two More African Nations Fall Into Distress as Debt Risks Rise @BNNBloomberg
Africa


Angolan and Gabonese sovereign bonds are trading at distressed levels, raising the number of emerging-market nations at risk of default to a record.
Each of Angola’s six dollar-denominated government bonds and three from Gabon are trading at more than 1,000 basis points above US Treasuries, a threshold that signals a nation may struggle to repay its debt, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. 

The sovereign bonds of Nigeria, Kenya and Egypt fell into distressed territory recently.
The widening of the distressed club to include oil-producing states shows how few nations are being spared the concern that’s engulfing the developing world about the risk of a global recession and accelerating inflation. 

The number of countries in distressed territory has risen to 21 from nine at the end of last year, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine spooked investors and triggered outflows from emerging markets. 

Three nations -- Russia, Sri Lanka and Belarus -- have already defaulted this year and Ukraine is seeking to delay payments on foreign debt.
Angola is gearing for a general election on Aug. 24, the first test of President Joao Lourenco’s popularity since he replaced Jose Eduardo dos Santos at the helm of the resource-rich nation in 2017. 

While the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, or MPLA, has led Africa’s second-biggest oil producer for almost half a century, this year’s vote is expected to be a tight race against a stronger opposition.
An opinion poll published in May by research company Afrobarometer showed the MPLA had the support of 29% of the 1,200 respondents, while 22% backed the opposition Unita party, which has the support of two smaller groups. 

Lourenco’s government has embarked on an ambitious reform program under a three-year program with the International Monetary Fund that ended last year. 

The reforms included the liberalization of Angola’s currency, the kwanza, the privatization of almost 200 state-owned assets and the sale of international bonds.
Unita leader Adalberto Costa Junior has pledged to continue to clamp down on corruption and reduce the role of the state in the Angolan economy if he wins the upcoming vote. 

He has ruled out the possibility of Angola reneging on its debt obligations.

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The government won’t go “anywhere near restructuring debt,” @WilliamsRuto said in an interview at his office @business
Kenyan Economy


The government won’t go “anywhere near restructuring debt,” @WilliamsRuto  said in an interview at his office @business 

Ruto’s comments come after rival Raila Odinga said he plans to restructure debt, with a view of reducing debt-servicing costs and freeing up resources for development. 

The yield on Kenya’s 2024 eurobonds rose above 20% for the first time last week. The nation is ranked as the sixth-most vulnerable to a debt crisis, according to a Bloomberg assessment on 50 developing economies.

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The Energy regulator has declined to clear the application by Taifa Gas, which is owned by tycoon Rostam Aziz, citing risks to the environment posed by the 30,000-ton gas handling facility. @BD_Africa
Kenyan Economy

 The Energy regulator has declined to clear the application by Taifa Gas, which is owned by tycoon Rostam Aziz, citing risks to the environment posed by the 30,000-ton gas handling facility. @BD_Africa

The entry of Taifa Gas into Kenya is part of a trade deal between the countries signed between Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and Tanzania’s Samia Suluhu last year.

The regulatory licence freeze risks reigniting the trade spat between Kenya and Tanzania that saw Dar es Salaam block Kenyan goods from accessing its market.

“We did not clear their Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) because of certain technical deficiencies. The EIA had some technical deficiencies which we want them to address before we consider their application further,” the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (Epra) said in a response to Business Daily queries.
The regulator did not disclose the technicalities linked to Taifa Gas, which is the largest gas retailer in Tanzania and has more than 30 LPG handling plants.
Taifa Gas wants to build the 30,000-ton Kenya facility at the Special Economic Zone in Dongo Kundu, near the Port of Mombasa.
This will be right at Mr Jaffer’s doorstep where his firm, Africa Gas and Oil Ltd (AGOL), operates a multi-billion shilling facility.
AGOL has a storage capacity of 25,000 tonnes of LPG following an upgrade last year of the facility initially built in 2013.
The plant was built to allow for bulk imports of cooking gas to lower unit costs through economies of scale and curb shortages, which had been made difficult by the smaller import terminal at Shimanzi.
It had a storage capacity of 10,000 tonnes and the 25,000 tonnes unit is ranked among the largest terminals in sub-Saharan Africa.
The import handling and storage unit has helped relieve demand pressures through reduction of stock-outs, effectively easing pressure on LPG prices.

The AGOL plant and Proto Energy, the maker of Pro Gas, has offered Mr Jaffer a firm grip on the lucrative cooking gas market.
The Mombasa business mogul is also the owner of Grain Bulk Handlers, which has a near monopoly in discharge and handling of bulk grain cargo at the Port of Mombasa.

 “Tanzania and Kenya potentially can be much bigger than they are. Unfortunately, we’re bogged down by petty politics, protectionism, inward-looking and trivial issues that impede economic development,” Mr Aziz said at a conference in Nairobi last year.

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BAT reports HY EPS +8.413% Earnings FOR THE SIX MONTHS ENDED 30 JUNE 2022
N.S.E Equities - Industrial & Allied


BAT reports HY EPS +8.413% Earnings FOR THE SIX MONTHS ENDED 30 JUNE 2022


Par Value:                  10/-
Closing Price:           425.00
Total Shares Issued:          100000000.00
Market Capitalization:        42,500,000,000
EPS:             64.83
PE:                 6.556

HY Gross Revenue 21.864b versus 20.245b

HY Excise Duty and [VAT] [7.772b] versus [7.703b]

HY Net Revenue 14.092b versus 12.542b

HY Cost of Operations [9.934b] versus [8.638b]

HY Profit from Operations 4.158b versus 3.904b

HY Profit before Tax 4.178b versus 3.855b

HY Profit after Tax 2.925b versus 2.698b

HY EPS 29.25 versus 26.98 +8.413% 

Cash at End of Period 1.619b versus [0.342b]

HY Dividend 5.00 a share 

Commentary

The rising cost of commodities globally continues to impose inflationary pressure on already stretched consumer disposable income. 

The steep increases in excise duty rates (+5% in November 2021, and +10% effective July 2022), coupled with the rising cost of inputs, is placing further pressure on consumer affordability and purchasing power.
For the Company, this is triggering downtrading to lower priced brands and exacerbating the prevalence of illicit trade in tax evaded cigarettes. 

Illicit trade continues to adversely impact industry revenues and deny the Government in excess of an estimated KSh 4 billion per annum in revenue. 

We continue to contribute to national dialogue on the regulatory and fiscal framework, and work with relevant agencies to fight the illicit trade menace.
Gross revenue increased by 8% to KSh 21.9 billion primarily driven by pricing benefit in the domestic market and growth in export sales following economic recovery in some of our key markets.

Total cost of operations increased by 15% to KSh 9.9 billion primarily driven by higher input costs due to global supply chain challenges.
Profit before tax was up 8% to KSh 4.2 billion driven by higher revenue, partially offset by higher cost of operations.
Taxes in the form of Excise Duty, VAT, Pay As You Earn (PAYE) and Corporation Tax increased by 2% to KSh 9.4 billion reflecting higher excise duty rates and profitability.
The Board of Directors has approved an interim dividend in respect of the year ending 31 December 2022 of KSh 5.00 per share. 

The interim dividend, which is subject to withholding tax, will be paid on or about 16 September 2022 to share- holders on the register at the close of business on 12 August 2022.

Conclusions

resilient. The PE Ratio is 6.556 and inexpensive.

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Freight costs in East African region have increased to a new high of Sh212 per kilometer per container. @moneyacademyKE
Kenyan Economy


Freight costs in East African region have increased to a new high of Sh212 per kilometer per container. @moneyacademyKE

66% of EA cargo used Northern Corridor —Mombasa to Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan & DRC—while the rest uses Central Corridor which starts in Dar es Salam inward.— The Star

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by Aly Khan Satchu (www.rich.co.ke)
 
 
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July 2022
 
 
 
 
 
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