From The Alpha and the Omega - Chapter Eight
by Jim A. Cornwell, Copyright © 1995, all rights reserved

    This file is attached to from “Astronomical Events To Appear Between 2014 Through 2017 A.D.” - Chapter Eight by Jim A. Cornwell, Copyright © 1995, all rights reserved.


1/2/2022 Germans See Pandemic, Pensions As Biggest Topics For 2022-Poll
FILE PHOTO: People receive a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine during a
vaccination event in the Cologne Cathedral on Christmas Eve amid the coronavirus disease
(COVID-19) pandemic in Cologne, Germany, December 24, 2021. REUTERS/Thilo Schmuelgen
    BERLIN (Reuters) – Germans want their new government to focus on fighting the coronavirus pandemic and safeguarding pensions in 2022, with fewer people wanting them to prioritise the climate crisis, an opinion poll showed on Sunday.
    The survey by pollsters Insa for the Bild am Sonntag newspaper showed that 61% of the 2,004 people questioned think combating the pandemic is the most important task of the government, followed by securing pensions.
    Germans also want the government to deal with a shortage of staff in nursing homes, provide affordable housing and limit the rise in energy prices.    Dealing with the impact of climate change only ranks sixth in their list of priorities.
    “Direct, concrete concern about one’s own livelihood comes ahead of the often more abstract concern about the consequences of climate change,” said Insa head Hermann Binkert.
    Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in his first New Year’s address that Germany wants to use its presidency of the Group of Seven (G7) to develop it into a club that is pioneering in its efforts to achieve green growth and a socially just world.
(Reporting by Emma Thomasson, Editing by Louise Heavens)

1/3/2022 Russia, China, Britain, U.S. And France Say No One Can Win Nuclear War
Flags are seen in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters, amid the
coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Vienna, Austria May 23, 2021. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
    MOSCOW (Reuters) – China, Russia, Britain, the United States and France have agreed that a further spread of nuclear arms and a nuclear war should be avoided, according to a joint statement by the five nuclear powers published by the Kremlin on Monday.
    It said that the five countries – who are the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – consider it their primary responsibility to avoid war between the nuclear states and to reduce strategic risks, while aiming to work with all countries to create an atmosphere of security.
    “We declare there could be no winners in a nuclear war, it should never be started,” the Russian-language version of the statement read.
    “As the use of nuclear arms would have far-reaching consequences, we also confirm that nuclear arms – as long as they exist – should serve defensive aims, deterrence against aggression and prevention of war.”
    France also released the statement, underscoring that the five powers reiterated their determination for nuclear arms control and disarmament.    They would continue bilateral and multilateral approaches to nuclear arms control, it said.
    The statement comes amid increased geopolitical tensions between Moscow and Western nations over concerns about Russia’s military build-up near neighbouring Ukraine.    Moscow says it can move its army around its own territory as it deems necessary.
    Last Thursday U.S. President Joe Biden told his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that a possible move on Ukraine will draw sanctions and an increased U.S. presence in Europe, where tensions are high after Russia’s military buildup at the border.
(Reporting by Andrey Ostroukh; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Angus MacSwan)

1/4/2022 Russia, China, Britain, U.S. And France Say No One Can Win Nuclear War
FILE PHOTO: National flags of United Kingdom, United States of America, France and Russia hang in front of the Steigenberger
Belvedere hotel in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos, Switzerland, January 11, 2018 REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann
    MOSCOW/WASHINGTON (Reuters) -China, Russia, Britain, the United States and France have agreed that a further spread of nuclear arms and a nuclear war should be avoided, according to a joint statement by the five nuclear powers published by the Kremlin on Monday.
    It said that the five countries – which are the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – consider it their primary responsibility to avoid war between the nuclear states and to reduce strategic risks, while aiming to work with all countries to create an atmosphere of security.
    “We affirm that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought,” the English-language version of the statement read.
    “As nuclear use would have far-reaching consequences, we also affirm that nuclear weapons — for as long as they continue to exist — should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression, and prevent war.”
    Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu said the joint statement could help increase mutual trust and “replace competition among major powers with coordination and cooperation,” adding that China has a “no first use” policy on nuclear weapons, state news agency Xinhua reported.
    France also released the statement, underscoring that the five powers reiterated their determination for nuclear arms control and disarmament.    They would continue bilateral and multilateral approaches to nuclear arms control, it said.
    The statement from the so-called P5 group comes as bilateral relations between the United States and Moscow have fallen to their lowest point since the end of the Cold War, while relations between Washington and China are also at a low over a range of disagreements.
    The Pentagon in November sharply increased its estimate of China’s projected nuclear weapons arsenal over the coming years, saying Beijing could have 700 warheads by 2027 and possibly 1,000 by 2030.
    Washington has repeatedly urged China to join it and Russia in a new arms control treaty.
    Geopolitical tensions between Moscow and Western countries have increased over concerns about Russia’s military buildup near neighbouring Ukraine.    Moscow says it can move its army around its own territory as it deems necessary.
    Last Thursday U.S. President Joe Biden told his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, that a possible move on Ukraine would draw sanctions and an increased U.S. presence in Europe.
    U.S. and Russian officials will hold security talks on Jan. 10 to discuss concerns about their respective military activity and confront rising tensions over Ukraine, the two countries said.
    A conference on a major nuclear treaty that was set to begin on Tuesday at the United Nations has been postponed until August due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
(Reporting by Andrey Ostroukh in Moscow, Daphne Psaledakis and Jonathan Landay in Washington; Additional reporting by Yew Lun Tian in Beijing; Editing by Kevin Liffey, Angus MacSwan, Jonathan Oatis and Leslie Adler)

1/5/2022 German Minister, On U.S. Trip, Urges Dialogue With Russia
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock wearing
face masks to combat the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pose for a photograph before a bilateral meeting
ahead of the G7 foreign ministers summit in Liverpool, Britain, December 10, 2021. Olivier Douliery/Pool via REUTERS
    BERLIN (Reuters) – German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who is travelling to Washington to meet U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday, said she would reaffirm the importance of dialogue with Russia to prevent conflict over Ukraine.
    “With regard to Russia, the common message from Europeans and the U.S. government is clear: Russian actions come with a clear price tag, and the only way out of the crisis is through dialogue,” Baerbock said in a statement.
    “We are entering a decisive phase in which important talks at different levels are imminent. And even if the formats of the talks vary, our messages as transatlantic partners to the government in Moscow are always the same.”
    Alarmed by Russia’s military build-up along Ukraine’s border, U.S. and Russian officials are due to hold security talks on Jan. 10 in Geneva and NATO has scheduled a meeting of allied ambassadors and top Russian officials for Jan. 12.
(Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Robert Birsel)

1/7/2022 Poland Defiant As EU Fines Loom Over Disciplining Judges by Gabriela Baczynska and Joanna Plucinska
FILE PHOTO: The flags of Poland and European Union are tied together during a rally in support of Poland's
membership in the European Union after the country's Constitutional Tribunal ruled
on the primacy of the constitution over EU law, undermining a key tenet of European
integration, in Rzeszow, Poland, October 10, 2021. Patryk Ogorzalek/Agencja Gazeta via REUTERS
    BRUSSELS/WARSAW (Reuters) – A Polish minister has accused the European Union of making “illegal demands” on his country ahead of a Jan.11 deadline by which Warsaw is meant to inform Brussels of how and when exactly it plans to dismantle a disciplinary system for judges.
    Failure to act would mean Poland having to pay at least 70 million euros in fines, further delay in accessing billions of euros to support its economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the possible loss of additional development funds.
    The case is among many bitter rows between the EU and Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, which came to power in 2015 and has since faced accusations of eroding the freedom of courts, the media, women, gays and migrants, among others.
    The Jan.11 deadline relates to an order last October by the top EU court fining Warsaw for failing to immediately halt the work of the Polish Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Chamber pending a final verdict on the scheme.
    Asked about the deadline to dismantle the chamber, which has powers to punish judges over their rulings, or get ready to pay the fines, Poland’s Deputy Justice Minister Sebastian Kaleta said the emergency measures ordered by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) “breached competences Poland vested in the EU.”
    “These are illegal demands,” Kaleta, a member of a hardline eurosceptic coalition partner of PiS, told Reuters, adding Poland would not bow to “blackmail by EU institutions.”
    A Polish government spokesman did not reply to requests for further comment on the standoff.
    PiS, a populist, nationalist party, introduced the new policing system for judges in 2017, part of a sweeping overhaul of the courts it says was needed to rid them of lingering communist-era influence.
    But the EU, the United States, rights groups and democracy watchdogs accused Warsaw of undermining the principle of judicial independence through political meddling.
    The ECJ is expected to make its final ruling on the matter this year.    The ECJ usually follows the opinion of its adviser, who last May said it should strike down the Polish disciplinary regime for judges as being in violation of EU law.
    Fines in this case amount to 1 million euros a day and will add up to 70 million euros as of Monday.
    If Warsaw sticks by its refusal to pay, the EU executive European Commission would add interest and could eventually deduct the total from development funds otherwise earmarked for Poland under the shared EU budget for 2021-27.
    EU countries have always paid ECJ fines in the past, said a Commission official.
    “Once the final ECJ ruling is in, the interim measures expire.    At the same time, what is already due is due.    But we’ve never been in such a situation,” the official said.
(Writing by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Gareth Jones)

1/12/2022 Russia To Set Out Security Demands At NATO Meeting by Robin Emmott
FILE PHOTO: NATO logos are seen at the Alliance headquarters ahead of a NATO Defence Ministers
meeting, in Brussels, Belgium, October 21, 2021. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/File Photo
    BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Russia is set to lay out its demands for security guarantees in Europe to NATO’s 30 allies on Wednesday, following intense talks with the United States in Geneva that showed the two sides have major differences to bridge.
    The NATO-Russia Council at allied headquarters in Brussels is part of a broader effort to defuse the worst East-West tensions since the Cold War, triggered primarily by a confrontation over Ukraine , which the United States says Russia is planning to invade.
    Moscow dismisses such claims, though it is massing troops near the Ukrainian border.     NATO diplomats say the Western alliance is ready to negotiate with Moscow on increasing openness around military drills and to avoid accidental clashes that could spark conflict, as well as arms control regarding missiles in Europe.
    But the NATO allies say that many of Russia’s demands, laid out in two draft treaties in December, are unacceptable, including calls to scale back the alliance’s activities to 1990s era levels and promising not to take in new members.
    “Let’s be clear: Russian actions have precipitated this crisis.    We are committed to using diplomacy to de-escalate the situation,” U.S. envoy to NATO Julianne Smith told reporters on Tuesday evening.
    “We want to see … Russia pulling back its forces,” she said of the 100,000 troops stationed near Ukraine.
    Bridling at NATO’s expansion eastward into its old Soviet sphere of influence, the Kremlin sees the U.S.-led alliance’s deterrents and military modernisation as a threat.
    Russia staged live-fire exercises with troops and tanks near the Ukrainian border on Tuesday while sounding a downbeat note over prospects for more talks with the United States.
    NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will chair Wednesday’s talks from 0900 GMT with the alliance’s 30 ambassadors and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.    The allies are expected to voice concerns about what they say are covert and cyber attacks, as well as electoral interference, on the European Union and the United States.
    Russia denies any wrongdoing.
(Reporting by Robin Emmott; editing by John Stonestreet)

1/21/2022 Exclusive-U.S. Opposes Plans To Strengthen World Health Organization by Francesco Guarascio, Trevor Hunnicutt and Stephanie Nebehay
FILE PHOTO: The World Health Organization logo is pictured at the entrance
of the WHO building, in Geneva, Switzerland, December 20, 2021. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
    BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The United States, the World Health Organization’s top donor, is resisting proposals to make the agency more independent, four officials involved in the talks said, raising doubts about the Biden administration’s long-term support for the U.N. agency.
    The proposal, made by the WHO’s working group on sustainable financing, would increase each member state’s standing annual contribution, according to a WHO document published online and dated Jan. 4.
    The plan is part of a wider reform process galvanised by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has highlighted the limitations of the WHO’s power to intervene early in a crisis.
    But the U.S. government is opposing the reform because it has concerns about the WHO’s ability to confront future threats, including from China, U.S. officials told Reuters.
    It is pushing instead for the creation of a separate fund, directly controlled by donors, that would finance prevention and control of health emergencies.
    Four European officials involved in the talks, who declined to be named because they were not authorised to speak to the media, confirmed the U.S. opposition.    The U.S. government had no immediate comment.
    The published proposal calls for member states’ mandatory contributions to rise gradually from 2024 so they would account for half the agency’s $2 billion core budget by 2028, compared to less than 20% now, the document said.
    The WHO’s core budget is aimed at fighting pandemics and strengthening healthcare systems across the world.    It also raises an additional $1 billion or so a year to tackle specific global challenges such as tropical diseases and influenza.
    Supporters say that the current reliance on voluntary funding from member states and from charities such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation forces the WHO to focus on priorities set by the funders, and makes it less able to criticise members when things go wrong.
    An independent panel on pandemics that was appointed to advise on the WHO reform had called for a much bigger increase in mandatory fees, to 75% of the core budget, deeming the current system “a major risk to the integrity and independence” of the WHO.
    The WHO itself responded to a query by saying that “only flexible and predictable funds can enable WHO to fully implement the priorities of the Member States.”
    Top European Union donors, including Germany, back the plan, along with most African, South Asian, South American and Arab countries, three of the European officials said.
    The proposal is to be discussed at the WHO’s executive board meeting next week but the divisions mean no agreement is expected, three of the officials said.
    The WHO confirmed there was currently no consensus among member states, and said talks were likely to continue until the annual meeting in May of the World Health Assembly, the agency’s top decision-making body.
    European donors in particular favour empowering, rather than weakening, multilateral organisations including the WHO.
    One European official said the U.S. plan “causes scepticism among many countries,” and said the creation of a new structure controlled by donors, rather than by the WHO, would weaken the agency’s ability to combat future pandemics.
    Washington has been critical of the WHO for some time.
    Former president Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the WHO after accusing it of defending China’s initial delays in sharing information when COVID-19 emerged there in 2019.
    The Biden administration rejoined soon after taking office, but officials told Reuters they think the WHO needs significant reform, and raised concerns about its governance, structure and ability to confront rising threats, not least from China.
    One of the European officials said other big countries, including Japan and Brazil, were also hesitant about the published WHO proposal.
    Two of the European officials said China had not yet made its position clear, while a third official listed Beijing among the critics of the proposal.
    The governments of Japan, China and Brazil had no immediate comment.
(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio in Brussels and Trevor Hunnicutt in Washington; additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva and Andreas Rinke in Berlin; editing by Josephine Mason and Kevin Liffey)

1/21/2022 France’s Consitutional Council Approves Macron’s Vaccine Pass
A woman, wearing a protective face mask walk, past a sign reading "Please, prepare your vaccine pass"
at the entrance of a restaurant in Nice, France, January 21, 2022. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
    PARIS (Reuters) – France’s Constitutional Council on Friday approved – with conditions – the country’s new COVID-19 vaccine pass, which will require people aged 16 and above to show proof of vaccination to enter public places like bars, restaurants and cinemas.
    The new pass is part of President Emmanuel Macron’s drive to make life difficult enough for the small minority of unvaccinated people that they are compelled to get COVID shots.
    The Council’s ruling paves the way for the vaccine pass to take effect on Jan. 24, replacing a health pass that showed proof of vaccination, a recent negative test or past infection.
    The Council upheld the government’s wish that anyone over 16 be required to show a vaccine pass as well as a provision in the legislation allowing for bar and restaurant managers to check a person’s identification alongside the pass to curb the use of fakes or certificates belonging to a third party.
    But it overturned a requirement that the old health pass be required to attend political rallies.    Coming less than three months before an election, the Council said such a provision would impinge on people’s freedom to share views and opinions.
    The vaccine pass has brought new momentum to weekly street protests against COVID-related restrictions on public life.
    Some people resisting the vaccine say they have been made to feel like second-class citizens by Macron.
    France reported more than 425,000 coronavirus infections on Thursday and hospitals says the large majority of COVID patients in intensive care are unvaccinated.
(This story corrects to show Council overturned requirement a ‘health pass’, not ‘vaccine pass’, be required for political meetings)
(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by GV De Clercq, Richard Lough and Hugh Lawson)

1/25/2022 WHO Board Halts Ethiopia’s Anti-Tedros Speech, Postpones Probe Decision
FILE PHOTO: Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), speaks
during a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland, December 20, 2021. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo
(Corrects headline and lead to show that Ethiopia’s ambassador was cut off by the WHO board ‘chair’, not a WHO ‘official’)
    GENEVA (Reuters) -The chair of a World Health Organization body cut off Ethiopia’s envoy on Monday as he tried to deliver a speech criticising the global organisation’s leader and postponed a decision on a request from Addis Ababa to investigate his actions.
    The flare-up came at the WHO’s week-long Executive Board meeting which is set to discuss a bid by current director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, from Ethiopia’s Tigray region, for a second term as head of the U.N. health agency.
    WHO Executive Board chair Patrick Amoth said at the start of the hybrid meeting in Geneva that it would “set aside” a request from Ethiopia to investigate Tedros for allegedly supporting rebellious forces fighting the Ethiopian government.
    None of the board’s 34 members, which do not include Ethiopia, objected.
    However, Ethiopia’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Zenebe Kebede Korcho, later sought to deliver a virtual speech criticising Tedros but was twice prevented from doing so and eventually cut off after an awkward exchange.
    “Further discussion of the matter is not germane and is therefore out of order under the relevant rules of procedure,” said Amoth, who is from Kenya which is one of 28 countries that nominated Tedros for a second term as WHO chief.
    Before his intervention was cut, Zenebe accused Tedros of “using his office to advance his personal political interest at the expense of the interests of Ethiopia.”    He added: “It is my sovereign right to make a statement before this body.”
    Tedros, who was backed by Ethiopia for the top WHO job in the 2017 election, said earlier this month that aid was being blocked from getting through to Tigray, where rebellious forces are fighting the central government.
    On Jan. 14, Ethiopia’s foreign ministry accused Tedros, who previously served as the Ethiopian health minister and foreign minister, of spreading misinformation about the war in the country’s north.
    The ministry said that Tedros’ remarks compromised the WHO’s credibility and independence.
    Ethiopian government spokesperson Legesse Tulu said the decision announced by Amoth on Monday showed that the WHO was being partial in the matter.
    The government reiterated its call for the WHO to investigate Tedros, Legesse told Reuters in a text message.
    The WHO said at the time that Ethiopia’s foreign affairs ministry had sent a diplomatic communication, called a note verbale.
    Thousands have been killed in the conflict in Tigray, which spread to two neighbouring regions in northern Ethiopia before Tigrayan forces were forced to withdraw back to Tigray in December.
(Additional reporting by Giulia Paravicini in Nairobi; Writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Nick Macfie and Hugh Lawson)

2/9/2022 Chinese Funding Of Sub-Saharan African Infrastructure Dwarfs That Of West, Says Think Tank by Andrea Shalal
FILE PHOTO: A Chinese engineer and a local construction worker work on a section of the
Mombasa-Nairobi standard gauge railway (SGR) in Emali, Kenya October 10, 2015. The China Road
and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) tasked with the construction work at a cost of 3.8 billion
U.S. dollars is due for completion in mid-2017. REUTERS/Noor Khamis/File Photo
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – China’s development banks provided $23 billion in financing for infrastructure projects in sub-Saharan Africa from 2007 to 2020, more than double the amount lent by such banks in the United States, Germany, Japan and France combined, a new study showed.
    The Center for Global Development think tank said a review of 535 public-private infrastructure deals funded in the region in those years showed that China’s investments dwarfed those of other governments and multilateral development banks.
    Nancy Lee, lead author of the paper and a senior policy fellow at the center, said overall public funding for projects in sub-Saharan Africa remained stuck at around $9 billion, well short of what the region needs for roads, dams and bridges.
    “There is a lot of criticism of China,” she said.    “But if Western governments want to boost productive and sustainable investments to meaningful levels, they need to deploy their own development banks and press the multilateral development banks to make these investments a priority.”
    Between 2007 and 2020, China Exim Bank and China Development Bank provided $23 billion in financing, while all other major development finance institutions combined provided $9.1 billion, the report found.
    It noted that the main U.S. development finance agency, now known as the U.S. International Development Finance Corp, lent just $1.9 billion for infrastructure in the region during that period, less than a tenth of what China provided.
    Multilateral development banks like the World Bank provided just $1.4 billion per year on average for public-private infrastructure projects in sub-Saharan Africa from 2016-2020, the report found.
    China’s lending to Africa has come under heightened scrutiny in recent years for lack of transparency and its use of collateralized loans, with economists at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank warning that many low-income countries are facing or already in debt distress.
    But Western countries have been slow to pump up investments despite “much rhetoric,” Lee said.
    The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden in July unveiled a new push to expand business ties between U.S. companies and Africa, with a focus on clean energy, health, agribusiness and transportation infrastructure.    But its ongoing review of trade policies has left the private sector skittish about committing funds.
    More news could come soon.
    A top U.S. trade official last week said Washington had been engaging in robust talks with Kenya as part of its drive to expand trade investment on the African continent, and would have more to say in coming weeks.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

2/9/2022 ‘No To The IMF’: Thousands Protest In Argentina Against Debt Deal by Miguel Lo Bianco and Horacio Soria
Demonstrators take part in a protest against the government's agreement with the International
Monetary Fund (IMF), in Buenos Aires, Argentina February 8, 2022. REUTERS/Mariana Nedelcu
    BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Thousands of Argentines marched through the streets of Buenos Aires on Tuesday to protest against a likely deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to revamp more than $40 billion of debt the country cannot pay back.
    The protesters paraded through the capital with banners saying “no to paying the IMF” and “no to an IMF deal,” a sign of rising tension in the South American nation over the tentative agreement struck late last month.
    Argentina and the IMF announced a breakthrough in talks in late January to revamp a failed 2018 loan, which would see debt payments pushed back but involve pledges to meet certain economic targets agreed with the lender.
    That agreement still needs details ironed out and approval from both Argentina’s Congress and the IMF board.
    “No to the government’s deal with the IMF,” said Celeste Fierro, a protest leader, wearing a T-shirt reading “scams are not paid.”
    “They want us to pay with more (fiscal) adjustments, with more precariousness and taking more out of us, that is why we cannot allow the submission of our people to the designs of the IMF.”
    IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva said last week that while an agreement had been reached in principle with Argentina on a new standby loan, “hard work” still lay ahead.
    In Argentina, splits have appeared in the ruling Peronist coalition over the deal, with one prominent lawmaker stepping down from his position in Congress in opposition to it.
    Juan Carlos Giordano, a representative for a leftist group in the march, said that the debt deal was akin to making working class people foot the bill and that the funds should be used to pull people out of poverty.
    “The aim is to defend wages, defend work so that the money goes to combat social ills,” he said, blaming the previous government of conservative Mauricio Macri for taking on the IMF debt.
    “We are marking a path.    The path of no submission, no to resignation, and no to the IMF.”
(Reporting by Miguel Lo Bianco and Horacio Soria; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Robert Birsel)

2/10/2022 Russia Holds Drills In Belarus As West Warns Of ‘Dangerous Moment’ by Robin Emmott, Tom Balmforth and Vladimir Soldatkin
A satellite image shows an overview of Russian deployments at Zyabrovka air base
in Belarus, February 10, 2022. 2022 Maxar Technologies/Handout via REUTERS
    BRUSSELS/MOSCOW (Reuters) - Britain said on Thursday the “most dangerous moment” in the West’s standoff with Moscow appeared imminent, as Russia held military exercises in Belarus and the Black Sea following the buildup of its forces near Ukraine.
    Ukraine also staged war games and the United States urged Americans in the country to leave immediately due to increased threats of Russian military action.    But leaders on all sides signalled they hoped diplomacy could still prevail in what British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called Europe’s biggest security crisis for decades.
    In a new round of talks, Britain’s foreign minister sparred publicly with her Russian counterpart in Moscow,     Johnson visited NATO headquarters in Brussels and Germany’s leader met his Baltic states counterparts in Berlin, where officials from Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France were also holding discussions.     Russia, which has more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders, denies Western accusations it may be planning to invade its former Soviet neighbour, though it says it could take unspecified “military-technical” action unless demands are met.
    “I honestly don’t think a decision has yet been taken” by Moscow on whether to attack, Johnson told a news conference with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.    “But that doesn’t mean that it is impossible that something absolutely disastrous could happen very soon indeed.”
    “This is probably the most dangerous moment, I would say, in the course of the next few days, in what is the biggest security crisis that Europe has faced for decades.”
    The way forward was diplomacy, Johnson later told reporters in Poland.
    Stoltenberg also said it was a dangerous moment for European security, adding: “The number of Russian forces is going up.    The warning time for a possible attack is going down.”
    In a new point of friction, Ukraine criticised Russian naval exercises that it said were part of a “hybrid war” and had made navigation in the Black Sea and Sea of Azov “virtually impossible.”
    Russia said six warships had arrived at Sevastopol in Crimea, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.    There was no comment from Moscow on Ukraine’s statements.
    Ukraine’s Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov urged the international community to retaliate, including by slapping port restrictions on Russian ships.
    The U.S. State Department urged Americans in Ukraine to leave immediately due to what it called increased threats of Russian military action.
    “American citizens should leave now,” President Joe Biden told NBC News in an interview.    “We’re dealing with one of the largest armies in the world.    It’s a very different situation and things could go crazy quickly.”
    Asked whether there was a scenario that could prompt him to send troops to rescue fleeing Americans, Biden replied: “There’s not.    That’s a world war when Americans and Russia start shooting at one another.    We’re in a very different world than we’ve ever been.”
    Visiting Moscow, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss was upbraided by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who accused her of refusing to listen.
    “I’m honestly disappointed that what we have is a conversation between a mute person and a deaf person,” the 71-year-old veteran diplomat told a news conference.
    “Our most detailed explanations fell on unprepared soil .. numerous facts that we produced bounced off the British delegation.”
    Truss, who warned of tough Western sanctions if Ukraine was attacked, challenged Lavrov over his assertion that Russia’s build-up of troops and weaponry was not threatening anyone.
    “I can’t see any other reason for having 100,000 troops stationed on the border, apart from to threaten Ukraine.    And if Russia is serious about diplomacy, they need to remove those troops and desist from the threats,” she said.
    Lavrov said Moscow favoured diplomacy to resolve the crisis.
    Truss’s talks in Moscow follow shuttle diplomacy from French President Emmanuel Macron, who visited Moscow and Kyiv this week.    In contrast to U.S. and British leaders, Macron has played down the likelihood of a Russian invasion soon.
    As part of U.S. efforts to “reduce chances of miscalculation,” the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, spoke on Thursday with his Belarusian counterpart, a Pentagon spokesman said.
    Urging de-escalation, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany and its allies were ready for dialogue with Moscow and wanted peace.
    However further military aggression against Ukraine “would have very serious political, economic and strategic consequences for Russia,” Scholz told reporters in Berlin.
    Moscow has used the tensions to seek security concessions from the West that would include a promise never to admit Ukraine to NATO and halt the military alliance’s expansion.
    The EU said on Thursday it had delivered a single letter in response to Russia’s proposals on European security, NATO and the United States having earlier portrayed Russia’s main demands as non-starters.
    Stoltenberg said last week that Russia was expected to have 30,000 troops in Belarus as well SU-35 fighter jets, S-400 air defence systems and nuclear-capable Iskander missiles.
    Russia held a briefing for military attachés that lasted just eight minutes, and gave notice of an exercise that was already under way, a senior U.S. State Department official said.
    “That’s highly inconsistent with agreements for transparency for large military exercises in Europe.    That’s bad news,” the official said.
    Ukraine launched its own war games on Thursday which, like Russia’s joint drills with Minsk, will run until Feb. 20.
    The Ukrainian forces, whose numbers have not been disclosed, are set to use Bayraktar drones and anti-tank Javelin and NLAW missiles provided by foreign partners.    Kyiv was due to receive a further shipment of U.S. military aid later on Thursday.
    Despite the tension over the war games, the Kremlin’s point man on Ukraine, Dmitry Kozak, was set to meet officials from Ukraine, Germany and France in Berlin.
(Additional reporting by Natalia Zinets in Kyiv, William James in London, John Irish in Paris and Mark Trevelyan in London; Editing by Andrew Osborn, Timothy Heritage, Peter Graff, John Stonestreet and Daniel Wallis)

2/10/2022 U.S. Says Americans In Ukraine Should Depart Immediately
The seal of the United States Department of State is shown in
Washington, U.S., January 26, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
    (Reuters) – The United States has urged Americans in Ukraine to leave immediately due to the “increased threats of Russian military action” against Ukraine.
    “Do not travel to Ukraine due to the increased threats of Russian military action and COVID-19; those in Ukraine should depart now via commercial or private means,” the U.S. State Department said in an advisory.
    Russia denies planning an attack on Ukraine but has amassed tens of thousands of troops on its border with Ukraine.
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Chris Reese)

2/23/2022 EU’s Russia Sanctions To Take Effect On Wednesday
FILE PHOTO: European Union flags are seen outside the EU Commission headquarters
in Brussels, Belgium November 14, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo
    BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A first, limited round of European Union sanctions on Russia will take effect on Wednesday, an EU diplomat said, blacklisting more politicians and banning trade between the EU and two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine.
    Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday recognised the separatist enclaves in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine that adjoin Russia, deepening Western fears of a major war in Europe.
    The EU chose not to sanction Putin himself but instead blacklist all members of the lower house of the Russian parliament who voted in favour of the recognition of the breakaway regions, freezing any assets they have in the EU and banning them from travelling to the bloc.
    Banks involved in financing separatist activities in eastern Ukraine will also be targeted and the two enclaves will be removed from a free-trade deal between the EU and Ukraine.
    The impact of the new sanctions on banks and of limits on the Russian government’s ability to raise capital on the EU’s financial markets is likely to be limited.
    Western governments for now are preferring to keep the much larger sanctions packages that they have planned in reserve should the crisis escalate.
    The sanctions, already approved in principle by foreign ministers on Tuesday and confirmed by ambassadors on Wednesday morning, still need formal approval by the foreign ministers.
    That is normally a formality, and the sanctions will enter into force once they are published in the EU’s official journal, a step expected later on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Sabine Siebold and John Chalmers; Writing by Ingrid Melander, editing by Timothy Heritage)

2/24/2022 U.S., G7 Allies Meet After Russia Invades Ukraine by Andrea Shalal
U.S. President Joe Biden provides an update on Russia and Ukraine during remarks in the
East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., February 22, 2022. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden met with his counterparts from the Group of Seven allies on Thursday morning to map out more severe measures against Russia after President Vladimir Putin launched what Biden called “a premeditated war” against Ukraine.
    Biden, who spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy late on Wednesday, convened his National Security Council earlier on Thursday to discuss the latest developments in Ukraine, according to a White House official.
    He planned to make his first public remarks on the new conflict in Ukraine at 12:30 p.m. EST (1730 GMT), the White House said.    Biden and his G7 colleagues are scrambling to respond to a worst-case scenario by imposing harsh sanctions on Russia that may cause gasoline prices in the West to go up.
    The virtual meeting between the United States and its allies ended at 10:27 a.m., the White House official said.
    Biden met with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
    The group was looking at ways to respond to what Biden in a statement late Wednesday called “an unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces” on Ukraine.
    “President (Vladimir) Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering,” Biden wrote.
    It came shortly after Putin told Russian state TV he had authorized a military operation in eastern Ukraine and explosions were heard in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and the breakaway eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk.
    Biden will announce “the further consequences the United States and our allies and partners will impose on Russia” later on Thursday, the White House said.
    The U.S. president said Washington would also coordinate with NATO allies “to ensure a strong, united response that deters any aggression against the alliance.”
    NATO, set to hold an emergency summit on Friday, on Thursday said it was bolstering its troop presence on its eastern flank and putting hundreds of warplanes and ships on alert.
    Biden, who served as America’s vice president and was deeply engaged in 2014 when Russia annexed the Crimea region of Ukraine, will be joined for the G7 call in the White House Situation Room by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
    The G7 is comprised by the United States, Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Canada and Japan.
    Biden, who orchestrated an initial round of Western sanctions against Russian oligarchs, financial institutions and exports this week, is under pressure from fellow Democrats and Republicans in Congress to crack down even harder on Moscow.
    House of Representatives Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a fellow Democrat, told CNN on Wednesday that Western actions were being closely watched by China with an eye to whether it could successfully invade Taiwan.
    “We have to make sure that if Putin goes forward with this invasion more fully … that the costs to Putin and Russia are just crippling,” he said.
    Schiff said the United States and its allies should put in place “the most severe sanctions as soon as possible,” including a permanent end to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline connecting Russia with Germany under the Baltic Sea.
    Republican Senator Rob Portman demanded tough sanctions, rigid export controls and moves to increase military support to Ukraine and other allies, including Poland, Romania and the Baltic countries, in a statement after the Russian attacks.
    Top U.S. officials were previously scheduled to brief all members of Congress by phone later on Thursday.
    Moscow will pay an even steeper price if it continues its aggression, U.S. officials warned this week.
    Washington on Wednesday stepped up pressure on Putin by imposing sanctions on the firm building the $11 billion Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and its corporate officers, a move Biden had waived for months.
    Germany on Tuesday froze approvals for the pipeline, which has been built but was not yet in operation, amid concerns it could allow Moscow to weaponize energy supplies to Europe.
    British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday vowed “a massive package of economic sanctions.”
    Next steps are likely to include sanctions against additional Russian banks, including Sberbank and VTB, steps to bar U.S. financial institutions from processing transactions for major Russian banks, and export controls on U.S. and foreign-made goods, from commercial electronics and computers to semiconductors and aircraft parts.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal, Trevor Hunnicutt and Steve Holland; editing by Richard Pullin, Susan Heavey, Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)

2/24/2022 Scholz Says West Must Ensure Ukraine Conflict Does Not Spread
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrives for a statement on Ukraine at the chancellery
in Berlin, Germany, February 24, 2022. Michael Kappeler/Pool via REUTERS
    BERLIN (Reuters) – The West will deploy all resources available to ensure that the conflict in Ukraine does not spread to other countries in Europe, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in a televised address to the nation on Thursday.
    “Putin should not underestimate the determination of NATO to defend all its members.    This applies expressly to our NATO partners in the Baltic States, Poland and Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia.    No ifs or buts,” the chancellor said.
    Scholz also said Russian President Vladimir Putin alone and not the Russian people bore the responsibility for the attack on Ukraine, but he “would not win.”
    “With the attack on Ukraine, President Putin wants to turn back time.    But there is no going back to the 19th century, when great powers ruled over the heads of smaller states,” Scholz said.
(Reporting by Kirsti Knolle and Sarah Marsh; Editing by Zuzanna Szymanska)

2/24/2022 Biden Announces More Russian Sanctions, Says Putin ‘Aggressor’ In Ukraine by OAN Newsroom
President Joe Biden speaks about the Russian invasion of Ukraine in the East Room
of the White House, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
    Joe Biden outlined additional sanctions against Russia while calling Vladimir Putin “the aggressor” in Ukraine.    The U.S. president addressed the nation Thursday, announcing the U.S. is cutting off Russia’s largest bank, sanctioning more elites and taking other measures to limit its ability to be part of the world economy.
    Biden claimed these sanctions will have long-term impacts and debilitate Russia’s financial system for years to come.    He also said additional U.S. troops will be deployed to Germany to reinforce NATO allies.    However, he asserted U.S. forces will not be engaging with Russia in Ukraine.    The U.S. is also preparing for possible Russian cyber attacks.
    Western allies reportedly believe the Ukrainian capital of Kiev may fall to invading Russian forces as soon as Thursday night.    That’s according to a Bloomberg report citing a senior western intelligence official.
    The country’s air defenses are also reported to have been eliminated and Russian ground troops are believed to be advancing towards the capital.    This comes amid speculation Russian President Putin is seeking to oust Ukraine’s democratically-elected government and install a pro-Kremlin regime by force.
    Ukrainian President Zelenskyy warned of a new Iron Curtain falling as Russian forces attack on several fronts.    He made the remarks Thursday and claimed Ukrainian forces are engaged in heavy fighting in its northern region.    However, Zelenskyy said the most problematic area is in the southern part of the country where Russia’s ground forces have moved in from Crimea.    Dozens of casualties have been reported on both sides of the war.
    Zelenskyy called on other European countries to help and warned if they don’t step up, they will be next.

3/2/2022 U.N. General Assembly Set To Censure Russia Over Ukraine Invasion by Michelle Nichols
The United Nations headquarters building is pictured with a UN logo in the
Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., March 1, 2022. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
    UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The United Nations General Assembly is set to reprimand Russia on Wednesday over its invasion of Ukraine and demand that Moscow stop fighting and withdraw its military forces, a move that aims to diplomatically isolate Russia at the world body.
    By Tuesday evening nearly half the 193-member General Assembly had signed on as co-sponsors of a draft resolution ahead of a vote on Wednesday, diplomats said.    The text “deplores” Russia’s “aggression against Ukraine.”
    It is similar to a draft resolution vetoed by Russia in the 15-member Security Council on Friday.    No country has a veto in the General Assembly and Western diplomats expect the resolution, which needs two-thirds support, to be adopted.
    “Russia’s war marks a new reality.    It requires each and every one of us to take a firm and responsible decision and to take a side,” Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told the General Assembly on Tuesday.
    While General Assembly resolutions are non-binding, they carry political weight.
    The draft text “demands that the Russian Federation immediately, completely, and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.”
    Dozens of states are expected to formally abstain from the vote or not engage at all.    In two votes by the 15-member U.N. Security Council on the Ukraine crisis in the past week, China, India and the United Arab Emirates abstained.
    “We must leave space for a diplomatic off-ramp,” UAE U.N. Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh said on Tuesday.    “Channels must remain open and those countries that did abstain have those channels with President Putin and will use them to help and support in whatever way we can.”
    The General Assembly vote will come at the end of a rare emergency special session of the body, which was convened by the Security Council on Sunday.    Russia was unable to veto the move because it was a procedural matter.
    More than 100 countries will have addressed the session before the vote.
    The moves at the United Nations are mirroring what happened in 2014 after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region.
    The Security Council voted on a draft resolution opposing a referendum on the status of Crimea and urged countries not to recognize it. It was vetoed by Russia.
    The General Assembly then adopted a resolution declaring the referendum invalid.    It received 100 votes in favor, 11 against and 58 formal abstentions, while two dozen countries didn’t take part.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Mary Milliken and Richard Pullin)

3/22/2022 U.N. Chief Says Time To End Russia’s ‘Absurd War’ In Ukraine by Michelle Nichols
FILE PHOTO: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks to the media regarding Russia's invasion
of Ukraine, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, U.S., March 14, 2022. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
    UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday urged an end to the “absurd war” started by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine one month ago, warning that the conflict is “going nowhere, fast” and that the Ukrainian people are “enduring a living hell.”
    “Continuing the war in Ukraine is morally unacceptable, politically indefensible and militarily nonsensical,” Guterres told reporters in New York.
    Russia is pounding the besieged Ukrainian port of Mariupol into the “ashes of a dead land,” its local council said on Tuesday, describing two more huge bombs that fell on the city that has been sealed off for weeks.
    “Even if Mariupol falls, Ukraine cannot be conquered city by city, street by street, house by house,” Guterres said.    “This war is unwinnable.    Sooner or later, it will have to move from the battlefield to the peace table.”
    “It is time to end this absurd war,” he said.
    Russia launched what it calls a “special military operation” on Feb. 24 to destroy Ukraine’s military infrastructure.    Ukraine and its Western allies have accused Moscow of attacking civilians indiscriminately. Moscow denies attacking civilians.
    Guterres said some 10 million Ukranians have fled from their homes and warned the reverberations of war were being felt globally “with skyrocketing food, energy and fertilizer prices threatening to spiral into a global hunger crisis.”
    “There is enough on the table to cease hostilities – now … and seriously negotiate – now,” Guterres said.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols and Rami Ayyub; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)

4/25/2022 France’s youngest president wins again, troubles and all by Sylvie Corbet, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    PARIS – In just five years as France’s president, Emmanuel Macron has gone from a young newbie in politics to a key world player and weighty decisionmaker in the European Union who has been deeply involved in efforts to end Russia’s war in Ukraine.
    And now he has won a second term, the first French president to do so in a generation.
    The outspoken 44-year-old centrist, with his non-stop diplomatic activism, doesn’t always get his way but has earned his place on the international scene.    He is expected to pivot back to his work on Ukraine.
    At home, Macron managed to regain some popularity after the “yellow vest” protests against social injustice sent his approval to record lows in 2018.    Opinion polls say many French praise his presidential stature and consider him up to the job to face major global crises like the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine conflict.
    They also show he is often perceived as arrogant and out of touch with ordinary people.
    Macron has notably been dubbed “president of the rich,” especially during the yellow vest crisis.    Some critics also denounce a perceived authoritarian attitude, holding him responsible for violent incidents involving police during street protests.
    The job of president is his first elected office, though he came with a strong pedigree.
    Macron studied at France’s elite school Ecole Nationale d’Administration, and he was a senior civil servant, then a banker at Rothschild for a few years, then economic adviser to Socialist President Francois Hollande.     He emerged from that backstage role onto the political scene when he served as economy minister in Hollande’s government from 2014 to 2016.
    A series of political surprises – including a corruption scandal involving a key rival – thrust Macron toward presidential victory in 2017.    He easily beat far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in their runoff that year on promises to free up France’s economy to boost job creation and attract foreign investment.    He beat her again Sunday, but the race was closer and Macron acknowledged that some voters had backed him only to keep Le Pen out of the presidency.
    Macron, who describes himself as “a president who believes in Europe,” argues the EU is the way for France to be stronger in a global world.
    Italian Premier Mario Draghi called Macron’s victory “splendid news for all of Europe” and a boost to the EU “being a protagonist in the greatest challenges of our times, starting with the war in Ukraine.”
    Macron won with 58.5% of the vote to Le Pen’s 41.5% – significantly closer than when they first faced off in 2017.
    A strong advocate of entrepreneurial spirit, Macron has eased rules to hire and fire workers and to made it harder to get unemployment benefits. Critics accuse him of destroying worker protections.
    Then the pandemic hit, and he acknowledged the crucial role of the state in supporting the economy, spending massively and vowing to support employees and business via public aid “whatever it costs.”
    In his biggest campaign rally near Paris earlier this month, Macron paid an emotional tribute to his wife, Brigitte, the person “I care the most about.”    They could be seen on the stadium’s giant screens sending kisses to each other.    On Sunday evening, they arrived hand in hand on the plaza near the Eiffel Tower where Macron made his victory speech.
    As first lady, Brigitte Macron, 24 years his senior, has been involved in charities and other programs promoting culture, education and health.
Emmanuel Macron, France’s centrist incumbent president, and his wife Brigitte Macron acknowledge voters in front of
the Eiffel Tower Macron beat far-right rival Marine Le Pen for a second five-year term. AURELIEN MEUNIER/GETTY IMAGES

4/27/2022 EU court: ID checks must be justified by Lorne Cook, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    BRUSSELS – The European Union’s top court handed down a ruling Tuesday that could force countries to regularly justify why they are conducting ID checks on people who should be able to move freely within Europe’s passport-free travel area.
    The travel zone, known as the “Schengen area,” is made up of 26 countries – 22 EU nations plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.    Normally, people and goods move freely between these countries without border checks. Temporary controls are allowed for security or health reasons.
    At least seven countries currently have some restrictions in place, mostly for security reasons or to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.    Restrictions should only last for six months but some countries – notably Austria, France and Denmark – routinely renew them and have done so for years.
    The European Court of Justice ruled that countries must justify why they are rolling over the border measures, and that they should only do so “in the event of a serious new threat arising.”
    Around 420 million people live in the Schengen zone, and 1.7 million reside in one nation and work in another.
    Free movement is a pillar of European integration.    Officials worry that the future of the Schengen area is under threat as some countries routinely use the excuse of the coronavirus, migrant movements or ill-defined security concerns to crack down at borders.

4/29/2022 Gas cutoff rattles EU, at little cost to Russia - Putin seemingly aims to subvert European unity by Lorne Cook, Danica Kirka and Frank Jordans, ASSOCIATED PRESS
EU officials say yielding to the demand to pay for gas in rubles would violate
sanctions imposed over the Ukraine invasion. MARTIN MEISSNER/AP FILE
    BRUSSELS – Cutting off natural gas to Poland and Bulgaria cost Russian President Vladimir Putin very little – but it is adding stress on European countries wrestling over how to reduce energy imports that are feeding the Kremlin’s war chest and how to keep a united front on the war in Ukraine.
    European Union officials say yielding to Putin’s demand to pay for gas in rubles would violate Western sanctions imposed over the invasion.    Poland and Bulgaria were cut off after refusing the demand and say they will manage because they were already working to end their dependence on Russian energy supplies.
    Analysts say there is enough ambiguity in the European stance to let the Kremlin continue its efforts to undermine unity among the 27 member countries – even if an implied threat to cut off major customers such as Germany and Italy may turn out to be an empty one because it would cost Russia heavily.
    The cutoff sent a chill through EU officials wondering how their utility companies will heat homes and generate electricity next winter.    Putin got maximum disruption of what he regards as a hostile alliance for minimal costs because Poland and Bulgaria are relatively minor customers who were about to end their contracts at year’s end anyway.
    Poland’s entire gas import was only 10 billion cubic meters per year, out of total European imports of 155 billion from Russia.    Gas in roughly that amount is already flowing to Poland from other European countries pitching in to help.
    Russian energy giant Gazprom has lost relatively little revenue.
    “He wants to fragment European countries and their stance toward energy diversification and the overall stance against Russia,” said Simone Tagliapietra, an energy expert and senior fellow at the Bruegel think tank in Brussels.
    European payments for oil and gas amount to $850 million a day even as governments condemn the war.    While Europe needs the oil and gas, those sales are the main pillar of the Kremlin’s budget.
    European Union countries or companies bowing to the terms of a Russian presidential decree that insists they pay their gas bills in rubles will be in breach of the bloc’s sanctions, senior EU officials said Thursday.    Around 97% of European gas contracts with Russia are in euros or dollars.
    Under Putin’s new payment system, the Kremlin has said importers would have to establish an account in dollars or euros at Russia’s third-largest bank, Gazprombank, then a second account in rubles.    The importer would pay the gas bill in euros or dollars and direct the bank to exchange the money for rubles.
    The sanctions violation essentially comes with the use of the second bank account because the ruble conversion constitutes a transaction involving Russia’s sanctioned central bank.
    Uniper, Germany’s biggest importer of Russian gas, said it has been paying in euros and will continue to do so but indicated that it would be prepared to open a second account in rubles.
    Italian officials said they were waiting for further guidance from the EU on whether the payment workaround violates sanctions.

5/5/2022 EU takes step toward Russian oil ban by Lorne Cook and Samuel Petrequin, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    BRUSSELS – The European Union’s top official on Wednesday called on the 27-nation bloc to ban oil imports from Russia and target the country’s biggest bank and major broadcasters in a sixth package of sanctions over the war in Ukraine.
    European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, proposed having EU member nations phase out imports of crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of the year.
    “We will make sure that we phase out Russian oil in an orderly fashion, in a way that allows us and our partners to secure alternative supply routes and minimizes the impact on global markets,” von der Leyen said.
    The proposals must be unanimously approved to take effect and are likely to be the subject of fierce debate.    Von der Leyen conceded that getting all 27 member countries – some of them landlocked and highly dependent on Russia for energy supplies – to agree on oil sanctions “will not be easy.”
    The EU gets about 25% of its oil from Russia, most of which goes toward gasoline and diesel for vehicles.     Russia supplies about 14% of diesel, S&P Global analysts said, and a cutoff could send already high prices for truck and tractor fuel towering.
    If approved, the ban on oil imports would be the second package of EU sanctions targeting Russia’s lucrative energy industry since the country invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.
    In addition to sanctions on various entities and individuals, the EU previously approved an embargo on coal imports.
    The EU has started discussions on a possible natural gas embargo, but consensus among member countries on targeting the fuel used to generate electricity and heat homes is more difficult to secure.    The region gets about 40% of its natural gas from Russia.
    Hungary and Slovakia have already said they wouldn’t take part in any oil sanctions.    Von der Leyen didn’t elaborate on whether they would receive an exemption from the sanctions, although it appeared likely.
    The EU and Russia are playing “a game of chicken.    It is hard to say who will swerve/blink first.    The Russians for fear of running out of money.    Or Europe for fear of the lights going out,” James Nixey, the director of the Russia and Eurasia program at London’s Chatham House think tank, said.
    Von der Leyen also said that the EU should target high-ranking military officers and others “who committed war crimes in Bucha,” a suburb of the capital Kyiv.    Ukrainian officials have alleged that Russian troops carried out mass killings of civilians in Bucha.
    Banks are also in the EU executive arm’s sights, and notably Russia’s biggest, Sberbank.    Von der Leyen said the aim is that “we de-SWIFT Sberbank.”    SWIFT is the major global system for financial transfers.
    Von der Leyen added that three Russian state-owned broadcasters alleged to be spreading disinformation about the war would be targeted.    She didn’t name them but branded the TV channels “as mouthpieces that amplify Putin’s lies and propaganda.”
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen conceded that getting all 27 member
countries to agree on oil sanctions “will not be easy.” JEAN-FRANCOIS BADIAS/AP

5/5/2022 EU eyes sanctions for cleric supportive of Putin by Nicole Winfield and Samuel Petrequin, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    ROME – The European Union plans to sanction the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in its next round of measures to punish Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, EU diplomats said Wednesday, opening a new religious front in Europe’s sanctions regime.
    The proposal, which must be approved by the 27-member bloc, drew immediate criticism from the Russian Orthodox Church, which also lashed out Wednesday at Pope Francis for his recent comments about Patriarch Kirill.
    Kirill, the head of one of the largest and most influential churches in Eastern Orthodoxy, has justified Russia’s invasion on spiritual grounds, describing it as a “metaphysical” battle against the West and its “i>.”
    Three EU diplomats with direct knowledge of the discussions said negotiations to add Kirill’s name to the EU list of sanctioned individuals were continuing Wednesday.    If approved by EU members, Kirill would face travel bans and a freeze of assets, joining 1,093 individuals, including Putin and oligarchs, as well as 80 entities already subject to the punishing measures.
    In a statement Wednesday, the Russian Orthodox Church vowed the sanctions would never intimidate Kirill and would just prolong the conflict.
    “Patriarch Kirill comes from a family whose members have been subjected to repression for decades for their faith and moral standing during the days of militant communist atheism, and none of them were intimidated by the prospect of imprisonment and repression,” church spokesman Vladimir Legoyda said in a statement on his messaging app channel.
    He added that the measure would only delay the prospect of peace “for which the Russian Orthodox Church prays on the blessing of His Holiness the Patriarch in every liturgy.”
    Kirill has echoed Putin’s unfounded claims that Ukraine was engaged in the “extermination” of Russian loyalists in Donbas, the breakaway eastern region of Ukraine held since 2014 by Russian backed separatist groups.    And in his most recent remarks, he denied Russia had even launched the invasion.
    “We don’t want to fight anyone.    Russia has never attacked anyone,” he said Wednesday at the end of a Divine Liturgy at the Archangel Cathedral in Moscow, according to a text of his remarks on the church website.    “It is amazing that a great and powerful country never attacked anyone – it only defended its borders.”
    The pope has tried to keep a dialogue open with Kirill, given the Vatican’s longstanding efforts to heal relations with Russian Orthodoxy.    Francis and Kirill had a videoconference call March 15, and were due to meet for a second time next month in Jerusalem, but the meeting was called off on the advice of Vatican diplomats.
    Francis told Italian daily Corriere della Sera in an interview published Tuesday that Kirill spent the first half of their 40-minute videocall reading from a piece of paper justifying the invasion.
    “I listened and told him: ‘I don’t understand any of this.    Brother, we are not clerics of the state, we cannot use language of politics, but that of Jesus.    For this we need to find the paths of peace, to stop the firing of arms.’”    He added that Kirill “cannot turn into Putin’s altar boy,” a dismissive term used by a top U.S. Ukrainian Greek Catholic archbishop.
The European Commission has proposed sanctioning Patriarch Kirill over
his defense of Russia’s actions. KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

5/12/2022 UK threatens to rewrite Brexit deal - EU warns that renegotiation ‘is not an option’ by Jill Lawless, ASSOCIATED PRESS
The thorniest subject of contention in the U.K.s divorce from the EU involves its arrangements for
Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald is second from right. PETER MORRISON/AP FILE
    LONDON – Britain and the European Union were once again at loggerheads over Brexit on Wednesday, after the U.K. government ramped up threats to scrap parts of its trade treaty with the bloc, saying the rules are blocking the formation of a new government in Northern Ireland.
    Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the government would “not shy away from taking action” if it can’t reach agreement with the bloc.
    The EU warned that renegotiating the legally binding agreement “is not an option.”    Any move by Britain to unilaterally rewrite the rules would bring legal action from the bloc that could escalate into a trade war.
    Arrangements for Northern Ireland – the only part of the U.K. that shares a border with an EU nation – have been the thorniest subject of contention in the U.K.’s divorce from the 27-nation bloc, which became final at the end of 2020.
    A deal was agreed to keep the Irish border free of customs posts and other checks, because an open border is a key pillar of the peace process that ended decades of violence in Northern Ireland. Instead, there are checks on some goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the U.K.
    The arrangement is opposed by many of Northern Ireland’s British unionists, who say the new checks have created a barrier with the rest of the U.K. that undermines their British identity.    The Democratic Unionist Party, which came second in last week’s Northern Ireland Assembly election, is refusing to help form a government until the arrangements, known as the Northern Ireland Protocol, are substantially changed or scrapped.
    Under Northern Ireland’s power sharing rules, a government can’t be formed without the support of both the main unionist and nationalist parties.    Sinn Fein won the most seats last week, the first time a party that seeks to unite Northern Ireland with the republic has topped the voting.
    Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the DUP opposition shows the arrangement does not have the support of both Northern Ireland’s nationalist and unionist communities, and as such is undermining the 1998 Good Friday peace accord.
    “Things have got to command cross community support,” he said.    “Plainly the Northern Ireland Protocol fails to do that and we’ve got to sort it out.”
    U.K.-EU talks on resolving differences over trade rules have reached an impasse.    Britain’s Conservative government has accused the bloc of being needlessly “purist” in its approach to the rules, while the EU says Britain is failing to honor a legally binding deal that Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed to.
    The British government has suggested it could legislate to override parts of the deal by removing checks on goods bound for Northern Ireland – a move that would infuriate the bloc.
    Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said the tough talk from British politicians had “gone down really badly” with EU leaders, and he urged Britain to reconsider.    EU chief Brexit official Maroš Šefcovic said Tuesday that the bloc had “worked tirelessly to propose creative and durable solutions, showing flexibility on how the Protocol should be implemented.”
    He warned that “the Protocol, as a cornerstone of the Withdrawal Agreement, is an international agreement.    Its renegotiation is not an option.    The European Union is united in this position.”
    Truss, who is in charge of negotiations with the bloc, said that EU proposals “fail to properly address the real issues affecting Northern Ireland and in some cases would take us backward.”

5/15/2022 G-7 warns of Ukraine grain crisis amid war - Group also calling on China not to aid Russia by Frank Jordans, ASSOCIATED PRESS
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock says up to 50 million people would face hunger in
coming months unless ways are found to release Ukraine’ grain. MORRIS MACMATZEN/GETTY IMAGES
    WEISSENHAUS, Germany – The Group of Seven leading economies warned Saturday that the war in Ukraine is stoking a global food and energy crisis that threatens poor countries, and urgent measures are needed to unblock stores of grain that Russia is preventing from leaving Ukraine.
    German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who hosted a meeting of top G-7 diplomats, said the war had become a “global crisis.”
    Baerbock said up to 50 million people, particularly in Africa and the Middle East, would face hunger in the coming months unless ways are found to release Ukrainian grain, which accounts for a sizeable share of the worldwide supply.
    In statements released at the end of the three-day meeting on Germany’s Baltic Sea coast, the G-7 pledged to provide further humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable.
    “Russia’s war of aggression has generated one of the most severe food and energy crises in recent history which now threatens those most vulnerable across the globe,” the group said.
    “We are determined to accelerate a coordinated multilateral response to preserve global food security and stand by our most vulnerable partners in this respect,” it added.
    Canada’s foreign minister, Melanie Joly, said her country, another major agricultural exporter, stands ready to send ships to European ports so Ukrainian grain can be brought to those in need.    “We need to make sure that these cereals are sent to the world,” she told reporters.    “If not, millions of people will be facing famine.”
    Russia dismissed the claim that it was responsible for worsening global hunger and driving up food prices.
    “Prices are rising because of sanctions imposed by the West under pressure of the USA,” said Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.    “Failure to understand this is a sign either of stupidity or intentional misleading of the public.”    The G-7 nations also called on China not to help Russia, including by undermining international sanctions or justifying Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.
    Beijing should support the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, and not “assist Russia in its war of aggression,” they said.    The G-7 urged China “to desist from engaging in information manipulation, disinformation and other means to legitimize Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.”
    The grouping, which comprises Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, also reiterated its stance that the territories seized by Russian forces need to be returned to Ukraine.    The meeting in Weissenhaus, northeast of Hamburg, was billed as an opportunity for officials to discuss the broader implications of the war for geopolitics, energy and food security, and ongoing international efforts to tackle climate change and the pandemic.
    On Friday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba appealed to friendly countries to provide more military support to Kyiv and increase the pressure on Russia, including by seizing its assets abroad to pay for rebuilding Ukraine.

5/16/2022 Goldman Sachs Executive Lloyd Blankfein Says Recession Is A High Risk Factor by OAN NEWSROOM
FILE – In this Sept. 24, 2014 file photo, Lloyd Blankfein, Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs, speaks during a panel discussion
at the Clinton Global Initiative, in New York. Goldman Sachs announced Tuesday, July 17, 2018, that Blankfein will retire
as CEO and chairman on Sept. 30, and be replaced by Chief Operating Officer David Solomon. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
    Senior Chairman of Investment Bank Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein said a US recession is, in fact, possible and consumers should be ready for it.
    “It’s definitely a risk…if I were a consumer, I’d be prepared for it, but it’s not baked in the cake,” he stated during an interview Sunday.
    Blankfein said the Federal Reserve may be able to prevent an economic downturn, but it could be hard to avert in the face of runaway inflation.    The Goldman Sachs executive added, elevated inflation may persist for a long time, which may worsen quality of life for millions of Americans.
    “Some of the supply chain shocks will go away, but some of it will be a little bit stickier and will be with us for a while,” he explained.    “And while we’re talking about this in the macro sense, overall for individuals and certainly the individuals at the bottom quartile of the pie sharing, it’s going to be quite difficult and oppressive.”
    Blankfein went on to say he believes the US financial system will get through this crisis and risks will reduce after the Ukraine crisis is over.    Meanwhile, economist Robin Woods, a former Chief FX Strategist at Goldman Sachs, echoed Blankfein’s warning while suggesting a global recession is coming.
    Woods pointed to Germany and China, who he noted have the two biggest export economies in the world.    He pointed out that both are “seeing their new export orders in the manufacturing PMIs fall sharply.”

5/16/2022 Sen. Scott: Biden Must Not Give ‘Chinese Puppet’ WHO Sovereignty Over Americans Lives by OAN NEWSROOM
Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., walks on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)
    Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) warned cooperating with the World Health Organization may erode US national sovereignty. In a recent tweet, he noted that the WHO served as a political “puppet” to the Communist regime in China and suggested it helped cover up the origins of COVID.
    The Floridian then voiced, the WHO’s health advice has been discredited and the organization itself is a “sham” health agency. Sen. Scott consequently added, the organization must not have control over the health and lives of Americans.
    “The Biden administration wants to control through fear and mandate, so the government is touching every part of your life,” said Scott.    “I won’t stand for it, Americans won’t stand for it.    They know that the order is an over reach of power.    The nation should be free to make choices that they feel are in their best interests for their own health and of loved ones.”
    Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) echoed his colleagues remarks while also taking to Twitter recently.    The Arkansas Republican called the health agency “corrupt,” while asserting it’s controlled by Chinese Communist Party.
    The concern from GOP lawmakers comes as the World Health Assembly moves to create a global accord on pandemic response, which includes both prevention measures and preparedness actions.    This would establish an intergovernmental negotiating body that would ultimately decide what measures are “deemed appropriate.”
    Both Republican lawmakers urged against the Biden administration allowing WHO to have authority over Americans, especially with such a strong Chinese influence.    This comes as the world’s second largest economy has continued to falter due to an ongoing zero-COVID lockdown strategy.    It appears the GOP senators wish to avoid such turmoil on their own soil.

5/17/2022 British PM: UK will act if EU won’t - Says rules subvert Northern Ireland by Jill Lawless, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    LONDON – Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday renewed British threats to break a Brexit agreement with the European Union, blaming it for a political crisis that’s blocking the formation of a new government in Northern Ireland.
    Johnson said there would be “a necessity to act” if the EU doesn’t agree to overhaul post-Brexit trade rules that he says are destabilizing Northern Ireland’s delicate political balance.
    Johnson held private talks with the leaders of Northern Ireland’s main political parties, urging them to get back to work.    But his public message was aimed at the 27-nation EU, which he accused of refusing to give ground over post-Brexit border checks.
    “I hope the EU’s position changes.    If it does not, there will be a necessity to act,” Johnson wrote in the Belfast Telegraph.
    The government is expected Tuesday to outline planned legislation that would give Britain powers to override parts of its Brexit treaty with the EU.
    EU member Ireland warned that a unilateral move by Britain could imperil the entire post-Brexit trade agreement that the U.K. and the bloc hammered out in months of rancorous negotiations before the U.K.’s exit from the bloc in 2020.
    Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said Britain’s stance “calls into question the functioning of the TCA” – the trade and cooperation agreement between the U.K. and the EU.
    Northern Ireland elected a new Assembly earlier this month, in a vote that saw the Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein win the most seats.    It was the first time a party that seeks union with the Republic of Ireland has won an election in Northern Ireland, a bastion of Protestant unionist power.
    The Democratic Unionist Party came second and is refusing to form a government, or even allow the assembly to sit, until Johnson’s government scraps post-Brexit checks on goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the U.K.    Under power-sharing rules set up as part of Northern Ireland’s peace process, a government can’t be formed without the cooperation of both nationalist and unionist parties.
    Northern Ireland is the only part of the U.K. that shares a border with the EU.    When Britain left the bloc and its borderless free-trade zone, a deal was agreed to keep the Irish land border free of customs posts and other checks, because an open border is a key pillar of the peace process that ended decades of violence in Northern Ireland.    Instead, there are checks on some goods, such as meat and eggs, entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the U.K.
    The arrangement is opposed by unionists in Northern Ireland, who say the new checks have put a burden on businesses and frayed the bonds between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K.
    The British government agrees that the regulations, known as the Northern Ireland Protocol, are destabilizing a peace agreement that relies on support from both Protestant unionist and Catholic nationalist communities.
    “The DUP has a mandate to see the Protocol replaced with arrangements that restore our place within the U.K. internal market,” party leader Jeffrey Donaldson said after meeting Monday with Johnson.    “Our mandate will be respected.”
    But while the DUP wants the Protocol scrapped, most other parties in Northern Ireland want to keep it, with some tweaks.
    The EU says the treaty can’t be renegotiated, but it is willing to be flexible to ease the burden of checks.
    Johnson, however, accused the EU of failing to recognize that the arrangements aren’t working.
    “We don’t want to scrap it, but we think it can be fixed,” Johnson said after his meetings with the parties at Hillsborough Castle near Belfast.
    He said he would prefer to do that through talks with the EU, but “to have the insurance, we need to proceed with a legislative solution as well.”
    Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald accused the British government of “cynical antics” and “placating the DUP.”
    “It seems to us absolutely extraordinary that the British government would propose to legislate to break the law” by overriding the Brexit treaty, she said.
    New legislation would take months to pass through Parliament, but the unilateral move would immediately anger the EU, which would hit back with legal action – and potentially trade sanctions.    Even after Brexit, bloc is Britain’s biggest economic partner.
    Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said he had spoken to EU Council chief Charles Michel and “agreed that the only way to resolve this issue is through substantive talks between the European Union and the United Kingdom government.”
    Coveney said a U.K.-EU feud “is the last thing Europe needs right now” as it seeks unity in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
    “This is a time for calmness,” Coveney said.    “It’s a time for dialogue.    It’s a time for compromise and partnership between the EU and the U.K. to solve these outstanding issues.”

5/21/2022 G7 plan to aid with future pandemics by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    BERLIN – The Group of Seven wealthy democracies announced plans Friday to strengthen epidemiological early warning systems to detect infectious diseases with pandemic potential following the emergence of COVID-19 more than two years ago.
    Germany’s health minister, who hosted a two-day meeting of his G-7 counterparts in Berlin this week, said an existing World Health Organization office in Berlin would be used to gather and analyze data more quickly.
    Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said the G-7 also wants to increase compulsory contributions to WHO by 50% in the long term to ensure the U.N. agency can fulfill its leadership role.
    The ministers who met in the German capital separately agreed to provide more support for developing new antibiotics that could be used to treat people infected with resistant strains of bacteria, which kill millions of patients each year.
    Lauterbach said the G-7 also agreed to better protect the global population from the health impacts of global warming, including by making adaptation to climate change part of medical training.

5/21/2022 European nations, streaming service delete extremist audio
    BERLIN – The European Union’s law enforcement agency said Friday that authorities in six countries have worked with music streaming service Sound-Cloud to detect and delete hundreds of files containing extremist propaganda.    Law enforcement authorities “detected and assisted the company to scour illegally uploaded jihadist, right wing terrorist and violent extremist propaganda,” Europol said in a statement.    Around 1,100 profiles and audio files deemed to be illegal were flagged to SoundCloud, which deleted the reported files.

5/21/2022 G7 countries to give $19.8B in aid to Ukraine by Fatima Hussein and Geir Moulson, ASSOCIATED PRESS
German Finance Minister Christian Lindner said $9.5 billion of the total amount was mobilized at meetings
of the G-7 finance ministers in Koenigswinter, Germany, this week. Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images
    KOENIGSWINTER, Germany – The Group of Seven leading economies agreed Friday to provide $19.8billion in economic aid to Ukraine to help keep tight finances from hindering its ability to defend itself from Russia’s invasion.
    German Finance Minister Christian Lindner told reporters that $9.5billion of the total amount was mobilized at meetings of the G-7 finance ministers in Koenigswinter, Germany, this week.
    'We agreed that Ukraine’s financial situation must have no influence on Ukraine’s ability to defend itself successfully,' he said.    'We need to do our utmost to end this war.'
    The money is intended to help the Ukrainian government keep basic services for its people functioning, and is separate from efforts to provide the country with weapons and humanitarian aid.
    The needs are vast.
    Kristalina Georgieva, the International Monetary Fund’s managing director, last month said Ukraine’s financial ministry had estimated the country will need $5billion in international assistance per month to help cover essential government services and keep the country’s economy going.
    Russia’s invasion touched on almost every topic of the finance ministers’ meetings this week, from the need to reduce reliance on Russian energy to reforming relationships between countries to maintain economic stability.
    'Russia’s war of aggression is causing global economic disruptions, impacting the security of global energy supply, food production and exports of food and agricultural commodities, as well as the functioning of global supply chains in general,' the G-7’s communique stated.
    U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and other leaders spoke this week about the need for allies to put together enough additional aid to help Ukraine 'get through' the Russian invasion.
    The International Monetary Fund’s latest world economic outlook says Ukraine’s economy is projected to shrink by 35% this year and next.
    The finance ministers of the G-7 – which includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the U.S. – also have grappled with deepening inflation, food security concerns and other economic issues during their talks.    A communique marking the end of their meetings addressed commitments to addressing debt distress in low-income countries, trying to ease the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and staving off inflation rates 'that have reached levels not seen for decades.'
    As the finance ministers were meeting in Germany, the U.S. overwhelmingly approved its own $40 billion infusion of military and economic aid for Ukraine and its allies.    A portion of that U.S. funding is included in the G-7 package for Ukraine.
    The United Kingdom committed $50 million toward Ukraine from the London-based European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, Treasury chief Rishi Sunak said.
    This week was a rally for funds to Ukraine and those affected by the war.    Treasury and global development banks announced they would spend tens of billions to work 'swiftly to bring to bear their financing, policy engagement, technical assistance' to prevent starvation prompted by the war, rising food costs and climate damage to crops.

5/23/2022 German chancellor kicks off Africa trip by Babacar Dione and Frank Jordans, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    DAKAR, Senegal – German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said his country is interested in a major gas exploitation project in Senegal as he began a three-nation visit to Africa on Sunday that also is focused on the geopolitical consequences of the war in Ukraine.
    Senegal is believed to have significant deposits of natural gas along its border with Mauritania at a time when Germany and other European countries are trying to reduce their dependence on importing Russian gas.
    “We have begun exchanges and we will continue our efforts at the level of experts because it is our wish to achieve progress,” Scholz said at a joint news briefing with Senegalese President Macky Sall.
    The gas project off the coast of Senegal is being led by BP, and the first barrels are not expected until next year.
    This week’s trip marks Scholz’s first to Africa since becoming chancellor nearly six months ago.    Two of the countries he is visiting – Senegal and South Africa – have been invited to attend the Group of 7 summit in Germany at the end of June.
    Participants there will try to find a common position toward Russia, which was kicked out of the then-Group of Eight following its 2014 seizure of Crimea from Ukraine.
    Leaders at the G-7 summit also will be addressing the threat of climate change.    Several G-7 countries, including Germany and the United States, signed a ‘just energy transition partnership’ with South Africa last year to help the country wean itself off heavily polluting coal.
    A similar agreement is in the works with Senegal, where Germany has supported the construction of a solar farm.
    German officials also said Scholz will make a stop in Niger, a country that like its neighbors has long been battling Islamic extremists.
    Earlier this month, the German government backed a plan to move hundreds of its soldiers to Niger from neighboring Mali.    The development comes amid a deepening political crisis in Mali that prompted former colonial power France to announce it was withdrawing its troops after nine years of helping Mali battle insurgents.
    Germany officials say their decision also was motivated by concerns that Malian forces receiving EU training could cooperate with Russian mercenaries now operating in the country.
    Germany, though, will increase its participation in a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali, providing up to 1,400 soldiers.    The Cabinet’s decisions still need to be approved by parliament.
    Niger is also a major transit hub for illegal migration to Europe.

5/23/2022 WHO chief: COVID pandemic ‘not over’ by ASSOCIATED PRESS
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tells the 75th World Health Assembly on Sunday that the
coronavirus pandemic is 'not over anywhere until it’s over everywhere.' JEAN-GUY PYTHON/AFP via Getty Images
    BERLIN – The COVID-19 pandemic is 'most certainly not over,' the head of the World Health Organization warned Sunday, despite a decline in reported cases since the peak of the omicron wave.    He told governments that 'we lower our guard at our peril.'     In a weekly report Thursday on the global situation, WHO said the number of new COVID-19 cases appears to have stabilized after weeks of decline since late March, while the overall number of weekly deaths dropped.
    While there has been progress, with 60% of the world’s population vaccinated, 'it’s not over anywhere until it’s over everywhere,' Tedros said.
    'Reported cases are increasing in almost 70 countries in all regions, and this in a world in which testing rates have plummeted,' he added.
    Reported deaths are rising in Africa, the continent with the lowest vaccination coverage, he said, and only 57 countries – almost all of them wealthy – have vaccinated 70% of their people.
    While the world’s vaccine supply has improved, there is 'insufficient political commitment to roll out vaccines' in some countries, there are gaps in 'operational or financial capacity' in others, he said.
    'In all, we see vaccine hesitancy driven by misinformation and disinformation,' Tedros said.    'The pandemic will not magically disappear, but we can end it.'
    Tedros is expected to be appointed for a second five-year term this week at the World Health Assembly, the annual meeting of the WHO’s member countries.

5/25/2022 George Soros Calls Ukraine Crisis A Global Standoff, Calls On EU To ‘Defeat’ Russia’s Putin by OAN NEWSROOM
FILE – In this June 21, 2019 file photo, George Soros, founder and chairman of the Open Society Foundations,
looks before the Joseph A. Schumpeter award ceremony in Vienna, Austria. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak, File)
    Left-wing billionaire George Soros claimed the crisis in Ukraine is a result of global politics.    While speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Tuesday, he said the conflict has “shaken Europe to the core.”
    “The world has been increasingly engaged in a struggle between two systems of governance that are dynamically opposed to each other,” he noted.
    Soros then suggested it might escalate to a global war.
    He also said that war could destroy civilization.    The Open Society Foundations founder went on to reiterate his support for the Ukraine government.
    “So, I think, Ukraine today is rendering a tremendous service to Europe and to the Western world, to open society and our survival because they are fighting our fight,” stated the billionaire.

    Soros added, his main goals are fighting pandemics and climate change, but the Ukraine crisis is shifting attention away from that.

5/28/2022 G-7 discusses ending coal, providing climate aid - Aims to end power sector emissions by ’35 by Frank Jordans, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    BERLIN – Officials from the Group of Seven wealthy nations announced Friday that they will aim to largely end greenhouse gas emissions from their power sectors by 2035, making it highly unlikely that those countries will burn coal for electricity beyond that date.
    Ministers from the G-7 countries meeting in Berlin also announced a target to have a “highly decarbonized road sector by 2030,” meaning that electric vehicles would dominate new car sales by the end of the decade.
    And in a move aimed at ending the recurring conflict between rich and poor nations during international climate talks, the G-7 recognized for the first time the need to provide developing countries with additional financial aid to cope with the loss and damage caused by global warming.
    The agreements, which will be put to leaders next month at the G-7 summit in Elmau, Germany, were largely welcomed by climate activists.
    “The 2035 target for power sector decarbonization is a real breakthrough.    In practice, this means countries need to phase out coal by 2030 at the latest,” said Luca Bergamaschi, director of Rome-based campaign group ECCO.
    Coal is a heavily polluting fossil fuel that’s responsible for a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans.
    G-7 members Britain, France and Italy have already set themselves deadlines to stop burning coal for electricity in the next few years.    Germany and Canada are aiming for 2030; Japan wants more time; while the Biden administration has set a target of ending fossil fuel use for electricity generation in the United States by 2035.
    A common target would put pressure on other major polluters to follow suit and build on the compromise deal reached at last year’s U.N. climate summit, where nations committed merely to “phase down” rather than “phase out” coal – with no fixed date.
    U.S. climate envoy John Kerry called the agreements reached in Berlin “very comprehensive and forward-leaning.”
    “I think it will help lay the groundwork for what has to happen at the G-20,” he told The Associated Press, referring to a meeting later this year of the broader Group of 20 leading and emerging economies, who are responsible for 80% of global emissions.
    Getting all G-20 countries to sign on to the ambitious targets set by some of the most advanced economies will be difficult, as countries such as China, India and Indonesia remain heavily reliant on coal.
    Developing countries have for years demanded funds to cope with the destruction wrought by climate change.    Until now, wealthy nations have resisted the idea for fear of being held liable for disasters linked to their emissions.
    “But that recognition is not enough, they need to put actual money on the table,” said David Ryfisch of the Berlin based environmental campaign group German watch.    “It is now up to (German Chancellor Olaf) Scholz to mobilize significant financial commitments by leaders at the Elmau summit.”
Ministers from wealthy Group of Seven countries met in Berlin this week to
discuss ambitious climate initiatives. BERND VON JUTRCZENKA/DPA VIA AP

5/31/2022 EU leaders agree on partial embargo of oil from Russia - Council president says new sanctions will be endorsed by Wednesday by Lorne Cook and Samuel Petrequin, ASSOCIATED PRESS
French President Emmanuel Macron, center, European Council President Charles Michel, left, and Italian Premier
Mario Draghi talk before EU leaders met to discuss Ukraine, energy and food security in Brussels, Monday. OLIVIER MATTHYS/AP
    BRUSSELS – European Union leaders agreed Monday to embargo most Russian oil imports into the bloc by year end as part of new sanctions on Moscow worked out at a summit focused on helping Ukraine with a long-delayed package of new financial support.
    The embargo covers Russian oil brought in by sea, allowing a temporary exemption for imports delivered by pipeline, a move that was crucial to bring landlocked Hungary on board a decision that required consensus.
    EU Council President Charles Michel said the agreement covers more than two-thirds of oil imports from Russia.    Ursula Von der Leyen, the head of the EU’s executive branch, said the punitive move will “effectively cut around 90% of oil imports from Russia to the EU by the end of the year.”
    Michel said leaders also agreed to provide Ukraine with a 9 billion-euro ($9.7 billion) tranche of assistance to support the war-torn country’s economy.    It was unclear whether the money would come in grants or loans.
    Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s permanent representative to international organizations in Vienna, responded to the EU’s decision on Twitter, saying: “As she rightly said yesterday, Russia will find other importers.”
    The new package of sanctions will also include an asset freeze and travel ban on individuals, while Russia’s biggest bank,     Sberbank, will be excluded from SWIFT, the major global system for financial transfers from which the EU previously banned several smaller Russian banks.    Three big Russian state-owned broadcasters will be prevented from distributing their content in the>     “We want to stop Russia’s war machine,” Michel said, lauding what he called a “remarkable achievement.”
    “More than ever it’s important to show that we are able to be strong, that we are able to be firm, that we are able to be tough,” he added.
    Michel said the new sanctions, which needed the support of all 27 member countries, will be legally endorsed by Wednesday.
    The EU had already imposed five previous rounds of sanctions on Russia over its war.    It has targeted more than 1,000 people individually, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and top government officials as well as pro-Kremlin oligarchs, banks, the coal sector and more.
    But the sixth package of measures announced May 4 had been held up by concerns over oil supplies.
    The impasse embarrassed the bloc, which was forced to scale down its ambitions to break Hungary’s resistance.    When European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen proposed the package, the initial aim was to phase out imports of crude oil within six months and refined products by the end of the year.
    Both Michel and von der Leyen said leaders will soon return to the issue, seeking to guarantee that Russia’s pipeline oil exports to the EU are banned at a later date.
    Hungarian Prime minister Viktor Orban had made clear he could support the new sanctions only if his country’s oil supply security was guaranteed.    Hungary gets more than 60% of its oil from Russia and depends on crude that comes through the Soviet-era Druzhba pipeline.    Von der Leyen had played down the chances of a breakthrough at the summit.    But leaders reached a compromise after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged them to end “internal arguments that only prompt Russia to put more and more pressure on the whole of Europe.”
    The EU gets about 40% of its natural gas and 25% of its oil from Russia, and divisions over the issue exposed the limits of the 27-nation trading bloc’s ambitions.
    In his 10-minute video address, Zelenskyy told leaders to end “internal arguments that only prompt Russia to put more and more pressure on the whole of Europe.”
    He said the sanctions package must “be agreed on, it needs to be effective, including (on) oil,” so that Moscow “feels the price for what it is doing against Ukraine” and the rest of Europe.    Only then, Zelenskyy said, will Russia be forced to “start seeking peace.”
    Hungary led a group of EU countries worried over the impact of the oil ban on their economy, including Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria.    Hungary relies heavily on Russia for energy and can’t afford to turn off the pumps.    In addition to its need for Russian oil, Hungary gets 85% of its natural gas from Russia.
    Orban had been adamant on arriving at the summit in Brussels that a deal was not in sight, stressing that Hungary needed its energy supply secured.
    Von der Leyen and Michel said the commitment by Germany and Poland to phase out Russian oil by the end of the year and to forgo oil from the northern part of the Druzhba pipeline will help cut 90% of Russian oil imports.
    The issue of food security will be on the table Tuesday, with the leaders set to encourage their governments to speed up work on “solidarity lanes” to help Ukraine export grain and other produce.

5/31/2022 EU To Ban Almost 90% Of Russian Oil Imports by OAN NEWSROOM
Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander de Croo, left, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen
talk before the second day’s session of an extraordinary meeting of EU leaders to discuss Ukraine, energy
and food security at the Europa building in Brussels, Tuesday, May 31, 2022. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)
    The European Union agreed to ban almost 90 percent of Russian oil by the end of this year. The council reached a consensus on the latest sanctions at its summit in Brussels on Tuesday.
    All Russian oil imports by sea will be banned under the motion, but fuel transported via pipeline will still be imported by EU member states. European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen acknowledged the inconsistency, but voiced intentions of blocking all Russian oil from the Eurozone in the future.
    “And indeed, here we have agreed this is for the moment being exempted,” she stated.    “We have agreed that the council will revert to the topic as soon as possible in one way or the other, so this is a topic where we will come back to and where we will still have to work on.”
    The move follows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s demand for the EU to terminate its purchasing on Russian fuel as Europe receives 40 percent of its natural gas and 25 percent of its oil from the Russian Federation.
    Von de Leyen also announced the removal of Russia’s largest bank and several institutions from the SWIFT financial transaction system.
    “This is good that we now de-SWIFT the Sberbank,” she continued.    “There is a ban on insurance and re-insurance of Russian ships by EU companies, a ban on providing Russian companies with a whole range of business services and very important, the suspension of broadcasting in the European Union of three further Russian state outlets that were very typically spreading broadly the misinformation that we have witnessed over the last weeks and months.”
    The new sanctions, which must be approved by all 27 member states, are expected to be enacted on Wednesday.    The measure was initially proposed early this month, but was stonewalled by Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic over energy security concerns.

6/1/2022 Prices, Asian markets could blunt EU ban on Russian oil - Ukraine president presses for even more sanctions by Lorne Cook and Samuel Petrequin, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel leave after a meeting of EU leaders
to discuss Ukraine, energy and food security in Brussels. OLIVIER MATTHYS/AP
    BRUSSELS – The European Union’s groundbreaking decision to ban nearly all oil from Russia to punish the country for its invasion of Ukraine is a blow to Moscow’s economy, but its effects may be blunted by rising energy prices and other countries willing to buy some of the petroleum, industry experts say.
    European Union leaders agreed late Monday to cut Russian oil imports by about 90% over the next six months, a dramatic move that was considered unthinkable just months ago.
    The 27-country bloc relies on Russia for 25% of its oil and 40% of its natural gas, and European countries that are even more heavily dependent on Russia had been especially reluctant to act.
    European heads of state hailed the decision as a watershed, but analysts were more circumspect.
    The EU ban applies to all Russian oil delivered by sea.    At Hungary’s insistence, it contains a temporary exemption for oil delivered by the Russian Druzhba pipeline to certain landlocked countries in Central Europe.
    In addition to retaining some European markets, Russia could sell some of the oil previously bound to Europe to China, India and other customers in Asia, even though it will have to offer discounts, said Chris Weafer, CEO at consulting firm Macro-Advisory.
    “Now, for the moment, that’s not financially too painful for Russia because global prices are elevated.     They’re much higher than last year,” he said.    “So even Russia offering a discount means that it’s probably selling its oil for roughly what it sold for last year also.”
    He noted that “India has been a willing buyer” and “China’s certainly been keen to buy more oil because they’re both countries who are getting big discounts on global market prices.”
    Still, Moscow has traditionally viewed Europe as its main energy market, making Monday’s decision the most significant effort yet to punish Russia for its war in Ukraine.
    “The sanctions have one clear aim: to prompt Russia to end this war and withdraw its troops and to agree with Ukraine on a sensible and fair peace,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said.
    Ukraine estimated the ban could cost Russia tens of billions of dollars.
    “The oil embargo will speed up the countdown to the collapse of the Russian economy and war machine,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said.
    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video address that Ukraine will be pressing for more sanctions, adding that “there should be no significant economic ties left between the free world and the terrorist state.”
    Simone Tagliapietra, an energy expert and research fellow at the Brussels based think tank Bruegel, called the embargo “a major blow.”
    Matteo Villa, an analyst at the ISPI think tank in Milan, said Russia will take a pretty significant hit now but cautioned that the move could eventually backfire.
    “The risk is that the price of oil in general goes up because of the European sanctions. And if the price goes up a lot, the risk is that Russia starts to earn more, and Europe loses the bet    ,” he said.
    Like previous rounds of sanctions, the oil ban is unlikely to persuade the Kremlin to end the war.    Moscow seized on the new sanctions to try to rally public support against the West, describing it as bent on destroying Russia.
    Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council who served as the country’s president, said the oil ban aims to reduce the country’s export earnings and force the government to scale down social benefits.
    “They hate us all!” Medvedev said on his messaging app channel.    “Those decisions stem from hatred against Russia and against all of its people.”
    Russia has not shied away from withholding energy to get its way. Russian state energy giant Gazprom said it is cutting off natural gas to Dutch trader GasTerra and Denmark’s Oersted company and is also stopping shipments to Shell Energy Europe that were bound for Germany.    Germany has other suppliers, and GasTerra and Oersted said they were prepared for a shutoff.
    Gazprom previously stopped the flow to Bulgaria, Poland and Finland.
    Meanwhile, the EU is urging other countries to avoid placing trade barriers on farm products as Russia’s war increases the risks of a global food crisis.
    Zelenskyy has said Russia has prevented the export of 22 million tons of Ukrainian grain, much of it meant for people across the Middle East and Africa.    He accused Moscow of “deliberately creating this problem.”
    Russian oil delivered by sea accounts for two-thirds of the EU’s oil imports from Moscow.    In addition to the EU cutoff of such imports, Germany and Poland have agreed to stop using oil from the northern branch of the Druzhba pipeline.
    Agreeing on sanctions against Russian natural gas is likely to prove much tougher because it represents a larger percentage of Europe’s energy mix.
    “The very loud and clear message that Moscow will hear is that it will be near impossible for the European Union to get any agreement on blocking gas because gas will not be as easily replicated from other sources in Europe as oil will be,” Weafer said.
A volunteer helps a man leaving his home in a building damaged by an
overnight missile strike, in Sloviansk, Ukraine. FRANCISCO SECO/AP

6/2/2022 Biden Meets With NATO Chief, NSA Sullivan At White House by OAN NEWSROOM
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, left, attends a meeting with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin
at the Pentagon, Thursday, June 2, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
    On Thursday, President Joe Biden and his National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met with NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg to discuss the Ukraine crisis.    The three officials spoke at the White House about the bids by Sweden and Finland to join NATO amid opposition by Turkey.     “The decisions by Finland and Sweden to apply for NATO membership are historic,” said Stoltenberg. “They will strengthen our Alliance.    We have to address the security concerns of all allies and I’m confident that we will find the united way forward.”
    In recent days, Turkey accused Sweden and Finland of supporting terrorism. He believes those countries have no place in NATO.     He also acknowledged that NATO is preparing for a long-lasting conflict in Ukraine.     “Wars are by nature unpredictable and therefore we just have to be prepared for the long haul,” he stated.     Stoltenberg declared that while NATO does not want confrontation with Russia, the western military alliance has a “responsibility” to support Ukraine. He plans to meet with leaders from those three countries in the coming days.     “The easiest way to get more grain out and to reduce the pressure on food prices is for President Putin to end the war,” the NATO Chief voiced.    “As long as that’s not the case, I welcome the effort by different countries.”     Stoltenberg said he looks forward to welcoming President Biden to the NATO summit in Madrid in the coming weeks.

6/6/2022 McCaughey: Beware Fauci’s scheme to empower World Health Organization by Betsy McCaughey – Boston Herald
© Provided by Boston Herald
    When the next pandemic hits, President Biden wants the World Health Organization — a puppet of the Chinese Communist Party — to have more power over the U.S. and other countries.    Among other changes, WHO is pushing for “equity” in access to vaccines and medicines, meaning the U.S. will be hindered from rushing new vaccines and treatments to its own population until poor countries are supplied, never mind who develops and pays for the drugs.    Should the U.S. surrender its ability to care for its own population for the sake of global “equity”?    The answer is no.
    Anthony Fauci, Biden’s top delegate to WHO, is behind the dangerous idea of enlarging WHO’s power.    We should all vigorously oppose it
    WHO lost its credibility early in 2020, when COVID struck outside China.    WHO parroted China’s false denials about human transmission, delayed declaring a global health emergency and advised against travel restrictions — all in service to Beijing, instead of offering unbiased advice to the world?
    Georgetown University professor and globalist Lawrence Gostin said the agency and its director-general were “caught in an awfully difficult position between what science dictates and a very, very powerful country.”    Nonsense.    The morally correct course was obvious, but WHO kowtowed to China instead, jeopardizing millions of lives.
    No wonder President Donald Trump moved to sever connections with WHO.    But Biden re-engaged them on his first day as president, putting Fauci in charge of rejoining WHO.    Fauci, in turn, promised the move would produce transparency on COVID’s origins and reform of the agency.    So far, there have been no answers and no reform.    WHO keeps taking America’s money while taking orders from China.
    WHO’s pro-China bias was on display last week at its annual meeting in Geneva.    WHO spurned a U.S. request to admit Taiwan as an observer — on orders from Beijing.
    WHO also re-elected Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus for another term.    He ran unopposed.    The U.S. made no attempt to replace him, despite his subservience to China at the expense of America’s safety and well-being.    Why?    Misplaced loyalties.    Ghebreyesus calls Fauci “my brother,” and Fauci considers Tedros “my dear friend.”    American interests be damned.
    Even more troubling, the assembly voted to begin revising its regulations, which spell out a country’s legal obligations if a disease outbreak could spread internationally.
    It’s unclear how the revisions might impede the U.S. from making decisions about travel bans and other issues.    But Reuters already reported one red flag: African nations supported the revision effort only after being guaranteed vaccine and therapeutics “equity” for poor countries.    Tedros has been pushing “equity” since 2020, insisting that wealthy countries should not be permitted to meet the needs of their own populations before sharing with underdeveloped nations.
    As troubling as Taiwan’s exclusion, Tedros’ re-election and the proposed rule changes are, the worst is WHO’s failure to produce information on COVID’s origins.    The first WHO-sponsored investigation allowed China to dictate the terms, barring access to Chinese doctors and patients’ medical records and discounting evidence of a lab leak.    Fauci has touted WHO’s promise of a second investigation and report, but so far, it’s come to nothing.
    Fauci and Biden seem willing to forget 1 million American deaths from COVID, but the rest of us want answers.    There should be no cooperation with WHO or funding for WHO until we get them.
    WHO “failed the American people and the world by working hand in hand with the Chinese Communist Party to conceal the origins of COVID-19,” said Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.).
    Congressional Republicans launched measures recently to block further entanglements with WHO.    Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) introduced legislation mandating that any new agreement with WHO be deemed a treaty requiring advice and consent of the Senate.
    The world needs a global institution to man an early-warning system, track disease outbreaks and coordinate an international response.    WHO is disqualified from that role.    Biden is endangering our health security by entrusting it to Fauci and his WHO cronies.

6/8/2022 World Bank’s view on global economy dims - Many countries will face prospect of recession by Paul Wiseman, ASSOCIATED PRESS
If the Federal Reserve and other central banks continue to raise
interest rates to combat inflation, they risk causing a recession. RICHARD DREW/AP FILE
    WASHINGTON – The World Bank has sharply downgraded its outlook for the global economy, pointing to Russia’s war against Ukraine, the prospect of widespread food shortages and concerns about the potential return of “stagflation” – a toxic mix of high inflation and sluggish growth unseen for more than four decades.
    The 189-country anti-poverty agency predicted Tuesday that the world economy will expand 2.9% this year.    That would be down from 5.7% global growth in 2021 and from the 4.1% it had forecast for 2022 back in January.
    “For many countries, recession will be hard to avoid,” said David Malpass, the World Bank’s president.
    The agency doesn’t foresee a much brighter picture in 2023 and 2024: It predicts just 3% global growth for both years.
    For the United States alone, the World Bank has slashed its growth forecast to 2.5% this year from 5.7% in 2021 and from the 3.7% it had forecast in January.
    For the 19 European countries that share the euro currency, it downgraded the growth outlook to 2.5% this year from 5.4% last year and from the 4.2% it had expected in January.
    In China, the world’s second-biggest economy after the United States, the World Bank expects growth to slow to 4.3% from 8.1% last year.    China’s zero-COVID policies, involving draconian lockdowns in Shanghai and other cities, brought economic life to a standstill. The Chinese government is providing aid to ease the economic pain.
    Emerging market and developing economies are collectively forecast to grow 3.4% this year, decelerating from a 6.6% pace in 2021.
    Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has severely disrupted global trade in energy and wheat, battering a global economy that had been recovering robustly from the coronavirus pandemic.    Already high commodity prices have gone even higher as a result, threatening the availability of affordable food in poor countries.
    “There’s a severe risk of malnutrition and of deepening hunger and even of famine,” Malpass warned.
    The World Bank expects oil prices to surge 42% this year and non-energy commodity prices to climb nearly 18%.    But it foresees oil and other commodity prices both dropping 8% in 2023.    It likened the current spike in energy and food prices to the oil shocks of the 1970s.
    “Additional adverse shocks,” the agency warned in its new Global Economic Prospects report, “will increase the possibility that the global economy will experience a period of stagflation reminiscent of the 1970s.”
    The prospect of stagflation poses a dilemma for the Federal Reserve and other central banks: If they continue to raise interest rates to combat inflation, they risk causing a recession.    But if they try to stimulate their economies, they risk driving prices higher and making inflation an even more intractable problem.
    The World Bank noted that the previous period of stagflation required rate increases so steep that they tipped the world into recession and led to a series of financial crises in the poor countries of the developing world.

6/9/2022 Turkey threatens US allies and partners as Ukraine war gives Erdogan leverage by Joel Gehrke – Washington Examiner
© Provided by Washington Examiner Turkey threatens US allies and partners as Ukraine war gives Erdogan leverage
    Turkey may soon launch a new military operation against the Kurdish forces that partnered with the United States to dismantle the Islamic State group in Syria despite protests from American officials.
    “We are completely unstinting in our efforts with the Turkish government to back them off on this ill-considered venture,” State Department Assistant Secretary Barbara Leaf told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a Wednesday hearing.    “I couldn’t give you the assurance that they are going to.”
    A cross-border assault could upend the U.S. approach to suppressing IS and perhaps even drive the most important American partner in the country into an alliance with Syrian President Bashar Assad, American leaders fear.    Yet Turkish President Recep     Tayyip Erdogan, who regards the Syrian fighters as terrorist allies of the Kurdish separatist group that has fought the Turkish central government for decades, seems keen to press disputes with the U.S. and other NATO members at a moment when the war in Ukraine has demonstrated Erdogan’s clout within the trans-Atlantic alliance — as evidenced by his Wednesday accusation that the U.S. and Greece have established military bases targeting Turkey.
    “Nine American bases — where have those bases been established? In Greece,” Erdogan told reporters, per a Turkish public broadcaster’s interpreter.    “And against whom? They answer ‘against Russia,’ but we will not buy into that.    Sorry, but no.”
    Erdogan made that comment alongside Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro, who is visiting Ankara after President Joe Biden banned him and other Latin American authoritarians from attending the Summit of the Americas this week in Los Angeles.    His press conference renewed some of the most fractious controversies of Erdogan’s relationship with the rest of the trans-Atlantic alliance, as he reiterated his accusation that Sweden and Finland, who have applied to join NATO, give shelter to Kurdish terrorists.
    “What we experienced with Greece, what we experienced with France, we do not want to experience the same with them,” Erdogan said.
    Greece and Turkey have a fraught history despite their mutual membership in NATO.    They entered the alliance together in 1952 during the Cold War, but the modern state of Greece fought a war of independence against the Ottoman Empire, which preceded the Republic of Turkey, in the early 19th century that succeeded in part due to the interventions of Great Britain, France, and Russia.
    French President Emmanuel Macron came to Greece’s aid in 2020 after Turkish and Greek forces nearly came to blows during a dispute about energy exploration rights in the Mediterranean.    Turkey reportedly responded by using a cutting-edge Russian anti-aircraft missile system, purchased in defiance of U.S. sanctions law, to track F-16 fighter jets flown by France, Greece, and Italy during a joint military exercise with the United Arab Emirates.    More recently, Turkey has accused Greece of militarizing key islands in the Aegean Sea in violation of international agreements.
    “Greece should disarm these islands.    If not, the sovereignty of these islands will be open to discussion.”    Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Tuesday, per Turkish media, in an apparent threat.    “That’s what we clearly tell Greece.”     Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis maintained that the two sides are “still very far” from the intensity that their disputes reached in 2020.
    “Today, everyone needs to show restraint,” Mitsotakis said Tuesday, “especially at a time when we are facing a very big challenge at NATO with the Russian invasion of Ukraine.    We must be united.”
    That invasion has galvanized the alliance and democratic allies in Europe, even spurring Sweden and Finland to abandon their historic posture of neutrality between Moscow and the capitals of NATO.    Russia threatened retaliation for such a move during the Nordic states’ internal debates over the application process, but Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson countered that embattled Russian forces are too “occupied in Ukraine” to interdict their movement into the alliance — leaving Erdogan’s veto threat standing as the greatest impediment to their membership.
    “NATO is an organization of security.    NATO is not an organization that would pave the way for terror,” Erdogan said.    “As long as these terror groups do run rampant in Sweden — and even in their own parliaments, there are terrorists — as long as these terrorists are in their parliaments and as long as these terror groups on the streets of Stockholm make demonstrations ... and as long as interviews with terrorist leaders are broadcast on national TVs, we cannot tell them, 'Go ahead and join NATO, and continue as such.'
    Erdogan appeared to be referring to Swedish lawmaker Amineh Kakabaveh, an Iranian Kurd who joined a Kurdish militia as a teenager during the Iran-Iraq War before fleeing to Europe.    Now a political independent and deciding vote in Sweden’s divided parliament, Kakabaveh remains a supporter of Kurdish groups in Syria and rejects Erdogan’s allegation that those militias, the Syrian Democratic Forces and the YPG, are terrorists.    The Swedish prime minister’s party endorsed Kakabaveh’s position on the Syrian Kurds in November as part of its effort to secure a governing majority.
    “That freedom fighters who fought or sympathize with YPG or [the Democratic Union Party] are classed by certain state actors as terrorists is unacceptable. ... The Social Democrats intend to deepen their cooperation with the [the Democratic Union Party],” the Swedish politicians agreed, as the Financial Times noted.
    Erdogan makes no distinction between those groups and the PKK, a militant organization of Turkish Kurds that the U.S. and other countries have designated a foreign terrorist organization for decades.    He wants to drive the Syrian Kurdish forces back from the Turkish border — as he attempted to do in 2019. And the SDF, an umbrella group of Kurdish and Arab militias, has said it would partner with Assad to fend off the Turkish assault if Erdogan carries out his threat.
    “The meeting confirmed the readiness of [SDF] forces to coordinate with forces of the Damascus government to confront any possible Turkish incursion and to protect Syrian territories against occupation,” the group said Tuesday.
    Such a conflict could make it harder for those forces to maintain custody of thousands of IS militants that they are holding in northeast Syrian prisons.    IS fighters conducted a major attack to take one of those prisons in January.
    “Any venture, any military operation across the border into northern Syria, first and foremost puts the civilian population in the crosshairs, and secondly, [it] severely puts at risk a critical mission that the global D-ISIS coalition, the U.S., is undertaking,” Leaf, the State Department’s lead official for the Near East bureau, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday.    “And, obviously, it puts into the crosshairs our own partners in that mission.”

6/10/2022 Oil down $1.05 to $120.36, DOW down 812 to 31,461.

6/11/2022 US inflation hits new 40-year high in May - Consumer prices surge 8.6% from year earlier by Christopher Rugaber, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Gasoline prices jumped 4% just in May and have soared nearly 50%
from a year ago. They’ve risen further this month. RICK BOWMER/AP FILE
    WASHINGTON – The prices of gas, food and most other goods and services jumped in May, raising inflation to a new four-decade high and giving American households no respite from rising costs.
    Consumer prices surged 8.6% last month from 12 months earlier, faster than April’s year-over-year increase of 8.3%, the Labor Department said Friday.    The new inflation figure, the biggest yearly increase since December 1981, will heighten pressure on the Federal Reserve to continue raising interest rates aggressively.
    On a month-to-month basis, prices jumped 1% from April to May, much faster than the 0.3% increase from March to April.    Behind that surge were much higher prices for food, energy, rent, airline tickets and new and used cars.
    The widespread price increases also elevated so-called “core” inflation, a measure that excludes volatile food and energy prices.    In May, core prices jumped a sharp 0.6% for a second straight month and are now 6% above where they were a year ago.
    Friday’s report underscored the worry that inflation is broadening well beyond the spike in energy prices stemming from clogged supply chains and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.    And the increased pressure on the Fed to raise rates even faster – which will mean higher-cost loans for consumers and businesses – raises the risk of recession.
    “Virtually every sector has higher-than-normal inflation,” said Ethan Harris, head of global economic research at Bank of America.    “It’s made its way into every nook and cranny of the economy.    That’s the thing that makes it concerning, because it means it’s likely to persist.”
    Gas prices jumped 4% just in May and have soared nearly 50% from a year ago.    They’ve risen further this month.    The national average price at the pump reached $4.99 Friday, according to AAA.
    The cost of groceries surged nearly 12% last month from a year earlier, the biggest such increase since 1979.    Restaurant prices jumped 7.4% in the past year, the largest 12-month gain since November 1981, reflecting higher costs for food and workers.
    Housing costs are also climbing.    The government’s shelter index, which includes rents, hotel rates and a measure of what it costs to own a home, in- 5.5% in the past year, the most since 1991.    Airline fares have skyrocketed nearly 38% in the past year, the sharpest such rise since 1980.
    America’s rampant inflation is putting pressure on families, forcing them to pay much more for food, gas and rent and reducing their ability to afford discretionary items, from haircuts to electronics.    Lower-income and Black and Hispanic Americans, in particular, are struggling because, on average, a larger proportion of their income is consumed by necessities.
    Some evidence in recent weeks had suggested that inflation might be moderating, particularly for long-lasting goods that were caught up in supply chain snarls and shortages last year.    But that trend appeared to reverse itself in May, with used car prices rising 1.8% after having dropped for three straight months.    New car prices also rose.    And clothing prices increased after having declined in April.

6/11/2022 INFLATION SOARS TO 40-YEAR HIGH IN US - No respite from rising costs for households by Christopher Rugaber, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    WASHINGTON – The prices of gas, food and most other goods and services jumped in May, raising inflation to a new four-decade high and giving American households no respite from rising costs.
    Consumer prices surged 8.6% last month from a year earlier, faster than April’s year-over-year increase of 8.3%, the Labor Department said Friday.
    The new inflation figure, the highest since 1981, will heighten pressure on the Federal Reserve to continue raising interest rates aggressively.
    On a month-to-month basis, prices jumped 1% from April to May, much faster than the 0.3% increase from March to April.    Contributing to that surge were much higher prices for everything from airline tickets to restaurant meals to new and used cars.
    Those price spikes also elevated “core” inflation, a measure that excludes volatile food and energy prices.    In May, core prices jumped a sharp 0.6% for a second straight month.    They’re now 6% above where they were a year ago.
    Friday’s report underscored fears that inflation is spreading well beyond energy and goods whose prices are being driven up by clogged supply chains and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.    It also sent stock prices tumbling.    The increased pressure on the Fed to raises rates even faster – which means higher-cost loans for consumers and businesses – will raise the risk of a recession, too.
    “Virtually every sector has higher-than-normal inflation,” said Ethan Harris, head of global economic research at Bank of America.    “It’s made its way into every nook and cranny of the economy.    That’s the thing that makes it concerning, because it means it’s likely to persist.”
    Gas prices rose 4% just in May and have soared nearly 50% in one year.    The national average price at the pump reached $4.99 on Friday, according to AAA, edging closer to an inflation adjusted record high of $5.40.
    The cost of groceries surged nearly 12% last month from a year earlier, the largest such increase since 1979.    Rising prices for grain and fertilizer after Russia’s war against Ukraine, is intensifying that rise.    Restaurant prices jumped 7.4% in the past year, the largest 12-month gain since 1981, reflecting higher costs for food and workers.
    Employers face immense pressure to raise pay in a job market that remains robust, with low unemployment, few layoffs and near-record job openings.    Although average wages are rising at their fastest pace in decades, they aren’t increasing fast enough for most workers to keep pace with inflation.    Many households accumulated savings from government stimulus aid during the pandemic and are now having to draw on those savings to pay bills.
    Housing costs are still climbing.    The government’s shelter index, which includes rents, hotel rates and a measure of what it costs to own a home, increased 5.5% in the past year, the most since 1991.    Airline fares are up nearly 38% in the past year, the sharpest such rise since 1980. Rampant inflation is imposing pressures on families.    Lower-income and Black and Hispanic Americans are struggling because, on average, a larger proportion of their income is consumed by necessities.
    In light of Friday’s inflation reading, the Fed is all but certain to implement the fastest series of interest rate hikes in three decades.    By sharply raising borrowing costs, the Fed hopes to cool spending and growth enough to curb inflation without tipping the economy into a recession.    It will be a difficult balancing act.    The Fed has signaled it will raise its key short-term rate by a half-point – double the size of the usual hike – next week and in July.    Some investors hoped the Fed would slow its rate increases to a quarter-point hike when it meets in September or perhaps even pause its credit tightening.    But with inflation raging hot, investors now foresee yet another half-point hike in September, which would be the fourth since April.
    A report from the World Bank this week made clear that high inflation is a global problem that threatens to slow economies around the world.    For the 19 countries that use the euro currency, inflation fueled by rising food and fuel prices hit a record 8.1% last month, leading the European Central Bank to announce that it will raise interest rates for the first time in 11 years, starting in July and again in September.
    In the coming months, prices in the United States might ease somewhat. Some large retailers, including Target, Walmart and Macy’s, are now stuck with too much of the patio furniture, electronics and other goods that suddenly are no longer in demand.    Target said it’s cutting prices because of mounds of unsold inventory.
    Many small businesses are still struggling to keep up with rising costs for supplies and labor, a sign that price hikes will continue.    Andrew McDowell, founder of With Love Market & Cafe in Los Angeles, said he’s paying more for food supplies, workers and reusable bags, which used to cost him 23 cents but now cost 45 cents.
    The company’s chicken BLT now costs 20% more than it did before the pandemic.    McDowell said he’s grappling with the highest prices for supplies and workers he’s ever faced.    He thinks he may have to rise prices again, by 10% to 20%.
    “Every product is impacted, every aspect of the business is affected,” Mc-Dowell said.

6/12/2022 WTO aims for trade deals amid uncertainty - Experts: Reform needed for group to be effective by Jamey Keaten, ASSOCIATED PRESS
World Trade Organization Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala expressed “cautious optimism”
that progress could occur during this week’s meetings. SALVATORE DI NOLFI/KEYSTONE VIA AP
    GENEVA – The World Trade Organization is facing one of its most dire moments, the culmination of years of slide toward oblivion and ineffectiveness.    Now may be a chance to turn the tide and reemerge as a champion of free and fair trade – or face a future further in doubt.
    For the first time in 4 1/2 years, after a pandemic pause, government ministers from WTO countries will gather for four days starting Sunday to tackle issues like overfishing of the seas, COVID-19 vaccines for the developing world and food security at a time when Russia’s war in Ukraine has blocked the export of millions of tons of Ukrainian grain to developing nations.    Facing a key test of her diplomatic skill since taking the job 15 months ago, WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in recent days expressed “cautious optimism” that progress could be made on at least one of four issues expected to dominate the meeting: fisheries subsidies, agriculture, the pandemic response and reform of the organization, spokesman Fernando Puchol said.
    Diplomats and trade teams have been working “flat out – long, long hours” to serve up at least one “clean text” for a possible agreement – that ministers can simply rubber-stamp and not have to negotiate – on one of those issues, Puchol told reporters Friday.
    The Geneva-based body, barely a quarter-century old, brings together 164 countries to help ensure smooth and fair international trade and settle trade disputes.    Some outside experts expect few accomplishments out of the meeting, saying the main one may simply be getting the ministers to the table.
    “The multilateral trading system is in a bad way.    The Ukraine situation is not helping,” said Clemens Boonekamp, an independent trade policy analyst and former head of WTO’s agricultural division.    “But the mere fact that they are coming together is a sign of a respect for the system.”
    Alan Wolff, a former WTO deputy director-general, sounded optimistic that members could make at least some headway.
    They might reach an agreement, he said, to help relieve a looming global food crisis arising from the war in Ukraine by ensuring the U.N. World Food Program receives a waiver from food export bans imposed by WTO countries eager to feed their own people.
    Wolff, now senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, expressed confidence in Okonjo-Iweala, saying, “I’m not willing to sell her short.”
    He said members “seem to be making progress” on an agreement to scale back subsidies that encourage overfishing – something they have been trying to do for more than two decades.
    “Do they wrap it up this time?” Wolff asked. “Unclear.    It’s been a drama.”
    One problem – among many – is that the WTO operates by consensus, so any one of its 164 member countries could gum up the works.
    In short, the WTO has become an important diplomatic battleground between developed and developing countries, and some experts say reform is needed if it’s ever to get things done.

6/14/2022 NATO Chief: Sweden Taking ‘Important Steps’ To Meet Turkey’s Demands by OAN NEWSROOM
Sweden’s Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, right, welcomes NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at Harpsund, the country retreat
of Swedish prime ministers, in Sodermanland County, Sweden, Monday, June 13, 2022. (Henrik Montgomery/TT News Agency via AP)
    Sweden is taking steps to meet Turkey’s demands for approving its NATO membership application.    That’s according to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg who visited Sweden on Monday.    Both Sweden and Finland requested to join the alliance last month.
    Turkish officials objected while accusing the two Scandinavian countries of supporting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is a group designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
    “I welcome that Sweden has all started to change its counterterrorism legislation and that Sweden will ensure that the legal framework for arms export will reflect their future status as a NATO member with new commitments to allies,” stated Stoltenberg.    “These are two important steps to address concerns Turkey has raised.”
    The NATO Secretary General said the goal is to have Sweden and Finland join NATO as soon as possible.

6/15/2022 Group of NATO leaders pledges support for Ukraine by Mike Corder, ASSOCIATED PRESS
“It’s an historic decision. It will strengthen them, it will strengthen us,”
said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, left. PATRICK POST/AP
    THE HAGUE, Netherlands – The leaders of seven NATO nations from across Europe pledged their support Tuesday for Sweden and Finland’s bids to join the alliance and for providing more heavy weapons to help Ukraine battle Russia.
    The support was voiced after an informal gathering at Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s official residence in The Hague co-hosted by his Danish counterpart, Mette Frederiksen.    The other leaders attending were Romania’s president and the prime ministers of Belgium, Poland, Portugal and Latvia.
    “My message on Swedish and Finnish membership is that I strongly welcome that,” said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who also attended.    “It’s an historic decision.    It will strengthen them; it will strengthen us.”
    But he said the alliance also has to take seriously concerns raised by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has vetoed membership for the two countries until they change their policies on supporting Kurdish militants deemed by Ankara to be terrorists.
    “There is no other NATO ally that has suffered more terrorist attacks than Turkey,” Stoltenberg said.
    Stoltenberg said Monday that he was glad the Swedish government had confirmed its “readiness to address Turkey’s concerns as part of assuming the obligations of future NATO membership.”
    Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki criticized the support so far for Ukraine, which has time and again called for more and heavier weapons.
    “We have not done enough defend Ukraine, to support Ukrainian people to defend their freedom and sovereignty.    And this is why I urge you, I asked you to do much more to deliver weapon, artillery to Ukraine,” Morawiecki said.    “Where is our credibility if Ukraine fails?    Can we imagine that Ukraine fails and we revert back to business as usual?    I hope not,” he added.
    The meeting came ahead of a June 29-30 NATO summit in Madrid that will seek to set a tough course for the alliance in coming years.
Stoltenberg said the alliance has beefed up its defenses following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, reinforcing “our ability to protect and defend every inch of NATO allied territory.”
    He said that in Madrid, “we will take the next steps and agree a major strengthening of our posture.
    Tonight, we discussed the need for more robust and combat ready forward presence, even higher readiness and more pre-positioned equipment and supplies
    He also said that “Ukraine should have more heavy weapons, and NATO allies and partners have provided the heavy weapons now for actually a long time.    But they are also stepping up.”

6/23/2022 Defense Production Act To Address High Gas Prices by OAN NEWSROOM
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm speaks during the daily briefing at the
White House in Washington, Wednesday, June 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
    Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said the Defense Production Act is a “tool” in the Biden administration’s belt to address high gas prices.    While speaking to reporters Wednesday, she said the administration has not drawn any lines in the sand at the moment in terms of invoking the defense law or other emergency measures.
    Granholm also told reporters President Joe Biden can’t control the price of gas alone and acknowledged his proposed federal gas tax suspension won’t have a substantial impact on prices.    She then emphasized Biden’s outreach to the oil industry.
    “He’s calling upon states as well to consider doing gas tax holidays,” explained the Energy Secretary.    “On the state side, he’s urging oil companies to use their profits to increase output.    He’s calling upon the industry to pass along the decrease in oil prices, which we have seen at the barrel level over the past week, for example, at the pump.    And he is demanding that that the industry come to the table with some solutions on refineries.”
    Granholm also said the nation needs more creativity and collaboration to get through what she called an “unprecedented” situation.    She then pointed her finger at Russia’s Vladimir Putin and his war in Ukraine as well as the aftermath of pandemic constraints.
    The Energy Secretary went on to suggest that that President alone cannot control the spiking gas prices, which is why he has asked Congress as well as companies in gas and oil industry to act.
    Granholm said “the only way out” is by “deploying clean energy.”    These sentiments echo the Biden administration’s continued push for so-called green energy.

6/24/2022 G-7 leaders have a full plate - Economy overshadows climate at meetings by Francesca Chambers, USA TODAY
President Joe Biden, who called on Congress this week to suspend the federal
gas tax, will confer with G-7 leaders on inflation. DREW ANGERER/GETTY IMAGES
    WASHINGTON – Skyrocketing gas prices.    Surging food costs.    Markets in freefall.
    The international financial crisis will be front and center as President Joe Biden meets with leaders of some of the world’s most advanced economies this weekend in the Bavarian Alps.
    Rich nations that make up the Group of Seven, or G-7, will band together in an attempt to stabilize the global economy while maintaining and potentially increasing punitive actions on Russia over its war in Ukraine.
    Clean-energy initiatives that Biden and other world leaders had hoped would be the focus of the summit will take a back seat to discussions about support for Ukraine, fears of a global recession and ways countries can work together to fight inflation.
    “There are no quick solutions to these challenges,” said Miriam Sapiro, who was acting U.S. trade representative under President Barack Obama.    “Working on the right plan and getting it implemented – whether we’re talking about energy security, food security, reconstruction needs, financing for those needs and potentially reparations – there’s planning that needs to take place now in a cohesive, expedited way.”
    World leaders are grappling with expansive challenges, many stemming from the coronavirus pandemic and Russia’s assault on Ukraine.    Leaders committed to discussing those issues along with infrastructure development, democratic resilience and climate security during their talks in Europe.
Soaring inflation a theme
    Inflation has soared since countries that make up the G-7 – the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Canada and Japan – imposed stiff economic sanctions on Russia, which was once a part of the cohort.
    Food, housing and gasoline costs rose in the USA in May, and year-over year inflation increased 8.6% in the latest consumer price report.    The spike in costs was a 40-year high.
    In the U.K., inflation was 9.1% higher in May than a year before.    France saw a 5.8% year-over-year increase in inflation.
    Next year, the USA could enter a recession, prominent economists warn.    Organizations such as the International Monetary Fund predict slowdowns in economic growth and revised down their growth forecasts.
    “Everybody is lowering their projections for what the world economy is going to do,” said Mark Weisbrot, codirector of the Center for Economic and Policy Research.    “And there are going to be recessions.”
    Central banks around the world responded to heightened inflation by raising interest rates.    The Federal Reserve announced last week a threequarters of a point increase in short-term interest rates, the biggest since 1994.
    “The dirty secret is, political leaders can’t usually do a whole lot to change immediate economic trajectories, because they are so bound up in a global cycle of supply and demand,” said Christopher Smart, a former Obama White House economic adviser.
    As wealthy nations emerge from the pandemic, demand for oil has outstripped supply, leading to higher fuel costs and grocery bills.
    “Some of it is Russia, but some of it is just the recovery from the pandemic and a tight oil supply, even before the Russian invasion,” Smart said.
    Biden asked oil companies last week to offer ideas for how to increase output and lower costs for consumers. Wednesday, he called on Congress to approve a 90-day suspension of the federal gas tax and urged states to pause their fuel taxes.
    The attempt to make summer travel cheaper for Americans cuts against Biden’s broader effort to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
    “All of these G-7 countries are in the same boat,” said Maurice Obstfeld, a former economic adviser to Obama and senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.    “The consumers are facing higher energy prices, which are feeding inflation, and they’re all trying to take measures to soften that blow to their economies.”
    The United States could try to further target inflation by dropping restrictions on the amount of steel and aluminum that can be imported from Europe dutyfree, accelerating planned investments in renewable energy and buying more oil from nations such as Saudi Arabia, experts said.
    Eliminating tariffs on European metals would not significantly reduce inflation, but it could help Biden build cooperation with U.S. allies and show he is fighting high prices with every tool at his disposal, said Desmond Lachman, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and former IMF official.
    “He’s got an election coming up in November, and inflation is the No. 1 problem.    So he needs to be seen to be doing something to try to get control on the inflation side,” Lachman said.    “Whether he can get anything meaningful that is going to make much of a difference, I am pretty doubtful on, but he needs to be seen to be doing something.”
    At a virtual forum of major economies last Friday, Biden emphasized that nations are working together to stabilize global energy markets by investing in green energy initiatives.
    Biden set a goal of 2030 for half of America’s cars to be zero-emission.
Pressures at home for Biden
    His approval rating stuck at 39% in the latest USA TODAY/Suffolk Poll, Biden insisted last week that a U.S. recession is not inevitable and urged midterm voters to have confidence in the economy.
    Biden’s political and economic woes at home are set against the backdrop of Russia’s unrelenting assault on Ukraine, which tops the agenda for the global economic summit.
    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is expected to address leaders virtually at the gathering at a luxury hotel and spa in the German Alps.
    Zelenskyy will also speak to the NATO summit in Madrid, which Biden will attend after the G-7 gathering. NATO nations will seek to show solidarity on their response to Russia’s war.
    “There’s a general theme that emerging economies are less on board with sanctions and trying to chart a middle course,” Obstfeld said.
    Allied nations will consider new ways to squeeze Russia and tap into oligarchs’ wealth at the back-to back conferences.    They are likely to discuss ways to fund Ukraine’s reconstruction.
    “Billions of dollars of infrastructure have been destroyed already. Roads, bridges, ports, whole towns,” Sapiro said.    “There should be an examination by the G-7 leaders as to whether seized or frozen Russian assets could be used for reparations and reconstruction.    That would be an important signal to send.”
    Josh Lipsky, director of the Atlantic Council’s GeoEconomics Center, said G-7 leaders are unlikely to take a joint, public stance.

6/27/2022 Biden Commits $200B To Global Infrastructure Plan by OAN NEWSROOM
President Joe Biden waits for the start of a lunch with the Group of Seven leaders at the Schloss Elmau
hotel in Elmau, Germany, Monday, June 27, 2022, during the annual G7 summit. Joining the Group of Seven
are guest country leaders and heads of international organizations. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, Pool)
    President Joe Biden urged G7 leaders to “stay together” against Russia’s war on Ukraine.    While kicking off the summit in the Bavarian Alps on Sunday, leaders agreed to strengthen sanctions by banning imports of Russian gold.     The move came shortly after Russian missiles rained down on Kyiv earlier that morning and is additional effort to weaken Russia’s economy.
    President Biden also announced the launch of the partnership for global infrastructure movement to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative project.
    “And I’m proud to announce the United States will mobilize $200 billion in public and private capital over the next five years for that partnership,” announced the President.    “We’re here today because we’re making this commitment together as a G7 in coordination with one another and to maximize the impact of our work.
    Collectively, we aim to mobilize nearly $600 billion from the G7 by 2027
    The initiative is a new version of Biden’s “Build Back Better World,” which he revealed at last year’s summit.    Additionally, Biden claimed the effort is critical to America’s economic and national security.
    “I want to be clear; this isn’t aid or charity,” he stated.    “It’s an investment that will deliver returns for everyone, including the American people and the people of all our nations.    It will boost all of our economies and it’s a chance for us to share our positive vision for the future, and let communities around the world see themselves and see for themselves the concrete benefits of partnering with democracies.”
    Meanwhile, leaders will continue their meetings in Germany until June 28.    Biden will head to Spain soon after to attend the NATO summit in Madrid.

6/28/2022 Zelenskyy: Forces face urgent moment - G-7 leaders pledge to provide aid to Ukraine ‘for as long as it takes’ by Zeke Miller, Darlene Superville and Geir Moulson, ASSOCIATED PRESS
The Group of Seven leaders gather for a lunch at the Schloss Elmau hotel in Elmau, Germany,
on Monday. Leaders of the major economies were poised to unveil plans to pursue a price cap on
Russian oil, raise tariffs on Russian goods and impose other new sanctions. Susan Walsh/AP
    ELMAU, Germany – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday underscored the urgency of helping his country’s military improve its position against Russia in a video meeting with leading economic powers, who in turn pledged to support Ukraine 'for as long as it takes.'
    Zelenskyy addressed the delicacy of the moment for Ukraine in its war with Russia to the Group of Seven summit as the leaders of the major economies prepared to unveil plans to pursue a price cap on Russian oil, raise tariffs on Russian goods and impose other new sanctions.
    In addition, the U.S. was preparing to announce the purchase of an advanced surface-to-air missile system for Kyiv to help Ukraine fight back against Vladimir Putin’s aggression, a day after Russian missiles hit the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv for the first time in weeks and as its military continued a full-on assault on the last remaining Ukrainian redoubt in the Luhansk region in the east.
    The new aid and efforts by the G-7 leaders to punish Moscow come as Zelenskyy has openly worried that the West has become fatigued by the cost of a war that is contributing to soaring energy costs and price hikes on essential goods around the globe.    The Ukrainian leader discussed his strategy for the course of the war, which has transformed into a bloody artillery battle in the country’s west and east.
    U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Zelenskyy’s top request was for further air defense systems, followed by economic support to help his government meet its financial obligations.    Sullivan said most of the conversation was 'about the way forward and how President Zelenskyy sees the course of the war.'    Zelenskyy also briefed the G–7 leaders on how his administration is using the assistance he’s received to date 'to maximize Ukraine’s capacity both to resist Russian advances, and to pursue counter attacks where possible,' Sullivan said.
    Sullivan added that the Ukrainian leader was 'very much focused on trying to ensure that Ukraine is in as advantageous a position on the battlefield as possible' in coming months because 'he believes that a grinding conflict is not in the interest of the Ukrainian people.'
    Zelenskyy also told the leaders that he needs to be in stronger position before engaging in peace talks with Russia, according to a senior French diplomat, who spoke under condition of anonymity in line with the French presidency’s customary practices.
    After hearing from Zelenskyy, the leaders pledged in a statement to support Ukraine 'for as long as it takes.'    They said it is up to Ukraine to decide on a future peace settlement.
    Leaders were also finalizing the deal to seek a price cap. G-7 finance ministers will resolve details of how it would work, according to a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to preview announcements from the summit.
    Some market analysts doubt how effective a price cap on Russian oil would be, as enforcement by the G-7 would likely depend on cooperation from India and China.
    'It is questionable whether countries like India and China will agree to cease purchasing Russian oil, especially as it is trading at a significant discount on the global market price,' said Carsten Fritsch, a commodities analyst at Commerzbank.
    The largest democratic economies will also commit to raising tariffs on Russian imports to their countries, with the U.S. announcing new tariffs on 570 categories of goods.    President Joe Biden on Tuesday increased the tax to 35% on certain Russian-made goods.
    Biden is expected to soon announce the U.S. is purchasing NASAMS, a Norwegian-developed anti-aircraft system, to provide medium-to-long-range defense for Ukraine, according to a person familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.    NASAMS is the same system used by the U.S. to protect the sensitive airspace around the White House and U.S. Capitol in Washington.
    Additional aid includes more ammunition for Ukrainian artillery, as well as counter-battery radars, to help counter the Russian assault in the Donbas, the person said.    Biden is also announcing a $7.5billion commitment to help Ukraine’s government meet its expenses, as part of a drawdown of the $40billion military and economic aid package he signed into law last month.
    German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who is hosting the summit in the German Alps, said after meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that 'we are taking tough decisions, that we are also cautious, that we will help ... Ukraine as much as possible but that we also avoid that there will be a big conflict between Russia and NATO.'
    Britain’s Boris Johnson said that, under the circumstances, the G-7 has to 'continue to help the Ukrainians to rebuild their economy, to get their grain out, to export their grain, and, of course, we have to help them to protect themselves.    And that’s what we’re going to continue to do.'
    In Brussels, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the military alliance will increase the size of its rapid reaction forces nearly eightfold to 300,000 troops as part of its response to an 'era of strategic competition.'    The NATO response force currently has about 40,000 soldiers, which can deploy quickly when needed.
    Stoltenberg commented before he opens a NATO summit Tuesday in Madrid. The organization’s 30 member countries are expected to also agree on further support for Ukraine.
    The G-7 already is committed to help finance Ukraine’s immediate needs and plans support to rebuild its economy long term.    Finance ministers from the group last month agreed to provide $19.8billion in economic aid to help Kyiv keep basic services functioning and continue its defense against Russian forces.
    A senior U.S. administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations among G-7 leaders, said the U.S. and Europe are aligned in their aims for a negotiated end to the conflict, even if the nature of their outreach differs.

6/28/2022 NATO Expansion Moves Ahead With Finland, Sweden Agreement by Natalia Drozdiak, Kati Pohjanpalo and Firat Kozok - Bloomberg
    (Bloomberg) -- NATO moved one step closer to bolstering its eastern front with Russia after Turkey dropped its opposition to Swedish and Finnish bids to join the military alliance.
    The deal reached on Tuesday night as leaders gathered in Madrid to discuss NATO’s future path all but ensures a major expansion on Russia’s doorstep.    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters on Wednesday that the alliance would invite the two Nordic countries to join while leaders are still in the Spanish capital.
    Stoltenberg called the invitation “a historic decision,” with the alliance’s 30 members then due to ratify membership.    “I expect that also to go rather quickly because allies are ready to make that ratification process happen as quickly as possible,” he said.
    The move will radically change the defense dynamic of Europe, stabilizing security of the group’s Baltic members.    The leaders will discuss issues including boosting NATO’s deterrence and defense, support for Ukraine, and sign off on long-term strategic guidelines.
Turkey agreed to support inviting the two Nordic countries into the military alliance, after receiving pledges from Finland and Sweden addressing its security concerns, including restrictions on Kurdish groups that Turkey considers terrorists, and avoiding arms embargoes.
    “The talks were intense and tough, not in mood, but in terms of the subject matter, and after four hours, we reached an understanding,” Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said.    “Turkey becoming an ally now could impact the considerations” on arms export permits on a case-by-case basis, he added.
    Membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization for the two previously neutral countries would mark a significant shift in the European security landscape after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met earlier on Tuesday with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson, Niinisto and Stoltenberg to hammer out the agreement.
    The alliance is sending “a very clear message to President Putin that NATO’s door is open,” Stoltenberg said on Tuesday.    “He wanted less NATO, now President Putin is getting more NATO, on his borders.    So what he gets is the opposite of what he actually demanded.”
    The membership process will still take many months, including ratification from NATO members’ parliaments, before Finland and Sweden become members and can benefit from the alliance’s article 5 collective defense commitments.
    Stoltenberg said he expected allies to sign the Nordic countries’ accession protocols “immediately” after the summit.    All 30 alliance members need to sign off.
    A senior US administration official said President Joe Biden’s goal this week was to help get the deal across the finish line.     Biden told Erdogan Tuesday morning in a phone call that he should seize the moment and finalize negotiations for an agreement during the Madrid summit.
U.S. to press Turkey as Finland, Sweden hope for NATO breakthrough
    There were no US concessions to Turkey to get the deal completed and Turkey never tied long-standing requests like F-16 fighter jets to any agreement to allow Sweden and Finland to begin the process of joining the alliance, the official told reporters Tuesday evening after it was announced.
    “It’s good for Sweden and Finland’s security but in equal measure it is good for NATO as we would contribute to the common security of the alliance,” Andersson said in a phone interview.    “Sweden and Finland were able to explain our work against terrorism and how we have tightened legislation and will continue to strengthen it.”
    The US has stressed that bringing Finland and Sweden into the fold could make the alliance more secure.    Turkey’s block complicated the allies’ efforts to present a united front in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
© Bloomberg Path to NATO Membership
    Sweden has tightened laws on terrorism in recent years, and more steps in that direction are under way.    Niinisto has said Finland’s anti-terror legislation is on par with current NATO members following a revamp last year.
    The Nordic nations have also highlighted constitutional protections for freedom of speech, meaning they could not prevent peaceful Kurdish demonstrations, and said any extraditions requested by Turkey must be ruled on by courts.
    When it comes to lifting bans on arms exports, Andersson in June signaled that the Swedish authorities that grant arms-export approvals may take a different view on shipments to Turkey in light of the NATO membership bid.
    Throughout the negotiations, Finland and Sweden insisted they meet all NATO’s entry criteria.
    Finland, which has 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) of border with Russia and a history of wars against its eastern neighbor, was driven into NATO’s fold by Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, and pulled neighboring Sweden along.
    The attack shifted popular opinion overnight, with policy makers rapidly kicking off the process to join.
© Bloomberg NATO Fortified | The alliance would have more control of the Baltic Sea if Sweden and Finland joined
    Both nations’ militaries are compatible with NATO and include a large number of artillery and tanks.    Finland has held onto a conscription-based system, meaning about 900,000 citizens in a country of 5.5 million have had military training, and it’s able to deploy 280,000 of them in war time. Sweden brought back military conscription from 2018.

6/29/2022 Biden Announces Increase Of US Forces In Europe by OAN NEWSROOM
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, left, and U.S. President Joe Biden speak before attending a round table meeting
at a NATO summit in Madrid, Spain on Wednesday, June 29, 2022. North Atlantic Treaty Organization heads of state
will meet for a NATO summit in Madrid from Tuesday through Thursday. (Brendan Smialowski/Pool Photo via AP)
    President Joe Biden announced the US is ramping up forces in Europe amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
    During a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Spain Wednesday, he said the US is enhancing its “forced posture” in Europe.
    Biden revealed the US will be establishing a permanent headquarters in Poland for the Fifth Army Corps, which are the first permanent American forces on NATO’s Eastern Flank.    He also announced the nation will deploy thousands of additional troops in Romania and Baltic states on a rotating basis.
    “And together our allies, we’re going to make sure that NATO is ready to meet threats from all directions across every domain: land, air and the sea,” Biden stated.    “At the moment when Putin has shattered peace in Europe and attacked the very, very tenets of rule based order, the United States and our allies, we’re going to step up, we’re stepping up.    We’re proving that NATO is more needed now than it ever has been and is as important as it ever has been.”
    The President emphasized bolstering NATO’s strength is crucial.    Biden also praised Sweden and Finland for their push to join the alliance and said it will make NATO stronger as well as more secure.

6/29/2022 NATO Formally Invites Finland, Sweden by OAN NEWSROOM
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the White House in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced the alliance has formally invited Finland and Sweden to join.    During a press conference in Spain Wednesday, he thanked both countries and Turkey for coming to an agreement to pave the way for the move.
    Turkey had threatened to veto both nations potential ascension, but dropped its opposition after reaching a deal addressing its concerns regarding arms exports and the fight against terrorism.
    Stoltenberg asserted the alliance is not going to allow Russia to intimidate its efforts to expand.    He also said NATO leaders have endorsed a new strategic concept, making it clear that Russia poses the greatest threat to the alliance.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, center, shakes hands with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg,
second left, after signing a memorandum in which Turkey agrees to Finland and Sweden’s membership of
the defense alliance in Madrid, Spain on Tuesday, June 28, 2022. North Atlantic Treaty Organization heads
of state will meet for a summit in Madrid from Tuesday through Thursday. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
    Meanwhile, President Joe Biden announced the US is ramping up forces in Europe amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.    During a meeting with Stoltenberg in Spain Wednesday, he said the US is enhancing its “forced posture” in Europe.    The President also praised Sweden and Finland for their push to join the alliance and said it will make NATO stronger as well as more secure.

6/30/2022 US considering sale of fighter jets to Turkey - Biden: US to set up permanent military presence in Poland by Francesca Chambers, USA TODAY
“We’re stepping up,” President Joe Biden tells NATO leaders, announcing more troops in Europe. SUSAN WALSH/POOL/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES
    MADRID – President Joe Biden pledged Wednesday to boost the U.S. military presence in eastern Europe, including establishing a permanent presence in Poland, as he gathered Wednesday with other NATO leaders at a summit intended to show resolve against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.
    “In a moment when Putin has shattered peace in Europe and attacked the very, very tenets of rule-based order, the United States and our allies, we’re going to step up.    We’re stepping up,” Biden said at the NATO summit in Madrid.
    Biden said the U.S. would also enhance its rotational deployments in the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
    The U.S. also is sending two additional F-35 squadrons to the U.K., stationing two more destroyers in Spain and will improve defense capabilities in Germany and Italy.
    Working with military allies, Biden said the U.S. would help ensure that NATO nations are “ready to meet threats from all directions, across every domain.”
    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said this week the organization would put 300,000 troops on high alert, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.    More than 40,000 troops currently are under NATO command.
    The U.S. has deployed or extended the deployment of more than 20,000 additional forces to Europe since the start of Putin’s war against Ukraine in February, National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said.
    That brings the number of American service members on the continent to more 100,000, Kirby said.
    Wednesday was the first full day of the summit. Leaders will meet again on Thursday.
    Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea’s decision to attend the summit for the first time is significant.    It demonstrates NATO nations’ growing concerns about the rising influence of China in the Indo-Pacific.
    Biden has sought to neutralize China in Russia’s war against Ukraine.    But will Indo-Pacific powers aligning themselves more closely with the West and NATO’s strategic concept naming China as an area of concern change Xi Jinping’s calculation change?
    How the West handles Russian aggression in Ukraine will affect how Xi approaches Taiwan, the U.S. president has stressed.
    On a trip to Asia last month, Biden said China is “flirting with danger” and recommitted the U.S. to defending Taiwan, which is a democratically governed part of China, if Xi attempts to take control by force.
    The U.S. signaled its support on Wednesday for the sale of new F-16 fighter jets to Turkey ahead of a meeting in Madrid between Biden and the Turkish president.
    “The United States supports Turkey’s modernization of its fighter fleet because that is a contribution to NATO security and therefore American security,” the Department of Defense’s Wallander said.
    Turkey had been blocking Sweden and Finland’s application to join NATO but removed its opposition on the first day of the summit – hours after Biden spoke to Erdog?an by phone.
    An official told reporters traveling with Biden in Madrid that the U.S. did not offer Turkey anything to drop its objections.    The president did not respond to a question later in the day about the possible sale of F-16 jets.
    In an interview at the NATO summit, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., noted that there were “issues between Sweden, Finland and Turkey” that were “apparently” resolved.
    “But it took the other members like the United States to be at the table to talk about other issues on Turkey’s mind to finally close the deal,” Durbin said.
    Durbin said that if a deal was struck because the U.S. agreed to sell Turkey fighter jets he would support the sale.
    “I think that the accession of Finland and Sweden changes the calculus of NATO protection."    And Putin could not have imagined that NATO would be even stronger He said of the potential fighter jet sale: “If that’s what it took to close the deal, then I certainly support it.    I think that the accession of Finland and Sweden changes the calculus of the NATO protection, and Putin could not have imagined that NATO would be even stronger after his invasion.”

6/30/2022 NATO summit pivots to highlight Chinese ‘challenges’ for 1st time by Joseph Wilson, Jill Lawless and Sylvie Corbet, ASSOCIATED PRESS
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and his wife Ingrid Schulerud arrive for a visit to the Prado Museum in Madrid on Wednesday
    MADRID – NATO has for the first time singled out China as one of its strategic priorities for the next decade, warning about its growing military ambitions, confrontational rhetoric toward Taiwan and other neighbors, and increasingly close ties to Russia.
    While Russia’s war against Ukraine has dominated discussions at the NATO summit, China earned a place Wednesday among the Western alliance’s most worrying security concerns.
    “China is substantially building up its military forces, including nuclear weapons, bullying its neighbors, threatening Taiwan … monitoring and controlling its own citizens through advanced technology, and spreading Russian lies and disinformation,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said after presenting NATO’s ten-year Strategic Concept.
    “China is not our adversary,” Stoltenberg said, “but we must be clear-eyed about the serious challenges it represents.”
    The strategic document directed its harshest language at Russia, but the mere mention of China was significant; the 2010 document did not discuss China.    The official turn by NATO puts the world’s largest military alliance based on the United States armed forces on guard against China, which has the world’s second-largest economy and a rapidly growing military, both in numbers and in top-notch technology.
    “One of the things that (China’s) doing is seeking to undermine the rules based international order that we adhere to, that we believe in, that we helped build,” said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.    “And if China’s challenging it in one way or another, we will stand up to that.”
    China has yet to condemn Russia’s four-month long war against Ukraine and has criticized sanctions brought against Moscow by NATO members.     A year ago, Russia and China extended a friendship treaty promising even more “strategic cooperation” in defending their common interests.    That was followed up in November with an agreement to strengthen their military ties.    Weeks before Russia’s February invasion, Chinese leader Xi Jinping hosted his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for a summit at which they pledged a partnership that had “no limits.”
    Western leaders are concerned that Russia’s aggression in Ukraine could embolden China to be more assertive over Taiwan.    China considers Taiwan a part of its territory with no right to independent recognition as a state or representation on the world stage.
    Speaking at an event in Madrid that was not part of the NATO summit, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said that unless China is checked “there is a real risk that they draw the wrong idea which results in a catastrophic miscalculation such as invading Taiwan,” referring to the self-governing island that China claims as a province.
    However, in a move interpreted to show it was somewhat uneasy over the war in Ukraine, China voted to abstain in a United Nations motion to demand Russia halt its attack.
    China has greatly increased its diplomatic reach via foreign investment, above all in central Asia and Africa.    Now it is seeking to match that with greater military might, especially in the South China Sea where it has built bases on disputed islands.    The U.S. navy has pushed back by conducting drills in those waters.
    The gathering of world leaders in Madrid, both inside the NATO summit and on its sidelines, included many from Asian nations.
    It was the first time that the leaders of Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand were invited to a NATO summit.    They participated in a NATO session on new global challenges after holding a side meeting outside of the summit.    And United States president Joe Biden sat down with the leaders of Japan and South Korea.
    Following what he called a “very successful” meeting with the other three Pacific nations, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese called for China to finally denounce Russia’s aggressions.
    Earlier on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that NATO members had been “creating tension and provoking conflicts” by sending warships and aircraft into areas close to the Asian mainland and the South China Sea.
    NATO should “give up the Cold War mentality, zero-sum game and the practice of creating enemies, and not try to mess up Asia and the whole world after disrupting Europe,” Zhao said.
    A surveillance aircraft controlled by NATO member Canada was recently intercepted by a Chinese fighter in international airspace.    Canadian officials called the Chinese pilot’s action reckless.
    Beijing continues to claim it is neutral in the Ukraine war, and it has accused NATO and the U.S. of provoking Russia into military action.
    “Facts have proven that sanctions are not a way out of conflicts, and the continued delivery of weapons will not help realize peace,” Zhao said.
ANDREA COMAS/AP “China is not our adversary, but we must be clear-eyed about the serious challenges it represents.” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg

7/1/2022 Poland completes wall on Belarus border - Structure praised and criticized by Vanessa Gera and Kirsten Grieshaber. ASSOCIATED PRESS
Polish border guards patrol near Kuznice, Poland, on Thursday along
a newly built metal wall on the border with Belarus. MICHAL DYJUK/AP
    WARSAW, Poland – A year after migrants started crossing into the European Union from Belarus to Poland, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and top security officials visited the border area on Thursday to mark the completion of a new steel wall.
    On Friday, Polish authorities will also lift a state of emergency along the border that has blocked journalists, rights workers and others from witnessing a human rights crisis.    At the very least, 20 migrants have died in the area’s freezing forests and bogs.
    The Polish government characterizes the wall as part of the fight against Russia; human rights defenders see it as representing a huge double standard, with groups of white Christian refugees from Ukraine made up mostly of women welcomed but predominantly male Muslims from Syria and other countries rejected and mistreated.
    “The first sign of the war in Ukraine was (Belarus President) Alexander Lukashenko’s attack on the Polish border with Belarus,” Morawiecki told a news conference.
    “It was thanks to (our) political foresight and the anticipation of what may happen that we may focus now on helping Ukraine, which is fighting to protect its sovereignty,” Morawiecki said.
    As Poland opened its gates to millions of Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion, work was well underway to build the 18-foot-high wall along 115 miles of its northern frontier with Belarus.
    It still needs electronic surveillance systems to be installed.
    It’s meant to keep out asylum seekers of a different type: those fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, who were encouraged to try their luck by Belarus’ authoritarian regime – a close ally of Russia – as part of a feud with the EU.
    One of the asylum-seekers was 32-year-old Ali, who left Syria late last year after reading on social media that the easiest way into the EU was to fly to Belarus and walk into Poland.
    Ali, from a village outside Hama in western Syria, flew to the Belarusian capital, Minsk, and set out to find an unguarded spot in the forest where he could sneak over into the EU.
    “I was looking for a place where I can live in safety, away from the oppression and hopelessness back home,” he said in an interview this week with The Associated Press in Berlin.    Ali, who didn’t give his last name, fearing repercussions for his family, was not prepared for the violence and subzero temperatures that awaited him in the vast forests and swamps.
    “There were nights when I went to sleep on the bare ground in the woods thinking I would not wake up again,” Ali said.
    “If you give a lift to a refugee at the Ukrainian border you are a hero. If you, do it at the Belarus border you are a smuggler and could end up in jail for eight years,” said Natalia Gebert, founder and CEO of Dom Otwarty, or Open House, a Polish NGO that helps refugees.
    Belarus had never before been a key migration route into the EU – until its President Alexander Lukashenko began encouraging would-be asylum-seekers in the Middle East to travel to Minsk. Soon, people from Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan and African countries flocked to the EU’s eastern edge, entering Poland and neighboring Lithuania and Latvia.
    EU leaders accused Lukashenko of waging “hybrid warfare” in revenge for the bloc’s sanctions over the regime’s treatment of dissidents.    Poland’s government says Russia is complicit, given Lukashenko’s alliance with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
    Though migration slowed in the winter, people continued to try to enter the EU through Poland, a route seen as less dangerous than crossing the Mediterranean Sea, where many have drowned in past years, Gebert said.
    Ali, whose small makeup business in Syria was destroyed when Sunni extremists learned he belonged to the Alawite religious minority, says he got pushed back six times by Polish border guards.
    But Belarusian guards beat him, stole his money and forced him to take off all his clothes in the middle of the winter. He wanted to give up and return to Minsk, but the guards wouldn’t let him.    They made him and others lie on the cold ground, screamed at them, approached closely with a snarling dog and kicked Ali repeatedly in the chest.
    While some Poles support the government’s tough stance, many border region residents have throughout the winter and spring sought to help migrants trapped in the forest, several requiring medical help.

6/30/2022 NATO: China’s Military Build-Up Poses Serious Concern by OAN NEWSROOM
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a media conference at the end of a NATO summit
in Madrid, Spain on Thursday, June 30, 2022. North Atlantic Treaty Organization heads of state
met for the final day of a NATO summit in Madrid on Thursday. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg sounded the alarm regarding China’s military build-up and its growing relationship with Russia.    At the NATO summit in Madrid, the Bloc’s leaders labeled Moscow as top concern for the alliance and they also criticized Beijing’s increasing assertiveness on the world stage.
    “China is not our adversary, but we must be clear eyed about the serious challenges it represents,” noted the Secretary General.
    Stoltenberg also unveiled a new strategic concept on China.     he organization is concerned about Beijing’s strategic investments around the globe and its military operations in the South China Sea.
    “China is substantially building up its military forces, including nuclear weapons, bullying its neighbors and threatening Taiwan, investing heavily in critical infrastructure, including in allied countries,” Stoltenberg explained.
    Military officials from Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea also attended the meeting in Madrid, in turn, drawing criticism from China.    Beijing is now warning against any expansion of NATO in the Asia-Pacific region, which it says may lead to conflict.

7/1/2022 Biden: We’ll Stick With Ukraine For ‘As Long As It Takes’ by OAN NEWSROOM
President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference on the final day
of the NATO summit in Madrid, Thursday, June 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
    President Joe Biden reaffirmed America’s commitment to help Ukraine combat Russia’s invasion. He pledged another $800 million in security assistance to Ukraine.    While wrapping up the NATO summit in Madrid on Thursday, Biden said the new package includes more ammunition and artillery and advanced air defense systems.
    “The war could end tomorrow, by the way, if Russia stops its irrational behavior,” stated the President.    “So, you know, when the war will end, you know I hope it ends sooner than later, but for it to end they have to be in a position where…the Ukrainians have all that they can reasonably expect.    We can reasonably expect to get to them in order to provide for provide for their physical security and their defenses.”
    This came after Biden shared a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan while on his way to the summit in which he urged him to sign off on Finland and Sweden joining the NATO alliance.
    Leaders strengthened defense along the eastern flank as Biden announced a boost of US military presence in Europe in response to Russian threats.    This includes adding a permanent army headquarters in Poland, sending new warships to Spain fighter jet squadrons to Britain and deploying additional troops to Romania as well as increasing rotational deployments in the Baltic states.
    Biden assured the transatlantic alliance is stronger than ever before, but continued to blame Russia’s war on Ukraine for America’s rampant inflation.
    “But the bottom line is ultimately the reason why gas prices are up is because of Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia,” said the President.    “The reason why the food crisis exists is because of Russia. Russia not allowing grain to get out of Ukraine and so, that’s the that’s the way in which I think we should move. And I think it will have a positive impact on the price at the pump as well.”
    In the meantime, as Biden returns to the White House, he’s scheduled to head to Saudi Arabia next month.
    While sending Americans into further turmoil, Biden said he will not directly ask the Saudi government to increase oil production, which could bring down the global price of energy.

7/2/2022 EU preps plan to go without Russian energy - Initiative designed for needy nations by ASSOCIATED PRESS
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says the initiative would build on EU moves
to ditch Russian coal, oil and natural gas and would complement a bloc-wide push to accelerate
the development of renewable energy such as wind and solar power. BERNAT ARMANGUE/AP FILE
    PRAGUE – The European Union’s executive arm on Friday pledged to draft an emergency plan this month aimed at helping member countries do without Russian energy in the wake of the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.
    European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the initiative would build on EU moves to ditch Russian coal, oil and natural gas and would complement a bloc-wide push to accelerate the development of renewable energy such as wind and solar power.
    “We are preparing emergency plans for Europe,” von der Leyen said in the Czech town of Litomysl, where she marked the start of the country’s six-month term as holder of the rotating EU presidency.
    “Energy prices are high. People – rightly so – expect us to do something about it.”
    She said the contingency plan, due around mid-July, would focus on two key points, including having a “clear idea” of where to cut back on Russian energy supply and to do it “in a smart way” as well as to rally around EU countries facing supply squeezes.
    Von der Leyen said the plan would be developed in coordination with the Czech government, whose prime minister highlighted the political pressure across the EU to act.
    “Energy prices are suffocating our economy,” Premier Petr Fiala said alongside von der Leyen.    “This is our biggest test for the coming months.”
    The commission announced in May a plan dubbed REPowerEU to abandon Russian energy amid the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine, proposing a nearly $312 billion package that includes more efficient use of fuels and faster rollout of renewable power.    “The next step is to make available to the EU member states the ($312 billion) that come along with REPpowerEU, and therefore, of course, we count on your presidency to reach rapidly agreement on the adoption of the REPowerEU regulation,” von der Leyen told the Czech premier.
    This investment initiative is meant to help the 27 EU countries start weaning themselves off Russian fossil fuels this year.
    The goal is to deprive Russia, the EU’s main supplier of oil, natural gas and coal, of tens of billions in revenue and strengthen EU climate policies.

7/2/2022 Inflation hits record for euro countries - 8.6% highest since record-keeping began in 1997 by Kelvin Chan, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    LONDON – Inflation in countries using the euro set another eye-watering record, pushed higher by a huge increase in energy costs fueled partly by Russia’s war in Ukraine.
    Annual inflation in the eurozone’s 19 countries hit 8.6% in June, surging past the 8.1% recorded in May, according to the latest numbers published Friday by the European Union statistics agency, Eurostat.    Inflation is at its highest level since recordkeeping for the euro began in 1997.
    Energy prices rocketed 41.9%, and prices for food, alcohol and tobacco were up 8.9%, both faster than the increases recorded the previous month.
    Demand for energy has risen as the global economy bounced back from the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine made things worse.
    European Union leaders agreed to ban most Russian oil imports by the year’s end, driving a price spike.
    The 27-nation bloc wants to punish Moscow and reduce its reliance on Russian energy, but it’s also adding to financial pain for people and businesses as utility bills and prices at the pump soar.
    Russia also reduced deliveries of natural gas used to power industry and generate electricity last month to several EU countries like Germany, Italy and Austria, on top of cutting off gas to France, Poland, Bulgaria and others.
    “Importantly, the oil embargo and gas supply squeeze that unfolded over the month of June have caused energy prices to soar,” ING Bank’s senior eurozone economist, Bert Colijn, wrote in a commentary.
    Rising consumer prices are a problem worldwide, with the U.S. and Britain seeing inflation hit 40-year highs of 8.6% and 9.1%, respectively.    That has led the U.S. Federal Reserve, Bank of England and other central banks worldwide to approve a series of interest rate hikes to combat inflation.
    The European Central Bank is planning its first interest rate hike in 11 years this month, followed by another increase in September.    Bank President Christine Lagarde said this week that she wants to move gradually to tackle soaring consumer prices, to avoid stifling the economic recovery.

7/2/2022 Biden offshore drilling proposal would allow up to 11 sales by Janet McConnaughey and Matthew Brown, ASSOCIATED PRESS
A man fishes near docked oil drilling platforms in Port Aransas, Texas. ERIC GAY/AP FILE
    NEW ORLEANS – President Joe Biden’s administration on Friday proposed up to 10 oil and gas lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and one off the Alaska coast over the next five years – going against the Democrat’s climate promises but scaling back a Trump-era plan that called for dozens of offshore drilling opportunities including in undeveloped areas.
    Administration officials said fewer than 11 lease sales – or even no lease sales at all – could occur, with a final decision not due for months.    New drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts would be blocked, after being considered under Trump.
    The proposal brought backlash from both environmentalists – who accused Biden of betraying the climate cause – and oil industry officials and allies, who said it would do little to help counter high energy prices.
    Gasoline prices averaged $4.84 a gallon on Friday, a strain on commuters and a political albatross for Biden’s felt an low Democrats going into the midterm elections.    That has left the White House scrambling for solutions, including Biden’s call last week for suspension of the 18.4 cents a gallon federal gas tax.
    The Interior Department had suspended lease sales in late January because of climate concerns but was forced to resume them by a U.S. district judge in Louisiana.
    The Biden administration cited conflicting court rulings about that decision when it canceled the last scheduled lease sales in the Gulf and Alaska during the previous offshore leasing cycle.    That prior five-year cycle, a program adopted under former President Barack Obama, expired on Thursday.
    There will be a months-long gap before a new plan can be put in place.    The oil industry and its allies say the delay could cause problems in planning new drilling and potentially lead to decreased oil production.
    There’s unlikely to be an offshore lease sale until well into next year, said Frank Macchiarola, senior vice president of the American Petroleum Institute, the industry’s top lobbying group.
    And, he said, administration officials “went out of their way to say” there might not be any lease sales at all.
    “It’s very important for the administration to send a signal to the global oil markets that the United States is serious about increasing supply … for the long term,” he said, repeating a longtime claim by industry officials and Republicans that ties uncertainty over oil supply to high prices.
    Biden in recent weeks has criticized oil producers and refiners for maximizing profits and making “more money God,” rather than increasing production in response to higher prices as the economy recovers from the pandemic and feels the effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
    The leasing announcement was a bitter disappointment to environmentalists and some Democrats who rallied around then-candidate Biden when he promised to end new drilling in federal lands and waters.
    The proposal comes a day after the administration held its first onshore lease sales, drawing $22 million in an auction that gives energy companies drilling rights on about 110 square miles in seven western states.
    The sales came despite the administration’s own findings that burning oil and gas from the parcels could cause billions of dollars in potential future climate damages.
    “Our public lands and waters are already responsible for nearly a quarter of the country’s carbon pollution each year.    Adding any new lease sales to that equation while the climate crisis is unfolding all around us is nonsensical,” said House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva, D-Arizona.

7/3/2022 Germans facing possible gas shortage by Kirsten Grieshaber, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Germany’s regulatory agency for energy has called on residents to save energy
amid fears Russia might cut off natural gas supplies. STEFAN SAUER/DPA VIA AP, FILE
    BERLIN – Fearing Russia might cut off natural gas supplies, the head of Germany’s regulatory agency for energy called on residents Saturday to save energy and to prepare for winter, when use increases.
    Federal Network Agency President Klaus Mueller urged house and apartment owners to have their gas boilers and radiators checked and adjusted to maximize their efficiency.
    “Maintenance can reduce gas consumption by 10% to 15%,” he told Funke Mediengruppe, a German newspaper and magazine publisher.
    Mueller said residents and property owners need to use the 12 weeks before cold weather sets in to get ready.    He said families should start talking now about “whether every room needs to be set at its usual temperature in the winter – or whether some rooms can be a little colder.”
    The appeal came after Russia reduced gas flows to Germany, Italy, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia last month, as European Union countries scramble to refill storage facilities with the fuel used to generate electricity, power industry and heat homes in the winter.
    Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom blamed a technical problem for the reduction in natural gas flowing through Nord Stream 1, a pipeline which runs under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany.
    The company said equipment getting refurbished in Canada was stuck there because of Western sanctions over Russia’s war in Ukraine.
    German leaders have rejected that explanation and called the reductions a political move in reaction to the European Union’s sanctions against Russia after it invaded Ukraine.
    Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck, who is also Germany’s economy and climate minister and responsible for energy, has warned a “blockade” of the pipeline is possible starting July 11, when regular maintenance work is due to start.    In previous summers, the work has entailed shutting Nord Stream 1 for about 10 days, he said.
    The question is whether the upcoming regular maintenance of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline will turn into “a longer-lasting political maintenance,” the energy regulator’s Mueller said.
    If the gas flow from Russia is “to be lowered for a longer period of time, we will have to talk more seriously about savings,” he said.
    According to Mueller, in the event of a gas supply stoppage, private households would be specially protected, as would hospitals or nursing homes.
    “I can promise that we will do everything we can to avoid private households being without gas,” he said, adding: “We learned from the coronavirus crisis that we shouldn’t make promises if we’re not entirely sure we can keep them.”
    He said his agency “does not see a scenario in which there is no more gas coming to Germany at all.”
    Also on Saturday, German chemical and consumer goods company Henkel said it was considering encouraging its employees to work from home in the winter as a response to a possible supply shortage.

7/3/2022 Saudi Security Forces Show Strength Ahead Of Hajj, Biden Visit by OAN NEWSROOM
Members of the Saudi special forces perform a military parade in preparation for the annual
Hajj pilgrimage, in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, July 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
    Saudi Arabia held a rare demonstration of its security forces and military preparedness ahead of Joe Biden’s visit.    On Sunday, Saudi Security Forces held a parade in the city of Mecca as part of preparations for a major religious holiday.
    Authorities said millions of Muslim’s visited Mecca for Hajj celebrations, but only vaccinated or immunized worshippers were allowed to attend public events.    Officials said the nation is prepared to address any potential security challenges.
    “By having these security forces and all military forces participating here today, we affirm our readiness to serve the guests of God,” said the Ministry of Interior spokesman Talal Al-Shalhoub.    “We are ready to implement the orders to preserve security and safety of the pilgrims in the state.    This parade reflects the efforts of the king’s government towards the importance of holding the pilgrimage rituals safely and in peace.”

    President Joe Biden said Thursday he will not directly ask Saudi Arabia’s leaders to increase oil production when he visits the kingdom.    He insisted that his trip to the Middle East is not focused on one-on-one engagement with King Salman or Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
    “That is not the purpose of this trip, I’m not going to ask them,” Biden stated.    “All the Gulf states are meeting.    I’ve indicated to them that I thought they should be increasing oil production generically, not to Saudi Arabia in particular.    I hope we see them in their own interests concluding that makes sense to do.”
    Joe Biden will visit Saudi Arabia to discuss mutual ties as part of his upcoming tour of the Middle East.    The tour will take place between July 13 and July 16.

7/5/2022 Israel says Iran military build up in Red Sea is threat to stability by Reuters
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) -Israel's defence minister said on Tuesday that Iran has been entrenching itself militarily in the Red Sea, calling it a threat to regional stability and trade.
© Reuters/Corinna Kern FILE PHOTO: Benny Gantz attends an election campaign rally in Ramat Gan
    "Today, we can confirm that Iran is methodically basing itself in the Red Sea, with warships patrolling the southern region," Defence Minister Benny Gantz said at an event in Athens.
    "In the last months, we have identified the most significant Iranian military presence in the area, in the past decade," he said.    Gantz's office said he presented satellite images of four Iranian warships patrolling the Red Sea.
Israel's military intel backs Iran deal? Iran Nuclear talks set to resume
    Iran has been building up its naval presence in the Red Sea over more than a decade in a move which it says is needed to protect Iranian oil tankers against the threat of piracy.
    Israel and a number of Arab countries share concerns about Iran's influence in the region as well as Tehran's nuclear programme.    Iran says its nuclear programme is peaceful.
    Ahead of a visit to the Middle East by U.S. President Joe Biden next week, Gantz has called for stronger security ties with Gulf Arab states that drew closer to Israel under a 2020 U.S.-sponsored diplomatic drive.
    On Saturday, Iran-backed Hezbollah, an armed group in Lebanon, sent three drones towards an Israeli offshore gas rig that were intercepted by Israel's military.
(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch Editing by Peter Graff and Catherine Evans)

7/6/2022 Revive Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Macron tells Lapid by LAHAV HARKOV – The Jerusalem Post
    PARIS – Prime Minister Yair Lapid has the potential to make historic peace with the Palestinians, French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday during the premier’s visit to the Elysee Palace.
© (photo credit: REUTERS/Johanna Geron) French President Emmanuel Macron welcomes Israeli Prime Minister
Yair Lapid as he arrives for a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, July 5, 2022.
    Macron called for “a return to political dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis.”
    “I know you can have a historic figure by launching a process that has been stopped for so long,” he said.
    Referring to the long-standing friendship between the leaders, Macron added: “I know from personal experience that you can be that figure.    You have the agenda; you have the commitment to peace.”
    “I know from personal experience that you can be that figure.    You have the agenda; you have the commitment to peace.”
Emmanuel Macron
    Lapid avoided mentioning the Palestinians in his remarks, focusing instead on the Iranian nuclear program and Hezbollah’s threats to Israeli natural-gas fields.
© Provided by The Jerusalem Post Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid delivers a joint statement with French President
Emmanuel Macron before a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, July 5, 2022. (Credit: REUTERS/Johanna Geron)
PM Lapid's first trip abroad
    The visit to Paris was Lapid’s first trip abroad as prime minister and a reunion of two politicians who have been friends for nearly a decade, since Lapid was finance minister and Macron was economy minister.    They bonded over forming centrist political parties and have discussed ways to promote centrist politics.    They are in regular contact over the WhatsApp messaging application.
    Macron grinned when Lapid arrived at the Elysee Palace in a Renault hatchback, and they embraced, walking into the presidential building with their arms around each other.    The French president was effusive in his praise of the new Israeli prime minister.
© Provided by The Jerusalem Post French President Emmanuel Macron waits for the arrival of Prime Minister
Yair Lapid at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, July 5, 2022. (Credit: REUTERS/Johanna Geron)
    “You chose France as your first visit abroad, something I found very moving, dear Yair,” Macron said.    “The people of Israel are lucky to have you as their new prime minister.”
    “It’s a true pleasure for my first visit as prime minister to be to a country and president that is a close friend,” Lapid said.
    Following his meeting with Macron, Lapid was asked whether he would meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.    Lapid said he would not “have a meeting for the sake of a meeting.    I would only do it if there was a chance of a positive result for Israel, so it is not at the agenda for the moment.”
    Lapid said, however, he would not rule out such a meeting.
    The Palestinian issue came up in the meeting with Macron, but it was only a small part of the conversation, a source in Lapid’s entourage said.    Macron understands that the makeup of the current Israeli government does not allow for major developments on that front, the source added.
Israel's foreign minister Yair Lapid to be next prime minister
    Macron said the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the 2015 Iran deal that Western powers have yet to give up on reviving, “will not be enough, but I do believe we need to keep Iran below the nuclear threshold.”
    “We need to continue talks with the Americans and negotiations on their regional and ballistic activities,” he said.
    Lapid said Israel and France “may disagree about what the content of the agreement should be, but we do not disagree on the facts: Iran continues to violate the agreement and develop its program, enriching uranium beyond the level it is allowed to and removing cameras from nuclear sites.”
    “We need to continue talks with the Americans and negotiations on their regional and ballistic activitiesEmmanuel Macron
© Provided by The Jerusalem Post Prime Minister Yair Lapid meets with
French President Emanuel Macron in Paris, July 5, 2022. (Credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
    “In 2018,” Macron was “the first leader to talk about the need for a new deal with Iran, with no expiration dates and coordinated international pressure to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear-threshold state,” he said.
    Macron made the 2018 proposal after then-US president Donald Trump left the JCPOA, and he has supported US President Joe Biden’s efforts to return to it.
    “The Americans and Europeans think there will not be an agreement with Iran,” Lapid said following the two-hour meeting.    “If there isn’t an agreement, we need something else.”
    The JCPOA is so favorable to Iran, “if Iran doesn’t agree to this, then nothing will happen unless there is a credible military threat,” he said.
    Israel also advocated for the parties to the JCPOA to institute snapback sanctions – a reinstatement of sanctions lifted if Iran violates the agreement.
    “I tell this to the French, the Americans, everyone,” Lapid said.    “It’s time for snapback.    We need to bring it to the UN Security Council.”
    Three days after the IAF shot down three drones that Hezbollah directed toward the Karish gas field in the Mediterranean Sea, Lapid said: “Israel will not sit back and do nothing given these repeated attacks.”
    “Hezbollah is a terrorist group that threatens Lebanon’s stability and sovereignty, threatens Israel’s security and harms the national interests of Lebanon,” he said at the Elysee Palace.
    Lapid showed Macron intelligence on how Hezbollah is threatening Lebanese and French interests.
    “This is connected to the attack on the Karish gas rig, which we feel is an attack on Israeli sovereignty,” Lapid said in a press briefing following the meeting.    “We want to prevent this from continuing so we don’t have to use military force.”
Macron said Lebanon’s stability is a key element of regional stability.
    “We will continue to help get Lebanon back on its feet,” he said.
    Macron called for the continuation of negotiations between Israel and Lebanon on their maritime border.    “The countries must reach an agreement to develop energy resources,” he said.
    The energy company Total, which is partially owned by the French government, has the rights to gas exploration in Lebanon’s economic waters, an Israeli official said, adding that settling the maritime border dispute with Israel would also benefit France.
    Macron also spoke of France’s strong relationship with Israel.
    “You can count on France’s commitment to Israel’s security and to make sure the region enjoys stability and security,” he said.    “You can count on my commitment to fight our common enemy – terrorism… Never forget that here, in Paris, you have a friend committed to Israel’s success in the region.”
    Lapid and Macron said they wanted to enhance the strategic dialogue between their countries on military and technological cooperation.
    “There had been a feeling that the days of war in Europe are over, but Ukraine showed us that isn’t true,” Lapid said.    “France is going to strengthen its army, and we have a lot to contribute on this front.”

    This RESOLUTION 2334 is what their concerns are because it is the event that will bring the 2,000 years of Bible prophecy that every person will realize all the prophets of the Bible have been telling us what is coming which forces it to occur - RESOLUTION 2334 “Reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under International Law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the Two-State Solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace;”]
    As you can see in the image above is called The G20 or Group of Twenty and is an intergovernmental forum comprising 19 countries and the European Union (EU).    It works to address major issues related to the global economy, such as international financial stability, climate change mitigation, and sustainable development, which I have written about for years but not once were they referred to as G20.
    The G20 is composed of most of the world's largest economies, including both industrialized and developing nations, and accounts for around 90% of gross world product (GWP), 75–80% of international trade, two-thirds of the global population, and roughly half the world's land area.
    The G20 was founded in 1999 in response to several world economic crises.    Since 2008, it has convened at least once a year, with summits involving each member's head of government or state, finance minister, foreign minister, and other high-ranking officials; the EU is represented by the European Commission and the European Central Bank.    Other countries, international organizations, and nongovernmental organizations are invited to attend the summits, some on a permanent basis.
    At its 2009 summit, the G20 declared itself the primary venue for international economic and financial cooperation.    The group's stature has risen during the subsequent decade, and it is recognized by analysts as exercising considerable global influence, and it is also criticized for its limited membership, lack of enforcement powers, and for the alleged undermining of existing international institutions.[Summits are often met with protests, particularly by anti-globalization groups.    And the article below is the first time it has been mentioned in the news in the year 2022 which to me in the end of a 72 year period of the Age of Aquarius an entity from 1950-2022.]

7/5/2022 Blinken sets G-20 meeting with Chinese FM; silent on Russia by MATTHEW LEE, AP Diplomatic Writer – Associated Press
    WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Antony Blinken will hold talks with his Chinese counterpart this week in Indonesia at a meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of 20 bloc of the world’s leading industrialized nations, the State Department said Tuesday.
© Provided by Associated Press FILE - US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken addresses the media during a press conference in Berlin, Germany,
Friday, June 24, 2022. Blinken will hold talks with his Chinese counterpart this week in Indonesia at a meeting of
foreign ministers from the Group of 20 bloc of nations, the State Department said Tuesday, July 5. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)
    Blinken will see China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the G-20 gathering in Bali, the department said in a statement that made no mention of any possible meeting between Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who will also be attending the G-20 event.
    Blinken and Lavrov last met in Geneva, Switzerland in January in what turned out to be a fruitless bid to forestall Russia's invasion of Ukraine a month later.
Blinken reaches out to neighbors at Americas Summit
    Since then, Blinken and Lavrov have not been in the same room, or even the same city, at the same time.    It was not immediately clear if either of the two would have time or desire for a discussion in Bali.
    The U.S. and China are at severe odds over numerous issues ranging from trade and human rights to Taiwan and disputes in the South China Sea.    They are also divided over Russia’s war in Ukraine, with China supporting the Russian explanation for the conflict.
    Blinken “will reinforce our commitment to working with international partners to confront global challenges, including food and energy insecurity and the threat Russia’s continued war against Ukraine presents to the international order,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
    From Bali, Blinken will travel to Bangkok, Thailand, to make up for a trip to the Thai capital that he was forced to cancel late last year due to COVID-19 reasons.

7/5/2022 Oil from U.S. reserves head overseas as gasoline prices stay high by Arathy Somasekhar - Reuters
© Reuters/ADREES LATIFFILE PHOTO: The Bryan Mound Strategic Petroleum Reserve is seen in an aerial photograph over Freeport, Texas
    HOUSTON (Reuters) - More than 5 million barrels of oil that were part of a historic U.S. emergency oil reserves release aimed at lowering domestic fuel prices were exported to Europe and Asia last month, according to data and sources, even as U.S. gasoline and diesel prices touched record highs.
    The export of crude and fuel is blunting the impact of the moves by U.S. President Joe Biden designed to lower record pump prices.    Biden on Saturday renewed a call for gasoline suppliers to cut their prices, drawing criticism from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
    About 1 million barrels per day is being released from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) through October.    The flow is draining the SPR, which last month fell to the lowest since 1986.    U.S. crude futures are above $105 per barrel and gasoline and diesel prices above $5 a gallon in one-fifth of the nation U.S. officials have said oil prices could be higher if the SPR had not been tapped.
© Reuters/JONATHAN BACHMANFILE PHOTO: Strategic Petroleum Reserve site at Bayou Choctaw, Louisiana
    The fourth-largest U.S. oil refiner, Phillips 66, shipped about 470,000 barrels of sour crude from the Big Hill SPR storage site in Texas to Trieste, Italy, according to U.S. Customs data.    Trieste is home to a pipeline that sends oil to refineries in central Europe.
    Rystad: Most of the OPEC countries aren't facing the same immediate concerns as net crude importers Atlantic Trading & Marketing (ATMI), an arm of French oil major TotalEnergies, exported 2 cargoes of 560,000 barrels each, the data showed.
    Phillips 66 declined to comment on trading activity.    ATMI did not respond to a request for comment.
    Cargoes of SPR crude were also headed to the Netherlands and to a Reliance refinery in India, an industry source said. A third cargo headed to China, another source said.
    At least one cargo of crude from the West Hackberry SPR site in Louisiana was set to be exported in July, a shipping source added.
    "Crude and fuel prices would likely be higher if (the SPR releases) hadn't happened, but at the same time, it isn't really having the effect that was assumed," said Matt Smith, lead oil analyst at Kpler.
    The latest exports follow three vessels that carried SPR crude to Europe in April helping replace Russian crude supplies.
    U.S. crude inventories are the lowest since 2004 as refineries run near peak levels.    Refineries in the U.S. Gulf coast were at 97.9% utilization, the most in three and a half years.
(Reporting by Arathy Somasekhar in Houston; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

7/6/2022 NATO Accession Protocols Begin For Finland, Sweden by OAN NEWSROOM
Finland’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto, left, Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde, right, and NATO Secretary General
Jens Stoltenberg attend a media conference after the signature of the NATO Accession Protocols for Finland
and Sweden in the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Tuesday, July 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)
    Finland and Sweden took one more step to joining the ranks of NATO.    According to reports Tuesday, all 30 members of the organization signed off on each nation’s accession protocols despite prior resistance from Turkey.
    This came after the three countries signed a trilateral agreement confirming Turkey’s support for Finland and Sweden becoming members of the organization.    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg spoke about the decision to begin the accession protocols during a press conference.
    “I commend all allies for moving so quickly in accepting Finland and Sweden applications for membership,” he stated.    “And I want to thank Turkey, Finland and Sweden for their constructive approach.    The trilateral agreement they signed at the Madrid summit made today possible.”
    In the meantime, each country’s membership bids are expected to be ratified within the coming weeks.

7/6/2022 Ahead of G-20 ministers' meeting, China slams US, NATO by Associated Press
    BEIJING (AP) — China launched a scathing attack on the U.S. and NATO on Wednesday, days before a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
© Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this image made from video, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson
Zhao Lijian gestures during a media briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office, on April 6, 2022,
in Beijing. China Wednesday, July 6, launched a scathing attack on the U.S. and NATO, days before a meeting
between U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. (AP Photo/Liu Zheng, File)
    Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian’s comments underscore the increasingly fractious relationship, along with China’s increasingly confrontational approach to foreign relations that heatedly rejects criticism.
    At last week’s NATO summit in Spain, Blinken accused China of “seeking to undermine the rules-based international order.”
    In his comments Wednesday, Zhao said the “so-called rules-based international order is actually a family rule made by a handful of countries to serve the U.S. self-interest.”
    Washington “observes international rules only as it sees fit,” he said, adding that NATO “must renounce its blind faith in military might.”
    U.S.-China relations are dominated by disputes over issues from trade and human rights to Taiwan and Beijing's territorial claims in the South China Sea.
China criticises NATO and the G7
    Meanwhile, China has refused to condemn Russia’s four-month-long war against Ukraine, criticized sanctions brought against Moscow by NATO members and accused Washington and its allies of provoking the conflict.
    Russia and China have strengthened political, economic and military ties, while aligning their foreign policies to oppose the influence of liberal democracies.    Weeks before Russia’s February invasion, Chinese leader Xi Jinping hosted his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for a meeting at which they pledged a partnership that had “no limits.”
    At its summit, NATO for the first time singled out China as one of its strategic priorities for the next decade.
    “China is substantially building up its military forces, including nuclear weapons, bullying its neighbors, threatening Taiwan … monitoring and controlling its own citizens through advanced technology, and spreading Russian lies and disinformation,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said after presenting NATO’s 10-year Strategic Concept.
    In his comments at Wednesday's daily briefing, Zhao said the U.S.    “has been working closely with NATO to hype up competition with China and stoke group confrontation."
    “The history of NATO is the one about creating conflicts and waging wars … arbitrarily launching wars and killing innocent civilians, even to this day," Zhao said.    “Facts have proven that it is not China that poses a systemic challenge to NATO, and instead it is NATO that brings a looming systemic challenge to world peace and security."
© Provided by Associated Press FILE - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, and Chinese Foreign Minister,
Wang Yi meet, on Oct. 31, 2021 at a hotel in Rome on the sidelines of the G20 of World Leaders Summit.
China Wednesday, July 6, 2022, launched a scathing attack on the U.S. and NATO, days before a meeting between
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. (AP Photo/Tiziana Fabi, File)
    Blinken is expected to meet with Wang on Saturday at a meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of 20 leading rich and developing nations on the Indonesian island of Bali.

7/8/2022 War in Ukraine to overshadow G-20 talks in Bali - US and China diplomats also scheduled to meet by Niniek Karmini, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi meet Thursday ahead of
the G-20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia. RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY PRESS SERVICE VIA AP
    JAKARTA, Indonesia – Foreign ministers from the Group of 20 leading rich and developing nations are gathering in Indonesia’s resort island of Bali for talks bound to be dominated by the conflict in Ukraine despite an agenda focused on global cooperation and food and energy security.
    The one-day gathering will take place on Friday on the mostly Hindu “island of the gods” in the majority Muslim archipelago nation.
    Underscoring the backdrop of tensions hanging over the meeting, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Russia’s top diplomat Sergey Lavrov stopped in various Asian capitals on their way to Bali, drumming up support and fortifying their ties in the region ahead of the talks.
    The United States and its allies have sought to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin in as many ways as possible, including by threatening a boycott of the G-20’s Bali summit in November unless Putin is removed from the forum.
    So as this year’s president of the G-20, Indonesia has been forced into playing a more constructive role on the world stage rather than acting just as an “event organizer.”    The country has sought to remain neutral in dealing with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and President Joko Widodo has been guarded in his comments.
    Widodo was the first Asian leader to visit the warring countries. Ukraine is not a member of G-20, but Widodo has invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to the November summit along with Putin, hoping to appease all sides and limit any distractions from the forum’s agenda.
    Zelenskyy has said he won’t attend if the war is continuing then and has opted to follow the discussions by video link.
    Widodo reportedly told Italian Prime Minister Marion Draghi, on the sidelines of the Group of Seven summit in Germany, that Putin also will not be coming. Moscow has said a decision has not yet been made.
    That apparent compromise may be put to the test when the G-20 foreign ministers gather in Bali’s heavily-guarded Nusa Dua tourist haven to lay the groundwork for the 17th summit of the West’s economic powerhouses.
    Strains between Washington and Beijing are also apparent: On Wednesday, China launched a scathing attack on the U.S. and NATO, just days before U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the Chinese foreign minister are due to meet in Bali.
    Washington “observes international rules only as it sees fit,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters in Beijing.    He said the “so-called rules-based international order is actually a family rule made by a handful of countries to serve the U.S. self-interest.”
    A key aim of the talks will be to seek ways to improve food security at a time when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has choked global markets, pushing prices of meat, dairy products, cereals, sugar and vegetable oils sharply higher.
    Russia and Ukraine account for a third of the world’s wheat exports and Ukraine alone grows enough of the grain to feed 400 million people. But Moscow’s blockade means Kyiv can only move 2 million tons a month, 60% less than usual.
    Millions of tons of Ukrainian grain are sitting in silos waiting to be shipped through safe corridors in the Black Sea.    Ukraine also is one of the world’s largest exporters of corn and sunflower oil, but Russia’s invasion halted most of that flow.    Such disruptions threaten food supplies for many developing countries, especially in Africa.
    Blinken is scheduled to meet with Wang, Beijing’s top envoy, on Saturday.    The meeting will be the latest high-level contact between U.S. and Chinese officials as Washington has questioned China’s stance after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
    Foreign ministers headed to Bali on Thursday come from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the U.S., and the European Union.
    Members of the G-20 account for about 80% of the world’s economic output, two-thirds of the world’s population and about three-quarters of global trade.

7/8/2022 The Supreme Court put a needed check on executive power by Rep. Doug LaMalfa – Washington Examiner
    In recent weeks, the Supreme Court has issued a number of landmark decisions considering critical issues such as the right to life, religious liberty, immigration, and concealed carry laws.    These have all been contentious, hotly debated issues for decades, but one ruling will have the ability to influence the entire domestic energy industry, our economy, and our entire system of governance.    In West Virginia v. EPA, the justices decided 6–3 to repeal an Obama-era rule allowing the EPA to regulate carbon emissions for the entire energy industry.
© Provided by Washington Examiner The Supreme Court building in Washington, Monday, June 30, 2014,
following various court decisions. The court ruled on birth control, union fees and other cases.
    Though it took a backseat in reporting in comparison to some of the more nationally recognized cases, this case has far greater implications than simply regulating our energy production.    This case sent a warning shot regarding the separation of powers between a bureaucratic agency and elected officials who represent the will of the people and are directly accountable to them.    In Congress, not acting should be as powerful of a signal to the bureaucracy as taking an action.    If a “Green New Deal” member of Congress proposes but doesn’t pass a law, that doesn’t give agencies the autonomy to create the same outcome by fiat.
    For too long, the court deferred to the bureaucrats as “the experts” under what is known as Chevron deference.    That assumes the administration's employees are neutral, when, in fact, they are not.    The EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers have been trying to rewrite the meaning of the Clean Water Act so that water rolling down a 4-inch furrow is treated “like water coming down a mini mountain range,” thus placing every puddle and farm field under the government's thumb.    While Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. was not overturned in this case, the court has ruled that government agencies cannot invent their own all-powerful authority out of 40-year-old laws.
    The Biden administration has tried to argue that the Clean Air Act gives the EPA “broad” powers that allow it to regulate the energy industry sweepingly.    Let’s be clear: In no way, shape, or form does the Clean Air Act authorize the EPA to cap carbon dioxide emissions in such a way that forces a nationwide transition away from the largest energy-producing industry we have.    Those elected by the people to represent the will of the people are the only ones who have the authority to determine decisions of this economic and political magnitude — not unelected bureaucrats.
    In their decision, the court chose to protect the rights of the people and the well-being of our Republic over the environmental desires of a select few.    Our federal government was established with stringent rules of checks and balances.    The court recognized that too much lawmaking authority had been ceded to the executive branch and aptly corrected course.
    Last year, I signed on to an amicus brief in the Supreme Court in support of the petitioners of this case, including the state of West Virginia.    In recent years, both Congress and state legislatures have passed countless laws aimed at reducing emissions from an array of industries.    From 2019 to 2020 alone, the United States decreased carbon emissions by 11%, and even so, carbon dioxide makes up only 0.04% of the total atmosphere.
Technological advancements, free market economics, and a desire to do better have made the U.S. a world leader in a variety of safe, clean, and affordable energy — including coal and natural gas.
    Although many are trying to spin this decision as a deliberate hindrance to the Biden administration’s climate policy, it’s necessary to remember that the true question of this case regarded unfettered expansion of the executive agencies' authority.    It’s the court’s duty to uphold the constitution’s guarantee of separation of powers and three co-equal branches of government.    I thank the court for giving the executive branch a civics lesson.
    Doug LaMalfa represents California's 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

7/8/2022 Laura Ingraham: The wheels are slowly coming off the globalization train - Opinion by Fox News Staff – FOX News
    Laura Ingraham discussed how globalism is beginning to crumble around the world and how people are starting to push back against the globalist agenda on "The Ingraham Angle."    And I am Laura Ingraham.    This is the Ingraham angle.    Thank
LAURA INGRAHAM: That was all wishful thinking. From supply chain nightmares, to food and fuel shortages, to pointless wars — massive refugee crises.    The wheels are slowly coming off the globalization train.    Now, the media hate to report on this, but one of the big stories playing out over the summer is the rise of the freedom movement.
    I'm talking about normal people around the world who are pushing back on the globalist agenda that's essentially dominated our politics since the 1990s.    Now, too often we're told that it's Americans.    They're the only ones who have concerns about globalization and what it means for our culture and our economy and our way of life.
    But around the world, working people are now pushing back against a system that is making a small sliver of the population very rich while harming the interests of the vast majority.    So if I told you, for example, that farmers who are furious about high costs and regulations were marching against government climate fanatics, I don't know.    You probably think it was happening somewhere in rural America. But as we reported last night, it's happening in the Netherlands.
Angle: Globalists are on the run

7/8/2022 U.S. Blinken challenged G20 to hold Russia accountable - senior U.S. official by Reuters
    NUSA DUA, Indonesia (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday told a meeting of G20 foreign ministers that if the grouping is to remain relevant, it must hold Russia accountable for its actions in Ukraine, a senior U.S. State Department official said.
© Reuters/POOLG20 Foreign Ministers' Meeting
Putin Says Russia And Belarus Moving Towards Unification
    Blinken challenged the member countries to hold Russia accountable and stressed the need to move a global food plan forward, the official said, adding that Russia was trying to undermine multilateral institutions that the United States was seeking to strengthen.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Writing by Martin Petty, Editing by William Maclean)

7/9/2022 G-20 fails on unity over Ukraine, war’s impact - Cold exchanges amid growing East-West split by Matthew Lee, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Consensus remained elusive at the Group of 20 foreign ministers meeting
amid a deepening divide between East and West. STEFANI REYNOLDS/AP
    NUSA DUA, Indonesia – Deeply divided top diplomats from the world’s richest and largest developing nations failed to find common ground Friday over Russia’s war in Ukraine and how to deal with its global impacts, leaving prospects for future cooperation in the forum uncertain.
    At talks that were knocked off balance by two unrelated and unexpected political developments, including the shocking assassination of a former Japanese prime minister, far from the Indonesian resort of Bali where they were meeting, Group of 20 foreign ministers heard an emotional plea for unity and an end to the war from their Indonesian host.
    Yet, consensus remained elusive amid deepening East-West splits driven by China and Russia on one side and the United States and Europe on the other.    There was no group photo taken nor a final communique issued as has been done in previous years, and acrimony appeared pervasive, especially between Russia and Western participants.
    Although they were present in the same room at the same time for the first time since the Ukraine war began, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pointedly ignored each other.
    Lavrov walked out of the proceedings at least twice: once when his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock spoke at the opening session and again just before Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba was to speak by video at the second session, according to a Western diplomat present.
    Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi had urged the group – which included Lavrov, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Blinken and several European counterparts – to overcome mistrust for the sake of a planet confronting multiple challenges from the coronavirus to climate change as well as Ukraine.
    “The world has yet to recover from the pandemic but we are already confronted with another crisis: the war in Ukraine,” Marsudi said.    “The ripple effects are being felt globally on food, on energy and physical space.”
    She noted that poor and developing countries now face the brunt of fuel and grain shortages resulting from the war in Ukraine and said that the G-20 has a responsibility to step up and deal with the matter to ensure the rules-based global order remains relevant.
    The Ukraine war has shaken that order, she said, as Lavrov appeared to shuffle papers without expression at his seat in between the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and Mexico.
    “Honestly, we cannot deny that it has become more difficult for the world to sit together,” Marsudi said.    She added plaintively: “The world is watching us, so we cannot fail.”
    She said the Ukraine war was discussed at almost all bilateral meetings during the one-day gathering.
    But after the meeting was over, Marsudi could not point to any agreements reached by all participants, although she said there had been broad concern about food and energy disruptions caused by the war in Ukraine.
    Indeed, although they sat around the same large conference table, neither Lavrov nor Blinken spoke to each other.

7/9/2022 Here's How Long A Tesla Model X Battery Will Actually Last by James Dolan - SlashGear
    The technology of batteries used to power electric vehicles has come a long way –- from lead-acid batteries that were used in GM's EV1 back in the '90s to lithium-ion batteries that are now used by most electric vehicle models.    Tesla is one of those companies that are leading in the electric vehicle revolution, and batteries are the new gold rush.
© canadianPhotographer56/Shutterstock A Tesla Model X connected to a charger
    In its quest to take over the electric vehicle industry and compete with gas-powered SUVs, Tesla introduced the Model X, a car we've reviewed before.    It's a top of the range electric SUV that is built on the Model S platform; that's why they're often compared.    Even Jeremy Clarkson, who was infamously sued by Tesla for reputational damage, thinks the Model X is a fabulous car (via YouTube).
    If you've driven a Tesla Model X, you've probably experienced range anxiety at some point.    Even if you don't have a range anxiety problem, you probably can't help but wonder how long will the battery pack could last before you need to replace it.
The Latest Model X Can Drive Over 330 Miles On A Single Charge
© John New/Shutterstock Tesla Model X on a charging station
    The battery range of a Tesla Model X depends on the year it was released.    For instance, the 2016 Tesla Model X 90D offers a maximum range of up to 257 miles, and the cheaper 60D model came with a lower range of 200 miles (via Car and Driver).    But if you're buying the latest Tesla Model X today, you get an estimated range of 348 miles, while the Plaid model offers an estimated range of 333 miles, according to the EPA estimates listed on Tesla's website.
    However, the battery range of a Tesla Model X can fluctuate depending on the environment and driving variables.    More succinctly, cold weather, uphill driving, high-speed driving, tire pressure, and extra cargo can reduce the battery range of your Tesla Model X.    For an accurate estimate, the energy app on your Tesla calculates how long the battery will last after a single charge based on your environment and driving pattern.
The Original Battery Pack Could Last Over 300k Miles
© Grigvovan/Shutterstock Tesla's EV batteries
    According to Elon Musk, the current battery modules of Tesla vehicles should last 300k to 500k miles -– this is equivalent to about 1500 cycles.    Besides that, we know that EV batteries degrade over time which causes reductions in maximum range.    The question is, how does the battery of a Tesla Model X perform after a high mileage?
    We got our answer from Tesloop, a company that rents out EVs, after it disclosed data of a Tesla Model X that covered about 330,000 miles (via Autoweek) -– it only lost 23 percent of its battery range.    Jalopnik and Electrek also checked out some of the highest mileage Tesla Model X vehicles, and according to the maintenance records, the battery packs were replaced under warranty after 317k and 325k miles in each vehicle.    However, both sources claim that the batteries were not replaced because of degradation, but a problem with the charging system and software.
    It's worth mentioning that the data we've used to deduce how long a Tesla Model X battery could actually last is from older high mileage models, particularly from 2016.    It's possible that the latest Model X vehicles could have battery packs that don't need to be replaced up to 500k miles -- only time will tell.
    Nevertheless, the latest impact report by Tesla (PDF) claims that your Model X should retain at least 90% of its battery capacity after 200k miles.    Also, the manufacturer's warranty covers the battery of your Model X if it degrades by more than 30% within 8 years or 150,000 miles.

7/11/2022 Blinken: Myanmar response falls short - Hits at ASEAN nations for not pressing government by Matthew Lee, ASSOCIATED PRESS
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, meets with Thailand’s Prime Minister
Prayuth Chan-ocha at Bangkok’s Government House on Sunday. Stefani Reynolds/Pool Photo via AP
    BANGKOK – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is criticizing Southeast Asian nations for not doing enough to press Myanmar’s military government to return the country to the path of democracy following last year’s power seizure.
    But as Blinken lamented the lack of progress in Myanmar, also known as Burma, he also moved to strengthen U.S. ties with key regional ally Thailand – part of efforts to counter Chinese influence across the Indo-Pacific.
    Speaking at a news conference in Bangkok, Blinken said it was 'unfortunate' that repression in Myanmar was continuing nearly 18 months after the military takeover.    And, he said he was disappointed that Myanmar’s neighbors weren’t applying pressure for it to end.
    'I think it’s unfortunately safe to say that we’ve seen no positive movement,' Blinken told reporters.    'On the contrary, we continue to see the repression of the Burmese people who continue to see violence perpetrated by the regime.'     He blasted Myanmar’s military leaders for jailing or forcing almost the entire opposition to flee and for worsening the grim humanitarian situation by not delivering the kind of assistance and supplies that are needed to improve conditions.
    Blinken then took aim at Myanmar’s neighbors in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which has been attempting to convince the military into implementing a five-point plan to return the country to a democratic path.
    'All countries have to continue to speak clearly about what the regime is doing in its ongoing repression and brutality,' he said.    'We have an obligation to the people of Burma to hold the regime accountable.    Regional support for the regime’s adherence to the five-point plan developed by ASEAN is also critical.    That has not happened.'
    He added that all members of ASEAN 'need to hold the regime accountable for that, continue to demand an immediate cessation of violence, the release of political prisoners and the restoration of Burma’s democratic path.'
    Just last week, Myanmar hosted a regional gathering of officials in what the opposition said was a direct contravention of the ASEAN peace plan following the ouster of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
    Suu Kyi’s ouster in February 2021 triggered widespread peaceful protests that were violently suppressed and evolved into armed resistance, and the country has slipped into what some U.N. experts characterize as a civil war.
    Blinken traveled to Thailand after attending a meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of 20 rich and large developing countries in Indonesia, where he accused China of siding with Russia over the war in Ukraine and said that support was complicating already fraught relations between Washington and Beijing.
    After meeting China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Bali on Saturday, Blinken warned that Chinese support for Russia on Ukraine poses a threat to the rules-based international order.    Blinken’s visit to Thailand was intended to bolster at least one small part of that order.
    In Bangkok, Blinken signed two cooperation agreements with his Thai counterpart, pledging to expand strategic cooperation with Thailand and improve the resilience of supply chains.
    Although modest, the deals fit into the administration’s broader strategy for the Indo-Pacific, which is aimed at blunting China’s increasing assertiveness and offering alternatives to Beijing-sponsored development that many U.S. officials regard as a trap for smaller, poorer nations.
    Blinken did not mention China by name in his comments with Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha or Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai.
    But after signing the deals, he said the U.S. and Thailand 'share the same goal of a free, open, interconnected prosperous, resilient and secure Indo-Pacific.'
    American officials use that phrase often to refer to the prevention of Chinese dominance in the region and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had similar comments when he visited Bangkok last month and met Prayuth.
    Thailand is already a member of President Joe Biden’s Indo-Pacific Economic Forum, a bloc that was created earlier this year with the aim of curbing the momentum of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which has poured billions of dollars into development and infrastructure projects throughout Asia and elsewhere.
    Like its predecessors, the Biden administration has watched China’s rapid growth warily and sought to hold it to international standards without significant success.
    The U.S. and like-minded democracies are trying to discourage developing Southeast Asian and other countries from entering large-scale infrastructure and development projects with China unless they are proven economically feasible, structurally sound and environmentally safe.
    'What we’re about is not asking countries to choose but giving them a choice when it comes to things like investment and infrastructure, development assistance, et cetera,' Blinken said in Bali.    'What we want to make sure is that we’re engaged in a race to the top – that is, we do things to the highest standards – not a race to the bottom where we do things to the lowest standards.'
    U.S. officials from multiple administrations have criticized China for exploiting smaller nations by luring them into unfair or deceptive agreements.
    'My hope would be that if, as China continues to engage itself in all of these efforts that it engages in a race to the top, that it raises its game,' Blinken said.    'That would actually benefit everyone.'
    Before returning to Washington, Blinken will travel on Monday from Bangkok to Tokyo, where he will make a brief condolence call on senior Japanese officials following the assassination on Friday of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
    'My hope would be that if, as China continues to engage itself in all of these efforts that it engages in a race to the top, that it raises its game.    That would actually benefit everyone.'
Antony Blinken, U.S. secretary of state

7/11/2022 Biden tries to shift Mideast policy - Softening approach after criticizing Trump moves by Aamer Madhani and Darlene Superville, ASSOCIATED PRSS
Israeli authorities project an image of the Israeli and U.S. flags on the walls of
Jerusalem’s Old City in honor of July Fourth. President Joe Biden is set to visit Israel and
the occupied West Bank this week as part of a broader trip to the Middle East. Mahmoud Illean/AP file
    WASHINGTON – Joe Biden took office looking to reshape U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, putting a premium on promoting democracy and human rights.    In reality, he has struggled on several fronts to meaningfully separate his approach from former President Donald Trump’s.
    Biden’s visit to the region this week includes a meeting with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the oil-rich kingdom’s de facto leader who U.S. intelligence officials determined approved the 2018 killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey.
    Biden had pledged as a candidate to recalibrate the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia, which he described as a 'pariah' nation after Trump’s more accommodating stand, overlooking the kingdom’s human rights record and stepping up military sales to Riyadh.
    But Biden now seems to be making the calculation that there’s more to be gained from courting the country than isolating it.
    Biden’s first stop on his visit to the Mideast will be Israel.    Here, again, his stance has softened since the firm declarations he made when running for president.
    As a candidate, Biden condemned Trump administration policy on Israeli settlements in the West Bank.    As president, he’s been unable to pressure the Israelis to halt the building of Jewish settlements and has offered no new initiatives to restart long-stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
    Biden also has let stand Trump’s 2019 decision recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which reversed more than a half-century of U.S. policy.
    The Biden administration 'has had this rather confusing policy of continuity on many issues from Trump – the path of least resistance on many different issues, including Jerusalem, the Golan, Western Sahara, and most other affairs,' says Natan Sachs, director of the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.     Now Biden appears to be trying to find greater equilibrium in his Mideast policy, putting focus on what’s possible in a complicated part of the world at a time when Israel and some Arab nations are showing greater willingness to work together to isolate Iran – their common enemy – and to consider economic cooperation.
    'Biden is coming in, in essence making a choice,' Sachs said.    'And the choice is to embrace the emerging regional architecture.'
    Biden on Saturday used an op-ed in the Washington Post – the same pages where Khashoggi penned much of his criticism of Saudi rule before his death – to declare that the Middle East has become more 'stable and secure' in his nearly 18 months in office and he pushed back against the notion that his visit to Saudi Arabia amounted to backsliding.
    'In Saudi Arabia, we reversed the blank-check policy we inherited,' Biden wrote.    He also acknowledged 'there are many who disagree' with his decision to visit the kingdom.
    He pointed to his administration’s efforts to push a Saudi-led coalition and Houthis to agree to a U.N.-brokered cease-fire – now in its fourth month – after seven years of a war that has left 150,000 people dead in Yemen.    Biden also cited as achievements his administration’s role in helping arrange a truce in last year’s 11-day Israel-Gaza war, the diminished capacity of the Islamic State terrorist group in the region and ending the U.S. combat mission in Iraq.
    But Biden’s overall Mideast record is far more complicated.    He has largely steered away from confronting some of the region’s most vexing problems, including some that he faulted Trump for exacerbating.
    Biden often talks about the importance of relationships in foreign policy.    His decision to visit the Mideast for a trip that promises little in the way of tangible accomplishments suggests he’s trying to invest in the region for the longer term.
    In public, he has talked of insights gained from long hours over the years spent with China’s Xi Jinping and sizing up Russia’s Vladimir Putin.    He’s relished building bonds with a younger generation of world leaders including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Japan’s Fumio Kishida.     'He doesn’t have the personal relationships.    He doesn’t have the duration of relationships,' said Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
    He arrives at an uncertain moment for Israeli leadership.    Former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid last month dissolved the Knesset as their politically diverse coalition crumbled.    Lapid, the former foreign minister, is now the caretaker prime minister.
    Biden also will face fresh questions about his commitment to human rights following the fatal shooting of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.    Independent investigations determined that she was likely shot by an Israeli soldier while reporting from the West Bank in May.
    The Abu Akleh family, in a scathing letter to Biden, accused his administration of excusing the Israelis for the journalist’s death.    The State Department last week said U.S. security officials determined that Israeli gunfire likely killed her but 'found no reason to believe that this was intentional.'
    Two of the most closely watched moments during Biden’s four-day Middle East visit will come when he meets with Israeli opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and when he sees the Saudi crown prince.
    But neither encounter is likely to dramatically alter U.S.-Mideast political dynamics.

7/12/2022 Biden aims to boost a Mideast defense strategy – comment by NEVILLE TELLER – The Jerusalem Post
    Once top secret, a multinational meeting of military leaders in March formed the basis for discussions that US President Joe Biden is planning for his imminent visit to the Middle East.
© (photo credit: SAUDI PRESS AGENCY/REUTERS) GULF COOPERATION Council foreign ministers meet in Riyadh, last year.
President Joe Biden is to attend a GCC meeting, augmented by the leaders of Egypt, Jordan and Iraq.
    For three months, a clandestine get-together of US, Israeli and Arab military chiefs remained secret.    Then on June 26, The Wall Street Journal printed an exclusive, revealing details of a meeting hosted by the US in Egypt’s Sharm e-Sheikh the previous March, which had apparently included military leaders from Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.    They had met in secret, according to the report, to explore ways of coordinating a joint response to Iran’s growing missile and drone capabilities.
    As the WSJ pointed out, these talks marked the first time that such a range of ranking Israeli and Arab officers had met under US military auspices to discuss how to defend themselves and each other against a common threat.
    A glance at the participants suggests that something else is new on the regional scene – the positive effect that the Abraham Accords is having in expanding the concept of normalization across the moderate Arab world.    No longer does the idea of sitting round a table with Israelis seem inconceivable, even though Qatar and Saudi Arabia have no formal diplomatic relations with Israel.    On the contrary, it is becoming increasingly obvious to Arab leaders that linking up with Israel’s hi-tech capabilities across a multitude of fields brings them huge benefits not otherwise available.
    For example, Arab countries appear increasingly keen to access sophisticated Israeli air defense technology, following a succession of recent drone strikes on oil facilities and infrastructure in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, perpetrated by Iran or its proxies.    One such, carried out in September 2019, was claimed by the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
© Provided by The Jerusalem Post US President Joe Biden speaks after signing an executive order to help safeguard
women's access to abortion and contraception after the Supreme Court last month overturned Roe v Wade decision
that legalized abortion, at the White House in Washington, US, July 8, 2022. (Credit: REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE)
    It hit an Aramco compound in Saudi Arabia, shutting down about 5% of global oil production and caused chaos in financial markets.    A three-drone strike directed by Hezbollah against Israel’s Karish oil rig in the Mediterranean on July 2 was shot down by the IDF.
    During his visit, Biden is due to attend a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), to be augmented by the leaders of Egypt, Jordan and Iraq.    It will no doubt include on the agenda the regional threat to security posed by Iran and its proxies.    Collaborative counter-measures arising from the Sharm e-Sheikh meeting in March might be reviewed.
    Media reports claim that the participants in the March meeting discussed which country’s forces would intercept drone, ballistic or cruise missile attacks.    They agreed in principle to coordinate rapid notification systems when aerial threats are detected, but apparently agreed that for the present a US-style military data-sharing system would not be set up, but that alerts would be sent via phones and computers.
Warming relationships
    Presidential visits invariably generate intense media speculation, and the word is that during his time in Israel and Saudi Arabia, Biden will announce further steps in the warming relationship between the two nations.    There is talk of Biden brokering a new Saudi-Israeli agreement, which is believed to include allowing Israeli commercial flights over the kingdom, and Israeli approval of a plan to transfer Egypt’s control of two strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia.
    In 2017, against much internal objection, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ratified a treaty to hand over Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia.    The uninhabited islands figure in the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement, which promises safe passage to Israeli civilian and military ships through the narrow waterways of the Straits of Tiran.    The transfer was never finalized, and requires Israel’s consent.    That now seems forthcoming.
    Visits by US presidents to Israel might almost be considered routine (six did so, some more than once), but Biden’s decision to visit Saudi Arabia was long weighed in the balance.    The fact that it is going ahead is a mark of the importance that Washington attaches to it.    Liberal opinion in the US declares itself outraged at the idea of Biden shaking hands with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), in the light of the Khashoggi affair.
    On the afternoon of October 2, 2018, journalist Jamal Khashoggi, an outspoken critic of MBS entered the Saudi Arabia Consulate in Istanbul, never to emerge.    Having listened to purported recordings of conversations inside the consulate made by Turkish intelligence, a UN special rapporteur concluded that the journalist had been “brutally slain” inside the building by a 15-strong team of Saudi agents, and that his body was then dismembered.
    Khashoggi’s murder sparked worldwide outrage.    US intelligence agencies concluded that the crown prince, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, had approved the operation.    MBS denied playing any role.    A year after the killing, a Saudi court found five people guilty of directly participating in the killing and sentenced them to death.
    The sentences were later commuted to 20-year prison terms.    Three others received lesser sentences for covering up the crime.     While Turkey has signed off on its involvement in the case, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and MBS have exchanged visits, liberal opinion in the West refuses to accept the Saudi judicial outcome, and continues to charge MBS with responsibility for the assassination.
    It is against this background that Biden sets foot in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, hoping to achieve a clear commitment by Saudi to increase oil production over time, thus fostering a drop in prices.    With renewal of the Iran nuclear deal now unlikely, he will be seeking to expand cooperation between the Gulf states, other Arab countries and, as far as possible, Israel, to counter the threat from Iran.
    High on Biden’s list of objectives will be to advance regional normalization, but especially the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Israel.    Media reports claim that Washington is working on “a road map to normalization” between the two countries, and that during his visit, Biden will discuss a “vision for integrated missile defense and naval defense” with his hosts.    In other words, the secret meeting at Sharm e-Sheikh in March 2022 virtually set the agenda for this month’s presidential visit.
    The writer is Middle East correspondent for Eurasia Review.    His latest book is Trump and the Holy Land 2016-2020. Follow him at:

7/14/2022 EU rule of law report decries situation in Poland, Hungary by Raf Casert, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, right, welcomes Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban for
a Visegrad Group meeting at the Wawel Castle in Krakow, Poland, last year. CZAREK SOKOLOWSKI/AP FILE
    BRUSSELS – The European Union’s executive on Wednesday decried the rule of law situation in Poland and Hungary, centering on perceived breaches in their judiciary and media in its annual report.
    As it comes against the background of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the European Commission said that it was all the more important for the 27 nations to be a beacon of democracy on an unstable continent.
    “The EU will only remain credible if we uphold the rule of law at home and if we continue to reinforce the rule of law culture,” EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said.     Even though Poland is at the forefront of the EU’s effort to welcome war refugees from Ukraine, it is facing criticism regarding its judiciary independence and the media.
    Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro, who also holds the job of prosecutor- general, said the report was “yet another blackmail by the EU.”    He insisted that Poland’s government shouldn’t be ceding to EU demands.    The European Commission has recommended that the functions of the minister of justice and the prosecutor-general in Poland should be separate.
    Hungary, whose prime minister, Viktor Orban, is seen as Russia’s best contact in the 27-nation EU, also stood out for the criticism it got.
    “Serious concerns persist related to the independence of the Polish judiciary,” the report said, adding that anti-corruption plans also left much to be desired.    It also questioned the government’s commitment to free media and said that “the general environment for journalists continues to deteriorate.”
    Poland and the EU’s headquarters in Brussels have been fighting for years over judicial independence and the dispute is far from resolved, despite recent moves in Warsaw.    Poland must still take more steps to ensure judicial independence before it can receive any of the frozen funds totaling about $39 billion.
    Hungary came in for perhaps even tougher criticism, with the report saying “judicial independence concerns … remain unaddressed,” while it said anticorruption measures still fell woefully short.    It described a nation “where risks of clientelism, favoritism and nepotism in high-level public administration remain unaddressed.”
    Orban imposed emergency powers to counter the pandemic but the report said that “the government has been using its emergency powers extensively, also in areas not related to the COVID-19 pandemic as initially invoked.”
    The European Commission has been engaged in a protracted struggle with Hungary’s nationalist government in an effort to force it to comply with EU rule of law standards.
    Pointing to deficiencies in judicial independence, crackdowns on the media and civil society organizations and inadequate safeguards against corruption, the European Commission has launched several proceedings against Hungary for what it says are violations of EU rules.
    Yet such proceedings have often failed to get Orban to change tack, and critics say his government has flouted EU rules while misusing the bloc’s funds to enrich family members and politically connected businessmen.
    The European Commission has withheld billions in post-pandemic financial support from Hungary over what it calls insufficient safeguards against corruption, and has tailored a mechanism for sanctioning member states that fail to uphold the bloc’s rule of law standards.

7/16/2022 Draghi Is Signaling That He’s Determined to Quit Government by Chiara Albanese and Alberto Brambilla - Bloomberg
    (Bloomberg) -- Mario Draghi has signaled that he’s determined to resign as Italy’s prime minister next week since he doesn’t have the backing of all the parties in his splintered governing alliance, according to people familiar with the matter.
    Italian President Sergio Mattarella rejected Draghi’s resignation on Thursday, urging him to try to shore up support among his parliamentary allies.    Draghi had offered to quit after the second-biggest party in his ruling coalition, Giuseppe Conte’s Five Star Movement, effectively abstained in a confidence vote in the senate.
    Draghi isn’t willing to reconsider his decision to leave government and is currently expected to reiterate that position when he addresses lawmakers in Rome on Wednesday, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the conversations were private.     A spokesperson from the prime minister’s office declined to comment.
© Photographer: Antonio Masiello/Getty Images Europe Italy Pays Tribute To Journalist Eugenio Scalfari
    Five Star leaders are set to meet on Saturday to decide how to move forward in the coming days, according to reports in Italian media.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi Announces Resignation: What To Know
    A resignation by Draghi would throw Italy into turmoil just as Europe is contending with an energy crisis fomented by Russia’s war in Ukraine.    And the uncertainty comes at a difficult time for the euro area, with the probability of a recession there growing.
    A decision to resign would thwart frantic attempts by Mattarella and other political leaders to avert a government crisis before Draghi’s address on Wednesday.    Market reaction to the turmoil has been relatively muted so far as investors seemed convinced that disruptive outcomes such as early elections remain relatively unlikely.
    Since he was appointed by Mattarella to guide Italy through the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2021, Draghi has said that he would only remain in office if he had the backing of all the parties in the governing coalition.    He reiterated the same line in recent weeks as tensions mounted with Conte, who has been critical of Draghi’s response to the economic crisis and has also opposed Italy’s shipments of weapons to Ukraine.
    If Mattarella were to call a new election, the vote would have to happen within 70 days.    Based on current polls, a center-right coalition led by Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy would win if its members stick together.    That could involve a tie-up with the League, led by Matteo Salvini, who has threatened to ditch Draghi’s coalition.    But the political landscape is in flux and it’s possible that no single group would have a majority.
    Even though Conte triggered the current situation, he’ll have to decide whether it’s in his party’s interest to have an early ballot -- Five Star’s popularity has plummeted since it entered government and it would likely lose seats.

7/27/2022 China’s Xi invited to G-20 summit by ASSOCIATED PRESS
    BEIJING – Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Tuesday formally invited Xi Jinping to the Group of 20 summit in Bali this fall, although it’s unknown whether the Chinese leader would attend in person.
    The invitation came during a meeting between the two in Beijing, where they discussed issues ranging from trade to maritime cooperation.
    “President Xi expressed his thanks and wished complete success for the summit,” China’s state broadcaster CCTV said, without giving further details.    The summit is to be held on the Indonesian resort island on Nov. 15-16.
    Xi has not left China since 2019 because of the COVID-19 outbreak, choosing instead to attend major events via video.    It is also unclear whether he will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Bangkok shortly after the G-20 summit.
    The G-20 is considered a valued grouping for China because it includes not only rich Western countries but also such major middle-income nations as China, India and Brazil.
    State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Foreign Minister Wang Yi have acted as Xi’s proxies in recent years, even while China’s foreign and economic policies, including its tacit support for Russia in the Ukraine conflict, have put its relations with the U.S., Europe and other countries under stress.
    Widodo arrived in Beijing on Monday night on the first stop of a trip that will also take him to Japan and South Korea later this week.

7/27/2022 Micronesia’s first COVID-19 outbreak grows by Nick Perry, ASSOCIATED PRESS
    WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Micronesia’s first outbreak of COVID-19 grew in one week to more than 1,000 cases by Tuesday, causing alarm in the Pacific Island nation. Last week, Micronesia likely became the world’s final nation with a population of more than 100,000 to experience an outbreak after avoiding it for 2 1 /2 years because of its geographic isolation and border controls.     Health officials said cases were rapidly increasing.    It reported 140 new cases Monday, bringing the total to 1,261, a figure that includes some cases caught at the border before the outbreak.     Eight people have been hospitalized and one older man has died, officials said.     Many top lawmakers and senior officials have caught the disease, including Vice President Yosiwo George, who has been hospitalized, officials said.    They said the vice president’s condition was improving.     Last year, Micronesia became one of the few countries to impose a broad mandate requiring all eligible citizens to get vaccinated.

8/5/2022 Hungarian PM Orban: Left Headed Down Same Path As Nazis, Communist by OAN Newsroom
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban waves after speaking at the Conservative
Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
    Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban called out the progressive left at this years CPAC after he was welcomed to CPAC with a standing ovation.    Speaking at the event on Thursday, Orban accused progressive liberals of trying to silence him and attempting to keep him away from the event.
    “They did not want me to be here and they made every effort to drive a wedge between us,” said Orban.    “They hate me and slander me and my country as they hate you and slander you and the America you stand for.    We all know how this works.    Progressive liberals didn’t want me to be here because they knew what I would tell you.    Because I’m here to tell you that we should unite our forces.”
    He then went on to suggest that today’s progressive left is equivalent to Nazi’s and communist dictators by trying to move the US away from Judeo-Christian values.    Orban, who came to power in 2010, has increasingly clamped down on political opposition and press freedom, consolidating his power further over the last two elections.    During his speech, Orbán also attacked Jewish billionaire George Soros, former President Barack Obama, “globalists” and the Democratic Party.    He went on to voice, “They hate me and slander me and my country, as they hate you.”
    “The horrors of Nazis and communism happened because some western states in continental Europe abandoned their Christian values,” he voiced.    “Today’s progressives are planning to do the same.    They want to give up on western values and create a new world, a post-western world.    Who is going to stop them if we don’t?
    Orban concluded with a step-by-step guide for conservatives to fight in what he describes as an ongoing culture war.
    “We cannot fight successfully by liberal means,” the prime minister stated.    “Because our opponents use liberal institutions, concept and language to disguise their Marxist and Hegemonic plans.    Politics, my friend, are not enough.    This war is a culture war.    We have to revitalize.    We have to revitalize our churches, our families, our universities and our community institutions.”
    A day before his appearance at CPAC, Orbán and his delegation met with former President Donald Trump at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.    Hungarian Foreign Affairs Minister Peter Szijjártó also commented in a tweet that Hungarian-US relations were “at their peak when Donald Trump was President” and expressed the hope that he’ll be president again.
    In the meantime, Orban called on conservatives to mobilize in preparation for the 2024 presidential election.

8/7/2022 Blinken Visits Africa, Vying With Russia for Favor on Continent Hit by Rising Food Prices by Jessica Donati, Gabriele Steinhauser – The Wall Street Journal
    U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken began a three-country tour of Africa on Sunday at a time of growing U.S. concern about Russia’s clout on the continent and on the heels of a recent trip by Moscow’s top envoy.
    The rise in food prices accelerated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine has hurt Africa, where most nations are net food importers.    High fuel and food costs, drought, conflict and economic disruptions from the coronavirus pandemic are exacerbating poverty and unrest, and have driven millions to the brink of famine.
© Ezra Acayan/Getty Images Blinken Visits Africa, Vying With Russia for Favor on Continent Hit by Rising Food Prices
    Many African countries have resisted taking sides in the war in Ukraine and dismissed Western calls to participate in sanctions targeting Moscow.    Mr. Blinken’s trip, which starts in South Africa, comes amid a flurry of high-level visits to the continent from U.S. officials carrying the message that Russia’s actions in Ukraine are to blame for the food crisis.
    “It’s been somewhat of a wake-up call,” said Brahima Sangafowa Coulibaly of the liberal-leaning U.S.-based think tank Brookings Institution.    “African countries did not signal an overwhelming appetite to just buy into the West’s rhetoric.”
    Major powers such as South Africa have declined to support United Nations resolutions condemning Russia.    The African Union has complained to European leaders that paying for Russian food exports has become harder since most big Russian banks were removed from the Swift payment system.
    Mr. Blinken’s tour, which will include stops in the Congo and Rwanda, will start as U.S. envoy to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield wraps up a trip to the continent. Ms. Thomas-Greenfield repeatedly blamed Russia for the food crisis in meetings with high-level officials and others during her four-day trip, according to official statements on the meetings.
    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited four countries at the end of July, thanking African governments for staying out of the campaign of Western sanctions over the war in Ukraine.    He blamed Europe and the U.S. for high food prices and offered to sell Russian oil, despite U.S. warnings that such transactions would break Western sanctions.
    “If there is a state in Africa interested in our oil, there is no obstacle to this,” Mr. Lavrov said in a news conference with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
Russia seeks support from Africa as Ukraine war exacerbates food crisis
    French President Emmanuel Macron was also in West Africa at the end of July, where he accused Russia of being one of the world’s remaining colonial powers.
    “Africa is becoming a space of competition around global influence, with different parties trying to really win some hearts and minds of African states, and to showcase that their positions are more beneficial to the continent,” said Gustavo de Carvalho, senior researcher on African governance and diplomacy at the South African Institute of International Affairs.
    Winning influence won’t be an easy task for Mr. Blinken.
    South Africa, his first stop, has carefully avoided picking sides. President Cyril Ramaphosa met virtually with Russian President Vladimir Putin in March, but isn’t scheduled to meet with Mr. Blinken.    When then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited South Africa, she met with then-President Jacob Zuma.    The top U.S. envoy will instead see his South African counterpart, Naledi Pandor.
    Pretoria’s stance is unlikely to change, said Mzukisi Qobo, who heads the Wits School of Governance at Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand.    One topic Ms. Pandor is likely to raise with Mr. Blinken is the future of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which is due to expire in 2025.    Like many countries on the continent, South Africa enjoys preferential access to the U.S. market for some goods, a boon for its automotive industry, in particular.
    The pair might also discuss a pledge by the U.S.—along with the U.K., Germany, France and the European Union—to help mobilize $8.5 billion in financing for South Africa’s transition away from coal.    Those funds are vital to Africa’s most developed economy, which has been plagued in recent weeks by power cuts lasting up to 10 hours a day.
    While in South Africa, Mr. Blinken is due to set out the Biden administration’s strategy for sub-Saharan Africa, which is expected to seek a reset of relations with the continent from the strained years of the Trump administration.
    Governments on the continent will be looking for more detail on a $600 billion infrastructure fund announced by the U.S. and its allies at a June summit of the Group of Seven developed economies, which is meant to rival China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
    Mr. Blinken will be received by the heads of state in Congo and Rwanda, where he will likely spend much of his time trying to ease a fresh eruption in tensions between the neighbors.     Congo’s President Félix Tshisekedi has accused Rwanda of supporting a militia that has been attacking civilians and gaining territory in mineral-rich eastern Congo, a charge that Rwanda has denied.    Several U.S. senators have called on the administration to review its ties to Rwanda over its alleged support for the M23 armed group.     “The secretary will highlight the need for respect for territorial integrity and explore how the United States can support efforts to reduce tensions,” African Affairs Assistant Secretary Molly Phee told reporters ahead of the trip.
    Nelleke van de Walle, project director for the Great Lakes region at the International Crisis Group, said that without a solution, the U.S. might freeze military aid to Rwanda as it did during M23’s previous rebellion in 2012-13.     Mr. Blinken might also try to build support for U.N. peacekeepers in eastern Congo.    The U.N. personnel have been embroiled in occasionally violent protests over the force’s perceived failure to protect civilians.    Mr. Tshisekedi’s government said it was reassessing the status of the U.N. mission, one of the world’s largest, after at least 36 people, including three peacekeepers, died in the protests over the past two weeks.

8/7/2022 Germany braces for social unrest over energy prices by William Noah Glucroft - DW
    German officials have expressed fears that a worst-case winter of energy problems could prompt an extremist backlash.    How bad things get may depend on how well they manage the crisis – in policy and perception.
© Philipp von Ditfurth/dpa/picture alliance German politicians are worried
that inflation and high energy prices may lead to social unrest
    State and federal Lawmakers in Germany are exploring a sweeping set of measures to save energy, from turning off street lights to lowering building temperatures; and they are pleading with the public to cut consumption at home.
    Whether those efforts spur a call to solidarity or a call to arms won't become clear until the cold sets in and bills come due.    Yet Chancellor Olaf Scholz is not in a wait-and-see mood, telling public broadcaster, ARD, last month that spiraling heating costs are a "powder keg for society."
    In explicitly naming the elephant in the room, the chancellor and his government are on the hook for nipping social unrest in the bud.
© Christian Charisius/dpa/picture alliance Chancellor Olaf Scholz has warned of social unrest in the fall
    "In using this 'powder keg' narrative, the chancellor is trying to make way for key decisions," Ricardo Kaufer, a professor of political sociology at the University of Greifswald, told DW.    "So, all actors who could potentially stand in the way of measures are cajoled into compromise."
    In other words, Scholz is signaling to his governing partners, political opposition, business leaders, and civil society that they bicker over policy responses at the country's peril.
    This is a "lesson learned" from the pandemic, Kaufer said, when lawmakers often seemed unprepared to contain it, despite scientific predictions on how and when the virus would spread.    Their communication was more often reactive than proactive.
Measures and messaging
    The Bundestag, the German parliament, has already passed legislation that hopes to insulate society's most vulnerable from price shocks.    At the same time, German utilities will be allowed to pass some of their increased costs onto consumers.
    In crafting policy, officials are walking a fine line.    They want to help secure household finances, especially for low-wage earners, but not so much that they undermine the incentive to save energy.
    More relief may follow the summer recess, however agreement on what that looks like, how much it will cost, and how it will get paid for is likely weeks away, at least.
    The smallest of the parties in the governing coalition, the neoliberal Free Democrats (FDP), control the finance ministry, which gives them significant power of the purse.    Its minister, Christian Lindner, has made clear he intends to use that power sparingly, as he stands up for his party's values of low tax, low spending, and low regulation.
    The FDP's bigger partners, Scholz's center-left Social Democrats and the environmentalist Greens, are pushing for a more generous helping hand.
© Patrick Pleul/dpa/picture alliance Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck strikes a nerve with the population, who appreciate his honesty
    Even if the government gets the measures right, they could still get the messaging wrong, which political scientists say can be just as important in steering public sentiment.    As the pandemic showed, money and resources are only half the battle; clear and consistent communication is the other half.
    "Perceptions are decisive," Evelyn Bytzek, a professor of political communication at the University of Koblenz-Landau, told DW.    "Ultimately, we all act based more on what we perceive to be true than what is true."
    Symbolism is a powerful tool in maintaining public support, Bytzek said. She pointed to Gerhard Schröder's visit to flood-stricken parts of eastern Germany in 2002, which gave him a boost in his reelection campaign for chancellor.    He went onto win a few weeks later.
    Scholz won last year's election in part due to his Merkel-like passive leadership style.    Now that could become a liability — and stoke unrest — if the public feels their ship of state is without a captain at the helm with an iceberg ahead.
    "Crisis is not just a danger, but also an opportunity to generate more trust when crisis management is well perceived," Bytzek said.
    Scholz's deputy, the Greens' Robert Habeck, seems to understand that.    As economy minister, Habeck has the lead on energy policy and has been forced to make hard choices that often contradict his own environmentalist credentials.    Polls show he has won points for regularly explaining the rationale behind those decisions.
    Though there are limits to what communication can do.    Habeck was booed at townhall events last week.    However, those protests were more anti-war than anti-democratic.
© Sebastian Willnow/dpa/picture alliance Protesters took to the streets
to voice opposition against regulations to contain the COVID-19 pandemic
Evaluating the risk
    The Federal Interior Ministry told DW that protests of similar magnitude to those against pandemic restrictions are foreseeable, depending on how much the cost and supply of energy burden society.
    "We can assume that populists and extremists will again try to influence protests to their liking," Britta Beylage-Haarmann, a ministry spokesperson, told DW in a statement.    "Extremist actors and groups in Germany can lead to a growth in dangers if corresponding social crisis conditions allow for it."
    The Federal Police, which fall under the ministry, told DW they have "no insights" into specific threats arising from the crisis.
    Perception also plays a role in how much unrest can shake a country.    Querdenker and others who have taken to the streets to challenge state authority during the pandemic are loud, but they have never represented more than a small minority of public opinion.    Still, they have received an outsized share of media and political attention.
    Political sociologists like Greifswald University's Kaufer say protest movements stand out more in a country like Germany, where consensus-based political culture and federal power-sharing dissuade the instrumentalization of social discontent than elsewhere in Europe. France, for example, has a reputation for confrontation.
    Instability in Germany often has a negative connotation, he said, linked to events like bloody street battles amid hyperinflation in Weimar-era Germany, which gave rise to the Nazis.
"There has been a failure of discourse among progressive forces to recognize positive examples in German history," Kaufer added. "There is a fear of protest, that people will take action without the legitimacy of processes like voting." He cited East German Street protests in 1953 and the peaceful revolution of 1989, and the West German anti-nuclear movement in the 1970s and 80s, as examples that deserve a stronger anchor in Germany's collective memory.
© picture alliance / dpaIn 1989 one million protesters took
to the streets in East Berlin bringing down the GDR regimeInequality means instability
    Longer-term risks to social cohesion, however, don't end with the coming of spring.
    Germany was once one of Europe's most egalitarian countries, in which class and social status had less influence in determining one's success in life.    That is changing, as Germany follows a general trend towards growing income inequality.
    "We're seeing that social mobility can no longer address social inequality," Susanne Pickel, a comparative politics professor at the University of Duisberg-Essen, told DW.
    Inflation and energy prices will disproportionately impact the country's most vulnerable, according to economic models, as low earners have less disposable income to absorb increased costs.    That also makes them more susceptible to anti-government rhetoric than other income groups.
    "Pandemic, war, and inflation endanger the lower middle class.    If we can't manage to stabilize them, then their fears of being permanently pushed down grow," Pickel said, "then we may see more people take to the streets in Germany.    And even more virulent, agreement with the [far-right populist] AfD and the appearance of solutions from far-right populists can change voting behavior."
Edited by: Rina Goldenberg
    While you're here: Every Tuesday, DW editors round up what is happening in German politics and society.    You can sign up here for the weekly email newsletter Berlin Briefing.
Author: William Noah Glucroft

8/8/2022 Bill Gates Endorses Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act by OAN Newsroom
Bill Gates speaks at Goalkeepers 2017, at Jazz at Lincoln Center on September 20, 2017
in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)
    Billionaire Bill Gates is actively promoting the new Democrat-proposed spending bill due to its “climate change” provisions.    In an op-ed for the New York Times, Gates claimed the so-called Inflation Reduction Act could be the most important piece of “climate legislation” in American history.
    The Microsoft founder argued that the bill would create an “energy future that is cleaner, cheaper and more secure.”    Gates also said making solar panels and wind turbines is very important.    The Democrat bill would finance that.    According to reports, Gates aggressively lobbied in favor of that bill, resulting in Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) changing his mind to support the legislation.
    On the contrary, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said the Inflation Reduction Act is a “war on Medicare.”    In an interview Sunday, he voiced strong opposition to cutting Medicare funds.
    The Florida lawmaker said that a $280 billion anticipated Medicare expenditure will not be spent, impacting research done by drug companies who provide life-saving drugs to seniors.    Scott’s comments came just before Vice President Kamala Harris broke the tie in the Senate, pushing the legislation through the upper chamber.
    Meanwhile, the 45th President slammed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) while asserting he has been manipulated by the Democrats.    In a post on Truth Social Sunday, Trump accused McConnell of caving to the Democrats on the infrastructure bill, compromising on the Second Amendment and not using the debt ceiling for negotiations.
    “Mitch McConnell got played like a fiddle with the vote today by the Senate Democrats.    First, he gave them the fake Infrastructure Bill, then Guns, never used the Debt Ceiling for negotiating purposes (gave it away for NOTHING!), and now this. Mitch doesn’t have a clue – he is sooo bad for the Republican Party!
— Donald Trump via Truth Social
    While at CPAC, Trump said McConnell compromises with Sen. Manchin too much, which led to Republicans suffering since the West Virginia Democrat voted for the Inflation Reduction Act.    The former President said, “Mitch doesn’t have a clue.”     President Joe Biden praised the bills passing in the Senate.    He released his statement on the legislation on Sunday, just one day after its passage.
    Before the vote, Biden touted the bill as a means to combat inflation, despite many economists saying it would do the opposite.    The legislation will move to the House with a vote expected to take place on Friday.

8/10/2022 Biden, Dems bet on long-term goals - Legislative wins will take years to come to fruition by Seung Min Kim, Josh Boak and Chris Megerian, ASSOCIATED PRESS
President Joe Biden speaks before signing the CHIPS and Science Act on the
South Lawn of the White House on Tuesday. CHIP SOMODEVILLA/GETTY IMAGES
    WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden’s legislative victories have aimed to position the U.S. to “win the economic competition of the 21st century,” but his investments to boost the nation’s technology, infrastructure and climate resilience over the next decade are set against a 90-odd-day clock until the midterms.
    From turbocharging the U.S. computer chip sector to shifting the nation to a greener economy, the achievements from Biden will take years to come to fruition – reflecting the sheer scope of his ambitions that, taken together, put Biden among the most legislatively productive presidents in recent memory.
        Yet Democrats are also gambling that the rapid clip of recent accomplishments will persuade an electorate that’s downcast about the economy and the general direction of the country to vote nonetheless in their party’s favor.
    Particularly critical, they say, is being able to illustrate to voters what Democrats can accomplish when they hold the levers of power in Washington, even if energy bills don’t decline right away or a new bridge takes years to be completed.
    “I do think this bill will have immediate political impact, but not because people will feel the effects in the next six weeks,” Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, said of the big health care, climate and economic package making its way through Congress.    “It’s because they know we are lawmakers who weren’t making very many laws over the last six months.”
    Schatz added, “It’s a vibe, and the vibe is winning.”
    The White House views the legislative victories as interlocking pieces fulfilling the agenda Biden laid out when he ran for president in 2020 on the promise of helping the country outcompete a rising China.    The policy proposals were focused on addressing generational threats and creating long-term opportunities – especially after what     Biden viewed to be troubling setbacks during the Trump years.
    A 50-year veteran of Washington and a former senator and vice president, Biden also aimed to avoid governing by executive order, a crutch of presidents for both parties when legislative dysfunction is high.    Executive orders can be rewritten or overturned by a president’s successors – and they’re often constrained by how much they can do without Congress acting.    Biden, White House aides said, aimed not just for altering the country’s trajectory, but keeping it on that path, a move that required legislating, not emergency declarations.
    On Tuesday, as he signed a $280 billion bill bolstering U.S. competitiveness against China, Biden said he was enacting a once-in-a-generation investment whose impact will resonate for decades.    The law sets aside $52 billion to bolster the semiconductor industry, which manufactures the diminutive chips that power everything from smartphones to computers to automobiles.
    “The CHIPS and Science Act is going to inspire a whole new generation of Americans to answer that question: What next?” Biden said.    “That’s why I’m confident that decades from now, people are going to look back at this week, with all we’ve passed and all we’ve moved on, that we met the moment at this inflection point in history.”
    Speaking with reporters Monday, Biden said the Democrats’ massive climate and health care package – poised for final House passage Friday – would help his party ahead of the November midterms, pointing in particular to its drug pricing provisions.
    “Now, some of it is not going to kick in for a little bit, but it’s all good,” Biden said in Dover, Delaware.    “When you sit down at that kitchen table at the end of the month, you’re going to be able to pay a whole hell of a lot more bills because you’re paying less in medical bills.”
    Biden likes to talk up the bill’s provisions capping drug costs for seniors on Medicare at $2,000 annually, although that won’t occur until January 2024. White House officials are also touting an extension of subsidies that would help an estimated 13 million people purchase coverage under the Affordable Care Act, assistance that would have expired this year and subsequently spike out-of-pocket costs.
    Other aspects of the climate and health care bill will take much longer to see. An analysis from the Rhodium Group, an independent research firm, said the measure could reduce consumer energy costs in the longer term, with households saving between $730 to $1,135 per year, but not until 2030.    The Congressional Budget Office has also said the inflation-reducing aspects of the “Inflationary Reduction Act” will be negligible in the short term.
    Chris Wilson, a Republican strategist, said the legislation won’t help Democrats’ chances when voters already disapprove of Biden’s handling of the economy.
    “Joe Biden and the Democrats are taking a big risk pushing out a major taxing and spending bill on the eve of an election,” he said.
    The administration has been sensitive to criticism that it will take years to fully realize its policies.
    One senior administration official, insisting on anonymity to discuss private conversations, stressed that 18 months of talks and negotiations were required for the computer chip funding to pass.    Because it could take a decade to build semiconductor plants and shift more advanced chip production to the U.S., the official said America would have been much further ahead in the process if Congress passed the measure earlier.    The official said the administration was essentially moving as fast as it could given the speed of politics.
    The chips bill was more than a year in the making, but finally cleared Congress late last month with significant bipartisan margins.    The Senate passed it 64-33, with 17 GOP senators supporting it, while the House followed suit with a 243-187 vote that included 24 Republicans in favor, even though party leaders began urging their ranks to vote against it after Democrats advanced the separate bill focused on climate and health care.
    The White House sought Tuesday to begin selling the immediate impacts of the semiconductor measure, noting that Micron, a leading U.S. chip manufacturer, will announce a $40 billion plan to boost domestic production of memory chips, while Qualcomm and Global-Foundries will unveil a $4.2 billion expansion of an upstate New York chip plant.
    “We are working hand-in-hand with private companies who are already announcing new investments here at home,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.    Asked when Americans will see new jobs or other impacts of the new competitiveness law, Jean-Pierre declined to say, noting the White House would have details “very soon.”
    But there is also a limit as to how fast the administration can pump money into the economy for technological breakthroughs and new infrastructure.    Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has stressed that the goal is ensuring funding for broadband and economic development is properly spent, not just ushered out the door quickly.
    Tuesday’s South Lawn ceremony celebrating the competitiveness bill was the latest White House event running through a veritable checklist of recent accomplishments.    Biden will host another Wednesday to sign legislation offering care for veterans suffering from exposure to toxic burn pits.
    “Now, some of it is not going to kick in for a little bit, but it’s all good.” President Joe Biden

8/10/2022 Biden formalizes US support for Finland, Sweden bids by Zeke Miller, ASSOCIATED PRESS
President Joe Biden stands with Vice President Kamala Harris, left, Karin Olofsdotter, Sweden’s ambassador
to the U.S., second from left, and Mikko Hautala, Finland’s ambassador to the U.S., right. SUSAN WALSH/AP
    WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden formally welcomed Finland and Sweden joining the NATO alliance Tuesday as he signed the instruments of ratification that delivered the U.S.’s formal backing of the Nordic nations entering the mutual defense pact, part of a reshaping of the European security posture after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
    “In seeking to join NATO, Finland and Sweden are making a sacred commitment that an attack against one is an attack against all,” Biden said at the signing as he called the partnership the “indispensable alliance.”
    The U.S. became the 23rd ally to approve NATO membership for the two countries.    Biden said he spoke with the heads of both nations before signing the ratification and urged the remaining NATO members to finish their own ratification process “as quickly as possible.”
    The Senate last week approved the two, once-non-aligned nations joining the alliance in a rare 95-1 vote that Biden said shows the world that “the United States of America can still do big things” with a sense of political unity.
    The countries sought out NATO membership earlier this year to guarantee their security in the wake of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s offensive in Ukraine.    The North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s rules require the consent of all of its 30 existing members before Finland and Sweden can officially accede into the alliance, which is expected in the coming months.
    The candidacies of the two prosperous Northern European nations have won ratification from more than half of the NATO member nations in the roughly three months since the two applied.    It marks one of the speediest expansions of the pact of mutual defense among the United States and democratic allies in Europe in its 73-year history.
    U.S. State and Defense officials consider the two countries net “security providers,” strengthening NATO’s defense posture in the Baltics in particular.    Finland is expected to exceed NATO’s 2% gross domestic product defense spending target in 2022, and Sweden has committed to meet the 2% goal.
    Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO in May, setting aside their longstanding stance of military nonalignment.    It was a major shift of security arrangements for the two countries after neighboring Russia launched its war on Ukraine in late February.    Biden encouraged their joining and welcomed the two countries’ government heads to the White House in May, standing side by side with them in a display of U.S. backing.
    The U.S. and its European allies have rallied with newfound partnership in the face of Putin’s military invasion, as well as the Russian leader’s sweeping statements this year condemning NATO, issuing veiled reminders of Russia’s nuclear arsenal and asserting Russia’s historical claims to territory of many of its neighbors.

8/10/2022 Biden Signs Protocols Supporting Finland, Sweden NATO Membership by OAN Newsroom
President Joe Biden shakes hands with Karin Olofsdotter, Sweden’s ambassador to the U.S., after signing
the Instruments of Ratification for the Accession Protocols to the North Atlantic Treaty for the Kingdom of Sweden
in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. From left, Vice President
Kamala Harris, Biden, Olofsdotter and Mikko Hautala, Finland’s ambassador to the U.S. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
    Thanks to Joe Biden, Sweden and Finland are inching closer to becoming part of NATO. In his latest attempt to spite Russia amid the Ukraine crisis, President Biden moved to bolster the geo-political power of NATO.     On Tuesday, the President signed instruments of ratification for the ascension protocol that showed the US government’s support for the countries joining the Cold War-era military pact.    This makes America the 23rd country to approve of Sweden and Finland’s inclusion into NATO. Biden claimed the countries’ contributions to fending off shared threats would be tremendous.
    This comes amid his administration’s push to tip the scales of the Ukraine conflict in favor of the Zelensky regime as it’s leading the west to punish Russia.
    “Together, we committed to the United States, Finland and Sweden would continue to remain vigilant against any threats to our shared security and deter any confrontation and confront any aggression or threat of aggression that might come up.    And I urge the remaining allies to complete their own ratification progress as quickly as possible,” Biden said.
    After Turkey’s objections were flipped in June, other NATO nations have been quick to take similar measures.    In the month of July, all 30 ambassadors to NATO signed ascension protocols.    In the US last week, the Senate voted 95-to-one in favor of ratification.    Member states hope the move enhances their strategic position against Russia. Finland’s inclusion would give NATO extra territory along the Russian border.
    Additionally, Biden hopes America’s leadership in NATO’s fight against Russia will boost its image on the international stage, especially after his administration suffered a string of foreign policy failures.    Critics say those failures have weakened America’s role as leader of the free world.
    "We’re showing the world the United States of America can still do big things,” the President remarked.    “This nearly unanimous bipartisan ratification sends another important message.    The United States is committed, the United States is committed to the transatlantic alliance.
    Together with our allies and partners, we’re going to write the future we want to see, the future we want to see.    And in a moment, when Putin’s Russia is shattered, peace and security in Europe, when autocrats are challenging the very foundations of a rule-based order, the strength of the transatlantic alliance and America’s commitment to NATO’s is more important than has ever been
    Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) was the lone senator to vote against the ratification.    He argued that the move served Finland and Sweden’s interests and not America’s.
    Hawley stressed that accepting Finland and Sweden into NATO would result in additional American troops being sent away to more territory in Western Europe.    He claimed that would satisfy Washington’s nation building efforts, which aims to establish a new liberal order.
    He further warned that America has a more imminent adversary creeping in on America’s economic and national security — the Chinese communist party.
    “This would be a world in which the Chinese government and its proxies would touch every aspect of our lives,” explained Hawley.    “From Chinese goods dominating our markets, to the Chinese propaganda flooding our airwaves, to Chinese money and influence corrupting American politics.    This would be a world in which China would be free to expand its use of slave labor and to double down on its global campaigns of repression.    That’s the world that Beijing wants, and the truth is we are not now in a position to stop them.”
    Other critics echoed sentiments that expanding NATO would drain American resources.
    Earlier this year, former Texas congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul (R-Texas) wrote an op-ed explaining why he voted against letting Georgia and Ukraine into NATO back in 2008.    He said not only would this have forced America to add troops to these countries, but it would not have served America’s national interests at all.    Paul further warned that flirting with the idea of letting Ukraine into NATO would only deepen tensions between the west and Russia.
    Vladimir Putin and other top Russian officials recently stressed that one of the reasons they built up Russia’s military presence on its border with Ukraine was due to fearing that NATO was encroaching on its western border through Ukraine.
    Meanwhile, Putin said while he doesn’t fear any political problems stemming from Finland or Sweden joining NATO, he admits there is a potential military threat.
    “In this sense, therefore, there is no direct threat to Russia in connection with NATO’s expansion to these countries.    But the expansion of its military infrastructure to these territories will certainly evoke a response on our part,” said Putin.    “We will see what it will be like based on the threats that are created for us.”
    In the meantime, seven more NATO members have to approve their ratification protocols in order to officially let Sweden and Finland into the pact.    Additionally, those member states, led by America, are continuing to pump billions-of-dollars behind Ukraine’s military.    While doing that they are adding sanctions to Russian officials, Russian citizens and Kremlin-linked businesses.

    This page created on 1/1/2022 and updated on 12/31/2022.

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