Double pioneer — Ukraine’s First Black Lawmaker Is Now Also Its First Gold Medalist
VIRTUAL “SUMMIT FOR DEMOCRACY” IN DECEMBER: Remember that in-person Summit for Democracy promised by President Joe Biden? The administration is making other arrangements. Expect it to be a virtual summit in December thanks to the Delta variant, reports Alex Ward.
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NEXT WEEK, TODAY
A MESSY CLIMATE WEEK: The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leading authority on the state of the climate, will issue its first report in eight years Aug. 9 amid a barrage of extreme weather, a warning that the Gulf Stream currents are about to collapse, and news that Oroville, the tallest dam in the U.S., has stopped producing hydropower for first time since it opened in 1968.
Don’t expect any good news: Instead, expect the scientists to explain the harsh realities of the world’s “carbon budget” if it intends to stick to the Paris Climate Agreement (the previous report in 2013 led directly to the Paris agreement).
Why this report matters: The IPCC provides the intellectual fuel for global climate action. It enabled the original climate summit (Kyoto in 1997) to agree on the need to limit emissions, and in Paris in 2015, the world set a target to tackle the problem. This coming November, in Glasgow, countries are supposed to agree on how to hit the target of limiting temperature rises to 1.5 degrees celsius.
THE DOOM AND GLOOM OF JOHN KERRY: The weather is “apocalyptic” and still “some key nations are just unwilling to do their part,’ Kerry told David Remnick, “that includes China, Russia, India, South Africa, Brazil.”
TREE PLANTING WON’T SAVE US: By now you’ve heard about the trend of big companies and countries declaring they’re committed to “net zero emissions,” most commonly by 2050. Less common is campaign groups labeling those announcements as “dangerous distractions.” That’s what Oxfam did this week, saying that current climate efforts “could force an 80 percent rise in global food prices and more hunger,” while failing to achieve their intended green outcomes. Collectively, to mitigate the rise in emissions, the world would need to plant new forests twice the size of Australia, and fossil fuel producers alone would need to create a second Amazon forest to get to net zero. Oxfam says emissions simply need to come down over the next decade — a bold plan for 2050 is too late.
China’s coal plan makes a mockery of its climate target: China says it wants to get to net zero but its coal production capacity is three times what the entire world should limit itself to, if we’re to keep global warming below 2 degrees celsius.
ESG assets are likely to surpass $50 trillion by 2025. That’s according to Bloomberg Intelligence. You have to wonder what the point of these classifications are if $50 trillion can’t buy us some meaningful emissions reductions.
IS THIS A BIPARTISAN CLIMATE DEAL? No, at least not between America’s two political parties. But Democrats and the auto industry are finding common ground. Flipping their position from several years back, Ford, GM and Stellantis yesterday backed the White House goal of half of all light vehicle sales being electric by 2030. Foreign-owned auto-makers BMW, Honda, Ford, Volkswagen and Volvo announced their support in a joint statement. A Rhodium Group analysis forecasts that EV sales would reach 27-39 percent of new car purchases in 2030, even without this new policy.
Meager fuel efficiency target: Biden’s policy will essentially reinstate an Obama-era directive. The problem: Europe, China and the climate problem have moved forward since the Obama years. The EU has mandated an average fuel economy of about 57 U.S. mpg in 2021 (about where the U.S. will be in 2026 under Biden’s plan) and 92 U.S. mpg by 2030.
Reality check: The White House says the two announcements put the U.S. “on track to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new passenger vehicle sales by more than 60 percent in 2030” compared to 2020. But since U.S. vehicle sales were down 15 percent in 2020, linked to Covid, the better comparison is with 2019. By that measure, Biden’s plan would put U.S. emissions on track to fall by a little under half, rather than “more than 60 percent” by 2030.
WHO WANTS TO BAN COVID BOOSTER SHOTS FOR NOW
It’s one thing to vaccinate your own people first. The World Health Organization says it’s another thing to keep topping them up before most of the world has received its first dose. The U.N. health body wants a ban on booster shots to make sure at least 10 percent of people in every country (roughly the most vulnerable groups) are vaccinated first.
Where do we stand: More than half of the United States, Canada, the European Union and U.K. are vaccinated. In Africa, it’s less than 3 percent.
Africa breakthrough: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced Thursday that monthly African Union vaccine shipments of 400 million single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses have commenced. Just 6.4 million of the collectively purchased doses will ship to the continent’s capitals in August, but that will rise to 25 million per month by January. UNICEF is providing logistical and delivery services. The bulk purchase will eventually immunize one in three Africans.
BELARUS AT BOILING POINT: Belarus was rocked by mass protests last summer and this year the drama is returning to fever pitch. The trials of regime opponents Maria Kalesnikava and Maxim Znak are underway behind closed doors: 12 years jail time is the likely outcome. Activist Vitaly Shishov was found dead in a park in the Ukrainian capital, and his partner Bazhena Zholud called on Belarusians to take up arms against Lukashenko’s regime: “I ask you all, stop walking around with flowers, posters. Yesterday it happened to Vitaly, and tomorrow it will happen to you,” Zholud said through tears. “Start non-peaceful protests,” she urged. The country’s authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko is actively encouraging migrants from Iraq, Syria and African countries to cross the border into the EU, using them as a bargaining chip to avoid new EU sanctions.
In happier news, Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya arrived safely in Warsaw on Wednesday evening, after traveling from Tokyo via Vienna to escape Belarussian Olympic officials who tried to send her home forcibly.
RUSSIA — INTERNATIONAL ELECTION OBSERVERS PULL OUT AFTER INTERFERENCE: The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the leading international election observation body, will not monitor the upcoming Russian parliamentary election, scheduled for Sept. 17 to 19. The decision follows Russian authorities limiting the number of observers to 60 (they would have to cover Russia’s nine time zones and approximately 70 million votes cast), well short of the 500 observers the OSCE planned to send. OSCE has until now monitored Russian elections without interruption since 1993.
CHINA — BEIJING FREAKING OUT ABOUT TALIBAN RISE IN AFGHANISTAN: My colleague Phelim Kine writes that “China’s nightmare is that a Taliban victory might embolden the Uyghur armed insurgency group, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, to launch attacks in China. Foreign Minister Wang Yi has repeatedly sought to counter speculation of a possible future U.S.-style military intervention.
TAIWAN — ON THE MAP: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee unanimously passed a bill that instructs the State Department to create a pathway for Taiwan to regain observer status at the World Health Organization’s World Health Assembly (China got them kicked out in 2016). Meanwhile, H.R. 4373 amendment, sponsored by Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-Wisc.), prohibits spending of tax dollars to purchase, create or display any map of the People’s Republic of China that includes Taiwan as part of its territory.
MALAYSIA — THE KING’S GAMBIT: Malaysia’s kings are like no other, drawn from a group of nine Sultans; they take 5-year turns at the helm and they generally stay in the political background. Not King Sultan Abdullah: he pushed for the country’s suspended Parliament to resume sitting and accused the government of bypassing him in its Covid emergency policies. Now Malaysia’s political parties are pushing for Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to resign. That includes the unlikely pair of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad — remarkable because Mohamed had Ibrahim jailed on trumped-up sodomy and corruption charges two decades ago.
MEXICO — SUING AMERICAN GUN COMPANIES FOR FUELING GANG VIOLENCE: The claim is that the gun manufacturers were “persistently supplying a torrent of guns to the drug cartels.”
AUSTRALIA — ONE PART PRISON, ONE PART HUMAN RIGHTS CRUSADE: Returning Australians citizens who live abroad will now need permission to leave Australia (Australian residents already need permission to leave). The policy risks keeping up to half of Australia’s families separated because of Covid: one in four Australians were born in another country and another 1 million live abroad permanently. “I feel abandoned and helpless,” Lucy Symons-Jones, an Australian energy executive married to a British member of Parliament, told Global Translations.
Australian government promises Magnitsky Laws by end 2021: While the Australian government appears unbothered by limiting its own citizens rights, it has an equal opportunity to crackdowns, also promising one against foreign human rights abusers.
ETHIOPIA — FLOATING BODIES AND BANNED AID WORKERS: South Sudanese reported around 50 bodies floating downriver from Ethiopia’s Tigray region, and now Ethiopia’s government has suspended Médecins Sans Frontières and the Norwegian Refugee Council from working in the country, despite almost 400,000 people living in famine-like conditions.
ANGOLA — AN END TO IMPUNITY: Isabel dos Santos, once Africa’s wealthiest woman, must surrender one of her last remaining major assets, a stake in an energy company she obtained when it was overseen by her father, then-President José Eduardo dos Santos. A Dutch-based tribunal ruled the deal “cannot be explained but for grand corruption” and declared it “null and void.”
ITALY — DRAGHI GAMBLES ON A SECOND “WHATEVER IT TAKES”: As Europe’s central banker Mario Draghi made sure investors knew he would stop at nothing to save the Euro during the global financial crisis. Draghi’s second act sees him transforming into a fiscal dove: his success or failure will decide the future of European budgeting, argues Jean Pisani-Ferry. His next stress test: selling the world’s oldest bank.
EQUITY IN THE INFRASTRUCTURE PACKAGE: S&P’s Mike Ferguson told Global Translations the package may help reduce social disparities in the U.S.: read his report. A majority of Republican voters (ranging from 52 percent for Amtrak cash to 79 percent for bridge upgrades) support each of the major elements of the package according to a new poll from POLITICO and Morning Consult.
Here’s where the package would do most to level-up America:
Low-cost broadband requirement: Companies getting funding to expand broadband would be required to offer a low-cost plan to consumers.
Lead water pipes will be removed nationwide including in Chicago, Milwaukee, and Newark.
Public transit and Amtrak: Asian American and African American workers commute by public transit at nearly four times the rate of white workers, per the White House. The $65 billion for Amtrak and roughly $50 billion for transit would deliver the federal government’s biggest-ever investment in reducing commuting times.
AMBASSADOR FOR EVERYWHERE FILES: If Linda Thomas-Greenfield (LTG) reaches lifetime platinum status on America’s airlines by the end of her term as U.N. Ambassador, she’ll have Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to thank. He’s blocking Biden’s ambassador nominees from Senate hearings, leaving LTG to run one presidential delegation after another. This time it’s a trip to the Tokyo Olympics closing ceremony and meetings with Japanese officials, followed by a stopover in Thailand, where Covid and Myanmar will top the meeting agenda.
7 MORE AMERICAN AMBASSADORS — MAYBE, EVENTUALLY: Africa is once again the subject of the most nominations this week: Elizabeth Anne Noseworthy Fitzsimmons (Togolese Republic), Brian Shukan (Benin), David Young (Malawi) and Oren Whyche-Shaw, Nominee for U.S. Director of the African Development Bank.
Also nominated were Mark Brzezinski (Poland), Adriana Kugler, (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development) and Rebecca Eliza Gonzales, (Director of the Office of Foreign Missions, with the rank of Ambassador).
U.S. PLANS TO REQUIRE COVID-19 SHOTS FOR FOREIGN TRAVELERS: No timeline has yet been determined. The U.S. has banned entry for most travelers from the U.K., the EU, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil. EU officials have previously expressed “huge disappointment” in the lack of reciprocity from the U.S. given they allow fully vaccinated Americans to visit, without quarantining.
KNOWING THE WHITE HOUSE PRESS OFFICE: “These millennial and Gen Z staffers are part of Jen Psaki‘s 11-person army that keeps the White House on message,” by Insider’s Robin Bravender, Nicole Gaudiano and Kayla Epstein: “Their pay ranges from $62,500 to $180,000 a year.
THIRSTY FOR ANSWERS: “A $5,800 Bottle of Japanese Whiskey Given to Mike Pompeo Is Missing,” by William Mauldin. Pompeo said he knows nothing about it.
F*** YOU, PAY ME: It’s an app with an unprintable name that wants to force brands to pay up. Welcome to the murky world of social media product placement.
PODCAST — KREMLIN FILE: Episode 1 features Masha Gessen on Putin’s early days in St Petersburg, his grab on power, and how his inner circle took control of Russia and its resources
PLATFORM — CITIZENS CONNECT: An online non-partisan platform that connects Americans to civic events and more than 400 organizations matching their interests
SHORT READ — CORRUPTION: “Why Is America Cooperating With Militaries Running Criminal Rackets?” asks Michael Paarlberg.
LONG READ — THE DIPLOMATS WITHOUT A COUNTRY: He occupies a six-story Manhattan townhouse on behalf of the people of Myanmar and refuses to leave.
Thanks to editor Ben Pauker