US President Joe Biden and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced a joint Task Force to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian hydrocarbons and “strengthen European energy security as President Putin wages his war of choice against Ukraine.” The press release states: “The United States will work with international partners and strive to ensure additional LNG volumes for the EU market of at least 15 bcm [billion cubic meters] in 2022, with expected increases going forward.” This means liquified natural gas from the US fracking industry. Environmental group Global Witness reacted with alarm to the announcement, stating: “If Europe truly wants to get off Russian gas the only real option it has is phasing out gas altogether.” (Image: FracTracker)
The United Nations’ top disarmament official stressed the urgent need to identify those who have used chemical weapons in Syria, and hold them accountable for their deeds. “Without such an action, we are allowing the use of chemical weapons to take place with impunity,” Izumi Nakamitsu, UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, told the Security Council in a virtual briefing. Nakamitsu was briefing Council members on implementation of Resolution 2118, in which unanimous agreement was reached in 2013 to condemn “in the strongest terms” any use of chemical weapons in Syria. Yet the country has seen continued chemical attacks since then. In a new report, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) summarized 19 “outstanding issues” that remain, six-and-a-half years after the Bashar Assad regime claimed that it had handed over all chemical agents and destroyed all facilities. The OPCW expressed concern that at least one chemical weapons production facility in the country remains operational. (Photo of ruins of Aleppo, where chemical weapons were used in 2017: OCHA/Halldorsson via UN News)
As the year comes to a close, Native American activists and their allies in Minnesota are launching a weekly protest vigil against the planned Line 3 pipeline, that would bring more Canadian shale-oil to US markets. The self-proclaimed “water protectors” pledge to continue the campaign into the winter. The Conservation Council of Western Australia meanwhile launched legal challenge against approval of the new Burrup Hub liquified natural gas facility, asserting that it is the “most polluting fossil fuel project ever to be proposed in Australia,” and “undermines global efforts [to mitigate climate change] under the Paris Agreement.” While Denmark has pledged to end North Sea oil exploitation by 2050 as a step toward meeting the Paris accord goals, other Scandinavian governments remain intransigent. The Supreme Court of Norway has upheld a judgment allowing the government to grant oil licenses in new sections of the country’s continental shelf. The decision was challenged by environmental groups including Nature & Youth Norway, who claimed that it violates the European Convention on Human Rights. (Photo: Stop Line 3)
Playing to anti-war sentiment just in time for the election, the Trump administration announces a draw-down of thousands of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. This comes as Chevron has quietly signed an agreement with Iraq for the development of the massive Nassiriya oil-field. Chevron has also announced a new initiative with Kazakhstan, with an eye toward oil exports through a trans-Afghan pipeline. We’ve been hearing talk of a US “withdrawal” from Iraq and Afghanistan for years—but military advisors and contractors have always remained, and ground troops have always been sent back in again as soon as things start to get out of hand. And as long as oil money follows the military, that will always be the case. Don’t be fooled. (Photo: Army Amber via Pixaby)
Speaking at COVIDCon, an online Oslo Freedom Forum event presented by the Human Rights Foundation, exiled Chinese dissident Yang Jianli charged that the death toll for Wuhan, the city where the COVID-19 outbreak began, was massively under-counted by authorities. Yang said that as Xi Jinping visited Wuhan on March 10, “endless Wuhan residents pleaded for help online, saying hospitals were overflowing and their family members were turned away and left to die at home. Nobody knows how many people died before managing to get to hospitals.” (Photo of shopping queue in Wuhan: Wikimedia Commons)
The mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch have left at least 49 dead and some 20 wounded, many gravely, including children. The attacks took place when the mosques were packed for Friday prayers. An Australian-born man named Brenton Tarrant has been arrested as the gunman, and three suspected accomplices also detained. Marking a new extreme in depravity, Tarrant live-streamed the massacre on Facebook, with a camera mounted on his head. The video has been removed from the web. Alas, so has his lengthy manifesto, in which he laid out his motivations for the attack. The removal is ill-considered, as being ignorant of the rhetoric employed to justify mass murder only makes potential recruits more vulnerable. CounterVortex was able to review the document before it was scrubbed from the web, and it is a study in Red-Brown politics—employing populist phrases appropriated directly from the left and wedding them to a white-supremacist ideology. (Photo via Ma’an)
Will an "October surprise" in the prelude to the mid-term elections in the US be the outbreak of world war—that is, direct superpower conflict? Things are escalating fast on the frontlines with both of the United States' major imperial rivals. The US Navy's Pacific Fleet is preparing to carry out a "global show of force" as a warning to China, after a near-skirmish between a US warship and a Chinese destroyer in the disputed South China Sea. Meanwhile, NATO is planning to conduct its largest military exercises since the end of the Cold War, Trident Juncture 2018, along Norway's border wth Russia. This comes as Washington and Moscow are odds over missile deployments, accusing each other of violating the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty. (Image: Lockheed Martin)
Some 50,000 to 60,000 people fleeing war and persecution will start a new life and be on track for a new passport in 2018, but it will be the fewest number of refugees resettled globally any year since 2007, UN figures show. The drop is mainly due to President Donald Trump’s administration slashing the US quota. The United States took in 68% of the 770,000 refugees permanently resettled in the last 10 years, according to the UN—an average of about 51,000 per year. But, this calendar year, fewer than 10,000 had made the journey to the United States by the end of July. Developing regions host 85% of the world’s refugees, according to the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR. (Photo: IRIN)
The company operating Libya's biggest oilfield, Sharara, announced that it had been shut down after a citizen closed the pipeline that pumps the field's oil. The field is run by a joint venture between Libya's National Oil Corporation and several multinationals. The individual claimed the pipeline caused environmental damage to his lands, and had also closed the pipeline last year to press his demands for a clean-up. With this latest closure, Libya's oil output dropped to a six-month low of 750,000 barrels per day. National Oil Corporation chairman Mustafa Sanallah described those who shut down oil-fields as "terrorists." (Photo: Libya Observer)
The UN reports a “notable trend of spontaneous returns” of displaced Syrians as regime gains bring a modicum of peace to some areas—but mass killings by regime forces continue.
Under diplomatic pressure, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signed the Fairbanks Declaration on Arctic climate—but with caveats about how the US will not "rush" to change policy.
NATO is just winding up its biggest military exercise since the end of the Cold War—Operation Trident Juncture, involving 36,000 troops from over 30 countries.