World News Digest – Issue 10

With the fast pace of today’s news cycle it can be hard to know what to pay attention to, and information overload is often the inevitable result. Listed under the categories of Economy, Energy, Environment, Geopolitics and Culture, our selected news highlights bypass celebrity gossip and partisan politics, cutting through the crap to shine the spotlight on the world affairs that affect us most strongly.

The SHIFT team has trawled through hundreds of news sources and stories, turning up our bullshit filter to maximum volume, to bring you June, July, August, and September’s global affairs highlights…

Economy

On the Brink of Global Recession, Again

Commodities are in turmoil, with eighteen of the 22 components in the Bloomberg Commodity Index dropping at least 20 percent from recent closing highs – thus meeting the common definition of a bear market. This situation is strikingly reminiscent of the beginning of the recent global financial crisis. Meanwhile, China’s economic slowdown is likely to drag global economic growth to below 2 percent if it continues, plunging the world into recession.

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Unfolding the Greek Drama

As the Greek drama unfolds former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis takes the opportunity to open up about the details of his battle to save the Greek economy. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras acknowledges the flawed conditions of the bailout plan his government has agreed to under duress, and John Pilger’s explosive commentary claims Syriza’s capitulation to the troika is a betrayal of the Greek people.

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Euroskepticism no Longer the Domain of the Far Right

Championing an exit from the Eurozone has traditionally seemed the domain of the far right political factions. However, current political conditions call for the political left to also examine whether the European Union is acting in tune with progressive causes. The economic ruination of Greece suggests that a reconsideration of the Euroskeptic cause may be warranted.

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Australia Heading for a Crash

Australia’s real estate market is a bubble on the brink of bursting, according to housing economists, and the impact is expected to hit hardest in Melbourne. Meanwhile, the commodities boom that gave Australia its reputation as the lucky country may be coming to an end due to rising debt and a slump in Chinese demand for resources.

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Disrupting the Financial Status Quo

The Bristol Pound, a community currency, is gaining ground on sterling with increasing circulation in the local economy. Although it has only been in circulation for three years, the Bristol Pound has gained traction with many local independent retailers and firms to the point where it is becoming a disruptive force.

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Lifting the Veil on the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Wikileaks has published leaked chapters of the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement between the US and 11 other countries, together covering 40 percent of the global economy. The recently disclosed ‘Investment Chapter’ highlights the intent of US-led negotiators to create a tribunal where corporations can sue governments if their laws interfere with a company’s claimed future profits. The consequences of this are likely to include a chilling effect on the adoption of health and environmental regulations.

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Challenging Global Poverty

As the Pope becomes the latest public figure to criticize the capitalist economic paradigm, questions are arising as to whether and to what extent our approaches to challenging poverty are sufficient or effective. In positive news, France has adopted a down-to-earth approach toward waste, forcing supermarkets to donate unsold produce to charities, thus challenging the gap between profit-motivated corporations and the poor struggling just to feed themselves; and the degrowth agenda has hit mainstream news. Meanwhile India ploughs onward toward further inequity with its plans for ‘smart cities’ that are set to create apartheid-like conditions between the haves and have-nots.

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Energy

Arctic Oil Drilling Shelved

Shell has become the latest big oil player to abandon its designs on drilling in the Arctic due to poor predicted returns on investment. Lower than expected reserves amid low crude prices leave environmentalists relieved.

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Fossil Fuels kept Afloat by Huge Subsidies

A recent shocking revelation by the International Monetary Fund has found that the 2015 global subsidies of $5.3tn benefiting the fossil fuel industry are the equivalent of $10m a minute, every day. This is significantly greater than the total health expenditure of all the world’s governments.

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Big Oil’s Grand Designs

Oil companies that have pumped trillions of barrels of crude from the ground are now saying the future is in their other main product: natural gas. Natural gas is now being promoted as the logical successor to coal, which is currently under attack from both Big Oil and climate activists alike.

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China’s Nuclear Future

A leading Chinese scientist has warned that China’s plans for a rapid expansion of nuclear power plants present a massive risk due to insufficient investment in safety controls. Physicist He Zuoxiu has warned that any consequent accident could lead to the contamination of rivers that hundreds of people rely on for water, as well as contaminating groundwater that vast swathes of farmlands depend on.

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China warned over ‘insane’ plans for new nuclear power plants

Environment

Climate update

It’s never good news on the climate front – between James Hansen’s recent warning of dramatic sea level rise, ice-sheet decline causing earthquakes and tsunamis, record wildfires and heatwave death tolls, predictions of dire consequences for our children’s future look less and less far-fetched. But campaigners battle on, with Australian climate activists preparing to sue their government over inaction, and increasing efforts to address agricultural emissions.

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Wildlife in decline

Scientists have declared that the earth is entering a sixth mass extinction of animal species, thanks to human influence. In Australia alone hundreds of species are at risk, with ten making a recent list of species at extreme imminent risk of extinction.

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Opposition to Monsanto’s GM Visions Mounts

Opposition to Monsanto’s genetic modification of our food supply and corporatization of our food systems is mounting, with tens of thousands of people from 400 cities in over 40 countries joining the third annual march against Monsanto. Meanwhile, the Netherlands has announced a ban on glyphosate-containing pesticides, rendering Monsanto’s Roundup to the realm of banned substances.

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Global Water Supply in Distress

Scientists have warned that global freshwater supplies are under great stress, impacting agricultural and domestic water supplies. Water distress manifests in policy moves only recently considered unthinkable, as exemplified by California’s recent steps to restrict century-old water rights in the agriculturally focused Central Valley.

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Nature Deficit Disorder

A new study from Stanford University has found quantifiable evidence that time spent in nature can lead to a lower risk of depression.

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Geopolitics

Geostrategic Implications of a Grexit

Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis explains that while Greece has been focused on debt restructuring in negotiations, for some Eurozone leaders Greece’s exit from the union is the ultimate goal. The geostrategic implications of a Grexit, however, are immense, with possibilities for alternative political alignments and trade agreements looming large.

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China’s Military Movements

China has moved weaponry onto artificial islands that it is building in contested areas of the South China Sea. The risk of a confrontation with the United States and its regional security partners including Australia mounts.

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Who’s to Blame for the Emergence of ISIS?

A newly declassified Pentagon report provides confirmation that the US-led strategy to destabilize the Assad regime in Syria contributed directly to the rise of ISIS. The ghastly consequences of the destabilization of Syria were also foreseen, according to the report. Meanwhile, in Australia former Liberal party leader John Hewson claims Australia’s involvement in the Iraq war – based on a tenuous claim of connection to al-Qaeda – also implicates Australia in the emergence of militant Islamist extremism.

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Saudi Arabia Headed for Failed State Status

Concerned about more than just their new king Saudis they are also becoming increasingly unsettled about the stability of their fragile nation. While the world surrounding the Gulf is changing in ways that pose a threat to the kingdom, deep-rooted structural issues – including the insecurity of future oil reserves – position Saudi Arabia on the brink of protracted state-failure.

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The Rise of City States

The bid for mayor of London has opened a potential can of worms with the suggestion – now echoed by a number of candidates and supporters – that the UK capital’s mayor should have tax-raising powers equivalent to Scotland. Such a measure would bestow London the status of a city-sate, enabling greater autonomy in solving its problems, but also raising the question of further fragmentation of the nation.

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Disclaimer: SHIFT magazine does not take responsibility for the content of any of the articles linked to in our World News Digest. Selection for the Digest does not imply endorsement of any of the positions expressed in any given article.

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