CLAIRE BERLINSKI, PARIS
Pelosi goes to Taiwan. Russia steals Sudan’s gold. Iran threatens to nuke New York. Vladislav narrowly escapes a sniper. And the good news: We’ve cracked biology’s biggest problem.
Artificial intelligence firm DeepMind has transformed biology by predicting the structure of nearly all proteins known to science in just 18 months, a breakthrough that will speed drug development and revolutionize basic science.
- We’re past a tipping point in science that could prove groundbreaking.
- “The entire protein universe.”
- Why DeepMind’s protein-folding AI is transformational. (Paywalled.)
It’s not your imagination: The world really is spinning off its axis. The Earth has set a new record for the shortest day. The planet completed a full spin on 29 June 2022, in a time that was 1.59 milliseconds—little over one thousandth of a second—shorter than its standard 24-hour rotation.
🇺🇸🇨🇳🇹🇼 Pelosi plans to go to Taiwan. This seems awfully dangerous. Having warned that China would respond militarily to the visit, Beijing now has to respond in some meaningful way, or Xi will lose face, which he can’t afford. He’s aiming for a third term despite the failures of his zero-Covid policy—and the Chinese economy’s in the tank. In the next few days he’ll be facing the annual conclave of Party elders in Hebei Province, and his performance will be under scrutiny. Xi has styled himself as the avatar of Chinese nationalism. It will cost him dearly if he backs down.
In the best-case scenario, some kind of kabuki theater will ensue; China and the US will display their naval assets like peacock feathers; no one will get hurt; everyone will do a lot of tub-thumping; and Pelosi will go home pleased with herself.
In the worst case scenario—use your imagination.
Having said she’d go, she too has backed herself into a corner. If she bails, she sends a dangerous signal about our commitment to Taiwan, rewards bullying, confirms to China that the US can be pushed out of Asia, and loses face. It would be better if she’d never proposed to go in the first place. It isn’t necessary. We don’t need this right now. Neither does Taiwan.
And the plain truth is that if this gets seriously out of hand, we’re apt to lose:
- Wargaming Taiwan: When losing to China is winning.
- Dangerous Straits: Wargaming a future conflict over Taiwan.
- The US military “failed miserably” in a fake battle over Taiwan.
“A dangerous moment.” China warns of consequences if Pelosi visits Taiwan:
“I think the Chinese have to do more than they did in 1997—Xi Jinping can’t be seen as weak on this,” said Bonnie S. Glaser, director of the Asia programat the German Marshall Fund think tank. “It’s a very dangerous moment. I think few people actually realise how dangerous this is.” …
Publicly, Taiwanese officials including the president have warmly welcomed visits by foreign delegations. The Democratic Progressive party and foreign affairs committee member Wang Ting-yu tweeted encouragement at Mike Pompeo’s claim he would gladly join Pelosi on her trip. Privately, the Guardian understands there is some concern in government circles that US actions—specifically Biden’s most recent comments in Tokyo that the US would defend Taiwan—are potentially provocative at a time when Taiwan wishes to maintain the safety of the status quo.
- Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan is too dangerous.
- Chinese anger over Taiwan visit grows after Nancy Pelosi departs on Asia tour.
- US deploys ships and planes near Taiwan as Pelosi eyes visit.
- Pelosi’s Taiwan visit might trigger no-fly zone.
- EU braces for China-US escalation risk as Taiwan tensions rise.
🥢The CCP is exceedingly worked up
From the Chinese media:
The meaning of [Chinese] statements is crystal clear. If the United States insists on pushing forward the visit, then China will use all kinds of means, including the use of military force when necessary, to resolutely fight back. … The Chinese government will not sit idly by and let this happen.
… The anti-access area denial capability system of Chinese mainland has basically taken shape, the anti-aircraft carrier capability of ballistic missiles continues to mature, and large-scale maritime combat platforms and their formation systems continue to grow. At this stage, relevant people in the United States, including Pelosi herself, need to form a more comprehensive and clear understanding. Now is not the mid-1990s, let alone the 1950s, and the United States does not have the actual ability to do whatever it wants on the Taiwan question. … As soon as the news of Pelosi’s possible visit came out, the anger that erupted in the Chinese public opinion field is a true portrayal of the public sentiment. … the Chinese people will support the government to take all necessary measures, including the use of military power to sever it completely.
- PLA conducts mock night time drills. “Experts suggest that the PLA should send warplanes to intercept Pelosi’s plane if it were to land in Taiwan. Some others said the PLA should surround the island of Taiwan with live-fire military exercises and block Pelosi’s plane.”
- US better clear the “mine” of Pelosi’s Taiwan trip beforehand. China’s response has been clear, as always. “Those who play with fire will perish by it.” … China’s repeated public warnings are by no means jokes.
- Bottom line on Taiwan will be shaped through fight with US. “We must exert maximum pressure to show our resolution of doing whatever it takes to realize national reunification. Taiwan is at the heart of China’s core interests.”
- Five possible ways the PLA could thwart Pelosi’s Taiwan visit:
- Send military planes to accompany Pelosi’s plane.
- Establish a no-fly zone in the Taiwan Straits.
- Send military aircraft flying across the island of Taiwan.
- Launch ballistic missiles around the Straits.
- Conduct military exercises around the Straits.
- Pelosi’s Taiwan trip may push China’s reunification. Pelosi’s trip could “firm up China’s determination to fight against US provocations and make the US pay the bitter price it deserves.”
Arch super-villain Hu was even chastised by Twitter for suggesting the PLA shoot down Nancy Pelosi:
🇹🇼 So let them be worked up
From the Taiwanese media:
Western media: Beijing’s water carriers. The Chinese use tension to manage Washington and manage the media. Journalists need to stop helping them:
The media is so wonderful. Something is happening with Taiwan, so readers must be treated to a rolling barrage of wrong assertions and bad history, born-in-Beijing justifications, Chinese propaganda delivered by Chinese officials, incorrect portrayals of US Taiwan policy and, of course, stern warnings that war is in the offing. All with nobody asking the Taiwanese for their opinion (of course!).
The media mess surrounding US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi kicked off with Edward Luce’s July 22 piece in the Financial Times, “Nancy Pelosi’s reckless jaunt to Taiwan.” The piece was based on an interview with Qin Gang (秦剛), the Chinese ambassador to the US. Luce agreed that Washington had forgotten that Taiwan was important to China: “Until recently this knowledge was deeply embedded in Washington’s foreign policy establishment.” Luce added: “I found it hard to dispute Qin’s view that America’s [“one China” policy] is being steadily eroded and ‘hollowed out’ in today’s Washington.”
Ah, the class solidarity of older gentlemen of means mooning about the lost and incomparably better past. The truth is that Luce simply passed along, with approval, Qin’s lies. The US’ “one China” policy does not recognize that Taiwan is part of China. Hence, US President Joe Biden was recently affirming it, not hollowing it out. Luce’s claim that Washington has forgotten that China badly wants to annex Taiwan is simply laughable, especially in light of this week’s storm over Pelosi.
… In addition to fighting Taiwan’s military, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army could well find itself facing the US and its regional allies too, if it attacked Taiwan. China would also pay dearly economically, for what British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has said would be a “catastrophic miscalculation.” China would become an international pariah, just as Russia has become over the brutal and unprovoked war in Ukraine.
Fire does not discriminate. Once set in motion, it engulfs everything it touches, irrespective of who lit it.
The evidence … suggests that Russia has colluded with Sudan’s beleaguered military leadership, enabling billions of dollars in gold to bypass the Sudanese state and to deprive the poverty-stricken country of hundreds of millions in state revenue. In exchange, Russia has lent powerful political and military backing to Sudan’s increasingly unpopular military leadership as it violently quashes the country’s pro-democracy movement. (Claire—unusually good reporting from CNN. Good for them.)
🇷🇺🇪🇺🇪🇹 Russia’s Africa moves force Europe rethink on Ethiopia. Moscow’s outreach has left some EU capitals calling for the bloc to send more money to Ethiopia’s government, despite accusations of war crimes:
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was once a darling of the West and hailed as a reformer, even winning the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, but has been more recently criticized for ordering the systematic murder of civilians in the Tigray region during a civil war. As a result, the EU has been reluctant to resume full financial support for Ahmed’s regime, despite tentative peace negotiations in the country.
But several EU diplomats from the bloc’s larger members argue Russia’s increasing presence in Ethiopia has made it difficult to maintain strict EU standards in the country — and say countries including Italy, Germany, France and the Netherlands are pushing to give more funding to the country’s government. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was even in Addis Ababa on Wednesday, pledging support and accusing Western powers of retaining a colonial mindset in the region.
United Nations peacekeepers opened fire at a border crossing in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday, UN and Congolese authorities said, killing two people and injuring 15 others in a spasm of violence that punctuated weeks of tensions over the agency’s role in Africa’s second-largest nation.
Local protesters have recently escalated their calls for United Nations forces to leave the region, saying the soldiers have failed to protect civilians against an alarming surge of violence carried out by an array of militant groups. The killings on Sunday come just days after at least 19 people, including three UN peacekeepers, were killed and 60 others injured, in demonstrations against the peacekeeping mission in the cities of Butembo and Goma.
#URGENT: Serious incident this Sunday in Kasindi, border between the DRC and Uganda.
MONUSCO soldiers fired on several civilians and Congolese soldiers who were at this post on the Congolese side.
Loss of human life and injuries on the spot. #DRC pic.twitter.com/Xk6YhoevSz
— Akilimali Saleh Chomachoma (@akilimalisaleh) July 31, 2022
Dismayed by the images of unprecedented and unacceptable violence by blue helmets on the civilian population and Congolese police officers in Kasindi. We strongly condemn this barbarism and present our most saddened condolences to the relatives of the victims and demand justice. https://t.co/QKnNXAcymT
— Denis Mukwege (@DenisMukwege) July 31, 2022
🌎 Middle East
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps issued a threatening statement on its official Telegram channels over the weekend, stating that its goal was to develop atomic warheads and threaten to destroy New York. According to the official post, Iran “can immediately return to the Emad project and build an atom bomb if the Natanz facilities are attacked.”
According to media reports, the comments made by the Iran regime’s paramilitary arm—the Revolutionary Guard, appeared on its linked Bismichi Media Telegram channel, with an accompanying video titled “When Will Iran’s Sleeping Nuclear Warheads Awaken?” In the short video, Tehran declared that it could use its peaceful nuclear program into a nuclear weapons program quickly if the United States or Israel made any careless mistakes. The video post further stated that Iran could “pulverize” New York and turn it into a “hellish ruin.”
🇮🇷💣 Iran ready to conclude nuclear talks. Iran’s top nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani says Iran is ready for a final push to revive the nuclear deal:
We shared our proposed ideas, both on substance & form, to pave the way for a swift conclusion of Vienna negotiations which were aimed at fixing the damaging complicated situation caused by the U.S. unilateral & unlawful withdrawal. 1/2
— علی باقریکنی (@Bagheri_Kani) July 31, 2022
We work closely with our JCPOA partners, in particular the Coordinator, to give another chance to the U.S. to demonstrate good faith & act responsibly. As Iran, we stand ready to conclude the negotiations in a short order, should the other side be ready to do the same. 2/2
— علی باقریکنی (@Bagheri_Kani) July 31, 2022
The plant is being built according to contracts that entered into force on Dec. 11, 2017, whereby Rosatom will build the plant and deliver the integrated life cycle of nuclear fuel, in addition to training staff and providing support in operating the plant as well as working to provide services to the plant during the first 10 years of its operation and building facilities designed to store spent nuclear fuel.
[Tunisian President Kais] Saied is likely to hope that the Biden administration does for him what the administration of former US president Barack Obama did for al-Sisi: Accept the new constitution as a fait accompli and look the other way as the Tunisian president uses it to tighten his grip over all levers of the state. Biden should deny Saied that satisfaction. Instead, the US president can start making up for his failure to protect Tunisia’s democracy by making it clear that his administration has done more than “note” Saied’s attempt to institutionalize authoritarianism. …
Biden should demand that Saied restore the independence of Tunisia’s judiciary as well as the freedom of its media, and work with opposition parties toward a power-sharing arrangement and fresh elections. If Saied refuses, the US should withhold all aid for Tunisia and encourage its European partners to do likewise. The Biden administration should also be prepared to exercise the US veto on any IMF assistance for Tunisia.
🇫🇷❄️ Paris is facing a much colder, darker winter than Berlin. Blackouts in France could become more common than in Germany once the weather turns colder:
In the European energy crisis, all of the attention is focused on Germany and its reliance on gas from Russia, but the struggling nuclear reactors of France are at least as important. … As winter approaches, the outlook in France is increasingly dire. Électricité de France, the state-owned utility, is running only 26 of its 57 reactors, with more than half of its chain undergoing emergency maintenance after the discovery of cracked pipes. With atomic reactors generating the lowest share of the country’s power in thirty years, France faces an electricity Waterloo.
🇮🇹 Why is the far right so popular in Italy now? On immigration, religion, and the ghosts of fascism:
Italy’s government collapsed last week, abandoned in a non-confidence vote by three populist parties in Parliament. The country will hold early elections on September 25, and polls show three parties on the far right likely winning enough votes to form the next governing coalition. Italy’s most popular party now is the fiercely nationalist Fratelli d’Italia (Brothers of Italy), a direct descendant of Benito Mussolini’s National Fascist Party. Members of Fratelli have praised the fascist era, while the party calls for loosened ties with the European Union and zero-tolerance of immigration. The other two right-wing populists are Lega (League), which also staunchly opposes immigration and supports closer ties with Russia, and Forza Italia (Forward Italy), the party of the former longtime prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. In the 1990s, Berlusconi—who owned Italy’s most popular television stations and was Italy’s richest man—articulated many defining features of the populism that’s brought leaders to power in recent years in the United States, Hungary, Brazil, and the Philippines. But Berlusconi was forced to resign in 2011 as Italy’s economy fell into recession and public debt climbed to dangerous levels. All this has taken place against the backdrop of Italy’s historical experience of fascism, including the alliance with Adolf Hitler and the Nazis that led the country to ruin in World War II. So why do so many Italians now support these right-wing parties?
🥷🏻🇪🇺🇺🇸 Death weapons: A network of young neo-Nazis is setting up terrorist cells across Europe and the US for the purpose of carrying out armed attacks.
🇱🇻🇷🇺 “Call a spade a spade.” Latvia urges terror sponsor label for Russia. “We see all the brutality of Russian forces, that actually resemble a lot of ISIS, who we have been always calling a terrorist organization,” said Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs.
🇱🇻🇷🇺⛽️ Gazprom cuts off Latvia’s gas. “Today Gazprom stopped gas supplies to Latvia within the framework of the July order due to the violation of … conditions,” the company said, without providing further details.
🇷🇺🇽🇰🇷🇸 Russia has accused Kosovo of trying to displace Serbs over new border control measures. Tensions flared between Kosovo and Russia last February, when Serbia warned of discrimination against 120,000 Serbs in Kosovo. At the time, Kosovo accused Russia of destabilizing the Balkans.
Russian propaganda reaches us for much the same reasons it reachers Russians. The three “N”s give us no analytical purchase on what is actually going on; we cling to them for the reasons that Russians do, which is that they touch deeper emotions. If your default inclination is guilt about the world, and you are inclined to believe that America is responsible for all evil, then your “N” is NATO. If you are fearful and looking for a reason to do nothing, then you are best served by “nukes.” And if you like to look down on others as barbarians, or have the urge to be seen as the most radical person in your pack, you will be susceptible to Putin’s characterization of his chosen enemies as “Nazis.”
🇷🇺 “Putin is pushing our buttons.” Fiona Hill speaks to Edward Lucas:
4 additional HIMARS have arrived in🇺🇦. I’m grateful to @POTUS @SecDef Lloyd Austin III and 🇺🇸people for strengthening of #UAarmy
We have proven to be smart operators of this weapon. The sound of the #HIMARS volley has become a top hit 🎶 of this summer at the front lines!
— Oleksii Reznikov (@oleksiireznikov) August 1, 2022
On March 12 the Russian invaders informed the managers of Ukraine’s six-reactor Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, that the plant now belonged to, and would be run by, Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear power company. No country had ever seized another’s nuclear facility by force. Never have power reactor operators run a captured nuclear plant at gunpoint. This is not just a figure of speech. In May Russian forces shot a plant technician they suspected of passing information to Ukraine. More recently, the Russian military has turned the plant into a missile base, knowing the Ukrainians would not shoot back at a reactor site. The site is covered by an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency for periodic inspections, which Russia has effectively abrogated. …
How the West reacts to the Russian takeover of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant will affect the incentives for future would-be invaders. The top priority in Ukraine is to repel the Russians. But there are useful actions that can be taken in the IAEA context in response to Russian effective dismissal of the Ukraine-IAEA agreement. The IAEA should make clear that it will continue to act in accordance with its agreement with Ukraine. In the extreme, it could also suspend Russia from the agency for intefering with agency inspections. In dealing with this interference, the United States should take the lead.
- Using nuclear reactors for cover, Russians lob rockets at Ukrainians. Russia has turned Europe’s largest nuclear power plant into a fortress, stymying Ukraine’s forces and unnerving locals who fear both shelling and a radiation leak.
For the first time since February 24 ship leaves Odesa sea port with 26,000 tons of Ukrainian corn.
This is cargo RAZONI, which is sailing under the flag of Sierra Leone to the port of Tripoli in Lebanon.
Video – spokesperson of Odesa governor. pic.twitter.com/4oyacYrhez
— Maria Avdeeva (@maria_avdv) August 1, 2022
Calls grow for investigation of POW bombing in Ukraine. Zelensky calls shelling of prison a “deliberate Russian war crime.”
“There should be a clear legal recognition of Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism,” Zelensky said. The Ukrainian president specifically called on the UN and the Red Cross, saying those bodies “must react” to the bombing. “It was a deliberate Russian war crime, a deliberate mass murder of Ukrainian prisoners of war,” Zelensky said.
More than 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war died in the shelling in the town of Olenivka, in territory controlled by Moscow-backed separatists since 2014, according to authorities in the Donetsk People’s Republic. Ukrainian authorities accused Russia of bombing the building to hide tortures happening in the prison.
The signatories of the Zeit appeal entitled “A Ceasefire Now!” misjudge the nature of Putin’s internal regime and foreign policy doctrine, and propose the opposite of the measures needed to deter the Kremlin: namely, heavy weapons delivered to Ukraine now and maximum sanctions on Russia.
The Commander of the Southern Front lives to fight another day. Vladislav Davidzon rides with Major General Andrii Kovalchuk through the Kherson region of Ukraine.
→ For comprehensive daily updates on the war, we highly recommend Monique Camarra’s EuroFile.
Recently, expletive-laced posters appeared around town. “New to the city? Working remotely?” they read in English. “You’re a f—ing plague and the locals f—ing hate you. Leave.”
That sentiment echoed the hundreds of responses that poured in after a young American posted this seemingly innocuous tweet: “Do yourself a favor and remote work in Mexico City — it is truly magical.”
“Please don’t,” read one of the kinder replies. “This city is becoming more and more expensive every day in part because of people like you, and you don’t even realize or care about it.”
🇲🇽 Migrants in Mexico. Mass escape from abandoned truck after recent deaths:
A group of migrants has escaped from a truck abandoned in Mexico, a month after more than 50 people died in similar circumstances in the US. The lorry was heading for the US border but was abandoned by the driver ahead of a checkpoint, paramedics said. People forced a way out of the top of the lorry to escape the stifling heat. Authorities found at least 94 people, mostly Guatemalans, in and around the lorry on Wednesday night. It is thought others may have run away.
While marijuana seizures increased consistently throughout the pandemic, the overall quantity of cocaine seized nationwide temporarily decreased, albeit with regional variations. From April 2020 to March 2021, marijuana seizures grew by 107 percent year-on-year, reaching almost 600 tons. In contrast, cocaine seizures dropped by about 20 percent. While a more significant number of individual seizures were reported, the average amount of cocaine involved in each stop plummeted, accounting for an overall quantitative drop.
🇨🇱 What’s in Chile’s proposed new constitution? The proposed new text was written by a 154-member body elected through a popular vote, the first time in Chile’s history a constitution was drafted democratically.
- Chile proposes new constitution steeped in science. Although many researchers support the draft, opposition could sink it.
🇦🇷 As inflation in Argentina skyrockets, everyone is poorer. The country’s challenge is to avoid triple-digit inflation by year end:
It is difficult to know what something is worth in Argentina now, with prices in grocery stores changing every week. Vendors of construction materials warn buyers that they may not be able to honour a quote for more than a few days, as some manufacturers were forced to halt production altogether. Import restrictions intended to protect the government’s dwindling foreign currency reserves are stoking fears of future shortages. And people are watching in horror as the street value of the US dollar goes up in relation to their fragile currency, regardless of whether they can afford to save in the greenback, because it has become a shorthand for the health of the economy.
🤝 Boosting civic trust is essential to Latin American economic growth. Governments must be transparent and engage citizens in decisions about tax, spending and regulation:
Mistrust distorts what citizens want from government. Most believe public officials cannot be trusted to efficiently invest in the public interest. Corruption scandals deepen scepticism. People prefer programmes that provide money-in-hand now, such as cash transfers and subsidies. As a result, governments struggle with longer-term policies that boost growth, such as pension, labour and fiscal reforms, support for research and development, openness to trade and infrastructure spending.
As Latin America shifts left, leaders face a short honeymoon. All six of the region’s largest economies could soon be run by presidents elected on leftist platforms. Their challenge? Inflation, war in Europe and growing poverty at home.
🦇 The Daily Bat
The eight best French desserts, with recipes. Learn how to make tarte tatin, crème brulée, île-flottant, tarte aux fruits, clafoutis, profiteroles, crèpes, and galette des rois.
By our readers
A Visitor to Ephesus
By Thomas Gregg
He traces with a hesitant finger, Upon a cracked and tumbled marble block Some decree of Hadrian Augustus. Then, hearing what seems to be a whisper, He turns to face the city’s sad remains. And Ephesus, whose pavements he has paced, Now speaks in the dry, stony accent Of the parched Ionian wind that sweeps The sands along its broken avenues: Telling of where the ships have gone, Whose sails across her harbor blossomed once; Telling of the actors, nameless now, who trod the stage Of her roofless theater; telling how the voices Of her storied orators were stilled. You ask, she sighs, why these my marble bones Now bleach beneath the azure, pitiless Aegean sky. Long years ago, dread Artemis, my patron, Went missing. Evil upon evil flowed from that: Earthquake, ruin, rape, the conqueror's yoke. It was the river, though, that killed me in the end. He finds a shady spot and sits awhile— Thinking, perhaps, of Boston or New York.
🐈⬛ Today’s animal: Raven
I find this face so moving that I haven’t been able to stop looking at it.
Rest in peace, beautiful leopard.
This morning the world’s oldest living leopard, and one of the most amazing animals to ever exist, passed away peacefully in her sleep at the grand age of 25 years and 6 days old.
She was absolutely, inarguably, and completely perfect. Our hearts will always carry her memory. pic.twitter.com/eqG0AKKUWx
— C.A.R.E. (@carerescuetexas) July 21, 2022
Here she was playing with a stuffed horse:
Claire Berlinski is the editor of the Cosmopolitan Globalist.