Global Review – 20th August

Russia to cut off gas to Europe for three days

Europe’s gas woes deepened on Friday as Russia’s state energy company Gazprom said it would halt supplies to the region via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline for three days at the end of the month. The unscheduled maintenance order on the line, which runs under the Baltic Sea to Germany, deepens an energy stand-off between Moscow and Brussels that has already helped send inflation surging in Europe and raised the risk of rationing and recession. Gazprom said the three-day shutdown was due to the pipeline’s only remaining gas compressor requiring maintenance. The move will bring further disruption in the region, particularly for Germany, which depends largely on Russian energy to power its industry. The announcement came hours after news broke that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz would head to Canada next week for a three-day trip aimed at deepening energy ties between the two G7 countries in what is believed to be the first Canada-only trip by a German chancellor. Germany has already had to give Uniper, its largest importer of Russian gas and the highest-profile corporate victim of Europe’s energy crisis so far, a €15-billion bailout last month after Russia drastically cut flows, forcing it to buy gas elsewhere at much higher prices. The broader economic impact on Germany was highlighted in producer price data released on Friday, which showed in July the highest ever increases both year-on-year and month-on-month, as energy costs skyrocket. The Nord Stream pipeline had already been running at only a fifth of its capacity, stoking fears that Russia could halt supplies completely heading into the winter and make it more difficult to fill up storage facilities. After maintenance is complete, and “in the absence of technical malfunctions”, flows of 33 million cubic metres per day – in line with current volumes – will resume, Gazprom said. This would still be only 20% of Nord Stream’s full capacity of 167 million cubic metres per day. Gazprom said maintenance works at the remaining Trent 60 gas compressor station would be carried out together with Siemens Energy. The price of gas has, as a result, soared up to a maximum of €262.78 euros per megawatt hour (+ 9.04%). The closing price then settled at €244.55.

Truss unveils masterstroke to fight unions

British Foreign Secretary and Tory leadership hopeful has announced plans to crack down on militant unions who are “holding the country to ransom” with persistent strike action. Her plan includes new laws will make it harder to call strikes and also guarantee minimum levels of service are maintained on public transport. The Tory frontrunner said she would put the changes before MPs within a month of becoming Prime Minister, if her leadership bid is successful. The development comes as National Union of Rail Workers boss Mick Lynch issued an apology for the disruption caused by rtailway strikes.

Strikes halt London’s transport network

London’s transport network ground to a halt on Friday as train and bus workers held strikes over job cuts, pension security, pay and changes to working practices – the latest in a summer of labour market disputes as double-digit inflation eats into wages. A spokesperson for Transport for London, responsible for most of the capital’s network, told AFP there were “almost no tube services” with only a couple of lines functioning with “very reduced services”.

Nicaraguan police remove bishop from his home

Nicaraguan police on Friday forcefully removed Catholic bishop and government critic Rolando Alvarez from his official residence after two weeks under siege, said Church and rights groups who had no news on his whereabouts. Alvarez, along with several priests and lay people, had been holed up at his residence in Matagalpa in central Nicaragua since August 4, alleged by authorities of inciting violence to destabilise the country. The Catholic Church in Nicaragua has been under increasing government pressure since opposition protests in 2018 were met with repression that resulted in hundreds of deaths.

Former Mexican prosecutor arrested

Mexico has arrested a former attorney general who led a controversial investigation into the disappearance of 43 students in 2014 – one of the country’s worst human rights tragedies. Jesus Murillo Karam is the highest-ranking official detained so far in connection with the case, which shocked the nation and generated international condemnation. He is considered the architect of the so-called “historical truth” version of events presented in 2015 by the government of then-president Enrique Pena Nieto that was widely rejected, including by relatives. Murillo Karam, a former heavyweight of the once-dominant Institutional Revolutionary Party, was arrested for the crimes of “forced disappearance, torture and perverting justice”, the attorney general’s office said. The teaching students had commandeered buses in the state of Guerrero to travel to a demonstration in Mexico City before they went missing.

Finnish PM takes drugs test but hits back at critics

Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said on Friday she had taken a drugs test after video footage published earlier this week showed her partying with friends and vowed she had never used illegal substances. “I have today taken a drugs test and the results will come within a week,” she told a media conference. “Never in my life have I used drugs.” Marin added that her ability to perform her duties remained unimpaired during the night in question and that she would have left the party had she been required to work. Video clips showing her partying with well-known Finnish influencers and artists began circulating on social media this week and they were soon published by several media outlets in Finland and abroad. When the footage surfaced, Marin, who at 36 is the world’s youngest national leader, admitted she had been exuberant but insisted she had not used drugs. “I danced, sang and partied – perfectly legal things,” she said. “And I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve seen or known of others using drugs. I have a family life, I have a work life and I have free time to spend with my friends. Pretty much the same as many people my age.” She said she had known she was being filmed and was upset that it had been made public. Marin had faced calls to do a drug test from politicians in her government coalition as well as from the opposition after the videos surfaced.

Billions scramble to update iPhones and Macs

Billions of Apple users were urged Friday to update their devices after the firm disclosed serious security vulnerabilities for iPhones, iPads and Macs that could potentially allow attackers to take complete control of them. The US company said it is “aware of a report that this issue may have been actively exploited” and released two security reports about the issue on Wednesday, but they have only now received more widespread attention. Security experts told users to update affected devices – the iPhone 6S and later models; and several models of the iPad, including the 5th generation and later, all iPad Pros, the iPad Mini 4 and later and the iPad Air 2 and later.

Pilots suspended after they reportedly fell asleep, missed landing

Ethiopian Airlines has suspended the crew of a flight on which both pilots reportedly fell asleep and missed their landing window in Addis Ababa. The plane eventually landed safely, but experts said the incident raised questions about pilot fatigue on the airline, the largest air carrier in Africa. ‘The Aviation Herald’, a news website for the aviation industry, reported the two pilots were flying a Boeing 737 from Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, to Addis Ababa.

Literature world holds New York rally for Rushdie

Prominent literary figures gathered in Manhattan on Friday for a reading of Salman Rushdie’s works, in solidarity with the author seriously injured in a stabbing attack. More than a dozen acclaimed writers, including friends and colleagues of Rushdie, spoke at the steps of the New York Public Library for the event, which organisers said the novelist had been invited to watch from the hospital. Gay Talese read an excerpt from “The Golden House” novel, while Irish writer Colum McCann read from Rushdie’s 1992 New Yorker essay “Out of Kansas.” McCann told the audience he looked forward to Rushdie’s recovery.

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