UN chief slams ‘excessive’ profits of oil, gas firms
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday accused oil and gas companies of making “excessive” profits – which he called “immoral” – from the energy crisis sparked by the war in Ukraine. Releasing a UN report on the consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Guterres, urged governments to tax the companies’ earnings. “It is immoral for oil and gas companies to be making record profits from this energy crisis on the backs of the poorest people and communities and at a massive cost to the climate,” the UN chief said. Guterres said the combined profits of the largest energy companies in the first quarter of the year were nearly $100 billion. With the rise in oil and gas prices, BP, ExxonMobil, Chevron and Shell also reported enormous profits in the second quarter. The UN chief said that between now and the end of the year, 345 million people will be “acutely food insecure” or at “at a high risk of food insecurity” in 82 countries – an increase of 47 million due to the impact of the war in Ukraine. Guterres warned that “many developing countries are drowning in debt, without access to finance, and struggling to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and could go over the brink”.
Driest July in memory imperils Europe’s crops
As much of Europe bakes in a third heatwave since June, fears are growing that extreme drought driven by climate change in the continent’s breadbasket nations will dent stable crop yields and deepen the cost-of-living crisis. The European Commission on Wednesday urged EU member states to re-use treated urban waste water as irrigation on the continent’s parched farms, after France and parts of England saw their driest July on record. In France, where an intense drought has hammered farmers and prompted widespread limits on freshwater use, there was just 9.7 millimetres (0.38 inches) of rain last month, Meteo France said. That was 84 percent down on the average levels seen for July between 1991 and 2022, making it the driest month since March 1961, the agency added. Farmers nationwide are reporting difficulties in feeding livestock because of parched grasslands, while irrigation has been banned in large areas of the northwest and southeast due to freshwater shortages. Like several papers ‘The Times’ leads on the possibility of a hosepipe ban across parts of the UK as the country faces drought.
‘Winds of War’ over Taiwan Strait as Pelosi leaves
As US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi left Taipei Wednesday after meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen and making a “bedrock promise” that the United States will “always stand with Taiwan”, the island is preparing for China to respond with a massive show of military force. Pelosi was the highest-ranking US official to visit Taiwan in 25 years. Beijing considers self-governing Taiwan as Chinese territory and lashes out at such high-level visits from US officials, along with anything that would suggest Taiwan is an independent country. Although the US holds no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, Washington is Taipei’s most significant political and military backer. “Now, more than ever, America’s solidarity with Taiwan is crucial, and that’s the message we are bringing here, today,” Pelosi said.Taiwan’s defence ministry said Wednesday that 27 Chinese warplanes had entered Taiwan’s air defence zone. China demonstrated its outrage with a burst of military drills around Taiwan, summoning the American ambassador in Beijing and halting several agricultural imports from the island. Early Wednesday afternoon, Pelosi left Taipei for Seoul – the next stop on her tour in Asia, the first time in 20 years since a US House Speaker visited South Korea. Pelosi will meet National Assembly Speaker Kim Jin-pyo on Thursday to discuss the situation on the Korean Peninsula.
Foreign leaders condemn military activity
The foreign ministers of the G7 nations called on China on Wednesday to resolve tension around the Taiwan Strait in a peaceful manner, following the burst of military activity in waters surrounding Taiwan. “There is no justification to use a visit as pretext for aggressive military activity in the Taiwan Strait. It is normal and routine for legislators from our countries to travel internationally,” the G7 foreign ministers said in a statement released in Germany.
US Senate ratifies Sweden, Finland accession to NATO
The US Senate has ratified the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO by 202 votes in favour, 13 against and 2 abstentions. This is the most significant enlargement of the Atlantic Alliance since the 1990s. The approval of the US Senate was taken for granted after both Republicans and Democrats had expressed their support for the entry of the two countries. Sweden and Finland decided to apply for membership after Russia invaded Ukraine.
Migrants: €171 million from the EU to 5 countries
The European Commission has awarded €171 million for projects to support reception, asylum and repatriation systems in Italy, Cyprus, Spain, Greece and Poland. The funding is part of a call launched in early 2022 within the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund to finance projects in member states under pressure. The project, developed by Italy, focuses on strengthening the capacity of the reception system upon arrival and in all subsequent phases, to protect and take care of the most vulnerable children and women.
Oil: Opec + increases production by 100,000 barrels
Opec + has decided to increase oil production in September by only 100,000 barrels a day – a much lower quantity than the 600,000 barrels a day more that had been pumped in July and August in a market hungry for crude oil, where prices are skyrocketing. The decision is driving oil prices up, with WTI rising by 1.7%, to $96.1 a barrel, and Brent rising by 1.5% to $102.
‘Russia responsible for the Nord Stream gas pipeline block’
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has accused Russia of being responsible for blocking the delivery of a turbine currently in Germany, without which, according to Moscow, the Nord Stream gas pipeline, which carries Russian gas in Europe, can not work normally. “There is no reason why the handover should not take place,” said the German Chancellor. Meanwhile, Russia reduced the volume of its gas supplies by arguing that the turbine was needed. Moscow only needs to “provide customs information necessary for transportation to Russia,” Scholz said. Gazprom said in reply that the return to Russia of the turbine to enhance the flow of Russian gas through the Nord Stream was not prevented by Moscow, but was made “impossible” by Western sanctions against Russia.
‘Moscow kills POWs to cover up torture’ – Kiev
The intelligence directorate of the Ukrainian defense ministry has accused Moscow of “torturing Ukrainian prisoners of war and killing them to conceal evidence of torture”. The violence, according to a note published by ‘Kiev Indipendent’, was allegedly carried out by “militants settled from Russia together with mercenaries of the Kremlin-controlled Wagner group”.
€141 million seized from Putin’s architect
Maxi seizure of €141 million between movable and immovable property carried out by the Brescia Guardia di Finanza against Lanfranco Cirillo, entrepreneur, 63, known as ‘the architect of Vladimir Putin’ and of 44 other oligarchs. He is accused of tax and fiscal offenses. Among the seized assets are luxury homes, checking accounts, cash, jewellery, modern and contemporary art by famous artists and even a helicopter.
UEFA to use ‘semi-automated’ offside system in Champions League
UEFA announced Wednesday that “semi-automated offside technology” will be used from the group stage of this season’s Champions League as well as in next week’s Super Cup. The optical tracking system was trialled at the FIFA Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi in February and last year’s Arab Cup. FIFA have confirmed it will be in place for the World Cup in Qatar. The data-driven, limb-tracking technology utilises both dedicated and broadcast cameras around the stadium to give the exact position of players on the pitch, offering match officials precise information within seconds. Specialised cameras enable the system to generate 29 body points per player. UEFA said that 188 tests have been conducted since 2020.