Europe/Americas update: October 30 2017

CLIMATE CHANGE

We did it everybody! We set a record!

Concentrations of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere surged to a record high in 2016, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

 

Last year’s increase was 50% higher than the average of the past 10 years.

 

Researchers say a combination of human activities and the El Niño weather phenomenon drove CO2 to a level not seen in 800,000 years.

 

Scientists say this risks making global temperature targets largely unattainable.

I respect the optimism in that last sentence, but at some point people are going to have to take the “risks” out of these statements and just say that our global temperature targets are unattainable.

EUROPE

UKRAINE

A Chechen man, Adam Osmayev, accused of trying to assassinate Russian President Vladimir Putin back in 2012 was wounded and his wife, Amina Okuyeva, was killed on Monday when gunmen shot up their car outside of Kiev. The two of them had more recently been fighting as volunteers for the Ukrainian government in Donbas. They’d already survived one murder attempt back in June.

CZECH REPUBLIC

Andrej Babiš got a step closer to being able to form a government on Monday when the Czech Republic’s Communist Party said that it could “tolerate” a minority government by his ANO party. ANO won big in the October 20-21 parliamentary election but didn’t win a majority, and it’s hard to find other parties willing to form a coalition with the mercurial billionaire fake populist Babiš, particularly given that he’s under a cloud of corruption dating back to when he was making his billions. That said, ANO won so big that there’s really no realistic governing coalition that can be formed without its participation. So minority government it is. Babiš will need to convince enough small parties to abstain from a confidence vote on his government so that ANO’s 78 seats will be enough to carry the vote. The Communists, with 15 seats, are a decent start but not nearly enough on their own.

GERMANY

Talks on forming a Christian Democrat-Free Democrat-Greens governing coalition apparently made some decent progress on Monday, but they did so in part because the three parties agreed to shelve the more contentious issues they were discussing last week and focus on areas in which it was easier for them to find common ground. Big ticket items like fiscal policy and, above all, immigration policy are still hanging over these negotiations, threatening to derail them.

SPAIN

Most of the former Catalan government reportedly fled the country on Monday after the Spanish attorney general announced his intention to pursue charges of rebellion and sedition against them. Carles Puigdemont and at least five members of his former cabinet are now in Brussels, possibly planning to form a government in exile and/or make an asylum claim.

UNITED KINGDOM

The British government has given the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin another 24 hours to work out their differences and form a new Northern Ireland government before executive powers will devolve back to London. The two long-deadlocked sides apparently made substantial progress on Monday, and if they make similar progress on Tuesday but fail to reach a final accord the deadline could be extended again.

AMERICAS

UNITED STATES

Well. Where to begin, really. I am the first to acknowledge that Trump-Russia isn’t my beat, but sometimes the story is just unavoidable, like it was today. Special Counsel Robert Mueller had some announcements–maybe you heard about them:

Donald Trump’s former presidential campaign manager, Paul Manafort, has been charged with conspiring to defraud the US in his dealings with Ukraine.

 

The 12 charges brought against Mr Manafort and one of his business associates, Rick Gates, include conspiracy to launder money.

 

They stem from an inquiry into alleged Russian meddling in the US election.

 

It has emerged that another adviser to Mr Trump admitted this month to lying about his links to Russia.

Manafort and Gates are not being charged for anything having to do with the 2016 campaign, but rather for their work on behalf of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Of course that work opens up lots of room for speculation about links between Manafort and Moscow that could have manifested during his time running the Trump campaign, but more concretely these charges potentially open the door to Manafort agreeing to testify about whatever he saw during the campaign.

Mueller’s other big announcement was potentially more damaging to Trump and concerns somebody who seems already to have agreed to testify about the campaign:

An election campaign adviser to Donald Trump has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about the timing of meetings with alleged go-betweens for Russia.

 

George Papadopoulos admitted the talks happened while he worked for Mr Trump, not before, court papers show.

 

He said he had been told the Russians possessed “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

This bit is directly related to the 2016 campaign, but we don’t know enough about what Papadopoulos did or what he’s been telling Mueller to say how damaging it could be for Trump. He’s obviously been talking, hence the plea deal, but that’s all we really know at this point.

The Trump administration and the right-wing media vomit machine are working overtime to try to turn this story into a scandal about the Clinton campaign’s scandalous, uh, pursuit of opposition research on its opponent, and given that we live in the dumbest time in American history this effort is no doubt succeeding with Trump’s base, who only really know whatever Fox News and right wing talk radio have told them. But out here in the real world it’s not an actual story.

The Mueller news did have some Democratic Party-related blowback–Manafort’s indictment has apparently destroyed the Podesta Group, the lobbying firm founded and run by Tony Podesta (John Podesta’s brother). Podesta also did lobbying work for Yanukovych and likely has some very similar freshly laundered skeletons in his closet as the ones Manafort and Gates allegedly have. He’s also potentially looking at being charged by Mueller, and frankly the only was this outcome could be better for the Democrats is if the investigation took down his brother and the rest of the party’s toxic DC consultant establishment along with him. But I digress.

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