Europe/Americas update: July 27 2018


The UN needs to find a payday lender or something because it’s going broke:

António Guterres, the UN secretary general, has warned that the organisation is facing an unprecedented shortage of funding for its core budget and will need to make urgent cuts unless member states pay up.

The alarm was raised in letters, seen by the Guardian and other news organisations, sent by Guterres to member states and staff.

Guterres told member states that the UN’s core budget was in the red more deeply and earlier in its financial year than it had ever previously experienced.

He added that, as of 30 June, core funding had a deficit of $139m (£106m), and said the UN had “never faced such a difficult cash flow situation this early in the calendar year”.

The problem is partly due to member states delaying their annual payments to the body.



With Donald Trump rescinding his offer for Vladimir Putin to come to the White House, or at least delaying it until next year when Trump seems to think “Russia-Gate” will somehow no longer be a thing, Putin on Friday decided to troll the entire United States by inviting Trump to Moscow instead. Trump is apparently thinking about it. The likely next place these two kids will get to spend time together is on the sidelines of the G20 meeting in Argentina in November.


Romania is still without a chief anti-corruption prosecutor after Justice Minister Tudorel Toader rejected all four applicants on Friday for lack of qualifications. Given the Romanian government’s commitment to decriminalizing corruption, one can only guess at what “qualifications” it’s expecting in this job. Anyway just be advised that there’s still time to throw your resume into the ring if you’re interested.


Beppe Grillo, the comedian-turned-co-founder of the Five Star Movement, said on Friday that he believes Italy should have a plan in place to hold a referendum on Italy’s continued membership in the eurozone if it looks like it might be in Italy’s national interest to do so. Grillo is a long-time euro hater, and although he has no formal role in the Five Star-League governing coalition it’s unclear how much influence he retains within the party he helped found, and that uncertainty hit Italian markets hard.


Brexit continues to go fantastically, with as you know the British government reassuring everybody this week that it’s unlikely that many people will starve to death in the event of Britain leaving the European Union without a trade deal in place. Whew! It’s going so well in fact that a new poll in the UK finds that 42 percent of British voters now favor a second Brexit referendum, a slim plurality against 40 percent who oppose it. A second referendum would give voters a chance to weigh in on the terms of whatever deal London does–or does not–manage to cut with Brussels. In a not unrelated bit of news, only 30 percent of British voters approve of the job Theresa May is doing as prime minister. I can’t imagine why it would be so low.

British journalist Ian Dunt has laid out what a “no-deal Brexit” might look like for Britain’s food industry, starting pretty much literally on day one. It’s not a pretty picture:

No deal is one of those really bad ideas, like shell suits or Celine Dion, which we thought we could leave in the past. But this summer it’s somehow all the rage. It’s discussed as if it were just another Brexit option.

It is not. No-deal is probably the most demented policy put forward by mainstream British politicians in the modern era. To see how it would work in practice, this piece looks at what would happen on day one. Doing this for the whole economy would take countless pages of Stephen-King-style horror, so it’s stripped down to one topic: food. This is the story of how our system for importing and exporting food implodes almost instantly.

You may remember ‘Brexit means Brexit’ – that nursery rhyme from the bygone days of late 2016. It was false. But no-deal, on the other hand, really does mean no-deal. The withdrawal treaty comes as one package, so if Theresa May fails to secure it, everything falls down. There are no deals on anything.



One of the most unfortunate side effects of Venezuela’s economic and political collapse has been the ensuing refugee crisis. Displaced Venezuelan nationals are now fending for themselves across Latin America and largely being ignored by the international community:

Venezuelan professionals are abandoning hospitals and universities to scrounge livings as street vendors in Peru and janitors in Ecuador. Here in Trinidad and Tobago — a petroleum-producing Caribbean nation off Venezuela’s northern coast — Venezuelan lawyers are working as day laborers and sex workers. A former well-to-do bureaucrat who once spent a summer eating traditional shark sandwiches and drinking whisky on Trinidad’s Maracas Bay is now working as a maid.

The U.N. refu­gee agency has called on nations to offer protection to the Venezuelans, as they did for millions of Syrians fleeing civil war. But in a part of world with massive gaps in protection for refugees, Venezuelans fleeing starvation at home are often trading one harrowing plight for another. Trinidad, for instance, has no asylum laws for refugees, leaving thousands of desperate Venezuelans here at risk of detention, deportation, police abuse and worse.

Sometimes much worse.


It’s now been 100 days and at least 448 deaths since protests broke out against Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega:


Mexican President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Friday unveiled a plan to spend $16 billion to bolster Mexico’s energy sector. Much of that money will be earmarked for oil exploration and increasing refinery capacity, but some will also be spent on electricity generation, including hydroelectric plants.


Let me leave you with a plan for stabilizing the Middle East that can’t possibly go wrong:

The Trump administration is quietly pushing ahead with a bid to create a new security and political alliance with six Gulf Arab states, Egypt and Jordan, in part to counter Iran’s expansion in the region, according to U.S. and Arab officials.

The White House wants to see deeper cooperation between the countries on missile defense, military training, counter-terrorism and other issues such as strengthening regional economic and diplomatic ties, four sources said.

The plan to forge what officials in the White House and Middle East have called an “Arab NATO” of Sunni Muslim allies will likely raise tensions between the United States and Shi’ite Iran, two countries increasingly at odds since President Donald Trump took office.

Hot damn. With Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, and the Trump administration involved, there’s literally nothing this alliance could achieve. It’s also apparently going to include Qatar, which is fascinating because Qatar is closer to Iran right now than it is to any of the other potential countries in this alliance. Well, I’m sure President Trump and Prime Minister Kushner have it all well in hand. Hey, maybe they’ll all get to touch the orb again.

We can only hope

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