Coming Up This Week
- The trial of Derek Chauvin, the former cop involved in George Floyd’s death, will likely end this week (closing arguments start today). Cities across the U.S. are poised for protests.
- Raul Castro resigns as First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party today, ending 62 years of Castro rule. However, liberalization will probably remain slow.
- Pres. Biden is hosting a virtual summit for climate change Thursday and Friday, and one professor is calling it a “coming-out party for the United States on climate change.” The White House has said it will announce an “ambitious” 2030 target for greenhouse gas emissions ahead of the meeting.
- UN-led talks on Afghanistan were supposed to start Saturday, but the Taliban backed out when the U.S. said it would delay its withdrawal past the original May 1 deadline. Representatives from the U.S., Qatar, the UN, and Turkey have all met with the Taliban over the past few days to encourage it to reconsider and join the summit.
LME Commodity Spot Prices
- Aluminum: $2,309/ton
- Copper: $9,336/ton (near 10-year highs due to strong U.S. and Chinese economic data)
- Cobalt: $49,820/ton
- Gold: $1,779/toz
- Czech police expelled 18 suspected Russian spies over new accusations that Russia was behind a 2014 explosion at a munitions depot in Vrbetice that killed two people. (Russia’s alleged motive was to destroy ammunition that was due to be sold to Ukraine and used against Russia in Donbas, or alternatively, to anti-government forces fighting Russian-backed government forces in Syria).
- But the 2014 story gets better: police identified the main suspects in the 2014 Vrbetice blast using photos and descriptions matching those of multi-aliased Russians Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov: the same travel buddies whose 2019 visit to see the Salisbury Cathedral’s famous spire—or so Petrov told an interviewer—coincided with an attempt to poison ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with Novichok nearby (the UK charged the sightseers with attempted murder and chemical weapons violations over the incident, and there’s an outstanding European warrant for their arrest).
- The U.S. may have prodded Czechia into revealing these accusations now—seven years after the fact—as it mounts NATO pressure against Russia. Poland also expelled 10 Russian diplomats recently as a gesture of “solidarity” with the U.S. In addition, the UK plans to send warships to the Black Sea in May.
- Separately, jailed dissident Alexey Navalny—who’s three weeks into a hunger strike—was moved to a hospital, and his doctors say he “could die at any moment” from increased potassium levels and deteriorating kidneys. Supporters are planning protests across Russia to “save Navalny’s life.”
- Meanwhile, the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office filed a lawsuit seeking to label Navalny’s anti-corruption foundation an “extremist” organization, which could ban and liquidate the foundation, and lead to prison terms of up to 10 years for activists who continue working with it.
- John Kerry, who is now Pres. Biden’s climate envoy, concluded three days of talks in China on climate change. Both sides agreed to treat the issue “with the seriousness and urgency that it demands”—which sounds like a greater level of cooperation than the U.S. and China usually show these days, although it lacked any major specific commitments.
- Venezuela says it’s made the second and final payment to buy 11 million doses of COVID vaccines from the COVAX initiative. I’m guessing that means the government worked out a deal with Pres. Guaido to access frozen funds for vaccines.
- Pres. AMLO plans to propose an expanded tree planting program during the global virtual climate change conference Pres. Biden is hosting this week. AMLO says the program could create over a million jobs for Central Americans in Mexico, and he advocated for rewarding participants with a chance to get U.S. work visas—and potentially even U.S. citizenship.
- AMLO first launched this program, Sembrando Vida (Sowing Life), in Mexico in 2018, and it hasn’t exactly been a resounding success: the World Resources Institute estimated that the $3.4 billion program actually caused alossof 73,000 hectares of forest coverage as farmers chopped down and burned trees to clear land so they could collect government payments for planting saplings.
- The Houthis say they struck King Khalid Air Base in Khamis Mushait, Saudi Arabia with explosive drones. Saudi hasn’t commented yet.
- Eritrea admitted that the recent UN report is right: it does indeed still have troops in Tigray. It promised to withdraw them—this time for real, instead of just dressing them in Ethiopian military uniforms as they did after promising to withdraw last month.
- Heavily-armed jihadists on motorbikes attacked the village of Gaigorou in west Niger, killing at least 19 civilians. The Tillaberi governor says they came from Mali through the porous border.