Coming Up This Week
- Today is Congo-Brazzaville’s presidential election, but the leading opposition candidate—Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas—is “fighting with death” (COVID) in the hospital. He urged supporters to vote anyway.
- Israel’s fourth general election in two years happens Tuesday. Thousands of people gathered outside of PM Netanyahu’s official residence to protest against his campaign, given that he’s facing multiple corruption charges after 12 years in office.
- Earth Hour happens 8:30 to 9:30 pm local time (in whatever time zone you’re in) next Saturday: environmentalists call on participants to turn non-essential lights off for that one hour to draw attention to green issues.
LME Commodity Spot Prices
- Aluminum: $2,188/ton
- Copper: $9,036/ton
- Cobalt: $52,750/ton
- Gold: $1,743/ton
- SecDef Lloyd Austin landed in Kabul for an unannounced visit, and met with Pres. Ghani to discuss their shared concerns about the recent rise in violence in Afghanistan—and probably put out some feelers about Pres. Biden’s withdrawal decision.
- Signs still point to Pres. Biden leaning towards keeping U.S. troops in the country through November, rather than withdrawing them before the May 1 deadline stipulated in last year’s U.S.-Taliban deal. Biden criticized that deal in an interview last week: “That was not a very solidly negotiated deal that the president—the former president—worked out.”
- Houthi armed drones attacked a Saudi Aramco refinery in Riyadh on Friday, and Saudi warplanes retaliated with strikes on Houthi military bases in Sanaa and Hodeidah.
- A CNN interviewee points out that China’s policy of restricting foreign visitors to people who’ve gotten a China-made COVID vaccine is “very much at the sharp end of vaccine diplomacy:” several of the 23 countries that have issued new visa rules with this restriction—including the U.S. and UK—don’t even offer China-made vaccines, so the new policy effectively amounts to a temporary travel ban on those countries.
- The Philippine Defense Secretary accused 220 Chinese vessels moored at Whitsun Reef of “provocative action of militarizing the area” and demanded they leave. Both the Philippines and China claim the region.
- Philippine marines killed Amajan Sahidjuan, an Abu Sayyaf rebel commander, and rescued four Indonesian hostages Sahidjuan was trying to smuggle into Malaysia to ransom. Those are thought to be the last hostages Abu Sayyaf held, and the Philippine military is confident it can now beat Abu Sayyaf once and for all—although a spokesman’s brutal complacency raises concerns about extrajudicial killings: “It will just be relentless in a massive and focused military operation because, now, we would not worry about kidnap victims getting hit.”
- Pres. AMLO handed the Mexican military part ownership in the southern Tehuantepec rail-port project, which the military will operate to generate profits for its pensions. Analysts say part of AMLO’s motive (besides just generally adoring the military and spoiling it with perks) is to keep critical projects like this in government hands and ensure future administrations can’t privatize them.
- Following weeks of earthquakes that suggested an eruption was imminent, Iceland’s Fagradalsfjall (apparently pronounced “Foie-gras-thals-fiat-ill”) volcano erupted with a glow that was visible from Reykjavik 15 miles away. Sensors did not detect ash this time, so the eruption may not affect flights.