The women celebrate.
1. Mexico holds a state election today that looks poised to bolster President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador ahead of the race to succeed him, with his party forecast to capture the last major bastion of the country's old rulers. The president's leftist National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) is expected to add the governorship of the State of Mexico to the 21 regional governments it already controls, two-thirds of the total. The most populous region of the country, the State of Mexico surrounds much of the capital, and has been a major economic and electoral bulwark of the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which has governed there since 1929. Lopez Obrador routed the PRI to win the presidency in 2018, and MORENA has since absorbed most of the once-dominant party's strongholds, as well as many of its politicians. More on this here. (Sources: reuters.com, latimes.com, lemonde.fr, italics mine)
“The hour of the final battle has arrived” - PRI candidate Alejandra Del Moral campaigning outside Mexico City. (Photo by Marco Ugarte/AP via lemonde.fr)
2. Spanish politics is about to get lively. Its next king-maker may well be an ultraconservative ideologue who sounds nostalgic for General Francisco Franco, the fascist dictator, and wants to get Gibraltar back from the British. Santiago Abascal, 47, head of the far-right Vox party, prides himself on owning a Smith & Wesson revolver. He likes to engage in eccentric publicity stunts on horseback and has called for an end to the “Muslim occupation” of Spain. Just a few years ago, he represented an extremist fringe. But now Vox, formed in 2013, is the third-biggest party in parliament — and it doubled its share of the vote in local and regional elections last weekend, when humiliating losses for the ruling Socialists prompted Pedro Sánchez, the prime minister, to dissolve parliament and call a snap general election. Vox, which wants to expel tens of thousands of immigrants, now stands to enter several regional parliaments with the conservative Popular Party (PP) and there is speculation that the two right-wing parties will form a national governing coalition after the vote on July 23. (Source: thetimes.co.uk)
3. Germany’s far right has surged to new highs in opinion polls, tapping into citizens’ discontent over record-high migration, persistently painful inflation and costly climate protection measures to batter Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government. The Alternative for Germany, or AfD, which denies the impact humans have on global warming and wants to stop more foreigners from coming to Germany, is now tied with Scholz’s Social Democrats as the second-most popular party in the country, polling only behind an alliance of opposition conservatives. Once viewed as a radical fringe group, the AfD is now attracting frustrated supporters of established parties. Its rise coincides with public resentment over high energy and food costs resulting from Russia’s brutal attack on Ukraine, and over escalating expenses linked to Europe’s efforts to reduce climate-damaging carbon emissions. By focusing on these issues, the populist party has successfully exploited cracks in Scholz’s ruling coalition, which includes the environmentalist Greens, the pro-business Free Democrats and the chancellor’s center-left Social Democrats. (Source: bloomberg.com)
4. Alexis Tsipras’s sudden rise to power as a radical leftwing firebrand was a searing moment for the whole EU, taking Greece to the brink of a euro exit. Eight years on, the one-time political iconoclast is facing a more mundane challenge: rescuing his Syriza party from the ignominy of being replaced as Greece’s main opposition party. Tsipras, who steadily moved towards the centre during his 2015-19 premiership, is now fighting to save his career after Syriza’s vote share crashed by more than 10 per cent in the May 21 election. He acknowledged that the result was “unexpected and painful”, especially for an opposition party during a cost of living squeeze. With a further election due on June 25, Syriza’s arch-rival on the centre-left is now looking to press home its advantage. Pasok, an establishment party that dominated Greek politics before the financial crisis, will try to overtake Tsipras and restore its pre-eminent role in the Hellenic parliament, after it increased its vote share by 3 per cent in the recent elections. Tsipras’s battle for relevance reflects broader shifts in Greek politics, as the financial bad-boy of Europe has repaired its economy to return to one of the fastest growth rates in the eurozone. Greek voters appear keen to move on — and to jettison the politician who once embodied the defiance of the bailout years. (Source: ft.com)
5. Protests in Serbia over back-to-back mass shootings last month ballooned on Saturday into the biggest street demonstrations in the capital, Belgrade, since demonstrators toppled Slobodan Milosevic as Serbia’s president in 2000. Weekly “Serbia Against Violence” protests have been gathering momentum since early May when two massacres — one at a school in Belgrade, the second in nearby villages — killed 18 people and set off a wave of public revulsion at what critics of the country’s strongman leader, Aleksandar Vucic, denounce as a “culture of violence” promoted by the government and loyal media outlets. Saturday’s protest, the fifth and biggest by far, increased pressure on Mr. Vucic to meet at least some of the protesters’ demands. Those demands include the dismissal of senior law enforcement officials and the withdrawal of broadcasting licenses from pro-government television stations notorious for airing violent reality shows and ignoring opposition politicians.
The protests on Saturday were the biggest demonstrations in Belgrade since the unrest that toppled Slobodan Milosevic in 2000. (Photo by Fedja Grulovic/Reuters).
6. Kandahar has adjusted almost seamlessly to the 2021 return of the Taliban — and the revival of their rigid Islamist rule under another shadowy religious leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada. (T)here are indications that Taliban leaders under Akhundzada are making Kandahar their base from which to control the country, signaling the declining influence of more moderate Taliban members in the capital as the regime doubles down on repressive policies. In the past month, regime officials have invited delegations from Japan and Qatar to meet them here, rather than with other officials in Kabul. The Taliban’s chief spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, and a second information official from northern Afghanistan, Inamullah Samangani, were abruptly relocated here from offices in the capital. There’s been no official explanation for these changes. But they suggest Akhundzada is consolidating power by shifting the country’s center of gravity to the Taliban’s spiritual center — a move that could augur a hardening of the regime’s opposition to international demands.
7. Peter Turchin:
All human societies experience recurrent waves of political crisis, such as the one we face today. My research team built a database of hundreds of societies across 10,000 years to try to find out what causes them. We examined dozens of variables, including population numbers, measures of well-being, forms of governance, and the frequency with which rulers are overthrown. We found that the precise mix of events that leads to crisis varies, but two drivers of instability loom large. The first is popular immiseration—when the economic fortunes of broad swaths of a population decline. The second, and more significant, is elite overproduction—when a society produces too many superrich and ultra-educated people, and not enough elite positions to satisfy their ambitions.
These forces have played a key role in our current crisis. In the past 50 years, despite overall economic growth, the quality of life for most Americans has declined. The wealthy have become wealthier, while the incomes and wages of the median American family have stagnated. As a result, our social pyramid has become top-heavy. At the same time, the U.S. began overproducing graduates with advanced degrees. More and more people aspiring to positions of power began fighting over a relatively fixed number of spots. The competition among them has corroded the social norms and institutions that govern society.
The U.S. has gone through this twice before. The first time ended in civil war. But the second led to a period of unusually broad-based prosperity. Both offer lessons about today’s dysfunction and, more important, how to fix it. (Source: ft.com, theatlantic.com)
8. Until recently, gerrymandered districts tended to stick out, identifiable by their contorted tendrils. This is no longer the case. “With modern technology, you can gerrymander pretty effectively without making your shapes very weird,” said Beth Malmskog, a mathematician at Colorado College. This makes it that much harder to figure out whether a map has been unfairly manipulated. Without the telltale sign of an obviously misshapen district to go by, mathematicians have been developing increasingly powerful statistical methods for finding gerrymanders. These work by comparing a map to an ensemble of thousands or millions of possible maps. If the map results in noticeably more seats for Democrats or Republicans than would be expected from an average map, this is a sign that something fishy might have taken place. But making such ensembles is trickier than it sounds, because it isn’t feasible to consider all possible maps — there are simply too many combinations for any supercomputer to count. (Source: quantamagazine.org)
9. The Ukrainian counter-offensive has not yet begun because Kyiv still lacks sufficient weapons and ammunition to push out the Russians and take back the country, one of President Zelensky’s closest aides has said. Dr. Ihor Zhovkva, deputy head of the president’s office and his chief foreign affairs adviser, said the military needed more reinforcements to begin the long-awaited operation, which was originally billed as a spring offensive but will now take place in summer. “I’m not a military man,” he told The Sunday Times. “I’m working on the diplomatic front and my task is more weapons, more support, more ammunition. But if you want to start a successful counter-offensive you need everything at your disposal, including artillery, armored vehicles and tanks, so probably we don’t have enough.” (Source: thetimes.co.uk)
10. When Ukraine’s long-awaited counteroffensive finally begins, the fight will be led by brigades armed not only with Western weapons but also Western know-how, gleaned from months of training aimed at transforming Ukraine’s military into a modern force skilled in NATO’s most advanced warfare tactics. (Source: washingtonpost.com)
11. Russian mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, who has been arguing with top military brass for months, on Friday escalated the feud by accusing pro-Moscow forces of trying to blow up his men. Prigozhin's Wagner Group troops have largely pulled back from the eastern Ukrainian town of Bakhmut, most of which they captured last month after taking heavy casualties, and handed over their positions to regular Russian forces. Prigozhin, writing on the messaging platform Telegram, said his men had discovered a dozen locations in rear areas where defense ministry officials had planted various explosive devices, including hundreds of anti-tank mines. When asked why the charges had been set, the officials indicated it was an order from their superiors. "It was not necessary to plant these charges in order to deter the enemy, as it (the area in question) is in the rear area. Therefore, we can assume that these charges were intended to meet the advancing units of Wagner," he said. (Source: jpost.com, italics mine)
12. The rugged, chilly coast of northern Norway, beyond the Arctic Circle, is not usually thought of as prime agricultural land. But far down a dead-end road on the shores of Skjerstad Fjord sits Salten Smolt, one of the most advanced farms in the world. Rather than crops or cows, though, the firm produces fish. Inside its 7,000 square metre main building are tanks capable of producing 8m smolt—juvenile Atlantic salmon—every year. Fish farming is the fastest-growing form of food production in the world. Seafood accounts for around 17% of the world’s protein intake (in some parts of Asia and Africa, the number is nearer 50%). The OECD, a rich-country club, reckons that, thanks to population growth and rising incomes, global consumption of fish will reach 180 million tonnes by the end of the decade, up from 158 million tonnes in 2020. But the ocean has only so much to give. The World Bank reckons that 90% of the world’s fisheries are being fished either at or over their capacity. Aquaculture has therefore accounted for nearly all the growth in fish consumption since 1990. It will have to account for almost all the growth to come, too. (Source: economist.com)
13. Wildfires in Canada emitted record amounts of carbon in May, showing how the risk of blazes is increasing even before the summer fire season begins. Emissions for the month reached 54.8 million tonnes, more than double the carbon emitted by wildfires in any May since estimates began in 2003, according to the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service. In the boreal forests of western Canada, provincial records were set in British Columbia, the Northwest Territories and Saskatchewan, which exceeded its previous high by 15 times. Carbon emissions also reached new peaks in rainy Nova Scotia on Canada’s eastern seaboard. The province has been struggling with its biggest blaze ever, and its emissions for the month of May totaled 1.1 million tonnes, more than in any full year previously. (Source: newscientist.com)
14. Graydon Carter:
When I joined Vanity Fair we didn’t have budgets. You spent what you needed, but you made a lot of money for the company. You try to spend it responsibly, but journalism is expensive. Those were the good days. The catering budget alone for one of Annie Leibovitz’s photo shoots was more than an entire issue of Spy cost to make. I did say I didn’t think we needed to spend that kind of money. It struck me as a huge waste… Nobody is going to eat much when they’re having their picture taken.
You don’t know you’re in a golden age when you’re in a golden age, but to be in the magazine business in New York from 1978 to 2008 was a 30-year period we will never see again. Read the rest. (Source: Telegraph via msn.com)
Quick Links: CIA chief made secret trip to China in bid to thaw relations. Imran Khan’s political games leave him isolated as Pakistan army destroys party. He’s leading Mexico’s probe of the Dirty War. Who’s spying on him? Meet the people who have already lost their jobs to AI. Latest “reset” of the DeSantis campaign: he may be a stiff, but she’s terrific. Mark Leibovich on DeSantis: The ultimate performative politician doesn’t seem to enjoy the in-person performance of politics. The pandemic caused a baby boom in red states and a bust in blue states. Europe’s lurch to the right rolls on. WBD’s attempted reboot of CNN isn’t working, at all. A year ago (more or less), I thought CNN would be sold. (I still do). Earlier this year, I argued that Peter Thiel would be the most likely buyer of CNN. (Apparently he didn’t get my memo). Mark Halperin’s excellent political newsletter is adopting a new business model. Later this week, we’ll make the case for why it will work. It is common for people in Mauritania to divorce many times. When they do, the women celebrate. California spent $17 billion on homelessness. It’s not working, to put it mildly.