A typical U.S. attack on a foreign country begins with a swarm of cruise missiles which will disable the countries basic infrastructure. The U.S. attack on Iraq and other countries demonstrated that electricity and water supply will be gone in first days of a U.S. waged war. Over more than 200 days the Russian special military operation in Ukraine had never attacked the basic infrastructure of the country. When the Ukraine used its electrified railway network to bring in weapons from the 'west' the Russian forces only took out electric substations that supplied the railway. But it never attacked the general electricity production for the population. The lights in Ukraine staid on.
In November 2021, President Joe Biden signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Package into law, which allocates $1.2 trillion toward infrastructure and was meant to reduce transportation emissions. While the federal government is guiding states to use the funding toward public transit and other improvements, like increased bike lanes, a new report finds that state and local governments may lean toward using the money toward highway expansions instead. The report from U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a nonprofit organization, maps out highway projects across the country that could use up infrastructure funding while making climate change worse.
Congress has passed two major infrastructure bills in the last year, but imminent needs in infrastructure funding remain. The 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law chiefly focused on conventional highway programs, and the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) mainly centered on energy security and combating climate change. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), over $2 trillion in much-needed infrastructure is still unfunded, including projects to address drought, affordable housing, high-speed rail, and power transmission lines. By 2039, per the ASCE, continued underinvestment at current rates will cost $10 trillion in cumulative lost GDP, more than 3 million jobs in that year, and $2.24 trillion in exports over the next 20 years.
The Chinese government has announced that it is forgiving 23 interest-free loans for 17 African nations, while pledging to deepen its collaboration with the continent. This is in addition to China’s cancellation of more than $3.4 billion in debt and restructuring of around $15 billion of debt in Africa between 2000 and 2019. While Beijing has a repeated history of forgiving loans like this, Western governments have made baseless, politically motivated accusations that China uses “debt-trap diplomacy” in the Global South. The United States has turned Africa into a battleground in its new cold war on China and Russia. And Washington has weaponized dubious claims of Chinese “debt traps” to try to demonize Beijing for its substantial infrastructure projects on the continent. For its part, China has pushed back against the US new cold war.
The Venezuelan government launched a new app-based initiative to address deteriorated public services that will facilitate a more direct means of communication between the citizenry and the government. President Nicolás Maduro toured the headquarters of a newly-opened rapid-response center, located inside the presidential palace of Miraflores on Saturday, saying the new system would “show the complaint, show the process and show the result, so that people can see processes and results.” Maduro said the aim was to break with the bureaucracy that often serves to delay a quick resolution, adding that issues related to water, education, and healthcare would be given priority.
The challenges we face from climate change, extreme weather, biodiversity loss, and all the other symptoms of “Earth overshoot” are, in part, civic challenges. Our ability to respond effectively is complicated by rampant misinformation and the absence of safe spaces for informed, participatory planning. Older forms of public engagement—attending conventional “three minutes at the microphone” public meetings, signing petitions, writing letters to the editor—are insufficient for meeting these challenges and out of step with how Americans live today. If we want to achieve better environmental resilience, we need to upgrade our civic infrastructure. What do I mean by that? In Public Participation for 21st Century Democracy, Tina Nabatchi and I defined civic infrastructure as “the laws, processes, institutions, and associations that support regular opportunities for people to connect with each other, solve problems, make decisions, and celebrate community.”
I’m writing from Ethiopia, where the war that began in November 2020 continues, with the US backing their former puppet, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), who ruled Ethiopia with an iron fist from 1991 to 2018, when they were finally overthrown by a popular uprising. The TPLF started the war by attacking the national army's five Northern Command bases in Tigray on November 3rd and 4th, 2020, but the West’s dominant state and corporate press narrative quickly became that Prime Minister Abiy had started the war by sending troops into Tigray, alleging the attack as his excuse. This was one of many early indicators that the US, the NATO nations, and their press were backing the TPLF. I’ve been here for eleven days.
If the United States is to make a transition to clean energy, it will need to build many more transmission lines—the thick wires that deliver power from rural areas, where there’s enough open space for wind and solar, to cities where the most power is consumed. But the process of building those lines is likely to be fraught with conflict and delays, because people in rural and suburban communities often don’t want to see wires and tall metal towers in their backyards. Clean energy advocates say that power companies need to do more to understand what fuels public opposition and how best to engage with power line opponents. And one way to start, they say, might be to examine one of the most intense battles over an interstate power line in U.S. history, which unfolded across rural Minnesota for much of the 1970s.
Panther Valley is a poor, rural district with more than 1,600 students from Carbon and Schuylkill Counties. Its elementary, intermediate, and junior/senior high schools serve four Pennsylvania towns: Summit Hill, Coaldale, Lansford, and Nesquehoning. “It’s in the heart of what we used to refer to as the coal region of Pennsylvania,” said the district’s superintendent, David McAndrew. As the country moved away from coal mining, residents lost work. Now, jobs are hard to come by. Fifty-six percent of children in the district are classified as economically disadvantaged, though McAndrew believes the figure is closer to 70%. “We have very few businesses,” McAndrew said. “The businesses we have, unfortunately, seem to be leaving us.”
As Senator Sinema gets Biden to drop his proposed tax increases on corporations and wealthy investors earning more than $400K income a year, no consideration is being given at all within Democrat party circles about introducing a financial transactions tax to pay for the Infrastructure bill ($.55T) or the Build Back Better Bill ($1.9T). 5 years ago I wrote and proposed a minimal financial transaction tax that would generate $2.4T in revenue. That would pay for both the new spending proposals in the Infrastructure bill ($.55T) as well as the Build Back Better bill proposal still on the negotiating table ($1.9T)–the latter which, by the way, is about to be reduced further by Democrat Senator Krysten Sinema’s ‘no taxes on corporations or the rich’.
“That’s unbelievable,” my father-in-law wrote me from Ireland after watching me give a statistic-heavy webinar on the advances for the poor in Nicaragua since 2007. “I know, right?” I replied. “No, I mean it’s actually unbelievable,” he wrote back. “For cynical people like me, our faith in humanity has been undermined. The story of a government really looking after ordinary people is too good to be true.” I understand what he means. If I hadn’t been living in Nicaragua for the last 20 years and hadn’t seen with my own eyes the changes since the Sandinista government came back in to power with a pro poor strategy 14 years ago, I know that I would also dismiss the statistics as nothing but propaganda.
This past week maneuvers within the Democratic party intensified over the content and magnitude of the two pending fiscal stimulus bills–the Infrastructure Bill (with $550B of net new spending) and the Reconciliation Bill ( with initial $3.5T ‘human infrastructure & climate change’ spending). While the maneuvering appears as a deep difference of views between progressives in the US House and Senate demanding both bills pass simultaneously and Democrat Senators, Manchin and Sinema in that body blocking both bills in current form, the actual conflict is really between the corporate wing of the Democratic party (in both the Senate and House) vs. the wing that sees passage of both bills in current form as necessary to ensure a sustained economic recovery in 2022–and thus the Democrats retaining majorities in the House and Senate in the November 2022 midterm elections.
This summer, the climate crisis has roared into basement apartments in Brooklyn, leaped across the dry tops of the Sierra Nevadas and kicked over the towers that held up the power and communication networks of Louisiana. It has shredded homes in New Jersey and poured into the underpasses of Philadelphia, turning a cross-town expressway into a murky, swirling river.
The City of Highland Park, a predominantly Black city surrounded by Detroit, Michigan, has had most of its residential streets in the dark for the last 10 years. In 2011, the city owed $4 million to utility company DTE Energy. An agreement was made between DTE and city officials to remove roughly 1,200 streetlights to settle the debt. Reports suggest the repossessed lights were sold for scrap. Since then, Highland Park remained in the dark figuratively and literally. Residents had no clue what happened. “And it was just really a sad day actually seeing the poles, the trucks came to take the poles out, and it just left these stumps,” says Shamayin Harris, a lifelong Highland Park resident. “So they’re basically all around our city right now. It just looks like a graveyard of cement stubs where lights used to be on the residential street.
On the show this week, Chris Hedges discusses with the economist Richard Wolff the nearly $5 trillion being allocated by the Biden administration for Covid-19 relief and infrastructure projects.