News roundup for Tue, Dec 7, 2021

Russia has deployed additional missile defense systems in the Kuril Islands chain—a territory still partially claimed by Japan. The Kuril Islands were annexed by the Soviets during WWII.

Nobody really knows if Russia is going to push farther into Ukraine. The military assets that they have assembled at the border are greater in size and number than they were when they annexed Crimea, though, and it takes a lot of resources to move those assets around. Meanwhile, General Mark Milley set up a meeting with all of the chiefs of defense in NATO today:

Biden also spoke with European allies about Russia today:

There was a huge volcanic eruption in Indonesia this week. 22 were killed. The ash cloud reached 50,000 feet into the stratosphere. That’s high enough and big enough to provoke some transient cooling this winter, though it’s not as significant an eruption as Mount Pinatubo was in 1991. The ash on the ground is said to reach rooftops:

The algae blooms that cause red tides are now occurring in Arctic waters, and this spells trouble for marine life in the area and for all animals up the food chain (including us) that eat organisms which could be contaminated. Red tide blooms result in the propagation of a neurotoxin that makes its way up the food chain, potentially endangering human (and other) lives. If these blooms persist, the regional seafood supply could be badly impacted.

Companies are having trouble sourcing the materials to make gravestones. This is a peak 2021 headline for you. Oh, and bagel shops in NY are having trouble sourcing cream cheese.

Water woes in the Mountain West region could worsen because of climate change—snowpack is forecasted to decline so seriously over time that the mountains in the regions are to be bare of snow for years at a time. Less snow means less snowmelt filling aquifers.

The Evergrande saga continues—the company could still default on its debts. Government meetings have been prompted in China, and investors worry that they could lose their shirts. The People’s Bank of China has stated that should a default occur, they will act to contain the damage. A default could trigger global economic impact.

In good news, Wales is offering a tree for planting for each household. Folks may also opt to have a tree planted on behalf of their household. The aim of the program is to combat climate change, improve biodiversity, and improve health.

The world has over 266.6 million COVID cases. The world has gained 4.3 million cases in the last week. There have been nearly 5.3 million deaths in total. The US has had a cumulative 50.1 million cases. The US gained about 568,000 cases in the last seven days. Over 809,000 Americans have died during the pandemic—about 9,000 in the last week. The US gained over 59,000 new cases on Sunday, and over 70,000 by late afternoon Monday. The US, India, Brazil and the UK, have had the largest case gains today.

Cases in Gauteng province in South Africa have gone absolutely vertical in the wake of the Omicron variant emergence. It’s important to note here that data are NOT indicative of milder variant, contrary to what is being oft repeated in mass media. Also please remember that deaths are a lagging indicator:

Omicron Rt is almost 4. That is very high—higher than Delta. This variant is probably going to hit hard and fast:

NYC enacts a sweeping vaccine mandate:

As of today, if you’re traveling internationally you need a very recent COVID test (less than 1 day old) regardless of your vaccination status:


    • Cia

      The chart on South Africa for Dec 5 showed one death. A number ventilated. Topol says the data are not indicative of Omicron being milder, which I thought at first meant that they indicate that it’s often serious or fatal, but it looks as though that’s not correct. It continues to look as though Omicron is mild. He’s just saying that it could soon prove to be more serious, still a chance that it might kill a lot of older people. However, it looks as though it got started in mid-October, two months ago. I don’t think the other variants caused essentially no deaths in their first two months.

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    • brownfox-ffContributor

      What you can do about it:

      • Celebrate small wins. Did you accomplish something this week? Great work. Maybe it was something small. You brushed your teeth with the opposite hand. You took out the trash. You got out of bed. Good work; you’ve got this.
      • Check your Go Bag. Do you have some supplies ready if you need to evacuate?
      • Check your evacuation routes. Do you know at least two ways of getting out if you needed to?
      • Check your maps. Do you own a map that shows your routes? Have you practiced reading it?
      • Check in with your destination. Do you have a friend, relative, or other ally where you could travel to if needed? How are they doing? Consider giving them a call or catching up. Maybe they’ll be glad to hear from you.
      • Consider a garden. What’s one food you could grow in your area?
      • Review your will. It’s not fun to think about, but having your estate and documents in order can be a great gift to those you care about. It may be one less thing for them to deal with.
      • Write down a list of shelf-stable foods you enjoy. Perhaps you can buy an extra one for next time, and “flatten the curve” for your food items too.
      • Consider a large rain barrel if you need to store more water
      • Get your flu shot. Still a good way to strengthen your body’s immune system.
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      • Robert LarsonContributor brownfox-ff

        With the increasingly warm and dry winter leading to less water this next year we may see lawn watering restrictions and more forest fires unfortunately. 

        What you can do about it:

        • Invest in grasses, plants, and gardens that require less water
        • Store clean drinking water
        • Look into rain catchment roof systems and collect as much as you can
        • Start working on fire mitigation now for this next year
        • Make sure you have your BOB ready to go for a potential fire. Include important documents that can’t be lost in a fire. Start scanning and organizing now.
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      • brownfox-ffContributor Robert Larson

        Excellent list. Yes, I am a big fan of low-water permaculture type plants, rather than water-heavy lawns of grass.

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    • brownfox-ffContributor

      Does anyone have experience with volcanoes?

      It looks like advice for volcanoes includes:

      • Get out
      • Get to high ground
      • If not in danger of lava or mud flow, shelter in place

      Seems like a mask or respirator, a go bag, a radio, and a good plan for where to go might be your best bets.

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      • Colorado Jones brownfox-ff

        Thanks for the Red Cross link, brownfox!  No volcanoes where I live, but the various “Get Help” subpages are helpful in identifying the types of responses best suited for the types of disasters most likely to happen near my home.  As I suspected, bugging-in or getting-home in an emergency would be the top priorities.  Bugging out, short of the Zombi Apocalypse, definitely much less likely . . . 

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    • Bill Masen

      Hmmm   Pres Bidens open contempt for us Brits is likely to have a knock on effect on our NATO commitments. As is the fact that I think only the US, Poland and the UK meet their defence spending obligations to NATO, and the EU’s open unbridled hostility to post Brexit UK isnt helping either. Personally I think The US /UK should be telling the EU to do much more for its own defence instead of expecting the US/UK to carry the main burdon.

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      • Stephanie ArnoldContributor Bill Masen

        We just jointly formed the AUKUS military alliance, and clearly “contempt” was not a driving factor in that alliance. In forming the AUKUS alliance, Biden infuriated France. There’s no contempt for France there–just a degree of thoughtlessness. The Afghanistan debacle was not a personal stab at the UK either, it was a rushed and poorly thought out strategic blunder that angered everyone–a massive blunder, to be sure. I know Merkel and Macron once spoke of rekindling the EU’s military strength. I’m not sure whether the EU members agreed with what they had to say about it. 

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      • Bill Masen Stephanie Arnold

        The EU wants its own armed forces as in their own words  as a balance against US / Russian/ Chinese global influence.  One of its senior beurocrats talked about  EU Imperial ambition.  They denied and denied and denied the EU had any plans for its own armed forces , then admitted  it was true.

        AUKUS though welcome is mainly a trans pacific defence arrangement between the US and Australia with the UK simply as a minor player helping Aus getting nuclear submarines. The trust between the UK and US on military issues has been greatly damaged in recent years with the Afghan fiasco being the latest damage.

        The comments made by President to be Biden in 2019 was universally seen as an anti British criticism.

        It was also made worse by two recent US presidents going against the British voting to leave the EU, with one saying Britian would go to the back of the queue when it came to trade deals.

        Sadly what many on both sides of the pond once called a special relationship is pretty much extinct these days on political issues, but both our militaries enjoy very close and strong relationships.

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      • Jay ValenciaContributor Bill Masen

        A unified EU armed forces is a smart idea. I wonder how the vast language differences would work though. The French Foreign Legion takes people from all over the world of various languages but I believe they all are to learn basic French, or at least the commands in French.

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      • Stephanie ArnoldContributor Bill Masen

        Intelligence sharing between the two countries is still very strong. Five Eyes Alliance and all that. 

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    • Sbesch

      Hey Stephanie – appreciate the fine work in your recap, as always.  I’m subscribed to an analytical email series called “Doomberg”.  I don’t even remember how I came to be signed up for it (it’s entirely likely you suggested it here in the roundup at some point in the past).  They posted an interesting analysis of how tightening of the natural gas/fertilizer supplies had the potential to brick entire fleets of diesel powered trucks (no DEF fluid for their engines, which are intentionally designed to shut down if they don’t have DEF – so, horrible supply chain woes).  Australia seems to be in particular peril, but I’d imagine the scope extends well beyond that.  Here’s a excerpt from today’s post to provide some additional background info.  Might be worth tracking the related developments here in the roundup.


      “Mr. Clark went on to warn of the dire consequences that Australia risks suffering in as soon as a few weeks:

      ‘I had a member call the other day. They’ve got 250 prime movers. So they’re a big organisation, a lot of their fuel they buy in bulk — they are basically out of AdBlue next week. If this is not solved by then, then we have a major problem. So you’re not got anything getting delivered to supermarkets, you’ve got power not being generated. In South Australia, you’ve got tractors that can’t harvest, you’ve got hospitals that don’t have back-up generators, all this sort of thing. So it’s a major problem, if it doesn’t get solved.’

      Until recently, Australia imported nearly 80% of its urea from China. A few weeks ago, China banned the exports of urea to keep homegrown fertilizer prices under control. We’ve previously highlighted ongoing trade tensions between the two countries, and although there’s no evidence China’s urea export ban was specifically targeted at Australia, there’s no denying the critical blow China’s move has delivered to the land Down Under. An updated report published Monday indicates widespread panic buying of DEF is underway, further exacerbating the crisis and accelerating the potential day of reckoning.”

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      • Stephanie ArnoldContributor Sbesch

        Anything that stops the trucks is really quite serious. My first impulse on reading this is: stock a pantry!

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