For more than 15 years, Walmart has been collaborating with others to drive change across global supply chains. The company's sustainability efforts prioritize people and the planet by aiming to source responsibly, sell sustainable products, protect natural resources and reduce waste and emissions.
- Walmart powers around 29% of its operations with renewable energy.
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- Walmart is working with suppliers through its Project Gigaton initiative to avoid a gigaton of greenhouse gas emission by 2030.
Iran has vowed to avenge Sunday's attack on its Natanz nuclear facility. Tehran blames Israel, which — as in the past — has neither confirmed nor denied it was responsible. And all this happens just days after indirect talks on US plans to rejoin the 2015 Iran nuclear deal resumed in Vienna. What the Iranians do now will determine the immediate future of those negotiations, a Biden administration priority.
What happened? Natanz, one of Iran's most important sites for uranium enrichment, was hit by an explosion that affected the power system that supplies the centrifuges. The damage will likely set back the country's efforts to enrich uranium to weapons-grade levels by some time. So far it's unclear whether it was a cyberattack similar to the Stuxnet malicious worm jointly developed by Israel and the US that destroyed one-fifth of Iran's centrifuges in 2010, or a bomb like the one that caused a July 2020 fire in the same facility.
Why now? The timing of the attack as US-Iran nuclear talks are ongoing is no coincidence. Israel fiercely opposed the original agreement championed six years ago by the Obama administration and was delighted when Donald Trump walked out of the deal in 2018 and later slapped crippling economic sanctions on Iran. To move talks forward, President Biden is willing to lift some of those sanctions, but Tehran, cautious about looking desperate so early in the discussions, has been playing hard to get.
The Israelis now worry that Iran has restarted enriching uranium at higher levels and that many of the deal's so-called "sunset clauses" expire in 2026, so Iran could begin to significantly expand its nuclear program while (technically) adhering to the terms of the agreement. Tel Aviv feels it's urgent to stop version 2.0 of the nuclear deal before Iran comes even close to getting the bomb.
How does it affect the US-Iran nuclear talks? It's too soon to ascertain whether the attack will diminish Iran's key bargaining chip: threatening to enrich uranium faster. What is virtually guaranteed, however, is that its aftermath will poison the domestic political environment in Iran, where any concession to "Great Satan" is always a hard sell, even more so now with a presidential election coming up in two months.
While the Americans' negotiating hand has strengthened, Natanz will further erode a mutual willingness to compromise — which is already very low after Iran stopped complying with the deal's terms on uranium enrichment in May 2019, and the high-profile assassination of a top Iranian general ordered by Trump in early 2020.
Who benefits? Clearly, Israel, for two reasons. First, whatever the full extent of the damage, it has physically undermined Iran's nuclear program, in the near term at least. Second, it has complicated a diplomatic process the Israelis would like to stop. Iran is now left to choose between a forceful retaliation that would delay any lifting of sanctions and an easing of economic hardship inside Iran, or a muted response that could make Iran's leaders appear weak just at the moment they'd like to be driving a hard bargain.
What happens next? The fallout from Natanz will put immense pressure on the Vienna talks, likely hardening Iran's position and reducing the odds of reaching an agreement before the presidential vote in June. Regardless of the election outcome, the decision on whether to rejoin the nuclear deal will be made by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Negotiations will continue. Iran's sanction-plagued economy suffered mightily last year due to the pandemic and low prices for the oil it's still able to export. Doing whatever it takes to get an agreement may not be popular for many conservatives at home, but US sanctions relief is too big an economic incentive for Iran to ignore.In short, both the US and Iran still want to return to the original deal. That's why, unfortunately for Israel's government, the question is not if but when a new nuclear agreement will be signed.
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In recent weeks, both Pfizer and Moderna have announced early phases of vaccine trials in children, and Johnson & Johnson also plans to start soon. If you know a kid who wants to learn about vaccines, how they work, why we need them, this story is just what the doctor ordered.
Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic
Ukraine is once again in a tough spot.
Since 2014, Moscow has supported and armed separatist rebels inside Ukraine's Donbas region along the border with Russia in order to weaken Ukraine's government and thwart its plans to one day join NATO and the European Union. Off-and-on fighting there, which began after Russian forces seized Crimea from Ukraine seven years ago, has killed about 14,000 people.
Earlier this week, in response to an ominous buildup of Russian troops near the Ukrainian-Russian border, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky told NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg that Ukrainian membership in "NATO is the only way to end the war in Donbas." He added that a NATO decision to give Ukraine a so-called membership action plan, opening a long-term process toward membership, would provide "a real signal for Russia." That plan would require political, economic, security, and legal reforms to bring Ukraine into line with NATO standards.
Russian officials have dismissed Zelensky's government as "children playing with matches" and warned that a new Ukrainian military operation in the Donbas would trigger "the beginning of the end of Ukraine."
So… should NATO now give Ukraine a plan toward eventual membership in the alliance? There are good arguments for and against.
Ukraine, an independent nation of 44 million people, has the right to decide for itself which allies to embrace and which clubs to join. The Russian government, which considers Ukraine a part of Russia's "sphere of influence," continues to undermine its territorial integrity to keep Ukraine in Russia's shadow. NATO should stand against this aggression by giving Kyiv the ultimate defense against Russian meddling.
Recent history exposes the absurdity of arguments that NATO membership for Ukraine would provoke Russia. NATO restraint didn't prevent Russia from invading Crimea and stoking war in the Donbas, both of which created new problems for Europe. Russia has no respect for NATO restraint.
By offering Ukraine a plan to join, the alliance would spur Ukraine to accelerate the reforms of its military, security services, politics, and economy that Europe and the US have wanted for a generation.
Ukraine can strengthen NATO. Last year, the alliance granted Ukraine "enhanced opportunities" for deeper cooperation, and Ukraine has already contributed troops to support NATO operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo. The reforms demanded for full membership would make Ukraine an even more valuable ally.
NATO promised. As Ukraine's foreign minister noted in February, NATO pledged in 2008 that Ukraine (and fellow former Soviet republic Georgia) will become NATO members one day and encouraged both countries to apply. How long must Ukraine wait to begin this process? Until Russia says it's OK?
Article 5 of NATO's founding treaty requires all member states to defend any fellow member that comes under attack. That's the cornerstone of the alliance. But a median of 50 percent of people in 16 NATO member countries states said last year that their country should not defend a fellow NATO ally against Russian attack. Just 38 percent said it should. If that many people won't support military action to help an existing alliance member, how many would back an armed defense of Ukraine? The leaders of NATO countries can't ignore that question.
And that's a special problem for Ukraine, because Russia has already invaded. NATO members don't recognize Russia's annexation of Crimea, and they condemn Russian involvement in the Donbas. By admitting Ukraine as a member, isn't NATO on the hook for evicting Russian troops from those two regions?
Initiating membership can make the current conflict worse. By itself, the membership action plan doesn't provide an Article 5 security guarantee. If NATO were to grant one to Ukraine, Russia would have every incentive to destabilize Ukraine much more dramatically than it already has in order to derail the membership process. That's the opposite of what NATO and Ukraine want.
Fear of that scenario helps explain why there's no groundswell of support for NATO membership even in Ukraine. In November 2020, just 41 percent of Ukrainians said NATO membership is a good idea. (About 37 percent hoped Ukraine would remain non-aligned, while 13 percent supported partnership with Russia.) These results are broadly consistent with other recent surveys.
The status quo isn't that bad for NATO or Ukraine. It isn't fear of NATO that prevents Vladimir Putin from ordering a full-on invasion of Ukraine. It's that large numbers of Russian troops would be killed, that occupation of Ukraine over many years would be hugely expensive, and that lasting support of the Russian people for that undertaking is far from certain.
So... strong arguments on both sides. Tell us what you think.
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April 12, 2021
Andean aftermath: Two big weekend elections in South America produced two stunning results. In Ecuador's presidential runoff, the center-right former banker Guillermo Lasso upset early frontrunner Andrés Arauz, a leftist handpicked by former president Rafael Correa. Lasso will take power amid the social and economic devastation of the pandemic and will have to reckon with the rising political power of Ecuador's indigenous population: the Pachakutik party, which focuses on environmental issues and indigenous rights, is now the second-largest party in parliament. Meanwhile, in a big surprise next door in Perú, far-left union leader Pedro Castillo tallied up the most votes in the first round of that country's highly fragmented presidential election. As of Monday evening it's not clear whom he'll face in the June runoff, but three figures are in the running as votes are counted: prominent neoliberal economist Hernando De Soto, rightwing businessman Rafael López Aliaga, and conservative Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the country's imprisoned former strongman. Meanwhile, in the congressional ballot, at least 10 parties reached the threshold to win seats, but there is no clear majority or obvious coalition in sight.
China jabs itself in the foot: China has promised hundreds of millions of doses of its vaccines for more than 45 countries, including some where a Chinese-made jab is the only one available. That's why alarm bells rang over the weekend when George Gao, head of China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said publicly China's government might try mixing different vaccines together to address the "not high" efficacy of current Chinese vaccines. (The WHO says there's no evidence that mixing vaccines improves their performance.) Chinese officials, including Gao, moved quickly to limit the damage. Gao now says he was taken out of context, and public officials say any vaccine with an efficacy rate higher than 50 percent is worth taking. China's vaccines will save many lives, even if its products are less effective than others, and we should all hope that scientists everywhere are looking for new ways to boost vaccine effectiveness. But this episode reminds us yet again that for China, where the pandemic began under cover of secrecy, COVID-19 remains a public relations nightmare.
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A controversial new World Health Organization report on the origins of the coronavirus that suggests it likely originated from a bat but transferred to humans via an intermediary animal. Could the virus have emerged from a Chinese lab, as former CDC Director Robert Redfield recently suggested? That's the least likely scenario, says the WHO's chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan. "The betacoronaviruses are very, very common in bats and there's a lot of genetic similarity between the SARS-CoV2 and many of the viruses in the...bat species," Dr. Swaminathan told Ian Bremmer in an interview on GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting April 9. Check local listings.
Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic
Hard Numbers: China fines Alibaba, India’s COVID surge, East African oil pipeline, Merkel succession race
April 12, 2021
2.8 billion: Chinese regulators fined e-commerce giant Alibaba a record $2.8 billion — about four percent of its 2019 revenue — for abusing its dominant market position and forcing merchants to operate exclusively on its platform. Alibaba founder Jack Ma has fallen out with Beijing in recent months after the billionaire publicly criticized China's regulators for stifling innovation in technology.
13.5 million: India has surpassed Brazil to become the country with the second highest number of COVID infections. Only the US tops its number of 13.5 million infections. The news comes as millions of Indians gather in huge crowds to bathe in the Gangers river for Kumbh Mela, a Hindu festival that occurs every 12 years and is considered the world's largest religious gathering. Event organizers ignored pleas by health authorities to cancel the event.
1,445: Tanzania and Uganda have signed an agreement to build a 1,433-kilometer (898 mile) pipeline to transport Ugandan oil to the Indian Ocean via the Tanzanian port of Tanga. The $3.5 billion project to construct the world's longest heated oil pipeline has been decried by environmentalists, who fear it will damage fragile ecosystems near Lake Victoria and the Serengeti.2: The current leaders of two German länder will compete to be the ruling CDU/CSU conservative coalition's candidate for chancellor in the September federal election. Bavaria and CSU chief Markus Söder is challenging Armin Laschet, governor of North Rhine-Westphalia — the country's most populous state — and recently elected president of outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU party.
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