The Diesel Apocalypse

The Diesel Apocalypse

Supermarket shelves lay empty, lawmakers fled a capital city running low on fuel and food, airports shut down, gas pumps ran dry, and a billion chickens clucked on the verge of death from starvation. This Mad Max scenario has played out in Latin America’s largest economy in recent days as Brazil’s truckers went on a nationwide strike over rising fuel prices, blocking hundreds of roads with their rigs.


For years, the Brazilian government subsidized fuel, but starting last year it decided to let fuel prices respond more freely to global oil prices in order to balance the books at the state oil company Petrobras. While that worked for a while, the recent surge in crude prices and a weakening currency combined to clobber Brazil’s truckers, and onto the roads they went. The government called in the army, but the truckers were unmoved. On Sunday, President Michel Temer (of the vaunted 5 percent approval rating) agreed, at a cost of close to $3 billion, to reintroduce diesel subsidies for two months.

The upshot: While Brazilians were split over whether to support the paralyzing strike, furor at the government and a refusal to pay higher gasoline prices is one thing that most agree on. One reason they don’t want to pay a cent more is because they reason that a venally-corrupted political class is probably stealing their money anyway. Before you raise our taxes or cut our subsidies, they are saying, stop siphoning our money into your pockets. As Brazil hurtles towards a pivotal election defined by anti-establishment anger, the fuel apocalypse shows just how broken the country’s social contract is.

No respite: Despite the partial truce with the truckers, Brazil is slouching towards a fresh crisis this week as the country’s oil sector workers threaten to strike starting on Wednesday.

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The supply chain mess is hitting all of us. Inflation is now the highest it's been in over 30 years.

The costs of food, gas and housing are going through the roof. What's more, almost everything made outside of America is now in short supply — like semiconductors for our cars.

Why is this happening? A lot of it has to do with the pandemic. Asian factories had to shut down or thought there would be less demand for their stuff. So did shipping companies. But then online shopping surged, and now there's a lot of pent-up demand to spend all the cash we saved during COVID.

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The economic consequences of high inflation are already bad enough.

But for Larry Summers, sometimes the psychological trauma that comes with it can do even more damage to a society.

"A society where inflation is accelerating is a society that feels out of control."

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Should you believe the hype(rsonic)?

Over the past few months, US officials have become increasingly alarmed about a new type of killing machines called "hypersonic weapons."

The top US General, Mark Milley, said that China's successful test of an advanced hypersonic weapon earlier this year was "very close" to a "Sputnik moment" – referring to the Soviet Union's surprise launch of the world's first artificial satellite in 1957, which raised fears that the US was lagging behind a formidable technological rival.

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Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

What is Facebook planning with the metaverse?

Well, my sense is that Facebook mostly prefers a virtual reality over the actual situation the company is in, with overwhelming criticism about the many harms to people it is causing all over the world. The metaverse at launch would be added to a number of services and experiences online in a more virtual and augmented reality setting. Think about what the gaming sector has done, but now, also, other big tech firms are jumping on the bandwagon. The thing to remember is that the user experience would be more immersive.

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

Why did President Biden renominate Jay Powell to be the chairman of the Fed, and who's his No.2, Lael Brainard?

Well, Powell by all accounts has done a pretty good job of managing the Fed through the coronavirus pandemic. He dusted off the playbook, first pioneered by Chairman Bernanke during the financial crisis, and he's largely continued the relatively easy monetary policy of his predecessor at the Fed, now Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen. With inflation growing the way it has over the last several months, Biden now owns the policies of the Fed and is essentially endorsing what Powell has been doing and giving Powell the political cover to continue to keep rates low for longer, or as many people expect, raise them slightly over the next 12 months in order to fight inflation.

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When Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted on all counts, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, who created the "1619 Project" tweeted: "In this country, you can even kill white people and get away with it if those white people are fighting for Black lives. This is the legacy of 1619." In an upcoming interview with Ian Bremmer, she explains why she saw the verdict as a consequence of this country's long history of double standards when it comes to racial justice. "The fact that we own more guns in this country than any other country is certainly a legacy of 1619" Hannah-Jones says. "This idea that white Americans can patrol, that they have the right to open carry, this is not something that Black Americans can engage in, in the same way." Watch her full conversation with Ian Bremmer in an upcoming episode of GZERO World.

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at Peng Shuai's public appearance, El Salvador's "Bitcoin City," and Americans' Thanksgiving celebrations.

Why has China silenced its famous tennis player, Peng Shuai?

Well, they haven't completely silenced her in the sense that the head of the IOC, the International Olympic Committee with Beijing Olympics coming up, basically told the Chinese government, "hey, what is the absolute minimum that you can do so that we can get Beijing Olympics back on track?" And they did the absolute minimum, which was a half an hour phone call with her that felt like kind of a hostage phone call. But nonetheless, she says that she is fine and is private and doesn't want to talk about the fact that she had accused the former Vice Premier of sexually assaulting her. That is a fairly heady charge. It was clear, going to get a lot of headlines in the run-up to the Olympics. And she wasn't heard from after that. So big problem for the Chinese in the run-up to the Olympics.

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How did we get to today's supply chain mess?

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