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.

Paper was originally made from rags until the introduction of cellulose in 1800. Since then, it has transformed into a "circular" industry, with 55% of paper produced in Italy recovered. It no longer just comes from trees, either. Some companies produce paper with scraps from the processing of other products like wool and walnuts.

Learn more about this rags to riches story in Eni's new Energy Superfacts series.

In late 2017, Zimbabwe's long-serving strongman Robert Mugabe was deposed by the army after 37 years in power. Amid huge popular celebrations, he handed over the reins to Emmerson Mnangagwa, his former spy chief. It was an extraordinary turn of history: Mugabe, one of Africa's last "Big Men" and a hero of the country's liberation war to end white minority rule, went out with barely a whimper, placing Zimbabwe — stricken by economic ruin and international isolation — in the hands of "The Crocodile."

Mugabe has since died, but almost three years after his departure, Zimbabwe's woes continue.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Happy Monday, we are in August, summer, should be taking it a little easier. Coronavirus not taking the stress levels off but hopefully giving people the excuse, if you're not traveling so much, be close with your families, your loved ones and all that. Look, this is not a philosophical conversation, this is a talk about what's happening in the world, a little Quick Take for you.

First of all, you know, I'm getting a little bit more optimistic about the news in the United States right now. Yes, honestly, I am. In part because the caseload is flattening across the country and it's reducing in some of the core states that have seen the greatest explosion in this continuation of the first wave. Yes, the deaths are going up and they should continue to for a couple of weeks because it is a lagging indicator in the United States. But the fact that deaths are going up does not say anything about what's coming in the next few weeks. That tells you what's happened in the last couple of weeks.

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TikTok, ya don't stop: The wildly popular video app TikTok has been in the crosshairs of American lawmakers for many months now. Why? Because the app is owned by a Chinese company, raising national security concerns that it could funnel personal data on its 100 million American users to the Chinese government. The plot thickened in recent days after President Trump abruptly threatened to ban the app altogether, risking a backlash among its users and imperiling US tech giant Microsoft's efforts to buy the company's North American operations. After a weekend conversation between Microsoft and the White House, the sale negotiations are back on but US lawmakers say any deal must strictly prevent American users' data from winding up in Chinese Communist Party servers. The broader fate of TikTok — which has now been banned in India, formerly its largest market, and may be broken up under US pressure — nicely illustrates the new "tech Cold War" that is emerging between China and the United States. A Microsoft/TikTok deal is expected by September 15. Tick..Tock.

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Donald Trump can still win re-election in November, but foreign governments read the same polls we do. They know that Joe Biden heads into the homestretch with a sizeable polling lead — both nationally and in the states most likely to decide the outcome. Naturally, they're thinking ahead to what a Biden foreign policy might look like.

They're probably glad that Biden gives them a half-century track record to study. (He was first elected to local office in 1970 and to the US Senate in 1972.) The six years he spent as ranking member, then chairman, of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, his term as co-chairman of the Senate's NATO Observer Group, and his eight years as Barack Obama's vice president tell them that he's essentially a "liberal internationalist," a person who believes that America must lead a global advance of democracy and freedom — and that close cooperation with allies is essential for success.

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