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The Warthog and the senator: The politics of retiring a warplane – Reuters

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WASHINGTON, July 16 (Reuters) – The U.S. Air Force is desperate to get rid of some of its fleet of expensive, slow and outdated A-10 Warthog airplanes, but politicians have blocked the move, aiming to keep the local dollars flowing.

President Joe Biden wants to retire dozens of the 40-year-old warplanes to free up funding to modernize the military. But within weeks of the release of his proposed defense budget, Democrats drafted a law to keep the planes, many of which are based in Arizona, where Senator Mark Kelly is up for re-election in 2022.

The negotiations over the A-10, which the Air Force has wanted to retire for more than two decades, show the extensive measures Democrats will take to protect their slim majority in the Senate.

Having military aircraft based in a constituency brings enormous economic benefit. The A-10 fleet at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson has been viewed as vital to the base, which contributes about $3 billion to the local economy and is among the region’s top employers, former Tucson Mayor Thomas Volgy said.

Kelly wrote to the Senate Appropriations Committee on July 9 to request $272 million “to restore all funding to the A-10 program” in fiscal 2022 and $615 million to buy new wings to rewing the portion of the A-10 fleet that had been earmarked for retirement.

He also spoke to Democratic Senator Jack Reed, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who in turn prohibited any A-10 retirements in his draft of the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, annual legislation that sets defense policy, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The NDAA is a long way from becoming law, but items added by the chairman in the draft are difficult to strike, or weaken with an amendment.

Democrats hold a tenuous majority in the 50-50 Senate thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote, meaning they cannot afford to lose even one seat in the chamber.

Kelly faces up to seven potential Republican competitors in the race to keep his seat. Mothballing about a fifth of the A-10 fleet would be a significant symbolic blow that local officials fear would foreshadow a longer-term plan to eliminate the planes completely – and could weaken Kelly’s candidacy.

“We all know that the A-10 had been on the chopping block for some time. It has taken a Herculean effort by elected officials to keep the A-10 in the Air Force’s inventory,” Volgy said.

Kelly opposes “retiring A-10s without a suitable replacement to carry out the close air support mission that is critical to our national security and protecting American troops,” a spokesperson told Reuters.

The A-10 has been on the chopping block for many years because it is old – it was first deployed in 1976 – and because it competes with attack helicopters for the best way to provide air support to frontline troops.

While the Air Force plans to install a larger contingent of military personnel at the base once the A-10s are retired – eclipsing the economic fallout from mothballing the planes – Kelly could be blamed for letting some planes go under his watch.

Kelly is seen as among the most vulnerable Senate Democrats up for re-election in 2022, along with Georgia’s Raphael Warnock.

The former astronaut and husband of gun-control activist Gabrielle Giffords defeated Republican Senator Martha McSally in a special election last November. But he is up for re-election next year because he is finishing the term of the late Republican Senator John McCain, who also supported retaining the A-10 fleet before he died in 2018.

The funds saved by retiring the planes would go to Air Force

modernization projects like the development of hypersonic weapons. At the same time, Air Force Lieutenant General David Nahom said at a House of Representatives hearing this week that if the number of A-10s is not reduced this year, the Air Force will face a shortage of mechanics for newer planes.

Volgy, currently a University of Arizona professor, said the question is not just about the A-10, “but making sure Davis-Monthan will remain stable.”

Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington; Editing by Chris Sanders and Dan Grebler

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Book review: Border politics serve up racism, human exploitation – Vancouver Sun

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B.C. activist/scholar Harsha Walia makes a convincing case in her bracing new book on our global, man-made crises

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Border & Rule: Global Migration, Capitalism, and the Rise of Racist Nationalism

Harsha Walia | Fernwood Publishing (Halifax and Winnipeg, 2021)

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$27 | 320pp


Borders are far more than lines on paper.

As local organizer, activist and scholar, Harsh Walia demonstrates in her passionately felt, deeply researched and closely reasoned new book, Border and Rule, that borders can serve as lethally intricate mechanisms of imperialism, colonialism, racism, sexism and class exploitation.

They work to divide workers and undermine international solidarity, while inscribing cartographies of privilege and oppression on the long-suffering face of the Earth.

And yet in mainstream discussions, borders are only questioned when heart-rending images of migrant children huddling miserably in U.S. border holding pens or drowned on the shores of the Mediterranean inspire brief and self-congratulatory spasms of outrage and pity among comfortable observers on the “right” side of the borders.

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Walia, who has spent much of her adult life doing the hard work of organizing solidarity activity and saving lives of those threatened with deportation back to the dangers they are fleeing, is understandably dismissive of such liberal responses. She points out that centuries of imperial conquest, colonial occupation and gendered, racist segmentation of the workforce have set the stage for the current global crisis, which saw over 80 millions of our sisters and brothers driven forcibly from their homes last year, according to the United Nations, while hundreds of millions more have been forced to migrate by climate disasters, poverty and famine. Such disasters are, Walia persuasively argues, not so much “natural” as created by economic and social relations (aka predatory and racialized capitalism and a world order designed to serve the needs of the rich over the needs of the rest of us).

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Walia’s analysis is dense and complex, and her language occasionally overburdened with abstraction. But even where her thought is difficult, it is always worth the time it takes to grasp.

This is a remarkable book that reflects a lifetime of activism and reflection on the author’s part — Walia has been in the news lately, resigning as executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association after a controversial social media post on arson committed at several Catholic churches. Still, this book is rich with learnings for us all.

Her core argument, that “a political and economic system that treats land as a commodity, Indigenous people as overburden, race as a principle of social organization, women’s caretaking as worthless, workers as exploitable, climate refugees as expendable and the entire planet as a sacrifice zone must be dismantled,” will challenge and inspire readers.

Highly recommended.

Tom Sandborn crossed a border to live in Vancouver in 1967. He welcomes your feedback and story tips at tos65@telus.net


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Jason Kenney's longing for Alberta's pre-COVID politics – iPolitics.ca

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Pandemic? What pandemic?

In Premier Jason Kenney’s Alberta, the pandemic isn’t just retreating, it has been defeated.

“Such a joy to connect with Albertans during Canada’s first major event after the pandemic,” said a jubilant social media post last week from Kenney after he visited the Calgary Stampede.

Saying “after the pandemic” was no slip of the keyboard. Kenney chose his words carefully, including being sure to point out the Stampede was the “Canada’s first major event.”

Alberta was the first province to lift virtually all pandemic restrictions on July 1; the first to get more than 70 percent of eligible citizens vaccinated with one dose; and, now, the first province to declare we’re in a post-pandemic world.

This is Alberta exceptionalism, Kenney style.

And, boy, does Kenney need to be seen as exceptional these days. His popularity plummeted during the pandemic – from a high of about 60 per cent in support in 2019 to around 30 per cent now, according to the most recent polls.

The pandemic, of course, is not over – as health experts are quick to point out.

The number of cases and hospitalizations have fallen dramatically in Alberta (and other jurisdictions) thanks to vaccinations, but the pandemic is still with us, even if it is a shadow of its former self.

At the same time, countries including France are re-imposing restrictions as the number of Delta-variant cases surge and experts talk ominously of a fourth wave among the unvaccinated.

Ironically, Kenney’s optimistically misleading view of Alberta being in an “after the pandemic state” might actually put the province at risk of enduring more variant cases. The province’s vaccine rollout, doing so well just weeks ago, has stalled. After hitting 70 per cent of Albertans with their first dose a month ago, the rate has increased by a trickle to just under 75 per cent despite the government announcing a vaccine lottery with cash prizes and exotic vacations.

There are a multitude of reasons for the slower uptake including lack of access to clinics in rural areas and suspicion of the vaccines — but you have to think that Kenney talking about the pandemic in the past tense has some people wondering why they’d bother to get a shot now.

Therein lies a Catch-22 for Kenney among his Conservative supporters who have rankled at pandemic restrictions from the beginning.

Tell them the pandemic is over and they’ll see no reason to get vaccinated. Tell them the pandemic is not over and he’d have to maintain pandemic restrictions, further aggravating his conservative base.

For the base, the big issue is politics, not pandemics.

Right-wing voters are disappointed in Kenney, not just because he imposed what they considered draconian COVID-19 measures, but because he backed off on his war with the federal Liberal government during the pandemic.

Well, that war is back on.

Kenney is holding a referendum vote this October, in conjunction with Alberta’s municipal elections, asking Albertans if they want the federal equalization program scrapped. Never mind that it’s a federal program paid for by federal tax dollars, Kenney is arguing that equalization is unfair to Alberta (even though Kenney himself was part of the Harper federal cabinet that amended the equalization formula a decade ago).

Kenney has dusted off the anti-Trudeau rhetoric, once again accusing the prime minister of “openly campaigning against Alberta” in the last federal election, even though the federal government bought the Trans Mountain pipeline and has committed to twinning the pipe so Alberta can get more energy products to the West Coast for shipment internationally.

But Kenney is loath to give his political nemesis any pats on the back. This reluctance reached petty heights, or lows, on July 7 when the prime minister held a news conference in Calgary with Mayor Naheed Nenshi to formally announce the city’s $5.5-billion Green Line LRT project. Neither Kenney nor anybody from the Alberta government attended the news conference even though the province is kicking in $1.5 billion.

Kenney’s office said the announcement was just a rehash of previous announcements. That’s true – but when has a politician ever shied away from re-announcing projects when there are headlines to grab?

Kenney apparently didn’t want to be seen helping boost Trudeau’s profile on the eve of a possible federal election.

On a more practical front, Kenney’s anti-Trudeau feelings could prove costly to Alberta’s parents, particularly those in the large urban centres, who are keen on the federal government’s $30-billion plan for a $10-a-day daycare system.

Both British Columbia and Nova Scotia have signed on to plans tailored to their provinces and Alberta insists it is in negotiations, but Kenney’s initial response in April was to dismiss the federal plan as a “nine-to-five, government-run, union-operated, largely-urban-care” system. Predictably, the Alberta government is also upset with the federal government’s plan announced this week to begin consultations on a “Just Transition” plan to help Canadian workers energy workers get ready for a future less dependent on fossil fuels.

“The federal government’s intention to hastily phase out Canada’s world-class oil and gas industry is extremely harmful to the hundreds of thousands who directly and indirectly work in the sector, and will be detrimental to Canada’s economic recovery,” said Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage Tuesday in a deliberate misreading of Ottawa’s intent.

But that’s the tone of the Alberta government in 2021 when it comes to dealing with the federal Liberals: partisan, pugilistic and plain ornery.

It’s a throwback to 2019 before the pandemic hit.

In that respect, Kenney is right. Politically speaking, Alberta is indeed in a post-pandemic world.


The views, opinions and positions expressed by all iPolitics columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of iPolitics.

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South America Politics Are Bullish for Copper, Freeport Says – BNN

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(Bloomberg) — Policy uncertainty in Peru and Chile, which account for about 40% of global copper production, is supportive of future prices of the metal as producers balk on pulling the trigger on investments, according to Freeport-McMoRan Inc.

Speaking to analysts Thursday, Chief Executive Officer Richard Adkerson said the shifting political winds in the two South American copper giants are part of the challenges that mining faces to meet growing demand as the world transitions away from fossil fuels.

Adkerson, a 74-year-old mining veteran, plans to work with the industry in Peru to engage with the incoming government of left-winger Pedro Castillo, who has vowed to take a bigger share of the mineral windfall to fight poverty. In Chile, Freeport is holding off on a major expansion as the country debates tax hikes, drafts a new constitution and heads into a presidential election at a time when voters are pushing for more social spending to address inequalities.

“We really don’t know what the outcome is, bottom line,” Adkerson said. “This is going to be supportive of future copper prices.”

Copper hit a record earlier this year as economies emerged from Covid lockdowns at a time of disrupted supplies and an acceleration of a clean-energy shift that will require much more of the metal used in wiring. The prospect of surging demand comes after years of exploration and development cutbacks when prices were low and as the supply side grapples with rising social and environmental expectations and falling ore quality.

Still, Adkerson offered some hope that the industry will be able to avoid drastic policy changes in Peru, pointing to stability agreements and examples of other candidates moderating their approaches once in office.

On a seperate call Thursday, Newmont Corp. CEO Tom Palmer said the company expects to make a decision by December on a proposed investment at the Yanacocha mine in Peru. Newmont would likely start engaging with the new cabinet over the next six months, and is optimistic of being well received, he said.

(Adds comment from Newmont CEO in last paragraph)

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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