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Early-grade learning assessments spur Sierra Leone to strengthen foundational literacy and numeracy skills

Children who learn to read, write, and gain strong basic literacy and numeracy skills in the early grade years are more likely to be successful throughout…

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By Suman Sachdeva

Children who learn to read, write, and gain strong basic literacy and numeracy skills in the early grade years are more likely to be successful throughout their academic lives. Literacy levels are also correlated with economic, civic, health, and other quality of life measures for individuals and whole nations.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a global consensus that education systems were not delivering the quality education needed to ensure that children acquire the necessary basic skills. An Education Commission report (2020) estimated that 90 percent of children in low-income countries, 50 percent of children in middle-income countries, and 30 percent of children in high-income countries failed to master the basic secondary-level skills needed to thrive. Additionally, an estimated 53 percent of children in low- and middle-income countries cannot read proficiently by age 10. Unfortunately, Sierra Leone falls into this category.

But Sierra Leone has a renewed vision to improve literacy and numeracy in the early grades. The Education Sector Plan 2022-2026 is closely aligned with the goals of Sustainable Development Goal 4 on education. The country is nurturing a holistic early childhood development (ECD) program focused on increasing access to preschool education by adding a minimum of one year of preprimary education to the formal school system by constructing more ECD classrooms, training teachers in play-based methodology, and distributing over 20,000 ECD picture books with accompanying training on how to use them. Complementary to this is the use of radio-based teaching programs to support learning and teaching training.

The country also has set clear goals for its national foundational literacy program to get students to read more often, reduce the number of nonreaders, and grow the proportion of capable readers who can comprehend written texts. At the same time, the country is geared toward teaching a mastery of foundational concepts in mathematics.

To help strengthen the nation’s foundational learning strategy, in 2021 the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education in Sierra Leone, with support from the Global Partnership for Education and the United Nations Children’s Fund, conducted national early-grade reading and math assessments to evaluate students’ baseline competencies in literacy and numeracy.

The assessment was conducted in 260 schools across all 16 districts of the country with the view of gathering findings to address systemic issues at the school, district, and national levels that affect children’s learning. Information collected from 476 teachers, 244 head teachers, and 4,729 pupils (50 percent girls) in primary grades two and four has revealed some of the systemic drivers that underpin children’s ability to learn numeracy and literacy.

What does the assessment reveal?

The data from the early-grade reading assessment application across Africa compared to findings from the 2021 study in Sierra Leone shows that Sierra Leone falls in the upper half of countries, demonstrating fewer zero scores than other countries, especially those administering English language assessments (Figure 1). (A zero score means a student fails to provide any response to a question.) The data also show progress over the period from 2014 to 2021 (Figure 2), depicting a significant reduction in zero-score performance and the percentage of nonreaders to almost half in an oral fluency test.

In literacy, the oral reading fluency results indicate that students are progressing as readers from primary 2 (P2) to primary 4 (P4). However, although students can increasingly identify words and read text fluently, their understanding of those words and content remains limited, as is their conceptual ability to apply skills they have learned to other tasks.

Figure 2. Proportion of learners scoring zero on early grade reading assessments, 2014 and 2021

With respect to numeracy, students demonstrated notably higher skills in basic, procedural math tasks, versus significantly lower skills in conceptual ones (see Figure 3). Their experience of math instruction is often more about memorization of facts and rules than development of strategies to find answers to problems.

Figure 3. Proportion of learners scoring zero on early grade math assessments, 2014 and 2021

How are the baseline findings driving Sierra Leone’s agenda to build children’s foundational skills?  

Sierra Leone’s assessment examined the factors that influenced student learning, such as teacher qualification, training, and preparedness in foundational learning. The assessment showed that teachers with a certificate qualification demonstrated more positive actions when teaching literacy than those without (though there was no similar impact in numeracy instruction). This finding has informed the country’s teacher workforce management strategy, indicating the criticality of training and certification of in-service teachers to ensure a consistent supply of skilled teachers for the foundational literacy agenda.

The national assessment also showed that learners’ experience with literacy and mathematics instruction is more about memorization of facts and rules than development of strategies to find answers to problems. This has led to other important recommendations on instructional and pedagogical interventions that are helping teachers raise literacy and numeracy outcomes for developing learners in line with grade-level expectations in the country. Sierra Lone is using the data in its teacher training agenda to help teachers develop a better understanding of how children acquire literacy and numeracy and how to enable students to acquire foundational skills, align teaching instruction to the learners’ level, and monitor performance and offer remedial action for improvement.

Importantly, the study also concluded that students without a preschool education struggled to gain foundational skills in the early years of primary school, leading to poorer performance and slower overall growth. As a result, Sierra Leone has made one year of preprimary compulsory as part of its National Integrated Policy on Early Childhood Development 2021.

With this focus on evidence-driven education policy action, Sierra Leone is moving in the right direction with respect to its national foundational literacy and numeracy programming. A large-scale, follow-up national assessment is planned in 2023 to understand the gains made over this period of time. Key considerations to sustain the national assessment and increase its frequency are to advocate for government to allocate dedicated resources in the annual budget for learning assessments and to adopt/adapt existing real-time monitoring methodologies that can accompany teaching and learning.

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Escobar: Russia-China Partnership Defangs US Empire

Escobar: Russia-China Partnership Defangs US Empire

Authored by Pepe Escobar,

China’s State Council has released a crucial policy paper…

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Escobar: Russia-China Partnership Defangs US Empire

Authored by Pepe Escobar,

China’s State Council has released a crucial policy paper titled 'A Global Community of Shared Future: China’s Proposals and Actions' that should be read as a detailed, comprehensive road map for a peaceful, multipolar future.

That is if the hegemon - of course faithful to its configuration as War Inc. - does not drag the world into the abyss of a hybrid-turned-hot war with incandescent consequences.

In sync with the ever-evolving Russia-China strategic partnership, the white paper notes how “President Xi Jinping first raised the vision of a global community of shared future when addressing the Moscow State Institute of International Relations in 2013.”

That was ten years ago, when the New Silk Roads – or Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) - was launched: that became the overarching foreign policy concept of the Xi era. The Belt and Road Forum next month in Beijing will celebrate the 10th anniversary of BRI, and relaunch a series of BRI projects.

“Community of Shared Future” is a concept virtually ignored across the collective West – and in several cases lost in translation across the East. The white paper’s ambition is to introduce “the theoretical base, practice and development of a global community of shared future.”

The five key points include building partnerships “in which countries treat each other as equals”; a fair and just security environment; “inclusive development”; inter-civilization exchanges; and “an ecosystem that puts Mother Nature and green development first," as Xi detailed at the 2015 UN General Assembly.

The white paper forcefully debunks the “Thucydides Trap” fallacy: “There is no iron law that dictates that a rising power will inevitably seek hegemony. This assumption represents typical hegemonic thinking and is grounded in memories of catastrophic wars between hegemonic powers in the past.”

While criticizing the “zero-sum game” to which “certain countries” still cling to, China completely aligns with the Global South/global majority, as in “the common interests of all peoples around the world. When the world thrives, China thrives, and vice versa.”

Well, that’s not exactly the “rules-based international order” in play.

It’s All About Harmony

When it comes to building a new system of international relations, China prioritizes “extensive consultation” among equals and “the principle of sovereign equality” that “runs through the UN Charter.” History and realpolitik, though, dictate that some countries are more equal than others.

This white paper comes from the political leadership of a civilization-state. Thus it naturally promotes the “increase of inter-civilization exchanges to promote harmony” while elegantly remarking how a “fine traditional culture epitomizes the essence of the Chinese civilization.”

Here we see a delicate blend of Taoism and Confucianism, where harmony – praised as “the core concept of Chinese culture” - is extrapolated to the concept of “harmony within diversity”: and that is exactly the basis for embracing cultural diversity.

In terms of promoting a dialogue of civilizations, these paragraphs are particularly relevant:

“The concept of a global community of shared future reflects the common interests of all civilizations – peace, development, unity, coexistence, and win-win cooperation. A Russian proverb holds, 'Together we can weather the storm.'

"The Swiss-German writer Hermann Hesse proposed, 'Serve not war and destruction, but peace and reconciliation.' A German proverb reads, 'An individual’s effort is addition; a team’s effort is multiplication.' An African proverb states, 'One single pillar is not sufficient to build a house.' An Arabian proverb asserts, 'If you want to walk fast, walk alone; if you want to walk far, walk together.'

"Mexican poet Alfonso Reyes wrote, 'The only way to be profitably national is to be generously universal.' An Indonesian proverb says, 'Sugarcane and lemongrass grow in dense clumps.' A Mongolian proverb concludes, 'Neighbors are connected at heart and share a common destiny.' All the above narratives manifest the profound cultural and intellectual essence of the world.”

BRI Caravan Rolls On

Chinese diplomacy has been very vocal on the need to develop a “new type of economic globalization” and engage in “peaceful development” and true multilateralism.

And that brings us inevitably to the BRI, which the white paper defines as “a vivid example of building a global community of shared future, and a global public good and cooperation platform provided by China to the world.”

Of course, for the hegemon and its collective West vassals, BRI is nothing but a massive debt trap mechanism unleashed by “autocrat China”.

The white paper notes, factually, how “more than three-quarters of countries in the world and over 30 international organizations” had joined the BRI, and refers to the sprawling, ever-expanding connectivity framework of six corridors, six routes, an array of ports, pipelines and cyberspace connectivity, among others via the New Eurasian Land Bridge, the China-Europe Railway Express (a “steel camel fleet”) and the New Land-Sea Trade Corridor crisscrossing Eurasia.

A serious problem may involve China’s Global Development Initiative, whose fundamental aim, according to Beijing, is “to accelerate the implementation of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

Well, this agenda has been designed by the self-described Davos elites and conceptualized way back in 1992 by Rockefeller protégé Maurice Strong. Its inbuilt wet dream is to enforce the Great Reset – complete with a nonsensical zero-carbon green agenda.

Better Listen to Medvedev’s Warning

The hegemon is already preparing the next stages of its hybrid war against China – even as it remains buried deep down into a de facto proxy hot war against Russia in Ukraine.

Russian strategic policy, in essence, completely aligns with the Chinese white paper, proposing a Greater Eurasian Partnership, a concerted drive towards multipolarity, and the primacy of the Global South/global majority in forging a new system of international relations.

But the Straussian neocon psychos in charge of the hegemon’s foreign policy keep raising the stakes. So it’s no wonder that after the recent attack on the HQ of the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, a new National Security Council report leads to an ominous warning by Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev:

“NATO has turned into an openly fascist bloc similar to Hitler’s Axis, only bigger (...) It looks like Russia is being left with little choice other than a direct conflict with NATO (...) The result would be much heavier losses for humanity than in 1945."

The Russian Ministry of Defense, meanwhile, has revealed that Ukraine has suffered a staggering 83,000 battlefield deaths since the start of the - failed - counteroffensive four months ago.

And Defense Minister Shoigu all but gave away the game in terms of the long-term strategy, when he said, “the consistent implementation of measures and activity plans until 2025 will allow us to achieve our goals."

So the SMO will not be rounded up before 2025 – incidentally, much later than the next US presidential election. After all, Moscow’s ultimate aim is de-NATOization.

Faced with a cosmic NATO humiliation on the battlefield, the Biden combo has no way out: even if it declared a unilateral ceasefire to re-weaponize Kiev’s forces for a new counteroffensive in the spring/summer of 2024, the war would keep rumbling on all the way to the presidential election.

There’s absolutely no way some sharp intellect in the Beltway would read the Chinese white paper and be “infected” by the concept of harmony. Under the yoke of Straussian neocon psychos, there are zero prospects for a détente with Russia – not to mention Russia-China.

Both the Chinese and Russian leaderships know quite well how the Ray McGovern-defined MICIMATT (military-industrial-congressional-intelligence-media-academia-think tank complex) works.

The kinetic aspect of MICIMATT is all about protection of the global interests of big US banks, investment/hedge funds and multinational corporations. It’s not a coincidence that MICIMATT monster Lockheed-Martin is mostly owned by Vanguard, BlackRock and State Street. NATO is essentially a mafia protection racket controlled by the US and the UK that has nothing to do with “defending” Europe from the “Russian threat."

The actual MICIMATT and its NATO extension’s wet dream is to weaken and dismember Russia to control its immense natural resources.

War Against the New 'Axis of Evil'

NATO’s incoming graphic humiliation in Ukraine is now compounded with the inexorable rise of BRICS 11 – which embodies a lethal threat to the hegemon’s geoeconomics. There’s next to nothing the MICIMATT can do about that short of nuclear war – except turbo-charging multiple instances of Hybrid War, color revolutions and assorted divide-and-rule schemes. What’s at stake is no less than a complete implosion of neoliberalism.

The Russia-China strategic partnership of true sovereigns has been coordinating full-time.

Strategic patience is the norm. The white paper reveals the magnanimous facet of the number one economy in the world by PPP: that’s China’s response to the infantile notion of “de-risking”.

China is “de-risking” geopolitically when it comes to not falling for serial provocations by the Hegemon, while Russia exercises Taoist-style control to not risk a kinetic war.

Still, what Medvedev just said carries the implication that the hegemon on desperation row could even be tempted to launch WWIII against, in fact, a new “axis of evil” of three BRICS nations – Russia, China and Iran.

Secretary of the [Russian] National Security Council Nikolai Patrushev could not have been more crystal clear:

“In its attempts to maintain its dominance, the West itself destroyed the tools that worked better for it than the military machine. These are freedom of movement of goods and services, transport and logistics corridors, a unified system of payments, global division of labor and value chains. As a result, Westerners are shutting themselves off from the rest of the world at a rapid pace.”

If only they could join the community of shared future – hopefully on a later, non-nuclear, date.

Tyler Durden Sat, 09/30/2023 - 23:30

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“More Deceit”: Gaetz Rages Over McCarthy-Ukraine Side Deal To Pass Stopgap

"More Deceit": Gaetz Rages Over McCarthy-Ukraine Side Deal To Pass Stopgap

Update (2155ET): Following the Senate’s passage of the Continuing…

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"More Deceit": Gaetz Rages Over McCarthy-Ukraine Side Deal To Pass Stopgap

Update (2155ET): Following the Senate's passage of the Continuing Resolution, Rep. Matt Gaetz took to Twitter, where he was enraged over a side deal made between Speaker Kevin McCarthy and the Democrats for Ukraine funding, which Gaetz says he "didn't tell House Republicans" about until after the vote. 

Gaetz was responding to Punchbowl News' Jake Sherman, who related a message from House Democratic leadership.

"When the House returns, we expect Speaker McCarthy to advance a bill to the House Floor for an up-or-down vote that supports Ukraine, consistent with his commitment to making sure that Vladimir Putin, Russia and authoritarianism are defeated. We must stand with the Ukrainian people until victory is won."

Nine Senate Republicans voted against the bill; Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.) and J.D Vance (R-Ohio).

*  *  *

Update (2109ET):  The Senate has voted 88-9 to pass the House's Continuing Resolution stopgap funding bill, which stripped out funds for Ukraine, includes $16 billion for disaster relief, and will keep the US government running for another 45 days.

Among the Senate "Yea" votes was Michael Bennet (D-CO), who was absolutely flipping his lid over the lack of Ukraine funding earlier in the day.

The bill, which passed the House earlier in the day by a bipartisan vote of 335-91, was passed with just three hours to go before a shutdown.

Just before the vote, Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) vowed to keep fighting for more US taxpayer dollars for Ukraine, saying that he and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have "agreed to continue fighting for more economic and security aid for Ukraine."

"We support Ukraine’s efforts to defend its sovereignty against Putin’s aggression," said Schumer - to which McConnell said he's "confident" that the Senate can pass more "urgent assistance to Ukraine later this year. But let's be clear," that the "alternative," a shutdown, "would not just pause our progress on these important priorities, it would actually set them back."

*  *  *

Update (1755ET): After an afternoon of theatrics from Rep. Jamal Bowman (D-NY), it appears that the stopgap legislation to keep the government running through November 17 will now pass at the 11th hour.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the bill to keep the government funded past 12:01 Sunday includes $16 billion in disaster relief, but does not include Ukraine funds.

The House voted 335-91 for the funding measure, which includes $16 billion in disaster relief but omits aid for Ukraine. It also excludes border-security measures sought by Republicans. The margin exceeded the two-thirds majority needed to clear the bill through the House, which considered the legislation under special procedures requiring a supermajority of votes. All but one Democrat voted in favor of the measure, while nearly half of Republicans voted against it. -WSJ

While White House officials say President Biden supports the measure, the Senate has reportedly been lax in quickly taking up the measure late Saturday, raising the possibility of further malarkey.

Developing...

*  *  *

(Update 1655ET): So let's get this straight. In the home stretch of negotiations over the House's GOP stopgap bill - while Democrats were actively trying to stall the vote so they could actually read it - a widely reported phenomenon, Rep. Jamal Bowman (D-NY) pulls the fire extinguisher.

His excuse is that he wasn't actually trying to stall the the vote, and that he's essentially an idiot...

"Congressman Bowman did not realize he would trigger a building alarm as he was rushing to make an urgent vote. The Congressman regrets any confusion," said a spokesperson.

Yes. Because this happens all the time.

MSNBC breathlessly repeats the Simple Jack defense.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy capitalized on the incident, comparing Bowman to a January 6th insurrectionist.

As we noted below... Bowman used to be a public school principal before he was elected to Congress, who rallied against standardized testing, at a private school he founded that has a 27% literacy rate, so... maybe?

Then again, he would be no stranger to fire drills, no?

*  *  *

House before the House finally approved a 'clean' stopgap funding bill to avert a government shutdown (which has since been sent to the Senate for consideration before the midnight funding deadline), Socialist Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) was caught pulling the fire alarm in a House office building Saturday in order to try and delay a vote on ta House GOP stopgap spending bill.

The incident in the Cannon Building was caught on camera and confirmed by several witnesses, Politico reports.

"This is the United States Congress, not a New York City high school. To pull the fire alarm to disrupt proceedings when we are trying to draft legislation to AVERT A SHUTDOWN is pathetic…even for members of the socialist squad," Staten Island GOP Rep. Nicole Malliotakis wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

"Rep Jamaal Bowman pulled a fire alarm in Cannon this morning," House Administration Committee Chairman Bryan Steil wrote on X. "An investigation into why it was pulled is underway."

According to Bowman spox Emma Simon, "Congressman Bowman did not realize he would trigger a building alarm as he was rushing to make an urgent vote. The Congressman regrets any confusion."

In other words, he's claiming to be too stupid to have known what he did - and don't believe your lying eyes!

Granted, Bowman used to be a public school principal before he was elected to Congress, who rallied against standardized testing, at a private school he founded that has a 27% literacy rate, so...

Needless to say, the memes are already flying.

.

Meanwhile, the House cleared the 'clean' stopgap bill without funding for Ukraine or the border, by a vote of 335-91. One Democrat and 90 Republicans voted against the measure.

*  *  *

Update: (1335ET): With a government shutdown just hours away, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has turned to Democrats for help passing a temporary bill, after House Freedom Caucus members dug their heels in over no funds for Ukraine.

"What I am asking, Republicans and Democrats alike, put your partisanship away," said McCarthy. "Focus on the American public."

McCarthy needs a two-thirds majority to pass their Continuing Resolution (CR), which would require a significant number of Democrats - who have strongly supported more Ukraine aid - to cross the aisle.

The House GOP bill would be a 'clean' Continuing Resolution, which won't include Ukraine funding or border assistance.

"We will put a clean funding stopgap on the floor to keep government open for 45 days for the House and Senate to get their work done," said McCarthy following a meeting. "We will also, knowing what had transpired through the summer, the disasters in Florida, the horrendous fire in Hawaii, and also the disasters in California and Vermont. We will put the supplemental portion that the president asked for in disaster there too."

"Keeping the government open while we continue to do our work to end the wasteful spending and the wokeism and most important, secure our border," McCarthy said.

If the bill does not pass, Republicans plan to bring up several measures to mitigate the effects of a government shutdown, multiple members said. 

Those include bills to continue paying service members and extending authorization of the Federal Aviation Administration and National Flood Insurance Program, both of which are also set to expire at midnight unless Congress takes action. Republicans are also examining measures to continue pay for border patrol agents. -The Hill

The Democrats, meanwhile, have been using parliamentary tactics to slow down the vote so they can more carefully read the GOP proposal.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), one of the key holdouts in the House, called McCarthy's bipartisan appeal "disappointing," and said that McCarthy's speakership is "on tenuous ground."

When asked what his next move will be, Gaetz said "I guess we'll have to see how the vote goes."

What's next?

According to Goldman, there's a 90% probability of a shutdown before the Oct. 1 deadline.

That said, there will be three upcoming catalysts in the next few weeks that may result in passage.

1) All members of the US military are due to be paid on Oct. 13, and a missed pay date would have serious political ramifications; there is a good chance the House will vote to reopen before or shortly after that date; 

2) A few House Republicans have said they might bring a “motion to vacate” that would remove McCarthy as Speaker unless a majority of the House supports him. Whatever the outcome of such a vote, getting past it could set the stage for a reopening; 

3) There are procedural moves (a “discharge petition” is the most frequently discussed) that Democrats can make to pass an extension of spending authority in the House over Speaker McCarthy’s objections. However, this would require support from at least 5 House Republicans (assuming that all Democrats sign on). This will not help avoid a shutdown, but could come into play over the next two weeks, as political pressure to reopen grows (particularly when combined with the first point on military pay). 

In light of the above, Goldman doesn't expect this to last more than 2-3 weeks, and that the Oct. 13 military pay date will become a focal point in the timeline.

*  *  *

Update (2157ET): It looks like the Senate isn't willing to strip Ukraine funds from the continuing resolution. In a Friday night tweet, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said that the "misguided Senate bill has no path forward and is dead on arrival."

Meanwhile, according to Punchbowl News' Jake Sherman and Josh Bresnahan, McCarthy is floating a CR that would last until Nov. 17 at FY2023 funding levels, which would not include border funds or Ukraine funding.

*  *  *

In an 11th hour Hail Mary in the hopes of averting a government shutdown, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) announced that the only way the House will pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government through October is to drop Ukraine funding.

"I think if we had a clean one without Ukraine on it, we could probably be able to move that through," McCarthy told CNN's Manu Raju.

The comment comes hours after McCarthy lost a game of chicken with the House Freedom Caucus, failing to pass a CR which left McCarthy will few options to try and avert a shutdown in less than 36 hours. McCarthy was hoping that the House bill's border security provisions would win over enough holdouts to pass.

Meanwhile, the White House slammed the failed bill over the 'elimination of 12,000 FBI agents,' and 'almost 1,000 ATF agents.'

Of note, House Republicans on Thursday narrowly passed the annual defense spending bill, but only after they removed $300 million in Ukraine aid from the legislation (which then cleared in a separate vote because a bunch of Democrats then voted).

Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who failed twice last week to advance the bill to the floor, finally locked down enough Republican votes to pass the bill after the House stripped $300 million to arm Ukraine from the text.

The separate bill carved out to allocate those funds for Kyiv passed Thursday in a 311-117 blowout bipartisan vote. Republicans had won a close procedural vote earlier in the day to separate the Ukraine money from the Pentagon bill, a move meant to flip a handful of GOP holdouts. -Politico

Democrats framed the optics as Kremlin-friendly, with House Armed Services ranking Democrat Adam Smith saying "The Russians are good at propaganda... It will be played as America backing off of its commitment for Ukraine."

Republicans responded that by carving Ukraine out of the defense bill, it allows opponents of either measure (Ukraine aid or the defense bill) to voice their opinions on each independently.

"Why don’t we make sure this gets through? I mean, I’m just mystified that this is somehow a problem," said House Rules Chair Tom Cole (R-OK), according to Politico. "We guarantee you something you want is going to pass the House and you’re upset about it."

And now, McCarthy says there's no way to avert a government shutdown unless the House, and the Senate, agree to nix Ukraine aid from the 30-day stopgap.

Fire and Brimstone...

On Friday, White House top economic adviser Lael Brainard said that a shutdown would pose an "unnecessary risk" to what he described as a resilient economy with moderating inflation.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen then chimed in, warning that all of Bidenomics could be negatively impacted.

"The failure of House Republicans to act responsibly would hurt American families and cause economic headwinds that could undermine the progress we’re making," Yellen said from Port of Savannah, Georgia, adding "A shutdown would impact many key government functions from loans to farmers and small businesses, to food and workplace safety inspections, to Head Start programs for children.

"And it could delay major infrastructure improvements."

Goldman has predicted that a shutdown will last 2-3 weeks, and that a 'quick reopening looks unlikely as political positions become more deeply entrenched.' Instead, as political pressure to reopen the government builds, pay dates for active-duty military (Oct. 13 and Nov. 1) will become key dates to pay attention to.

In addition, they think a shutdown could subtract 0.2pp from Q4 GDP growth for each week it lasts (adding the same to 1Q2024, assuming it's over by then).

What's more, all data releases from federal agencies would be postponed until after the government reopens.

More via Goldman:

What are the odds the government shuts down?

A shutdown this year has looked likely for several months, and we now think the odds have risen to 90%. The most likely scenario in our view is that funding will lapse after Sep. 30, leading to a shutdown starting Oct. 1. That said, a short-term extension cannot be entirely ruled out. In the event that Congress avoids a shutdown starting Oct. 1, we would still expect a shutdown at some point later in Q4.

While there is likely sufficient support in both chambers of Congress to pass a short-term extension of funding—this is known as a “continuing resolution” (CR)—that is “clean” with no other provisions attached, the majority of that support would come from Democrats. The Senate is considering a CR that includes aid for disaster relief and Ukraine. House Republican leaders are under political pressure to pass a CR that includes Republican policy priorities that can pass with mainly or exclusively Republican support. At the moment, neither chamber looks likely to pass the other chamber's CR.

The outlook seemed bleak ahead of the debt limit deadline earlier this year, but Congress resolved it in time; why shouldn’t we expect a last-minute deal once again?

The smaller economic hit from a shutdown puts less pressure on Republican leaders to override the objections of some in their party to reach a deal. Ahead of the debt limit deadline earlier this year, Republican leaders reached a deal over the objections of some in their party because the potential hit to the economy from an impasse would have been unpredictable and severe, and even lawmakers most strongly opposed to a compromise agreed that the debt limit must be raised. By contrast, the economic hit from a shutdown would be smaller and more predictable, as there have already been two protracted shutdowns over the last decade. While most lawmakers on both sides of the aisle would prefer to avoid a shutdown, both sides appear more willing to take the chance it occurs.

*  *  *

Stay tuned...

Tyler Durden Sat, 09/30/2023 - 17:57

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These Are The World’s Top Diamond-Mining Countries, By Carats & Value

These Are The World’s Top Diamond-Mining Countries, By Carats & Value

Only 22 countries in the world engage in rough diamond production…

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These Are The World's Top Diamond-Mining Countries, By Carats & Value

Only 22 countries in the world engage in rough diamond production - also known as uncut, raw or natural diamonds - mining for them from deposits within their territories.

This chart, by Visual Capitalist's Pallavi Rao and Sam Parker illustrates the leaders in rough diamond production by weight and value. It uses data from Kimberly Process (an international certification organization) along with estimates by Dr. Ashok Damarupurshad, a precious metals and diamond specialist in South Africa.

ℹ️ Carat is the unit of measurement for the physical weight of diamonds. One carat equals 0.200 grams, which means it takes over 2,265 carats to equal 1 pound.

Rough Diamond Production, By Weight

Russia takes the top spot as the world’s largest rough diamond producer, mining close to 42 million carats in 2022, well ahead of its peers.

Russia’s large lead over second-place Botswana (24.8 million carats) and third-ranked Canada (16.2 million carats) indicates that the country’s diamond production is circumventing sanctions due to the difficulties in tracing a diamond’s origin.

Here’s a quick breakdown of rough diamond production in the world.

Rank Country Rough Diamond
Production (Carats)
1 ???????? Russia 41,923,910
2 ???????? Botswana 24,752,967
3 ???????? Canada 16,249,218
4 ???????? DRC 9,908,998
5 ???????? South Africa 9,660,233
6 ???????? Angola 8,763,309
7 ???????? Zimbabwe 4,461,450
8 ???????? Namibia 2,054,227
9 ???????? Lesotho 727,737
10 ???????? Sierra Leone 688,970
11 ???????? Tanzania 375,533
12 ???????? Brazil 158,420
13 ???????? Guinea 128,771
14 ???????? Central
African Republic
118,044
15 ???????? Guyana 83,382
16 ???????? Ghana 82,500
17 ???????? Liberia 52,165
18 ???????? Cote D'Ivoire 3,904
19 ???????? Republic of Congo 3,534
20 ???????? Cameroon 2,431
21 ???????? Venezuela 1,665
22 ???????? Mali 92
  Total 120,201,460

Note: South Africa’s figures are estimated.

As with most other resources, (oil, gold, uranium), rough diamond production is distributed unequally. The top 10 rough diamond producing countries by weight account for 99.2% of all rough diamonds mined in 2022.

Diamond Mining, by Country

However, higher carat mined doesn’t necessarily mean better value for the diamond. Other factors like the cut, color, and clarity also influence a diamond’s value.

Here’s a quick breakdown of diamond production by value (USD) in 2022.

Rank Country Rough Diamond
Value (USD)
1 ???????? Botswana $4,975M
2 ???????? Russia $3,553M
3 ???????? Angola $1,965M
4 ???????? Canada $1,877M
5 ???????? South Africa $1,538M
6 ???????? Namibia $1,234M
7 ???????? Zimbabwe $424M
8 ???????? Lesotho $314M
9 ???????? Sierra Leone $143M
10 ???????? Tanzania $110M
11 ???????? DRC $65M
12 ???????? Brazil $30M
13 ???????? Liberia $18M
14 ???????? Central
African Republic
$15M
15 ???????? Guyana $14M
16 ???????? Guinea $6M
17 ???????? Ghana $3M
18 ???????? Cameroon $0.25M
19 ???????? Republic of Congo $0.20M
20 ???????? Cote D'Ivoire $0.16M
21 ???????? Venezuela $0.10M
22 ???????? Mali $0.06M
  Total $16,290M

Note: South Africa’s figures are estimated. Furthermore, numbers have been rounded and may not sum to the total.

Thus, even though Botswana only produced 59% of Russia’s diamond weight in 2022, it had a trade value of nearly $5 billion, approximately 1.5 times higher than Russia’s for the same year.

Another example is Angola, which is ranked 6th in diamond production, but 3rd in diamond value.

Both countries (as well as South Africa, Canada, and Namibia) produce gem-quality rough diamonds versus countries like Russia and the DRC whose diamonds are produced mainly for industrial use.

Which Regions Produce the Most Diamonds in 2022?

Unsurprisingly, Africa is the largest rough diamond producing region, accounting for 51% of output by weight, and 66% by value.

Rank Region Share of Rough
Diamond Production (%)
Share of Rough
Diamond Value (%)
1 Africa 51.4% 66.4%
2 Europe 34.9% 32.9%
3 North America 13.5% 52.8%
4 South America 0.2% 2.4%

However diamond mining in Africa is a relatively recent phenomenon, fewer than 200 years old. Diamonds had been discovered—and prized—as far back as 2,000 years ago in India, later on spreading west to Egyptian pharaohs and the Roman Empire.

By the start of the 20th century, diamond production on a large scale took off: first in South Africa, and decades later in other African countries. In fact between 1889–1959, Africa produced 98% of the world’s diamonds.

And in the latter half of the 20th century, the term blood diamond evolved from diamonds mined in African conflict zones used to finance insurgency or crime.

Tyler Durden Sat, 09/30/2023 - 20:15

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