A Rival Economic Bloc Grows

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi meets with Brazilian President Inacio Lula da Silva as part of the 15th BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa on August 24, 2023. (Photo by Iranian Presidency / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Happy Friday! In order to speed up the booking process, according to a senior adviser to the former president, Donald Trump’s height and weight were “pre-reported” on Thursday rather than being measured at Fulton County Jail. He’s listed at 6 feet 3 inches and 215 pounds—exactly the same as Derek Carr, the starting quarterback of the New Orleans Saints.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • Former President Donald Trump was booked into Fulton County Jail in Georgia on Thursday for 13 state felony charges related to his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election in that state. After spending about 20 minutes in the jail, he was released on a $200,000 bond that had been agreed to earlier in the week. Before flying to Georgia on Thursday, Trump hired Steve Sadow—a high-profile criminal defense attorney from Atlanta critical of the state’s broad RICO law used to charge Trump—to defend him. Mark Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff and co-defendant in the case, also surrendered to Fulton County authorities after failing to delay the deadline for his booking. He was released on a $100,000 bond.
  • The House Judiciary Committee Thursday launched an investigation into Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, citing concerns that her August 14 indictment of Trump and 18 co-defendants was “politically motivated.” In a letter to Willis, Chairman Jim Jordan suggested the probe aimed to determine whether reforms—like adding immunities for federal officials, changing the federal officer removal statute, or altering the “delineation of prosecutorial authority between federal and local officials”—were necessary. The Judiciary Committee similarly attempted to investigate Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg in April, following his indictment of Trump.
  • The BRICS group—which includes Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—agreed on Thursday to bring in six new members. Iran and Saudi Arabia—sworn enemies, until recently—plus the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Argentina were invited to join the grouping, which seeks to reshuffle the world order in favor of developing countries.
  • Ukrainian officials say the country’s special forces on Thursday conducted an ambitious raid on Russian military installations in occupied Crimea, where they destroyed equipment and raised the Ukrainian flag. The raid, which coincided with Ukraine’s Independence Day, constitutes one of the most daring moves of the summer counteroffensive and is part of a larger effort to target the Crimean peninsula and disrupt Russian logistics there.
  • Preliminary Western intelligence reports suggested Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Russian mercenary presumed dead after a plane crash Wednesday, was likely assassinated. U.S. and Western officials said the leading theory was that an explosion—either from a bomb planted on the private jet, or adulterated fuel—downed the plane, rather than missiles, which early eyewitness reports claimed had been fired at the aircraft. Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledged the crash Thursday, stopping short of confirming the warlord and mutineer’s death.
  • The Defense Department announced Thursday it would train Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets in the U.S., a week after saying it would only do so once the European training effort reached capacity. The U.S. training will now also include maintenance and support personnel for the jets and will begin with English language training in September followed by flight training in October. The warplanes—coming from Denmark, the Netherlands, and Norway—will still take months to reach Ukraine.
  • A Moscow court on Thursday extended the pretrial detention of Evan Gershkovich—a U.S. citizen and Wall Street Journal correspondent—for an extra three months, moving his release date from August 30 to at least November 30. This is the second time his detention—which the State Department has officially deemed “wrongful”—has been extended since he was arrested at the end of March.
  • Following wildfires that killed more than 110 people earlier this month, Maui County filed a lawsuit Thursday against Hawaiian Electric Company, alleging it acted negligently in failing to cut the power to Maui’s aging electrical infrastructure despite warnings of high winds. The suit says the electrified downed lines set dry brush on fire, kicking off the deadly blaze—though the exact cause of the fires that started August 8 is still being investigated. 
  • Chinese customs authorities on Thursday blocked all seafood imported from Japan as the country began to release the first batch of treated radioactive waste water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant as part of the plant’s decommissioning. Scientists and the International Atomic Energy Agency say the water from the plant—heavily diluted, released slowly, and treated so the level of radioactive tritium is below the minimum standards for clean drinking water—is safe, but China decried the move as “selfish and irresponsible.”
  • The Department of Labor reported Thursday that initial jobless claims—a proxy for layoffs—decreased by 10,000 week-over-week to a seasonally-adjusted 230,000 claims last week, suggesting resilience in the labor market despite an historic run of interest-rate hikes.

Brick by BRICS

The BRICS group—a coalition of developing economies that features Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—may soon be doubling in size. Half a dozen additional countries—Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Argentina, Ethiopia, and the United Arab Emirates—were invited to join at the end of the group’s four-day summit in Johannesburg this week. Upon first hearing the news, we immediately understood the rationale—how could you pass up a chance to form ICE AIRBUSES?—but then we learned the original moniker is here to stay. 

“The name will remain BRICS, it’s beautiful,” Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva told the summit’s leaders. “The child is already registered. The child has become an adult, she doesn’t want to change her name.” She does, however, want to grow. The coalition hopes to take on a larger profile on the world stage with its boosted membership, but it remains to be seen whether BRICS can become a viable multilateral coalition for developing nations seeking economic partnerships outside of Western-led international groups.

Brazil, Russia, India, and China originally formed the group in 2009—letting South Africa join a year later—as a bloc of emerging economies looking for a dedicated international forum outside of U.S.-dominated coalitions such as the G7 (a club of the world’s seven most advanced economies). Anchored by its annual summit, BRICS provided a platform for emerging market powers, nations in the global South, and U.S. rivals who all felt they deserved more of a say in the international community. “The grouping doesn’t really make that much sense, particularly because it features so many different kinds of countries, different regime types, and also different foreign policies,” Ryan Berg, director of the Americas Program at the Center for International and Strategic Studies, tells TMD. “And yet every country in the BRICS grouping, Brazil included, have found their own justification for continuing to show up at these summits.”  

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