Watching the Shadows
headlines

Targeted disinformation neutralizes US left

Progressives in the United States show little awareness of the disinformation specially targeting them. Denialism about Russian interference in the US elections is now translating into denialism about how dangerous the Trump presidency is. In 2016, we saw Russian-promoted “left” sites and writers post memes and articles that trashed Hillary Clinton, equated Clinton and Trump, or even portrayed Clinton as the worse choice. They dominated “Leftbook” social media and helped depress the progressive vote—a decisive factor in Trump’s win. We are seeing a replay now. Biden and Harris are denounced far more than Trump on some “left” sites, while Trump’s incipient fascism is downplayed. This influence has also been felt in the appalling lack of protest against Trump. Through his round-ups of undocumented immigrants, his abandonment of climate and arms control treaties, the impeachment, progressives failed to fill the streets—until the Black Lives Matter uprising, bringing a new and different leadership to the fore. In a presentation for Women’s March Minnesota, longtime activist Terry Burke examines how the US left is in danger of being manipulated and neutralized by a sophisticated online propaganda campaign, facilitated by the Kremlin and its media arms and corporate enablers like Facebook. (Image: TerryBurke)

Africa
ivory coast

Ivory Coast: violence mounts ahead of election

Ivory Coast has seen a wave of communal violence ahead of presidential elections, amid a civil disobedience campaign called by the opposition. In the coastal town of Dabou, some 50 kilometers west of the economic capital Abidjan, several have been killed and scores arrested over the past week. In the inland town of Bongouanou, the home of opposition candidate Pascal Affi N’Guessan was burned down during clashes. In nearby Kotobi, the the gendarmerie headquarters was ransacked. The violence has taken on an ethnic cast, with members of the local Agni group in the country’s east-central and coastal zones pitted against Dioula people from northern Ivory Coast, who back current President Alassane Ouattara. The opposition rejects Ouattara’s quest for a third term as unconstitutional. (Photo: CIA)

Africa
#EndSARS

Anti-police uprising rocks Nigeria

Protesters continue to fill the streets of Lagos in defiance of a round-the-clock curfew imposed after the Lekki Massacre, when soldiers and police fired on demonstrators who were occupying a toll bridge. Authorities initially dismissed the massacre as “fake news,” but now acknowledge that at least 38 were killed by security forces. The massacre only succeeded in escalating what had been a peaceful protest campaign against police brutality into a general uprising. Several buildings were set on fire or ransacked, including banks, the television headquarters, port facilities, and the palace of the Oba of Lagos, the traditional ruler of the city. Protests have also spread to Akure and other cities. President Muhammadu Buhari appeared on TV to appeal for “understanding and calm,” but also admonished the international community to “know all the facts” before condemning his government. Nigerian netizens are dismissing his address as “12 minutes of nonsense.” (Photo: Sahara Reporters)

The Amazon
santacruz

Protests break out in Bolivia’s Oriente

In Bolivia’s eastern lowlands, known as Oriente, the regionally powerful right-wing social networks have responded rapidly to the victory of socialist candidate Luis Arce in the presidential elections. Thousands filled the streets of the region’s principal city, Santa Cruz, waving Bolivian flags, honking car horns and chanting “¡AnulaciĂłn, AnulaciĂłn, AnulaciĂłn!”However, the protesters’ accusation of “fraud” was explicitly rejected by Manuel González, head of the OAS mission in Bolivia. He said in a statement: “The people voted freely and the result was clear and overwhelming, which gives great legitimacy to the incoming government, the Bolivian institutions, and the electoral process.” (Photo: Nuevo Sur Bolivia)

The Amazon
peru oil spill

Hundreds of oil spills in Peru rainforest since 2000

Peru’s National Coordinator for Human Rights (CNDDHH) and Oxfam Peru have issued a report finding that there have been hundreds of oil spills linked to the NorPeruano Pipelineover the past 20 years. Entitled “La Sombra del PetrĂłleo” (“The Shadow of Oil“), the report counted 474 oil spills in the Peruvian Amazon between 2000 and 2019, impacting at least 41 indigenous communities. These spills occurred along the NorPeruano Pipeline and in several associated oil blocs. The report also determined that 65% of these spills were caused by the corrosion of the pipeline and operational failures. “After every spill, it was said that the responsibility was with the indigenous communities, but there was no evidence that this was the case,” said Miguel LĂ©vano, coordinator of a CNDDHH subcommittee on oil spills. “It did not make sense, since they are the people being affected.” (Image via Oxfam Peru)

The Andes
Luis Arce

Bolivia: back to ‘socialism,’ or meet the new boss?

Luis Arce, candidate of the party of ousted president Evo Morales, has seemingly swept to victory in Bolivia’s presidential elections. While the official count is technically still pending, results place him with more than 50% of the vote—well above the second-place center-right contender Carlos Mesa and with far more than the required majority to avoid a runoff. This represents a significant recoup of losses for the Movement Toward Socialism-Political Instrument for the Peoples’ Sovereignty (MAS-IPSP), which Morales nominally still leads from exile in Argentina. As news of the victory broke, supporters gathered outside Arce’s campaign office to chant “The pollera will be respected!”—a reference to the traditional skirt that has become a symbol of the MAS-IPSP indigenous base. But when Arce assumes the presidency, he will be taking over a country debilitated by deep recession. “We will have to have austerity measures. There’s no other option if we don’t have enough income to cover our current expenditures,” Arce admitted to reporters. (Image via Carwil without Borders)

Syria
White Helmets

Russian-backed ‘crimes against humanity’ in Syria

Human Rights Watch condemned Russia and the Syrian government in a new report for launching at least 46 documented deadly attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure in Syria’s northern Idlib province. The report reveals that the Russian-backed offensive targeted hospitals, schools, markets, and other essential facilities for over 11 months from April 2019. HRW contends that these attacks violated international humanitarian law and may constitute crimes against humanity. These numbers represent only a fraction of the attacks occurring in the region. Witnesses and local authorities say the documented attacks killed at least 224 civilians and wounded 561 others. In addition to harming civilians directly, the attacks have also adversely impacted public health, education, and the standard of living in Idlib by restricting access to food, water, and housing. Both the Assad regime and Russia exacerbated this crisis by blocking humanitarian aid to the region. (Photo via EA Worldview)

Planet Watch
freeway

Humanity’s affluent 1% drive climate change

The richest one percent of the world’s population are responsible for more than twice as much carbon pollution as the 3.1 billion people who made up the poorest half of humanity during a critical 25-year period of unprecedented emissions growth, according to a new study by the aid group Oxfam. The report, “Confronting Carbon Inequality,” is based on research conducted with the Stockholm Environment Institute and has been released as world leaders prepare to meet at the UN General Assembly to discuss global challenges including the climate crisis. The report assesses the “consumption emissions” of different income groups between 1990 and 2015—the 25 years when humanity doubled the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Tim Gore, head of climate policy at Oxfam and author of the report, said: “The over-consumption of a wealthy minority is fuelling the climate crisis, yet it is poor communities and young people who are paying the price. Such extreme carbon inequality is a direct consequence of our governments’ decades-long pursuit of grossly unequal and carbon-intensive economic growth.” (Photo: malingering via The Source Metro)

Oceania
new caledonia

New Caledonia: one more shot for independence

The results are in for the independence referendum in New Caledonia and, as in 2018, the majority has voted against seceding from France. However, the proportion of “yes” to “no” votes changed. Support for independence rose from 43% in 2018 to 47% this time, indicating that more residents than ever before want independence. And the archipelago could still win independence in the coming years. The 1998 NoumĂ©a Accord that paved the way for this referendum allows for one more independence vote, in 2022, for a total of three. One-third of the region’s legislature must vote in favor of holding the final referendum—and that body already has a pro-independence majority. On the other hand, anti-independence politicians have called for a change of script now that secession has failed twice. One argument says the final referendum should instead give residents the option of going the other direction: further integration with France. But that could be very controversial, with many calling it a violation of the NoumĂ©a Accord. (Flag image via Wikipedia)

Iraq
ezidikhan

Yazidis betrayed in Kurdish-Baghdad deal

The leadership of Ezidikhan, the Yazidi autonomous territory, are protesting a deal reached between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) on the political future of northern Iraq, saying they were not consulted. Ezidikhan Prime Minister Barjis Soso Khalaf said in a statement: “Without the consent of the Yezidi people of Ezidikhan, the Baghdad-Erbil deal is illegitimate and illegal. It tramples upon the right of Yezidis to govern themselves as they see fit.” The pact between Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al–Kadhimi and the KRG administration at Erbil calls for joint exploitation of the region’s oil resources, ending years of conflict over the question. But Ezidikhan authorities see their exclusion from the talks as a threat to their hard-won autonomy. “Yezidis were not even invited to the table to discuss the future of their own homeland!” said the statement. It also criticized the US for acquiescing in the deal: “The United States shares complicity in this colonial-style act that wantonly tramples upon Iraqi Yezidis’ right to self-determination and self-government, once again sacrificing its vaunted democratic principles on the altar of realpolitik.” (Map: Ezidikhan.net)

Watching the Shadows
Xinjiang

China elected to UN rights council: Orwellian irony

In another one to file under #OrwellWouldShit, the UN General Assembly elected China to the Human Rights Council—despite the country holding some one million Uighur Muslims in concentration camps. The General Assembly also elected Russia, Cuba, Uzbekistan and Pakistan—all similarly accused of human rights violations, if not quite such ambitious ones. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized the election of countries with “abhorrent human rights records.” A week before the General Assembly vote, China’s UN ambassador Zhang Jun read a statement before the body, denouncing the US for “systematic racial discrimination and violence,” which was endorsed by 25 other nations—including Russia, Iran and North Korea. Of course the perverse irony of this is that Pompeo and Zhang are both correct. And therefore neither has any moral credibility to criticize the other. (Photo: Xinjiang Judicial Administration via The Diplomat)

Greater Middle East
Levant Basin

Hydrocarbons at issue in Israel-Lebanon dispute

US-mediated talks opened between Israel and Lebanon, aimed at resolving the long-standing maritime border dispute between the two countries. At issue in the talks, held in Lebanon’s coastal border town of Naqoura, is an 860-square-kilometer patch of the Mediterranean where each side lays territorial claim. The conflict stems from differing demarcation methods: Israel marks the border as being at a 90-degree angle to the land border, while Lebanon marks it as a continuation of the land borderline. The issue grew more pressing with the discovery of abundant hydrocarbon reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean’s Levant Basin. Lebanon, which sought to pursue gas drilling off its coast, submitted its demarcation of the maritime borders to the UN a decade ago, claiming this area as within its Exclusive Economic Zone. Israel called this an infringement of its rights, and submitted its own version of the border demarcation to the UN. (Photo: US Energy Information Administration)