Afghanistan
Afghanistan

Is Russia really backing the Taliban?

The kneejerk squawking of “McCarthyism” any time new revelations of Moscow misdeeds emerge is tiresome and dangerous. But there is reason for skepticism about the claims that Russia is arming the Taliban in Afghanistan, and offering them a bounty to kill US troops. This makes little sense in terms of the regional alliances: US ally Pakistan has been the traditional patron of the Taliban, while Russia’s closest ally in the region is Iran, which opposes the Taliban on sectarian grounds. The notion that Moscow would do anything to strengthen the hand of Sunni extremism in a country where it faced its own counterinsurgency quagmire in the ’80s, and which still borders its “near abroad,” stretches credulity. (Photo of abandoned Soviet tank in Afghanistan via Wikimedia Commons)

East Asia
Tony Chung

Hong Kong elections postponed amid repression

Hong Kong authorities announced they will postpone Legislative Council elections originally scheduled for September by one year, citing a resurgence in COVID-19 cases. The postponement comes after several opposition candidates had been barred from running, and several democracy activists were detained under the new National Security Law. Tony Chung, 19, of the pro-independence group StudentLocalism, became the first political figure to be arrested under the controversial law. (Photo of Tony Chung: HKFP)

North America
federal police

Trump broaches postponement of election

In a tweet, President Trump suggested that the US postpone the November elections, claiming mail-in voting would cause widespread fraud and inaccuracy. States do have the power to delay election day, but federal elections are beholden to federal election law. Without consent of Congress, states may only postpone election day to the extent they can still meet the December deadline for submitting electoral votes to the Senate and US Archivist. The president has no authority to unilaterally postpone election day. Trump’s allegations of widespread voter fraud are unfounded. Oregon, which has held postal elections since 2000, has had only 14 reported cases of fraud. (Photo via MRonline)

Africa
Central African Republic

CAR: accused war criminal runs for president

Amid rising tensions and insecurity in the Central African Republic, deposed former president François Bozizé has announced his candidacy for the upcoming presidential elections, scheduled for December. Bozizé is currently under UN sanctions and subject to an arrest warrant issued by the government for “crimes against humanity and incitement to genocide.” He is accused of having backed a brutal rebel movement after his ouster in 2013, fueling a civil war that has left millions displaced. However, authorities show little sign of moving to execute the warrant, and Bozizé has been openly working for a political comeback since returning to the country last year. (Map via Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)

Africa
Sudan rebels

Troops to Darfur as war re-escalates

The Sudanese government is sending more forces to the restive Darfur region, following a new escalation in violence there. Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said the troops are to protect people during the farming season. Dozens have been killed and several villages destroyed in Darfur over the past weeks, even as the UN Security Council discusses an “exit strategy” for the peacekeeping force. Ironically, efforts to instate the peace implementation process in Darfur may have contributed to the new surge in violence. With government encouragement, those displaced by the conflict finally started returning home in time for this year’s planting season. But this has led to new disputes between returnees and people who took over their lands in the intervening years. (Photo: Libya Observer)

The Andes
COB cabildo

Bolivia: general strike to protest postponed elections

A thousands-strong march through the Bolivian highland city of El Alto was followed by a cabildo, or mass meeting, in which unions and popular organizations agreed to immediately begin an “indefinite” general strike, demanding that new elections be held on schedule. The country’s first elections since the ouster of president Evo Morales last year were slated for Sept. 6, but the government of interim president Jeanine Añez has postponed them to Oct. 18, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. The cabildo was called by the Bolivian Workers Central (COB), the country’s main trade union bloc, and included representation from campesino organizations and El Alto’s powerful alliance of working-class neighborhood organizations. COB leader Juan Carlos Huarachi affirmed: “If we join together as miners, campesinos, the middle class and El Alto, we can be dynamite.” (Photo: ERBOL via Opinión)

Europe
SOS Mediterranee

Italy detains another migrant rescue ship

Italian authorities detained another NGO-operated search-and-rescue vessel—the fourth to have fallen foul of “technical irregularities” since the beginning of the pandemic. The move fits a pattern of authorities using administrative procedures to block the work of search-and-rescue NGOs in the central Mediterranean, according to human rights groups. At the end of June, the Ocean Viking, operated by NGO Onboard SOS Mediterranee, rescued 180 asylum-seekers and migrants who had departed from Libya. Authorities in Italy and Malta refused to assign the ship a safe harbor for eight days, leading to a severe deterioration in the mental health conditions of those on board, manifesting in suicide attempts and fights. After the rescued people finally disembarked in Sicily, the Ocean Viking observed a 14-day quarantine before it was inspected and impounded. (Photo: Onboard SOS Mediterranee)

The Andes
Totumito

Colombia: massacre sparks mass displacement

A massacre that left eight campesinos dead in northeast Colombia’s Catatumbo region spurred the forced displacement of some 450 people, local authorities report. The massacre at Totumito vereda (hamlet) in Tibú, a rural municipality on the border with Venezuela, took place amid a territorial dispute between the ELN guerrillas and Los Rastrojos, a paramilitary network that largely controls the nearby border city of Cúcuta. According to the Catatumbo Campesino Association (ASCAMCAT), the Rastrojos carried out the attack after the ELN planted a banner with their logo in the vereda. More than 100 families have fled to the municipal centers of Tibú or Cúcuta, fearing another attack. Control of drug-trafficking routes over the Venezuelan border is said to be at issue in the conflict. (Photo via Colombia Reports)

The Amazon
yanomami

Amazon indigenous concerns grow over COVID-19

Four months after COVID-19 was first suspected of spreading to indigenous communities in the Amazon Basin, the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghereyesus, said at a press conference that the WHO is “deeply concerned” by the pandemic’s impact on native populations. He singled out the recently contacted Nahua people in Peru, six of whom have caught the virus. The OAS has also called on Brazil to protect the Yanomami people, who may have been infected by government health workers. Poverty, malnutrition, and the prevalence of communicable diseases put indigenous people at greater risk from coronavirus. (Photo: Mongabay)

Syria
syria refugees

Syria: controlled elections amid deepening crisis

To nobody’s surprise, Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s bloc won a majority of seats in the country’s parliamentary election, dismissed as a farce by the exiled opposition. As in the presidential elections that confirmed Assad’s hold on the presidency in 1994, millions displaced by the war were not able to vote. The elections were held amid a deepening economic crisis, with the UN noting a 200% food price hike in under a year and warning of widespread hunger. Russia and China meanwhile continue to use their veto on the Security Council to block aid deliveries to opposition-held areas. (Photo: UNICEF via UN News)

Mexico
guardianacional

Mexico: narco-dystopia amid Trump-AMLO schmooze

Mexico’s President Lopez Obrador met with Trump at the White House to inaugurate the new trade treaty that replaces NAFTA. Embarrassingly, the meeting was punctuated by horrific new outbursts of narco-violence in Mexico. And the country’s promised cannabis legalization—mandated by the high court and looked to as a de-escalation of the dystopian drug war—is stalled by a paralyzed Congress. (Photo: Secretaría de Seguridad y Protección Ciudadana)

Planet Watch
Bicycles

Global mayors envision car-free ‘new normal’

The Global Mayors COVID-19 Recovery Task Force, representing cities on every continent, announced a proposal for a post-pandemic “new normal” that will de-emphasize cars and carve out more room on the streets for bicyclists. The C40 Mayors Agenda for a Green and Just Recovery seeks to create conditions that will proactively prepare cities for future pandemics, while addressing systemic injustices and keeping global warming below the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement. The Agenda calls for substantial investments in affordable housing and public transportation, the permanent banning of cars from many thoroughfares, an end to public investment in and subsidies for fossil fuels, and an embrace of the “15-Minute City” paradigm now being pioneered by Paris. (Photo: JPC24M)