Turkey launched a major military intervention in Syria on Aug. 24, dispatching tanks and warplanes to assist rebel forces in taking the city of Jarabulus from ISIS. But it is assumed that their next target will be the Kurdish forces also fighting ISIS—and establishment of the long-anticipated Turkish "buffer zone" in northern Syria. It is telling that this happened one day after Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Turkey to meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Seemingly in coordnation with the Turkish intervention, Biden warned the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)—the most effective anti-ISIS force on the ground in Syria—that they had to retreat east of the Euphrates River if they want to continue receiving US aid. "We have made it absolutely clear...that they must go back across the river," he said. "They cannot, will not, and under no circumstances, get American support if they do not keep that commitment." (The Guardian, BBC News, Bloomberg, Aug. 24; Reuters, Aug. 23)
After four years of siege and bombardment, the evacuation is underway of civilians and rebels from Daraya, the Damascus suburb that was an early crade of the revolution. Rebel forces agreed to hand over control of the city to the regime in exchange for safe passage. Under terms of the deal, about 4,000 civilians will be transported to temporary shelter outside Damascus, while some 700 fighters will head to rebel-held Idlib after surrendering their weapons. But many residents are choosing to retreat to Idlib with the rebels. It seems no residents are being allowed to remain in the town. (NPR, BBC News, Aug. 26)
A deputy interior minister in Bolivia's government was abducted and killed by striking miners Aug. 25 in a conflict over formalization of mineral claims on the Altiplano. Rodolfo Illanes had gone to Panduro , a town some 80 miles south of La Paz, to open a dialogue with the miners, who had been blockading a highway for the past three days. The protest had turned violent, with two miners killed by riot police. Interior Minister Carlos Romero said "all indications" were that Illanes had been murdered in a "cowardly and brutal" attack. Defense Minister Reymi Ferreira broke down on television as he described how Illanes, appointed to his post in March, had apparently been "beaten and tortured to death." The National Federation of Mining Cooperatives (FENCOMIN), which called the strike, has not yet issued a statement.
Thousands of government opponents marched peacefully in Quito Aug. 25 to oppose the "totalitarianism and repression" of President Rafael Correa—whose supporters held counter-demonstrations. The opposition march was called by the National Union of Educators (UNE), after the government's decision to order the body disbanded. The call was taken up by the newly formed Unitary National Collective of Worker, Indigenous and Social Organizations, including indigenous alliance CONAIE, drawing many peasants from the countrywide. However, the Unitary Workers' Central (CUT), the country's main labor federation, joined the pro-government demonstration. The opposition and government supporters both also held large marched in Guayaquil. (El Diario, Manabi, El Universo, Guayaquil, AFP, InfoBae, EFE)
A court in the Argentine province of Córdoba on Aug. 25 handed life sentences to the 28 former military officers over "crimes against humanity" committed under the dictatorship. The defendants included ex-general Luciano Benjamín Menéndez AKA "The Hyena"—already been serving 11 life sentences for human rights abuses. He was found guilty this time of 52 homicides, 260 kidnappings, 656 instances of torture, and 82 "disappearances." He earned his nickname from laughing as he tortured his victims in the secret prison of La Perla, where 2,000 political prisoners were held during the dictatorship. All of the defendants had been charged with torturing and killing dissidents under the military regime that ruled from 1976 to 1983. In total they were found guilty of torturing, murdering or stealing the newborn babies of more than 700 victims. Menéndez denied the accusations against him, insisting there was no torture of any kind at La Perla and an adjacent clandestine detention center, La Ribera. Some 600 survivors testified against Menéndez and his co-defendants. Prosecutors called the Perla and Ribera facilities "extermination" centers. The case first opened in 2012. Another ten defendants were given shorter terms. (DW, Aug. 26; UNO, Argentina, Aug. 25)
Bill Weinberg rants against the totalizing propaganda environment of social media, and how Facebook is destroying our ability to think, analyze and access information outside our own "confirmation bias" bubble. The so-called "information revolution" actually sounds the death knell of information freedom and real journalism—and even of literacy itself. This phenomenon partially explains the complicity of the "left" and "alternative" media in the Putin-Pendejo* fascist convergence. This YouTube video is a test run for the rebooted version of the Moorish Orthodox Radio Crusade vlog—please forgive the imperfections, we are still working out the bugs! Watch this website for the next episode, coming soon...
FARC rebels on Aug. 22 announced formation of a Monitoring and Verification Team to oversee demobilization of their fighters under Colombia's peace process. With an office in Bogotá, it is to be administrated by a tri-partite commission formed by the FARC, the Colombian government and the United Nations. (TeleSur, Aug. 22) But former president Alvaro Uribe, now leader of the right-wing opposition, continues to harshly criticize the peace process. In an Aug. 18 address at Sergio Arboleda University in Bogotá, he noted the chaos in neighboring Venezuela and warned that the FARC would bring "castro-chavismso" to Colombia if allowed to participate in the political process. (PanAm Post, Aug. 23)
An unprecedented ruling of Colombia's Constitutional Court last year protecting alpine wetlands or páramos from mining operations is apparently going unenforced. Coal-mining continues in the Páramo de Pisba, a supposed protected area in Boyacá department, according to Anastasio Cruz of the Network of Rural Waterworks (Red de Acueductos Rurales), who said that the mining operations over the past 12 years have left over 20 local sources dry. The operations are carried out by companies operating on the margins of the law, which he said are also seeking to re-activate an old iron mine in the area. Cruz made his statement to the press ahead of a National Meeting of Páramo Defenders held in Tasco, Boyacá, last moth. (Contagio Radio, Aug. 5)