In Other News

Propaganda and the dystopia of social media

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 demobilization advances —amid dissent

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)

Colombia: illegal mining the 'new coca'?

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)

Colombia: terror targets indigenous leaders

Village leaders report that a total of 18 indigenous campesinos in the north of Colombia's Cauca department have been killed this year, in a presumed paramilitary campaign of intimidation. In one case last month, a pregnant woman was among three slain when they were stopped on the road between the towns of Caloto and Santander de Quilichao. She was headed with her family on motorbikes to a local hospital when they were ambushed by gunmen and left dead on the road. Paramilitaries have left pamphlets in local villages warning them to drop their campaigns for restitution of usurped lands. (RCN, Aug. 23; Contagio Radio, July 22; Extra, Cauca, July 15))

Peasant strikes mobilize again in Colombia

Colombia's government on Aug. 22 sent a delegation to the Pacific coastal department of Chocó, six days into a massive civil strike (paro) that has paralyzed the marginal region, with roads blocked and businesses shuttered. Aug. 18 saw street clashes in regional capital Quibdó as the feared ESMAD anti-riot force was unleashed on protesters. Demands had been bulding for weeks over potable water, electricity and other basic infrastructure for poor peasant, indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities. On July 20, social leaders announced their refusal to celebrate Colombia's Indpendence Day, instead holding a 40,000-strong protest march in Quibdó under the slogan: "We change the cry of independence into a cry of protest for our abandonment by the state." (NTN24, Aug. 23; Contagio Radio, El Colombiano, Bogotá, Aug. 22; Prensa Rural, Aug. 20; El Espectador, Bogotá, July 20)

Iraq hangs 36 for Camp Speicher massacre

Officials in the Iraqi governorate of Dhiqar on Aug. 21 carried out the hanging of 36 men convicted for their participation in the Camp Speicher massacre of June 2014. The event infamously involved the kidnapping and killing of 1,700 military recruits by presumed ISIS militants after the fall of the base outside Tikrit. The massacre has since been known as one of the greatest ISIS atrocities in the country. The executions were performed in Dhiqar's Nasiriyah prison and overseen by governor Yahya al-Nasseri and the justice minister. Al-Nasseri has recently fast-tracked the execution of convicted terrorists following last month's suicide bombing in Baghdad. These executions have drawn heavy criticism from advocacy groups for ignoring international judicial standards.

Palestinians recall 1969 al-Aqsa arson attack

Palestinians on Aug. 21 commemorated the 47th anniversary of an arson attack on al-Aqsa Mosque, with Palestinian officials emphasizing that the Muslim holy site is still under threat today. On Aug. 21, 1969, an Australian Christian fundamentalist set fire to a pulpit in al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem, aiming to bring about the second coming of Jesus Christ. In a press conference, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Sheikh Muhammad Hussein said that Israeli violations, which include detaining and killing Palestinians in al-Aqsa compound, allowing Israeli extremists to storm al-Aqsa, and demolishing Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, were "another type of fire which keeps burning the al-Aqsa mosque and the city of Jerusalem, and has been burning for 47 years."

Yemen: Saudis bomb anti-bombing demonstration

It requires a really special kind of cynicism to pull this one off—the kind born of complete impunity, when the world gives you a blank check to carry out any kind of atrocity. Saudi fighter jets on Aug. 21 carried out air-strikes on a peaceful rally in Yemen's capital Sanaa that had been called to protest Saudi air-strikes. Most recent accounts put the death toll at three, but it seems very likely to rise. The protesters were mostly armed, and began firing on the warplanes with their AK-47s after the air-strikes, in a useless act of defiance. The rally was called after Doctors Without Borders (MSF) withdrew its staff from six Yemen hospitals in response to a Saudi sir-strike on a hospital that left 19 people dead in the northern province of Hajja. It was the fourth health facility supported by MSF to be hit by Saudi-led coalition air-strikes over the course of the war, now in its 17th month. The US continues to have military advisors directly supporting the Saudis' air war in Yemen. This week, their number was cut from about 45 to five, although US officials said this was not due to concern over civilian casualties. (Nine News, Australia, Aug. 21; BBC News, Aug. 20; NYT, Aug. 18)

Escalating internationalization of Syria war

How telling that just as all the Great Powers were making nice and divding their turf in Syria, it starts to look like the US could get drawn into the war against Assad—against its will. Until now, the US has been giving Bashar Assad a wide berth, not interfering with his relentless campaign of aerial terror, but instead concentrating its battle on ISIS. But on Aug. 18, the US for the first time scrambled jets (presumably from Incirlik air base in Turkey) in response to Assad regime aggression after its Kurdish anti-ISIS partners came under bombardment. The US has special forces troops embedded with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which were bombed by regime warplanes near Hasakah, Aleppo governorate. (BBC News, Aug. 20; WPNBC, EA Worldview, Aug. 19) This should put paid to the persistent calumny that the Kurds are collaborating with Assad. But it obviously also holds the risk of direct superpower confrontation, as Russian warplanes are backing up the Assad regime.

Bolivia unveils 'anti-imperialist' military school

Bolivian President Evo Morales on Aug. 17 dedicated a new international military academy, which will seek to counter the influence of the US and Pentagon in the developing world. The new academy is based in the city of Santa Cruz in Bolivia's east, and named after the country's former president Juan José Torres. Courses are to include "Theory of Imperialism," "Geopolitics of Natural Resources," and "Bolivian Social Structures."  Said Morales at the inauguration of the new base: "If the empire teaches domination of the world from its military schools, we will learn from this school to free ourselves from imperial oppression. We want to build anti-colonial and anti-capitalist thinking with this school that binds the armed forces to social movements, and counteracts the influence of the School of the Americas that always saw the indigenous as internal enemies."

Haiti: UN admits role in cholera epidemic

In an e-mail sent out the week of Aug. 15, Farhan Haq, deputy spokesperson for United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon, made the organization's first-ever acknowledgment of any responsibility for a cholera epidemic that has wracked Haiti since October 2010. "[T]he UN has become convinced that it needs to do much more regarding its own involvement in the initial outbreak and the suffering of those affected by cholera," Haq wrote. Activists, journalists and epidemiologists have contended for nearly six years that the epidemic originated near Mirebalais, in Center department, at a base staffed by Nepalese soldiers from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Hundreds of thousands of Haitians have been sickened by the disease, which had never been reported in the country before 2010, and at least 10,000 people have died. Cholera victims have brought several lawsuits against the UN; the organization has repeatedly denied any legal liability.

Argentina: denialism amid 'dirty war' revelations

In the wake of US declassification of new documents related to Argentina's "dirty war," President Mauricio Macri is facing angry protests over dismissive comments on the bloody era. On Aug. 1, the White House released some 1,000 newly declassified documents on US relations with Argentina's military dictatorship in the 1970s and early '80s. Many indicate US accommodation of the regime during the period of extreme repression. In one passage highlighted by the Washington Post, national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote in a March 1979 memo to Secretary of State Cyrus Vance: "When we take actions toward Argentina, which are interpreted as punitive, we not only enrage the right-wing ideologues, we also arouse the business sector and the media in the US."

Bogotá: controversy over urban clearance

Authorities in the Colombian capital, Bogotá, last week began demolishing a notorious district near the city center locally known as "the Bronx"—but seemingly no plans were made for the displaced residents. The "urban renewal project" was announced in May, following a series of drug raids on the district, which Mayor Enrique Peñalosa characterized an "independent republic of crime"—rife with gangs, prostitution and addiction. Peñalosa was personally on hand as the clearance commenced Aug. 10, and 66 dwelling demolished by heavy machinery. Since then, however, downtown merchants have been protesting that the evicted Bronx inhabitants have been camping on the streets of the central business district. Some 400 began camping in a drainage canal along downtown's 6th Street, but were forced to flee Aug. 17 when the canal was suddenly flooded by heavy rain. At least one woman was injured by a car as she fled the inundation. Colombia's rights ombudsman, the Defensor del Pueblo, criticized the lack of planning in the clearance operation. (ColPrensa, El Espectador, Aug. 18; Colombia.com, Aug. 17; UPI, Aug. 11; BBC News, Aug. 10; Miami Herald, May 31)

Mexico rights commission: 22 civilians 'executed'

According to a report issued by Mexico's independent National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), 22 civilians were executed during a May 2015 drug raid in Michoacán. The report, issued Aug. 18, states that among the 43 individuals killed during the drug bust, including one police officer, 22 civilians died as a result of "arbitrary execution," and an additional four were killed from "excessive use of force." While Mexican authorities continue to say the civilians were killed during the gunfight, the human rights commission maintains that the 22 were executed, and said that police placed guns next to 16 bodies in an attempt to substantiate their false claims. The human rights watchdog also found that the Michoacán Attorney General's Office was at fault for mishandling the ballistics evidence. The country's National Security Commission continues to support the actions of the police, saying, "The the use of arms was necessary and the police acted...in legitimate defense."

Amnesty closes India office after sedition charges

The India branch of Amnesty International (AI) temporarily closed its office Aug. 17 after the organization was accused of sedition and anti-India sentiments. The accusations arose after AI promoted a human rights seminar in Kashmir, focusing on alleged human rights abuses carried out by the Indian security forces. AI responded to the accusations by stating that the accusations "are preventing the families of victims of human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir from having their stories heard. And preventing civil society organisations from enabling these families to exercise their constitutional right to justice."