From Our Daily Report
A group of environmental advocacy organizations filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security over concerns that the border wall will result in detrimental environmental impacts to the areas surrounding the construction sites. The Secretary of Homeland Security's office has issued a series of waivers, dubbed the Lower Rio Grande Valley Border Wall Waivers, that would exempt construction projects related to the planned border wall from federal environmental laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act and the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act. The advocacy groups argue that the broadness of the waivers would violate separation of powers and other constitutional doctrines. (Photo via Jurist)
by Sina Zekavat, Mangal Media
As Turkey and Russia step towards implementing a 15-20 kilometer "demilitarization zone" between Idlib and the surrounding regime-held areas of northern Syria, mainstream media and the forces of status quo are bent on portraying Idlib as a "terrorist enclave"—hile people inside Idlib are determined to break this false and dangerous image.
Days after the renewed aerial bombardment of Idlib by Russia and the Assad regime, the Democratic congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard called Idlib an "Al Qaeda stronghold" in a recorded video message published on her Twitter account. In the same tweet, she called Idlib an "Al-Qaeda controlled city." A week later, during a speech addressing members of the US Congress, she claimed that there are "20,000-40,000 al-Qaeda and other jihadists" in Idlib, a number that vastly exceeds those reported by the UN and even pro-regime propaganda platforms.
David Duke, the former leader of the Ku Klux Klan (and a vocal supporter of both Trump and Gabbard) has also been tweeting in support of Russian and Assad regime bombardment of Idlib. He claimed this was in order to "protect the real children of Idlib," presumably implying that those children who are targeted by the Assad-Putin aerial bombings are fake "crisis actors" and deserving of death, for the crime of misinforming the American public.
Vijay Prashad, a prominent academic in leftist circles, has joined the chorus by using dangerous and stereotypical portrayals of Idlib. In his latest article, Prashad writes that it's "intolerable to the government in Damascus to allow an enclave of al-Qaeda rebels inside the country—which is why the main battle is to be there, in Idlib." He calls the military campaign against Idlib by Assad and his allies "ugly" but "inevitable." Further normalizing this horrific scenario, Prashad ends his piece by advising everyone in Idlib to "cut a deal now before the terrible slaughter starts. This bombing is not the first salvo in the final battle but the last attempt at a negotiation."
For thousands of years, Whey-Ah-Whichen has been a site of importance to the Tsleil-Waututh people. This hospitable flat peninsula in the Pacific Northwest was home to one of their major villages, standing in the shadow of surrounding hills and mountains covered in towering Douglas fir and other ancient trees. Today, Whey-Ah-Whichen is the site of Cates Park, so-named by the descendants of English colonists in what is now British Columbia. It overlooks Burrard Inlet, a finger-like extension of the Salish Sea separating the cities of Vancouver and North Vancouver. The Tsleil-Waututh still live nearby, many of them on a reserve just down the highway.
On July 14, Tsleil-Waututh community leaders brought together several hundred people for a rally on the site of the former village. Many carried signs with messages including "Water is Life," "Stop Kinder Morgan Pipeline," and "Protect the Water, Land, Climate." They came to participate in a fight against one of the largest proposed fossil fuel infrastructure projects in Canada, an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline that would transport tar sands oil from Alberta to a Kinder Morgan-owned storage facility directly across the inlet from Whey-Ah-Whichen. There, oil from the pipeline would be loaded into tankers for transport to the United States or across the Pacific.
The rally was only the latest manifestation of the indigenous-led resistance to the Trans Mountain project, which has grown in size and boldness this year. As more and more people arrived at the park, some prepared to take to the water in kayaks, canoes and other small vessels. Hundreds of others massed near the shoreline, watching as the boats headed across the inlet and gathered in front of the razor-wire fence erected by Kinder Morgan to keep people away from its facility. From one of the canoes, Tsleil-Waututh elder Amy George led a water ceremony expressing participants' intent to care for and protect the inlet.
by Bill Weinberg, Fifth Estate
After April's gas attack at the Syrian city of Douma, and Trump's retaliatory air-strikes, the poorly-named "anti-war" protest held in Los Angeles actually featured placards with the portrait of Bashar Assad and expressions of open support for genocidal dictator. Slogans like "Assad is protecting civilians, he is not bombing his own people."
Now, where else have we seen such open support for the dictator? At the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that saw deadly violence last August. One figure on the scene was David Duke, who proclaimed on Twitter, "Civilized world stands with Assad." Video clips from Charlottesville showed the "alt-right" mouthpiece called Baked Alaska saying to the camera with his buddies, "Assad's the man, brother! Two chemical bombs would have solved this whole ISIS business!" A sentiment less hypocritical than that of the supposed peaceniks in L.A.
Not too surprisingly, there was even overlap between the two rallies. Baked Alaska (real name Tim Gionet) appeared in a selfie-video at the anti-war march in L.A. Eventually, some marchers got wise to him and chased him off. But they do not appear to have been from the organizers of the march, the ANSWER Coalition.
There is a definite convergence underway between the anti-war left and alt-right (or fascist right to be less euphemistic) around support for Assad—part of a phenomenon termed Red-Brown politics. That is the phrase actually used by its advocates in Europe: the notion of an alliance between the left and fascism against the liberal order and the West. You do not have to be any supporter of the liberal order and the West to recognize this as an incredibly dangerous idea.
by Diego Cupolo, IRIN
In July 2015 a new phase of the decades-old conflict between the Turkish government and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants erupted after a two-and-a-half year peace process failed: the largely rural guerrilla war entered majority-Kurdish towns and cities in the southeast as government forces went house-to-house to root out PKK-linked fighters.
Fighting was most intense in the central neighborhoods of Sur district, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the provincial capital of Diyabakir, where ancient fortified walls surround historic mosques, churches, and synagogues. The ten months of conflict, including a three-month siege that damaged or destroyed the majority of buildings, has left many of those displaced by the violence feeling as if they must now fight for their homes and for their community and culture to live on.
On the hunt for votes ahead of his June re-election, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Sur in March, promising to renovate the district as part of a 2.3-billion Turkish lira ($500 million) plan to revitalise the southeast. He spoke of creating a vibrant economy and a new tourism boom.
But most of Sur’s original residents – the majority Kurds, 24,000 of whom are still displaced by the fighting, which lasted until March 2016 – won’t be able to afford the new buildings going up where their homes once stood.
by Vu Quoc Ngu, Waging Nonviolence
"An Arab spring has started to emerge in Vietnam," said Pham Chi Dung, a former member of the ruling Communist Party, following the largest and most widespread protests in years.
Over the weekend of June 9-10, tens of thousands of Vietnamese took to the streets across the country to protest two bills on cyber security and the creation of new special economic zones, or SEZs. The protest began with the participation of around 50,000 workers from the Pouchen footwear factory in Tan Tao industrial zone in Ho Chi Minh City, the biggest economic hub in the Southeast Asian nation.
Thousands of people gathered in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Danang, Nha Trang and other cities, chanting and carrying banners that read "Say no to bill on SEZs," "No land lease to China even for one day," and "Cyber security law means silencing people."
With No Illusions —and No Apologies
by Bill Weinberg, Fifth Estate
My attitude about voting has been like the old Jewish joke about chicken soup when you've got a cold—it may not help very much, but it can't hurt. The more ideological argue that voting legitimizes the system, and they've got a point. The more pragmatic counter that such a purist position is an irresponsible luxury in the face of emergency—such as we in the United States are clearly now facing.
Donald Trump's presence in the White House makes the world a more dangerous place—and, as ever, it is the least powerful who are at the greatest risk.
Disbarment, Suspension and Harassment
by Patrick Poon, Jurist
When Sui Muqing became a lawyer in 1993, he couldn't imagine that 25 years later he would become a "post-lawyer" (lüshihou), a self-deprecating term often used by lawyers in China who have been stripped of their license to practice.
The authorities accused Sui Muqing of confronting a trial judge and separately of taking a picture of his client, dissident writer Chen Yunfei, when visiting him in detention. This was enough for the Guangdong Provincial Department of Justice to formally revoke his license, after a heavily guarded hearing in early February this year.
However, it is more likely the authorities' motivation was to neuter a vocal and effective human rights lawyer. A thorn in the side of the government, Sui Muqing defended many activists and victims of human rights abuses, including representing high-profile human rights defenders like Guangdong activists Guo Feixiong and Wang Qingying and Falun Gong practitioners. Together with other lawyers, he had written statements on the difficulties for lawyers in sensitive cases, ranging from not being allowed to meet clients to challenges in defending their clients in court.
Sui Muqing's experience exemplifies how much pressure a lawyer in China faces now if he or she takes up human rights cases considered sensitive by the authorities. Since the crackdown against more than 200 human rights lawyers and activists which began in July 2015, that sparked international condemnation, the authorities have increasingly deployed bureaucracy to stifle these determined voices.
Interview with Moon Nay Li
by Andy Heintz, CounterVortex
Moon Nay Li is the general secretary of the Kachin Women's Association-Thailand, based in Chiang Mai near the Burmese border. KWAT was founded in in 1999 to help women organize themselves to solve social and economic problems in Burma's Kachin State. The organization has documented human rights abuses, sexual violence, and land-rights violations committed by the Burmese military. Moon has called for the international community to engage more with ethnic leaders, civilians and community-based organizations to help bring peace between the Burmese military and ethnic minorities in the country's restive north. Despite a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement that was signed in October 2015 between the Burmese army and some of the ethnic armies, many other ethnic groups have not signed the agreement; human right abuses by the military against the Kachin people and other groups remain ongoing. Moon has criticized the international community for not focusing enough on regional autonomy for ethnic groups such as her Kachin people, who were promised autonomy by Burma government in the Panglong Agreement of 1947. She also has called for a moratorium on foreign funding of development projects in areas where the military is clashing with ethnic armed groups. She also criticizes the governing National League of Democracy, and its leader Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, for pressuring ethnic groups to sign the NCA while not addressing the outstanding issues.