Planet Watch
Guangzhou

Bicycling in China & the origins of Critical Mass

Legendary transportation activist George Bliss will be presenting a slideshow and hosting a discussion of his 1991 trip to China at the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space (MoRUS) in New York City on Friday Dec. 9. What would NYC be like if we got rid of cars and everybody rode bikes? In 1991, Bliss and filmmaker Ted White visited Guangzhou, China (then pop. six million). Only one in a thousand owned cars. Bikes cost about $50. There was no theft because cheap attended bike-parking was everywhere. Riding en masse was fun, and traffic flowed safely and efficiently with almost no red lights. The term “critical mass“—first applied to this phenomenon by Bliss in White’s film Return of the Scorcher—soon became a rallying cry in the global bike movement. While that China is long gone, its legacy points to the city we could yet have, even half a world away. (Photo: George Bliss)

Southern Cone
Rio Loa

ICJ rules in Chile-Bolivia water dispute

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivered its judgment in a water dispute between Chile and Bolivia. The court found that the contested RĂ­o Silala is governed by international law, meaning that Bolivia cannot assert complete control over the waterway, and that Chile is entitled to the “equitable and reasonable use” of its waters. Bolivia asserted that Chile should not have rights to the river because the Silala’s waters only flow into Chile’s RĂ­o Loa through artificial channels. Chile, in turn, claimed the Silala is an international river and noted that the artificial channels at issue were built more than 100 years ago. The court urged that a “shared resource can only be protected through cooperation,” allowing both Chile and Bolivia to claim victory. The decision comes at a time when both Chile and Bolivia are experiencing severe drought. (Photo of RĂ­o Loa: Norberto Seebach via Aprendo en lĂ­nea, Chile)

Europe
Pushilin

Podcast: Ukraine: against the ‘Nazi’ calumny

In Episode 152 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg calls out the relentless propaganda exploitation of the Azov Battalion to tar Ukraine as “Nazi” by the same pseudo-left hucksters (e.g. the inevitable Grayzone) who engage in shameless shilling for the fascist regime of Bashar Assad in Syria—which is beloved of the radical right and which employed fugitive Nazis to train its security forces. These hucksters also (of course) join with far-right figures such as Marjorie Taylor Greene and NickFuentes in openly rooting for Putin and opposing aid to Ukraine. And while hyperventilating about the Azov Battalion (which years ago purged its far-right leadership), they make no note of the Nazis fighting on the Russian side in Ukraine. This is both pseudo-pacifist war propaganda and fascist pseudo-anti-fascism. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image: Denis Pushilin, head of the Russian-backed Donetsk “People’s Republic,” giving an award to one of his thugs who is wearing two Nazi insignia on his sleeve. Credit: The Sun. Fair use rights asserted)

Europe
Holodomor

Germany recognizes Holodomor as genocide

The German Bundestag voted to formally recognize the Holodomor, a politically induced famine that decimated Ukraine in 1932-3, as a genocide. The declaration found that Soviet authorities demanded inflated quantities of grain from Ukrainian farmers and punished those who fell short with additional demands. Affected regions were cut off from the rest of the Soviet Union so that Ukrainians could not receive aid. As a result, approximately 3.5 million Ukrainians starved to death. The Bundestag characterized the Holodomor as a project of Joseph Stalin to suppress the Ukrainian “way of life, language and culture,” and one of the most “unimaginable crimes against humanity” in Europe’s history. The motion also recognized Germany’s own history of genocide and the Bundestag’s “special responsibility” to acknowledge and condemn crimes against humanity. Ukraine declared the Holodomor a genocide in 2006. (Photo: 2019 Holodomor remembrance in Kyiv. Credit: EuroMaidan Press)

Africa
Togo

Qaeda franchise claims deadly assault in Togo

The Group for Support of Islam & Muslims (JNIM by its Arabic rendering), al-Qaeda’s West African franchise, claimed credit for an assault on Togolese forces that left at least 17 soldiers dead near the border with Burkina Faso. Togolese media reported that fighters in large columns of vehicles mounted with heavy machine-guns raided a military outpost at Tiwoli village, in northern Savanes region. This is the second such claim of responsibility for an attack within Togo by JNIM in the last two weeks, and the third this year. The attacks are raising fears of insurgency spreading from conflict-torn Burkina Faso into West Africa’s littoral states. (Map: Togo Department of Health)

Europe
Cospito

Italian anarchist on prison hunger strike

Supporters are warning that Italian anarchist militant Alfredo Cospito is in danger of dying in prison after more than a month on hunger strike. Cospito, being held at Bancali prison in Sardinia, began his hunger strike in October to protest the inhumane conditions he faces under Article 41-bis of the Italian legal code, with harsh restrictions on his mobility and communication with loved ones, and no prospects for a review of his life sentence. The European Court of Human Rights in 2019 ruled that Article 41-bis, designed for terrorist and Mafia-related cases, violates the European Convention on Human Rights. Cospito is charged in a 2012 attack on a nuclear industry executive in Genoa. (Photo: Dinamo Press)

Europe
Hagal

Propaganda exploitation of Italy neo-Nazi bust

Italian police carried out raids against an armed neo-Nazi network called the Order of Hagal, arresting five suspected militants. Searches in Naples and other cities turned up large caches of fascist regalia. In addition to swastika flags and Mussolini portraits was a banner of Ukraine’s Azov Battalion, with whom one member of the network is said to have fought. This is avidly jumped on by Putin propaganda outlet Grayzone, under the headline: “Blowback: Italian police bust Azov-tied Nazi cell planning terror attacks.” Grayzone of course fails to mention that in the press photos where the regalia is displayed, the Azov Battalion ensign appears directly below that of the European Solidarity Front for Syria, a pro-Assad formation rooted in Italy’s far-right Casa Pound movement. (Photo: IPA/Fotogramma via  Sky TG24. Fair use rights asserted.)

East Asia
Nanjing

China: nationwide protests challenge dictatorship

Following weeks of sporadic protests against the recurrent draconian COVID-19 lockdowns in China, spontaneous demonstrations broke out in cities across the country. Street demos were reported from Shanghai, Nanjing, Guangdong, Chengdu and Wuhan as well as Beijing. In addition to slogans against the lockdowns and for freedom of speech and assembly, such verboten chants were heard as “Xi Jinping, step down” and “Communist party, step down.” The spark was an apartment block fire in Urumqi, capital of western Xinjiang region, that killed at least 10 who were under lockdown orders and unable to flee. Hong Kong-based Borderless Movement left-dissident website has issued a list of “Demands from Chinese and Hong Kong Socialists” in response to the outburst, calling for an end to lockdowns and forced testing, provision of multiple vaccines, and the right to citizen and worker self-organization. The statement calls for “marginalized groups in the mainland and abroad, including Hongkongers, Taiwanese, Uyghurs and Tibetans to continue building a long-term strategic program for democratic struggle in China.” (Photo of student protest in Nanjing via Twitter)

Planet Watch
Chiquitania

Podcast: climate change and the global struggle III

In Episode 151 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes a tellingly ironic juxtaposition of simultaneous news stories: the COP27 global climate summit in Egypt and the World Cup games in Qatar—where mega-scale stadium air-conditioning betrays the fundamental unseriousness of our civilization in addressing the impending climate apocalypse. The COP27 agreement for a “loss and damage” fund stopped short of demands for climate reparations—a critical question for island nations that stand to disappear beneath the waves, flood-devastated Pakistan, and indigenous peoples of the fire-ravaged Bolivian Amazon. Petro powers like Russia and Saudi Arabia formed a bloc to bar any progress on limiting further expansion of oil and gas exploitation, while the Ukrainian delegation called for a boycott of Moscow’s hydrocarbons, and pointed to the massive ecological toll of Russia’s war of aggression. Meanwhile, the world population reached 8 billion, providing an excuse for groups like PopulationMatters to proffer the Malthusian fallacy even as the rate of population growth is actually slowing. Worldwide indigenous and peasant resistance to hydrocarbon exploitation points to a revolutionary answer to the crisis. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image: Bolivian campesino volunteer fire-fighter. Credit: Claudia Belaunde via Mongabay)

The Amazon
santacruz

Bolivia: soy boom fuels Santa Cruz unrest

Bolivia’s eastern lowland city of Santa Cruz has been rocked by roadblocks and street clashes since an indefinite paro (civil strike) was called by right-wing opposition groups last month. With the open support Santa Cruz departmental governor Fernando Camacho, strikers are demanding that a new census be held next year rather than in 2024, as is currently scheduled. The last census was in 2012, and the region’s population has swelled with an influx of migrants since then. At issue is greater funding for the department, and more slated congressional seats ahead of the 2025 elections. Resentment against the central government is in large part driven by the designs of the region’s land barons to expand the agricultural frontier into the expansive terrains declared off-limits as protected areas, reserves for indigenous peoples, or the titled holdings of campesino communities. A boom in soy and beef for export is especially fueled by Chinese investment and market demand. (Photo: Pixabay)

Africa
North Mara

Tanzania villagers sue Barrick Gold over rights abuses

A group of Tanzanian villagers filed legal action with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice against Canadian mining company Barrick Gold over human rights violations at its North Mara Gold Mine. It marks the first time that the mining company has faced legal action in Canada for rights violations abroad. The plaintiffs, members of the indigenous Kurya community in northern Tanzania, allege that special “mine police” assigned by the security forces to protect the facility use extreme violence against local residents. The mine has been the site of repeated protests over environmental degradation and forced displacement of villagers. The legal action includes claims for five deaths, five incidents of torture and five injuries from shootings. (Map via Semantic Scholar)

Planet Watch
Tuvalu

Imperiled Tuvalu to become first ‘digital nation’

Tuvalu, the Pacific island nation beset both by rising sea levels and extreme drought, used the COP27 climate summit to announce that it will move to the so-called metaverse. “As our land submerges, we have no choice but to become the world’s first digital nation,” Simon Kofe, Tuvalu’s foreign affairs minister, said in a pre-recorded address from TeAfualiku islet—likely one of the first places in Tuvalu to sink beneath the waves in the coming years. “Piece by piece, we’ll preserve our country, provide solace to our people, and remind our children and our grandchildren what our home once was,” Kofe said. Tuvalu has indeed taken early steps to explore its digital survival under worst-case scenarios. But the overarching message is clear as world leaders emerge from another summit with still-gaping questions on climate action: “Only concerted global effort can ensure that Tuvalu does not move permanently online, and disappear from the physical plane,” Kofe said. (Image via Pixabay)