Africa
Nuba

Clashes threaten Sudan democratic transition

Recent inter-communal fighting in Darfur and Kassala State threatens Sudan’s fragile democratic transition, United Nations officials warn. The government has dispatched the army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) to South Darfur and Kassala states, with orders to act decisively “to secure the country, lives and property.” But the UN Panel of Experts on Sudan expressed grave concern about RSF fighters collaborating with perpetrators of the violence. Sudanese civil society groups are calling for RSF commanders responsible for human rights violations to be held legally accountable. (Photo: Nuba Reports)

Africa
Ituri

‘Crimes against humanity’ seen in DRC’s Ituri

Ethnically targeted attacks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s resource-rich Ituri province may be reaching the point of “crimes against humanity,” United Nations officials warned. A report by the UN Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) documents a dramatic escalation in hostilities between the Hema and Lendu ethnic groups. In the six months to April 2020, at least 296 people were killed, 151 wounded and 38 raped, including children, mostly by fighters linked to the Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) armed group, whose members are predominantly of the Lendu ethnicity. Hema communities were targeted in reprisal attacks after government forces launched an offensive against CODECO. (Photo of displaced persons camp in Ituri: Alexis Huguet/MSF via TNH)

Planet Watch
air pollution

UN climate talks delayed one year by COVID-19

International climate negotiations will be delayed by a full year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the UK government announced. The next summit, dubbed COP26, was due to take place this November in Glasgow, but has now been put off to November 2021. Delaying the talks could encourage governments, industrial concerns and financial institutions to adopt recovery plans with high climate costs—such as a bailout for the oil companies. The postponement is particularly critical given the failure of last year’s summit, held in Madrid, to reach any agreement. (Photo: Ralf Vetterle, Pixabay)

Planet Watch
san francisco

San Francisco suit against oil companies remanded

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a federal judge’s dismissal of a climate change lawsuit against oil companies including ExxonMobil, BP and Chevron by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland, setting the stage for the case to be heard in a more favorable California state court. The two cities are seeking billions of dollars from the companies in a special “abatement fund,” alleging their practices knowingly led to problems the cities must now contend with, including rising seas and extreme weather. The case was dismissed by a district judge, who held that the courts lacked jurisdiction in the matter. The Ninth Circuit remanded the case back to the district judge, ordering him to give further consideration to whether his court has jurisdiction. If he again finds his court lacks jurisdiction, the case must go before state court. (Photo: World Population Review)

Watching the Shadows
Kremlin

Kremlin in new drive to co-opt US ‘alternative’ voices

In a truly surreal irony, CounterVortex chief blogger Bill Weinberg got e-mail from RT.com editor-in-chief Igor Ogorodnev, saying he’s impressed with our website and extending an invitation to contribute to RT. This is evidently part of a concerted push by RT—a direct organ of Russian state propaganda—to appropriate dissident and alternative voices in the American blogosphere ahead of this year’s elections. The strategy here is clear: Wth Fox News playing to the right and RT playing to the left, the Putin-Trump agenda will control both sides of the debate. It is imperative that progressives do not take the RT bait. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Europe
refugees in italy

Italy’s COVID-19 ‘amnesty’: hope and skepticism

The Italian government passed a measure allowing some 200,000 undocumented workers to apply for six-month residency permits, as part of the coronavirus pandemic recovery effort. But the initial atmosphere of hope has quickly faded. The amnesty only applies to workers in “essential” industries such as agriculture—a sector that relies on undocumented migrants for some 25% of its labor force. It excludes those who were stripped of humanitarian protection or legal status by the anti-migrant “security decrees” issued under former far-right interior minister Matteo Salvini. And after six months, applicants will be in the same situation as before the pandemic. (Photo: Jordi Bernabeu Farrús via Flickr)

Africa
ivorian troops

Sahel insurgency reaches Ivory Coast borderlands

In another sign of the Islamist insurgency in the Sahel reaching West Africa’s littoral states, the armed forces of Ivory Coast announced the completion of a joint operation with the military of neighboring inland Burkina Faso, to clear out a Qaedist camp that had been established on the border between the two countries. Some 1,000 Ivorian soldiers took part in the operation, in which eight militants were reported killed and 38 others detained—24 in Burkina Faso and 14 in Ivory Coast. More are thought to have escaped on motorbikes through the bush. The militants are said to be followers of the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), al-Qaeda’s West African franchise. (Photo: Ecofin Agency)

Planet Watch
warplane

Trump tears up arms control treaties

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced that the United States is formally withdrawing from the Treaty on Open Skies, a post-Cold War trust-building measure that allows the US and Russia to conduct unarmed reconnaissance flights over each others’ territories. Having last year withdrawn from the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty, the White House is now threatening to similarly abandon New START, the 2010 agreement that limits the US and Russia to 1,550 deployed nuclear missiles each. (Image: Lockheed Martin)

South Asia
Amphan

‘Super Cyclone’ Amphan deepens COVID-19 crisis

Tropical Cyclone Amphan unexpectedly intensified into a rare “Super Cyclonic Storm”—becoming the northern hemisphere’s strongest tropical cyclone yet in 2020. Amphan left a trail of destruction along coastal areas both in India and Bangladesh, impacting tens of millions of people. At least 77 deaths in India and 25 in Bangladesh have been reported so far. Over three million people in both countries remain displaced from their homes, taking refuge in community shelters—obviously placing them at risk of contracting COVID-19. In India’s West Bengal state, thousands of people evacuated from their homes are crammed inside buildings that were being used as COVID-19 quarantine centers, because there is no other shelter available. (Photo via Wikipedia)

Greater Middle East
Yemen

COVID-19 concern in war-torn Yemen

With testing capacity low and the health system ravaged by five years of war, nobody really knows how many people are infected or dying of COVID-19 in Yemen, but the outlook does not seem good. Hundreds of people in Aden have reportedly died with symptoms that appear consistent with the coronavirus, while in the Houthi-controlled north there are unconfirmed but persistent rumors of a cover-up to mask a rising case count. To make matters worse, the UN—concerned it can’t protect its staff from the virus inside their compound—has pulled half of its remaining international workforce out of Sana’a. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

East Asia
Wuhan police

Another independent journalist arrested in Wuhan

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists is urging Chinese authorities to immediately release journalist Zhang Zhan, drop any charges against her, and ensure that the media can cover the coronavirus pandemic without fear of arrest. Zhang, an independent video journalist who had been posting reports from Wuhan on Twitter and YouTube since early February, went missing in the city one day after she published a video critical of the government’s countermeasures to contain the virus. The Shanghai Municipal Public Security Bureau issued a notice stating that Zhang had been arrested and detained for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.” If convicted, she could face up to five years in prison, according to the Chinese criminal code. (Photo: China News Service via Wikimedia Common)

Africa
Sudan

SCOTUS: Sudan liable for terrorism damages

The US Supreme Court ruled in Opati v. Republic of Sudan that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act permits a punitive damages award against Sudan for the role it played in the 1998 bombings at the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Plaintiffs in the case argued that Sudan had harbored al-Qaeda leaders who plotted the attacks, including Osama bin Laden. Officials in Khartoum have been seeking a settlement with the victims outside the court. Sudan is in a precarious economic situation following the ouster of long-ruling strongman Omer Hassan al-Bashir, now exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Trump administration made it clear that Sudan must settle all terrorism-related claims to get off the US list of “state sponsors of terrorism”—a precondition for Washington’s support for debt relief for the African country. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)