Africa
lake victora

Pipeline project threatens Lake Victoria

More than 260 organizations issued an open letter to banks and financial institutions involved in the construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), which would carry oil from fields in western Uganda to a port on the northern coast of Tanzania, passing near critical wetlands in the Lake Victoria basin. The human rights and environmental organizations say the line’s construction poses “unacceptable” risks to communities in the immediate 1,445-kilometer (898-mile) path of the project and beyond. They are calling on banks not to fund the $3.5 billion project, and asking government leaders to shift funding from infrastructure for fossil fuels to renewable energy. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons via Mongabay)

East Asia
qiaochu

China: rights defender detained in ‘quarantine’

Li Qiaochu, a feminist, labor researcher, and human rights defender who has especially advocated for the rights of migrant workers in China, is being held incommunicado following her arrest for “subversion of state power.” Li was detained in Beijing, where she lives, and taken to Linyi city in Shandong province, where her partner and fellow human rights defender Xu Zhiyong is also detained and facing the same charge. Li’s detention follows her disclosure of Xu’s torture and mistreatment in detention. When Li’s lawyer formally requested that the Linyi Municipal Public Security Bureau grant access to her, he was told she is being held in quarantine at a local hospital. She is apparently to be transferred to the Linyi Municipal Detention Center once the quarantine is completed. (Image: FrontLine Defenders)

Syria
free-syria

Landmark verdict against Syrian ex-officer

A court in Germany convicted a former officer of Syria’s General Intelligence Directorate, Eyad A., on charges of aiding and abetting crimes against humanity—specifically, torture and deprivation of liberty committed against 30 persons. Eyad received a sentence of four years and six months for his role in arresting people who were later tortured. The 30 persons, who were all civilians, had been participating in anti-government protests in Douma in 2011 when they were rounded up and sent to Branch 251, or the al-Khatib detention center in Damascus. At Branch 251, they suffered grave physical, emotional and psychological abuse, in addition to being subjected to inhumane and degrading conditions. The verdict marks the first time that a court anywhere in the world has ruled on torture inflicted by the Syrian regime, and it sets the stage for the prosecution of high-ranking officers. The trial of the officer who headed Branch 251 is pending before the same court. (Photo of early Arab Revolution protest in Syria via Fightback)

Iran
syria

Biden’s first air-strikes: the Great Game in Syria

In the first air-strikes on Syria under the Joseph Biden administration, US warplanes struck positions of Iran-backed militia forces at a Revolutionary Guards base near the Iraqi border in the country’s desert east. The Pentagon said the strikes “destroyed multiple facilities at a border control point used by a number of Iranian-backed militant groups,” including Kataib Hezbollah. It was also a Tehran-backed paramilitary formation that claimed responsibility for last week’s missile attack on the US airbase at Erbil, in northern Iraq. The US bombing an Iran-backed militia in retaliation for an attack in Iraq is a textbook example of how Syria has been turned into a playing field in the Great Power game. (Image: Pixabay)

Africa
South Sudan

South Sudan: ‘localized’ violence despite ceasefire

In a new report, the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan found that over two years after the signing of a peace agreement officially ending a seven-year civil war, the country is still experiencing extreme levels of violence. South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 after decades of armed struggle. But civil war erupted in the new nation in 2013 following President Salva Kiir’s dismissal of then-Vice President Riek Machar—respectively belonging to the largest rival ethnic groups, the Dinka and Nuer. The war ended in 2020, after claiming over 400,000 lives. But commission chair Yasmin Sooka said that violence is currently at its highest level at any time since the start of the war—if now at hands of “localized” militias. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

North America

Did Biden cave to ICE mutiny?

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a memo with “temporary guidelines for enforcement and removal operations” by Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), giving ICE agents discretion on enforcement actions and overturning the “100-day pause on certain removals” instated by President Biden’s executive order of Jan. 20. The move was protestedby the ACLU as a “disappointing step backward.” But litigation was already pending over the “pause.” A federal judge in Corpus Christi had granted a preliminary injunction blocking the moratorium, in a victory for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who had filed a lawsuitagainst the “pause.” After this, ICE agents resumed deportations that had been blocked by Biden’s Jan. 20 order—in open defiance of White House policy. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Planet Watch
Mars probe

Podcast: US robo-imperialism hands off Mars!

In Episode 64 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the maddening and telling irony that while we’re all supposed to be ga-ga with triumphalism over NASA’s latest Mars probe, it has received practicailly no attention that Afro-Brazilian peasant communities are being forcibly removed from their traditional lands to make way for a US-backed expansion of the Alcântara Satellite Launch Center in impoverished MaranhĂŁo state. This juxtaposition of news stories is paradigmatic of the whole global struggle—sustainable, Earth-rooted cultures against a hypertrophing technosphere that is now colonizing the very heavens. Meanwhile, there are already so many satellites in orbit that near-Earth space is experiencing a fast-growing “space junk” problem. And economic austerity down here on terra firma is compounding the agonizing impacts of the pandemic. Whatever useful knowledge may be gleaned from the Mars probe, accounts don’t note that Halliburton is drawing up plans for mining operations on Mars. We recall Gil Scott Heron’s wry reaction to the 1969 Moon landing (“Whitey on the Moon“), and say with Marvin Gaye: “Spend it on the have-nots!” Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image adapted from NASA photo)

Greater Middle East
GergerlioÄźlu

Turkey upholds sentence of MP for ‘terror propaganda’

Turkey’s Court of Cassation upheld the two-and-a-half-year prison sentence given to Ă–mer Faruk GergerlioÄźlu, a human rights activist and MP belonging to the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), on charges of “making propaganda for a terrorist organization.” In 2016, GergerlioÄźlu raised alarm in parliament and on social media platforms about detained women being subjected to unlawful strip searches by police in the city of UĹźak for “security reasons.” He was later accused by several members of the ruling Justice & Development Party (AKP) and the UĹźak Police of being involved in terrorist activities. The case hinged on social media posts by GergerlioÄźlu that supposedly included photos of armed fighters from the PKK guerillas. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

North Africa
Haftar

Libya: Blackwater CEO trafficked arms to Russia-backed warlord

Erik Prince, former CEO of the notorious private military company Blackwater, violated the UN arms embargo on Libya with a clandestine pipeline to a rebel warlord, according to a confidential report to the Security Council obtained by the New York Times. The report found that in 2019 Prince deployed a force of foreign mercenaries and weapons to renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar, who has been fighting to depose the UN-recognized Libyan government—and is also being aggressively backed by Russia. (Photo via ISS Africa)

Planet Watch
baffinland

Nunavut hunters blockade Baffin Island mine

After a week of blockading an airstrip and road to an iron mine on north Baffin Island, a small group of Inuit protesters packed up their tents, agreeing to give dialogue with authorities a chance after the mining company won an injunction ordering them to disband their encampment. The self-declared Nuluujaat Land Guardians began blocking access to Baffinland Iron Mines Corp’s Mary River mine to oppose a proposal for expansion that would see its output of iron ore double to 12 million tons per year, as well as construction of a 110-kilometer railway to the facility. The Land Guardians say the expansion would drive caribou away and harm other wildlife in the area, including narwhal, upon which their communities depend for subsistence. (Photo: Baffinland Iron Mines Corp via Nunatsiaq News)

Europe
Hasél

Spain: protests follow arrest of Catalan rapper

The arrest of Catalan rapper Pablo HasĂ©l on charges of glorifying terrorism and insulting the monarchy has sparked angry protests in Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia and other Spanish cities. Facing charges in relation to his tweets and song lyrics, HasĂ©l barricaded himself alongside supporters inside Catalonia’s University of Lleida. His supporters sprayed fire-extinguishers at troops when the building was raided by the Catalan police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra. As he was led away, supporters shouted, “They will never silence us; death to the fascist state!” HasĂ©l was turned over to Spanish authorities to begin serving a nine-month term. Angry protests immediately broke out, with several demonstrators arrested that night. Protests have continued throughout the week. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Africa
niger delta flare

UK court approves Nigerian suit against Shell Oil

The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom allowed a case filed by 42,335 Nigerian claimants against Shell Oil and a Nigerian subsidiary to proceed in the UK courts. The claimants first sued Shell and its subsidiary in 2015 over leaks from pipelines in the Niger Delta that resulted in the destruction of farmland, the death of fish stocks, and poisoned drinking water. They argued that the oil spills occurred due to the negligence of the subsidiary company responsible for operating the pipelines. They charged that Shell’s parent company owed them a “common law duty of care,” since it exercised significant control over the operations of the Nigerian subsidiary. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)