The Amazon
Guiana shield

French troops hunt outlaw miners in Guiana

France has dispatched hundreds of army troops to the overseas territory of French Guiana, to hunt down outlaw gold miners who have destroyed thousands of hectares of rainforest along the Maroni River. But apprehending the garimpeiros is nearly impossible; they abandon their camps and dredges and melt into the jungle as the troops approach. Some 9,000 illegal miners are believed to be operating at around 150 sites across the territory—up from little more than 100 a decade ago. The garimpeiros, however, are the smallest links in a chain, paid a pittance—while the dealers they sell the gold to race up and down the river in speedboats. “We’re only catching the little guys,” admitted French Guiana’s public prosecutor Samuel Finielz. (Map of Guiana Shield: WikimediaCommons)

The Amazon
Peter Gorman

Podcast: entheogenic adventures with Peter Gorman

In Episode 99 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg interviews an old friend and colleague—legendary journalist, naturalist and adventurer Peter Gorman, who reflects on his long years collecting (and personally sampling) psychoactive and shamanic plants, from the Peruvian Amazon, to the Rif Mountains of Morocco, to the Palani Hills of southern India. Now approaching 71, Peter is about to head back down to the Amazon to revisit the remote Matsés indigenous people, who he first contacted in 1985. His latest collection of first-hand accounts is Magic Mushrooms in India & Other Fantastic Tales. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo courtesy of Peter Gorman)

Africa
khartoum

Sudan: civil resistance rejects ‘power-sharing’ deal

Sudan’s ousted Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who had been placed under house arrest with last month’s military coup, appeared on TV to sign a new power-sharing agreement with putsch leader Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. But the deal officially restoring Hamdok as prime minister was immediately rejected by the pro-democracy movement in the streets. Just after the announcement, security forces in Khartoum fired tear-gas at protesters marching toward the presidential palace to demand the military’s complete withdrawal from politics. “The future of the country will be determined by the young people on the ground,” said Siddiq Abu-Fawwaz of the Forces for Freedom & Change coalition. (Photo via Twitter)

North America
standwithmashpee

Podcast: Thanksgiving and Atonement

In Episode 98 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses the book Thanksgiving: The Holiday at the Heart of the American Experience by Melanie Kirkpatrick. A work of Thanksgiving boosterism, it nonetheless recognizes the dissidents who reject the holiday as a celebration and sanitization of genocide, and even call for replacing it with a day of atonement. The idealized portrayal the first Thanksgiving in 1621 belies the bloody realities of the Pequot War and King Philip’s War that shortly followed. Perversely, the Wampanoag indigenous people, who shared in that first Thanksgiving and were later defeated in King Philip’s War, were the target of a new attempt at “termination” by the Trump administration, which sought to disestablish their reservation at Mashpee, on Cape Cod just 30 miles south of Plymouth Rock. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Indianz.com)

The Caribbean
Osorbo

Imprisoned Cuban rapper on hunger strike

Supporters of imprisoned Cuban rap artist Maykel Castillo, better known by his stage name “El Osorbo,” warn that his life is in danger one week into a hunger strike, and that he has been removed to a “punishment cell” where he is being held incommunicado. Castillo is a leader of the San Isidro Movement, a collective of Cuban dissident artists and intellectuals, and co-author of the viral song “Patria y Vida,” which became an anthem of the protest wave across the island in July. He has been repeatedly arrested since 2015, including for protesting the controversial Decree 349, which places restrictions on artistic expression. He has been held at the maximum-security Pinar del Río prison since his May arrest for the vague crimes of “resistance” and “contempt.” He launched his total hunger and thirst strike in protest of his own detention and the crackdown on freedom of expression in Cuba. (Image: FreeMuse)

Planet Watch
spacedebris

Dangerous debris from Russian space kablooie

Russia destroyed one of its own satellites with a ground-based missile, in a test of its PL-19 Nudol DA-ASAT (direct-ascent anti-satellite) system. The blast created thousands of pieces of debris that have spread out into Earth orbit. The US says it has identified more than 1,500 trackable pieces of debris from the strike, and many thousands of smaller ones. That same day, the Russia’s RosCosmos space agency reported that the astronauts aboard the International Space Station had to shelter in place due to a cloud of debris passing by the station every 90 minutes, the time it takes for the ISS to orbit the Earth. It was unclear if the debris threatening the space station came from Russia’s ASAT test. But Washington charges that the new debris field poses a danger to the space station. (Image: MIT News)

The Caribbean
Habana

Cuba: pre-emptive repression stifles protests

Plainclothes State Security in Havana pre-emptively shut down a “Civic March” that had been called by opposition networks. In addition to heavy deployment in the parks and squares, armed agents were stationed on rooftops around the iconic Capitolio building. What opposition website 14ymedio called pro-regime “vigilante groups” also gathered on street corners. According to independent human rights organization CubaLex, police arrested 11 people, while some 50 identified as key organizers were effectively “besieged” in their homes to forestall any public gathering. Those arrested had apparently attempted to gather in defiance of the security measures. A small group of youth was detained on the Paseo del Prado while shouting “Patria y Libertad“, slogan of the protest wave that shook Cuba in July. (Photo: 14ymedio)

East Asia
kurils

Podcast: 007 in the New Cold War

In Episode 97 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg dissects the geopolitics of the new James Bond movie, No Time to Die, and how the Daniel Craig reboot of the series has finessed the cultural icon’s role in the New Cold War. Famously, the film was produced pre-pandemic, with its release postponed a year due to the lockdown—and its key plot device is a mass biological warfare attack, anticipating the conspiranoid theories about COVID-19. Yet it could also be prescient in warning of a superpower confrontation over the Kuril Islands—disputed by Russia and Japan, and an all too likely flashpoint for global conflict. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map: International Kuril Island Project)

Europe
poland border

Escalation on the EU’s eastern frontier

Tensions on the European Union’s eastern border escalated sharply as Polish border guards repulsed a wave of some 4,000 asylum seekers and migrants seeking to cross from Belarus. Poland has mobilized 15,000 soldiers to the region to prevent people from crossing, and Belarusian security forces are not allowing the migrants to turn back. The migrants are sleeping rough as temperatures plunge below freezing; a 14-year-old boy froze to death, becoming at least the eleventh person to have died attempting to cross the border. There are fears the situation could result in a military confrontation. (Photo: Visegrad24)

North Africa
sfax

Tunisia: uprising over waste disposal crisis

Anger over a regional garbage crisis in Tunisia exploded into street clashes after a man died following exposure to tear-gas during protests against the reopening of a landfill site. Abderrazek Lacheheb, 35, died in the town of Aguereb in the coastal region of Sfax, punctuating weeks of demonstrations over a growing waste and public health crisis. The powerful UGTT trade union confederation announced a general strike the day after his passing, condemning the “savage intervention by security forces.” (Photo: Leaders.com.tn)

Africa
ethiopia

‘Crimes against humanity’ seen in Tigray conflict

A joint investigation by the independent Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the UN Human Rights Office has found that there are reasonable grounds to believe that all parties to the conflict in Tigray have, to varying degrees, committed violations of international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law, some of which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. In its report, the Joint Investigation Team details violations and abuses including unlawful killings and extra-judicial executions, torture, sexual and gender-based violence, and forced displacement of civilians. (Map: Political Geography Now)