Planet Watch
air pollution

Biden: cut US carbon emissions in half by 2030

President Joe Biden announced at the Leaders Summit on Climate that the US will aim to reduce carbon emissions by 50 to 52 percent by 2030. Climate experts have urged world leaders to cut carbon emissions in order to limit the warming of the planet to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The Paris Agreement sets a 2 C rise within the current century as a maximum, but urges countries to work toward a 1.5 C rise. Recent studies have found that the 1.5 C rise will be reached within five years. (Photo: Ralf Vetterle, Pixabay)

Europe
openarms

Italy: Salvini to stand trial on kidnapping charges

Former deputy prime minister and current leader of Italy’s right-wing League party Matteo Salvini must stand trial for kidnapping, a Palermo judge ruled. The charges concern an incident in August 2019 in which he barred 147 migrants who had been rescued by Barcelona-based NGO Open Arms from disembarking at a Sicilian port. An indictment of the former minister was requested by Open Arms and nine migrants who were on board the vessel, which had been blocked for 19 days off the coast of Lampedusa. (Photo via Twitter)

Africa
somalia

Somalia: drought compounds political crisis

The political heat is rising in Somalia over the determination of President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known as Farmajo, to cling to power despite his term having ended in February. He’s embraced a decision by the lower house of the Federal Parliament to extend his (and their) stay in office for an extra two years, to allow the running of delayed elections. The move was rejected by the Senate as “unconstitutional. The Senate called on Farmajo to rejoin UN-led talks—which he has rejected. As the crisis deepens, there are reports of a troop build-up in the capital and the fragmentation of the security forces. Yet this political tussle is being played out in the Mogadishu bubble. In the countryside, where the government holds little sway, a new drought emergency is underway. Almost 40,000 people have been forced from their homes in the first three months of the year due to poor rains, joining the 1.3 million displaced in 2020 by combined humanitarian disasters. (Photo: Joe English/UNICEF)

Southeast Asia
burma

Burma: ousted leaders form parallel government

Ousted Burmese lawmakers and opponents of the military junta hitherto constituting the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH, a reference to the lower house of the suspended parliament) officially announced the formation of a National Unity Government. The president of this parallel civilian authority is U Win Myint, the ousted former president. Similarly, its state counselor is Aung San Suu Kyi, who was serving in that capacity before the February coup d’etat. Both U Win Myint and Suu Kyi are being held in detention by the junta, and the first demand of the NUG is for their freedom. Protests against the junta continue, with the death toll in repression since the coup d’etat now thought to be over 700. In some areas, civilians have started to form armed self-defense patrols. (Photo: Myanmar Now)

Syria
Aleppo

Podcast: humanitarian intervention reconsidered

In Episode 69 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg reviews The Responsibility to Protect in Libya and Syria: Mass Atrocities, Human Protection, and International Law by Syrian American legal scholar Yasmine Nahlawi. While Noam Chomsky’s critique of “humanitarian intervention” has merit, those who parrot it act as if it simply ends the conversation—and, worse, engage in post-truth revisionism to deny mass atrocities entirely. The Nation magazine has repeatedly run lying propaganda that merely turns the realities of the Syrian war on their head, portraying the victims as aggressors. And contrary to the unseemly gloating about the chaos in Libya since the fall of Qaddafi, there is a good case that the situation there would be worse, not better, if there had not been a “regime change” war. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Destruction of Aleppo, via 7ee6an)

Africa
fact

Chad: president killed as rebels advance

President Idriss DĂ©by of Chad died following injuries sustained in fighting against rebels in the country’s north, authorities announced. The president’s son, Gen. Mahamat Kaka, is said to be serving as interim president. DĂ©by had just been declared provisional winner of another presidential term, with nearly 80% of the vote. He had been in power for three decades. The rebel Front for Change & Concord in Chad (FACT) invaded the country from its bases across the border in Libya, in an attempt to disrupt the elections. Both sides are claiming victory after clashes in the northern region of Kanem, and FACT says that its forces are advancing on the capital, N’Djamena. (Image via Twitter)

Afghanistan
afghanistan

Afghan pullout: unanswered questions for civilians

Afghanistan now has a clearer timeline for when US and international troops will leave, but the questions surrounding what this means for civilians and aid operations in the country remain the same. US President Joe Biden confirmed plans to withdraw American forcesbefore Sept. 11—the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that led to the Afghanistan invasion. NATO also said 9,500 international soldiers—including 2,500 US troops—would leave, beginning May 1. But the implications of the pullout are as volatile as they were when Biden’s predecessor first inked a peace deal with the Taliban last year. Will the Taliban pursue a decisive military victory or continue with sporadic peace negotiations with the government? How will women and minorities fare? How will this affect local and international aid operations, and the roughly 16 million Afghans—more than 40% of the population—who rely on humanitarian relief? Will there be a future for reconciliation after decades of war? And what about the militias still active in many areas? More than 1,700 civilians were killed or injured in conflict in the first three months of 2021, the UN said the same day as Biden’s announcement. (Photo of displaced persons camp in Herat: Stefanie Glinski/TNH)

North America
dapl

Biden admin defers to courts on Dakota Access

The Biden administration’s Army Corps of Engineers indicated at a federal district court hearing in Washington DC that they would not stop the flow of oil through the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) despite the threat it poses to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe‘s water supply. The project is currently operating without a federal permit as the matter is contested in the courts. (Photo of January 2017 march against the DAPL in Minneapolis: Fibonacci Blue/Wikimedia Commons)

East Asia
Hong_Kong

Hong Kong: pro-democracy activists sentenced

Ten veteran Hong Kong pro-democracy activists—all aged 60 or older—were sentenced for participating in two unpermitted demonstrations, both in August 2019. They include Martin Lee, 82, hailed as Hong Kong’s “Father of Democracy,” and former lawmaker Margaret Ng, 73, who both received suspended sentences. Newspaper publisher Jimmy Lai, 72, will have to serve 14 months in prison. Also receiving between eight and 18 months were Lee Cheuk-yan, Leung Yiu-chung, Cyd Ho Sau-lan, Albert Ho Chun-yan, Yeung Sum, Au Nok-Hin and Leung Kwok-hung. The sentences fell short of the maximum of five years the defendants had faced. But Amnesty International said: “The wrongful prosecution, conviction and sentencing of these 10 activists underlines the Hong Kong government’s intention to eliminate all political opposition in the city.” (Photo: Iris Wong/Wikimedia)

The Andes
castillo

Peru: electoral upset portends polarization

Peru seems poised for polarization following surprise results in first-round presidential elections that saw a previously unknown leftist candidate, Pedro Castillo, taking 19% of the vote in a very crowded field—more than any of his rivals. In a June run-off, he will face his runner-up—hard-right candidate Keiko Fujimori, who took 13%. The two candidates represent the extremes of Peru’s electoral spectrum. Fujimori is the daughter of imprisoned ex-dictator Alberto Fujimori—and had herself been imprisoned as corruption charges were pending against her last year. Her Fuerza Popular party is the paradoxical populist vehicle of the most reactionary sectors of the country’s elites, and has actually been assailed as a “mafia organization.” Castillo, in vivid contrast, is a former school-teacher and trade unionist of campesino background from the poor and rural Andean region of Cajamarca. His successful grassroots campaign is seen an upsurge from such forgotten parts of the country, in rejection of the Lima-based political class. (Photo of Pedro Castillo in Lima via Twitter)

Mexico
Juarez

Northern Mexico: aid efforts struggle to keep pace

Humanitarian response networks in northern Mexico are stretched thin between the growing number of people fleeing violence, poverty, and climate disasters in Central America, the continued expulsion of asylum-seekers and migrants who enter the United States irregularly, and the lingering effects of Trump-era migration policies. Nowhere is this pressure being felt more acutely than in Ciudad Juárez, a Mexican city of around 1.5 million bordering El Paso, Texas. Shelters are overwhelmed and underfunded, and more arrive every day—from both the north and south. (Photo: Luís Chaparro/The New Humanitarian)

Syria
Aleppo ruins

Russian rights groups protest Syria war crimes

The first-ever extensive report on the Syria war by Russian human rights groups has been released, highlighting the role of Moscow’s military intervention in the conflict and its impact on civilians. The report, “A Devastating Decade: Violations of Human Rights & Humanitarian Law in the Syrian War,” is the result of two years of research by Russian rights groups, including Memorial Human Rights Center, the Civic Assistance Committee, Soldiers’ Mothers of Saint Petersburg, and the Youth Human Rights Movement. The report provides chilling first-hand testimonials of life inside besieged areas, aerial bombardment, chemical weapons attacks, as well as the widespread use of torture and deprivation in regime prisons. The report is critical of all parties in the conflict—including the US-led coalition—but especially focuses on the impacts of the Russian intervention. (Photo of Aleppo ruins from UNHCR)