Planet Watch
landgrab

Destruction of nature linked to new pandemics

Leaders from the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, the World Health Organization and the World Wide Fund for Nature joined to issue a stark warning that pandemics such as COVID-19 are a direct result of the destruction of nature caused by human activity. In an op-ed published by The Guardian, top figures from each organization state that the destruction of forests and other habitats, coupled with trafficking in wildlife, is causing a growing number of animal diseases to migrate to human hosts. In a call to action ahead of the UN Biodiversity Summit, the three representatives cite prior examples of environmental destruction that triggered new virus outbreaks in humans. (Photo: Schadomski/DW, used with permission)

Mexico
oaxaca

Mexico: comuneros massacred in Oaxaca

An attack by armed men on local comuneros in San Mateo del Mar, in Mexico’s southern Oaxaca state, left at least 15 dead, with several more wounded or reported as “disappeared.” The confrontation began when residents of the outlying community of Huazantlán del Río attempted to gather for a public meeting and were blocked by gunmen. Some of the slain were bludgeoned to death, and several appear to have been burned, mutilated or tortured. Huazantlán residents claim municipal police were backing up the gunmen in the attack, ostensibly because the gathering violated COVID-19 restrictions. Municipal authorities in turn accuse the Huazantlán residents of being involved in criminal gangs, and are calling on state authorities to investigate. (Image: FreeWorldMaps.net)

North America
It Can't Happen Here

Podcast: two faces of fascism

In Episode 54 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg explores the twin threats of a totalitarian order that the United States faces at this history-making moment: Trump-fascism, perhaps to be lubricated by a “Reichstag Fire” scenario ahead of the November election, and a post-pandemic “new normality” of complete surveillance and social control. Eerily predictive of these twin dystopias are two works of “future fiction” from the 20th century—It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis and The Machine Stops by EM Foster. With the Black Lives Matter uprising deepening the ugly backlash from the Trump camp and a COVID-19 “second wave” looming, the US is poised on a razor’s edge between long-overdue leaps of social progress and descent into some kind of updated American variant of fascism. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (1936 WPA Theatre Project poster via Minnesota Playlist)

Planet Watch
Idlib displaced

UN: world refugees break record —again

An unprecedented one percent of the world’s population has been forced to flee their homes due to war, conflict and persecution to seek safety either somewhere within their country or across borders, according to the latest annual report by the UN Refugee Agency. At the end of 2019, there were 79.5 million people around the world who had been forcibly displaced, up from 70.8 million the year before. The rise was in part due to new displacements in places such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Sahel region of Africa, Yemen and Syria. It also reflected the inclusion for the first time of 3.6 million Venezuelans who have been displaced outside their country but who have not sought asylum. (Photo: UNHCR)

East Asia
nimitz

US-China brinkmanship over Taiwan

In an alarming tit-for-tat, Taiwan’s defense ministry said that several Chinese fighter jets briefly entered the country’s air defense identification zone, and the US took the unusual move of flying a C-40A military transport plane over Taiwan. The US overflight was assailed by Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office as “an illegal act and a seriously provocative incident.” This comes as the US is deploying three aircraft carrier strike groups to the Pacific—the first such triple deployment in three years, seen as an explicit warning to China. The deployment follows accusations by Lt. Gen. Kevin Schneider, commander of US forces in Japan, that China is using the COVID-19 crisis as a cover to push territorial claims in the South China Sea. (Photo of USS Nimitz: US Navy via USNI News)

Palestine
Rabin Square

Mass rally in Tel Aviv against West Bank annexation

A joint Jewish-Palestinian rally against Israeli plans for annexation of West Bank settlements drew thousands to Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square. Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List of Arab-led parties, told the crowd, “We are at a crossroads. One path leads to a joint society with a real democracy, civil and national equality for Arab citizens… The second path leads to hatred, violence, annexation and apartheid. We’re here in Rabin Square to pick the first path.” US Sen. Bernie Sanders addressed the rally via video conference, saying he was “heartened” to see Arabs and Jews demonstrating together. (Photo: +972)

Mexico
guadalajara protest

Guadalajara protest over Mexico’s ‘George Floyd’

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets and clashed with riot police in Guadalajara one month after the killing of a construction worker at the hands of local law enforcement. The rally climaxed with the storming of the Jalisco state government palace, where protesters smashed down the front door and left graffiti on the exterior walls. Police cars were also set on fire. Bricklayer Giovanni López, 30, was beaten to death by municipal police in the town of Ixtlahuacán de los Membrillos after being stopped for failure to wear a face-mask, in violation of mandatory measures to contain COVID-19. State authorities failed to act on the case for a month; it was only after the explosion of anger on the streets of Guadalajara that Jalisco’s Prosecutor General announced the arrest of three police officers involved in the incident. (Photo: Notimex via Yucatan Times)

East Asia
hong kong vigil

Hongkongers defy police on Tiananmen anniversary

Thousands gathered in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park to attend the annual candlelight vigil commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre—in defiance of an unprecedented police ban, ostensibly imposed as a measure to contain COVID-19. Attendees wearing surgical masks clambered over police barriers to enter the park. Thousands of riot police on stand-by did not interfere, although there were street clashes as troops broke up gatherings elsewhere in the city. The commemoration—the only one that can be freely held on Chinese soil—may no longer be possible in future, following Beijing’s passage of a “National Security Law” harshly limiting Hong Kong’s autonomy.  (Photo: HKFP)

Planet Watch
ICC

ICC complaint filed over COVID-19

The Canadian Institute for International Law Expertise (CIFILE) has asked the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate individual world leaders and the World Health Organization (WHO) for alleged international crimes relating to their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. The group states that past disease outbreaks, including SARS, suggest that the director-general of the WHO should have notified nations well before the initial March 11 notification date. The complaint asserts that the response to the pandemic constitutes a “crime against humanity” under Article 7(k) of the Rome Statute. The complaint further states that the ICC may exercise jurisdiction over international crimes under Articles 12 and 13 when a member state of the ICC has been affected. Specifically the complaint cites Canada as an affected signatory to the Rome Statute. (Photo: WikiMedia via Jurist)

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)

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)