Watching the Shadows
anti-bitcoin

Podcast: rage against the technocracy

In Episode 89 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes heart at the national uprising in El Salvador against the imposition of Bitcoin as legal tender, and draws the connection his own incessant struggles against corporate cyber-overlords Verizon—as well as the to the automated drone terror in Afghanistan. As we are distracted (or, at any rate, should be distracted) by the more obviously pressing issues such as police brutality and climate destabilization, the digitization of every sphere of human activity lurches forward at a terrifying pace—with zero resistance. Until now. The heroic protesters in El Salvador have launched the long overdue revolution of everyday life. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo via Twitter)

North America
PennEast Pipeline

SCOTUS: pipeline companies may take state property

The US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in PennEast Pipeline Co. v. New Jersey that the Natural Gas Act grants private companies authority to take state-owned property to build interstate pipelines. PennEast Pipeline obtained a certificate from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to build a 116-mile gas pipeline from Pennsylvania to New Jersey and sought to exercise its federal eminent domain authority by taking public land in New Jersey. The state of New Jersey moved to dismiss the company’s request on sovereign immunity grounds. A district court ruled in favor of PennEast Pipeline, but the Third Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the order. In an opinion delivered by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Supreme Court reinstated the district court order in favor of PennEast Pipeline. (Photo via WHYY)

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)

Planet Watch
Narsaq

Mining project behind Greenland political upheaval

In snap elections, Greenland’s indigenous-led left-environmentalist party Inuit Ataqatigiit(Community of the People) won 37% of the vote, overtaking the longtime incumbents, the social-democratic Siumut (Forward) party. At the center of the race was a contentious mining project that Inuit Ataqatigiit aggressively campaigned against. The Kvanefjeld rare-earth mineral project, near Narsaq in Greenland’s south, has divided the territory’s political system for more than a decade. Greenland Minerals, the Australian company behind the project, says the mine has the “potential to become the most significant Western world producer of rare earths,” adding that it would also produce uranium. But the Chinese giant Shenghe Resourcesowns 11% of Greenland Minerals—raising concerns about Beijing’s perceived design to establish control over the planet’s rare earth minerals. (Photo of Narsaq via Polar Connection)

Mexico
CFE

Mexico: court suspends new electricity law

A Mexican court issued a suspension of the new electricity law that aims to strengthen the state-run company, Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE). The law is supported by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who wants to increase state control of the energy market. López Obrador claimed that under the previous administration, the electricity market was skewed in favor of private operators. Grupo Bimbo, Walmart Inc and two unnamed companies filed challenges against the law. The US Chamber of Commerce expressed concern that the new law violates the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and may create a monopoly in the electricity sector. The injunction will be in place until the case is decided on its merits. The judge asserted that the injunction was necessary “to prevent economic damage to the electricity sector, to ensure competition, and to protect the environment.” (Photo of power lines in Ixtapaluca via Wikimedia Commons)

The Amazon
facebook

Facebook enables deforestation in Brazilian Amazon

Criminal networks in Brazil are illegally selling and deforesting protected lands—even within an indigenous reserve—and posting the plots for sale on Facebook, according to an investigation by the BBC. In a documentary, “Selling the Amazon,” BBC Brasil went undercover to reveal how illegal land-grabbers are moving in on public land in the Amazon—clearing rainforest and selling plots to ranchers at highly inflated prices. The documentary showed plots of these cleared lands being openly advertized on Facebook. Contacted by BBC, Facebook said it was “ready to work with the authorities” to investigate the matter, but would not take independent action to halt the land-trading on its platform. (Photo via Mongabay)

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)

Central Asia
Uighurs

Huawei ethnicity-recognition tech tracks Uighurs

Top Chinese technology firms have registered patents for tools apparently designed to detect, track and monitor Uighurs, according to research by the Pennsylvania-based video surveillance watchdog group IPVM. A 2018 patent filed by Shenzhen-based tech giant Huaweiwith the State Intellectual Property Office lists attributes by which an individual may be targeted, including “race (Han, Uighur).” IPVM also released details of a document issued by Huawei and its Beijing-based corporate partner Megvii, dubbed an “Interoperability Test Report,” which boasted of a “Uighur alarm” among the “basic functions of Megvii’s facial recognition system.” Said Rushan Abbas, executive director of the DC-based Campaign for Uyghurs: “We cannot ignore the fact that these technologies have been developed in order to be able to efficiently carry out…brutal oppression.”  (Photo: Mvslim.com)

Oceania
torres strait

Strategic strait at issue in Australia-China rift

Amid trade wars, diplomatic tiffs and propaganda sniping, the ugliness between China and Australia seems set to escalate as Beijing enters an agreement with Papua New Guinea to establish an industrial foothold within the narrow Torres Strait. Radio Australia reports that community leaders in North Queensland, just across the strait from New Guinea, fear that China’s plan to construct the facility will jeopardize border security and threaten the commercial fishing sector. There are also concerns that Beijing will attempt to militarize the outpost, seeking to counterbalance the new US-Australian naval base planned for PNG’s Manus Island. (Map: Torres Strait Regional Authority)

Africa
Somalia

Trump announces (pseudo-) withdrawal from Somalia

President Trump has ordered the withdrawal of nearly all the approximately 700 US troops in Somalia by mid-January. But the troops are not coming back to the US—they will be stationed just outside Somalia’s borders, in Kenya and Djibouti, ready to go back in as circumstances mandate. Air-strikes and drone warfare are to continue. Also remaining in Somalia will be a team of Pentagon advisors and a significant force of private contractors from the DC-based firm Bancroft Global, working with a US-trained elite commando unit to fight al-Shabaab and ISIS insurgents. (Photo: Nick Kibbey/US Air Force via Military Times)

Planet Watch
Alaska

Trump admin opens bids for ANWR drilling

The Trump administration announced formal proceedings to sell oil and gas leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The Bureau of Land Management Alaska State Officeissued a call for “nominations” on several lease tracts considered for the upcoming Coastal Plain Oil & Gas Lease Sale, covering approximately 1.5 million acres of the refuge along the coast of the Arctic Ocean. Lease sales could begin by January—but will likely face legal challenge, or reversal by the incoming Biden administration. President-elect Joe Biden’s differing approach to public land management includes “permanently protecting” ANWR and “banning new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters.” (Photo: USGS via Flickr)

Afghanistan
Afghan army

Iraq and Afghanistan: US troops out, Chevron in?

Playing to anti-war sentiment just in time for the election, the Trump administration announces a draw-down of thousands of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. This comes as Chevron has quietly signed an agreement with Iraq for the development of the massive Nassiriya oil-field. Chevron has also announced a new initiative with Kazakhstan, with an eye toward oil exports through a trans-Afghan pipeline. We’ve been hearing talk of a US “withdrawal” from Iraq and Afghanistan for years—but military advisors and contractors have always remained, and ground troops have always been sent back in again as soon as things start to get out of hand. And as long as oil money follows the military, that will always be the case. Don’t be fooled. (Photo: Army Amber via Pixaby)