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‚ÄĒbut 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)

New York City
Verizon

Podcast: Verizon delenda est II

In Episode 55 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg exposes the hidden agenda behind Verizon’s abandonment of landline service. Far from being driven by public demand, the ubiquity of wireless has been¬†instrumented by Verizon and imposed on the populace as a design to finally extinguish the public entitlement of telephone service. Verizon is the most recent inheritor of this public trust responsibility that goes back to the establishment of the New York Telephone Company as a state utility in 1896. But the trust responsibilities go with the old copper wires‚ÄĒonce they are gone, Verizon no longer has legal obligations as a “carrier of last resort.” Weinberg calls for a public expropriation of Verizon, and making internet access as well as phone service a public entitlement. Those who are refusing to give up their landlines are, consciously or not, on the frontline of resistance to corporate rule‚ÄĒand the attendant digitization of all reality. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: IBEW)

Syria
Syria oil map

Rojava Kurds cut deal with US oil company

In the imperial carve-up of northern Syria, US troops have since late last year been controlling the oil-fields of Deir ez-Zor province, in collaboration with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. Now reports are emerging that the Kurdish autonomous administration in the region has signed a 25-year contract with a little-known US company for exploitation of the oil. The company, Delta Crescent Energy, received a waiver from US sanctions on Syria from the Treasury Department. The deal was confirmed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (Map: Energy Consulting Group)

Planet Watch
san francisco

San Francisco suit against oil companies remanded

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit¬†reversed a federal judge’s dismissal of a climate change lawsuit against oil companies including ExxonMobil, BP and Chevron by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland, setting the stage for the case to be heard in a more favorable California state court. The two cities are seeking billions of dollars from the companies in a special “abatement fund,” alleging their practices knowingly led to problems the cities must now contend with, including rising seas and extreme weather. The case was dismissed by a district judge, who held that the courts lacked jurisdiction in the matter. The Ninth Circuit remanded the case back to the district judge, ordering him to give further consideration to whether his court has jurisdiction. If he again finds his court lacks jurisdiction, the case must go before¬†state court. (Photo: World Population Review)

Planet Watch
Warsaw riot

Biological police state preparations advance

As rising strongmen in places like Poland and Ethiopia exploit the COVID-19 pandemic to postpone elections and grab extraordinary powers, even democratic countries are putting unprecedented police-state measure into place in the supposed interest of a return to “normality.” In the latter category is New Zealand, where a bill has been passed giving police sweeping powers to enter homes without warrants while enforcing new “Alert Level 2” rules. The COVID-19 Public Health Response Act creates a new corps of “enforcement officers” to track social contacts among the populace and conduct raids on the premises of suspected violators. (Photo of Warsaw police action via Twitter)

Greater Middle East
NEOM

Tribesman killed for resisting Saudi robot city?

Saudi activists and dissidents are disputing official accounts alleging that a tribesman who refused government orders to surrender his home to make way for a new mega-project was killed in a shoot-out with security forces. Authorities say Abdul Rahim Ahmad al-Hwaiti, from Tabuk province on the Red Sea, was a “wanted terrorist” who opened fire on State Security agents who arrived at his home. But the incident came two days after al-Hwaiti posted a video statement saying he and other local residents were being pressured by the government to give up their properties and accept relocation. Al-Hwaiti, a member of the powerful al-Huwaitat tribe, accused the government of a policy of “forced displacement.” The¬†project at issue is the NEOM, a planned “special economic zone” for high-tech industry, to cover an area bigger than Belgium, where robots will outnumber human residents.¬†(Image via NeoScribe)

Watching the Shadows
conspiranoia

Podcast: COVID-19 and conspiracy theory

In Episode 51 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg rants against the dangerous, irresponsible and politically weaponized claims being avidly propagated about COVID-19. In addition to paving the way for Facebook and other platforms being given greater power to censor content, these claims serve to delegitimize any critique of actual abuses of power by the medical establishment, government and corporations. Worse, claims originating from social-media trolls and the yellow press are being weaponized by the US State Departmentand Chinese Foreign Ministry as propaganda in their New Cold War. Whether the virus originated in a Chinese government lab in Wuhan or the US government lab at Fort Detrick is probably unknowable, and of limited relevance to the dilemma of how to resist the fast-consolidating biological police state. Listen on SoundCloud. (Photo via Twitter)

Africa
OGFTZ

Worker uprising at Chinese FTZ in Nigeria

Aggrieved workers at a Chinese company in the Ogun-Guangdong Free Trade Zone, in Nigeria’s Ogun State, staged an uprising after they were locked within the complex, ostensibly under emergency measures to contain COVID-19. Several vehicles and a sentry box were set ablaze. The incident comes amid tensions between Nigeria and China over reports of Nigerian nationals in Guangzhou¬†facing discrimination and harassment,¬†apparently because of unfounded rumors that they are carrying the coronavirus. (Photo via Instagram)

Southeast Asia
Java repression

Land conflicts escalate in Indonesia

Agribusiness and resource companies embroiled in land disputes with rural communities in Indonesia appear to be using the lull in oversight during the COVID-19 outbreak to strengthen their claims to contested areas. Since the first confirmed cases of the disease were reported in the country last month, two local land defenders have been killed and four arrested in connection with disputes in Sumatra, Java and Borneo. (Photo: Mongabay)

Oceania
Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto accused of rights violations in Bougainville

Mining giant Rio Tinto is responsible for multiple human rights violations caused by pollution from its former mine on the Pacific island of Bougainville, the Human Rights Law Centreconcludes in a new investigative report. For 45 years, the Panguna copper and gold mine on Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, was majority-owned by the British-Australian mining company, but in 2016 Rio Tinto divested from the mine, leaving behind more than a billion metric tons of mine waste. The report, After the Mine: Living with Rio Tinto’s Deadly Legacy, documents the devastating consequences of that action for the thousands of people living around the mine site. The report reveals communities living with contaminated water sources, land and crops flooded by toxic mud, and health problems ranging from skin diseases and respiratory ailments to pregnancy complications. (Image: Human Rights Law Centre)

Africa
Africa mining

Africa mining confab urged to address human rights

Amnesty International¬†urged participants in an international mining conference in South Africa to address human rights violations. The African Mining Indaba¬†conference is set to run this week,¬†but civil organizations are holding their own counter-conference¬†to bring attention to claims of rights violations in the industry. Amnesty¬†said in a statement: “From child labour in the Democratic Republic of Congo to squalid living conditions for workers at South Africa’s Marikana mine, the mining industry is tainted with human rights abuses. Mining firms have often caused or contributed to human rights abuses in pursuit of profit while governments have been too weak in regulating them effectively.” (Photo via Africa Up Close)

Africa
Congo mining

Congolese survivors sue US tech companies

Families of young children from the Democratic Republic of Congo who have been injured or killed while mining cobalt have launched a lawsuit against Apple, Google, Tesla, Dell and Microsoft. Cobalt is used in batteries for the electronic devices that technology companies manufacture and is abundant in the Congo. The complaint, filed with the US District Court for the District of Columbia, details the dangerous conditions in which children are working, and makes comparisons with the conditions with the 16-19th century slave trade. The impoverished children are digging with rudimentary equipment and without adequate safety precautions for USD $2-3 a day. (Photo: Julien Harneis/WikiMedia Commons)