Planet Watch
Chiquitania

Podcast: climate change and the global struggle III

In Episode 151 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes a tellingly ironic juxtaposition of simultaneous news stories: the COP27 global climate summit in Egypt and the World Cup games in Qatar—where mega-scale stadium air-conditioning betrays the fundamental unseriousness of our civilization in addressing the impending climate apocalypse. The COP27 agreement for a “loss and damage” fund stopped short of demands for climate reparations—a critical question for island nations that stand to disappear beneath the waves, flood-devastated Pakistan, and indigenous peoples of the fire-ravaged Bolivian Amazon. Petro powers like Russia and Saudi Arabia formed a bloc to bar any progress on limiting further expansion of oil and gas exploitation, while the Ukrainian delegation called for a boycott of Moscow’s hydrocarbons, and pointed to the massive ecological toll of Russia’s war of aggression. Meanwhile, the world population reached 8 billion, providing an excuse for groups like PopulationMatters to proffer the Malthusian fallacy even as the rate of population growth is actually slowing. Worldwide indigenous and peasant resistance to hydrocarbon exploitation points to a revolutionary answer to the crisis. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image: Bolivian campesino volunteer fire-fighter. Credit: Claudia Belaunde via Mongabay)

Planet Watch
COP27

COP27: progress on ‘loss and damage,’ not mitigation

The 27th UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) closed with what was hailed as a breakthrough agreement to establish a “loss and damage” fund for vulnerable countries on the frontlines of climate disasters. Yet no action was taken to stop oil and gas expansion from fueling further disasters. India had pushed a proposal to extend to all fossil fuels the agreement to “phase down” coal reached last year at COP26 in Glasgow. A broad coalition of more than 80 countries took up the call, but host country Egypt, holding the presidency of the conference, was able to block the measure, acceding to powerful opponents prominently including Saudi Arabia and Russia. It should be noted that while Saudi Arabia and Russia are key oil and gas producers, India is a major coal producer—and fought for weaker language on the coal “phase down” at Glasgow. So the battle lines seem to reflect competition between different sectors of the hydrocarbons industry. (Photo: Tribal Army)

South Asia
Sindh

Pakistan floods highlight climate injustice

As world leaders meet at the COP27 in Egypt to try to reinvigorate stalled global climate talks, survivors of Pakistan’s heaviest flooding in living memory are facing a health crisis, with stagnating floodwaters fuelling a rise in malaria, dengue, and diarrhoea. The unprecedented scale of the disaster—up to $40 billion in economic damage, 1,700 killed since mid-June, eight million displaced, and almost half the country’s farmland submerged—has given impetus to calls for COP27 to take up the question of climate reparations. (Photo: Verena Hölzl/TNH)

Planet Watch
cop27

Egypt: COP27 opens amid repression

The 27th UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) opened in Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh—in an atmosphere of censorship and repression. In the weeks prior to the summit, Egyptian authorities arrested hundreds of people for allegedly planning protests, with at least 151 currently detained by the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP), according to Amnesty International. The Egyptian Front for Human Rights (EFHR) reported that in the final days of October, the SSSP ordered at least 65 people detained for 15 days on charges including publishing “fake news” and misusing social media platforms. (Image via Twitter)

Greater Middle East
suez

ISIS militants ‘besiege’ targets near Suez Canal

Dozens of militants believed to be associated with the Islamic State’s “Sinai Province” (Wilayat Sinai) attempted to besiege targets including power transformers and railway facilities in the city of El Qantara Sharq, on the eastern bank of Egypt’s Suez Canal. The militants barred access to the sites, but dispersed as security forces advanced. Attacks by the ISIS affiliate have been mounting in the Sinai Peninsula. In May, militants attacked a water station near the Canal, killing 16 members of the military force guarding it. (Photo: Pixaby)

The Andes
Partnership of the Americas 2009

Colombia joins ‘new partnership’ with NATO

President Joe Biden issued an executive order designating Colombia a Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA) of the United States. The designation facilitates further weapons transfers from the US to Colombia, and increased military cooperation between the two countries. Colombia is the third MNNA in Latin America, after Brazil and Argentina. Weeks earlier, a delegation of NATO staff visited Colombia to discuss the South American country’s participation in the alliance’s Defense Education Enhancement Program (DEEP). Colombia became NATO’s newest “global partner” in 2018, but this relationship was reinforced last December, when it became a member of the NATO Individually Tailored Partnership Program (ITPP). (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Greater Middle East
Manjorah

Middle East: ‘peak wheat’ fears amid deep drought

Facing long lines and bread shortages, Lebanon’s government has been forced to give private importers $15 million to bring more wheat into the country. But it’s a short-term fix for a government that is broke and waiting for the IMF to approve a bailout deal. And nations across the Middle East may be looking for similar solutions as they struggle with the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine—both countries are key wheat producers, and exports are effectively cut off by the war. The food crisis is deepened by a decades-worst regional drought impacting Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and especially Iran. A new assessment on Iran from the International Federation of Red Cross & Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) documents water shortages, disappearing wetlands and emptying villages, making the impacts “impossible to ignore.” (Photo of IDP camp in Yemen: Moayed Al Shaibani/Oxfam)

Palestine
Israeli police

Israel: detention of ‘terror suspects’ without charge

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett instructed security services to hold “terror suspects” in “administrative detention,” even without charge. The order extends to Palestinians in Israel a policy long applied to Palestinians on the West Bank. Bennett cited “a new situation that requires suitable preparations and adjustment by the security services to the circumstances within which extremist elements of Arab society, directed by extremist Islamic ideology, are carrying out terror attacks and taking lives.” The order follows deadly attacks by Israeli citizens who were said to be supporters of the so-called “Islamic State.” (Photo: Wikimedia)

Greater Middle East
ANHRI

Egypt: rights group closes under regime pressure

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), one of Egypt’s last independent human rights organizations, officially closed, citing government pressure. In its statement, ANHRI described political repression and expansion of arrests against human rights defenders, journalists and political activists as reasons for the organization’s closure. The statement was accompanied by a list of attacks that ANHRI members have suffered over recent years, including violent physical assaults and illegal summonses. The group charged that in today’s Egypt there is an “absence of the bare minimum of the rule of law and respect for human rights.” (Image: Facebook via AlBawaba)

East Asia
Tiananmen

‘Great Leap Backward’ for press freedom in China

Reporters Without Borders issued a new report, The Great Leap Backwards of Journalism in China, revealing the extent of the regime’s campaign of repression against the right to information. At least 127 journalists (professional and non-professional) are currently detained by the regime. Simply reporting on a “sensitive” topic or publishing censored information can result in years of detention. The report especially examines the deterioration of press freedom in Hong Kong, which was once a world model but has now seen an increasing number of journalists arrested and prosecuted in the name of “national security.” (Photo: chinaworker.info)

Greater Middle East
Alaa Abd El Fattah

Egypt: prison term for activist Alaa Abdel Fattah —again

An Egyptian court sentenced prominent activist Alaa Abd El Fattah to five years in prison after he was convicted on charges of “spreading false news” and “undermining national security.” Alongside Abd El Fattah, the Emergency State Security Court also sentenced human rights lawyer Mohamed El-Baqer and blogger Mohammed “Oxygen” Ibrahim to four years each. All three defendants faced charges concerning their social media posts on human rights violations. Both Abd El Fattah and El-Baqer had been held in pretrial detention for more than the legal limit of two years. Verdicts issued by the emergency court cannot be appealed. Human rights groups have criticized the use of “emergency trials,” due process violations, and general repression of freedom of expression in Egypt under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government. (Photo: Amnesty International)

Planet Watch
anthropocene

Glasgow: ‘climate-vulnerable’ protest ‘compromise’ pact

The COP26 UN climate summit concluded a deal among the 196 parties to the 2015 Paris Agreement on long-delayed implementation measures. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the deal a “compromise,” and indeed it was saved through eleventh-hour haggling over the wording. Just minutes before the final decision on the text of the Glasgow Climate Pact, India, backed by fellow major coal-producer China, demanded weaker language on coal, with the original call for a “phase-out” softened to “phase-down.” And even this applies only to “unabated” coal, with an exemption for coal burned with carbon capture and storage technology—a technofix being aggressively pushed by Exxon and other fossil fuel giants, in a propaganda blitz clearly timed for the Glasgow summit. Another corporate-backed fix that allows polluters to go on polluting was also embraced at Glasgow: the pact calls for establishment of a global carbon-trading market in 2023. (Photo: CounterVortex)