Watching the Shadows
Kremlin

Katie Halper: ‘Useful Idiot’ or Russian ‘infiltrator’?

Popular vlogger and comedian Katie Halper, whose journalistic take-downs of the Democratic Party establishment have been deftly exploited by the Kremlin propaganda machine, wears the accusation that she is a “useful idiot” for Russia as a badge of pride—”Useful Idiots” is actually the sarcastic name of the podcast she co-hosts with the equally problematic Matt Taibbi. We’ve always wondered if such figures really are useful idiots, or something more sinister—knowing propagandists for Vladimir Putin’s reactionary global ambitions. The debate has suddenly exploded onto the left-wing vlogosphere. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Africa
KAZA

Fracking threat to southern Africa elephant refuge

Reports indicating that a Canadian oil and gas firm is planning to start hydraulic fracturing in one of Africa’s most critical remaining elephant habitats areas along the Namibia-Botswana border is raising alarm among global environmentalists. Vancouver-based Reconnaissance Energy Africa Limited (Recon Africa), announced that it is planning to drill oil and gas wells in the newly proclaimed five-nation Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, which supplies water to the Okavango Delta, the world’s largest inland delta, and shelters Africa’s largest migrating elephant herd. (Photo: WWF)

Iran
Iran

Oil shock, wider war after Saudi refinery attack?

With some some 5% of the daily global supply wiped out by the drone attack on Saudi facilities, a new oil shock now appears imminent—putting paid to the conventional wisdom that such spikes are a thing of the past due to increased US domestic production. The Persian Gulf reserves remain determinant in global political power. How realistic is the fear of a new shock—or Western military confrontation with Iran? (Map: myket)

Planet Watch

Canada’s high court deals blow to treaty rights

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the federal government does not have a responsibility to consult with First Nations before introducing legislation, even in cases when it would impact their lands and livelihood. The 7-2 ruling ends a challenge by the Mikisew Cree First Nation of Alberta to a 2013 reform of Canada’s environmental laws by the administration of then-prime minister Stephen Harper. The reform altered the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Fisheries Act, the Species at Risk Act, and the Navigable Waters Protection Act, reducing the number of projects that require environmental assessment studies and narrowing the scope of those assessments. The Mikisew Cree contended that the reform violated constitutionally-protected treaty rights of Canada’s indigenous First Nations. (Photo of Mikisew Cree Chief Archie Waquan via CBC)

The Andes

Colombia: protests over ‘catastrophic’ oil spill

A state of emergency has been declared in Barrancabermeja, the oil hub on Colombia’s RĂ­o Magdalena, following a rupture on a pipeline delivering crude to the city’s refinery. The spill at the Lizama 158 well, run by parastatal Ecopetrol, contaminated local waterways that flow into the Magdalena, and which local campesino communities depend on. The affected area includes habitat for jaguars and manatees. The Fracking-Free Colombia Alliance called it a “catastrophe of unequaled magnitude” in a long history of oil spills in the area, and said the impacts could last 30 years. Colombia’s attorney general has opened an investigation to determine if there is criminal liability in the spill. (Photo: Contagio Radio)

The Andes

Colombia: will ‘peace’ escalate resource wars?

Colombian authorities are clearly hoping that a return to stability following the peace pact with the FARC rebels will mean more international investment, and especially for the resource sector. But hydro-electric, fracking and mineral projects across the country are already meeting with peasant resistance—prompting state security forces to respond with repression.

Planet Watch

Oil prices surge: vindication is tedious

We've been told for the past several years now that the depressed oil prices were permanent, thanks to fracking and the surge in US domestic production. Now prices are rising again, due to a convergence of crises in major producers: escalating tensions among the Gulf states, labor unrest in Nigeria, deepening instability in Venezuela. The US was able to contain the price spike after the ISIS irruption in 2014 by boosting its own production. This trick isn't going to work forever.

The Andes

Colombia: government seeks to restrict ‘consultas’

Community leaders throughout Colombia have spoken out against a proposal by the central government to limit the power of consultas populares, or popular referenda, to bar oil and mineral projects at the municipal level. Some are questioning the constitutionality of the government's plan to "fast track" a sweeping reform of the Organic Law of Territorial Ordering (LOOT) that would strip municipalities of the ability to restrict subsoil exploitation.

The Andes

Colombia: still more ‘consultas’ reject extractivism

More localities in Colombia are formally rejecting mineral and oil exploitation within their territories through popular consultas (consultations, or referenda), in a growing challenge to extractive industries in the country. Two victories were reported as "no" votes prevailed overwhelmingly in the municipalities of Arbeláez, Cundinamarca department, and Pijao, Quindío. Celebrations broke out in the streets as the results were announced.

Planet Watch

Antarctica: …and still it melts

Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement comes just as an unprecedentedly huge piece of Antarctica’s ice shelf is on the verge of breaking off from the continent. (Map: Geology.com)