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)

Syria
suwayda

Anti-Assad protests re-emerge in Syria

Amid spiraling inflation and fast-rising prices for food and other basic goods, protests are again emerging in regime-controlled areas of Syria—some reviving slogans of the 2011 revolution. One angry protest was held in the western city of Suweida. Crowds moved through the city’s central streets, eventually gathering in front of the governorate building, where they chanted, “The people want to topple the regime!” “Revolution, freedom, social justice!” and “Down with Bashar al-Assad!” The protest was particularly significant, as the Druze-majority province of Suweida has remained loyal to Damascus throughout the nine years of the Syrian uprising. (Photo: Suwayda-24 via Syria Call)

Southern Cone
santiago protest

Protests erupt in Santiago, São Paulo

Protesters and riot police clashed on the outskirts of the Chilean capital Santiago, amid growing anger over food shortages during the lockdown imposed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Police deployed armored vehicles, water cannons and tear-gas to put down protests in the poor district of El Bosque. Residents blocked traffic and hurled stones at police in running clashes that lasted most of the day. Sporadic incidents were also reported in other parts of the city. Nightly pot-banging protests have been held for weeks in several neighborhoods, promoted under the hashtag #CacerolasContraElHambre—or, pot-banging against hunger. That same day, hundreds poured out of the favelas to fill the main streets of São Paulo, Brazil. In an audacious move, the favela residents marched on the state governor’s palace, demanding more support in the face of the lockdown. (Photo: Piensa Presna)

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)

Watching the Shadows
PNP_Checkpoints

Global COVID-19 police state escalates

Mounting police-state measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are now resulting in stand-offs between executive and judicial authorities. In El Salvador, President Nayib Bukele is openly defying Supreme Court rulings to respect fundamental rights while enforcing the lockdown. His security forces have arbitrarily detained hundreds in containment centers, where rights observers charge they face an increased risk of spreading COVID-19. Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled that the government may not continue using tracking capabilities developed by the internal security service Shin Bet in efforts to contain COVID-19, imposing a deadline for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to seek legislative approval for the practice. In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte, already threatening to shoot lockdown violators, has escalated to warning of an imminent declaration of martial law. (Photo: Philippine National Police via Wikipedia)

The Andes
riberalta-marcha

Protesters demand food across Bolivia

Ten days into a national “quarantine” declared in Bolivia, protesters are taking to the streets to demand food in working-class districts of cities across the country—in defiance of lockdown orders. Residents are calling for either flexibility in the lockdown, which has paralyzed the economy, or food distribution in their barrios. The interim government of Jeanine Áñez has pledged one-time payments of $60 for elders, the disabled, pregnant women and others with special needs. Her supporters on social media are portraying the protests as fomented by the ousted Movement Toward Socialism (MAS). (Photo via Los Tiempos, Cochabamba)

Africa
South Sudan flooding

Flooding compounds ethnic clashes in South Sudan

Political violence has declined in South Sudan since last year’s power-sharing accord, but sporadic ethnic violence persists. The UN peacekeeping mission deployed Nepalese blue helmets this week to Western Lakes State after fighting between the Gak and Manuer communities left 79 people dead and more than 100 injured. “Inter-communal violence continues to have devastating consequences in South Sudan,” said James Reynolds, head of delegation for the International Committee of the Red Cross. The new violence comes as almost one million South Sudanese have been affected by flooding that has submerged communities, caused substantial crop losses, and threatened to reverse some of the humanitarian gains made during a year-long ceasefire. (Photo: Alex McBride/TNH)

Planet Watch

UN report on climate change calls for urgent action

A Special Report on Climate Change was released by the UN Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), focusing on greenhouse gas emissions and its links to desertification, land degradation and food security. The report warns that the “rise in global temperatures, linked to increasing pressures on fertile soil,” risks “jeopardizing food security for the planet.” The effects of global warming have led to “shifts of climate zones in many world regions,” further exacerbating land degradation, and leading to extreme weather conditions such as floods and droughts. The reports warns: “The stability of food supply is projected to decrease as the magnitude and frequency of extreme weather events that disrupt food chains increases.” (Photo of Tantaverom region of Chad via UNDP)

Planet Watch

UN report: ‘unprecedented’ biodiversity collapse

Biodiversity is declining globally at rates “unprecedented” in human history, and the rate of species extinction is accelerating, warns a landmark report from the UN Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The Global Assessment, approved at the 7th session of the IPBES in Paris, foresees grave impacts for people around the world. “The overwhelming evidence of the IPBES Global Assessment, from a wide range of different fields of knowledge, presents an ominous picture,” said IPBES chair Sir Robert Watson. “The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.” (Photo: Wikipedia)

South Asia

Himalayan glaciers could be mostly gone by 2100

Rising temperatures in the Himalayas will melt at least one-third of the region's glaciers by the end of the century even if the world's most ambitious climate change targets are met, according to a new report. If those goals are not reached, the Himalayas could lose two-thirds of their glaciers by 2100, according to the Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment, released by the Kathmandu-bsed International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development. Under that scenario, the Himalayas could heat up by 8 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 degrees Celsius) by century's end, bringing radical disruptions to food and water supplies, and mass population displacement. Glaciers in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan Region, which spans over 2,000 miles of Asia, provide water to nearly a quarter of the world's population. (Photo via Nepali Times)

The Andes

Forgotten voices in Venezuela crisis

Trump, the great enthusiast for dictators, suddenly develops a touching concern with democracy in Venezuela, grasping at the opportunity for long-sought regime change. Predictably overlooked in the world media's Manichean view of the crisis are voices of Venezuela's dissident left that takes a neither/nor position opposed to both the regime and the right-wing leadership of the opposition. Also unheard are voices of indigenous dissent and resistance. In an episode that received little coverage, December saw protests in the remote Orinoco Basin after a leader of the Pemón indigenous people was killed in a confrontation with elite Military Counterintelligence troops. The military operation was ostensibly aimed at clearing the region of illegal mining—while the Pemón themselves had been protesting the mining. The indigenous leaders view the militarization of the region as intended to make way for corporate exploitation under the Orinoco Mineral Arc plan. (Photo: EcoPolitica Venezuela)

Africa

Economic protests across Sudan turn violent

Protests have been mounting across Sudan in response to the nation’s acute economic crisis. Inflation reached 70% in November and many have been forced to spend significant portions of their income on bread, leading to local media designating the demonstrations as "bread protests." Protesters have repeatedly called for President Omar al-Bashir, who has been in power since 1993, to step down. The protests have been organized by professional organizations and trade unions as well as Sudan's principal opposition group, the Umma Party. Sudan's government has shut off internet access to prevent the protesters from organizing via social media. According to Amnesty International, at least 37 protesters have been killed so far as Sudanese authorities attempt to quell the demonstrations by releasing tear-gas and firing live ammunition. (Photo via Middle East Eye)