Southeast Asia
Indonesia

China-Indonesia maritime stand-off

Dozens of Chinese vessels that were fishing in Indonesia’s Exclusive Economic Zone off the disputed island of Natuna began leaving the area after days of stand-off. Indonesia deployed eight warships and four fighter jets to the area, and summoned Beijing’s ambassador to complain. China reportedly sent three coast guard cutters into the area during the stand-off. The Natuna archipelago, off the northwest coast of Borneo, occupies a strategic spot in the South China Sea. Its waters contain significant oil and gas reserves, and it guards the eastern opening of the narrow Malacca Strait, a critical chokepoint for shipping lanes. The archipelago falls within China’s “nine-dash line,” covering nearly the entirety of the South China Sea. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

New York City
James Bay

Podcast: the struggle for James Bay

“Who is James Bay?” That’s the frequent reaction from New Yorkers when it is brought up—despite the fact that James Bay is not a “who” but a “where,” and a large portion of New York City’s electricity comes from there. In Episode 44 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s so-called “Green New Deal,” and how maybe it isn’t so green after all. The mayor’s plan is centered on new purchases of what is billed as “zero-emission Canadian hydro-electricity.” But supplying this power is predicated on expansion of the massive James Bay hydro-electric complex in Quebec’s far north, which has already taken a grave toll on the region’s ecology, and threatens the cultural survival of its indigenous peoples, the Cree and Inuit. And it isn’t even really “zero-emission.” Listen on SoundCloud,and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: Orin Langelle)

New York City
Rupert River

NYC ‘Green New Deal’ to fund mega-hydro?

New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio is aggressively touting his “Green New Deal,” boasting an aim of cutting the city’s greenhouse-gas emissions 40% of 2005 levels by 2030. Centerpiece of the plan is so-called “zero-emission Canadian hydroelectricity.” The city has entered into a deal to explore new power purchases from provincial utility Hydro-Quebec. But this power is predicated on expansion of the massive James Bay hydro-electric complex in Quebec’s far north, which has already taken a grave toll on the region’s ecology, and threatens the cultural survival of its indigenous peoples, the Cree and Inuit. And it isn’t even really “zero-emission.” (Map: Ottertooth.com)

South Asia
Kalapani

China, India border disputes spark Nepal protests

Nepal over the past weeks has repeatedly seen both anti-India and anti-China protests, concerning charges that both of the country’s giant neighbors are claiming pieces of its territory. A report released by Nepal’s Survey Department found that China has encroached upon 36 hectares of Nepalese territory, largely due to expansion of roads along the border in Chinese-administered Tibet. But the survey was undertaken in response a new map issued by Delhi with India’s change to the administrative status of Kashmir. This map showed a 35-square-kilometer area claimed by Nepal as part of India’s Uttarakhand state. This is the strategic Kalapani zone, at the juncture of the borders of China, India and Nepal, controlled by India since the Sino-Indian War of 1962. It was last at issue in 2015, when India blocked roads into the area, sparking a brief crisis with Nepal. (Map via Kathmandu Post)

Syria
Kurdish refugees

‘Ceasefire’ or ethnic cleansing in northeast Syria?

After meeting in Ankara, US Vice President Mike Pence and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reached a deal to suspend Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria for five days to allow Kurdish forces to withdraw from a designated area along the border. This is being widely reported as a “ceasefire.” However, Ankara is insisting the deal is not a “ceasefire” but a halt in the offensive to give Kurdish forces time to retreat from zone. Far from being a peace move, the pact amounts to an ultimatum to the Kurds to quit their territory. Some 160,000 Kurds have already fled the Turkish offensive—some to a refugee camp that has been established across the border in Iraq. (Photo: UNHCR via Twitter)

The Caribbean
Esequibo

Venezuela revives claim to Guyana territory

Venezuelan prosecutors finally announced charges against opposition leader Juan Guaidó for “high treason”—but not for colluding with foreign powers to overthrow the government. No, Guaidó is to face charges for his apparent intent to renounce Venezuela’s claim to a disputed stretch of territory that has been controlled by neighboring Guyana since the end of colonial rule. The Esequibo region covers 159.000 square kilometers—nearly two-thirds of Guyana’s national territory. The old territorial claim languished for generations—until  2015, when ExxonMobil announced discovery of a big offshore deposit in waters off the Esequibo coast. This came just as Venezuela was sliding into crisis, providing President Nicolás Maduro with a nationalist rallying cry. (Map via El Tiempo Latino)

Oceania

Net silence in strife-torn West Papua

The Indonesian military and National Police are rushing hundreds of additional forces to the provinces of Papua and West Papua in an attempt to restore order amid a popular uprising in the region. The government has also shut internet access in the two provinces. Thousands of Papuans have taken to the streets in towns across Indonesia’s Papuan territories following a wave of mass arrests, police violence and attacks on Papuan students and activists. The repression was unleashed after an incident in Surabaya, Java, on the eve of Indonesia’s Independence Day, when Papuan students were accused of disrespecting the Indonesian flag. The repression has only sparked a general uprising in the Papuan territories, further fueling demands for independence. (Photo: Veronica Koman/Twitter via Peoples Dispatch)

Central Asia

China’s rulers fear balkanization —with reason?

Chinese state media are promoting an official “white paper” entitled “Historical Matters Concerning Xinjiang,” denying the national aspirations and very identity of the Uighur people of China’s far western Xinjiang region. These are portrayed as inventions of Western-supported “separatists.” Yet some leaders of the Uighur exile diaspora have indeed launched an “East Turkistan” independence movement, and are seeking allies among Tibetans, Mongols, Manchus and Hong Kongers. China’s rulers may be creating exactly what they fear with their intransigent denialism on identity and ultra-draconian measures in Xinjiang, Tibet, Inner Mongolia and Hong Kong. (Map: East Turkistan National Awakening Movement)

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)

Europe

Russia completes Crimea-Ukraine border wall

Russia completed a high-tech security fence along annexed Crimea's border with mainland Ukraine. The fence, more than 60 kilometers long, is topped with barbed wire and equipped with hundreds of sensors. Russia's FSB security agency called the fence a "boundary of engineering structures," and said it is necessary to prevent "infiltration attempts by saboteurs," also citing traffic in drugs, arms and other contraband. The statement boasted of "the most complicated system of alarm sensors in the Isthmus of Perekop," the stretch of land where annexed Crimea borders the Ukrainian mainland. (Photo via ??? ???????)

Syria

Twins of genocide schmooze in Damascus

Omar BashirSeeking to legitimize his regime now that he’s reconquered most of Syria (with massive Russian military help), Bashar Assad has just welcomed the first Arab League leader to Damascus since the war began in 2011—none other than President Omar Bashir of Sudan, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur. The Assad regime’s official news agency SANA said the two dictators discussed the “situations and crises faced by many Arab countries,” stressing the need to build “new principles for inter-Arab relations based on the respect of the sovereignty of countries and non-interference in internal affairs.” The Assad regime is itself now credibly accused of genocide, with a mass extermination of detainees amply documented, not to mention serial use of chemical weapons and massive bombardment of civilian populations. Assad and his generals may yet face war crimes charges before the ICC. (Photos: Pinterest, BashirWatch)

The Caucasus

Russia upholds Chechen-Ingush border agreement

The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation upheld a decision to draw a border between the republics of Ingushetia and Chechnya. In September the two republics signed an agreement to define the border between them. This was the first time that the border has been defined since the split of the Chechen-Ingush Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic after the collpase of the USSR. The agreement became law in each republic in October, but a group of Ingush deputies challenged the law. The Chechen-Ingush border dispute has sparked violence in recent years, and been exploited by Islamists who seek to create a “Caucasus Emirate” covering both republics, a resurrection of the insurgent state established by Muslim rebels in the 19th century. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection?)