Watching the Shadows
anti-bitcoin

Podcast: rage against the technocracy

In Episode 89 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes heart at the national uprising in El Salvador against the imposition of Bitcoin as legal tender, and draws the connection his own incessant struggles against corporate cyber-overlords Verizon—as well as the to the automated drone terror in Afghanistan. As we are distracted (or, at any rate, should be distracted) by the more obviously pressing issues such as police brutality and climate destabilization, the digitization of every sphere of human activity lurches forward at a terrifying pace—with zero resistance. Until now. The heroic protesters in El Salvador have launched the long overdue revolution of everyday life. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo via Twitter)

Central America
antibitcoin

Anti-Bitcoin protests shake El Salvador

Protests repeatedly erupted in El Salvador as the country became the first to make Bitcoin legal tender. The US dollar also remains official currency, but the law pushed through by President Nayib Bukele mandates that all vendors also accept Bitcoin. Small merchants and especially those in the informal sector complain of problems in trying to download the official phone app needed to use the currency. Protesters say the new law will deepen poverty by further excluding the already marginalized from the economy. They also assert that it will further enable corruption. “This is a currency that’s not going to work for pupusa vendors, bus drivers or shopkeepers,” one protester told Reuters. “This is a currency that’s ideal for big investors who want to speculate with their economic resources.” (Photo via Twitter)

South Asia
kashmir

Kashmir under internet blackout —again

Indian-administered Kashmir was plunged back into internet darkness as India’s central authorities enforced lockdowns and a news blackout following the death of Syed Ali Geelani, a prominent separatist leader. Geelani’s body was immediately seized by authorities, and buried in a quiet funeral held under harsh restrictions. His son, Naseem Geelani, said the family had planned to bury him at the main martyrs’ cemetery in Srinagar, as specified in his will, but was not allowed to do so. Police also charged family members under an anti-terrorism law for wrapping his body in the Pakistani flag and raising anti-India slogans. Kashmir spent months without internet following an August 2019 crackdown. High-speed mobile internet was only restored earlier this year. (Photo: Kashmir Global via Nationalia)

Southeast Asia
lawan

Malaysia: black flag protests challenge government

Hundreds of activists have repeatedly filled the streets of Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin over his government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Themed #Lawan (Fight), the movement is also demanding the resumption of parliamentary sessions and a moratorium on the repayment of all loans. Protesters accuse the Muhyiddin government of using the pandemic to suspend parliament in order to consolidate power, and relying on harsh emergency regulations to silence and intimidate critics. Protesters chant hidup rakyat (long live the people), and carry black flags and effigies of dead bodies wrapped in white cloth to signify the high daily COVID-19 death tally in the county. (Photo: Misi:Solidariti via Twitter)

The Andes

Peru: ex-spymaster in plot to throw recount

The Fiscalía of Peru, the country’s top prosecutor, has opened an investigation into Vladimiro Montesinos, the imprisoned former intelligence chief under dictator Alberto Fujimori, following release of a recording in which he evidently urges electoral authorities to throw the pending presidential election to Keiko Fujimori—daughter of the ex-dictator. The so-called “Vladiaudios” were released by Pedro Rejas, a retired military officer and Fujimori loyalist who received the phone call from Montesinos. In the call they appear to discuss bribing members of the National Jury of Elections (JNE). (Photo: A.Davey/Flickr via Aula Blog)

Iran
syria

Biden’s air-strikes bode poorly for Iran nuke deal

US warplanes carried out strikes on Iran-backed militias in Syria and Iraq. The Pentagon said the targets were arms depots in the border area used by the militias Kataib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada, which have carried out attacks against US personnel in Iraq for years. The militias have vowed to avenge the air-strikes. The strikes followed talks in Vienna on the Iran nuclear deal, including US re-entry, lifting of sanctions, and an Iranian return to compliance with limits on uranium enrichment. The discussions adjourned over a week ago, with Iranian officials saying a deal could be reached in the next round. However, since then, both Tehran and Washington have taken tougher public positions. (Image: Pixabay)

Iran
Iran

Iran: ‘Death Committee’ veteran becomes president

Iranians voted in a controlled election, virtually guaranteed to deliver an ultra-conservative president after all other serious contenders were barred from the race. The pre-ordained winner is Ebrahim Raisi, the chief justice, who has been under US sanctions since he oversaw repression in putting down the 2019 protest wave. Amnesty International reacted to Raisi’s election by calling for him to be investigated for “the crimes against humanity of murder, enforced disappearance and torture.” Especially at issue is Raisi’s role as a member of the “Death Committee,” a panel of four special jurists that that oversaw the secretive execution of some 3,000 political prisoners in the summer of 1988. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Planet Watch
colonial pipeline

Podcast: lessons of the Colonial Pipeline disaster

In Episode 75 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg examines distorted reportage on the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline by Russian hackers. The disaster illustrates the urgent need for a crash conversion from fossil fuels—but also from digital technology. Signs of hope are seen in the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline, the recent indigenous-led protests against the Line 3 Pipeline in Minnesota, and the gas bill strike launched by Brooklyn residents to oppose the North Brooklyn Pipeline that would cut through their neighborhoods. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map: US Energy Information Administration)

Southeast Asia
R2P

Burma: protesters demand ‘R2P’ as massacres mount

The death toll since the Feb. 1 coup in Burma has now exceeded 100 as security forces continue to fire on pro-democracy protesters. Most recent repression has been in Yangon’s outlying townships, where protesters have barricaded off streets in an attempt to secure territory. Martial law was declared in six of these townships, giving the military broad authority over those areas. Protesters have started using the hashtags #WeNeedR2P and #WeNeedR2PForMyanmar. In images seen from the air, protesters have arranged placards or lights from their mobile phones to spell out “WE NEED R2P.” This is a reference to the “responsibility to protect” doctrine developed in the 1990s following the disastrous failures to prevent genocide in Bosnia and Rwanda. (Photo: Myanmar Now)

The Amazon
facebook

Facebook enables deforestation in Brazilian Amazon

Criminal networks in Brazil are illegally selling and deforesting protected lands—even within an indigenous reserve—and posting the plots for sale on Facebook, according to an investigation by the BBC. In a documentary, “Selling the Amazon,” BBC Brasil went undercover to reveal how illegal land-grabbers are moving in on public land in the Amazon—clearing rainforest and selling plots to ranchers at highly inflated prices. The documentary showed plots of these cleared lands being openly advertized on Facebook. Contacted by BBC, Facebook said it was “ready to work with the authorities” to investigate the matter, but would not take independent action to halt the land-trading on its platform. (Photo via Mongabay)

South Asia
Mushtaq Ahmed

Bangladesh: protests erupt as writer dies in prison

Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets and blocked intersections in Dhaka to protest the death of a writer and commentator in prison, who had been charged under Bangladesh’s controversial Digital Security Act (DSA). The deceased, popular author and blogger Mushtaq Ahmed, had been arrested last May after posting comments on social media in which he criticized the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. At least 10 others were also charged with sedition under the DSA that month, including political cartoonist Kabir Kishore, who remains imprisoned. At a court hearing last month, Kishore passed a note to his brother stating that he had been physically abused in prison, resulting in severe injuries. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists is demanding his release, and that the claim of maltreatment be investigated. (Photo via Twitter)

Planet Watch
Mars probe

Podcast: US robo-imperialism hands off Mars!

In Episode 64 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the maddening and telling irony that while we’re all supposed to be ga-ga with triumphalism over NASA’s latest Mars probe, it has received practicailly no attention that Afro-Brazilian peasant communities are being forcibly removed from their traditional lands to make way for a US-backed expansion of the Alcântara Satellite Launch Center in impoverished Maranhão state. This juxtaposition of news stories is paradigmatic of the whole global struggle—sustainable, Earth-rooted cultures against a hypertrophing technosphere that is now colonizing the very heavens. Meanwhile, there are already so many satellites in orbit that near-Earth space is experiencing a fast-growing “space junk” problem. And economic austerity down here on terra firma is compounding the agonizing impacts of the pandemic. Whatever useful knowledge may be gleaned from the Mars probe, accounts don’t note that Halliburton is drawing up plans for mining operations on Mars. We recall Gil Scott Heron’s wry reaction to the 1969 Moon landing (“Whitey on the Moon“), and say with Marvin Gaye: “Spend it on the have-nots!” Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image adapted from NASA photo)