Planet Watch
air pollution

UN climate talks delayed one year by COVID-19

International climate negotiations will be delayed by a full year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the UK government announced. The next summit, dubbed COP26, was due to take place this November in Glasgow, but has now been put off to November 2021. Delaying the talks could encourage governments, industrial concerns and financial institutions to adopt recovery plans with high climate costs—such as a bailout for the oil companies. The postponement is particularly critical given the failure of last year’s summit, held in Madrid, to reach any agreement. (Photo: Ralf Vetterle, Pixabay)

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)

Southern Cone
Salar de Atacama

Chile: lithium interests under pressure by uprising

Chilean company Sociedad Quimica y Minera (SQM), under pressure from the government amid falling prices and rising protests, committed to define by year’s end the destination for lithium from its lease area at the Salar de Maricunga. SQM, one of the world’s top producers, already has a larger lithium mine in production at another area of salt-flats, the Salar de Atacama—but operations there were suspended for several days as campesinos blocked roads to the site as part of the popular uprising in Chile. Leaders of the Consejo de Pueblos Atacameños, representing 18 indigenous communities, pledged to resist any expansion of lithium operations in the area, citing threats to local water sources. (Photo via El Ciudadano)

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)

East Asia

Protest shakes Hong Kong… and Wuhan: solidarity?

Days before protesters stormed and occupied the Hong Kong legislative chamber, some 10,000 marched in the central Chinese city of Wuhan to oppose construction of a waste incinerator. The Wuhan protesters chanted “Give us back our clean environment”—before being set upon by the riot police, leading to many arrests. Solidarity with pro-democratic forces on the mainland is what holds out hope for restraining Beijing’s dictatorial agenda for Hong Kong. Yet some Hong Kong protesters instead look to former colonial power Britain for protection—or promote a hardcore “localist” stance that seeks independence rather than a democratic China. (Photo  of Wuhan protest via RFA)

Africa

General Assembly: UK must return Chagos Islands

The UN General Assembly passed a resolution demanding the United Kingdom return control of the Chagos Islands to Mauritius within six months. The non-binding resolution follows an advisory opinion issued by the International Court of Justice in February, finding that the UK is “under an obligation” to end its administration of the islands “as rapidly as possible.” The UK retained control over the islands after Mauritius gained its independence from Britain in 1968, following a supposed compensation deal between the two states. Mauritius now rejects the deal as having been imposed unilaterally. The entire Chagossian population was forcibly removed from the territory between 1967 and 1973 to make way for a joint US-UK military base, which is still in place on the island of Diego Garcia. Before the UN vote, Mauritian Prime Minister Pravid Kumar Jug-Nauth told the General Assembly the forcible eviction of Chagossians was akin to a crime against humanity. (Photo: WILPF)

Watching the Shadows

Podcast: Julian Assange, agent of fascism

In Episode 31 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg documents the ugly far-right politics of Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, and how the 2010 document dump risked the lives of dissidents under authoritarian regimes in places like Zimbabwe—and may have constituted outright collaboration with the repressive dictatorship of Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus. An objective reading of the circumstances around the 2016 Wikileaks dump of Democratic Party e-mails reveals Assange as a Kremlin asset and Trump collaborator, an active agent in a Russian-lubricated effort to throw the US elections—part of Putin’s grander design to impose a fascist world order. Weinberg also notes that the ACLU and Committee to Protect Journalists have issued statements warning that the charges against Assange may pose a threat to press freedom. But he argues that even if we must protest his prosecution, we should do so while refraining from glorifying Assange—and, indeed, while forthrightly repudiating him as a dangerous political enemy of all progressive values. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo Libcom.org)

Africa

ICJ urges UK to end rule over Chagos islands

The International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion outlining the legal consequences of separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965. The UK detached the Chagos Archipelago form Mauritius upon decolonization and established the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). The British subsequently allowed the United States to establish a military base on the island Diego Garcia, with many inhabitants forcibly removed, and those who left voluntarily prevented from returning. The ICJ opinion says the UK did not lawfully decolonize the islands, and urges the UK to end its continued administration over Chagos Archipelago: “[T]he United Kingdom has an obligation to bring to an end its administration of the Chagos Archipelago as rapidly as possible." (Photo: WILPF)

Syria

Idlib still threatened as Assad escalates genocide

Assad regime artillery struck areas of Syria’s opposition-held Idlib province after militants allegedly tried to infiltrate regime-held areas. The shelling was reportedly focused on the town of Tamanaa, which was seized from Turkish-backed rebels by jihadist forces earlier in the week. The was apparently part of a ceasefire agreement ending an internal conflict between rival opposition forces in Idlib, which saw jihadists taking over much of the province. These ominous developments may spell an end to Idlib’s reprieve from the threatened Assad offensiive on the province since establishment of a joint Turkish-Russian buffer zone there. To make this all more sobering still, the Assad regime appears to be escalating its campaign of genocide in the areas of Syria it has re-conquered, stepping up its mass extermination of detainees. The Syrian Network For Human Rights said in a year-end report that nearly a thousand died, presumably under torture, in regime prisons in 2018.  (Photo of hunger strikers at Syrian prison via Foreign Policy. Credit: Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images)

Syria

Amnesty protests US ‘denial’ over Raqqa casualties

The US-led Coalition’s ongoing failure to admit to, let alone adequately investigate, the shocking scale of civilian deaths and destruction it caused in Raqqa is a “slap in the face” for survivors trying to rebuild their lives and their city, said Amnesty International a year after the offensive to oust ISIS. In October 2017, following a fierce four-month battle, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)—the Coalition’s Kurdish-led partners on the ground—announced victory over ISIS, which had used civilians as human shields and committed other war crimes in besieged Raqqa. Winning the battle came at a terrible price—almost 80% of the city was destroyed and many hundreds of civilians lay dead, the majority killed by Coalition bombardment. In a September 2018 letter to Amnesty, the Pentagon made clear it accepts no liability for civilian casualties. The Coalition does not plan to compensate survivors and relatives of those killed in Raqqa, and refuses to provide further information about the circumstances behind strikes that killed and maimed civilians. (Photo: SDF)

Syria

Turkey sentences Brit volunteer for fighting ISIS

A Turkish court sentenced a former British soldier to seven-and-a-half years for alleged links to Syria’s Kurdish YPG militia, considered a “terrorist” group by Ankara. Joe Robinson of Leeds was arrested in Turkey last year after he apparently posted photos of himself in camouflage, posing beside fighters of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria. The Afghanistan veteran was among many volunteers who joined the YPG’s campaign against ISIS. A court in Turkey’s western city of Aydin sentenced the 25-year-old for “membership in a terrorist organization.” Robinson is currently on bail and planning an appeal. His Bulgarian fiancée Mira Rojkan, arrested along with him, was sentenced to two years for “terrorist propaganda.” (Photo via Defense Post)

Planet Watch

Refugee resettlement hits 10-year low

Some 50,000 to 60,000 people fleeing war and persecution will start a new life and be on track for a new passport in 2018, but it will be the fewest number of refugees resettled globally any year since 2007, UN figures show. The drop is mainly due to President Donald Trump’s administration slashing the US quota. The United States took in 68% of the 770,000 refugees permanently resettled in the last 10 years, according to the UN—an average of about 51,000 per year. But, this calendar year, fewer than 10,000 had made the journey to the United States by the end of July. Developing regions host 85% of the world’s refugees, according to the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR. (Photo: IRIN)