Planet Watch

Podcast: further thoughts on the common toad

In Episode 221 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg continues the Spring ritual from his old WBAI program, the Moorish Orthodox Radio Crusade (which he lost due to his political dissent), of reading the George Orwell essay “Some Thoughts on the Common Toad“‚ÄĒwhich brilliantly predicted ecological politics when it was published way back in April 1946. The Social Ecology of Murray Bookchin today informs a radical response to the global climate crisis, emphasizing self-organized action at the local and municipal levels as world leaders dither, proffer techno-fix solutions, or consciously obstruct progress. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.¬†(Photo: National Wildlife Federation)

Greater Middle East

Egypt: hold on presidency consolidated amid repression

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt was sworn in for a third term after being re-elected in a December vote in which he faced no serious challengers. El-Sissi won 89.6% of the vote, running against three virtually unknown opponents. First elected in 2014 (after coming to power in the previous year’s coup d’etat), then re-elected in 2018, el-Sisi was allowed a third term under constitutional amendments passed in a 2019 referendum. In addition to allowing a third run, the reform also extended his terms from four to six years. Another such reform allowing him to stay in office beyond 2030 has been broached. The election took place in an atmosphere of repression, with opposition candidates barred from running and even prosecuted. Hundreds of protesters and regime critics were arrested in the lead-up to the vote. (Photo:¬†Abdelrhman 1990 via Wikimedia Commons)


Podcast: the electoral dilemma in apartheid Jerusalem

Amid the mounting horror in Gaza, Israel held municipal elections‚ÄĒwhich saw gains for the ultra-Zionist right, including in Jerusalem. But the city for the first time saw a Palestinian council candidate‚ÄĒSondos Alhot, a pro-coexistence activist who ran with a new list called Kol Toshaveha (All Its Residents). Her candidacy, which came in defiance of a boycott called by the Palestinian leadership, nonetheless posed a challenge to the system of apartheid Israel has imposed in the Holy City. In Episode 215 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg explores what this electoral question may tell us about the prospects for an eventual just peace in historic Palestine. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.¬†(Photo: RJA1988 via Jurist)


Oil, ethnicity at issue in Kirkuk land dispute

Residents of a disputed neighborhood in Iraq’s northern city of Kirkuk staged a sit-in¬†to protest eviction orders and criminal charges filed against them by a state-owned oil company. Hundreds of Kurdish families who were pushed out of Kirkuk during Saddam Hussein’s Arabization campaign returned to the city following the fall of his regime in 2003. With their former homes now occupied by Arab families, many took up residence in a residential complex in Arafa neighborhood, previously inhabited by functionaries of Saddam’s Baath party. Now, the North Oil Company is claiming ownership of the residential complex, and ordering the Kurdish families to vacate. Arrest orders have been issued against residents who have refused to comply. In the background lie ongoing tensions between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government over control of the Kirkuk oil-fields.¬†(Photo:¬†Rudaw)

Planet Watch
forest fire

US report urges action amid extreme weather events

A comprehensive US government report has¬†confirmed that extreme weather linked to climate change is worsening despite drops in US greenhouse gas emissions. The report urges further action to mitigate potentially catastrophic consequences.¬†The Fifth National Climate Assessment follows a rash of extreme weather events across the US this year, from deadly wildfires in Maui to intense flooding in the Northeast. The assessment was mandated by the Global Change Research Act of 1990, requiring the US Global Change Research Program to deliver a report every four years. The report describes¬†the increase in extreme weather as “unprecedented over thousands of years” and warns¬†of “large scale changes” in temperature, sea levels, ocean acidification and rainfall patterns, “with a cascade of effects in every part of the country.” (Photo: US Forest Service via Wikimedia Commons)


French court stops expulsion of migrants on Mayotte

A court in the French overseas department of Mayotte¬†ordered the government to stop its expulsion of migrants in the island territory. In Operation Wuambushu, which means “Take Back” from the local Maore language, the government sought to dismantle a “slum” known as Talus 2 in the town of Koungou, removing a population of undocumented migrants and demolishing shelters. Talus 2 has seen repeated angry protests over the clearance plan. Mayotte is a transit point for migrants traveling from Comoros, a nearby archipelago off Southeast Africa. (Map via Wikimedia Commons)

East Asia
Yau Tong

Hong Kong sees first protests since 2020

The first protest since the introduction of the 2020 National Security Law in Hong Kong was held in Tseung Kwan O, an eastern area of the city. A small number of protestors marched against a land reclamation plan and construction of a waste disposal facility. The marchers complied with restrictions imposed by authorities. The protest was limited to a maximum of 100 participants, whose banners and placards were pre-screened. Protestors¬†were required to wear numbered tags. However, two days later, a smaller but seemingly unauthorized protest was held outside Hong Kong’s Central Government Offices. Some 40 residents from Yau Tong squatter community in Kowloon, which is set to be razed to make way for a public housing project, gathered to voice opposition to their impending eviction. (Photo: HKFP)

khan al ahmar

New Israeli admin in West Bank propaganda ploy

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met in Jerusalem with President Isaac Herzog, signaling continued US support for Israel’s new far-right government‚ÄĒdespite the Biden administration’s supposed opposition to its policies such as settlement expansion and¬†annexation of the West Bank. The trip coincided with Israel’s eviction of a wildcat settler outpost in what Israeli authorities call¬†the “Samaria” region of the West Bank.¬†Simultaneously, the Israeli government announced it is preparing to demolish the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar on the eastern outskirts of Jerusalem, home to at least 180 people.¬†Khan al-Ahmar lies within a key corridor stretching to the Jordan Valley, where Israel aims to expand and link¬†settlements, effectively cutting the West Bank into two.¬†(Photo: B’Tselem)

New York City

New York City mayor: ‘no room’ for migrants

New York Mayor Eric Adams¬†traveled to the US-Mexico border and declared that “there is no room” for migrants in his city. At a press conference with El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser, Adams called on the US government to help cities manage unprecedented levels of immigration, and claimed that the influx of migrants could cost New York City up to $2 billion. “The federal government should pick up the entire cost,” Adams said. “[W]e need a real leadership moment from FEMA. This is a national crisis.” He also criticized the governors of Texas and Colorado for contributing to a “humanitarian crisis that was created by man,” citing busloads of migrants sent to New York and other northern cities. But New York City comptroller Brad Lander dissented from Adams’ Texas trip, stating that it “reinforces a harmful narrative that new migrants themselves are a problem.” (Photo via TripAdvisor)


Political archaeology amid Jerusalem tensions

Israel’s new National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir made a visit to al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, flanked by by a heavy security detail‚ÄĒeliciting outrage from the Palestinian leadership. The Palestinian Authority called the move “an unprecedented provocation,” with Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh accusing Ben-Gvir of staging the visit as part of an agenda to turn the site “into a Jewish temple.” The fracas comes as Israeli authorities have launched another supposed archaeological project in East Jerusalem which critics say masks an ongoing program of “Judaization” of the Old City. This concerns the Pool of Siloam, a small reservoir believed to have served Jerusalem in biblical times. In making the announcement, officials visited the site, accompanied by a large detachment of police‚ÄĒsparking a spontaneous protest from local Palestinian residents. Three members of a Palestinian family that claims rights to the land in question were detained. (Photo: –ö—É–Ņ–į–Ľ—Ć–Ĺ—Ź –°–ł–Ľ–ĺ–į–ľ, –ė–Ķ—Ä—É—Ā–į–Ľ–ł–ľ via Wikimedia Commons)

Planet Watch

Bicycling in China & the origins of Critical Mass

Legendary transportation activist George Bliss will be presenting a slideshow and hosting a discussion of his 1991 trip to China at the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space (MoRUS) in New York City on Friday Dec. 9. What would NYC be like if we got rid of cars and everybody rode bikes? In 1991, Bliss and¬†filmmaker Ted White¬†visited Guangzhou, China (then pop. six million). Only one in a thousand owned cars. Bikes cost about $50. There was no theft because cheap attended bike-parking was everywhere. Riding en masse was fun, and traffic flowed safely and efficiently with almost no red lights. The term “critical mass“‚ÄĒfirst applied to this phenomenon by Bliss in White’s film Return of the Scorcher‚ÄĒsoon became a rallying cry in the global bike movement. While that China is long gone, its legacy points to the city we could yet have, even¬†half a world away.¬†(Photo: George Bliss)

Central Asia

Podcast: state capitalism and the Uyghur genocide

In Episode 149 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes that the UN Human Rights Office determination that China may be guilty of “crimes against humanity” in its mass detention of Uyghurs in Xinjiang province is dismissed by the tankie-left ANSWER Coalition as “propagandistic.” Meanwhile, it falls to Radio Free Asia, media arm of the US State Department, to aggressively cover the very real conditions of forced labor faced by the Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples of Xinjiang‚ÄĒand how Western corporations benefit from it. While the Western pseudo-left betrays the Uyghurs, US imperialism exploits their suffering for propaganda against a rising China in the Great Game for the Asia-Pacific region. Figures such as Australia’s Kevin Rudd incorrectly portray a “Return of Red China,” blaming the PRC’s increasingly totalitarian direction on a supposed neo-Marxism. Fortunately, the new anthology Xinjiang Year Zero offers a corrective perspective, placing the industrial-detention complex and techno-security state in the context of global capitalism and settler colonialism. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Xinjiang Judicial Administration¬†via The Diplomat)