political geography

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.

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 hydro-electricity." Politico reported Oct. 25 that the city had finalized a contract with international law firm White & Case, to explore purchasing Canadian hydro-power via the Champlain-Hudson Power Express, a proposed conduit that would run under the Hudson River from Quebec. The city is also exploring the possibility of financing the $3 billion transmission line. Power purchased from provincial utility Hydro-Quebec would meet 100% of the city government's own energy needs. Canada's National Observer reported in April that negotiations between New York City and H-Q would start "right away," with the aim of signing a deal by the end of 2020.

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. On Nov. 19, President Xi Jinping was burned in effigy at one protest. Confusingly, nearly all accounts (seemingly drawing from one report by Asian News International in Hindustan Times) placed the protest in "Saptari, Bardiya, Kapilvastu district," but these are actually three different districts, not even bordering each other, and all along the border with India rather than China. (See Wikipedia entries for Saptari, Bardiya and Kapilvastu districts.) This may loan credence to claims that the anti-China protests were fomented by India. A week earlier, protesters in Kathmandu burned a map of India, Al Jazeera reports.

'Ceasefire' or ethnic cleansing in northeast Syria?

After meeting in Ankara Oct. 17, US Vice President Mike Pence and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reached a deal to suspend Turkey's military offensive in northern Syria over the next five days to allow Kurdish forces to withdraw from a designated area along the border. This is being widely reported as a "ceasefire." However, the 13-point agreement does not use the word "ceasefire," but states: "The Turkish side will pause Operation Peace Spring in order to allow the withdrawal of YPG from the safe zone within 120 hours. Operation Peace Spring will be halted upon completion of this withdrawal." Operation "Peace Spring" is the utterly Orwellian code-name for the Turkish offensive, and the YPG is the People's Protection Units, the Kurdish militia in northeast Syria. The YPG was not a party to the "ceasefire," but nonetheless agreed to abide by it. Still, fighting has continued, with at least eight civilians reported killed less than 24 hours into the deal. There is also no consensus on the geographic limits of the area covered by the deal. The official text does not define it, and Turkey and the US remain at odds on the size the "safe zone" (another Orwellian construction) that Ankara seeks to establish in Syria. Ankara is still asserting it will be 100 kilometers deep, while Washington is calling for 20 kilometers. (RudawMiddle East EyeAP)

Venezuela revives claim to Guyana territory

Well, this is all too telling. 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. Fiscal General Tarek William Saab told AFP that Guaidó is under investigation for negotiating to renounce "the historical claim our country has on the territory of Esequibo." 

Net silence in strife-torn West Papua

The Indonesian military and National Police are rushing hundreds of additional troops 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 Jayapura, Sorong, Manokwari and other major towns of 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 Aug. 16, 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.

Forgotten voices in Venezuela crisis

Things are approaching a crisis point in the long battle of wills between Venezuela and the White House. Juan Guaidó, president of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, swore himself in as the country's "interim president" before a crowd of tens (by some accounts, hundreds) of thousands of supporters in Caracas on Jan. 23. Perhaps in an abortive move to pre-empt this, the SEBIN political police detained him on his way to a rally three days earlier, but later released him without charge. At his auto-inauguration, he declared President Nicolás Maduro's re-election last May illegitimate, and himself the only legitimate executive authority in the country. Donald Trump immediately announced that he is recognizing Guaidó—quickly joined by Canada and several Latin American governments.

Russia completes Crimea-Ukraine border wall

Russia this week 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 in a statement 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.

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