politics of cyberspace

UN: Saudi Arabia torturing imprisoned activists

The UN Committee against Torture posted a letter online Dec. 11 that calls on Saudi Arabia to release over a dozen imprisoned activists and cites credible claims of improper treatment, sexual assault and torture. The UN group charged with overseeing compliance with the Convention Against Torture claims that seven activists have been held without official charges since May 2018 and subjected to inhumane treatment. The monitoring group also called for another six peaceful activists to be released, including Raif Badawi, a blogger who has been publicly lashed and is currently serving a 10-year sentence for expressing dissenting opinions. The statement calls for a review of cases of corporal punishment to ensure that Saudi Arabia is upholding its obligations under the Convention Against Torture.

The Yellow Vests and the carbon wars

The Yellow Vest movement in France scored a victory, as the government of President Emmanuel Macron agreed to suspend a controversial fuel tax after weeks of increasingly violent protests. This may be concretely a win for the working class, but the fact that Macron imposed the tax in the name of reducing carbon emissions has provided fodder for anti-environmental content to the protest movement. Exploiting this moment, Donald Trump blamed the uprising on the Paris climate accordtweeting: "The Paris Agreement isn't working out so well for Paris. Protests and riots all over France. People do not want to pay large sums of money, much to third world countries (that are questionably run), in order to maybe protect the environment. Chanting 'We Want Trump!' Love France."

CounterVortex on three-week hiatus

CounterVortex will be on hiatus through mid-December, as your editor Bill Weinberg will be traveling in Italy, networking with squatters and migrant rights activists. He may post some material from the road. But we will resume regular updates to the Daily Report and our weekly headline e-mails upon his return. This, of course, is contingent upon Verizon actually making net access available—sporadic outages have considerably slowed our work over the past two weeks. Help CounterVortex win its fight against Verizon, and make them provide the services they are required to supply under New York state law. For further details, listen to our latest podcast. Your continued support is more urgent than ever. Please give what you can to sustain our efforts. No donation is too small. (Hell, five bucks is a cup of coffee in New York City. It's also about 5% of our annual operating costs. Every little bit helps.)

Podcast: Verizon delenda est

In Episode 22 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg rants in anguish about how he has been deprived of phone and Internet access by Verizon's cynical design to let its copper network deteriorate and impose the transition to cellular, fiber and wireless on consumers against their will. There is no reason to believe this outage will be temporary. The illusions of freedom of choice and communications convenience has left the CounterVortex editor and main ranter with no choice and no ability to communicate—or to produce the journalism he needs to daily produce to make a living. Weinberg contends that his right to work—guaranteed by Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—is being violated with impunity. Verizon is in violation of international law, as well as New York state law. Weinberg calls upon the New York Public Service Commission  to enforce the law on Verizon. He also calls upon the New York Public Utility Law Project to reach out to metro-area consumers similarly left without land-line service, and organize a class-action lawsuit against Verizon. Much more ambitiously, he calls for a public expropriation of Verizon, and the redirection of its technology, infrastructure and capital toward serving the social good rather than private profit. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.

Verizon threatens survival of CounterVortex

CountertVortex editor and main contributor Bill Weinberg (that would be me) is currently without phone service, and only intermittent Internet access, due to a Verizon equipment failure. The last Verizon chat-jockey I spoke with said "it is a major cable issue and will need some time to be solved." That basically means they aren't going to fix it. I use DSL and a land-line—going through the old copper wires that Verizon is trying to phase out. And as ExtremeTech reported back in 2016: "For the past few years, there have been persistent reports from across the country that Verizon was forcing end-users to switch away from copper networks by deliberately tearing out infrastructure, firing repair crews, forcing customers to wait months for repair, and then claiming to Congress that its fiber conversion is driven by demand. In reality, that demand is being manufactured."

Podcast: looming fascism and the digital dystopia

In Episode 21 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg rants in anguish about how he has been forced by market and technological forces beyond his control into the same matrix of digital media that is fast eroding the very concept of truth and lubricating the consolidation of a fascist order in the United States and the world. In the aftermath of the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre, Weinberg documents Trump's complicity and virtual green-lighting of the attack, and calls out his rote condemnation as rank hypocrisy. From the wave of hate unleashed immediately upon his inauguration through the "false flag" theory he floated about the MAGA-bomber, Trump has played to anti-Semitism in barely veiled terms. The doublethink that now lets him get away with his blatantly disingenuous disavowal of the massacre is related to the post-truth environment fundamentally inherent to digital media. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.

Saudi regime pressured over missing journalist

The Committee to Protect Journalists has called on Saudi Arabia to immediately account for the whereabouts of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who has not been seen since entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. Multiple news outlets reported Oct. 6 that Turkish authorities, who have been investigating his disappearance, believe that Khashoggi is dead and was killed inside the consulate. "CPJ is alarmed by media reports that Jamal Khashoggi may have been killed inside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul," said CPJ Deputy executive director Robert Mahoney. "The Saudi authorities must immediately give a full and credible accounting of what happened to Khashoggi inside its diplomatic mission. The country has stepped up its repression of critical journalists in the past year at home. We hope this has not now spread abroad."

Human rights lawyer 'disappeared' in Egypt

Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the Egyptian government Oct. 3 to immediately identify the whereabouts of and free Ezzat Ghoneim, a prominent human rights lawyer who has been missing for approximately three weeks. Ghoneim was arrested on March 1 on his way home from work. His whereabouts were not known for three days until a group of lawyers were granted access to him in a prosecutor's office in Cairo. These lawyers learned that, during the time he was missing, he was being interrogated by law enforcement officers. He was questioned as a defendant in a state security case in which he, a popular blogger, three journalists and a student were accused of spreading false news and "supporting a terrorist group." Following these interrogations, Ghoneim continued to be detained. On Sept. 4 a judge reviewed Ghoneim's detention and ordered his release conditioned on his reporting to a police station every two weeks. However, according to his wife, police refused to release him, citing the need for further "instructions from the National Security Agency." His wife again reported to the police station where he was being held on Sept. 13, when she was informed that he had already been released. She claims that neither she nor any of their friends have seen him since his supposed release.

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