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!"
After a week of blockading an airstrip and road to an iron mine on north Baffin Island, a small group of Inuit protesters packed up their tents Feb. 11, agreeing to give dialogue with authorities a chance after the mining company won an injunction ordering them to disband their encampment. The self-declared Nuluujaat Land Guardians began blocking access to Baffinland Iron Mines Corp’s Mary River mine on Feb. 4. The group of seven men travelled by snowmobile from the communities of Pond Inlet and Arctic Bay, journeys of approximately 12 hours and 36 hours, respectively. The protesters oppose a proposal for expansion that would see the mine's output of iron ore double to 12 million metric tons per year, as well as construction of a 110-kilometer railway to the facility. The Land Guardians say the expansion would drive caribou away and harm other wildlife in the area, including narwhal, upon which their communities depend for subsistence.
Iraqi Kurdistan saw simultaneous air attacks Feb. 15—from Turkish warplanes on a mountain supposedly harboring PKK guerillas, and (in a far more audacious move) from an Iran-backed militia on the regional capital Erbil. In the latter attack, a barrage of rockets targetted a US airbase outside Erbil's airport. A foreign "civilian contractor" was killed, and nine others, including US personnel, were wounded. It is being called the worst attack in a year on the US-led military coalition in Iraq. A nearby apartment complex and market were also damaged, and some reports indicate the Chinese consulate was hit by either a stray rocket or debris.
The United Nations' top disarmament official on Feb. 3 stressed the urgent need to identify those who have used chemical weapons in Syria, and hold them accountable for their deeds. "Without such an action, we are allowing the use of chemical weapons to take place with impunity," Izumi Nakamitsu, UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, told the Security Council in a virtual briefing. "It is imperative that this Council shows leadership in demonstrating that impunity in the use of these weapons will not be tolerated," she added. Nakamitsu was briefing Council members on implementation of Resolution 2118, in which unanimous agreement was reached in 2013 to condemn "in the strongest terms" any use of chemical weapons in Syria. The Resolution also expressed "strong conviction" that those responsible for use of chemical weapons in Syria must be held accountable.
In Episode 63 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg draws a parallel between the self-determination struggles in Taiwan and Puerto Rico. Each is an island nation in the "backyard" of a great imperial power, struggling for its independence. Taiwan is de facto independent from China, with a movement to make it official. Puerto Rico is a de facto colony (officially "unincorporated territory") of the United States, with a movement for independence. Taiwan is being particularly threatened at this moment by the imperial power that covets it; Puerto Rico particularly fucked over at this moment by the imperial power that controls it. Yet the emergence of Taiwan-Puerto Rico solidarity is held back by the fact that their respective imperial metropoles are rivals on the geopolitical chassboard—another illustration of how a global divide-and-rule racket is the essence of the state system.
President Joe Biden announced Feb. 4 the United States will end support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen that has deepened suffering in the Arabian Peninsula's poorest country. "This war has to end," Biden told diplomats in his first visit to the State Department as president, saying the conflict has created a "humanitarian and strategic catastrophe." Biden pledged an end to "relevant" US arms sales, while giving no immediate details on what that would mean. The administration had already said it is pausing some of the billions of dollars in arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Burma's military announced Feb. 1 that it has taken control of the country and imposed a state of emergency. The country's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi was detained in an early morning raid along with President U Win Myint and other figures associated with the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD). Although the internet was cut off by the military, Suu Kyi managed to get out a statement to social media calling on Burma's people to "protest against the coup." The military, officially known as the Tatmadaw, said the state of emergency will last for a year, during which time armed forces chief Gen. Min Aung Hlaing will rule and oversee new elections. The Tatmadaw is justifying the move by asserting that there was voter fraud in the November parliamentary elections, in which the military-linked Union Solidarity Development Party (USDP) suffered a crushing defeat to the NLD. No official election observers had made any claims of fraud. (The Irrawady, The Irrawady, The Irrawady, BBC News, BBC News, Burma Campaign)
Chinese rights activist and attorney Guo Feixiong was detained at Shanghai's Pudong International Airport Jan. 28 after border police prevented him from boarding a flight to visit his ailing wife, Zhang Qing, who is being treated for cancer in the Washington DC area. Guo had time to get out a text message saying he was being accused of "endangering national security," and announcing that he would immediately begin a hunger strike in protest, before his phone went silent. Family and friends have not heard from him since. He was at the Shanghai airport for a connecting flight from Guangzhou, where he had spent the previous weeks, and reported that he was being followed by plainclothes police officers.