In Episode 75 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg examines distorted reportage on the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline by Russian hackers. The disaster illustrates the urgent need for a crash conversion from fossil fuels—but also from digital technology. Signs of hope are seen in the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline, the recent indigenous-led protests against the Line 3 Pipeline in Minnesota, and the gas bill strike launched by Brooklyn residents to oppose the North Brooklyn Pipeline that would cut through their neighborhoods. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Calgary-based TC Energy Corporation (formerly TransCanada) confirmed June 9 that it has terminated the Keystone XL Pipeline Project. Construction on the project, a partnership with the Alberta provincial government, was suspended following the revocation of its US presidential permit on Jan. 20. The company said in a statement that it will "continue to coordinate with regulators, stakeholders and Indigenous groups to meet its environmental and regulatory commitments and ensure a safe termination of and exit from the Project."
Former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic on June 8 lost his appeal of a 2017 conviction for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Appeals Chamber of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) at The Hague upheld the life sentence for his role in the killing of some 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in July 1995. The Appeals Chamber also upheld his convictions for the persecution of Bosnian Muslims and Croats, terrorizing the population of Sarajevo with a campaign of shelling and sniping during the nearly four-year siege of the city, and taking UN peacekeepers hostage. The Chamber also reaffirmed his acquittal on charges of carrying out genocide in five other Bosnian municipalities in 1992—a disappointment for surviving residents of Prijedor, Sanski Most, Kotor Varos, Foca and Vlasenica. (BBC News, Balkan Insight, Balkan Insight)
Advocacy groups for migrants on the US southern border are protesting conditions at Texas' Fort Bliss, an Army base that the Biden administration has opened as an emergency holding facility. Nearly 5,000 minors who crossed the border without a parent or guardian are currently being held in large tents at the base. This is about a quarter of the total number of minors in the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a body of the US Department of Health & Human Services (HHS). As of late May, nearly 600 of these had spent 40 days or longer at the "megasite." Nearly 1,700 minors had been there for at least a month, according to government data. Unlike traditional HHS shelters for migrant children, Fort Bliss and other emergency "influx" sites are not licensed by state authorities to care for minors, and have lower standards of care.
Doctors and healthcare workers held a demonstration outside a hospital in the Syrian city of Idlib June 1, to protest the election of the Bashar Assad regime to the executive board of the World Health Organization (WHO). Syria was elected to the board for a three-year term by the 22 countries of WHO's Eastern Mediterranean region—the latest coup for normalization of the Assad regime. "How can we trust WHO [when] one of its executive board members is the murderer who is killing my colleagues, my friends?" said Dr. Salem Abdan, head of health services for opposition-administered Idlib, in a WhatsApp message. Read a banner at the protest: "We reject the idea that our killer and he who destroyed our hospitals be represented on the executive board." Idlib province is part of a remaining rebel-held pocket in the northwest of the country, where Assad regime warplanes have for years been bombing hospitals and clinics.
In Episode 74 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg rises to the odious duty of deflating an idol of his youth—former Pink Floyd frontman and creative genius Roger Waters. While he grandstands against the bombardment of Gaza, Waters spreads propaganda that seeks to deny and whitewash the equal and even greater crimes of Syria's genocidal dictator Bashar Assad. Pink Floyd's 1979 album The Wall satirized rock stars who flirted with fascism, but Waters has now perversely turned into just what he was satirizing back then. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
For the second year running, authorities in Hong Kong banned the annual June 4 vigil commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Citing the ongoing restrictions imposed to contain COVID-19, hundreds of police officers closed off Victoria Park, where the vigil has traditionally been held, and dispersed crowds who gathered with candles or their phone lights lit. Police also arrested activist Chow Hang Tung, vice chair of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, which organizes the annual vigil. She faces charges of promoting an unauthorized assembly. Authorities warned that under the Public Order Ordinance, those attempting to attend the vigil could face five years in prison, or one year for promoting it. Last year, activists successfully defied the ban, so this marked the first year that no commemoration of the massacre was held in Hong Kong.
Kurdish forces shot dead at least eight protesters at the town of Manbij in northern Syria on May 31. Demonstrations broke out against military conscription by the Kurdish-led autonomous administration, amid growing discontent over economic conditions. A curfew was imposed on the town, as many shops heeded a call for a general strike. Representatives of the Kurdish administration and its Asayish police force held talks with Arab tribal leaders on June 2. A joint statement said military conscription will be halted pending review and dialogue. All detained protesters are also to be released under the agreement.