In Episode 92 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes note of the increasingly extremist anti-vax "protesters," who don the yellow star and explicitly compare themselves to Holocaust victims as they escalate to physical attacks on COVID testing stations in New York City. In Europe, some have dressed up in Nazi uniforms to mock vaccine mandates. They bait others as brainwashed "sheeple" as they themselves echo propaganda from Fox News, and defiantly threaten public health—especially that of the elderly, ailing and immune-compromised who are most at risk from the virus. Meanwhile, African leaders protest "vaccine apartheid," and countless hundreds of thousands across across the Global South struggle to get vaccinated. The politics of the anti-vaxxers is actually redolent of Hitler's "euthanasia" program, in which "useless eaters" (the disabled) were exterminated—the first step toward the Final Solution. Their juvenile Nazi-baiting is another example of the propaganda device of fascist pseudo-anti-fascism.
Kenya is facing its worst drought in a decade, with 2.4 million people expected to be going hungry by November. The fast-emerging humanitarian crisis is not only the result of two consecutive poor rainy seasons in the Arid & Semi-Arid Lands region—an arc of under-developed territory in the north and east of the county. Needs are compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, chronic insecurity, as well as by pests and other diseases. Household maize stocks are well below the five-year average, and both livestock productivity and milk production have fallen, driving up prices. A glut in the livestock market, as people sell off their animals, is further eroding pastoralists' earnings. They are already forced to walk longer distances in search of water and forage, resulting in a spike in inter-communal tensions. Upcoming rains, due to fall from October to December, are also forecast to be below average, resulting yet again in poor harvests and worsening livestock conditions next year.
For the first time since it stopped attempting to count Syria's dead back in 2014, the UN has released a new casualty number. The UN Human Rights Office now says 350,209 people were killed in the war between March 2011 and March 2021—but cautions that because of the strict methodology used, this figure is "certainly an under-count of the actual number of killings." And it doesn't include those who died from causes that would likely have been more easily treatable were it not for the ongoing violence, such as hunger or COVID-19, which is now barrelling through northwest Syria, spreading quickly in displacement camps and overwhelming healthcare facilities.
More than 500,000 people are in need of emergency assistance in Haiti's southern peninsula, where last week's 7.2-magnitude earthquake has killed more than 2,100 people and injured more than 12,200. Aid and medical efforts are hampered by debris-strewn roads, rain from Tropical Storm Grace, a shortage of working hospitals, and gang violence. The private Bernard Mevs Hospital in the capital, Port-au-Prince, where some of the injured have been sent, was closed Aug. 19 as part of a two-day shutdown to protest the kidnapping of two doctors. In recent years, Haiti has been beset by violent gangs who patrol many of the country's transport routes. Some villagers were also reportedly blocking aid shipments, saying they were also desperate for help. The southern peninsula has yet to recover from Hurricane Matthew, which killed at least 546 people in 2016. Prime Minister Ariel Henry has promised to speed up aid efforts—more than 30,000 families have been displaced, and there are fears of cholera due to lack of safe water, sanitation, and shelter. The United States has deployed several helicopters, aircraft, and the USS Arlington to help with relief efforts. France also sent a ship with humanitarian cargo, a helicopter, and more than two dozen soldiers.
The Articulation of Indigenous People of Brazil (APIB) filed a statement before the International Criminal Court (ICC) Aug. 9 requesting an investigation into genocide and crimes against humanity committed by President Jair Bolsonaro. The complaint centers on "systematic anti-indigenous" policies enacted by Bolsonaro since his term began in January 2019, and deepened during the COVID-19 pandemic. APIB claims that Bolsonaro's government has dismantled protections for indigenous communities and their territories, resulting in increased invasion of indigenous lands and consequential deforestation, fires, and illegal mining. The complaint further charges that Bolsonaro has directly encouraged attacks against indigenous peoples, and refused to demarcate new indigenous territories.
Hundreds of activists have repeatedly filled the streets of Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur since July 31 to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin over his government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Themed #Lawan (Fight), the movement is also demanding the resumption of parliamentary sessions and a moratorium on the repayment of all loans. Protesters accuse the Muhyiddin government of using the pandemic to suspend parliament in order to consolidate power, and relying on harsh emergency regulations to silence and intimidate critics. Protesters chant hidup rakyat (long live the people), and carry black flags and effigies of dead bodies wrapped in white cloth to signify the high daily COVID-19 death tally in the county.
Proclaiming that "change is coming," Pedro Castillo, a left-populist political outsider and former school teacher, was sworn in as Peru's new president on July 28—the bicentennial of the country's independence from Spain. The following day, a second symbolic inauguration ceremony was held at the Battlefield of Ayacucho, site of the 1824 battle that secured Peru's independence and put an end of Spanish colonialism in South America. (TeleSur, Reuters)
Tunisian President Kais Saied was accused by opposition parties of launching a "coup" with the help of the country's military after firing the prime minister and freezing parliament July 25. The move comes after anti-government protesters took over the streets of the capital Tunis, expressing dismay over ongoing economic turmoil and a demonstrably poor response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Saied had been engrossed in disputes with the now-ousted prime minister Hichem Mechichi since the pandemic struck.