Rights groups in Malaysia are calling for the release of thousands of detained refugees and asylum-seekers, after a deadly incident in the northern state of Penang April 20. Six Rohingya refugees were reportedly struck by vehicles and killed when hundreds fled a detention center after breaking through barriers and attempted to escape across an adjacent highway.
Amid the ongoing Russian military build-up and apparently faltering diplomatic efforts to prevent an invasion of Ukraine, one thing is clear: any incursion will worsen the dire humanitarian situation in the country. The latest overview from the UN's emergency aid coordination body, OCHA, published Feb. 11, makes for sobering reading: 2.9 million in need, 13% children. This includes almost 300,000 people still displaced by an eight-year war that has claimed more than 13,000 lives. Particularly affected are the elderly in the separatist-occupied, Russian-backed east. Since March 2020, when COVID-19 effectively rendered the so-called "contact line" impassable, they've been unable to cross to access their pensions and social services. On Feb. 8, eight trucks delivered the latest crossline international aid—COVID-19 prevention equipment, medicines, and construction materials. But how long these humanitarian convoys will be able to continue remains to be seen.
Tunisian President Kais Saied officially dissolved the Supreme Judicial Council on Feb. 6, sending police to seal the chamber where the body meets. The Council's head, Youssef Bouzakher, called the dissolution "illegal," and said it is aimed at bringing Tunisia's jurists under control of the executive. Established in 2016, the Council is a constitutional body entrusted with ensuring the independence of the judiciary, responsible for appointing judges and taking disciplinary action. Bouzakher said the Council intends to continue working in defiance of the president's announcement.
In Episode 107 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg continues his rant against the ubiquitous propaganda that normalizes the oppressive and dystopian pre-pandemic normality—or, as it is now incorrectly rendered, "normalcy" (sic). The opportunity for a crash conversion from fossil fuels that was posed by 2020's pandemic-induced economic paralysis is now being squandered. The fashionable COVID denialism of the anti-vaxxers is ironically complicit in the actual crimes of the pharmaceutical industry, such as the instating of a "vaccine apartheid"—failing to make the vaccine available to Africa and the much of the Global South. Just at the moment that socialist ideas are being legitimized in mainstream discourse again, the drum-beat for "normalcy" (sic) means less pressure for an urgently mandated public expropriation of corporate cyber-overlords such as Verizon, as well as Big Pharma and Big Oil. Meanwhile, consumerist and technocratc pseudo-solutions, such as the bogus notion of reducing one's personal "carbon footprint," obscure the systemic nature of the problem. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Six political prisoners began a hunger strike at Tehran's notorious Evin Prison Jan. 12, four days after poet and filmmaker Baktash Abtin died of COVID-19 at the facility. Abtin, who expired after being put into an induced coma during temporary transfer to a hospital, had been serving a five-year sentence on the charge of "assembly and collusion against national security." Ardeshir Zarezadeh, director of the Toronto-based International Centre for Human Rights (ICHR), said in a statement: "The government of Iran must immediately and unconditionally release the political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, especially due to the serious concern over the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Iran's overcrowded jails." (Asranarshism, ICHR, HRW, Al Jazeera)
In Episode 106 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg continues his rant against the ubiquitous propaganda that normalizes the oppressive and dystopian pre-pandemic normality—or, as it is now incorrectly rendered, "normalcy" (sic). The opportunity for a crash conversion from fossil fuels that was posed by 2020's pandemic-induced economic paralysis is now being squandered. As fossil-fuel prices soar, the Biden administration is continuing a Trump-era policy to aggressively open public lands to coal mining, refusing to return to an Obama-era moratorium on new leases. US greenhouse gas emissions dramatically bounced back in 2021, which was one of the five hottest years on record. A record was made for highest temperature ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere. (The Northern Hemisphere record was reached in 2020.) The global mean sea level is rapidly rising, and will keep rising for centuries even if the Paris Agreement goals are met, as seems less likely each day. And all this as hospitals remain overwhelmed coast to coast, and the National Guard is being mobilized to keep them functioning. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
In Episode 105 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg rants against the ubiquitous propaganda that normalizes the oppressive and dystopian pre-pandemic normality. Amid the relentless COVID-19 denialism, even mainstream voices are calling for a return to "normalcy" (sic)—which is not even a word. The opportunity for a crash conversion from fossil fuels that was posed by 2020's pandemic-induced economic paralysis, when already depressed oil prices actually went negative, is now being squandered. President Biden just released oil from the Strategic Reserves to control soaring prices. Simultaneously, the administration is moving ahead with the largest offshore oil and gas lease sale in US history. While during the 2020 lockdown. the usually smog-obscured Himalayas became visible from northern India for first time in decades, Delhi is now choked with emergency levels of toxic smog. While during the 2020 lockdown, the total US death rate actually dropped because people were staying off the roads, US traffic deaths are now soaring. New York's new Mayor Eric Adams wants to stake the city's economic future to the cryptocurrency industry, even as China is cracking down on Bitcoin "mining" (sic) because of its "extremely harmful" carbon footprint. And even amid all the empty hand-wringing about climate change, airlines are flying thousands of empty "ghost flights" in order to keep their slots at congested airports. The much-vaunted "return to normalcy" must be urgently resisted. As Bruce Cockburn observed long ago, the trouble with normal is it always gets worse. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
In Episode 103 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg, still suffering from possible COVID-19 symptoms, again notes how the radical right, including neo-Nazi elements, is in the vanguard of anti-vax and anti-mask protests, from Germany to Romania to England to Brooklyn. A virtual industry churns out relentless online disinformation that is easily refuted by anyone who makes the effort to break out of the confirmation-bias bubble. Contrary to the conspiranoid propaganda, COVID-19 deaths are actually being underestimated. The juvenile Nazi-baiting of the anti-vax machine is another example of the propaganda device of fascist pseudo-anti-fascism. Meanwhile, Tuskegee experiment survivors are encouraging vaccinations, and the Peoples Vaccine Alliance protests the actual crimes of Big Pharma—failing to make the vaccine available to Africa and the much of the Global South, in what has been decried as "vaccine apartheid." Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.