In Episode 142 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes on the ugly backlash against bicyclists in New York City, which has escalated from petitioning against bike lanes to dangerous anti-bicycle vigilantism. The recent killing of Chelsea resident Gavin Lee by a hit-and-run bicyclist became a rallying point for the anti-bike partisans. But 255 New Yorkers were killed by motorists last year, their names quickly forgotten by all but their loved ones. The killing of young bicycle messenger Robyn Hightman by a truck driver in 2019 briefly sparked protests. But the names of most victims of automotive terror quickly go down the media Memory Hole. Weinberg recounts some of the recent lives claimed by motorists in the city: Be Tran, Carling Mott, Christian Catalan, Lynn Christopher, Karina Larino, Eric Salitsky, Raife Milligan. It is the auto-centric system that pits pedestrians and bicyclists against each other. What is needed is the dismantling of this system, and its replacement with one that centers human beings and human-powered transport—as is already underway in several European cities. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
In Episode 141 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg defends the notion that he lives on New York's Lower East Side, repudiating those who would insist that his neighborhood is actually the East Village or (worse) NoHo. Weinberg traces the nomenclature controversies going all the way back to the Lenape indigenous villages of the area, Dutch and English colonial settlement, the riots and uprisings of the "Gangs of New York" era, the neighborhood's Puerto Rican identity as Loisaida, the origin of the name "East Village" in the hippie explosion of the 1960s, its cooptation by the real estate industry in the gentrification of the 1980s, and the resultant last gasp of anarchist resistance. Weinberg counts himself among a surviving coterie of old-timers who still consider the entire area to be the Lower East Side. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Dozens of municipal deputies from Moscow and St. Petersburg on Sept. 12 issued a public statement calling on Russian President Vladimir Putin to resign. "President Putin's actions are detrimental to the future of Russia and its citizens," reads the petition shared on Twitter by Xenia Torstrem, a deputy for St. Petersburg's Semyonovsky district. The call comes amid claims of vote-rigging in the previous week's local and regional elections—as well as a dramatic advance by Kyiv's forces that marks the most significant setback yet in Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. Several towns have been liberated in the Ukrainian counter-offensive in northeastern Kharkiv region.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled July 11 that Turkey violated a prior judgement in the case Kavala v. Turkey by keeping activist and philanthropist Osman Kavala in detention. Kavala was arrested in 2017, ostensibly for involvement in the Gezi Park protests in 2013 and an attempted coup d'etat in 2016. Kavala brought a complaint to the ECHR for wrongful detainment and won his case, with the court finding that there was insufficient evidence to prove any criminal intent to "overthrow the government." Turkey was ordered to release Kavala and pay damages. However, upon his release, Kavala was immediately detained again, this time on the charge of "espionage." Kavala was then sentenced to life in prison, and the ECHR opened infringement proceedings to determine whether this new sentence defied their original judgement.
Following a first round of presidential elections May 29, "between two populisms" is the catchphrase being used by Colombia's media for an unprecedented moment. A pair of political "outsiders" are to face each other in the June 19 run-off: Gustavo Petro, a former guerilla leader and Colombia's first leftist presidential contender, versus Rodolfo Hernández, a construction magnate whose pugnacious swagger inevitably invites comparison to Donald Trump. Hernández, an independent candidate and the former mayor of Bucaramanga, rose precipitously in an ostensibly anti-establishment campaign driven by social media, winning him the epithet "King of TikTok." But Colombia's political establishment is now lining up behind him to defeat Petro. The former mayor of Bogotá and a veteran of the demobilized M-19 guerillas, Petro is the candidate of a new progressive coalition, Colombia Humana, emphasizing multiculturalism and ecology as well as more traditional social justice demands.
The Israeli Supreme Court on May 15 ruled in favor of the government's planned cable car over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The ruling was met with approval by proponents such as Jerusalem's mayor, Moshe Lion, who claimed the project will "reduce air pollution in the area, solve the transport and parking distress and allow comfortable and efficient access to the Western Wall and the Old City." However, the decision has been met with condemnation by many, including city planners and architects, environmental groups, and Karaite Jews, a minority sect with a cemetery located along the proposed cable car's path. Palestinian groups have especially criticized the proposed path, as it would travel over East Jerusalem, an area ceded to Arab control in the 1949 armistice but occupied by Israel in 1967. Ir-Amim advocacy group tweeted: "Folks will hop in in WJ [West Jerusalem] and have no idea they're cabling over the heads of occupied Palestinians."
A New York City program that has privatized management and effective control of much public housing stock lacks adequate oversight and protections for residents' rights, Human Rights Watch charges in a report issued Jan. 27. The 98-page report, 'The Tenant Never Wins': Private Takeover of Public Housing Puts Rights at Risk in New York City, examines the impact of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) program called Permanent Affordability Commitment Together (PACT), which utilizes a federal program developed by the US Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) called the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) to permit the semi-privatization of public housing.
Peru's authorities declared an environmental emergency on Jan. 20 after announcing that 21 beaches around the Lima area were contaminated by an oil spill at a refinery run by Spanish multinational Repsol, calling it the "worst ecological disaster" in the city's history. The Environmental Evaluation & Control Organism (OEFA) estimated some 6,000 barrels of crude had spilled—dramatically above the mere seven gallons that Repsol had initially reported to authorities when the disaster occurred five days earlier. Some 1,740,000 square meters of coastline and 1,1187,000 square meters of sea have been covered in sludge that has blackened beaches and killed marine life. Peru is demanding compensation from Repsol, accusing the company of trying to cover up the scale of the disaster and not having a contingency plan in place.