The Andes
lithium fields

Bolivia: lithium interests at play in Evo’s ouster?

Bolivia’s government issued a decree cancelling a massive joint lithium project with German multinational ACI Systems Alemania—just days before the ouster of President Evo Morales. The move came in response to protests by residents in the southern department of Potosí, where the lithium-rich salt-flats are located. Potosí governor Juan Carlos Cejas reacted to the cancellation by blaming the protests on “agitators” seeking to undermine development in the region. Plans for lithium exploitation were first announced over a decade ago, but have seen little progress—in large part due to the opposition of local communities, who fear the region’s scarce water resources will be threatened by mining. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Central Asia

Uighurs as pawns in the Great Game

In a perverse spectacle, the Trump administration, which is establishing its own incipient concentration camp system for undocumented immigrants, makes a great show of feigning concern with the mass detention of the Uighurs in China’s “re-education camps.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called China’s treatment of the Uighurs the “stain of the century,” and accused Beijing of pressuring countries not to attend a US-hosted conference on religious freedom then opening in Washington. At the conference, Donald Trump actually met at the Oval Office with Jewher Ilham, daughter of the imprisoned Uighur scholar Ilham Tothi. It is hard to fault the Ughurs for being heartened by this international attention, but it is clear that they are being exploited for propaganda purposes. (Photo: Mvslim.com)

Iran

Federal judge allows travel ban lawsuit to proceed

Judge Victoria Roberts of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan ruled that a lawsuit by the Arab American Civil Rights League against the Trump administration’s third iteration of his “travel ban,” which restricts travel from seven countries, can move forward. The administration sought to have the lawsuit dismissed based on the Supreme Court’s ruling in Trump v. Hawaii, in which the court held that the Immigration and Nationality Act grants the president broad discretion to decide “whether and when to suspend entry, whose entry to suspend, for how long, and on what conditions.” Roberts held in the present case that “although the Proclamation is facially neutral, its impact falls predominantly on Muslims.” (Photo: Wikimedia Commons via Jurist)

Watching the Shadows

Amnesty calls on UN to ban ‘killer robots’

Amnesty International called upon countries to ban fully autonomous weapons systems on  the first day of the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems meeting. Amnesty states that technology related to advanced weapons systems is outpacing international law. Future technologies may be able to replicate human responses, including "the ability to analyse the intentions behind people's actions, to assess and respond to often dynamic and unpredictable situations, or make complex decisions about the proportionality or necessity of an attack." A complete ban on fully autonomous weapons is necessary in order to avoid possible "dystopian" futures. Human interaction should be required by law to be involved in the identification, selection, and engagement of targets in advanced weapons. (Photo: Future of Life Institute)

North America

Podcast: What will it take to stop Trump?

In Episode 14 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the national protest wave that brought down president Park Geun-Hye in South Korea last December, and asks why Americans can't similarly rise to the occassion and launch a mass militant movement to remove Donald Trump. Given this extreme emergency—the detention gulag now coming into place, with undocumented migrants the "test population" for domestic fascism—we should be mobilizing in our millions. Weinberg identifies two significant obstacles to unity: 1. The fundamental split in the left over the whole question of Russia and its electoral meddling; and 2. The phenomenon of party parasitism, with both the Democrats and sectarian-left factions seeking to exploit popular movements to advance their own power. He concludes by asking whether social media can empower us to sidestep the Dems and the alphabet-soup factions alike and work rapidly and efficiently to build a leaderless, broad-based, intransigent movement around the aim of removing Trump. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo of protest at Foley Square, Manhattan, by Syria Solidarity NYC)

North America

SCOTUS overturns injunction on travel ban

The US Supreme Court ruled 5-to-4 in Trump v. Hawaii that President Donald Trump's proclamation restricting entry from particular Muslim-majority countries was "squarely within the scope of presidential authority" under the Immigration and Nationality Act. The court also found that plaintiffs challenging the proclamation were unlikely to succeed on their claim that the ban violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The ruling overturns a preliminary injunction issued by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which blocked the policy from taking effect. The Supreme Court remanded the case back to the lower courts for "further proceedings." (Photo of protest at Foley Square, Manhattan, by Syria Solidarity NYC)

East Asia

North Korea political prisoners betrayed at summit

In the prelude to the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore, survivors of Kim Jong-un's prisons and concentration camps called for an amnesty for North Korea's tens of thousands of political prisoners to be a condition of any peace deal. They recalled a 2014 UN report finding that up to 120,000 were being held in prison camps in North Korea, subjected to "unspeakable atrocities and hardships." Of course, Trump breathed not a word about human rights at the meeting, but came away crowing about his "special bond" with Kim. And despite the fact that the agreement to come out of the meeting contained no specific commitments to move toward de-nuclearization of the peninsula (only vague expressions of principle), some peaceniks are already paradoxically cheering the right-wing demagogue who so recently threatened to unleash "fire and fury" on North Korea. (Map of North Korea's principal concentration camps via One Free Korea)

Iran

Iran: new sanctions on Hezbollah-linked figures

The US Department of the Treasury issued new sanctions against Iran, targeting two individuals deemed to be Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs). Mohammad Ibrahim Bazzi has been identified as a financier for Hezbollah, and Safi al-Din has been identified as Hezbollah's representative in Iran. The Treasury Department stated that the sanctions "show the convergence of Iran's support for terrorism with many facets of illicit criminal activity, including narcotics trafficking." The sanctions come after President Trump's decision to leave the Iranian nuclear deal and to begin reimposing sanctions against Iran. (Map: Myket.ir)

East Asia

Fear of ‘Asian Chernobyl’ in DPRK stand-down?

The de-escalation in the crisis on the Korean peninsula reached a welcome turning point as the Pyongyang government announced that it will suspend nuclear and missile tests—and shut down its Punggye-ri test site, saying it has "finished its mission."  But despite this face-saving rhetoric, reports suggest cessation of the program could be motivated by fear of a disaster at the Punggye-ri site. Geological experts warn that the site may have become fatigued and unstable from the nuclear tests, and could be in danger of collapse. After the last nuclear test in September, there were reports that a tunnel at the facility had collapsed, killing 200 workers. Observers also cited the fear of a "Chernobyl-style" meltdown at the North's reactors where plutonium is produced for the weapons program, placing 100 million people across northeast Asia in "mortal danger."  (Map: Federation of American Scientists)

Planet Watch

Doomsday Clock: two minutes of midnight

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists advanced the minute hand of its Doomsday Clock to two minutes of midnight from its previous two-and-a-half minutes. "In 2017, world leaders failed to respond effectively to the looming threats of nuclear war and climate change, making the world security situation more dangerous than it was a year ago—and as dangerous as it has been since World War II," the Bulletin said. Finding that the "greatest risks last year arose in the nuclear realm," the statement of course cited the crisis over North Korea's atomic weapons program, but also ongoing military exercises along the borders of NATO, upgrading of nuclear arsenals by the US and Russia, tensions over the South China Sea, a nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan, and uncertainty about continued US support for the Iran nuclear deal. These threats are worsened by "a breakdown in the international order that has been dangerously exacerbated by recent US actions." (Image: misucell.com)

Africa

Zimbabwe: new leader implicated in massacres

The swearing in of Zimbabwe's new President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa is being hailed as opening a new era for the country that had been ruled by Robert Mugabe from independence in 1980 until his dramatic downfall this week. But  some are demanding accountability over Mnangagwa's role in ethnic massacres against the country's Ndebele minority people in the 1980s.

East Asia

China’s rise threatened by ‘de-globalization’?

William C. Kirby, author of Can China Lead? Reaching the Limits of Power and Growth, argued in a presentation at New York's China Institute that China's rise is dependent on continued global integration, and that this is now threatened by the authoritarianism of Donald Trump and Xi Jinping alike.