Yevhen Karakashev, a 41-year-old left-wing activist from Yevpatoria in Russian-annexed Crimea, was sentenced to six years in prison by a Russian court, with the charges based solely on years-old private messages on the social-media network VKontakte. Russia’s FSB security agency claimed that the posts fell under Article 205.2 of the Russian criminal code, which imposes penalties for “public calls to carry out terrorist activities, public justification of terrorism or propaganda of terrorism.” Russia’s independent Memorial Human Rights Center stated that there is a strong likelihood “the criminal proceedings against Yevhen Karakashev were initiated in the context of his opposition civic and political activities as a frequent participant in protests in Crimea.” They view this as part of a mounting attack on left-wing activists and anti-fascists in Russia since January 2018. (Photo: Human Rights in Ukraine)
ISIS claimed responsibility for the Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka that left over 300 dead, and released a video purporting to show the militants behind the attacks pledging allegiance to the terror network’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. But Sri Lankan authorities had named a little-known militant group called National Thowheeth Jama’ath as behind the attacks. Leaders of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka said they had warned military intelligence officials about National Thowheeth Jama’ath three years ago, saying the group was planning attacks on non-Muslims. (Photo: Sahad Shady via Twitter)
In Episode 30 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg decries the unseemly gloating from the (totally predictable) Glen Greenwald, Matt Taibbi and their ilk over the Mueller Report’s supposed (not actual) exoneration of Donald Trump. The report actually backs up the 2016 findings of the intelligence community that there was Russian meddling in the eleciton. There have been over 100 indictments issued by Mueller’s team, including for lying to Congress about meetings between Trump representatives and Russians. Meanwhile, the results of several other invesitgations and legal cases against Trump and his team remain pending. Yet paradoxical pro-Trump “leftists” ignore all this and echo the intepretation of the Mueller Report put forth by Attorney General William Barr—who was appointed by Trump precisely to protect his ass. Repudiating this Red-Brown pseudo-left jive that abets Trump’s lies, Weinberg joins with the ACLU and Robert Reich in calling for the complete and unredacted release of the Mueller Report. And hopefully using its contents to build a mass militant movement such as was seen in South Korea in 2016, to demand the impeachment of the president—or even nullification of the tainted election that brought him to power. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon.
Alaa Abdel Fattah, a leading Egyptian pro-democracy activist, was released from prison after serving a five-year term. A prominent blogger and software engineer, he was once described by authorities as “the icon of the revolution” that ousted Hosni Mubarak in 2011. He was arrested in November 2013 on charges of organizing an illegal protest. Fattah’s release will not bring him complete freedom, as he will be required to sleep at a police station each night for five years and will be under close police surveillance.
The mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch have left at least 49 dead and some 20 wounded, many gravely, including children. The attacks took place when the mosques were packed for Friday prayers. An Australian-born man named Brenton Tarrant has been arrested as the gunman, and three suspected accomplices also detained. Marking a new extreme in depravity, Tarrant live-streamed the massacre on Facebook, with a camera mounted on his head. The video has been removed from the web. Alas, so has his lengthy manifesto, in which he laid out his motivations for the attack. The removal is ill-considered, as being ignorant of the rhetoric employed to justify mass murder only makes potential recruits more vulnerable. CounterVortex was able to review the document before it was scrubbed from the web, and it is a study in Red-Brown politics—employing populist phrases appropriated directly from the left and wedding them to a white-supremacist ideology. (Photo via Ma'an)
In Episode 28 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes with trepidation Google’s plans to develop a censored search engine for China, and thereby be allowed back through the Great Firewall to access the world's largest market. But the next and more sinister step is imposing China's draconian standards for control of information on all Internet users, worldwide. Harbingers of this are already seen in Facebook's censorship of the Tibetan struggle, and of the Kurdish struggle in Turkey, as well as initiatives to suppress footage of Israeli war crimes. While protesting such moves is imperative, the potential for such abuses in inherent to the technology—and this, ultimately, is a deeper and more complex problem that also demands a thoroughgoing critique. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: Students for a Free Tibet)
As in the Venezuela crisis, Donald Trump, the great enthusiast for dictators, is making a cynical pretense of concern for democracy in Iran. Fortunately, his latest bit of exploitation of the Iranian protesters has blown up in his face. Noting the anniversary of the 1979 revolution, he issued a tweet featuring a meme with an image of a student protester from the 2017 anti-austerity uprising and the words: "40 years of corruption. 40 years of repression. 40 years of terror. The regime in Iran has produced only #40YearsofFailure." Now, the courageous photographer who snapped the image at the University of Tehran in December 2017, Yalda Moayeri, comes forward to express her outrage at its co-optation by Trump. Alas, Masih Alinejad, the Iranian-American feminist who last week met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, seems not to get how she is endangering opposition activists in Iran, allowing the regime to paint them as pawns of imperialism. (Image via @realDonaldTrump)
World oil prices remain depressed despite an uptick this month, driven by the Venezuela crisis and fear of US-China trade war. Yet this month also saw Zimbabwe explode into angry protests over fuel prices. The unrest was sparked when the government doubled prices, in an effort to crack down on "rampant" illegal trading. Simultaneously, long lines at gas stations are reported across Mexico—again due to a crackdown on illegal petrol trafficking. Despite all the talk in recent years about how low oil prices are now permanent (mirrored, of course, in the similar talk 10 years ago about how high prices were permanent), the crises in Zimbabwe and Mexico may be harbingers of a coming global shock. (Photo via Amnesty International)
In Episode 25 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg protests that he has now been deprived of phone and Internet access by Verizon for more than two months, and discusses the greater social implications of this dilemma. Donald Trump, who is a fascist by any reasonable definition, has now shut down the federal government and is threatening to declare a national emergency in order to build his border wall. Lack of other net access at this critical moment has forced Weinberg to use a cell phone in order to have any voice as a writer and activist—while cellular technology is itself inherently abetting the descent into fascism. Not only does it create a totalizing propaganda environment, but it is degrading our attention spans, literacy and critical thinking skills. It also creates a totalizing surveillance environment that can ultimately be exploited by government as well as private interests. But we accept it in the name of "convenience" and the illusion of consumer "choice," and few even recognize technological "progress" (note: propaganda word) as something that needs to be resisted. This emerging dystopia combines the worst aspects of George Orwell's 1984 and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World: we are complicit in the extinguishing of our own freedom because we have been conditioned. Weinberg calls for practical action to slow (at least) the totalizing aspect of this dystopia: keeping alive space for the print world and the meat world, and demanding that Verizon and other service providers maintain landline infrastructure. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: IBEW)
The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression called for the restoration of telecommunication services in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The Internet continues to be shut down across the DRC in the wake of Dec. 30 general elections. Authorities ordered closure of net the day after the vote due to "fictitious results" circulating on social media. The results of the election have now been postponed and the shutdown extends past its original end date. Both the opposition and ruling coalition say they are on track to win the election. Many citizens were not able to vote due to an Ebola outbreak, and the delay led to protests in the east of the country. The opposition has alleged irregularities and fraud, and there have been reports of militias forcing voters to vote for the ruling coalition. The election commission dismissed any problems as minor. (Photo via SoftPower)
Protests have been mounting across Sudan in response to the nation’s acute economic crisis. Inflation reached 70% in November and many have been forced to spend significant portions of their income on bread, leading to local media designating the demonstrations as "bread protests." Protesters have repeatedly called for President Omar al-Bashir, who has been in power since 1993, to step down. The protests have been organized by professional organizations and trade unions as well as Sudan's principal opposition group, the Umma Party. Sudan's government has shut off internet access to prevent the protesters from organizing via social media. According to Amnesty International, at least 37 protesters have been killed so far as Sudanese authorities attempt to quell the demonstrations by releasing tear-gas and firing live ammunition. (Photo via Middle East Eye)
The UN Committee Against Torture issued a letter that calls on Saudi Arabia to release over a dozen imprisoned activists and cites credible claims of improper treatment, sexual assault and torture. The UN group charged with overseeing compliance with the Convention Against Torture claims that seven activists have been held without charge since May 2018 and subjected to inhumane treatment. The monitoring group also called for another six peaceful activists to be released, including Raif Badawi, a blogger who has been publicly lashed and is currently serving a 10-year term for expressing dissenting opinions. The letter also requests additional information on investigations Saudi Arabia has undertaken into the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi to ensure they are impartial and address allegations that high-level officials were involved. (Photo: Committee to Protect Journalists)