Watching the Shadows

Amy Goodman plugs neo-Nazi symp as ‘expert’?

In an egregious and all too revealing faux pas, Amy Goodman appears to have put a mouthpiece of the German far right on Democracy Now as a "former UN expert" to discuss Venezuela. This is one Alfred de Zayas, who is given Goodman's typical sycophantic treatment—all softballs, no adversarial questions. We are treated to the accurate enough if not at all surprising line about how the US is attempting a coup with the complicity of the corporate media. Far more interesting than what he says is de Zayas himself. Not noted by Goodman is that he is on the board of the Desiderius-Erasmus-Stiftung, a Berlin-based foundation established last year as the intellectual and policy arm of Alternative für Deutschland, the far-right party that has tapped anti-immigrant sentiment to win an alarming 94 seats in Germany's Bundestag. He has won a neo-Nazi following with his unseemly theories of Aliied "genocide" against Germans in World War II. (Image via Democracy Now)

Iraq

Yazidis fear renewed genocide

Authorities in Ezidikhan, the self-declared Yazidi autonomous homeland in northern Iraq, appointed an Investigative Team on Genocide, primarily looking at massacres and enslavement that targeted the Yazidi people when ISIS was in control of their territory. But the team will also examine possible crimes and complicity by the Iraqi national government, its allied paramilitary forces, Kurdish Peshmerga, and foreign powers such as Turkey. The body is cooperating with the UN investigative team also working in the area, with an eye toward eventual establishment of an International Tribunal on Genocide for Yezidi and Neighboring Peoples. Yazidi leaders in the international diaspora are meanwhile expressing concern that the announced US withdrawal from Syria could lead to an ISIS resurgence—potentially threatening Yazidis both sides of the border. (Photo via Ezidikhan Public Information Bureau)

Central Asia

US companies profit from Uighur forced labor?

A top US sportswear company announced that it has dropped a Chinese supplier over concerns that its products were made by forced labor in detention camps in Xinjiang. Reports have mounted that the hundreds of thousands of ethnic Uighurs believed to be held in a fast-expanding system of detention camps are being put to forced labor for Chinese commercial interests. An Associated Press investigation tracked recent shipments from one such detention-camp factory, run by privately-owned Hetian Taida Apparel, to Badger Sportswear of North Carolina. After long denying that the camps exist, Chinese authorities now say they are "vocational training centers" aimed at reducing "extremism." (Photo via Bitter Winter)

Europe

Car industry behind Hungary’s ‘slave law’

In the biggest demonstrations since the fall of communism, thousands have repeatedly taken to the streets in Hungary to oppose Prime Minister Viktor Orba''s controversial "slave law." The square outside the parliament building in Budapest was massively occupied Dec. 12 as the law was approved. It was subsequently signed by President Janos Ader. Orban said the law scraps "silly rules," and will help those who want to earn more by working more. In fact, the law will allow employers to demand workers put in up to 400 extra hours per year of overtime, compared with the current limit of 250. Meanwhile, payment for this overtime may be delayed by up to three years. Local media in Hungary report that Orban pushed through the law in a bid to lure German auto-maker BMW to invest a billion euros in a new plant in Debrecen, Hungary's second city, situated in the poorest region of the country, the northeast. The move is portrayed as intended to undercut labor costs in Slovakia, where BMW was initially considering investment. (Photo: KaosEnLaRed)

North Africa

Dire situation for migrants and refugees in Libya

Migrants and refugees in Libya are facing severe human rights violations, according to a UN report. The UN Support Mission in Libya and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights collaborated to generate the report, which is based on some 1,300 first-hand accounts, detailing human rights violations by state officials and armed groups, as well as abuses committed by smugglers and traffickers. The report finds that Libya “criminalizes irregular entry into, stay in or exit from the country with a penalty of imprisonment pending deportation, without any consideration of individual circumstances or protection needs.” This policy has resulted in arbitrary and abusive detention of migrants, with widespread forced labor, torture and sexual exploitation. (Photo: Alessio Romenz/UNICEF)

Central Asia

Protest mass forced labor in Turkmenistan

Protesters gathered outside the United Nations headquarters in New York as the General Assembly met, to demand an end to forced labor in Turkmenistan's cotton industry. Each year the government of Turkmenistan forces tens of thousands of workers from both public and private sectors to pick cotton during the harvest season or else pay a bribe to supervisors to hire a replacement worker, according to protest organizer Cotton Campaign. This takes place under threat of punishment, including loss of wages from regular jobs, and termination of employment. The government treats refusal to contribute to the cotton harvest as insubordination, incitement to sabotage, and "contempt of the homeland." (Photo: AKI Press)

Southeast Asia

UN report: try Burma leaders for genocide

The UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar issued a report urging the investigation and prosecution of Burma's top military generals for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The Mission "found patterns of gross human rights violations and abuses committed in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan States that undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law," adding that there is likely sufficient evidence to establish "genocidal intent." (Photo: European Commission via Flickr)

North America

Prisoners across US strike to protest conditions

Inmates across the US began a planned 19-day strike in protest of poor conditions, no-to-low pay for work, and racist prison administration practices. The strike, set to take place in 17 states, was organized by many groups, including Jailhouse Lawyers Speak. Those participating in the strike will not show up to their assigned jobs and will engage in sit-ins; some prisoners may elect to go on hunger strike. The strike is set to last until Sept. 9, coinciding with the start of the Attica Prison Uprising in 1971. Organizers planned the strike for August after seven inmates were killed during a riot at a South Carolina prison in April. (Photo: Bureau of Prisons)

Greater Middle East

Druze women and children abducted by ISIS

During the wave of coordinated ISIS attacks that left 250 dead in Syria's regime-held southern governorate of Suweida, the militants also went door-to-door in Druze villages, abducting some 35 women and children. The militants are believed to have escaped with them into their remaining strongholds in Syria's eastern desert. The attack wave followed visits by Russian military delegations to Suweida, during which Druze elders were urged to cooperate in disarming the populace. This was apparently aimed at suppressing the Rijal al-Karama (Men of Dignity), a Druze self-defense militia that had emerged over the past years of violence in Syria. The ISIS assault came immediately after regime weapons seizures in Druze villages, leading to theories of regime complicity in the attacks. (Photo via Syria Call)

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)

North Africa

ICC takes Mali war crimes suspect into custody

The International Criminal Court announced that al-Hassan ag-Abdoul Aziz was surrendered to the court's detention center in the Netherlands by Malian authorities. He is accused of crimes against humanity in Timbuktu  as de facto leader of the "Islamic police" force after the city was taken over by jihadists in 2012. He allegedly took part in the destruction of the mausoleums of Muslim saints. He is also accused  of participating in forced marriages involving Fulani women, which resulted in the reduction of women and girls to sexual slavery. (Photo: WikiMedia Commons)

North Africa

Displaced Libyans stranded in the desert

The UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons is calling on the government of Libya to protect hundreds of former residents of the town of Tawergha who are currently stranded in the desert. According to the UN, approximately 40,000 Tawarghans were forcefully evacuated in 2011 due to their perceived support for the country's former dictator Moammar Qaddafi, and their return has since been blocked by armed militia groups acting with the consent of the Libyan government. Although the Tawarghans are Libyan nationals, they appear to be suspected of supporting Qaddafi simply because many are of Black African ethnicity. As his army collapsed in 2011, Qaddafi brought in many Black African mercenaries in a last-ditch bid to hold onto power. (Photo: Mustafa Fetouri via The National, UAE)