“Who is James Bay?” That’s the frequent reaction from New Yorkers when it is brought up—despite the fact that James Bay is not a “who” but a “where,” and a large portion of New York City’s electricity comes from there. In Episode 44 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s so-called “Green New Deal,” and how maybe it isn’t so green after all. The mayor’s plan is centered on new purchases of what is billed as “zero-emission Canadian hydro-electricity.” But supplying this power is predicated on expansion of the massive James Bay hydro-electric complex in Quebec’s far north, which has already taken a grave toll on the region’s ecology, and threatens the cultural survival of its indigenous peoples, the Cree and Inuit. And it isn’t even really “zero-emission.” Listen on SoundCloud,and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: Orin Langelle)
New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio is aggressively touting his “Green New Deal,” boasting an aim of cutting the city’s greenhouse-gas emissions 40% of 2005 levels by 2030. Centerpiece of the plan is so-called “zero-emission Canadian hydroelectricity.” The city has entered into a deal to explore new power purchases from provincial utility Hydro-Quebec. But this power is predicated on expansion of the massive James Bay hydro-electric complex in Quebec’s far north, which has already taken a grave toll on the region’s ecology, and threatens the cultural survival of its indigenous peoples, the Cree and Inuit. And it isn’t even really “zero-emission.” (Map: Ottertooth.com)
In Episode 39 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg explores the politics of the Hong Kong protests—and especially how they have been playing out in New York’s Chinatown. It is natural that the Hong Kong protesters have made common cause with the Tibetans, Uighurs and Mongols also struggling for their rights and dignity against China’s ruling party-state. But some supporters of these movements have come to embrace a separatist position, actually seeking independent states in Hong Kong, Tibet, East Turkistan and South Mongolia. Will self-determination for these regions and peoples be possible without active solidarity with the struggles for democracy and political empowerment by the Han Chinese majority of the People’s Republic? Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Map: East Turkistan National Awakening Movement)
Over the past weeks, the two biggest members of the international coalition supporting the official government of Yemen against the Houthi rebels have fallen out, with Saudi Arabia continuing to back President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the United Arab Emirates switching its support to southern separatists. UAE-backed forces of the Southern Transitional Council (STC) seized control of the port city of Aden after days of fighting with Saudi-backed forces of the official government. Hadi’s government had been based in Aden since Iran-backed Houthi rebels sezied the capital Sanaa in 2014. Aden had been the capital of South Yemen before it united with North Yemen in 1990. In addition to Hadi’s government, the STC and the Houthis, militants of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) continue to wage an insurgency in the south. (Map via Perry-Castañeda Library)
India’s government has flooded the northern state of Jammu & Kashmir with troops and cut off internet access upon announcing the revocation of its constitutionally protected autonomy, and plans to divide the disputed territory into two new political entities with reduced power. Article 370 of India’s constitution grants Jammu & Kashmir a high degree of autonomy, a concession to the demands of the territory’s Muslim majority, many of whom favor independence or union with Pakistan. In addition to abrogating Article 370, Delhi announced plans for a bill to divide India-controlled Kashmir into two “union territories,” which have lesser powers of self-government than states. A reduced Jammu & Kashmir Union Territory would continue, at least, to have a legislature. But it would be separated from the Buddhist-majority region of Ladakh, which is to become its own union territory, without a legislature. Complicating matters further is that the populace of Ladakh itself is divided along sectarian and regional lines. News of the plan to separate Ladakh from Jammu & Kashmir was met with jubilation in the principal Buddhist town of Leh, but with foreboding in Kargil, an enclave within Ladakh inhabited by Ismaili Muslims. (Map via Wikipedia)
Chinese state media are promoting an official “white paper” entitled “Historical Matters Concerning Xinjiang,” denying the national aspirations and very identity of the Uighur people of China’s far western Xinjiang region. These are portrayed as inventions of Western-supported “separatists.” Yet some leaders of the Uighur exile diaspora have indeed launched an “East Turkistan” independence movement, and are seeking allies among Tibetans, Mongols, Manchus and Hong Kongers. China’s rulers may be creating exactly what they fear with their intransigent denialism on identity and ultra-draconian measures in Xinjiang, Tibet, Inner Mongolia and Hong Kong. (Map: East Turkistan National Awakening Movement)
A crisis over the Yemeni island of Socotra was resolved as the United Arab Emirates agreed to withdraw and turn control over to Saudi forces, which will in turn restore full Yemeni rule. The island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its unique flora and fauna, hailed as the "Galapagos of the Indian Ocean." Emirati forces seized Socotra at the start of the month, and raised their flag over the airport and other strategic points—sparking angry protests from residents. Socotra's governor condemned the move as an "occupation" and "a flagrant violation of Yemeni sovereignty." Even after the de-escalation, suspicions remain. Yemen's ambassador to UNESCO, Ahmad al-Sayyad, accused Saudi Arabia and the UAE of "a hidden inclination to divide Yemen." (Map via University of Texas)
The Kurdish question in northern Syria has really put US imperialism in a bind—its most effective anti-ISIS allies on the ground are the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), regarded as “terrorists” by longtime NATO ally Turkey. Now, just weeks after the White House announced it would be demanding back the weapons it has supplied to the SDF to fight ISIS, comes the news that the Pentagon intends to train SDF fighters as a special force to control the northern border zone. Ankara reacted angrily, threatening to attack SDF-held territory. If it comes to open war between Turkey and the SDF, the US will have to stop equivocating and throw its lot in with either one or the other. (Photo: SDF fighters via CentCom)
The Rojava Kurds, repeatedly accused of collaborating with Bashar Assad, have now been dissed by the dictator as “traitors” for accepting aid from the United States. But the White House says this aid is coming to an end now that ISIS is largely defeated in northern Syria. And the rebel opposition, including the Free Syrian Army, remain intransigent in refusing to recognize Kurdish autonomy—seeming to share in the Arab nationalist assumptions of the dictatorship they oppose. Having outlived their usefulness in the fight against ISIS, the Kurds could find themselves once again isolated and without allies. (Photo: Redspark)
As results come in from the Kurdistan Regional Government's referendum on independence from Iraq, Baghdad is rejecting the vote as illegitimate and refusing all talks on the matter. Turkey has threatened to seal the KRG's borders. One deadly clash was reported between Kurdish Peshmerga and a Turkmen militia at a town contested between Baghdad and the KRG.
Baghdad and Iraq's Kurdistan Region are at odds over the referendum on Kurdish indpendence to be held this month. A particular sticking point is the inclusion of oil-rich Kirkuk in the vote—not within the Kurdistan Regional Government's formal borders, but under its de facto control since Kurdish forces occupied the city with the collapse of the Iraqi army during the ISIS offensive of June 2014.
With the Syrian Kurds now facing open war from both Turkey and the Assad regime, the imminent taking of Raqqa portends a multi-sided scramble for former ISIS territory.