Some of the countries the Western media claims are horrific repressive dictatorships are way happier than the U.S. So let me ask: Are you happy? Do you spend a lot of time laughing in the sun? Do you feel at peace in your life? If you live in the U.S., like me, then I’ll bet you a KFC Family Bucket meant for one person; the answer is, “No! What are you? Crazy? Have you looked around? We’ve got a climate crisis, a wage slave society, tainted water, smoggy air, most of our meals have more pesticide than food particles, and the only human interaction we get is when someone clicks thumbs down on the Instagram photo of our pesticide-filled dinner, and we have an addle-brained octogenarian in the White House. How could anyone feel at peace?” Well, what if I told you there are countries where people do feel at peace? For example, Nicaragua.
The United Nations human rights chief has called for sanctions on Venezuela to be lifted, stating that they “exacerbated the economic crisis and hindered human rights” and created “hurdles” for “the country’s recovery and development”. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk visited Venezuela in January. There, he met with government officials, right-wing opposition leaders, civil society groups, and religious institutions. “I heard from across the spectrum of people I spoke to, including humanitarian actors and UN agencies, about the impact of sectorial sanctions on the most vulnerable segments of the population and the hurdles sanctions create for the country’s recovery and development, not least in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic”, Türk said.
The Philippines has agreed to give the US military further access to more local bases across the country. The move was announced by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr on Thursday, February 2, along with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who is on a visit to the country. As per the agreement reached by the two countries, the US will gain access to four new bases under the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). This military access will be facilitated by the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) and will be on top of the already existing EDCA facilities that the US has access to. The EDCA, put in place during Barack Obama’s administration, is the most prominent military agreement signed between the US and the Philippines since the complete withdrawal of US troops in 1992. The agreement gives the US access to strategic military sites in the Philippines, allowing extended stays for US troops, and the building and operation of facilities on Philippine bases.
An international quartet of Greenpeace-affiliated climate activists have boarded a Shell-contracted vessel bound for the oil fields of the North Sea with a simple message for the fossil fuel company: “Stop Drilling. Start Paying.” Carlos Marcelo Bariggi Amara of Argentina, Yakup Çetinkaya of Turkey; Imogen Michel of the UK and Usnea Granger of the U.S. managed to board the White Marlin at 8 a.m. Tuesday and went on to occupy an oil and gas platform that will be used to unlock eight new oil wells. Fellow activists Yeb Saño from the Philippines and Waya Pesik Maweru from Indonesia also approached the vessel but were unable to board. “Shell must stop drilling and start paying,” Saño, who is also the executive director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said in a press release. “We’re taking action today because when Shell extracts fossil fuels it causes a ripple of death, destruction and displacement around the world, having the worst impact on people who are least to blame for the climate crisis.”
So many of us have been marching against the police, challenging them in the streets and organizing massive demonstrations. In 2020, cop cars were set ablaze. A police station burned with an approval rating higher than the U.S. Congress! The consciousness of millions of people was deeply changed in the U.S. and around the world. As the movement waned, our class enemies attacked us. As self-appointed leaders became millionaires, they led the movement to the Democratic Party, a party of police itself, as a backlash against the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement mounted. Both Democrats and Republicans whipped up fear of a non-existent “crime wave” and posed increased policing as the solution. President Biden called for more money for police. The Republicans actually increased police budgets and are currently fighting against any discussion of racism in schools.
As the Mexican Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, festivities drew to a close, Dina Nuñez called to order a meeting of women grassroots activists in a modest home in the heart of Port Isabel, Texas. Top of her agenda: how to stop a Houston-based oil and gas company from building a $10 billion project to export liquefied natural gas on a nearby stretch of coast. For Nuñez and her friends, the fight against the scheme — known as Rio Grande LNG — is about protecting their community from air pollution; preserving shrimping and tourism; and defending habitats for pelicans, endangered ocelots, and aplomado falcons at the project site on unspoiled wetlands between Port Isabel and the larger city of Brownsville. The claim by developer NextDecade to be building the “greenest LNG project in the world” has thrust the women to the forefront of a global struggle.
As a humpback whale was found on the shore at Brigantine, New Jersey on January 12—the seventh dead whale to wash up on a New York or New Jersey beach since December 5—local Republicans rushed to blame it on offshore wind development projects. “Not even the whales can survive [New Jersey Gov.] Murphy’s Energy Master Plan,” lamented the Jersey GOP on Twitter (1/18/23). The partisan account linked to a story in the New Jersey Monitor (1/17/23) with the alarming headline “Debate Grows Over Offshore Wind, as Whale Deaths Mount.” The article began by laying out that debate—”environmentalists put out dueling calls to continue or curtail offshore wind work”—before including an important clarification about wind farm construction and the whale deaths: “no evidence shows it caused the casualties.”
“Comrades,” said Chappell Phillips, as he grabbed the microphone, “please do not leave the conference. It’s all better from here.” Phillips, an executive at the buffet restaurant chain Golden Corral, stood at a podium in the front of a hotel ballroom in Atlanta, before some one hundred restaurant executives and managers and union avoidance lawyers mingling and sipping weak coffee. Minutes earlier, the government’s top labor watchdog had been standing at the same podium delivering the keynote speech here at the October 2022 summit of the Restaurant Law Center, the legal arm of the National Restaurant Association. Lobbying groups often invite government officials to their conferences to curry favor or gain insight into regulatory developments. But America’s chief enforcer of federal labor law at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) had not stuck to the proverbial script.
Union Pacific, one of the largest rail corporations in the United States, said Tuesday that it brought in record revenue and profits last year as it successfully fought off workers' push for paid sick leave. The company reported $7 billion in net income for 2022 as a whole and said it spent a whopping $6.3 billion repurchasing its own shares—significantly more than the $4.6 billion it spent on employee pay and benefits last year. “Instead of buying back their own stock, UP should be investing in their employees by offering paid sick leave, reasonable schedules, and a better quality of life for railroaders," Ed Hall, the newly elected president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, told CNN on Tuesday. "This is the only way the railroad will be able to solve their recruitment and retention problems and keep the trains running."
Atlanta, Georgia - Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens announced Tuesday that the City of Atlanta and DeKalb County have reached an agreement regarding permitting issues that had previously slowed their plans to build an elaborate 85-acre police training facility in the middle of a forest in unincorporated DeKalb County, southeast of Atlanta. The training center, nicknamed “Cop City,” has sparked massive opposition; violent police repression of the movement against the project recently led to SWAT officers shooting and killing a protester. Dickens’ announcement varied little from the Atlanta Police Foundation and the City of Atlanta’s previously stated plans. However, apparently responding to criticism from environmental groups and community members, the mayor attempted to reframe the project as environmentally beneficial to the South River watershed and surrounding forest.
New Mexico - Following ratification of first contracts by members of UE Local 1466-United Graduate Workers at the University of New Mexico and UE Local 1498-Graduate Workers United at New Mexico State University, thousands of graduate workers in the state are now covered by collective bargaining agreements. Both locals joined UE in historic “card check” drives at the beginning of the pandemic and have overwhelmingly ratified first contracts in mid-December, earning 7.12 percent and 6.8 percent raises, respectively, for their members. Covering more than 2,500 workers, these are the largest first contracts settled by UE in the last 25 years. The union organizing discussed for decades by UNM graduate workers finally took shape in the spring semester of 2020. A group of graduate workers reached out to UE and hit the ground running as the pandemic exacerbated the unfair treatment and poor working conditions that existed at UNM.
Israel calls its latest military campaign Operation Break the Wave, a lyrical description of a brutal reality. This year, 2023, will be the seventy-fifth year after the Nakba, the catastrophe of 1948 when Israeli troops illegally removed Palestinians from their homes and tried to erase Palestine from the map. Since then, Palestinians have resisted against all odds, despite Israel’s formidable backing by the most powerful countries in the world, led by the United States. Operation Break the Wave started in February 2022 with the assassination of three Palestinians in Nablus (Adham Mabrouka, Ashraf Mubaslat, and Mohammad Dakhil) and continued with terrible violence along the spine of the West Bank, spreading into brutalised Gaza. On 26 January 2023, Israeli forces killed ten Palestinians – including an elderly woman – in Jenin and in al-Ram, north of Jerusalem, and then shot at an ambulance to prevent it from assisting the injured – a clear war crime.
The U.K. now has government ministers who revel in their contempt for human rights, including anti-slavery protections. The home secretary, Suella Braverman, has repeatedly and groundlessly asserted that migrants are trying to “game the system” by claiming to have been trafficked. She is doing her best to reframe slavery as an immigration matter and NGOs fear that the government’s protection responsibilities will be neglected in favour of establishing a hard-faced and xenophobic deportation policy. This affront to national and international law has attracted criticism from the United States, the United Nations and even the U.K.’s Office For Statistics Regulation. In normal times, it would also probably attract censure from the U.K.’s own anti-slavery commissioner. But that role is currently vacant because Braverman has failed to appoint anyone to it. How fortuitous for her.
Last week Matt Taibbi, with access to Twitter's internal papers, debunked the fake Hamilton 68 propaganda dashboard that was used to create many stories about alleged Russian disinformation. I had done similar five years earlier but had no access to the original data. There were enough secondary indications to conclude that the dashboard was a sham. Still, have the case made with primary data is a valuable addition. There has been no Russian influence or disinformation campaign. Two days later the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) published a five part longread from an 18 month long investigation into the 'Russigate' drama and on how the media had cooked it up. CJR's editor wrote the intro: No narrative did more to shape Trump’s relations with the press than Russiagate. The story, which included the Steele dossier and the Mueller report among other totemic moments, resulted in Pulitzer Prizes as well as embarrassing retractions and damaged careers. For Trump, the press’s pursuit of the Russia story convinced him that any sort of normal relationship with the press was impossible.For the past year and a half, CJR has been examining the American media’s coverage of Trump and Russia in granular detail, and what it means as the country enters a new political cycle. Investigative reporter Jeff Gerth interviewed dozens of people at the center of the story—editors and reporters, Trump himself, and others in his orbit.
On Tuesday, January 31, the High Court of Justice in London initiated a judicial review of the UK government’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia, even as the kingdom continues to lead an international coalition that has waged a war on Yemen for the past eight years. Over the course of three days, the court will hear a challenge brought by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) against a decision taken by former Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss to resume arms sales to Saudi Arabia in July 2020. The UK is the second largest arms supplier in the world, after the US. In June 2019, the UK Court of Appeal had ruled in favor of a previous legal challenge by the CAAT, declaring that the government’s licensing grants for arms sales to Saudi Arabia were “irrational and therefore unlawful” in the absence of a proper assessment of whether Riyadh had a record of violating international humanitarian law (IHL), or the “laws of war,” in Yemen.