Global Political Situation (GPS)
Thursday, 6 April 2017
Chemical Attack in Syria
The NY Times reports that “One of the worst chemical bombings in Syria turned a northern rebel-held area into a toxic kill zone on Tuesday, inciting international outrage over the ever-increasing government impunity shown in the country’s six-year war”.
“Dozens of people, including children, died … after breathing in poison that possibly contained a nerve agent or other banned chemicals, according to witnesses, doctors and rescue workers. They said the toxic substance spread after warplanes dropped bombs in the early morning hours. Some rescue workers grew ill and collapsed from proximity to the dead.”
The attack took place in Idlib in northern Syria. Most players in the international community are blaming the Russian-backed Assad-Regime for the attack on Tuesday, but Russia claims that the chemical was released after bombs hit depots where rebels were producing the gas. On the following Wednesday five more airstrikes by Assad warplanes took place in the area.
It is abundantly clear that the release of the chimcal on civilians amounts to a war crime. With over 70 people dead, among them 20 children, “The World Health Organization is reporting some of the victims had symptoms consistent with exposure to nerve agents”.
But since Tuesday the story in international news outlets has largely shifted away from the human devastation in Northern Syria — and from what we in the international community can do about it — and towards US President Donald Trump’s reaction to the attack. This shift in focus accompanies an overall attempt by international leaders to continue playing the blame game. It is important for us to see this, however, as part of a larger effort by the media to deflect attention away from more important questions. By focusing on reactions and finger-pointing, the international community fails to enter the important and fundamentally democratic process of public discourse. This discourse would include calling for a complete halt of arms sales to the region, and highlight the role of the Syrian YPG — People’s Protection Units — in creating safe zones for fleeing civilians.
In the latest, autopsies by the World Health Organization in Adana, Turkey, along with officials from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), confirm that chemicals were used in the attack, but the Syrian regime still denies playing any role.
St. Petersburg Attack
#Terror #Russia #St.Petersburg
A blast on Monday in Russia’s old imperial metropolis of St. Petersburg killed at least 14 people and injured dozens more. A second explosvie device was disarmed by the authorities in a nearby metro station.
Details of the motivation and the impact of attach are slowly coming out. What we do know so far is that authorities have named a 22-year old Krgyz-born Russian Citizen, Akbarzhon Jalilov, as the prime suspect in the matter. He is reported to be among the dead, as the attack has been labelled as a suicide bombing. State authorities believe that Mr. Jalilov was recuired by the ISIS in 2014 and the attack might have been a revenge for the Russian attacked on ISIS strongholds in Syria.
Russia’s Interfax news agency reported today of a raid on a St. Petersburg flat where another explosive device was made safe and three people of Central Asian origin were arrested. The municipal authorities have claimed that there is no threat to the people. Another 8 people have been detained for questioning in connection with Monday’s blast.
The mood i nthe city, the second biggest in Russia, remains sombre with an air of defiance as people continued with their daily lives despite
There is, however, much symbolism in the attack. First, there is the timing. The attack happened on the day that Mr. Putin was scheduled to meet his Belarusian counterpart in the city, which halso happens to be his hometown. Then the attack comes on the heels the biggest anti giernment protests in the last five years. The last Sunday in March saw thousands of people gather in around 100 cities and towns in Russia to demonstrate against corruption by the government. Scores of people were arrested as the government declared the gatherings illegal, prominent among them is the opposition leader Aleksei Navalny, who was arrested while leading the protests in Moscow.
Then there is the central Asian connection. Russian is fighting Chechen separatists since the 1990s and they have been held responsible for some of the worst attacks on Russian soil, most notably the killing of 129 hostage in a Moscow theatre attacked in 2002. While there has been a lull in activities from the Chechen separatists, this attack has refreshned the memories of that bloody past. The attack has simultaneously also question the government’s image of its success in fighting terror. If terrorists can strike the President’s hometown on the day of his visit, he no longer appears invincible. That, in turn, also conveys the message that the Putin regime is not invulnerable. And that is the message this attack might have been used to convey.
Where do we go from here: it appears that the Russian regime might resort to a particular harsh response to this attack, both at home and abroad. I just mentioned the crackdown on opposition, this is likely to get worse as might be Russia’s activities in Syria. The world anxiously awaits Mr. Putin’s word on this.
Pepsi Did What Capital Always Does
#Pepsi #KendallJenner #BlackLivesMatter
Pepsi, otherwise known as “I’m sorry, but we don’t have coke”, posted an advertisement in YouTube depicting a non-descript, peaceful protest in order to sell its product. In the ad, protesters of all colors, shapes and sizes are in a cheerful mood, laughing, dancing, singing, and generally having a good time. Already that might be enough to raise eyebrows and outrage, since the ad clearly downplays the role that popular protest has in raising political consciousness and affecting social change, as well as the harsh, disproportionate police brutality that serves to repress such peaceful dissent.
But there is special symbolism in the ad that has cause for and has caused a real outcry. For one, while as previously stated these protests are often met with heavy police repression — and police are accordingly dressed in full, militaristic riot gear — in the ad police stood stoically, in plain uniform, and watched on. Let us not forget that, recently, protests have focused on police brutality, especially the attacks on and killings of unarmed black people by the police. Second, while the protestors are apparently enthusiastic about their cause, their message is conspicuously empty. Their signs display “Love” and “Join the conversation” and peace symbols galore, very vague phrases and images that, along with the music and upbeat attitude of the protests, is more reminiscent of the care-free image of hippies than of demonstrators and activists who have clear, well-defined agendas. From #OccupyWallStreet to #BlackLivesMatter to #StandingRock, protests have always said loud and clear exactly what they want, and they have only been met by scorn and police brutality. Finally, in the climatic moment of the ad, Kendall Jenner, a white, 21-year-old, wealthy, supermodel, hands one of the police officers a can of Pepsi, which the Guardian describes as “a clear nod to iconic protest images such as the serene woman at Baton Rouge following the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling by police and the anti-Vietnam war “flower power” protester placing carnations in rifles”.
Elle Hearns, the executive director of the Marsha P. Johnson Institute and formerly an organizer with the #BlackLivesMatter movement, said the ad “plays down the sacrifices people have historically taken in utilizing protests.” Others in Twitter call it #PepsiFail and #PepsiLivesMatter. It really seems that Pepsi couldn’t have made a bigger blunder. But let’s get something straight. Pepsi has since pulled the ad an apologized, but they knew exactly what they are getting into and what an effect it would have. In the time that the ad was running, and pressure was building up on Pepsi, the stock of Pepsi surged, though it has since fallen. Nonetheless, the brand name is going to be etched into the mind of a generation, many of whom won’t care or even know about the tasteless ad. This is what capital does.
One question remains: How in the hell did Pepsi find so many young people, many of whom were racial and ethnic minorities, who were willing to show themselves to be absolute pieces of shit? The answer is that when it comes to capital, there are no boundaries that can’t be pushed, because capital creates its own boundaries. The presence of so many young people in the ad, who are the driving force of social change, is the most telling symbolism of all. In the ad Pepsi was merely announcing exactly that which capital has already made to be true: Our voices and our bodies don’t matter, except to serve capital.
South Sudan: the newest country and the first science-based declaration of Famine
#Famine #Foodaid #UN #Africa #HumanitarianAssistance
On the 20th of February, the United Nations declared that parts of the world’s newest county are in a state of famine. Around 100,000 people in the African country, which was formed in 2011, are now facing starvation. Another 20 million people in Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen face what the UN calls an “emergency” situation, one step short of famine, but where people are still dying from lack of food. Across South Sudan as a whole, the UN judges that some 250,000 children under the age of five suffer from “severe acute” malnutrition, meaning that if they do not receive treatment they will probably die.
The occurance of famines has been something that mankind has experienced since the first agricultural revolution thousands of years ago, what makes this latest famine particularly abhorrent is that it does not come primarliy as a consequnce of drought or adverse weather conditions, but from a purely man-made construction: war!
Arising from the horrors of one of Africa’s longest running conflicts, the oil-rich country has been ravaged by a civil war just two years after it declared independence from Sudan dashing all hopes of prosperity that its people had dreamed of. The conflict that started out as a coup scare that the President of the country Salva Kiir suspected his Vice President Riek Machar. of plotting against him has displaced an approximate 3.5 million people and left some 25,000 people dead with another 100,000 people facing near death conditions.
Let me make this very clear, the calamity that has befallen the people of South Sudan is a making of the acts of man, not God. The government deserves much of the blame. It has little interest in helping aid get in and indeed often seems determined to stop the flow. One of the first acts of the government following the UN declaration of famine is jacking up of visa fees from 100 USD to 10,000 USD, the government claims to raise revenue thru this measure, whereas the aid community sees itself to be the direct affectee of this step. As a result, costs for humanitarian organizations to deploy staff in the country are likely to stagger.
The UN has also document 967 instances of denials of humanitarian aid that affected children from the outbreak of war to December 2016. The pretext being lenghty bureaucratic procedures to let food aid pass. The government suspects that the food aid could fall in enemy’s hand and they might use this to buy weapons.
A similar story can be experienced in Yemen where Saudia Arabia is fighting the Houthi rebels. According to FEWS Net, 2m people there are in an “emergency” situation. Another 5m-8m do not have enough to eat. The here being Saudia Arabia’s maritime blockade of Yemen that does not let food aid pass. Nine-tenths of Yemen’s food is imported, but Hodeida, the largest port, has been bombed out. At a warehouse in Humanitarian City, a storage centre used by aid agencies in Dubai, four new mobile cranes are waiting to help Hodeida unload ships. When the UN tried to install them in January, the coalition denied them permission to enter Yemeni waters. They might be used for offloading weapons, an official explained, or to earn port fees for the rebels. That is despite the fact that ships docking at Hodeida are inspected by the UN, and arms anyway enter elsewhere, on small boats or overland.
Besides this utterly disgusting aspect that this famine has to it, it is also in news for being one of the first famines that have been declared using the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification. The IPC scale is a recent addition to disaster management science that classifies a situation as a famine only when
20% of households suffer extreme food shortages.
30% of the population suffers extreme malnutrition.
At least 1 per each 5,000 inhabitants die per day
As with the general logic of measure and control that plague the modern world, this method of declaring famine means is that data must be gathered extensively. In countries affected by severe food insecurity, UN agencies such as the World Food Programme and Unicef conduct “smart” surveys, going house to house, weighing children and asking about food intake and deaths in the family. Thus bringing another aspect of our political lives in the hands of experts, but as the case of Nigeria demonstrates, this might not always be so beneficial. In Nigeria, a famine may already have happened late last year—nobody is sure, because it was too difficult to gather data. Over the past two years, as the Nigerian army has clawed back towns in the north-east of the country from Boko Haram, an Islamist group, starving people have poured in from nearby villages. The population of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, has doubled as almost 800,000 hungry displaced people have moved into makeshift shelters there. Perhaps as many remain in areas that aid workers cannot reach. Part of the reason is that the Nigerian army does not allow them in. But most aid agencies are reluctant to deliver food in areas held by murderous jihadists anyway. “You don’t really have someone to negotiate access with,” says Peter Lundberg, the UN’s deputy humanitarian co-ordinator in Nigeria. Still, in the areas that the army has secured, malnutrition has fallen sharply.