With Crimea’s parliament voting to secede from Ukraine, Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian military installations in the peninsula has moved seaside. The Russian Black Sea Fleet prepared a special operation: the sinking of a decommissioned ship in the middle of Donuzlav Bay in order to prevent traffic in and out of Crimea’s port. VICE News correspondent Simon Ostrovsky noticed that the unidentified men in military fatigues had suddenly disappeared from the bases — locals said that they’d gone to obstruct a mission of observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) from entering the region.
Hell Will Freeze Over Before Chevron Pays for Pollution
When 30,000 Ecuadorian villagers sued Chevron in 1993 for devastating the Amazon with 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater, the US-based oil giant’s reply was simple: “We will fight [the lawsuit] until hell freezes over,” said a representative. “And then fight it out on the ice.”
After investigators documented what they call a “Rainforest Chernobyl”—17 million gallons of spilled crude oil, more than 1,000 open waste pits full of toxic waste polluting the drinking water, and thousands of victims of cancer and birth defects—it seemed justice was served for the villagers. In 2011, an Ecuadorian court ruled against Chevron and demanded the company pay $19 billion in restitution. Ecuador’s Supreme Court later reduced the damages to $9.5 billion but upheld that ruling.
But on Tuesday, a U.S. court effectively overturned the ruling, which means Chevron has won the fight and hell, apparently, has frozen over. They’ve won using what activists say are dirty tactics, including filing a countersuit against the Ecuadorian villagers, claiming they had lied all along about the pollution caused to their properties as part of a shakedown scheme.
Chevron hired a legal team of more than 60 law firms and 2,000 legal professionals to argue that it’s not the villagers who are the victims here—it’s the corporation.
Watch: Venezuela Rising
In Caracas, Venezuela, thousands of citizens gathered to mark a year since the passing of the country’s late president Hugo Chavez. Despite a breakdown in relations with Panama and a poor turnout of regional leaders at the party, pro-government “Chavistas” were determined to have fun. Meanwhile, across town, protests by anti government activists continued unabated.
The Smog of War: China Battles Pollution
China’s environmental problems have become such an embarrassment to its leadership that the country suddenly finds itself on a war footing. On Wednesday, Premier Li Keqiang, the second-ranked political leader and head of economic policy, formally declared a “war on pollution” in a speech before the annual gathering of the National People’s Congress. The reform is welcome news, but overdue — and the outlook of the strategy Li outlined is about as clear as the morning sky on your run-of-the-mill, suffocating Beijing day.
Li called for the closure of 50,000 small coal-fired furnaces, the removal of 6 million old, emissions-belching vehicles from the streets, and new guidelines for air quality improvement in seriously affected northern Chinese cities. He described the state of Beijing’s air as “nature’s red-light warning against the model of inefficient and blind development.”
Yakiri Rubio Killed Her Rapist in Self-Defense—Now She May Go to Prison
Imagine that you are a 20-year-old woman walking at night to meet your friend or lover. Two men approach you on a motorcycle and say, “Get on, girl; we’ll give you a ride.” You tell them to fuck off, but they force you to get on their bike. Moments later, you have arrived at a hotel. With knifes poking your back, they take you to their room. Once there, they hit you, cut you, and one of them rapes you. When he is about to cut you with his knife again, you take it away from him and slash his throat with it.
You kill him. But hours later, you are the one facing charges for capital murder.
This is what happened on December 9, 2013, to Yakiri Rubí Rubio Aupart, a girl from Mexico City, who was imprisoned until recently at the Tepepan Female Center for Social Readaptation, located south of the city. She spent two months there on charges of “qualified murder.”
This week, Yakiri Rubio will be freed. On Monday, at the Court of Supreme Justice in Mexico City, her charges were changed from qualified murder to excess of legitimate defense. She will be released on bail.
But Yakiri still faces legal trouble—she will now be tried for “excess of legitimate defense.” If found guilty, she could face up to 10 years in prison.
VICE Loves Magnum: Michael Christopher Brown
Photographer Michael Christopher Brown documents places and people in transition—occasionally eschewing a camera for a camera phone. From Libya and Russia to Broadway and his current base in Goma, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Brown said he explores the “relationship between distance and honesty.” To paraphrase, Brown believes that as we are pushed to our limits, we become more honest.
His work in Libya in the aftermath of the fall of Qaddafi was the subject of the HBO documentary Witness: Libya and will appear in his forthcoming book, Libyan Sugar, to be published in 2014 by Twin Palms. With the phone lines failing us, I caught up with Michael over email.
VICE: What do you think of the work that you do? Do you see yourself more as an artist or a journalist?
Michael Christopher Brown: I always made a living from photojournalism, but ultimately it was too rigid in structure to allow for much growth. I never identified with photojournalism and was always more inspired by street or documentary photographers. Then, a few years ago, I found that I could express things better while writing than taking pictures, and through the writing realized the photography lacked definition. I entered a transition that continues to this day, aiming to use photography more as an individual, a citizen, than as just a photographer working to illustrate or report something. It was a big shift, from solely documenting the outward to documenting and analysing the outward and inward.
How did your career as a photographer begin?
The photojournalism career really took off after I was given an internship at National Geographic magazine. Partially thanks to those jobs at NG, I was able to begin getting consistent work soon after moving to New York City in the winter of 2006.
When you are working in conflict zones, do you worry that your photography will end up being dominated by pictures of guns and injuries? How do you find art in conflict?
Well, I live in east Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is an active conflict zone, but I’m not covering the frontlines of armed conflict. I have the itch but avoid it because it is more related to addictions than beliefs. I need to identify with whatever is happening before planting myself on a frontline. I need to feel involved to a great extent—as if I were a participant. I felt this in Libya but not since then, except briefly at the beginning of the Syrian war. Not in Congo, however, because, although I am beginning to understand it, it is a conflict based on ethnicity and power and I cannot strongly identify with race or with the powerless or powerful. At the end of the day, I am just an average white boy from the Skagit Valley—an alien.
Today: KKK costumes in Carnival, NATO air strike, Russia’s economy and North Korea’s elections.
Touché Amoré is the subject of the first episode of Sound Off!, a new series hosted by former Against Me! member Andrew Seward. In this episode, we examine the band’s searing live show and talk to the guys in their native Burbank, CA to get a sense of what makes them tick.