Venezuelan military authorities on Jan. 30 issued new regulations allowing soldiers to use deadly force against demonstrators if they feel that their lives are at risk. Defense Ministry chief Vladimir Padrino in announcing the new regs, known as Resolution 8610, recalled last year's unrest, which left 43 people dead, including members of the security forces. The Venezuelan ombudsman, Tarek Williams Saab of the Defensor del Pueblo, said the regulations are "clear on the progressive and differentiated use of force," and will "protect the human rights and guarantees of demonstrators." Marcela Maspero of the National Workers Union (UNETE), usually an ally of the ruling party, said the regulations pose "a direct threat to the working class," asserting: "It is the workers who have been the main participants in the social protests in the country in the last few years." (BBC News, TeleSUR, TeleSUR, Jan. 30)
More than 25 years after the end of the Cold War, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists security board announced Jan. 29 that the probability of global catastrophe is very high, and set the hands of its iconic Doomsday Clock at three minutes to midnight—two minutes closer than in 2014. "Despite some modestly positive developments in the climate change arena, current efforts are entirely insufficient to prevent a catastrophic warming of Earth," the statement read. "Meanwhile, the United States and Russia have embarked on massive programs to modernize their nuclear triads—thereby undermining existing nuclear weapons treaties." The BAS Timeline shows that the last time the clock stood at three minutes to midnight was in1984, at the height of the Reagan arms race. The only previous time was in 1949, two years before the Clock was unveiled at seven to midnight in 1947. In 1953 it was moved to two minutes of midnight in response to the development of the hydrogen bomb—the closest it has ever stood. The most relaxed positioning was 17 to midnight in 1991, after the Cold War ended. The clock was last moved—from six to five minutes of midnight—in 2012.
New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton announced Jan. 29 a new 350-strong unit, the Strategic Response Group, dedicated to "disorder control and counterterrorism protection capabilities." An invoked example was the December hostage crisis in Sydney, which NYPD deputy commissioner for Intelligence John Miller said was an inevitability in NYC. But Bratton made clear the new unit will also be used against protesters: "It is designed for dealing with events like our recent protests, or incidents like Mumbai or what just happened in Paris. They'll be equipped and trained in ways that our normal patrol officers are not... They’ll be equipped with all the extra heavy protective gear, with the long rifles and machine guns—unfortunately sometimes necessary in these instances." (Gothamist, Jan. 29)
Hezbollah fighters attacked an Israeli military convoy in the Shaba'a Farms border area Jan. 28, killing four soldiers. After Israeli forces were hit by missile fire, they responded by firing shells into southern Lebanon. A Spanish UN peacekeeper was accidentally killed by the Israeli return fire. Hezbollah issued a communiqué saying the attack was retaliation for an Israeli air-strike that killed six of its fighters and an Iranian Revolutionary Guards general on the Syrian-held side of the Golan Heights 10 days ago. Hezbollah said the attack had been carried out by a cell calling itself the "Heroic Martyrs of Quneitra," a reference to the area where the Israeli strike took place on Jan. 18. (BBC News, YNet, Israel, Daily Star, Lebanon, Jan. 28)
Kurdish forces at Kobani announced Jan. 26 that the town is now under their full control, with ISIS militants driven out of all neighborhoods. Joint forces of the People's Protection Units (YPG) and Peshmerga said ISIS remains in control only in a small village on the outskirts, which is expected to fall soon. Syria's Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) announced on Twitter that "the city of Kobane is fully liberated." YPG's posted to Twitter a photo of their fighters raising a flag on a liberated hilltop. The claim was also confirmed by the US military. "Anti-ISIL forces now control approximately 90 percent" of Kobani, Central Command said. The CentCom statement congratulated the town's "courageous fighters" for their "resilience and fortitude" and having denied ISIS "one of their strategic objectives."
Indigenous leaders in Ecuador are calling for the release of Waorani (Huaroani) tribesmen arresed in a raid on a jungle oil-field that left six soldiers injured. In the Jan. 6 raid, tribesmen armed with spears, bows and arrows, blowguns and firearms seized a facility run by Petrobell, a subsidiary of Brazil-based Synergy Group, in Arajuno canton, Pastaza province. The action shut down production at the field, which normally produces 3,200 barrels a day. Six Waorani were arrested in the raid, and denied bail. The Defense Ministry said the detentions were necessary to stop "looting" and disruption of oil production. Franco Viteri of indigenous organization CONAIE is calling for the men to be released, arguing that they were defending their traditional territory from incursions by oil companies. "For 40 years, oil companies, with the consent of the state, have been smashing, looting and sabotaging the good life of indigenous peoples," he said in a statement. (Mongabay, Jan. 15)
A Philippine National Police Special Action Force (SAF) operation on Jan. 25 turned into a "dusk to dawn" gun-battle with Moro rebels in restive Mindanao Island. At least 30 police troops were killed in the clash at the village of Tukanalipao, Mamasapano municipality, Maguindanao province. Mohagher Iqbal, chief negotiator for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) later said the clash was triggered by lack of coordination on the SAF operation. SAF forces were hunting Malaysian national Zulkifli Bin Hir AKA "Marwan"—named by the US FBI as a bomb-maker for the Abu Sayyaf extremist faction. The SAF incursion was resisted by local militia of the MILF and breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
A demonstrator identified as Shaimaa El Sabbagh was killed in clashes with Egyptian police during a protest near Cairo's Tahrir Square on Jan. 24. She was reportedly hit with birdshot fired by police. The protest, on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the uprising against Hosni Mubarak, was called by the Socialist Popular Alliance, which has now opposed the regimes of Mubarak, Morsi and al-Sisi alike. The clash ironcially took place hours before state television aired a speech by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to mark the fourth anniversary of the uprising, pre-recorded as al-Sisi had left for Saudi Arabia to offer his condolences over the death of King Abdullah (a patron of his regime). "I salute all our martyrs, from the beginning of January 25  until now," Sisi said in his speech, broadcast just before his own cops created yet another martyr. Islamist supporters of Mohamed Morsi, ousted in Sisi's July 2013 coup, are expected t dominate protests around the uprising commemoration. (Daily News Egypt, AFP, Jan. 24) ) It is often forgotten that Egypt also has a secular left opposition, which during the 2013 unrest launched a "Third Square" movement, rejecting both the Morsi and Sisi supporters then both occupying Cairo squares.