The Evening Blues - 7-16-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Georgia blues guitarist, harmonica player and singer Frank Edwards. Enjoy!
Frank Edwards - Key To The Highway
“The nuclear arms race is like two sworn enemies standing waist deep in gasoline, one with three matches, the other with five.”
-- Carl Sagan
News and Opinion
On Saturday, I described the “multiple reasons political discourse is degraded by the fact that it now plays out primarily on Twitter.” On Sunday night, the New York Times’s White House reporter Maggie Haberman announced that she was ” taking a break from this platform” because “it’s not really helping the discourse.” There seems to be a growing recognition, one I certainly share, that Twitter is a uniquely poor, even destructive, medium for conducting complex political debates and should be avoided for those purposes.
That view was reinforced for me by a lengthy, spirited, and substantive debate I had on Democracy Now! this morning about the Trump-Putin summit, and U.S. politics more broadly, with Joe Cirincione, the longtime president of Ploughshares Fund, which has long been devoted to the reduction and ultimate elimination of nuclear weapons, as well as a contributor to MSNBC and Think Progress. Although we disagreed on several critical questions, the debate was substantive, respectful, and nuanced, and therefore, infinitely more illuminating of my positions and his than endless Twitter bickering could possibly achieve (the two tweets of his that I referenced during the discussion are here and here).
Just moments before Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump began their joint press conference after meeting one-on-one in Finland on Monday, journalist and activist Sam Husseini—the communications director of the Institute for Public Accuracy—was forcibly removed from the event while wielding a sign that read "Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty."
"I want to ask a question about this issue," Husseini said as a security official attempted to snatch the sign from his hands.
"I want to ask about nuclear weapons," the journalist said as he was led out of the conference room.
— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) July 16, 2018
Responding to Husseini's forced ejection from the joint press conference on Monday, Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation, confirmed that Husseini "received press accreditation from The Nation to cover" the Trump-Putin summit and said the magazine staff is "deeply troubled" by his removal.
Donald Trump has been condemned as “treasonous” for siding with the Kremlin over his own government agencies after a stunning joint appearance with Vladimir Putin in which he seemingly accepted the Russian leader’s denial of election meddling. At a joint press conference after one-on-one talks lasting more than two hours in the Finnish capital, the US president offered no criticism of Putin or the cyber-attacks that the US intelligence community says he coordinated to help Trump’s 2016 election campaign.
“They said they think it’s Russia; I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia,” Trump told reporters. “I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be. I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”
The comments set off a new firestorm in Washington and critics suggested it was a historically weak performance by a US president against a foreign adversary. It also fuelled the intrigue of why Trump’s refusal to speak ill of Putin remains one of the few constants of his White House tenure. Asked directly if he took Putin’s word over his own law enforcement and intelligence agencies, Trump veered off in a rambling attempt to change the subject, raising the Democratic National Committee’s server and Hillary Clinton’s missing emails – a move seen by critics as a crude attempt to deflect and distract. ...
There was swift condemnation from some of Trump’s opponents in Washington. John Brennan, a former director of the CIA, tweeted: “Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors.’ It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin.” John McCain, chairman of the Senate armed services committee and a former Republican presidential nominee, said: “Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naivety, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake.” ...
For his part, Putin acknowledged that he had wanted Trump to win the 2016 election but reiterated his denial of meddling. Speaking through an interpreter, he said: “We should be guided by facts. Can you name a single fact that would definitively prove collusion? This is utter nonsense. Just like the president recently mentioned.” In the wake of last week’s indictment of 12 Russian military officers for hacking and leaking Democratic emails, Putin offered to allow the special counsel Robert Mueller’s team to visit Russia and witness the accused being interrogated – but only if the US made a reciprocal arrangement that would allow Russian agents to operate in the US.
Tuesday is a red-letter day for international law: from then on, political and military leaders who order the invasion of foreign countries will be guilty of the crime of aggression, and may be punishable at the international criminal court in The Hague. Had this been an offence back in 2003, Tony Blair would have been bang to rights, together with senior numbers of his cabinet and some British military commanders. But if that were the case, of course, they would not have gone ahead; George W Bush would have been without his willing UK accomplices.
The judgment at Nuremberg declared that “to initiate a war of aggression … is the supreme international crime”. But this concept never entered UK law (as the misguided crowdfunded effort to prosecute Blair discovered last year). International acceptance of it stalled until states could agree on an up-to-date definition. The crime was included in the ICC jurisdiction back in 1998, but was suspended until its elements could be decided (in 2010) then ratified by at least 30 states (in 2016). At last it is finally being “activated”. In the meantime, Iraq and Ukraine have been invaded and other countries threatened, while Donald Trump attacked Syria last year. Now, the very existence of the crime of aggression offers some prospect of deterrence, and some degree of certainty in identifying the criminals.
The crime will be committed by those who direct the use of armed force against the “sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence” of another member state, in a manner which “by its character, gravity, and scale” amounts to a “manifest violation” of the UN charter (which prohibits such attacks, other than in self-defence). This allows some wriggle room – Trump’s attack on Syria lacked the “gravity and scale” required (it did little damage) but it might well apply to Russia for its incursions into Ukraine – the test is whether Vladimir Putin and his armed forces were “substantially involved”, whether secretly or by proxy, in the use of armed force. Self-evidently, it would have incriminated those who ordered the invasion of Iraq.
The definition has a few holes: it does not cover cyber-attacks, for example, which do not take human life (at least not yet) and it does not incriminate leaders of Islamic State or other terrorist groups – defendants must be in command positions of the aggressor state. There is a question of whether it would deter “humanitarian intervention” – a right to invade to relieve extreme humanitarian distress if there is no other way to save lives. ... Although ICC jurisdiction over aggression is activated this week, its direct power of prosecution will only apply to nationals of states that have ratified the newly defined crime. Only 35 have stepped forward so far, mainly from Europe, and the UK, quite disgracefully, has done all it can to block the process (in remembrance, perhaps, of Tony Blair). It must be put under public pressure to change course.
Last Friday Afternoon, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia dismissed charges against the 39 remaining J20 Inauguration Day protesters under indictment, bringing a close to a year-and-a-half-long saga marked by police aggression, prosecutorial overreach, and heartening displays of solidarity by the defendants and their supporters. ...
While the U.S. government may be finished with the J20 prosecutions, however, J20 defendants are not done with the prosecutors. Amid the celebrations, the defendants and advocates are turning to a new task: holding prosecutors accountable for their conduct at trial — and for the unnecessary anxiety and ambient trauma suffered by the defendants.
Several former defendants told The Intercept that they plan to file formal complaints against Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff, the lead prosecutor in the case, with the District of Columbia Office of Bar Counsel. Among those working with advocates on such complaints are the former defendants Isaac Dalto, Elizabeth Lagesse, Dylan Petrohilos, Anthony Felice, Rudy Martinez, and Olivia Alsip. Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union has filed suit against the Metropolitan Police Department for its behavior during the protest.
“This isn’t over,” said Sam Menefee-Libey of the D.C. Legal Posse, which has coordinated support for the defendants. “We want to make sure Jennifer Kerkhoff, the MPD, and the whole D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office face consequences.”
"I want to see Kerkhoff disbarred,” said Elizabeth Lagesse, another defendant whose charges were dismissed on Friday. “In my view, everyone in D.C. under her jurisdiction is in danger.” Lagesse spent countless hours scrutinizing the evidence in her case. It was her close examination of the metadata associated with the Veritas videos that first clued her lawyer, Phil Andonian, to the fact that portions had been edited out. Lagesse said, “That’s what you get for indicting a slightly OCD, unemployed data scientist.” Kerkhoff’s failure to reveal the existence of nearly 70 potentially exculpatory recordings — all while leaving “a clear impression that there was only one video,” as Chief Justice Robert E. Morin put it — resulted in sanction in court; the judge dismissed conspiracy charges for the remaining defendants.
As Eight Guantánamo Detainees Ask for Freedom, the Trump Administration Says It Could Hold Them For 100 Years
On Wednesday a federal court in Washington, D.C., heard the first major challenge to the Trump administration’s policy on Guantánamo Bay — a case arguing against the ongoing detention of eight of the 40 Muslim men still left at the island prison. The judge’s decision in the case could impact any future attempt to bring detainees to the detention center and torture site, and become a judgment on the United States’s endless war on terror. ...
While the government originally used the broad powers granted by the AUMF to justify the detention of their clients, CCR attorneys argued that this authority has since “unraveled.” Under the AUMF, limited detention was justified for the narrow purpose of preventing the return of the detainees to the battlefield. Calling today’s war on terror an “amorphous, interminable morass” and a “conflict disconnected from reality,” CCR urged the court to recognize the vastly different landscape from when the AUMF was passed by Congress.
The government countered that as long as operations continue against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, the original theater of the war on terror, the authority underpinning the AUMF still holds. When Judge Thomas Hogan asked if, in the government’s view, the war could last 100 years, Justice Department attorney Ronald Wiltsie said, “Yes, we could hold them for 100 years if the conflict lasts 100 years.” ...
The lawyers for the detainees also argued that the Trump administration has made a blanket decision not to transfer prisoners out of Guantánamo – in line with comments the president made before entering office. Though Trump’s January executive order on the prison granted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis the power to transfer detainees, Mattis admitted last month in a CNN interview that he was “not working on that issue.” ...
Any attempt to bring new prisoners — such as Islamic State detainees currently held by U.S.-allied forces in Syria and Iraq — to the base would likely invite legal challenges, and Hogan’s judgment in this case could provide an important referendum on such transfers. Hogan expressed sympathy with the detainees at Guantánamo, noting that they had already spent a long time in prison. He could order them released. But he also indicated that he may not offer any bold pronouncements that could contradict or reinterpret previous rulings on the president’s war powers — including those shaped by Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Last month, James Wolfe was indicted for lying to the FBI about his contacts with four reporters while he worked for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. His indictment, and the media coverage of it, focused to a lopsided extent on just one of the reporters: Ali Watkins, who the indictment revealed to have been Wolfe’s girlfriend for several years.
While the 11-page indictment provided no information about the other reporters, there was an abundance on Watkins, who is 26 years old and was referred to as “Reporter #2.” It noted that she started her career in Washington, D.C. as “an intern with a news service” (McClatchy Newspapers), and went on to work for “several different news organizations covering national security” (the Huffington Post, BuzzFeed News, and Politico). The indictment stated that her relationship with the middle-aged Wolfe began in December 2013 and lasted until December 2017. During that time, Watkins published dozens of articles about the intelligence committee, of which Wolfe was the director of security. ...
Curiously, the cagily worded indictment does not suggest that Wolfe disclosed anything to Watkins that was more sensitive than what he allegedly disclosed to the other reporters. Why did Watkins get the lion’s share of attention in the indictment even though, from a legal perspective, she does not appear to be the most important reporter in it? None of the information Wolfe allegedly discussed with Watkins was classified — though the FBI asked Wolfe if he provided classified information to an unnamed “Reporter #1.” The indictment provides no professional or personal information about that reporter, however; there is no clue about their identity.
Rather than aggressively questioning why the Justice Department went out of its way to tar Watkins, the media largely treated the case as a steamy sex scandal that could have been an episode of “House of Cards” – a young female reporter in Washington, D.C. sleeps with a powerful older man who can provide sensitive information. This framing was extremely harmful to Watkins, who was widely criticized for breaking a rule in journalism about sleeping with sources, and it was harmful to journalism in general – this is how reporters actually go about their work, the indictment suggested. Trump supporters on Twitter were not shy about making that point.
The Watkins case appears to reveal a new tactic in the Trump administration’s war on journalism. In addition to the president describing journalists as an “enemy of the people” and “the most dishonest people,” his Justice Department is using indictments of alleged leakers to peddle incidental information that is legally beside the point but smears the standing and credibility of reporters who publish stories that criticize or annoy the White House (especially stories about Russian interference in the U.S. election system).
Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar is worried about the future. He is concerned that a coming wave of automation could put millions of people out of work and result in more extreme politics. Pointing to investments in autonomous vehicles by companies like Tesla, Amazon, and Uber, Pawar observed that long-haul trucking jobs, historically a source of middle-class employment, may become obsolete. More people out of work means more political polarization, says Pawar.”We have to start talking about race and class and geography, but also start talking about the future of work as it relates to automation. All of this stuff is intertwined.”
Before leaving the race after being outspent by two billionaire candidates, Pawar campaigned for the Illinois Democratic Party’s nomination for governor. One of the themes of his candidacy was that politicians were scapegoating various racial or ethnic groups for their constituents’ material problems. ... “Pit people against one another based on class and geography, caste … this is no different. Chicago versus downstate. Downstate versus Chicago. Black, white, brown against one another. All poor people fighting over scraps.” Pawar now believes that a wave of mass automation will only compound this problem. ...
Pawar thinks that one way to battle racial resentment is to address the economic precarity that politicians have used to stoke it. He has decided to endorse the universal basic income — an idea that has been picking up steam across the world. UBI schemes entail giving a standard cash grant to everyone — regardless of need. Traditionally, the United States has addressed poverty by delivering in-kind goods. For instance, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the food stamp program, issues electronic cards that can be used to purchase certain types of food.
But some economists have countered that simply giving people money is more beneficial. Research shows that cash transfer programs are more efficient overall, as they sidestep the administrative costs of distributing in-kind goods. ... Pawar recently introduced a pilot for a UBI program in Chicago. Under his program, $500 a month would be delivered to 1,000 Chicago families — no strings attached. Additionally, the proposal would modify the Earned Income Tax Credit program for the same 1,000 families, so they’d receive payments on a monthly basis instead at the end of the year — a process known as “smoothing” that enables families to integrate the tax credit into their monthly budgets. ... Pawar has convinced the majority of Chicago lawmakers to co-sponsor the plan, and he is hoping that the Chicago City Council will soon work with the mayor to implement it.
As part of its broad and relentless effort to roll back longstanding workplace safety regulations that have drastically reduced on-the-job injuries and deaths over the past several decades, President Donald Trump's Department of Labor (DOL) has officially sent the White House a proposal to allow teenagers to "spend full days operating chainsaws and meat slicers and working in other dangerous occupations."
With the department's plan now before the White House's regulatory review office, the proposal to loosen child labor restrictions—which has been denounced by workers' rights advocates, lawmakers, and former DOL officials—is "one procedural hurdle from public release," reports Ben Penn of Bloomberg Law.
"The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs will now review the proposal and send it back to the DOL for final edits before it can be published for public comment," Penn adds. "This regulation would call for relaxing current rules—known as Hazardous Occupations Orders or HOs—that prohibit 16- and 17-year-old apprentices and student learners from receiving extended, supervised training in certain dangerous jobs. That includes roofing work, as well as operating chainsaws, and various other power-driven machines that federal law recognizes as too dangerous for those younger than 18."
When the Labor Department's proposal was first reported in May, Reid Maki, coordinator of the Child Labor Coalition, said that rolling back restrictions barring teenagers from working in certain jobs would be a "tragic mistake and would lead to the death of teenage workers." With these potentially disastrous consequences in mind, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) has been leading the congressional opposition to the DOL plan, arguing in a recent letter (pdf) to Trump Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta that the proposed regulatory rollback "could jeopardize the safety of America's youth."
Today marks 500 days that Colin Kaepernick has been effectively banned from the NFL because of his peaceful protests against police brutality and systemic racism in the United States. While he became a legend and a cult hero for millions of people, taking a knee during the national anthem appears to have completely cost him his career. He has not so much as received a single tryout from even one team, in spite of being considered by experts to be around the 15th best quarterback in the NFL.
And on any given day, with somewhere around 90 quarterbacks under contract, it’s pretty much universally agreed among football commentators now that the decision has next to nothing to do with football — and everything to do with Kaepernick’s protest. ... In the prime of his life, at the age of his peak physical prowess, and what should be the prime of his career, Kaepernick is being denied the right to make a living in the sport he knows and loves. He was beloved by his teammates. He is an upstanding man on and off the field. His work ethic was never questioned. He is injury free. And he’s ready to play. But he is being denied that opportunity. ...
And it’s no accident that it’s happening under the Trump administration. In fact, it seems to be happening as a direct result of teams being terrified of what President Donald Trump and their ultra conservative fans might say if they signed Kaepernick. It’s for this reason that I will not be watching a single game this upcoming season. At this point, I don’t think I could ever watch a game again.
The New York police department said on Monday it was moving ahead with disciplinary proceedings against a police officer accused in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, given a lack of action by federal authorities. ...
A letter from an NYPD lawyer informed the US Department of Justice that it would no longer wait for federal authorities to decide whether to charge Officer Daniel Pantaleo. The letter said that after nearly four years since Garner’s death, the department could no longer justify delaying its own administrative case.
As the July 26 deadline approaches for the government to reunite some 3,000 immigrant parents and children separated under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” program, one immigrant detention center in South Texas has been releasing a few people weekly, after they pass their “credible fear” interviews, in which they describe why they are afraid to return to their countries and need asylum. Those who remain have begun resisting the hurtful and disordered conditions of their captivity, some with extreme measures such as hunger strikes. ...
The Intercept has spoken to two dozen detainees at Port Isabel since late June. All are women, though the detention center also houses men. Many women complain of feeling completely cut off from the outside world. ... It is extremely difficult for the detainees to talk with people outside of Port Isabel by phone. They or their callers must pay for the calls, but speaking over the prison phones is like talking through cellophane or foil. Words tend to be incomprehensible, requiring extremely slow speech, exaggerated diction, and shouting. And calls are frequently dropped.
Everyone complains about the food. On one visit to Port Isabel, I saw a detainee being given her regulation lunch: two slices of white bread with two slices of deli meat without condiments, a small apple, and a 6-ounce bottle of something that resembled Kool-Aid. Breakfast has about the same number of calories, and so does dinner. There are no snacks, no coffee. The same food is served day in and day out. Detainees report that they find the food distasteful and say they still feel hungry after eating. The women who spoke to The Intercept say they are losing weight, and those whose families send them money supplement Port Isabel’s diet with ramen noodles and junk-food snacks for sale at inflated prices in the commissary. But many inmates have no money.
Other inmates have abandoned the food because they are staging hunger strikes. One woman told me that she had been allowed to call her child only once in several weeks of detention. She went on a hunger strike — una huelga de hambre, as she called it — for two days. As a result, she said, she had gotten one call each day for the previous three days. She said that a rolling hunger strike has been occurring at Port Isabel for the past two weeks, with some 15 women fasting for a couple of days, then eating while another impromptu group fasts.
Andrew Cuomo has a glaring conflict of interest when it comes to the politics of abolishing ICE. Luxury landlords across the state collect millions in rent from the agency — money they have turned around and funneled to Cuomo’s political campaigns, according to a new report by the New York-based watchdog group Public Accountability Initiative.
Cuomo, meanwhile, hasn’t joined other New York politicians — from likely incoming Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to 2020 hopeful Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand — in calling to dismantle Immigration and Customs Enforcement, instead telling NY1 recently that the agency “should be a bona fide law enforcement organization that prudently and diligently enforces the law.”
Looking largely at publicly available data from the General Services external lease database, PAI researchers have documented extensive financial ties from Cuomo donors and members of his inner circle to ICE and Customs and Border Protection — the main agencies tasked with carrying out America’s increasingly brutal immigration policies. Since his first run for governor in 2011, PAI found that Cuomo has accepted at least $807,483 from companies, individuals, and the relatives of people who rent space to federal immigration authorities, and furnished many of them with positions in state government. ...
Cuomo’s primary challenger, Cynthia Nixon, who has called for abolishing ICE, wrote in an emailed statement that “while its reprehensible that Governor Cuomo has profited from ICE’s existence, it’s hardly surprising. … Many have been bewildered by the Governor’s continued support for ICE as its atrocities mount and so many other New York leaders have called for ICE’s abolition. Now we have an explanation: the Governor won’t call to abolish Trump’s rogue deportation force because his donors don’t want him to.”
Longtime California Senator Dianne Feinstein lost the California Democratic Party’s endorsement in a stunning vote Saturday night at the party’s executive board meeting in Oakland. Though the vote was expected to be close, state Senator Kevin de León rather easily crossed the 60 percent threshold necessary for endorsement. De León secured 65 percent of the vote among the 333 executive board members present. Feinstein garnered 7 percent, and “no endorsement” took 28 percent. De León only took 54 percent of the vote at the state party convention in February. Virtually every undecided vote going into the executive board needed to flip to get this big a number. ...
The executive board has grown more and more progressive for a decade, since a new generation of activists secured spots in the party hierarchy. De León proved to have better relationships with party delegates than a senator who spends most of her time in Washington, and little connecting with Democratic activists back home. But the endorsement is also a resounding rejection of Feinstein’s brand of centrist politics, which simply doesn’t mesh well with the party’s most dedicated and plugged-in supporters. ...
For weeks, Feinstein has urged “no endorsement” in the U.S. Senate race, in what her campaign described as a gesture to party unity. She bombarded delegates with phone calls, emails, and text messages in the days leading up to the vote. And she lined up a number of surrogates to make the same case, from former party chairs John Burton and Art Torres, to six House candidates running in swing districts across the state, to legendary United Farm Workers leader Dolores Huerta, who gave a puzzling interview to reporter Casey Tolan in which she said de León’s presence on the ballot would create “confusion within the Latino community” and even suppress the vote.
Throughout the weekend, Feinstein and her team fought to block de León’s endorsement, holding a breakfast for delegates Saturday morning and making her pitch to swing voters in one-on-one meetings. Two minutes before the vote was held, Feinstein sent an email to delegates touting her endorsements from President Obama, Vice President Biden, Governor Jerry Brown, and Senator Kamala Harris. Democrats involved in the process, meanwhile, alleged publicly that even sharper tactics were at work, claiming the Feinstein campaign offered individual delegates “party building” funds, in the form of promises to do fundraisers for county central committees and candidates, if they switched their votes to no endorsement.
Rep. Ro Khanna plans to throw his full weight behind Barbara Lee, his fellow representative from California, if she makes a final decision to run for caucus chair, a leadership position being vacated by New York’s Rep. Joe Crowley. The House Democratic Caucus chair role opened up after Crowley’s surprise primary loss to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez last month. Crowley was considered next in line to be speaker of the House, and his leaving Congress is already shaking up the leadership structure.
Lee has been canvassing Democratic House members to gauge support ahead of any official announcement, but she has made her intention to run clear. Khanna’s full-throated support makes the backing of the full Congressional Progressive Caucus, a bloc of 78 Democrats that is likely to grow by 2019 and of which he is a member, that much more likely.
“I am proud to support Barbara Lee for conference chair. I will be rallying my colleagues in the progressive caucus for her and also incoming freshman whose campaigns I have helped,” he told The Intercept. “I have often said that if John F. Kennedy were writing ‘Profiles of Courage’ today, there would be a chapter on Barbara Lee. Her vote in opposing the blank check to war is one of the most courageous acts of modern time.” ...
Lee’s ascension to a significant leadership post would be a signal to grassroots activists that the strength of their opposition to the status quo is being felt inside the Capitol. Her bid is also likely to be welcomed by Nancy Pelosi, who is vulnerable in her role as House minority leader and would benefit from progressive energy directed at electing Lee to the chair position rather than at ousting Pelosi from her top spot.
A Swing-State Election Vendor Repeatedly Denied Being Hacked by Russians. The New Mueller Indictment Says Otherwise.
Shortly before the 016 presidential election, Russian military hackers tried to trick employees of VR Systems, a Florida-based e-voting vendor, into downloading computer-hijacking malware, according to a top-secret NSA report published by The Intercept last year. As recently as last month, the company denied any breach had occurred. But, in fact, the hacking attempt worked, judging from an indictment of 12 Russian military officers prepared by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and handed down by a grand jury today.
Although the indictment doesn’t mention VR by name, referring to the polling and registration software maker as “U.S. Vendor” or “Vendor 1,” the facts laid out in the indictment line up with what was previously know about the 2016 spear-phishing campaign against the company. The indictment alleges that “in or around August 2016, [Russian military officer] KOVALEV and his co-conspirators hacked into the computers of a U.S. vendor (“Vendor 1″) that supplied software used to verify voter registration information for the 2016 U.S. elections.” ...
VR Systems has repeatedly denied that it was ever hacked. When I asked VR last month about the NSA’s estimate that at least one employee of the company “likely” had their email account compromised, a company spokesperson replied: “To be clear, there was no ‘hack’ by any standard definition of the word.” The spokesperson added that “VR Systems engaged the services of one of the top cyber security companies in the world and they conducted a full assessment of our systems and determined that our system was not breached as a result of this attempt.” Based on the Department of Justice’s indictment, that is a falsehood.
[Note that the author of this piece is cleverly overstating issues here. A prosecutor's indictment is far from a finding of fact (courts are finders of fact and frequently reject indictments in whole or in part from prosecutors) so it is not really fair to call VR systems' assertion a lie at this point. - js]
VR Systems, which sells digital pollbook software used to verify eligible voters, has customers in eight states, including the electoral battlegrounds like North Carolina and Virginia. The company spokesperson did not return a request for comment.
The company building the long-contested Keystone XL oil pipeline notified the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in a letter this week that it will start stockpiling equipment along the pipeline's route this month in preparation for construction. Tribal Chairman Harold Frazier sent back a sharp, one-line response: "We will be waiting."
Just to the north of the tribe's land in central South Dakota, protests against the Dakota Access pipeline drew international attention as thousands of demonstrators established semi-permanent camps starting in the summer of 2016 near where the pipeline would cross under the Missouri river just upstream from the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. The Cheyenne River tribe helped fight that pipeline, and it is in a similar geographic situation now—its reservation is just downstream from where the Keystone XL pipeline would cross the Cheyenne River. Like Standing Rock, the tribe fears a tar sands oil spill from the pipeline could contaminate its waters.
While TransCanada still faces some challenges to its permits for Keystone XL, it wrote to Frazier that it expects to start construction in 2019. "Chairman Frazier wanted to send a clear signal that they are not welcome," Remi Bald Eagle, intergovernmental affairs coordinator for the Cheyenne River tribe, said.
— CRSTChairman (@CRSTChairman) July 12, 2018
Similar sentiments are being expressed across stretches of Indian Country this summer as TransCanada and Enbridge prepare to build two separate pipelines that would ship tar sands crude oil from Canada into the United States. Tribes and environmental organizations oppose both projects, citing concerns that oil spills would contaminate surrounding waters. When the Minnesota Public Utility Commission voted in June to approve a new Enbridge Line 3—a proposed 1,000-mile pipeline running from Hardisty, Alberta, to Superior, Wisconsin—Tania Aubid, a member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, shouted at the commissioners: "You have just declared war on the Ojibwe!"
The growing frustration raises the prospect of large-scale demonstrations again, perhaps similar to those that drew thousands to protest construction of the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota starting in 2016.
One of the world's top economists has written an expert court report that forcefully supports a group of children and young adults who have sued the federal government for failing to act on climate change.
Joseph Stiglitz, who was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize for economics in 2001 and has written extensively about environmental economics and climate change, makes an economic case that the costs of maintaining a fossil fuel-based economy are "incalculable," while transitioning to a lower-carbon system will cost far less. The government, he writes, should move "with all deliberate speed" toward alternative energy sources.
Stiglitz has submitted briefs for Supreme Court cases—and normally charges $2,000 an hour for legal advice, the report says—but he wrote this 50-page report pro bono at the request of the attorneys representing the children. It was filed in federal district court in Oregon on June 28. He is one of 18 expert witnesses planning to testify in the case, scheduled for trial later this year, the children's lawyers said. ...
Stiglitz, a Columbia University economics professor and former World Bank chief economist, concludes that increasing global warming will have huge costs on society and that a fossil fuel-based system "is causing imminent, significant, and irreparable harm to the Youth Plaintiffs and Affected Children more generally." He explains in a footnote that his analysis also examines impacts on "as-yet-unborn youth, the so-called future generations."
"There is a point at which, once this harm occurs, it cannot be undone at any reasonable cost or in any reasonable period of time," Stiglitz writes. "Based on the best available science, our country is close to approaching that point." But, he says, acting on climate change now—by imposing a carbon tax and cutting fossil fuel subsidies, among other steps—is still manageable and would have net-negative costs. He argues that if the government were to pursue clean energy sources and energy-smart technologies, "the net benefits of a policy change outweigh the net costs of such a policy change."
"Defendants must act with all deliberate speed and immediately cease the subsidization of fossil fuels and any new fossil fuel projects, and implement policies to rapidly transition the U.S. economy away from fossil fuels," Stiglitz writes. "This urgent action is not only feasible, the relief requested will benefit the economy."
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Frank Edwards - We Got to Get Together
Frank Edwards - Love My Baby
Frank Edwards - Good Morning, Little School Girl
Frank Edwards - Chicken Raid
Frank Edwards - Terraplane Blues
Frank Edwards - She Is Mine
Frank Edwards - My Baby's Gone
Frank Edwards - Three Women Blues
Frank Edwards - Sweet Man Blues