The Evening Blues - 9-12-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Alfred "Blues King" Harris. Enjoy!
Alfred "Blues King" Harris - I Need You Pretty Baby For My Own
"Only one thing is impossible for God: To find any sense in any copyright law on the planet."
-- Mark Twain
News and Opinion
The EU Wednesday passed a controversial law that could fundamentally change the way the internet works, forcing companies like Google and Facebook to pay publishers every single time someone shares a link to an article.
The Copyright Directive was introduced in order to update copyright law for the digital age, but the inclusion of two controversial provisions led to significant opposition from rights groups and activists. Despite the opposition, European lawmakers voted to pass the legislation by 438 votes to 226. MEPs previously voted against the directive in July, but more than 250 amendments have been made since.
The two provisions which have prompted the most concern have been dubbed the “link tax” and the “upload filter.”
- Article 11: This provision is intended to force big tech platforms like Google and Facebook to pay publishers when they share a link to an article. Some have suggested it could spell the end of services like Google News in the EU.
- Article 13: This is a provision that activists claim will “kill the internet” as it forces all tech companies to filter all user content before it is put online and check for any copyright material.
... Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world wide web, and Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, warned in June what passing this legislation could mean: “[It] takes an unprecedented step towards the transformation of the internet from an open platform for sharing and innovation, into a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users.”
In the days after Sept. 11, 2001, the United States set out to destroy Al Qaeda. President George W. Bush vowed to “starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest.” Seventeen years later, Al Qaeda may be stronger than ever. Far from vanquishing the extremist group and its associated “franchises,” critics say, U.S. policies in the Mideast appear to have encouraged its spread.
What U.S. officials didn’t grasp, said Rita Katz, director of the SITE Intelligence Group, in a recent phone interview, is that Al Qaeda is more than a group of individuals. “It’s an idea, and an idea cannot be destroyed using sophisticated weapons and killing leaders and bombing training camps,” she said.
The group has amassed the largest fighting force in its existence. Estimates say it may have more than 20,000 militants in Syria and Yemen alone. It boasts affiliates across North Africa, the Levant and parts of Asia, and it remains strong around the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
As the world marks the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, the Pentagon's latest lowball estimate of just how much the so-called War on Terror has cost Americans is making headlines—despite independent analyses that have come up with far higher figures. "The collective wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria have cost U.S. taxpayers more than $1.5 trillion since Sept. 11, 2001," CNBC declared Monday, citing a Pentagon report (pdf) from March.
However, after Secrecy News published a copy of that report last month, Stephen Schwartz of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists compared the Department of Defense (DOD) figure with the oft-cited $5.6 trillion estimate put out last year by the "Costs of War" project at Brown University's Watson Institute of International and Public Policy. And the National Priorities Project (NPP), though it currently estimates war spending at about $4.6 trillion since 2001, has been keeping a running tally for years.
Watson's estimate, Schwartz pointed out in a pair of tweets, "took into account costs for which DOD is not responsible and therefore ignores—including care for veterans, Homeland Security, and interest paid to borrow money to pay for wars." The Watson report (pdf) also acknowledges that "there are still billions of dollars not included" in its estimate, such as the costs of state and local government's veteran care programs that aren't subsidized by federal tax dollars and "the gifts the U.S. makes in excess military equipment to countries in and near the war zones."
— National Priorities (@natpriorities) September 11, 2018
Last Friday, the State Department announced it would end all funding of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the UN agency that provides many essential services for Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. The reaction to this decision has been mostly negative. Some have objected to the Trump administration’s decision because it runs counter to U.S. interests. Some have objected because it jeopardizes Israel’s security. Others talk about the staggering humanitarian consequences for the millions of refugees UNRWA serves.
These are all important concerns. But none of them hits the mark of what the Trump administration—apparently at the urging of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, without any consultation with anyone else in the Israeli government or defense establishment—is doing. This is not merely an attack on UNRWA, as serious as that may be. This is an attempt to destroy the Palestinian national movement.
As I have long argued, the biggest single issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since 1948 is not Jerusalem, settlements, borders, or even security. It is the Palestinian right of return. It is the one issue Israel would not discuss in talks and Israelis, with very few exceptions mostly on the far left, will not even consider compromising on. It is also the very basis of the Palestinian national movement since 1948. For seven decades, the Palestinian right of return has been the irresistible force meeting the immovable object of Israeli nationalism. It has been the time bomb that would explode if talks on all those other issues were ever successful.
The right of return continued to smolder on its long fuse while diplomats from Israel, the US, Europe, and elsewhere sat comfortably with their belief that the Palestinians would simply accept their permanent exile. ... Trump has not reversed policy, as some have said. Rather, he has shoved policy in the direction it was leaning before. Consider the words of Dan Shapiro, who was Barack Obama’s ambassador to Israel. Shapiro tweeted, “I’m 100% for being honest [with Palestinians] that there will be no right of return or any other outcome that undermines Isr[ael] as a Jewish state. I’m also for being honest that the conflict can only end in 2 states [for] 2 peoples.” ...
Trump is taking that idea to a reckless and callous extreme. ... Whether it was his abandonment of the two-state solution with no alternative (allowing Netanyahu’s policies to fill the void), his turning a blind eye to settlement expansion, moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, his parroting of virtually every right-wing Israeli talking point, or his relentless attacks on UNRWA, Trump has steered his policy on Israel-Palestine down a clear path. He is motivated by the right-wing belief, undoubtedly held by Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt, and his ambassador to Israel, David Friedman—Trump’s “Mideast peace team”—that contrary to conventional wisdom, the Palestinians can be pounded into submission. ...
The Israeli right and their U.S. counterparts understand very well the power imbalance between the Palestinians and Israel. They believe that they should crush Palestinian national aspirations and that Israel can weather the Arab and global reaction until it eventually subsides. Trump’s policies have been directed unerringly at that outcome.
Julia Salazar, a candidate for New York’s state senate, has accused the Israeli prime minister’s spokesman of sexually assaulting her. David Keyes denied the accusation and said Salazar was “dishonest”.
Salazar, 27, said on Twitter that she had been informed her story was about to be reported by an unnamed news organisation in what appeared to be “an effort to cast doubt upon my and other women’s accusations against Keyes”.
I’m about to be outed as a survivor of sexual assault. Here is what I have to say about that: pic.twitter.com/WFjNhzBee8
— Julia Salazar for State Senate (@SalazarSenate18) September 11, 2018
Following the post, the Wall Street Journal reporter Shayndi Raice tweeted that she also had a “terrible encounter with David Keyes” before he joined Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, and claimed his “mistreatment of women was an open secret”.
“The man had absolutely no conception of the word ‘no’,” Raice wrote. “No matter how often I said no, he would not stop pushing himself on me. I was able to extricate myself quickly and it was a very brief and uncomfortable moment, but I knew as I walked away I had encountered a predator.”
McDonald’s fast-food restaurant workers have voted to stage a one-day strike at outlets in 10 US cities next week, in hopes of pressuring the company to take stronger steps against sexual harassment on the job.
Organizers of the action say it will be the first multi-state strike in the US specifically targeting sexual harassment and that they have been emboldened by the #MeToo movement against harassment and sexual assault.
Plans for the walkout – to start at lunchtime on 18 September – have been approved in recent days by committees of female employees at dozens of McDonald’s restaurants. Lead organizers include several women who filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in May, alleging pervasive harassment at some of the corporation’s franchise restaurants.
The strike comes as union-backed organizations have been putting pressure on McDonald’s on several fronts for better working conditions, including $15 an hour wages – at a burger chain that employs tens of thousands of people around the country, many of them at low pay.
I wonder which brand of paper towels Trump will be lobbing at the survivors of Florence (and FEMA's incompetence). I hope that they're super absorbent.
Trump just called Hurricane Maria response an “incredible unsung success.” Nearly 3,000 people died.
If anyone was worried about the Trump administration’s readiness to deal with Hurricane Florence, the president wants to reassure them by pointing to the “tremendous” response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico last year — where nearly 3,000 citizens lost their lives due to the storm.
“I actually think it is one of the best jobs that's ever been done with respect to what this is all about,” Trump said Tuesday in the Oval Office during a briefing on preparations for Florence, heading for the Carolinas and due to make landfall Thursday.
The official death toll from the Puerto Rico storm last fall had been 64, but a recent study by independent researchers found it was almost 3,000 people who died from the disaster. According a report released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, nearly half of the evacuees from the hurricane have been living in Florida and can’t move any time soon due to the economy and failing infrastructure. For an entire week following the hurricane, FEMA didn’t even have information on about half of the wastewater treatment plants or the hospitals.
But Trump is happy with the overall response. “I think that Puerto Rico was incredibly successful,” he said. “Puerto Rico was actually our toughest one of all because it is an island.”
Immigration and Customs Enforcement is trying to deport a man with special needs who overstayed his student visa 35 years ago, the Detroit Free Press reports.
Francis Anwana, now 48, came to the U.S. from Nigeria when he was 14 to attend the Michigan School for the Deaf, in Flint, the Free Press said. He now lives in an adult foster care facility in Detroit and does custodial work at a nearby church. His advocates told the Free Press that, due to a cognitive disability, he does not fully understand that he could soon be forced to leave.
ICE gave Anwana less than a week’s notice that they planned to deport him Tuesday, Michigan Public Radio reported. His deportation has since been delayed, and he has a meeting with ICE in two weeks.
“With his condition, life in Nigeria will be very, very bad, and can lead to death for not receiving proper medical care,” Fatou-Seydi Sarr, founder of the African Bureau for Immigration and Social Affairs, told the Free Press.
Fueled by Floods, Storms, and Drought Made Worse by Climate Crisis, Global Hunger Levels Rise for Third Straight Year
Extreme weather events, driven by the climate crisis, are a key factor in the rising global food crisis of recent years—with the number of people now affected by inadequate food and water prompting fears that the past decade's gains have been reversed. A new study by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development, UNICEF, the World Food Program, and the World Health Organization find that 821 million people worldwide—one in nine—lack sufficient food and water. Malnutrition and food shortages worsened in most of Africa and in large swaths of South America in the last year.
"Hunger is significantly worse in countries with agricultural systems that are highly sensitive to rainfall and temperature variability and severe drought, and where the livelihood of a high proportion of the population depends on agriculture," reads the study. The report, entitled "The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018," points to "climate shocks" including flooding, drought, and tropical storms as ones that have had the most adverse effects on food production.
Drought causes 80 percent of all damage to agriculture, with farmers in Ghana, Tanzania, and Nigeria reporting to the agencies that frequent droughts as well as heatwaves have resulted in significant crop loss. In Asia, where more than half a billion of the world's hungry population lives, flooding is largely behind food scarcity. More than three million people in Bangladesh went without enough to eat in 2017 due to severe storms and resulting floods, while similar events combined with drought left more than 10 million hungry in Nepal, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
#Climate variability and extremes are leading causes behind the rise in hunger.
— FAO Newsroom (@FAOnews) September 11, 2018
The Trump administration moved closer on Tuesday to rolling back Obama-era rules reducing oil and gas industry leaks of methane gas. Methane is one of the most potent agents of climate change.
As the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) formally released its proposed substitute for a 2016 Obama administration rule that aimed to step up detection and elimination of methane leaks at well sites and other oil and gas facilities, it conceded the move “may … degrade air quality and adversely affect health and welfare”.
The move is part of a broad Trump administration effort to undo former president Barack Obama’s legacy programs to fight climate change by cutting emissions from oil, gas and coal. The EPA conceded that relaxing the Obama-era rule for methane leaks at oil and gas sites would put another 380,000 tons of methane into the atmosphere by 2025. The amount is roughly equivalent to more than 30m tons of carbon dioxide, another fossil-fuel emission that receives far more attention in efforts to slow climate change.
Relaxing federal oversight will save $75m in regulatory costs annually, the agency said.
Hurricane Florence could cause an environmental disaster in North Carolina, where waste from hog manure pits, coal ash dumps and other industrial sites could wash into homes and threaten drinking water supplies. Preparations are also being made at half a dozen nuclear power plants that stand in the path of the 500-mile-wide hurricane, which is barreling toward the US east coast, expected to make landfall Thursday night. More than 1.4 million residents across North and South Carolina have been ordered to evacuate.
In North Carolina, computer models predict more than 3ft of rain in the eastern part of the state – and fears were exacerbated by the many environmental hazards lying in the path of the storm. There are 16 nuclear reactors in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, the states expected to suffer the most damage from Florence. Duke Energy, which runs reactors at six sites, has said operators would begin shutting down nuclear plants at least two hours before hurricane-force winds arrive.
Brunswick nuclear plant, located south of Wilmington near the mouth of the Cape Fear river, was identified in 2014 by Huffpost and Weather.com as one of the nuclear facilities most at risk from rising sea levels and resulting floods. The Brunswick plant’s two reactors are of the same design as those in Fukushima, Japan, that exploded and leaked radiation following a 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Following that disaster, federal regulators required all US nuclear plants to perform upgrades to better withstand earthquakes and flooding.
Duke Energy did not respond to requests for information about specific changes made at Brunswick, other than to say emergency generators and pumps will remove stormwater at the plant if it floods. The company issued assurances this week that it is ready for Florence, which is predicted to pack winds of up to 140 miles per hour and a 13ft storm surge. ...
North Carolina has roughly 2,100 industrial-scale pork farms containing more than 9 million hogs typically housed in long metal sheds with grated floors designed to allow the animals’ urine and feces to fall through and flow into nearby open-air pits containing millions of gallons of untreated sewage. During Floyd, dozens of these lagoons either breached or were inundated by flood waters, spilling the contents. State taxpayers ended up buying out and closing 43 farms located in floodplains. To prepare for Florence, the North Carolina Pork Council says its members have pumped down lagoon levels to absorb at least 2ft of rain. Low-lying farms have been moving their hogs to higher ground.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Alfred "Blues king" Harris - Blues King Mango
Alfred Blues King Harris - Sufficient Clothes
Alfred "Blues King" Harris - Miss Darlene
Alfred "Blues King" Harris - My Life Blues & Up Side The Wall
Alfred "Blues King" Harris - Great Lakes Boogie & Sundown Boogie Blues
Alfred "Blues King" Harris - Blues And Trouble & Gold Digger