The Evening Blues - 3-21-16
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues + r&b songwriter, singer and piano player, Ray Charles. Enjoy!
Ray Charles + The Blues Brothers - Shake A Tail Feather
"Perhaps, when we remember wars, we should take off our clothes and paint ourselves blue and go on all fours all day long and grunt like pigs. That would surely be more appropriate than noble oratory and shows of flags and well-oiled guns."
-- Kurt Vonnegut
News and Opinion
Former Israeli prison guard Jeffrey Goldberg's "The Obama Doctrine" in The Atlantic presents President Barack Obama's view of his own foreign policy (with input from a few of his close subordinates). Obama views himself as a radical leader in military restraint, in brave resistance to war mongers, and in scaling back excessive fear mongering in U.S. culture.
The U.S. President who has overseen the highest Pentagon budget in history, created drone wars, launched wars against the will of Congress, dramatically expanded foreign arms sales and special operations and the arming of proxies, claimed to be "really good at killing people," and openly bragged about having bombed seven nations that are inhabited largely by dark-skinned Muslims, bolsters his "doctrine" by offering accurate antiwar assessments of Nixon, Reagan, and George W. Bush's wars. (He essentially admits to Reagan's October Surprise negotiations with Iran that sabotaged the 1980 U.S. elections.) Obama's and Goldberg's discussion of Obama's own wars does not display the same accuracy or wisdom.
The Goldberg / Obama portrait is shaped largely by the choice of what to include. The primary focus is on Obama's 2013 reversal of his plan to bomb Syria, with a minor emphasis on his negotiation of the Iran nuclear agreement. Much of his more militaristic behavior is completely ignored or brushed aside in passing reference. ...
The fact is that Barack Obama has slaughtered human beings with missiles and bombs in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia -- and every one of those places is worse off for it. He's passing his successor greater war-making powers than ever possessed by any previous member of the human species. The unquestioned assumptions of his doctrine look more like a disease. There's little an American president could do to make things better in the Middle East, he says, never stopping to consider the possibility of halting arms shipments, stopping the bombings, grounding the drones, ceasing the overthrows, dropping support for dictators, withdrawing troops, paying reparations, giving aid, shifting to green energy, and treating others with respectful cooperation. Those sorts of things just don't qualify as a doctrine in Washington, D.C.
Rajan Menon’s new book, The Conceit of Humanitarian Intervention, launches a timely argument against a dominant argument lying behind so much of modern American foreign policy — “humanitarian intervention” or “liberal interventionism.”
We are, of course, well familiar with Republican and neocon readiness to go to war, but the reality is that many Democrat Party leaders have been no less seduced into a series of optional foreign military interventions, with increasingly disastrous consequences. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is today one of the leading exponents of the idea, but so are many of the advisors around President Barack Obama.
Menon offers powerful argumentation skewering the concept of “humanitarian intervention,” demonstrating how it operates often as little more than a subtler form of an imperial agenda. Naked imperial ambitions tend to be recognizable for what they are. But when those global ambitions are cloaked in the liberal language of our “right to protect” oppressed peoples, prevent humanitarian outrages, stop genocide, and to topple noxious dictators, then the true motives behind such operations become harder to recognize. ...
In short, the selective and opportunistic character of liberal interventionism ends up giving a bad name to liberalism. And it cruelly deceives many in the West who seek a more “liberal” foreign policy and yet who find that, in the end, they have only supported the projection of greater American geopolitical power — and usually at considerable human cost to the Iraqs, Afghanistans, Somalias, Libyas, and Columbias of the world.
In my role as a civilian contractor for the Department of Defense, I spent the first three months of 2004 torturing Iraqi prisoners. At the time, we were calling it enhanced interrogation, but that’s a phrase I don’t use anymore. Stress positions, slaps to the face and sleep deprivation were an outrage to the personal dignity of Iraqi prisoners. We humiliated and degraded them, and ourselves.
Ferdinand Ibabao, my close friend and fellow contractor and I spent the early months of 2004 implementing the country’s interrogation program, we struggled to contain the growing sense that we had shocked our consciences and stained our souls. Our interrogations used approved techniques. We filed paperwork, followed guidelines and obeyed the rules. But with every prisoner forced up against a wall, or made to stand naked in a cold cell, or prevented from falling asleep for significant periods of time, we felt less and less like decent men. And we felt less and less like Americans. ...
When Donald Trump and Ted Cruz suggested that waterboarding and other abhorrent interrogation tactics should not be considered illegal, I was tempted to exonerate myself. ... But I have no right to think that way. My behavior in Iraq forces me to confess that if I’d been asked to waterboard someone at Abu Ghraib in early 2004, I most likely would not have hesitated. I’d have crossed that line, too.
I would warn [other interrogators and intelligence professionals] about men like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. They’ll be told to cross lines by men who would never be asked to do it themselves, and they’ll cross those lines long before they consider anything like waterboarding. And I would warn them that once they do cross the line, those men will not be there to help them find their way back.
The capture of Salah Abdeslam, thought to be the sole surviving planner of the Paris massacre, means that the media is focusing once again on the threat of terrorist attack by Islamic State. ... The reporting of the events in Brussels is in keeping with that after the January (Charlie Hebdo) and November Paris attacks and the Tunisian beach killings by Isis last year. For several days there is blanket coverage by the media as it allocates time and space far beyond what is needed to relate developments. But then the focus shifts abruptly elsewhere and Isis becomes yesterday’s story, treated as if the movement has ceased to exist or at least lost its capacity to affect our lives.
It is not as if Isis has stopped killing people in large numbers since the slaughter in Paris on 13 November; it is, rather, that it is not doing so in Europe. ... The outside world scarcely noticed these bloody events because they seem to be part of the natural order in Iraq and Syria. ...
There has always been a disconnect in the minds of people in Europe between the wars in Iraq and Syria and terrorist attacks against Europeans. This is in part because Baghdad and Damascus are exotic and frightening places, and pictures of the aftermath of bombings have been the norm since the US invasion of 2003. But there is a more insidious reason why Europeans do not sufficiently take on board the connection between the wars in the Middle East and the threat to their own security. Separating the two is much in the interests of Western political leaders, because it means that the public does not see that their disastrous policies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and beyond created the conditions for the rise of Isis and for terrorist gangs such as that to which Salah Abdeslam belonged. ...
By taking up the cause of the Syrian and Libyan opposition and destroying the Syrian and Libyan states, France and Britain opened the door to Isis and should share in the blame for the rise of Isis and terrorism in Europe. ... After the capture of Salah Abdeslam there is talk of security lapses that had allowed him to evade arrest for so long, but this is largely irrelevant as terrorist attacks will go on as long as Isis remains a power. Once again, the wall-to-wall media coverage is allowing Western governments to escape responsibility for a far worse security failure, which is their own disastrous policies.
In the last comprehensive review of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. government decided nearly 50 were "too dangerous to transfer but not feasible for prosecution," leaving them in an open-ended legal limbo.
Now it seems many may not be so dangerous after all.
A review board that includes military and intelligence officials has been taking a hard look at these men and helping to steadily chip away at the list of indefinite detainees, who are a significant obstacle to President Barack Obama's push to shut down the detention center at the U.S. military base in Cuba.
The first 23 decisions announced by the Periodic Review Board as of this month have skewed heavily in favor of the prisoners. It has unanimously cleared 19 for release, and said four will continue to be held but will be re-evaluated again later. Some of the approved have already left Guantanamo while the rest are expected to depart over the summer.
The Syrian opposition has vented its frustration at the delegation from the regime of Bashar al-Assad at the Geneva peace talks, accusing its leaders of procrastinating and avoiding any substantive dialogue in favour of arguing about procedures.
The anger suggests the success of the talks may turn on the willingness of Russia to put pressure on Assad, Syria’s president, to stop the talks ending in an early stalemate.
The US secretary of state, John Kerry, is travelling to Moscow this week to gauge the extent to which the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, is willing, following his surprise decision last week to undertake a partial military withdrawal, to exert his leverage over the Assad regime.
On Sunday, Mohammed Alloush, the leader of the Syrian opposition delegation, said the Assad delegation was so far refusing to engage in detailed negotiations and instead continuing to starve Syrians into submission.
Weekend Death of Marine Fuels Escalation
In the wake of the death of a US Marine in northwestern Iraq in an ISIS rocket attack on Saturday, the Pentagon has announced they are in the process of deploying an undisclosed number of additional Marines to Iraq to take part in ground combat against ISIS.
While the escalation is being presented as a response to the rocket fire, which officials continue to insist was a “lucky shot,” officials are also being more straightforward in their intentions for these troops to take part in combat upon deployment, after months of claiming troops in combat were somehow “trainers.”
North Korea fired five short-range projectiles into the sea off its east coast on Monday, South Korea's military said, amid heightened tension over the isolated country's nuclear and rocket programs.
The unidentified projectiles were launched from south of the city of Hamhung and flew about 120 miles, landing in waters east of North Korea, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Seoul's Unification Ministry claimed on Monday that the North is capable of carrying out a fifth nuclear test at any point. ...
In recent weeks, North Korea has stepped up its bellicose rhetoric, threatening pre-emptive nuclear strikes against Washington and Seoul and firing short-range missiles and artillery into the sea.
An interesting read for the Lavrov writings mentioned, though to say that the author's characterization of them is tremendously biased would probably still be an understatement.
While European leaders believe they are edging towards a solution to the refugee crisis after securing a deal with Turkey, another power watches closely from afar: Russia. ...
To get a glimpse into Vladimir Putin’s mind, it’s worth reading the recent writings of his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov. In a long article published this month by the Moscow-based magazine Russia in Global Affairs– translated here into English – Lavrov spells it out with clarity. What Russia wants is nothing short of fundamental change: a formal, treaty-based say on Europe’s political and security architecture. Until Russia gets that, goes the message, there will be no stability on the continent. The key sentence in the article is this: “During the last two centuries, any attempt to unite Europe without Russia and against it has inevitably led to grim tragedies.” ...
It’s fascinating to see how Lavrov references European history to bolster his claim that without Russia’s cooperation the continent can only be exposed to chaos. He points to Catherine the Great (whose chancellor once proudly said: “Not a single cannon in Europe can be fired without our consent”), the Napoleonic wars and the Crimean conflict of 1853-56. He presents a sweeping, paranoid version of history, in which “western” Europeans have, throughout the ages, conspired to victimise and humiliate Russia. ...
EU and Nato enlargement, he writes, were not about “smaller European countries” going from “subjugation to freedom”, but about simply changing “leadership”. The result: today, these countries “can’t take any significant decision without the green light from Washington or Brussels”. In this wild mix, EU institutions are equated to no less than Soviet totalitarianism.
Lawmakers this week hosted business groups in a briefing that sought to reframe the movement to boycott Israeli-owned companies as a threat to the American economy.
At Tuesday’s briefing, organized by the Congressional Israel Allies Caucus, Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., opened the event by saying that since the U.S.-Israel Free Trade Agreement was signed in 1985, trade between the countries has “multiplied tenfold to over $40 billion annually.”
The boycott movement would not only impact the Israeli economy, but also the U.S. economy and “should be confronted by all means,” he said.
The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement is a global campaign calling on Israel to end its occupation of internationally recognized Palestinian territory and restore full equality to its Arab and Palestinian citizens.
The BDS movement has faced a huge backlash from pro-Israel activists and Western governments. ... President Obama also signed legislation last month requiring the administration to compile reports on boycott efforts and make opposing them a “principle trade negotiating objective” of the United States.
This is an excellent article about yet another left-wing Latin American government under siege. It's a meaty article, here's an introduction to get you started:
Brazil’s extraordinary political upheaval shares some similarities with the Trump-led political chaos in the U.S.: a sui generis, out-of-control circus unleashing instability and some rather dark forces, with a positive ending almost impossible to imagine. The once-remote prospect of President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment now seems likely.
But one significant difference with the U.S. is that Brazil’s turmoil is not confined to one politician. The opposite is true, as Romero notes: “almost every corner of the political system [is] under the cloud of scandal.” That includes not only Rousseff’s moderately left-wing Workers Party, or PT — which is rife with serious corruption — but also the vast majority of the centrist and right-wing political and economic factions working to destroy PT, which are drowning in at least an equal amount of criminality. In other words, PT is indeed deeply corrupt and awash in criminal scandal, but so is virtually every political faction working to undermine it and vying to seize that party’s democratically obtained power.
In reporting on Brazil, Western media outlets have most prominently focused on the increasingly large street protests demanding the impeachment of Rousseff. They have typically depicted those protests in idealized, cartoon terms of adoration: as an inspiring, mass populist uprising against a corrupt regime. ... That narrative is, at best, a radical oversimplification of what is happening and, more often, crass propaganda designed to undermine a left-wing party long disliked by U.S. foreign policy elites. That depiction completely ignores the historical context of Brazil’s politics and, more importantly, several critical questions: Who is behind these protests, how representative are the protesters of the Brazilian population, and what is their actual agenda?
An Apple loss in the San Bernardino encryption case risks creating a world in which we can no longer trust the gadgets that track how we drive, when we’re home and whether the door is locked
“We already have a hard enough time trusting our technology and understand what it’s doing,” says Ashkan Soltani, an engineer by trade, who worked on regulation for the Federal Trade Commission with a brief stint at the White House. “What the government is asking Apple to do in some way is to further undermine that.”
Consumers rationally enough gave up this agency when they allowed Microsoft to push automatic Windows updates or Apple to upload a U2 album onto every iPhone. The Apple case will decide if that power stops with a digital product’s maker, or if it can extend to the federal government. Washington, though it would never say it this way, effectively wants Apple to make its programmers agents of the state in its San Bernardino investigation. ...
As the government acknowledges, courts operate on precedent. So if the FBI wins this time, it means it is more likely to win the next.
This year, a favorable ruling could decide whether laptop cameras can be conscripted as spies or smartphones become permanent homing beacons.
In a year or two, the same ruling may have set laid the groundwork for whether your car becomes your police van or your home becomes your holding cell.
When the FBI branded Martin Luther King Jr a “dangerous” threat to national security and began tapping his phones, it was part of a long history of spying on black activists in the United States. But the government surveillance of black bodies has never been limited to activists – in fact, according to the FBI; you only had to be black.
In the current fight between Apple and the FBI, black perspectives are largely invisible, yet black communities stand to lose big if the FBI wins. A federal judge in California is set to rule on Tuesday whether the FBI will be granted a request compelling Apple to unlock the iPhone of a San Bernardino shooter.
While seemingly about protecting national security – the same rationale used to justify 20th century surveillance of MLK, the Black Panther Party and others – this case is about much more. It could establish a legal precedent used to suppress the growing movement for black lives that is deposing public officials and disrupting the daily assault on black people in cities across the country. ...
Like its predecessors, the democratic movement for black lives has been met by anti-democratic state surveillance and anti-black police violence. New “smart” policing methods are being used by modern-day gumshoes who, fueled by the false rhetoric of black criminality, experiment with high-tech tools to the detriment of black democratic engagement. ...
Reports have surfaced that the Department of Homeland Security has been monitoring the movement for black lives since the initial uprisings in Ferguson. We know that police are watching the tweets we write, the Facebook event pages we set up, and the demonstrations we organize in the streets. If we are arrested, our phones will be confiscated. Whether or not police can look into our phones, whether or not they need a warrant, is being tested in court. This is not a vision of some distant dystopic future, this is happening right now. This is why the FBI case against Apple, is also against us.
For black communities and others pushed to the margins of political and economic power – democratic engagement and the exercise of our human and civil rights in a digital age demands the ability to encrypt our communications.
The Commercial Energy Working Group (CEWG) is one of the many lobbying organizations in Washington. They make recommendations to federal agencies and try to sway lawmakers on policies. They engage in the basic political work of making the government friendlier to business.
There’s only one problem: who the Commercial Energy Working Group actually represents is a secret.
This violates federal lobbying and ethics laws, according to Public Citizen’s Tyson Slocum, who has urged the House and Senate to investigate the matter. ...
The CEWG is variously described as “a diverse group of commercial firms in the energy industry,” or “energy producers, marketers, and utilities,” or “some of the largest users of energy derivatives in the United States and globally.” But they never specifically name their members.
A member of the CEWG even sits on the Energy and Environmental Markets Advisory Committee of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), which maintains federal oversight of derivatives. Ron Oppenheimer, an associate member of the advisory committee, is listed as a “Representative” of CEWG. ... When Slocum asked Oppenheimer to disclose the membership of CEWG at a public meeting of the CFTC advisory committee last month, he refused.
The world’s biggest bond dealers are getting saddled with Treasuries they can’t seem to easily get rid of, adding to evidence of cracks in the $13.3 trillion market for U.S. government debt.
The 22 primary dealers held more Treasuries last month than any time in the last two years, Federal Reserve Bank of New York data show. While at first glance that may suggest a bullish stance, the surge in holdings is more likely the result of investors including central banks dumping the debt on the firms, said JPMorgan Chase & Co. strategist Jay Barry. Foreign official accounts sold a net $105 billion of the securities in December and January, an unprecedented liquidation, Treasury Department data show.
Strategists say there are signs that the buildup of Treasuries held by dealers is having a ripple effect, mucking up the plumbing of the financial system. While the holdings show they did their job by soaking up the supply from central banks raising cash to support their currencies, it’s adding to questions about the resilience of the world’s most important market. The Treasury Department is already looking into whether the market isn’t operating as smoothly as it should.
“This was a lot of dealers doing what they are supposed to do -- provide liquidity,” said Scott Buchta, head of fixed-income strategy at Brean Capital LLC in New York. “But the liquidity providers right now are getting the short end of the stick. It’s harder for dealers to offload these securities because the market depth just isn’t there.”
The proposed changes to the health care system are profound–repealing the Affordable Care Act, block-granting the Medicaid program, and partially privatizing the Medicare program through premium support. Under premium support proposals, the federal government would give Medicare beneficiaries a subsidy to purchase private health insurance.
Critics of premium support caution that privatizing Medicare would significantly increase costs for beneficiaries and weaken the Medicare program. The subsidy made available to people with Medicare purchase insurance may not keep up with the cost of coverage. ...
In addition to privatizing Medicare the budget would also consolidate Medicare Parts A and B and leave in place the sequester cuts instituted in 2011, which reduced payments to Medicare providers.
What the DoJ decides to do with email-gate is ultimately a question of politics as much as justice. Ms. Clinton’s recent statement on her potential prosecution, “it’s not going to happen,” then refusing to address the question at all in a recent debate, led to speculation about a backroom deal with the White House to shield Ms. Clinton from prosecution as long as Mr. Obama is in the Oval Office. After mid-January, however, all bets would be off. In that case, winning the White House herself could be an urgent matter of avoiding prosecution for Ms. Clinton.
That said, if the DoJ declines to prosecute after the Bureau recommends doing so, a leak-fest of a kind not seen in Washington, D.C., since Watergate should be anticipated. The FBI would be angry that its exhaustive investigation was thwarted by dirty deals between Democrats. In that case, a great deal of Clintonian dirty laundry could wind up in the hands of the press, habitual mainstream media covering for the Clintons notwithstanding, perhaps having a major impact on the presidential race this year.
The FBI isn’t the only powerful federal agency that Hillary Clinton needs to worry about as she plots her path to the White House between scandals and leaks. ...
As I explained in this column in January, one of the most controversial of Ms. Clinton’s emails released by the State Department under judicial order was one sent on June 8, 2011, to the Secretary of State by Sidney Blumenthal, Ms. Clinton’s unsavory friend and confidant who was running a private intelligence service for Ms. Clinton. This email contains an amazingly detailed assessment of events in Sudan, specifically a coup being plotted by top generals in that war-torn country. Mr. Blumenthal’s information came from a top-ranking source with direct access to Sudan’s top military and intelligence officials, and recounted a high-level meeting that had taken place only 24 hours before.
To anybody familiar with intelligence reporting, this unmistakably signals intelligence, termed SIGINT in the trade. In other words, Mr. Blumenthal, a private citizen who had enjoyed no access to U.S. intelligence for over a decade when he sent that email, somehow got hold of SIGINT about the Sudanese leadership and managed to send it, via open, unclassified email, to his friend Ms. Clinton only one day later.
NSA officials were appalled by the State Department’s release of this email, since it bore all the hallmarks of Agency reporting. ... Currently serving NSA officials have told me they have no doubt that Mr. Blumenthal’s information came from their reports. “It’s word-for-word, verbatim copying,” one of them explained. “In one case, an entire paragraph was lifted from an NSA report” that was classified Top Secret / Special Intelligence.
Theranos is a unicorn that may soon be sent to the glue factory. The biotech start-up was once the toast of Silicon Valley. ... In recent days, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found that the company’s lab in Newark, California, was in violation of five federal regulations, thereby posing “immediate jeopardy to patient health and safety."
Next week, Chelsea Clinton will join Holmes at Theranos’s Palo Alto headquarters to help raise money for her mother’s campaign. ... One of Clinton’s primary liabilities in her race against Bernie Sanders is the perception that she is overly friendly with corrupt corporate interests. So it's pretty bizarre that she has decided to have a (reportedly) corrupt corporation host her next big fund-raiser. And it’s only one of several unforced errors the campaign has made since last Friday.
Bernie Sanders confirmed on Friday that he will not attend the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington next week, and his campaign revealed that the candidate’s offer to address the gathering by video link was turned down by the organizers. ...
The pro-Israel group has not yet replied to a request from The Intercept to explain why it would not allow Sanders to address the conference on video, but did allow both Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich to do so during the 2012 presidential campaign.
Bernie Sanders on Sunday admitted he had been “creamed” in many southern states by his rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton, but said Democrats were “not going to win those states in the general election”. ...
Sanders said his campaign had a good path forward even though “the deep south” was “not a strong area for us”, and pointed out that in Illinois and Missouri the campaigns nearly split the delegates available despite Clinton winning the states. ...
“As we head to the west coast, which is probably the most progressive part of America, I think as you go forward you’re going to see us doing better and better.”
“Those people are not going to be voting for establishment politics. They want real change.”
He added: “Hillary Clinton has moved over the last 10 months to the positions I’ve been advocating for the last 20 or 30 years. Our history in politics is very different and I think the people of this country deserve to know that.”
An unsolved December break-in to the Flint City Hall office where files on the water crisis were being stored was "definitely an inside job," the city's police chief has told local media.
That statement raised more than a few eyebrows as Flint officials are currently being investigated for their role in the ongoing lead poisoning crisis. Three months after the burglary, there are still no suspects, and officials have only confirmed that a television has gone missing, though documents were reportedly strewn throughout the office.
The city's new police chief Tim Johnson told the Flint Journal on Friday that the circumstances are too suspicious for the break-in to have been random.
"It was definitely an inside job. The power cord [to the TV] wasn't even taken. The average drug user knows that you'd need the power cord to be able to pawn it," he said. "It was somebody that had knowledge of those documents that really wanted to keep them out of the right hands, out of the hands of someone who was going to tell the real story of what's going on with Flint water."
The Flint water crisis hearings were an exercise in blame, but there was little solace for those poisoned by lead
If there is to be justice for the people of Flint, it will not be found inside the halls of Congress. It will come from where it always does: the street. In Thursday’s hearings on the poisonings, residents sat in the audience of the hearing room looking to their coiffed representatives for answers, for redress of grievous harm. ...
For the EPA, it was the state. For Michigan, it was the stark budget. For the former mayor, it was the emergency manager. For the Republicans it was President Obama’s EPA. For the Democrats, it was the Republican governor, his omnipotent managers. For all of them it was the cameras. It was the Colosseum. And for the residents of Flint, it was the Ides of March – the community got it in the back. ...
None of this squabbling helps the people of Flint. I met with five families who had driven 17 hours by car to make it [to] the nation’s capital. They wanted to attend the congressional hearings in the People’s House. Amid the long polished halls, the stately wooden doors, the monuments engraved with thunderous inscriptions they were hoping against all odds to find justice – and hope – here.
Such are the whims of extremity, because the notion that their dreams are dead, their futures stunted, their expectations curt is too hard. Too final. Too cruel. It takes a lot for a mother to abandon hope. But if a solution is to be found, it won’t be here. It is in their own hands.
According to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, recent underwater surveys have detected "substantial levels of coral mortality" in remote far north areas of the reef, due in part to higher-than-average sea surface temperatures. The Authority on Sunday raised its bleaching threat level to three—the highest level in its response plan, indicating "severe regional bleaching."
And on Monday, World Wildlife Fund-Australia released underwater images taken of bleached corals around Lizard Island, showing "large sections of coral drained of all color and fighting for survival," as a spokesperson put it.
"As the IPCC has stated, coral bleaching is the most widespread and conspicuous impact of climate change," said the WWF's Richard Leck. "We can turn this around. The Reef can recover but we must speed up the shift to clean, renewable energy and we must build reef resilience by reducing runoff pollution from farms and land clearing." ...
Australian environment minister Greg Hunt was criticized Sunday for "sidestepping" the central role of climate change and heat stress as the cause of the bleaching, the Guardian reported.
Instead, he highlighted the role of El Niño and omitted any mention of fossil fuels.
In a statement debunking the El Niño "red herring," Australia's independent Climate Council echoed that charge, flatly declaring that coral bleaching "would not occur without the influence of climate change." The burning of coal is directly linked to the devastation of the Great Barrier Reef, added the organization's chief councilor, Tim Flannery.
A rare sighting of a sea otter swimming just off southern California has scientists hoping it is a sign of a resurgence for creatures that were once hunted to near extinction.
The Orange County Register reported on Saturday that two employees of the Crystal Cove Alliance spotted the sea otter last week near Laguna Beach.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Ray Charles - Lonely Avenue
Ray Charles - Mess Around
Ray Charles - Losing Hand
Ray Charles - Hit The Road Jack
Ray Charles & w/Aretha Franklin - Georgia On My Mind & It Takes Two to Tango
Ray Charles - Let's Go Get Stoned
Ray Charles - Newport Jazz Festival 1960