The Evening Blues - 5-20-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues singer Ray Charles. Enjoy!
Ray Charles - Confession Blues (first recording)
“The believability of virtuality is oft superior to the unrealness of reality”
-- Vineet Raj Kapoor
News and Opinion
A May 13 New York Times piece led with the statement that Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan had “presented an updated military plan that envisions sending as many as 120,000 troops to the Middle East should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons, administration officials said.” As researcher Derek Davison reminds, in a piece for LobeLog (5/14/19), there is, as the Times has acknowledged on other occasions, no evidence that Iran is working on nuclear weapons, at whatever pace.
Later, the piece says:
Some senior American officials said the plans, even at a very preliminary stage, show how dangerous the threat from Iran has become. Others, who are urging a diplomatic resolution to the current tensions, said it amounts to a scare tactic to warn Iran against new aggressions.
So that’s both sides; Iran is a dangerous threat or it needs to be prevented from “new aggressions,” though the piece doesn’t name any previous ones.
Three weeks ago, Iran’s top military leader ordered the leaders of Tehran-backed militias in Iraq to “prepare for proxy war,” during a meeting in Baghdad according to the Guardian. ... The Trump administration has been sharply divided about what the intelligence means, and U.S. allies have come out publicly against the suggestion that Iran is preparing for an attack.
Officials speaking to the Wall Street Journal backed up the suggestion that the U.S. may have misinterpreted the intelligence, saying Tehran believed the U.S. planned to attack Iran, prompting it to take action that was viewed as threatening by Washington.
This has led to the unusual situation of Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu trying to ease tensions with Iran. On Thursday, when asked by a reporter if the U.S. was going to war with Iran, Trump said: “I hope not.” At a meeting with acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, Trump reiterated his desire to avoid a military conflict. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has similarly told his intelligence and military leaders that he would make every effort to prevent a full-blown war between the U.S. and Iran, as it could lead Israel into a conflict with Hezbollah, Iran’s ally in Lebanon.
But as just as one U.S. ally in the region appears to be moving away from advocating for a military attack, another is stoking tensions. On Friday Saudi Arabia blamed Tehran for a drone strike that shut down a key oil pipeline in the kingdom, and a newspaper closely aligned to the palace called for Washington to launch “surgical” strikes on Iran.
Donald Trump has issued one of his most direct threats yet to Tehran, warning that “if Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran”.
The US president emerged from his golf club in Sterling, Virginia, on Sunday to tweet belligerently at around 4.30pm, thereby risking a quickening of tension that is already rising. “Never threaten the United States again!” he wrote.
The tweet will do little to assuage jitters in the Middle East and in Washington about aggressive language coming out of the White House. Concern is already running high that Trump’s hawkish national security adviser, John Bolton, who played a key role in instigating the invasion of Iraq under George Bush, might be nudging the administration towards military action. ... On the other hand, Trump has a way of blowing hot one minute and cold the next. As with so many of his social media missives, the precise import of his Sunday tweet was hard to read. It directly conflicted with reports of just three days ago that the president had been telling the Pentagon he did not want to go to war and wanted to find a way to wind down tensions.
Iraq has spent the better share of the last 16 years under US military occupation. ... It has been said for awhile that Iraq will be voting on a bill that would aim to expel all foreign troops from Iraqi soil, and singles out US troops in particular as needing to leave. The bill is endorsed by Iraq’s top two Shi’ite blocs, and is expected to pass fairly easily. Exact timing of the vote is unclear, but it is expected to be sooner rather than later.
What happens then is the real question. Iraq’s parliament is already being spun as “pro-Iran factions,” and it’s been a long time since US officials, Pentagon or otherwise, gave any indication that they thought staying in Iraq was up to the Iraqi government.
On Sunday night, the U.S. military command that oversees the Mideast confirmed an explosion outside the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad and said there were no U.S. or coalition casualties.
A State Department spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that “a low-grade rocket did land within the International Zone near the U.S. Embassy.” The spokesman said that “attacks on U.S. personnel and facilities will not be tolerated and will be responded to in a decisive manner” and added that the U.S. will hold “Iran responsible if any such attacks are conducted by its proxy militia forces or elements of such forces.”
Earlier, after initial reports of the attack, Trump tweeted a warning to Iranian leaders: “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!” Trump tweeted. ...
Sunday night’s apparent rocket attack was the first such incident since September, when three mortar shells landed in an abandoned lot inside the Green Zone.
Iraqi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasoul told The Associated Press that a Katyusha rocket fell near the statue of the Unknown Soldier, less than a mile from the U.S. Embassy. He said that the military was investigating the cause but that the rocket was believed to have been fired from east Baghdad. The area is home to Iran-backed Shiite militias.
As tensions escalate between the U.S. and Iran, there have been concerns that Baghdad could once again get caught in the middle , just as it is on the path to recovery.
In a sign of growing Democratic concern that U.S.-Iran tensions could escalate to all-out war, four of the seven senators running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination have signed onto a bill that would prohibit the U.S. military from spending money to attack Iran. Three of the Democratic senators — Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York — became co-sponsors of the bill within the last week. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., was one of its original co-sponsors. ...
The remaining three senatorial candidates for president, Cory Booker, D-N.J., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., are not currently co-sponsors. Booker’s office said he is reviewing the bill but has not made a decision. Bennet told The Intercept that he has not yet read the bill. Harris’s campaign did not respond to questions.
The recent escalation in the Trump administration’s feud with Iran has placed the bill, along with a companion version in the House, at the center of an unfolding debate about how Congress can best reduce the risk of war. Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, one of the bill’s original co-sponsors, said he believes that it is the best available avenue, even though Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will not bring it to the floor.
However, a majority of the Democratic caucus in the Senate has not signed onto the bill, including New York’s Chuck Schumer, the top Senate Democrat. New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, recently stated on the Senate floor, “We cannot, and we will not, be led into dangerous military adventurism,” but has not co-sponsored the bill. He told The Intercept that he hadn’t looked at it. Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island and New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, the highest-ranking Democrats on the Armed Services Committee, are also not co-sponsors.
Some of the same dynamics have held in the House, where a version of the bill was introduced on April 25 by Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., with only one original co-sponsor. It garnered just four more co-sponsors before May 5. Twenty-four have signed on since, for a total of 30 representatives. None of the four House members running for the Democratic nomination — Hawaii’s Tulsi Gabbard, Massachusetts’s Seth Moulton, Ohio’s Tim Ryan, or California’s Eric Swalwell — have signed onto the bill.
Progressives, human rights advocates, and journalists responded with outrage on Saturday to a New York Times report that President Donald Trump "has requested the immediate preparation of paperwork needed to pardon several American military members accused or convicted of war crimes."
Unnamed U.S. government officials told the Times that on or around Memorial Day, Trump may pardon multiple servicemembers involved with "high-profile cases of murder, attempted murder, and desecration of a corpse."
As the newspaper reported:
The requests are for Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher of the Navy SEALs, who is scheduled to stand trial in the coming weeks on charges of shooting unarmed civilians and killing an enemy captive with a knife while deployed in Iraq.
They are also believed to include the case of a former Blackwater security contractor recently found guilty in the deadly 2007 shooting of dozens of unarmed Iraqis; the case of Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn, the Army Green Beret accused of killing an unarmed Afghan in 2010; and the case of a group of Marine Corps snipers charged with urinating on the corpse of a dead Taliban fighter.
"These are all extremely complicated cases that have gone through a careful system of consideration," Gary Solis, a retired military judge and armor officer who served in Vietnam, told the Times. "A freewheeling pardon undermines that whole system."
Solis warned that pardoning servicemembers accused or convicted of war crimes "raises the prospect in the minds of the troops that says, 'Whatever we do, if we can get the folks back home behind us, maybe we can get let off.'"
Journalists in France are facing potential jail sentences in an unprecedented case over their handling of secret documents detailing the country’s involvement in the Yemen conflict. Earlier this week, a reporter from Radio France and the co-founders of Paris-based investigative news organization Disclose were called in for questioning at the offices of the General Directorate for Internal Security, known as the DGSI. The agency is tasked with fighting terrorism, espionage, and other domestic threats, similar in function to the FBI in the United States.
The two news organizations published stories in April — together with The Intercept, Mediapart, ARTE Info, and Konbini News — that revealed the vast amount of French, British, and American military equipment sold to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and subsequently used by those nations to wage war in Yemen. The stories — based on a secret document authored by France’s Directorate of Military Intelligence and obtained by the journalists at Disclose — highlighted that officials at the top of the French government had seemingly lied to the public about the role of French weapons in the war. They demonstrated the extent of Western nations’ complicity in the devastating conflict, which has killed or injured more than 17,900 civilians and triggered a famine that has taken the lives of an estimated 85,000 children.
The French government did not want the document to be made public, and officials were furious when its release made headlines around the world. Not long after it was published, Disclose’s co-founders Geoffrey Livolsi and Mathias Destal, along with Radio France reporter Benoît Collombat, were asked to attend a hearing at the DGSI’s headquarters in Levallois-Perret, a suburb northwest of Paris. ...
Press freedom has been strongly protected in France for more than 130 years under the Press Law of 1881, which gives journalists a right to protect the confidentiality of their sources. ... But matters of state security are not included in the Press Law as a “press offense,” and the DGSI appears to have seized on that loophole to accuse the Disclose and Radio France journalists of “compromising the secrecy of national defense” from the moment the classified document came into their possession. Under a 2009 French law that prohibits “attacks on national defense secrets,” a person commits a crime if they handle a classified document without authorization. There are no exceptions to this law for journalists, and there is no public interest defense. ...
In a worst-case scenario, the reporters could face five years in prison and a €75,000 (around $83,900) penalty. The next stage of the case is still unclear. The DGSI could close it and let the journalists off with a warning. The case could also be handed off to a judge, who could conduct further investigations and possibly decide to take the case to a trial. ... Whatever the outcome, the DGSI’s treatment of the case has already sent a message. “There is a chilling effect,” said Virginie Marquet, a lawyer and board member of Disclose. “It’s a warning for every journalist — don’t go into that kind of subject, don’t investigate this information.”
U.S. surveillance state jagoffs, their UK poodles and Ecuadorian toadies show the French how it's done:
Julian Assange’s belongings from his time living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London will be handed over to US prosecutors on Monday, according to WikiLeaks. Ecuadorian officials are travelling to London to allow US prosecutors to “help themselves” to items including legal papers, medical records and electronic equipment, it was claimed.
WikiLeaks said UN officials and Assange’s lawyers were being stopped from being present. Lawyers said it was an illegal seizure of property, which has been requested by the US authorities. The material is said to include two of Assange’s manuscripts. ...
Kristinn Hrafnsson, the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, said: “On Monday, Ecuador will perform a puppet show at the embassy of Ecuador in London for their masters in Washington, just in time to expand their extradition case before the UK deadline on 14 June. The Trump administration is inducing its allies to behave like it’s the wild west.”
Williams Cancino thought he had come to Colombia to join an army that would one day liberate his native Venezuela from embattled President Nicolas Maduro’s grasp. For almost three months, he waited alongside more than 800 fellow military defectors for the revolution to begin. But it never did. Now, instead of worrying if he’ll ever receive his marching orders from Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, he’s scrambling to find a place to sleep.
This week, as representatives for Guaido traveled to Norway to hold talks with Venezuelan government officials, Colombia announced it was changing its policy towards the Venezuelan military defectors and their family members, who since February have been housed and fed in three hotels at a cost to the government of more than $10,000 per day. Cancino and his comrades were given eight days to leave the hotels and find somewhere else to stay.
“We feel defrauded,” Cancino said. “We left everything behind — family, work, our lives — just to start here from zero? This was something very poorly done, very poorly organized.” ...
As a result of the change in policy, the defectors have lost their asylum seeking status and have been told to find a civilian job like the thousands of other Venezuelans living in Colombia, or to leave the country altogether.
Get ready for the "Deal of the Century!"
The US will hold an international economic “workshop” in Bahrain in late June, seeking to encourage investment in the Palestinian territories as the first part of Donald Trump’s long-awaited Middle East peace plan, the White House said on Sunday.
The conference in Manama on 25 and 26 June will bring together government and business leaders from Europe, the Middle East and Asia, a senior Trump administration official said. Attendees will an attempt to help jump-start the economic portion of the US peace initiative, which is expected to include proposals for resolving political issues at the heart of the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
However, a second senior US official declined to say whether Israeli and Palestinian officials would take part. ...
US officials had said the peace plan would be rolled out after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ends in early June. But the announcement of the Bahrain workshop appeared to set the stage for a sequenced release of the plan, starting with the economic plan in late June and later the political proposals.
Another day, another opportunity for our perpetually “behind” and “vulnerable” military/industrial/media complex to assert the need for yet another military upgrade–this time in outer space!
The Wall Street Journal (5/10/19) published an excerpt from an upcoming book by CNN’s chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, which claims that despite a “Star Wars–like space service” being an “easy comic target,” “US commanders” are “deadly serious” about confronting “new threats in space.” These “commanders” were mostly anonymous—but such sources are often involved in a profitable revolving door relationship with military contractors.
CNN (2/11/19) warned us of Russia and China’s “new” anti-satellite laser capacities, with breathless statements by government officials claiming that the two countries are “surpassing us” in space capabilities. NBC (2/11/19) claimed that both countries were “preparing to use space as a battlefield.” The Daily Beast (4/10/19) cautioned that although the US currently operates around 850 public and private satellites, compared with China’s 280 and Russia’s 150, Washington’s plans to launch 1,300 additional satellites to help the US “survive a sneak attack by China and Russia” might still be insufficient.
While these alarmist reports about an endangered and inadequate military lagging behind its ambitious and innovative “adversaries” are nothing new (FAIR.org, 12/20/18), Sciutto’s excerpt is exceptional in its credulity towards official sources, and in how badly it misleads readers regarding the militarization of space and the “threats” posed by Russia and China. ...
Noam Chomsky once explained that American news coverage operates on the premise that the US “owns the world,” but it’s clear that outer space belongs to the US as well, since corporate media frame any nation failing to treat space as Washington’s private property as enemy trespassers (RT, 2/13/19). It’s not enough to be No. 1 in the space race, because every other nation could “gain ground” on the US, driving a vicious circle of never-ending military buildups. As the global space economy is expected to multiply several times over the next few decades—with lucrative deals for military contractors—we can expect more alarmist reports from corporate media about the “threats” posed by countries seeking a peace treaty with the US in outer space.
Theresa May will ask her cabinet to sign off a package of Brexit concessions this week, as she gears up for one last bid to win over MPs and salvage something concrete from her troubled premiership. With the Conservatives on course for a drubbing in Thursday’s European elections, the prime minister hopes the results will focus the minds of her own MPs and persuade them to support the long-awaited withdrawal agreement bill (WAB).
Despite the collapse of cross-party talks with Labour, ministers hope some of the measures discussed can still be bolted on to the bill, as part of what May has called a “new, bold offer to MPs across the House of Commons”. ...
“I still don’t get any sense that it’s going to pass – but we might as well throw the kitchen sink at it,” said one government insider. But another said: “There is no offer as far as we can see: it’s just the WAB.” Several cabinet ministers, including Brexit secretary, Steve Barclay, are likely to press for the government to ramp up no-deal Brexit preparations, in case May’s deal is defeated yet again.
“Members of parliament do need to face facts, and if the deal were not to go through then there are only two alternatives … you either leave with no deal or you revoke,” he said. “If parliament won’t back a deal … I do think we need … to bring forward our preparations to mitigate no deal, because we will need to use the additional time we have, and we need to move at pace to do so.”
Apparently, President Trump’s pick to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement has a superpower: He says he can instantly tell which migrant youths are destined to become gang members, just by looking into their eyes. Mark Morgan, who previously had a brief stint as the chief of Border Patrol, made the comments — which just resurfaced — in a January interview on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show.
“I’ve been to the detention facilities where I’ve walked up to these individuals that are so-called ‘minors,’ 17 or under,” Morgan said. “And I’ve looked at them and I’ve looked at their eyes, Tucker, and I said, ‘That is a soon-to-be MS-13 gang member.’ It’s unequivocal.”
The claim from Morgan resurfaced Thursday in a piece by the Huffington Post that examined his myriad media appearances touting Trump’s hard-line immigration stances. He was especially popular with Fox News, which played up the fact that Morgan headed up Border Patrol under Obama and was asked to resign when Trump took office. Morgan’s comments about children led to outrage.
“Members of this administration are now comfortable providing explicitly racist comments to give their boss what he wants to hear,” tweeted Democratic California Rep. Linda Sánchez. “Mark Morgan’s despicable comments should disqualify him from being the director of ICE.”
Watch Trump's ICE nominee, Mark Morgan, call migrant children "soon to be MS-13 gang members." Then read more of his greatest hits, via @RoqPlanas, here: https://t.co/NSGwiSxpnv pic.twitter.com/P93UUbYS6y
— Amelia Penniman (@AmeliaPenniman) May 17, 2019
Her colleague Rep. Ted Lieu, also a California Democrat, called out Morgan by name and said: “I'm looking at your eyes in the picture and I see some bigotry, a grandiose sense of having fake predictive powers, and a lot of bull manure. It's unequivocal.”
Days after Alabama passed a law to ban almost all abortions in the state, Sen. Elizabeth Warren unveiled a blueprint for fighting back.
In a Medium post published Friday morning, the 2020 presidential contender declared that she wants to pass federal laws that would block states from interfering with providers’ ability to offer abortion services and patients’ access those services. She also wants to ensure that federal programs like Medicaid and private insurance are required to cover abortion. ...
In her post, Warren explained that she wants to protect Roe by creating federal statutes that, like Roe, would assert people’s constitutional right to abortion. These statutes would override state law and protect access to abortion, even if Roe were one day overturned by the Supreme Court’s now-conservative majority.
Warren also wants to pass federal laws that would prohibit states from enacting what abortion rights activists call “Targeted Regulations on Abortion Providers,” or “TRAP” laws. These laws often require abortion providers to be able to admit patients at nearby hospitals or demand that clinics meet onerous licensing standards. And when clinics can’t meet those standards, they’re forced to close. ... Additionally, Warren is calling for the end of the Hyde Amendment.
Convicted former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn gave special counsel Robert Mueller a voicemail of someone attempting to dissuade him from cooperating with the Russia investigation. And by May 31, Mueller will have to release the transcript, a federal judge ruled Thursday.
The revelation, which appeared in new, unredacted documents Thursday evening, sharpens the question of whether Trump or his allies attempted to obstruct Mueller’s probe. It’s also the first time — since the release of Mueller’s redacted final report in April — that a federal judge has ordered that once-secret information in the investigation be revealed to the public. ...
Although the documents don’t specify who called Flynn, the Mueller report recounts an incident in which a lawyer for the president left Flynn’s lawyer a voicemail in November 2017, around the time Flynn decided to cooperate with Mueller.
Here are my principal conclusions:
1. Attorney General Barr has deliberately misrepresented Mueller’s report.
2. President Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct.
3. Partisanship has eroded our system of checks and balances.
4. Few members of Congress have read the report.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) May 18, 2019
Sen. Bernie Sanders on Saturday unveiled the public education plan for his 2020 presidential campaign, calling for "a transformative investment in our children, our teachers, and our schools, and a fundamental re-thinking of the unjust and inequitable funding of our public education system." The senator's "Thurgood Marshall Plan for Public Education" is named for the lawyer who successfully argued Brown v. Board of Education—the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that made racial segregation of public schools unconstitutional in 1954—before he joined the court as its first black justice more than a decade later.
Recalling Marshall's words from a dissenting opinion for Milliken v. Bradley—a case the high court ruled on in 1974—Sanders tweeted Saturday that he aims to "guarantee every person in our country a quality education as a fundamental human right."
According to the campaign page that lays out Sanders's plan, his broad goal is to address "the serious crisis in our education system by reducing racial and economic segregation in our public school system, attracting the best and the brightest educational professionals to teach in our classrooms, and reestablishing a positive learning environment for students in our K-12 schools." Improving education on a national scale requires, in the senator's view, banning new for-profit charter schools. As Common Dreams reported Friday, he is the first 2020 Democratic primary candidate to call for such a ban, and his proposal comes as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is working to increase the number charter schools.
The charter school moratorium is just part of the 10-point plan the senator officially put forward Saturday:
- Combating Racial Discrimination and School Segregation
- End the Unaccountable Profit-Motive of Charter Schools
- Equitable Funding for Public Schools
- Strengthen the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
- Give Teachers a Much-Deserved Raise and Empower them to Teach
- Expand After-School/Summer Education Programs
- Universal School Meals
- Community Schools
- School Infrastructure
- Make Schools a Safe and Inclusive Place for All
Some of the specific proposals include boosting federal funding for community-driven desegregation efforts; expanding access to English as a second language instruction; increasing accountability for existing charter schools; and ensuring "schools in rural communities, indigenous communities, Puerto Rico, and other U.S. territories receive equitable funding."
A bill making its way through the Texas legislature would make protesting pipelines a third-degree felony, the same as attempted murder.
H.B. 3557, which is under consideration in the state Senate after passing the state House earlier this month, ups penalties for interfering in energy infrastructure construction by making the protests a felony. Sentences would range from two to 10 years.
The legislation was authored by Republican state Rep. Chris Paddie. It passed the state House May 7 on a 99 to 45 vote, with two abstentions. The bill is being cosponsored in the state Senate by Republican state Sen. Pat Fallon.
In remarks on the state House floor during the bill's passage, Paddie sought to assuage the fears of those who believe the legislation will target non-violent protest. "This bill does not affect those who choose to peacefully protest for any reason," said Paddie. "It attaches liability to those who potentially damage or destroy critical infrastructure facilities." But opponents of the measure don't agree, pointing to the bill's language.
"It's an anti-protest bill, favoring the fossil fuel industry, favoring corporations over people," Frankie Orona, executive director of the Society of Native Nations, told The Austin American-Statesman. The legislation is "is criminalizing conscientious, caring people who are the canaries for their communities," activist Lori Glover told The Texas Observer.
A hearing on the law in the state Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Economic Development on Wednesday drew opponents of the measure to speak out against the law, but it's unclear if their testimony will make a difference.
Pete Buttigieg Calls for Carbon Capture and Tax—Climate Proposals Backed by the Fossil Fuel Industry
Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, who rolled out his first batch of major policy proposals this week, expressed support for a carbon tax and carbon capture—policies backed by the fossil fuel industry but criticized by environmentalists as "a distraction from real solutions to the climate crisis that we face."
On his website Thursday, Buttigieg—who is currently the mayor of South Bend, Indiana—released 27 policies sorted into three categories: freedom, security, and democracy. The first item under the security section is climate change.
Mayor Pete, as his fellow Hoosiers call him, says on the site that "security means protecting our environment and treating climate change and climate disruption like the national emergency it is." His proposed response is to "implement a Green New Deal with all available tools including a carbon tax-and-dividend for Americans, and major direct investment to build a 100 percent clean energy society." ...
This week was not the first time Buttigieg has called for a carbon tax-and-dividend. At a campaign event in Iowa last month, the candidate reportedly said, "the Green New Deal represents I think, right now, more a set of goals than a fully laid out game plan." The first policy he listed as part of the game plan he envisions is a carbon tax.
A coalition of conservation groups filed a legal challenge this week to the Trump administration's approval of what would be the nation's first commercial-scale oil shale mine and processing facility—a fossil fuel project the groups say would run roughshod over the environment.
At issue is Estonia-based Enefit American Oil's strip-mining South Project for eastern Utah's Uinta Basin.
In their lawsuit (pdf) filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Utah, the organizations say that the administration violated the law in approving several rights of way for utilities across public lands to enable the company to construct and operate its proposed 50,000-barrel-per-day project.
The lawsuit states:
BLM and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (Service) failed to adequately analyze the significant adverse environmental impacts of Enefit's oil shale development. Instead, BLM and the Service only focused on the relatively minimal impacts caused by constructing and maintaining the pipelines, transmission lines, and access road. This impermissibly narrow review violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA), undermined informed decision making and public participation, and failed to prevent harm to imperiled fish and plant species.
"The responsible federal agencies have worn blinders in approving this project, leaving themselves and the public in the dark about the immense ecological harm it would cause," said Alex Hardee, an associate attorney at Earthjustice.
Michael Toll, a staff attorney at Grand Canyon Trust, laid out what the project would entail:
Enefit's South Project would dig up more than 28 million tons of oil shale per year, generating hundreds of millions of tons of waste rock and "overburden"—the industry term for the soils, plants, and layers of rock that lie in the way.
It would also drain more than 3 billion gallons of water per year from the Green River in a region that averages fewer than 10 inches of precipitation annually. The total carbon dioxide emissions of the over 547 million barrels of oil produced over three decades—if you follow the lifecycle of the oil shale from mine to wheel—would be up to 75 percent higher than those of conventional fuels.
BP stepped up its campaign to be allowed to drill for oil in the Arctic sea and an Alaskan wildlife refuge after Donald Trump was elected president, according to documents that detail the British firm’s lobbying efforts. Documents written by BP and oil industry groups show how the oil “supermajor” seized on the opportunity presented by Trump’s 2016 election victory to expand its offshore business, just seven years after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Areas it targeted include the Arctic sea, where experts have warned an oil spill could be an ecological disaster, as well as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), not far from where BP spilled 222,000 gallons of oil at Prudhoe Bay in 2006. Despite the reputational damage it had suffered after successive spills, BP played a key role in lobbying the government to loosen restrictions on oil drilling, according to documents obtained by Greenpeace’s investigative unit, Unearthed and shared with the Guardian.
Within a year of taking office, the president sought to overturn drilling bans introduced under the Obama administration in the wake of the 2010 spill, in which millions of gallons of oil spewed into the sea off the US south coast. In February 2017, a month after Trump’s inauguration, the American Petroleum Institute (API), of which BP is a member, wrote to the Department of the Interior calling for the reversal of an executive order by Barack Obama in 2014 banning oil drilling in large areas of the Atlantic and Arctic.
Lobbying disclosures made by BP America show that the company also intervened independently, making representations on issues relating to “Arctic oil and gas development”. ... Separate communication between BP and the Trump administration reveals that BP was not satisfied by Trump’s efforts to open up the Arctic.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Maxim Trio - Blues Before Sunrise
Ray Charles - Mary Ann
Ray Charles - The Midnight Hour (first atlantic release)
Ray Charles - Busted
Ray Charles - Bye Bye Love
Ray Charles - The Sun's Gonna Shine Again
Ray Charles - Drown In My Own Tears
Ray Charles - Lonely Avenue
Ray Charles - Talkin' Bout You
Ray Charles - Mess Around
Ray Charles - Hit The Road Jack
Ray Charles - Sitting On Top Of The World