The Evening Blues - 7-12-19


The day's news roundup + tonight's musical feature: Elvin Bishop

Hey! Good Evening!

This evening's music features blues rock musician Elvin Bishop. Enjoy!

Elvin Bishop, Warren Haynes, Kim Wilson - The Blues Rolls On

"If you look at US internal documents, they explain very clearly what the threat of Cuba was. So, back in the early 1960s the State Department described the threat of Cuba as Castro's successful defiance of US policy, going back to the Monroe Doctrine. The Monroe Doctrine established the US claim to dominate the Western hemisphere and Castro was successfully defying that. That's not tolerable. It is like somebody saying "let's have democracy in Greece," and we just can't tolerate that so we have to destroy the threat at its roots."

-- Noam Chomsky

News and Opinion

U.S. Military Plans to Battle Russia, China and Iran's 'Most Disturbing' Influence in Venezuela

The head of the Pentagon's Southern Command warned that Russia, China and Iran were expanding their influence in Latin America, particularly in Venezuela, where they support a government the United States seeks to depose.

In his testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Southern Command chief Air Force Admiral Craig Faller identified Moscow, Beijing and Tehran as the primary international obstacles to Washington's interests as the trio backed Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in the face of a challenge posed by self-proclaimed interim leader Juan Guaidó. ...

"Russia, in their own words, is protecting their 'loyal friend,' to quote, by propping up the corrupt, illegitimate Maduro regime with loans and technical and military support," Faller said. "China, as Venezuela's largest single-state creditor, saddled the Venezuelan people with more than $60 billion in debt and is exporting surveillance technology used to monitor and repress the Venezuelan people. Iran has restarted direct flights from Tehran to Caracas and reinvigorated diplomatic ties."

"Along with Cuba, these actors engage in activities that are profoundly unhealthy to democracy and regional stability and counter to U.S. interests," he added, calling for the "right, focused and consistent military presence" to counter these countries' "most disturbing" growing influence in the region.

Drone strikes in Somalia might have killed dramatically more civilians than US admits is tracking amendments to the NDAA that pass in the House. They are updating it as amendments pass. Here are a few that passed yesterday. Check link for updates.

House Passes Amendments to Limit Yemen War in NDAA

Beginning on Thursday afternoon, the House began voting on amendments to the $733 billion military spending bill for 2020 (NDAA). This included a number of successful amendments aimed at limiting the US war in Yemen, and prohibiting US arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates related to this war.

Amendment 23: Blocks funding for assistance to continue hostilities in Yemen (239-187)

Amendment 24: Prohibits transfer of defense articles or services to Saudi Arabia & UAE (246-180)

Amendment 26: prohibited all support of Saudi military operation against Yemen’s Houthis. This passed 240-185.

A 219-210 vote on an amendment from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) set the stage for potential foreign base closures, by obligating that there be some sort of expressable rationale for why the base needs to be there.

Heh, apparently being Trump's lapdog comes with some risks.

Is the US nudging Britain into dangerous waters with Iran?

A chain of events has been triggered that is increasingly exposing the UK diplomatically and militarily in the Gulf. The UK has put British shipping on maximum alert in the Gulf, just as the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, is forced to admit that – due to successive defence cuts – the UK does not have the resources to defend British vessels.

Simultaneously, the UK is battling diplomatically to keep the nuclear deal with Iran alive – a path the US rejects. British officials insist there is no connection between freedom of navigation and the preservation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the deal is known. But the two issues are inextricably linked. ... The UK did not need another row with Iran just as the talks between Tehran, and the UK, France and Germany to rescue the nuclear deal reached their most sensitive stage. ...

Lord Howell, a former Conservative cabinet minister and chairman of the Lords international relations committee, asked his government on Thursday whether it “was such a good idea to raid the Iranian oil tanker in Gibraltar in the first place”. He said: “Obviously we want to stop oil getting to President Assad, although probably he can get all the oil he wants from Russia. Are we not supposed to be on the same side as the Iranians on the question of nuclear proliferation and control? Can we have a firm assurance that we did this not just at the say-so of the US?” Lady Goldie, for the government, insisted the request to intercept the ship came from the government of Gibraltar, but Foreign Office officials in the past have indicated the biggest factor in play was pressure from the US. ...

Curiously, media briefing about British Heritage, and the intervention by HMS Montrose, which warded off the Iranian boats by aiming its guns at them, came originally from the US, and not the Ministry of Defence.

Iran Keeps Calm While U.S. And Britain Continue Their Provocations

Great Britain has joined the U.S. pressure and provocation campaign against Iran. It is creating incidents to put Iran into a defensive position and to provoke into a violent reaction. Early today 'two U.S. officials' spread a scare story about Iran which lead to this CNN headline: Iranian boats attempted to seize a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. ... The same 'two U.S. officials' briefed ABCNews:

A British warship prevented an apparent attempt by five Iranian small boats to direct a British oil tanker towards Iranian waters on Wednesday, according to two U.S. officials.

Remarkably the official British report came later than the U.S. officials briefing. It showed significant differences:

The UK defence ministry said that "three Iranian vessels attempted to impede the passage of a commercial vessel, British Heritage, through the Strait of Hormuz."

"HMS Montrose was forced to position herself between the Iranian vessels and British Heritage and issue verbal warnings to the Iranian vessels, which then turned away," the ministry statement said.
"There has been no confrontation in the last 24 hours with any foreign vessels, including British ones," the Revolutionary Guards said in a statement.

The U.S. officials claimed 5, not 3 boats. They claimed the boats tried to seize the ship, while the Brits just say they probably were getting in the way of the ship. The U.S. officials 'direct knowledge of the incident' seems to be lacking. Iran says that nothing happened at all.

There are reasons to believe that the Iranian statement is the most truthful one. The BRITISH HERITAGE is a crude oil carrier with an overall length of 274 m, a beam of 49 m and a maximum draft of 17.8 m. How three of the typical 20 feet long fiberglass speedboats of the IRGC could try to 'seize' or even 'impede' such a huge ships is not conceivable.

According to CNN the ship came from Basra, Iraq, had stopped at the Saudi coast and then left the Persian Gulf. It was not carrying any cargo at the time of the incident. That is quite curious as a crude oil carrier is typical loading and not delivering crude to Persian Gulf countries.

CNN also noted that:

On July 10, the ship turned off its transponders for almost 24 hours, making it undetectable by radars. When it switched on its transponders at around 1pm Eastern Time, it appeared to have sailed through the Persian Gulf escorted by the HMS Montrose.

Turning of the AIS in a high traffic area and especially at night is quite dangerous. The AIS signals a ships type, speed and course and other ships use that data to plan their own course. But even without AIS the ship will still be visible on the Iranian surveillance radars that control the Hormuz Strait. A ship on the radar screen without AIS information would be suspicious. So why would the British ship do that? Was that an attempt to draw special attention to it from the Iranian coast guard or military?

To me it seems that the empty British crude carrier, which was shadowed by a British frigate, was used as bait. There were probably Royal Marines on board waiting for an Iranian attempt to seize the ship. Iran did not fall for it.

UK to send a second warship to the Gulf amid crisis with Iran

The UK is stepping up its military presence in the Gulf by sending a second warship to the region to protect British commercial oil tankers, the Ministry of Defence has said. The HMS Duncan, a Type 45 destroyer, will be deployed within days after it completed a course of Nato exercises in the Baltic Sea with the aim to be in the Gulf region by next week.

The ship will work alongside the Royal Navy’s frigate HMS Montrose and US Gulf allies, but will not participate in Washington’s proposed global maritime coalition to protect shipping in the area. HMS Duncan was due to have taken over from HMS Montrose, but for a fixed period the two ships will instead work alongside one another. ...

The UK already has four mine-hunting vessels stationed in the region, and former naval commanders, including Admiral Lord West, have warned the UK only has eight frigates on patrol. West’s fears have been echoed by Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, who has renewed his call for UK spending on defence to double.

Hunt said the UK was not seeking to escalate the crisis with Iran and that it was a time for cool heads. “We take maritime security very seriously. It is our primary responsibility to protect British shipping. This is a situation that is changing every hour, but we are reacting to what is happening in a clear and very measured way,” he added.

'This Is a Dangerous Game': Iran Tells US and UK to Leave Gulf Region Immediately as Tensions Soar

As tensions in the Persian Gulf continue to escalate after British forces seized an Iranian oil tanker last week, Iran on Friday called on the U.K. to release the vessel and demanded that Western powers get out of the region immediately. "This is a dangerous game and has consequences," said Abbas Mousavi, spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry. "The legal pretexts for the capture are not valid... The release of the tanker is in all countries' interests."

Mousavi went on to urge foreign powers to "leave the region" to avert a full-blown conflict. "Iran and other regional countries are capable of securing the regional security," Mousavi said. "Iran has repeatedly expressed its readiness to hold talks with its neighbors to resolve disputes."

Mousavi's comments came just 24 hours after the U.K. accused Iran of attempting to block the passage of a British tanker in the Persian Gulf.

The Iranian government denied that it attempted to impede the British tanker.

"They make such claims to create tension, yet these claims are worthless and they have made many such claims," Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told reporters on Thursday. "They say such things to cover up their own weaknesses."

NATO reacts to arrival of Russian missiles in Turkey

Judge Emma Arbuthnot refuses to recuse herself in show trial of Julian Assange

Judge Emma Arbuthnot has refused to recuse herself from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s US extradition hearings. ... Arbuthnot, Chief Magistrate and Senior District Judge for England and Wales, is flouting fundamental legal principles to ensure that she presides over a show trial against Assange, due to resume at Westminster Magistrates Court on February 25. ... The “Guide to Judicial Conduct” in England and Wales, published in 2018, states that, “Judicial independence is a cornerstone of our system of government in a democratic society and a safeguard of the freedom and rights of the citizen under the rule of law. The judiciary must be seen to be independent of the legislative and executive arms of government both as individuals and as a whole.” Arbuthnot should have automatically recused herself on this basis.

Her husband, James Norwich Arbuthnot, is a Conservative member of the House of Lords. He is intimately connected with the British armed forces and security services, whose criminal operations were exposed by WikiLeaks. As a Tory MP, Lord Arbuthnot was between 2005 and 2014 the chair of the Defence Select Committee, the body overseeing the Ministry of Defence and Britain’s armed forces. His watch covered ongoing military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the wars for regime change in Libya and Syria.

He is currently co-chair of the UK advisory board for defence manufacturer Thales and is an advisory board member of the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI). Lord Arbuthnot is also a former director at security and intelligence consultancy firm SC Strategy, where he worked for two years alongside co-directors Lord Carlile and Sir John Scarlett. Carlile is a prominent defender of MI5 who supported the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 (nicknamed the Snoopers’ Charter) enabling the British state to access internet connection records without a warrant. He argued that Edward Snowden’s exposures of illegal mass state surveillance “amounted to a criminal act.’’ He oversaw the implementation of anti-terror legislation and reviewed national security procedures in Northern Ireland.

Scarlett is former head of MI6 and chair of the government’s Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC). He oversaw the production of a report arguing for the right of the secret services to “collect bulk communications data” and was responsible for compiling the “dodgy dossier” on Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. The activities of Lord Arbuthnot and his colleagues were the subject of thousands of WikiLeaks disclosures. There are almost 2,000 references in the WikiLeaks’ database to Thales and nearly 450 to RUSI. Lord Arbuthnot himself can be found in over 50 entries.

As Assange’s legal team and UN Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer have argued, this “strong conflict of interest” requires Lady Arbuthnot to stand down from Assange’s case. Her husband’s entire political life has been dedicated to crushing the sort of transparency and accountability advocated by WikiLeaks. The “Guide to Judicial Conduct” explicitly states, “Where a close member of a judge’s family is politically active, the judge needs to bear in mind the possibility that, in some proceedings, that political activity might raise concerns about the judge’s own impartiality and detachment from the political process and should act accordingly.” Furthermore, “personal animosity towards a party is also a compelling reason for disqualification.” Arbuthnot’s animosity toward Assange is on public record.

Macron, Moreno talk trade amid Assange protests – Galloway

Knuckle-dragging, bug-eyed conservatwit moron Adam Schiff will do anything to get back at Wikileaks for exposing Hillary's election-rigging - including allowing the CIA to make a mockery of the law.

Accusing Adam Schiff of 'Criminalizing Routine Reporting,' Groups Call for Stripping CIA-Backed Provision From Intelligence Legislation

A CIA-backed provision for a bill that could have dire effects on the freedom of the press is quietly making its way through Congress, despite the protestations of civil rights groups to Rep. Adam Schiff, the powerful California Democrat who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, to strip the rule. "Adam Schiff is once again putting the interests of the intelligence agencies in concealing their misdeeds ahead of protecting the rights of ordinary Americans," said Daniel Schuman, policy director for Demand Progress, in a statement Thursday.

In the statement, Schuman also accused Schiff of "criminalizing routine reporting by the press on national security issues and undermining congressional oversight in his Intelligence Authorization bill." Demand Progress was one of 30 groups that signed an open letter (pdf) on July 8 to congressional leaders of both parties calling for the provision to be stripped from the bill. ...

Section 305 of the Intelligence Authorization Act (pdf), which prohibits disclosure of the identity of agents currently in the field or who have been in the field in the last five years, would be tweaked under the new law to encompass the identities of a far larger number of agents, contractors, and sources—many of whom live and work domestically. The effect of the law could be massive, Emily Manna, a policy analyst for Open the Government, told Yahoo News in an email.

"This language is almost unbelievably broad, drastically expanding felony criminal penalties for the disclosure of [many categories] of information about the intelligence agencies, even if those disclosures might be in the best interest of the government and the country," wrote Manna. "There would likely be a significant chilling effect on journalists and government whistleblowers."

Supporters of the law's expansion cite WikiLeaks, the online clearinghouse for secure information, as the reason for needing further protections. It's an argument that's likely to have an effect on Schiff, who has spent much of the past two years railing against the site for its perceived involvement in the election of President Donald Trump. ...

As The New York Times reported, the law's expansion "also comes at a time when defense lawyers at the military commissions system at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, are trying to identify eyewitnesses from the CIA black sites whom they could potentially call to testify about their clients’ treatment, including in the case against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other detainees accused of aiding the Sept. 11 attacks." Using the law to protect those and other CIA agents could act as deterrent to an accountable intelligence service, Katherine Hawkins, an investigator for the Project on Government Oversight, told Yahoo News.

So much for "don't be evil."

How U.S. Tech Giants Are Helping to Build China’s Surveillance State

An American organization founded by tech giants Google and IBM is working with a company that is helping China’s authoritarian government conduct mass surveillance against its citizens, The Intercept can reveal. The OpenPower Foundation — a nonprofit led by Google and IBM executives with the aim of trying to “drive innovation” — has set up a collaboration between IBM, Chinese company Semptian, and U.S. chip manufacturer Xilinx. Together, they have worked to advance a breed of microprocessors that enable computers to analyze vast amounts of data more efficiently. Shenzhen-based Semptian is using the devices to enhance the capabilities of internet surveillance and censorship technology it provides to human rights-abusing security agencies in China, according to sources and documents. A company employee said that its technology is being used to covertly monitor the internet activity of 200 million people. ...

Semptian presents itself publicly as a “big data” analysis company that works with internet providers and educational institutes. However, a substantial portion of the Chinese firm’s business is in fact generated through a front company named iNext, which sells the internet surveillance and censorship tools to governments. iNext operates out of the same offices in China as Semptian, with both companies on the eighth floor of a tower in Shenzhen’s busy Nanshan District. Semptian and iNext also share the same 200 employees and the same founder, Chen Longsen.

After receiving tips from confidential sources about Semptian’s role in mass surveillance, a reporter contacted the company using an assumed name and posing as a potential customer. In response, a Semptian employee sent documents showing that the company — under the guise of iNext — has developed a mass surveillance system named Aegis, which it says can “store and analyze unlimited data.” Aegis can provide “a full view to the virtual world,” the company claims in the documents, allowing government spies to see “the connections of everyone,” including “location information for everyone in the country.” The system can also “block certain information [on the] internet from being visited,” censoring content that the government does not want citizens to see, the documents show.

Aegis equipment has been placed within China’s phone and internet networks, enabling the country’s government to secretly collect people’s email records, phone calls, text messages, cellphone locations, and web browsing histories, according to two sources familiar with Semptian’s work. Chinese state security agencies are likely using the technology to target human rights activists, pro-democracy advocates, and critics of President Xi Jinping’s regime, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to fear of reprisals.

Speaking of evil ...

Protesters demand Amazon break ties with Ice and Homeland Security

Hundreds of protestors demonstrated outside of the annual Amazon Web Services summit in New York on Thursday, demanding the tech giant cut ties with government agencies that take part in immigrant deportations. The demonstrators, including Amazon warehouse workers, other tech employees, and immigrants outside the tech world, are calling on Amazon to cease its relationships with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) and the Department of Homeland Security. Amazon Web Services hosts DHS databases that allow the department and its agencies to track and apprehend immigrants. It is also in talks to expand a partnership to host new DHS biometric databases that store more extensive data, including eye color, tattoos, and other identifiers.

Amazon services are essential to the workings of agencies like Ice, Deborah Axt, co-executive director of Make the Road New York, an immigrant rights organization that participated in the protest, said. “That’s why immigrants and allies have come together to make sure that Amazon is held accountable. We want them to stop profiting off our lives!” ...

Palantir, the CIA-backed data-mining firm co-founded by Donald Trump ally Peter Thiel, has faced ongoing criticism and actions from tech workers over its work with US immigration authorities. In June, hundreds of employees of online home goods company Wayfair walked off the job to protest its involvement in furnishing border detention facilities holding children. In September 2018, workers at Salesforce pressured the company to cancel its contract with US Customs and Border Protection. The company ultimately declined to sever ties with the law enforcement agency.

These actions come as Ice is set to begin nationwide raids on Sunday to arrest thousands of undocumented immigrants. The raids will coincide with Amazon’s Prime day, a yearly sale that made the company more than $4bn in 2018.

Trump abandons effort to put citizenship question on 2020 census

Faced with a defeat in court and few viable options, Donald Trump on Thursday backed off his effort to place a question about citizenship on the next US census while announcing executive action by his administration to collect information on its own. Trump ordered federal agencies to turn over records on the number of citizens, non-citizens and undocumented immigrants living in the US.

“The only people that are not proud to be citizens are the ones who are fighting us all the way about the word ‘citizen’,” Trump said in the Rose Garden.

Legal advocates have vowed to fight any executive action on the census in court.

The executive order, released on Thursday evening, directs government agencies, including the state department and several agencies in the department of homeland security, to provide records relating to citizenship to the commerce department. It also ordered the establishment of an interagency working group to improve access to administrative records.

The order argued the administration needs data on the number of citizens and non-citizens in the country to reevaluate immigration policy, implement and evaluate policy, including concerning benefits and generate a “more reliable” count of the number of people living in the country undocumented.

Ousted Honduran President Zelaya: The 2009 U.S.-Backed Coup Helped Cause Today’s Migrant Crisis

Obama's record as the "Deporter-in-Chief" still stands despite all of Trump's sturm und drang.

Immigration raids to take place across US starting Sunday

US immigration officials have said immigration raids targeting thousands of families will take place in major cities across the United States starting on Sunday – less than a month after delaying a similar operation. ...

Department of Homeland Security officials from the Trump administration, speaking anonymously, told newspapers that details of the raids had not been finalized, but would probably begin on Sunday in at least 10 major cities. The raids would target at least 2,000 immigrants who have been ordered deported and crossed the border recently, though other undocumented people could also be arrested if the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) agency intercepts them, according to the New York Times. ...

The Trump administration’s aggressive anti-immigration policies have not yet resulted in the level of deportations seen under Barack Obama. In the last fiscal year, Ice removed 250,000 undocumented migrants, compared with 410,000 removed in 2012. Trump, however, has done away with deportation priorities Obama put in place in his second term, and used anti-migrant rhetoric, which has created fear and instability in migrant communities.

Douglas Rivlin, the communications director of the advocacy group America’s Voice, said the raids were politically motivated and cruel. “The massive and glaring failure of the Trump approach on immigration gives this deportation operation the smell of desperation,” he said.

AOC calls for dismantling Homeland Security. Will other Democrats follow?

It’s Open War Between the Progressive “Squad” and Nancy Pelosi Over Immigration

“I’m starting to get confused about who’s setting the agenda and who’s leading the majority in the House,” Rep. Omar told VICE News. “I want to make sure that we have a clear understanding that we were put in the majority for a purpose: that is, to resist the detrimental policies that this administration is putting forth and insist on setting the correct course for this country.” ...

Omar and the other three young freshman — who have dubbed themselves “the squad” — aren’t backing down, and that’s frustrating more senior centrists who are worried that the progressive purity test could get them challenged in their own primaries. That’s partly why the moderate wing of the party is fully behind Pelosi. ...

Just this week, after helping Ocasio-Cortez oust longtime Pelosi lieutenant, Joe Crowley, in the last election, the progressive group Justice Democrats has another group of centrist Democrats in their sights. The group announced it’s getting behind pro-choice progressive Marie Newman, who is challenging anti-abortion incumbant Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.), and Black Lives Matter activist Cori Bush, who is taking on Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.).

Veteran lawmakers are taking note, and they think Pelosi is steering the whole party down the right path. With the dust up over immigration becoming a distraction, Pelosi agreed to hold votes soon on a standalone border bill that includes the provisions that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wouldn’t even entertain in the emergency border funding package, like setting minimum health standards for migrants in U.S. custody, a three month limit for children in so-called influx shelters and allowing members of Congress to access border facilities without prior warning.

While McConnell is unlikely to ever let a standalone immigration bill hit the Senate floor, the play by Pelosi is enough for many Democrats who want to be able to show their voters that they tried to do something to alleviate the crisis. While Pelosi’s decision to send McConnell yet another immigration reform proposal will highlight the contrasts between the two parties ahead of next year’s elections, that’s not good enough for these restive progressives who are demanding House Democratic leaders act boldly and aggressively. And with Pelosi having just rubber-stamped McConnell and Trump’s $4.6 billion emergency aid package, these freshmen lawmakers see this new effort as a smokescreen.

Elizabeth Warren Just Fired a Warning Shot at ICE and Border Patrol

Elizabeth Warren is putting abusive immigration officers on notice: If she becomes president, they’ll face investigation. The Massachusetts senator is proposing a new Justice Department task force to investigate alleged abuses by government officials against immigrants and refugees, as part of a sweeping immigration reform plan released Thursday ahead of her 2020-campaign appearance at the League of United Latin American Citizens’ annual conference in Milwaukee.

“President Trump and his Administration are comfortable looking the other way while criminal abuses of immigrants pile up. When I am President, I will not,” the 70-year-old Democrat says in a Medium post outlining the proposals. “I’ll designate a Justice Department task force to investigate accusations of serious violations — including medical neglect and physical and sexual assaults of detained immigrants — and give it independent authority to pursue any substantiated criminal allegations. Let there be no ambiguity on this: If you are violating the basic rights of immigrants, now or in the future, a Warren Administration will hold you accountable.” ...

The promise is just one in a sweeping reform package that lays out an immigration system much more progressive than what we have with Trump’s administration and even under President Obama, and it's the latest of Warren's many detailed plans.

Millions in US taxpayers’ money invested in private prison firms

Millions of US taxpayer dollars are being invested into private prison operators involved in the detention of thousands of migrants across the United States, an investigation shows. Some of the largest investments, which are by pension funds for public sector workers such as teachers and firefighters, come from states with “sanctuary” policies, such as New York, California and Oregon.

Nationwide, at least 20 pension funds and plans have invested in Geo Group or CoreCivic, the two biggest private prison operators, according to a Guardian/Documented analysis of US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings.

These funds range from big organizations like the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPers), which manages $81bn in stock holdings, to the more modestly sized funds like the New Mexico Educational Retirement Board, which manages about $2.3bn. Public worker funds across the US have at least $67m currently invested in the two companies, according to filings from the first quarter of 2019, which probably show just a portion of the total amount of public sector pension money invested in both companies.

The two firms have become more attractive to investors after Donald Trump became president, pushing tougher immigration policies. The firms have secured contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (Ice) which has turned to private operators as it has detained growing numbers of immigrants.

San Francisco: wealthy opponents of new shelter claim homeless are bad for environment

The wealthy San Francisco residents who launched a crowdfunding campaign to block construction of a new homeless shelter in their waterfront neighborhood are employing a new tactic: arguing that homeless people are bad for the environment.

In a lawsuit filed against the city of San Francisco and the California State Lands Commission, the residents called for the project to undergo an environmental review before breaking ground. “This project will have a significant effect on the environment due to these unusual circumstances, including by attracting additional homeless persons, open drug and alcohol use, crime, daily emergency calls, public urination and defecation, and other nuisances,” the lawsuit states.

Opponents of infrastructure and affordable housing projects often call upon the California Environmental Quality Act as a stalling ploy to delay construction. The law requires developers to explore any environmental effects a project might have, and take steps to reduce them. Attorneys for the residents, paid for by the more than $102,000 raised through the GoFundMe campaign, argued in the lawsuit that the project did not undergo a full environmental review process.

The city has argued that the project – a 200-bed temporary homeless shelter – is exempt was from such reviews. “I question if this a legitimate concern or a last-ditch attempt to block the shelter by any means necessary,” said Kelley Cutler, the human rights organizer for the Coalition on Homelessness. “Methane emissions are bad for the environment, and this smells like bullshit.”

the horse race

Amy McGrath Is Challenging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. She’s Everything Wrong With the Democratic Party.

Amy McGrath is everything wrong with the Democratic Party. She launched her high-profile campaign Tuesday with a multimillion-dollar burst of fundraising, with Democrats across the country eager to see her upend Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. By Wednesday, she was apologizing for a bizarre flip-flop-flip on a question — Brett Kavanaugh’s fitness for the Supreme Court — that seemed like a layup. In between, she told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that she was running on the mind-bending rationale that McConnell needs to go because he has been obstructing the agenda of Donald Trump. ...

McGrath is a perfect encapsulation of what’s wrong with the party because her rise can’t simply be blamed on the deformed strategic thinking of Democratic leaders. To be sure, sources in Kentucky say, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer heavily recruited McGrath, believing she’s just the fighter to beat McConnell. So that’s certainly on Schumer, but this one’s also on Democratic primary voters, who first elevated her in 2018: When McGrath ran for her House seat, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was not on her side, and instead got behind Jim Gray, the mayor of Lexington.

To primary voters, McGrath had something more powerful, the intoxicating combination of imperialism, tokenistic feminism, and resistance. She launched her House campaign with a viral ad celebrating her role as a bomber pilot, going so far as to use actual footage of a bombing in which, presumably, human beings were incinerated, their nightmarish last moments becoming fodder for a political ad. It’s been viewed nearly 2 million times, and helped win a close primary. Most Democratic voters, in fact, opposed the Iraq war and want to see an end to the ongoing one in Afghanistan. Their support for McGrath, then, was likely not because they automatically support bombings around the world. But McGrath framed her campaign video as a story of a woman overcoming the patriarchy to fulfill her dream of becoming a fighter pilot. ...

McGrath’s loss to Barr did little to dissuade Schumer that she was the right candidate to take on McConnell. He likely figured she’d be able to raise gobs of money online, meaning he wouldn’t need to worry about the Kentucky campaign.

Until, at least, it began.

‘A risk to democracy’: North Carolina law may be violating secrecy of the ballot

North Carolina may be violating state and federal constitutional protections for the secret ballot in the US by tracing some of its citizens’ votes. The situation has arisen because North Carolina has a state law that demands absentee voting – which includes early, in-person voting as well as postal voting – is required to use ballots that can be traced back to the voter.

The laws are in place as a means of guaranteeing that if citizens cast multiple ballots during early voting or that if ineligible residents – like non-citizens or people who have not completed sentences for criminal offenses – cast ballots, those votes can be retrieved and removed. Likewise, if a voter casts an early ballot then dies before election day, that ballot can then be discounted.

But voting rights advocates think the North Carolina law breaks one of the most sacred tenets of the democratic system: preserving the secrecy of the ballot. “Anytime you can link a ballot back to the individual voter, that’s a violation of the secret ballot,” said Caitriona Fitzgerald, the chief technology officer for the nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center. “Even the threat that that could be the case is a risk to democracy because if voters question whether their ballot is secret, that can influence how they vote,” Fitzgerald added.

Progressives Push Back After Congressional Black Caucus Attacks Justice Democrats Over Primary Challenges

The continuing Democratic Party internal civil war opened a new front Friday after a report from The Hill featured members of the Congressional Black Caucus disparaging progressive groups like Justice Democrats for mounting primary challenges to its members and charging racism—despite the caucus itself supporting white incumbents over black challengers just last year. The conflict comes as Justice Democrats is thus far backing one challenger to an incumbent member of the caucus: Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.). But, as The Hill pointed out, the group may have other members in its sights as well like Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), and Anthony Brown (D-Md.).

The CBC's response to the threat has been to imply Justice Democrats are, at best, racially insensitive. "It just seems strange that the social Democrats seem to be targeting members of the Congressional Black Caucus, individuals who have stood and fought to make sure that African Americans are included and part of this process," CBC member Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) told The Hill.

But Justice Democrats executive director board members Alexandra Rojas, Demond Drummer, and Nasim Thompson, in a statement, disputed that characterization. "In 2018, Justice Democrats took on the political establishment in New York and Boston by supporting Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley—both of whom were taking on more conservative, white male incumbents," the group said. "Notably, the CBC endorsed Pressley's opponent even as she was running in a majority-people of color district. Today every single Justice Democrat in Congress is a person of color."

"Senior members of the Democratic Party can make whatever false claims they want," the trio added, "but it's clear that their bottom line is: no primary challenges."

Goldie Taylor, editor-at-large for The Daily Beast, said she didn't "necessarily disagree" with some of the Justice Democrats endorsements and said that the CBC is taking the wrong approach by attacking progressives instead of making the case to voters. "Incumbency and blackness aren't qualifiers," said Taylor. "Run on your record. Listen to your constituents." ...

In an essay on the dispute, Paste politics editor Shane Ryan said that the real issue at hand appears to be the ideology of both the incumbents and their challengers. "Clearly, this is a 'narrative' manufactured from thin air by a group of lawmakers who refuse to endorse progressive legislation and don't want to be held accountable," wrote Ryan.

the evening greens

Humanity Sleep-Walking Toward 'Mass Extinction'

The politicians ignore the daily alarm bells in the science, whether it is melting Antarctica ice caps or the growing temperatures in the ocean.

For example, earlier this week Daniel Rothman, professor of geophysics and co-director of the Lorenz Center in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, released a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examining how the rate at which carbon dioxide is currently entering the oceans could push us past a catastrophic threshold. ... As the press release from MIT regarding the study outlined: “Today’s oceans are absorbing carbon about an order of magnitude faster than the worst case in the geologic record. ...

Timothy Lenton, a Professor of Climate Change and Earth Systems Science at the University of Exeter, responded to the study by telling CommonDreams. “If we push the Earth system too far, then it takes over and determines its own response—past that point there will be little we can do about it.” Then we face runaway climate change leading into catastrophic mass extinction.

As with much of the news about climate change, this new research hardly got any press mention. The politicians sleep-walk on. ...

It is not that we didn’t know. It is not that the scientists didn’t warn us. We knew. But Exxonknew too. And it never wanted us to know the truth. And their decades-long denial campaign still has ramifactions today, as politicians refuse to act to the climate emergency that we are in.

Arctic wildfires emitted as much CO2 in June as Sweden does in a year

Arctic wildfires, some the size of 100,000 football pitches, emitted as much carbon dioxide (CO2) last month as the country of Sweden does in a whole year, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Friday. “Since the start of June we’ve seen unprecedented wildfires in the Arctic region,” a WMO spokeswoman, Clare Nullis, told a regular UN briefing in Geneva.

“In June alone these wildfires emitted 50 megatonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, this is the equivalent of Sweden’s annual total CO2 emissions. This is more than was released by Arctic fires in the same month between 2010 and 2018 combined.”

Wildfires are common in the northern hemisphere between May and October, but this year the fires have been at an unusual latitude and intensity, she said. Most have been in the US state of Alaska and the Russian region of Siberia, but one fire in Alberta was estimated to be bigger than 300,000 football pitches, or about the size of Luxembourg. Alaska had experienced more than 400 wildfires so far this year, with new ones igniting every day.

Also of Interest

Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.

O-I-L: The Missing Three-Letter Word in the Iran Crisis

The Strange Case of the Grace I’s Detention

Evangelical Christians Risk Setting Middle East on Fire

New generation of political exiles leave Bolsonaro's Brazil 'to stay alive'

Brazil president Jair Bolsonaro to appoint son as ambassador to US

House Democrats Are Panicked About Primaries, and New York Shows How Potent They Can Be

Fed Up With Constant Attacks and Insults, Ocasio-Cortez Slams Pelosi as 'Outright Disrespectful' for Singling Out Progressives

A Little Night Music

Elvin Bishop - Something Smells Funky 'Round Here

Elvin Bishop - Raisin' Hell

Elvin Bishop - Calling All Cows

Elvin Bishop - Midnight Creeper

Elvin Bishop - Stealin' Watermelons

Paul Butterfield, Rick Danko, Carlos Santana and Elvin Bishop - Walkin' Blues

Elvin Bishop - Everybody's In The Same Boat

Elvin Bishop Group - Tulsa Shuffle

Elvin Bishop Group - I'm Gone

Elvin Bishop - Fish, Fish, Fishing

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Azazello's picture

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It didn't have to be this way.

joe shikspack's picture


i was glad to see this amendment come up and pass. it's long past time the left went after the structural elements supporting u.s. imperialism.

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snoopydawg's picture

People cut off Trump's statement on Charlottesville. He is only known for saying that there were nice people on both sides, but they leave out that he condemned the neo Nazis. I will find a link to this.

ETA: welp it looks like his original statement has been scrubbed by the web. All I can find is a follow up story on it and in it he did condemn them. I used DuckDuckGo and still found nothing. But it's true that lots of his statements are not reported on in full. I found the original statement from a DK link a few months ago. Just saying..

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“When police break the Law then there is no Law - just a fight for survival.” - Billy Jack

joe shikspack's picture


heh. joe biden's right, america doesn't "coddle" dictators. that's far too mild a description for the services that the u.s. provides to dictators around the world.

this article contains the full transcript of the press conference that you're looking for.

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snoopydawg's picture

@joe shikspack

and where he tries to explains what he meant, but none of the one from his first comments on the event where he said more than "there are good people on both sides." I'm only bringing this up because ByeDone made his comment a reason why he is running and the Schiff's real attack on press freedoms.

The press has been writing article headlines saying something definitive, but inside there is nothing of the sort. Like this.

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“When police break the Law then there is no Law - just a fight for survival.” - Billy Jack

snoopydawg's picture

Yeah right. This was what the first blaring headline told me this morning only to see inside that he doesn't like social media's censorship. And then I get to common dreams and see who the real threat to it is. Adam Russia Schiff!

Here's two comments from the article.

One thing for absolute certainty, the CIA should never under any circumstances support a bill or influence legislation in any way. The CIA should play a totally subservient role serving the American people or cease to exist at all.

The CIA are infiltrating everything from banks and businesses to the US government and courts.
Right now there are no less than 57 democrats who openly brag about their intelligence background on their personal pages.
That they infiltrated and subverted press and media should be well known by most people here, but how many know that they have their own bank, their own investment firm, their own hedge funds and a Hollywood department that finances, writes and otherwise collaborates on many major movie projects such as the avengers.
They do not just serve wall street’s interests around the globe, they are wall street.

the play by Pelosi is enough for many Democrats who want to be able to show their voters that they tried to do something to alleviate the crisis.

Yeah this will show us that the blue dawgs and Pelosi really want to do something for immigrants. I think it would have shown us more if they hadn't fought for McConnell's bill in the first place just so they could leave DC for the 4th.

And if Pelosi doesn't want AOC and her friends saying bad things about her then she shouldn't start the pissing match.

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“When police break the Law then there is no Law - just a fight for survival.” - Billy Jack

joe shikspack's picture


our idiot politicians are fighting to control the press for partisan advantage. meanwhile, the cia is working hard to bring the information war in all its forms home. they got a big leg up from obama.

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lotlizard's picture

. . . what the Dutroux scandal says about the Belgian elite.

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@lotlizard to read, and yet, we must.
I will have nightmares.
But I need to know.

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snoopydawg's picture


From a link in the article I read that police searched his house for the girls and heard some screaming, but the guy said it was just children playing and they never searched the basement. Boy it sure looks like there was someone looking out for him.

Hey Liz, Assange wasn't all bad...

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“When police break the Law then there is no Law - just a fight for survival.” - Billy Jack

joe shikspack's picture


pretty awful. i wonder how much cross-pollination there is between the belgian elites and the eu elites in brussels.

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lotlizard's picture

@joe shikspack  

Belgium is one of the six founding countries of the European Union and hosts the official seats of the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, and the European Council, as well as a seat of the European Parliament in the country’s capital, Brussels. Belgium is also a founding member of the Eurozone, NATO, OECD, and WTO, and a part of the trilateral Benelux Union and the Schengen Area. Brussels hosts several of the EU’s official seats as well as the headquarters of many major international organizations such as NATO.


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snoopydawg's picture

In this article on how the darn Internet Research Agency demanded its day in court.

Now someone needs to ask Mueller how he tied the DNC emails to Wikileaks and if he can't then it's game over for Russia Gate. They are the only two pieces of evidence he put in his report unless you count Brennan's IC report where he too never offered any proof only said that he had high confidence that they indeed did the deed.

Since Aaron's essay was written I haven't seen anything about it on ToP. Marcy Wheeler is digging in her heals though and is still trolling Aaron on Twitter.

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“When police break the Law then there is no Law - just a fight for survival.” - Billy Jack

lotlizard's picture

“A lot of friends in every industry”: How did Jeffrey Epstein charm Hollywood?

… even after he’d been convicted in 2008 for soliciting prostitution from underage girls, he and his alleged fixer still attended premiere parties and glamorous bashes.

… in the wake of the July 6 indictment, at least some of Epstein’s society friends have reportedly stayed loyal to the supposed billionaire; as a source told the Daily Beast, “A jail sentence doesn’t matter anymore. The only thing that gets you shunned in New York society is poverty.”

Either way, Epstein’s ability to move through the entertainment world proved shockingly durable until fairly recently. Even after his 2008 conviction, the Hollywood Reporter notes, Epstein attended major red-carpet events, including the Batman v Superman premiere and Oscar season parties.

I wonder if Jeffrey Epstein will be able to use legal maneuvering to draw things out for so long and make reporting his story so tedious that the public loses interest until eventually plaintiffs and witnesses give up and charges are dropped, one by one? It seems to be working out for Harvey Weinstein.

[Edited to add a missing word, “will”]

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Pluto's Republic's picture


I wonder if Jeffrey Epstein be able to use legal maneuvering to draw things out for so long and make reporting his story so tedious that the public loses interest until eventually plaintiffs and witnesses give up and charges are dropped, one by one?


The Spacey case has evidence problems that could carry over into the criminal case.

A young man who said Kevin Spacey groped him in a Nantucket, Massachusetts, bar in 2016 dismisses his civil lawsuit against the Academy Award-winning actor. He still faces criminal charges connected to the case.

It seems likely these charges could be dropped since the plaintiff lost key evidence that could potentially show Spacey's innocence.

About Epstein, I find it hard to imagine that case going to court since Epstein was running a honey pot for Mossad... and Mossad has the goods on all of them.

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I do not know if the people of the United States would vote for Enlightened Men — if they ran for public office — but there can be no doubt that such men do not run.
— Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America
dystopian's picture

Saw Elvin a few times, always a great show, good bands, great music.

Sickening what we are doing with Iran. Sickening what we are doing in Venezuela. Sickening what they are doing with Julian Assange. Sickening what we did to Honduras to cause the migration which we are reacting to, sickeningly. Pelosi, DiFi, McConnell, Schumer, are all as sickening as TrumptyDumpty. Sickening how the billionaires want political influence on society but not climate change enlightment.

At least we got the blues, they can't take that away, he said cautiously. Until they pry my guitar from my cold dead hands...

P.S. thanks for that 'when the guitar plays the blues'. The original was great, Roy B. ripped it a new one. I just love how he did that.

Saw Elvin B. do this awesome ...

Thanks for the blues! Have a great weekend!

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We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.
both - Albert Einstein

joe shikspack's picture


yep, sickening is a pretty good all-purpose word for what our government and elites do.

heh, don't worry about the blues going anywhere ...

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gulfgal98's picture

for the second debate today.

Niko House covers it on his channel with emotion.

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"I don't want to run the empire, I want to bring it down!" ~ Dr. Cornel West

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." ~ President John F. Kennedy

lotlizard's picture

Gravel put it all on the line for We The People’s right to know, back when he read the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional Record on the floor of the Senate. Talk about “profiles in courage.”

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joe shikspack's picture


excellent news! thanks for posting that. i can't wait to see the looks on the moderators faces when they have to ask gravel a question. Smile

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