Evening Blues Preview 4-16-15
This evening's music features r&b songwriter and pianist Floyd Dixon.
Here are some stories from tonight's post:
Khaled Batarfi, a high-ranking member of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has plenty to smile about. As Yemen descends into a full-scale war between Shia Houthi rebels and the Saudi Arabia-backed forces of its president-in-exile, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, dormant AQAP factions — backed by a handful of Sunni tribes — have surged out of their heartlands into towns and cities across the country's central and southern provinces.
— Saeed Al-Batati (@saeedalBatati) April 3, 2015
Last week, in a lightning offensive, fighters from the group stormed al Mukalla, capital of the oil-rich Hadhramaut province. Entering in the dead of night by morning they had taken over government buildings, emptied the city's bank vaults of the equivalent of $80 million, and freed 300 prisoners, including Batarfi and several other high-ranking members of AQAP, from the local jail.
But for the power hungry group, the snatch of al Mukalla is just the tip of the iceberg. The lawlessness that followed the revolution of 2011, coupled with the recent outbreak of war, has enabled AQAP to secure a stronghold in at least seven governorates: 'Ibb, Al-Jawf, Ma'rib, Hadhramout, Lahj, Abyan, and Shabwah. ...
Created through a merger between Saudi and Yemeni branches of al Qaeda in 2009, AQAP has long been perceived as a threat by the United States. In 2013, State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki described AQAP as "one of the foremost national security challenges faced by the US." With the support of the Yemeni government, the US has maintained a military and intelligence service presence in the country for more than a decade. Since 2011 a joint operation between the two has launched 88 drone strikes against AQAP, killing more than 482 people.
But now both the Sunni tribes and AQAP, traditionally opposed to the government, suddenly find themselves in a de facto alliance with forces led by Saudi Arabia and backed by the US. "It's a classic case of my enemy's enemy," Robert McFadden, vice president of the Soufan Group, a security and intelligence consultancy, told VICE News. "There really is no other option... the whole situation is a mess."
This is an interesting article well worth a read and far too rich in detail to be usefully fairly excerpted. Here's an introduction:
Almost half of all Americans want to support Israel even if its interests diverge from the interests of their own country. Only a minority of Americans (47 percent) say that their country should pursue their own interests over supporting Israel’s when the two choices collide. It’s the ultimate violation of George Washington’s 1796 Farewell Address warning that “nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded. … The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave.”
It is inconceivable that a substantial portion of Americans would want to support any other foreign country even where doing so was contrary to U.S. interests. Only Israel commands anything near that level of devoted, self-sacrificing fervor on the part of Americans. So it’s certainly worth asking what accounts for this bizarre aspect of American public opinion.
The answer should make everyone quite uncomfortable: it’s religious fanaticism. The U.S. media loves to mock adversary nations, especially Muslim ones, for being driven by religious extremism, but that is undeniably a major factor, arguably the most significant one, in explaining fervent support for Israel among the American populace. In reporting its poll findings, Bloomberg observed:
Religion appears to play an important role in shaping the numbers. Born-again Christians are more likely than overall poll respondents, 58 percent to 35 percent, to back Israel regardless of U.S. interests. Americans with no religious affiliation were the least likely to feel this way, at 26 percent.
In remarks on Wednesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren criticized the failure of both federal regulators and Justice Department officials to prosecute or otherwise hold to account Wall Street banks and financial institutions despite their long and steady pattern of "blatantly criminal activity."
Speaking at conference hosted by the Levy Economics Institute, Sen. Warren was firm in her denunciation of regulators—including those at the Security and Exchange Commission and the Federal Reserve—for not using the tools already available to them and for largely failing to meet their oversight obligations.
She also had stern words for the DOJ, which she says has repeatedly failed to use criminal statutes at its disposal. "The Department of Justice doesn’t take big financial institutions to trial ever—even when financial institutions engage in blatantly criminal activity," said Warren, according to a copy of her prepared remarks.
Additionally, Warren castigated those who argue that such strong regulations are somehow anti-business or anti-market.
In an interview with the Huffington Post's Zach Carter subsequent to her public remarks, Warren explained: "The opponents of financial reform have cast the debate as rules vs. markets, that somehow anyone who believes in rules is anti-market. Rules are not the enemy of markets. They protect markets from blowing up. The real fight isn't between markets and rules. And it never has been. It's between competitive capitalism and crony capitalism."
Wall Street understands that the fix is in:
Populist rhetoric, many say, is good politics — but doesn’t portend an assault on the rich.
Hillary Clinton sounded like a woman on a mission after her long drive into the heartland: “There’s something wrong,” she told Iowans on Tuesday, when “hedge fund managers pay lower taxes than nurses or the truckers I saw on I-80 when I was driving here over the last two days.” ...
It’s “just politics,” said one major Democratic donor on Wall Street, explaining that some of her Wall Street supporters doubt she would push hard for closing the carried interest loophole as president, a policy she promoted when she last ran in 2008. ...
Indeed, many of the financial sector donors supporting her just-declared presidential campaign say they’ve been expecting the moment when Clinton started calling out hedge fund managers and decrying executive pay all along — right down to the complaints from critics that such arguments are rich coming from someone who recently made north of $200,000 per speech, and who has been close to Wall Street since her days representing it as a senator from New York. ...
In the words of Democratic strategist Chris Lehane, a veteran of Bill Clinton’s White House who now advises billionaire environmentalist hedge fund manager and donor Tom Steyer, “The fact is that any Democrat running for president would talk about this. It’s as surprising as the sun rising in the East.” ...
Tom Nides, a Clinton confidant and Morgan Stanley vice chairman, said her recent comments did not amount to a change of position.
“She has a long history on these issues going back to 2008 and even earlier, from capital gains taxes to Dodd-Frank,” he said, referring to the bank regulation legislation. “This is not, ‘Oh my God she’s running to the left.’ This is basically who she has been. She has great relationships with people but that doesn’t mean she is always going to give those people what they want.”
Oil firm invested billions of pounds in clean and low-carbon energy in the 80s and 90s but later abandoned meaningful efforts to move away from fossil fuels and locked away the research
At one stage the company, whose annual general meeting is in London on Thursday, was spending in-house around $450m (£300m) a year on research alone - the equivalent of $830m today.
The energy efficiency programme employed 4,400 research scientists and R&D support staff at bases in Sunbury, Berkshire, and Cleveland, Ohio, among other locations, while $8bn was directly invested over five years in zero- or low-carbon energy.
But almost all of the technology was sold off and much of the research locked away in a private corporate archive. ...
An investigation by the Guardian has established that the British oil company is doing far less now on developing low-carbon technologies than it was in the 1980s and early 1990s. Back then it was engaged in a massive internal research and development (R&D) programme into energy efficiency and alternative energy.
Even before the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had put climate change on the international political map with a landmark speech in 1988, the company was doing ground-breaking work into photovoltaic solar panels, wave power and domestic energy efficiency as part of a wider drive to understand how greenhouse gas emissions could be curbed. ...
“All the reports that we produced were filed away and contain a huge mass of information. We had been researching alternative energies for years going back to the early 1980s,” said one senior scientist involved in the BP programme who did not want to be named.
Also of interest: