The Evening Blues - 5-26-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues guitarist, harmonica player and singer Louisiana Red. Enjoy!
Louisiana Red - Who 'Dat'? (Tell Me Mama)
"It is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners."
-- Albert Camus
News and Opinion
The Pentagon released in early May its congressionally mandated annual report on the number of civilians the US military has killed. The report concluded that the military was responsible for 132 civilian deaths in all theaters of war, including Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Somalia.
Multiple NGOs have published evidence indicating that the real numbers are several times what the Pentagon admitted to. In Afghanistan, for instance, the Pentagon report found that the US was responsible for 108 civilian deaths; a United Nations report (2/22/20) on civilian casualties in Afghanistan found 559 deaths had been caused by “international forces” in the country. As the New York Times (5/7/20) pointed out, the United States is the only foreign country in Afghanistan with soldiers and aircraft that actually conduct offensive operations. This means the Pentagon could be undercounting civilian deaths in Afghanistan by a factor of five.
In Syria and Iraq, the US military said it had killed 22 civilians during its operations against ISIS. Airwars, an organization that tracks civilian harm from military air power, found the US responsible for up to 72 deaths in Iraq and Syria. Here, the Pentagon’s numbers could be off by more than a factor of three.
As Murtaza Hussain, writing for the Intercept (5/8/20)—the only outlet that covered this story with any seriousness—points out, “All this raises the question of who exactly the military has been killing over nearly two decades of war.”
In the days following the release of the report—when the story would be most newsworthy—US media were largely silent on the matter. The Washington Post, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, New York Post, LA Times and Boston Globe all neglected to report on or publish editorials regarding the report, according to searches on these papers’ websites. A review of three days’ worth of transcripts from CNN and MSNBC, and searching the sites of ABC, NBC and CBS, shows that none of these TV outlets thought that US responsibility for civilian deaths was worth a brief pause in Covid-19 coverage.
Among major US print and TV outlets, the New York Times (5/7/20) published the only story we could find on the subject, consisting of just 538 words. Though the headline, “US Military Killed 132 Civilians in Wars Last Year, Pentagon Says,” took the military’s numbers at face value, the piece largely consists of dissenting opinions, including the United Nations, Amnesty International and Airwars. For example, Daphne Eviatar, head of the Security With Human Rights program at Amnesty International, told the New York Times that the Pentagon needed to develop “reliable means for investigating and reporting on who it has killed and injured” during lethal operations.
Unfortunately, the paper failed to treat the serious discrepancies in the numbers as anything important. Why, for example, does the headline feature the Pentagon’s dubious line, rather than call attention to the stark differences from independent numbers? And why did no opinion columnists have anything to say about it?
Yahoo! News (5/7/20) also reported on the story, carrying an AFP story that cited NGO dissenters, but decided it was best consigned to the Sports section.
Perhaps the constant stream of death from our military has made media figures and politicians jaded; the subhead of the New York Times piece noted that “the tally has changed little since the previous year’s report.” As the country approaches two decades of endless war, however, it is more necessary than ever for the public to have a full accounting of the human costs. The media institutions set the agenda for the national conversation, but none of them seem to think that the number of civilian lives claimed in America’s forever wars is a priority, or that the public should give those deaths much thought.
Following recent US warnings of confrontation in the Persian Gulf, the US is now holding live-fire training operations in the area, involving helicopter gunships and amphibious groups. Officials touted it as a chance to demonstrate the “awesome firepower” of US weapons. ...
The big result of such exercises is often the deployment of more US ships and arms into a region for such exercises, and in the Persian Gulf, such deployments have a nasty way of becoming permanent.
It was a speech intended to define a new era. In a final, do-or-die attempt to block what appeared to be Israeli plans for a permanent land grab, the Palestinian president announced he would renege on decades of diplomacy. From the 1990s-era Oslo accords – the first steps of a peace process – to deep security coordination between the Palestinian leadership, Israel and US intelligence agencies, all were now void, Mahmoud Abbas said in a late-night speech last week. He said the Palestinian leadership was “absolved, as of today, of all the agreements and understandings with the American and Israeli governments”.
Almost a week later, it appears Abbas may have been bluffing. He has made similar threats multiple times before and, apart from sightings of Palestinian security forces retreating from some areas they patrol in coordination with Israeli forces, there was little sign on the ground that life had changed. ... If Abbas had been serious, the ramifications would have been enormous and, probably, immediate. By nullifying those agreements, Abbas would destroy the structures that have held him in power for years, including his ruling Palestinian Authority (PA), itself a product of the Oslo accords. ...
The secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, Saeb Erekat, however, suggested that security and intelligence sharing was ending. Despite public antagonism, Israel, the US and the PA have long maintained security coordination against their mutual enemy, Hamas. Although he would not divulge specific details of Abbas’s plan, Erekat said the leadership had already suspended contacts with the CIA and Israeli intelligence agencies. ...
Abbas’s speech was a response to Israel’s government officially contemplating annexing large areas of the West Bank, apparently with US backing. Palestinians claim that land for a future state. Although Israel already maintains a half-century-old occupation in the territories, annexation is seen as a deathblow to any Palestinian state.
Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, said Sunday that it is difficult to tell if the country will close again because of the pandemic.
Birx told ABC’s “This Week” that officials will learn in the coming months how to “maintain openness and safety” while reopening.
“I want to be very clear to the American people – we are preparing for that potential fall issue,” she said, adding that officials are focused on gathering personal protective equipment and ventilators and advancing therapeutics and vaccine development. ...
Anthony Fauci, a top infectious disease expert and another member of the White House task force, has said a second wave of the coronavirus is “inevitable.” But President Trump said the country will not close again if a second wave of the coronavirus strikes.
'Here We Go Again': Richest Hospitals Sitting on Billions in Cash Got Golden Bailouts Compared to Those Serving Poorest
While critics have noted in recent weeks the ways in which the Covid-19 pandemic has "laid bare some of the dysfunctions and inequalities in the American healthcare system," new reporting Monday reveals how some of the wealthiest hospital groups in the United States have received huge infusions of federal rescue funds even as they sat on billions of dollars in cash reserves and poorer hospitals and clinics struggle to maintain bare-minimum levels of service.
According to the New York Times, a disproportionate amount of the $72 billion approved by Congress to bolster hospitals amid the coronavirus outbreak is flowing "to hospitals that had already built up deep financial reserves to help them withstand an economic storm. Smaller, poorer hospitals are receiving tiny amounts of federal aid by comparison."
The reporting, some of it based on an analysis by the watchdog group Good Jobs First, notes that many of the wealthy hospital groups that received an outsize share of the funds—including well-healed outfits like Cleveland Clinic, Ascension Health, and the Providence Health System—"are set up as nonprofits, which generally don't have to pay federal taxes on their billions of dollars of income. By contrast, hospitals that serve low-income patients often have only enough cash on hand to finance a few weeks of their operations."
The large tax reserves of these wealthy hospital groups "come from a mix of sources," the Times reports: "no-strings-attached private donations, income from investments with hedge funds and private equity firms, and any profits from treating patients. Some chains, like Providence, also run their own venture-capital firms to invest their cash in cutting-edge start-ups. The investment portfolios often generate billions of dollars in annual profits, dwarfing what the hospitals earn from serving patients." ...
The Financial Times last month detailed how Covid-19 was both exposing and exacerbating pre-existing inequities and inefficiencies that are fundamental to the for-profit healthcare system in the U.S.:
Even though the US spends trillions of dollars on healthcare, much of that is wasted. The funding gets used up by bureaucrats that have to code and bill every action a doctor takes, by doctors and hospital administrators paid far more than their European counterparts and by the soaring cost of drugs. A study last year in The Journal of the American Medical Association found at least $760bn was wasted in unnecessary health spending — more than the US spends on primary and secondary education.
Poorer hospitals that cater to low-income urban communities, or rural areas where population is declining, are dependent on government insurance. They say the payments from Medicaid do not cover their costs as the price of staff, equipment and drugs rises.
The new reporting on the distribution of funds suggests concerns over poorer hospitals succumbing to the financial pressures of the pandemic were justified—a concern that also shines a spotlight on the manner in which the Trump administration managed the funds. From the Times:
After the CARES Act was passed in March, hospital industry lobbyists reached out to senior Health and Human Services officials to discuss how the money would be distributed.
Representatives of the American Hospital Association (AHA), a lobbying group for the country’s largest hospitals, communicated with Alex M. Azar II, the department secretary, and Eric Hargan, the deputy secretary overseeing the funds, said Tom Nickels, a lobbyist for the group. Chip Kahn, president of the Federation of American Hospitals, which lobbies on behalf of for-profit hospitals, said he, too, had frequent discussions with the agency.
The department then devised formulas to quickly dispense tens of billions of dollars to thousands of hospitals—and those formulas favored large, wealthy institutions.
While some Democrats on Capitol Hill have raised issued about the funding disparities, it's not clear if the Trump administration will pay any political cost.
The coronavirus continues to run rampant throughout factories and workplaces in the US, even as federal, state and local governments are dispensing with any efforts to contain the pandemic, allowing businesses and economic activity to recommence.
All 50 states have begun lifting shutdowns, with more restrictions set to expire at the end of May, in one week. Deaths could double or triple in the next two months as a result, reaching 200,000 to 300,000 by the end of July, according to the latest models by researchers at the Imperial College London. “We find no evidence that any state is approaching herd immunity or that its epidemic is close to over,” the report warned.
Millions are increasingly confronting workplaces that have been transformed into death traps. Tens of thousands of workers have already been infected with the coronavirus at grocery stores, meatpacking plants, Amazon warehouses and other industries that have continued to operate during the pandemic. Public health experts have warned that large enterprises where workers labor in close quarters are more vulnerable to becoming “super-spreading” vectors for the disease, a risk which vastly increased with the restart of the auto industry last week.
Ethnic minorities have been the hardest-hit by the coronavirus in the US, and now Latino workers are facing fresh difficulty, as they and their communities suffer discrimination after contracting coronavirus in meat processing plants and warehouses. More than 10,000 meatpacking workers, many of them Latino, have contracted coronavirus in the US, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers union, and dozens have died.
Latino advocates say workers are also now experiencing racism due to fears they have contracted the virus in the workplace.
“We’ve received reports that some workers at a plant were turned away from grocery stores and not allowed in, because they were presumed to have the coronavirus because they worked at the local meatpacking plant,” said Domingo Garcia, national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (Lulac).
“We’ve also heard in Marshalltown [Iowa] people were being refused service because they thought they were positive for Covid-19 – just because they were Latino,” Garcia added. ...
“Four out of every five Latinos are considered essential workers,” Garcia said. “They’re in construction, food processing, grocery stores, they’re farm workers. So they don’t have the luxury of being able to work from home, and therefore they’re being exposed to Covid-19 in ways that many American workers are not. Compounding that, Garcia said, is the lack of health insurance among some Latino workers. Garcia said Lulac is investigating “multiple cases” of Latino employees complaining about workplace conditions “and then being fired”.
African Americans in Texas are dying of Covid-19 at a rate more than one-third higher than their share of the population. Yet across the country, the protesters who became the faces of the race to reopen have been mostly white. In Michigan, for example, a mostly white militia stormed the state’s capitol dressed in tactical gear, armed with guns. Confederate symbols and swastikas were mixed in with the American flags and signs. Mostly absent were the black Americans who make up just 14% of the state’s population, but are up 32% of coronavirus cases. ...
Experts have warned lifting stay-at-home orders could have dire consequences on public health, with social advocates warning that it could result in the sacrifice of many for the benefit of few. Many critics argue that’s the point: the meaning behind the message. As it has been the case throughout much of American history, those most likely to be negatively impacted are African American.
According to the Penn Wharton Budget Model, even if US states reopen with social distancing rules in place, an additional 233,000 deaths could result from the outbreak. Black Americans face greater risk. Across the country African American populations are concentrated in major cities, where coronavirus cases have so far been highest.
Majority black counties already account for more than half of all coronavirus cases in the US and nearly 60% of deaths. African Americans are also disproportionately on the frontlines of life during the pandemic. An Associated Press analysis of the country’s 100 largest cities found more than 60% of warehouse and delivery workers are people of color. ...
As the Trump administration escalates reopening efforts, workers have organized walkouts and strikes. The social justice organizations Black Lives Matter and Barber’s Poor People’s Campaign are leading digital movements of their own. ... “Too many folk seem to see this pandemic as other people’s problem. Those people are the issue,” he said.
After Stephane Etienne was ordered deported to Haiti in February, ICE began to repeatedly transfer him from one detention center to another. Over the course of six weeks, he was transferred eight times between five different facilities in three states — even as President Trump and governors all over the country discouraged unnecessary travel.
Every time Etienne was moved, he was packed into a bus or plane with other detainees.
“Social distancing goes out the window,” Etienne said.
Eventually, his movements began to intersect with outbreaks of COVID-19, and after he arrived at the Pine Prairie detention center in Louisiana in April, he tested positive for the disease.
Etienne has no way of knowing where he contracted the virus. “The way ICE transfers you so many times, it’s almost impossible,” he said. He’s also been forced to interact with older detainees and some with underlying conditions that make them vulnerable to the disease.
Donald Trump has threatened to move the Republican party’s national convention from Charlotte, North Carolina, if the state is unable to commit to “full attendance” at the gathering due to Covid-19 restrictions.
In a series of tweets on Monday morning. Trump said the state’s Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, was “still in Shutdown mood & unable to guarantee” that the party would be able to fill the arena with supporters. ...
Trump’s tweets came just two days after North Carolina recorded its largest daily increase in positive cases of the coronavirus so far.
On Friday, Cooper permitted some further loosening of restrictions on hair salons, barbers and restaurants. But he said the state must continue to closely watch virus trends and has ordered entertainment venues, gyms and bars to remain closed.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned of “unusual or aggressive” behavior in American rats as a consequence of more than two months of human lockdown for city-dwelling rodents who now find themselves unable to dine out on restaurant waste, street garbage and other food sources.
Last month, according to the national health body, dumpster-diving rats were observed resorting to eating their young in the wake of urban shutdowns. “Community-wide closures have led to a decrease in food available to rodents, especially in dense commercial areas,” the CDC said in recently updated rodent-control guidelines. ...
Complaints in Chicago have included reports of infestations in housing blocks as rodents seek new sources of food.
Some rodent experts predicted increased urban rat aggression.
COVID-19 is hitting Brazil’s indigenous population twice as hard as the rest of the population, with a mortality rate of over 12 percent.
The startling statistic comes from the advocacy group Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) which is tracking the number of cases and deaths among the country's 900,000 indigenous people.
According to APIB’s latest figures, 125 indigenous people have died from coronavirus, out of 980 confirmed cases. The mortality rate of 12.4 percent is almost double the national mortality rate of 6.4 percent.
"The virus is reaching indigenous territories across Brazil with frightening speed," APIB said in a statement on Friday, pointing out that 40 of the country’s 300 separate indigenous groups are thought to have been infected already.
Doctors have been trying to reach communities living in isolated parts of the Brazilian rainforests, using medevac planes.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Louisiana Red & Lefty Dizz - Going Train Blues
Louisiana Red - This Little Letter
Louisiana Red - Bad Case Of The Blues
Louisiana Red - Red's New Dream
Louisiana Red - I Done Woke Up
Louisiana Red - Sugar Hips
Louisiana Red - You Got To Move
Louisiana Red - Thirty Dirty Women
Louisiana Red - Valerie!