The Evening Blues - 7-9-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues harmonica player Alfred "Blues King" Harris. Enjoy!
Alfred "Blues King" Harris - My Life Blues
"You are talking to a leftist. I believe in the redistribution of wealth and power in the world. I believe in universal hospital care for everyone. I believe that we should not have a single homeless person in the richest country in the world. And I believe that we should not have a C.I.A. that goes around overwhelming governments and assassinating political leaders, working for tight oligarchies around the world to protect the tight oligarchy here at home."
-- Abbie Hoffman
News and Opinion
Agnes Callamard, the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, has concluded in a new report that the Trump administration’s killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani at Baghdad International Airport on January 3 was unlawful. Callamard has the responsibility to report on killings by drone.
Anna Germoni of the Italian TPI.it site interviewed Callamard about her findings.
Callamard noted that her own particular remit is arbitrary murders, and that Trump’s whacking of Soleimani was a first:
“The targeted killing of General Qasem Soleimani is the first case of a drone attack against the representative of the armed forces of a state. Until now, all drone kills that I am aware of have targeted non-state targets, particularly individuals associated with acts of terror.”
That is worth underlining. Trump did something that had never before been done, and which is very dangerous. He used a drone on a high-ranking general in a foreign army of a state—a state with which the United States is not formally at war. ...
Callamard concludes that not only was Soleimani’s killing unlawful, it set a very bad precedent. Trump was acting as judge, jury and executioner and arbitrarily killing someone he didn’t like the looks of. But what if that became standard practice? Wouldn’t US officers be in danger of being droned? This consideration had given previous presidents pause when they considered such a course of action. Not Trump.
A new Reuters/Ipsos poll has reportedly found that a majority of Americans believe the completely discredited narrative that the Russian government paid Taliban-linked fighters to kill the occupying forces of the US and its allies in Afghanistan.
“A majority of Americans believe that Russia paid the Taliban to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan last year amid negotiations to end the war, and more than half want to respond with new economic sanctions against Moscow, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday,” Reuters reports.
“Overall, 60% of Americans said they found reports of Russian bounties on American soldiers to be ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ believable, while 21% said they were not credible and the rest were unsure,” says Reuters.
— Reuters (@Reuters) July 8, 2020
Those 21 percent are objectively correct: the story is not credible, and it’s not even close. Gareth Porter shows in The Grayzone how the “Bountygate” narrative is so utterly baseless that even US intelligence agencies have dismissed it, Joe Lauria of Consortium News explains how it doesn’t make any sense on its face, and FAIR’s Alan MacLeod breaks down the appalling journalistic malpractice that went into circulating this incredibly thinly sourced story to the mainstream public.
The story advances no solid facts or verified information. What it does advance is pre-existing imperialist agendas like remaining in Afghanistan, killing the last of the remaining nuclear deals with Moscow, and manufacturing public support for new Russia sanctions.
And yet a majority of people believed it, and still believe it. The narrative that Russia paid Taliban fighters to kill occupying forces is now regarded as an established fact in many key circles, despite being backed by literally zero facts. ...
This kind of manipulation is not rare, it is ubiquitous and ongoing. Every single day the plutocratic media are putting ideas in people’s minds which favor the establishment upon which said plutocrats have built their kingdoms, normalizing the insane status quo and manufacturing support for agendas which bolster it. This is not some delusional conspiracy theory, it’s a well-documented fact to which many mainstream journalists have testified.
As long as this remains the case in our society, democracy cannot exist in any meaningful way. As long as a loose alliance of plutocrats and government operatives are able to consistently manipulate the way a critical mass of people think and vote, then you cannot rightly say that the people are in charge of the fate of their nation. If the majority is consistently in alignment with the plutocrats whose outsized media influence enables them to dominate the public narrative, then voting necessarily reflects the will of those plutocrats, not the people.
Even if you changed everything else that is wrong with the current system, nothing would change if the plutocratic class retained its ability to manipulate the way people think and vote. You can fix America’s garbage election integrity, end gerrymandering, even get money out of politics, but as long as the plutocratic class is still using its wealth to manipulate public thought in support of its interests, people would keep voting the way they’re manipulated to vote.
Manipulation is a key ingredient in any long-term abusive relationship, because people don’t tend to stay in abusive situations unless they are manipulated into doing so. This is true whether you’re talking about romantic partnerships, governments, or globe-spanning power structures. We don’t use the power of our numbers to end this abusive relationship where we are at the whim of crushing austerity, exploitative neoliberalism, endless war and rapacious ecocide, because we’re being manipulated into staying.
A major research effort is under way to understand whether Covid-19 can spread through tiny airborne particles that are released by infected people and remain suspended in the air for hours. Scientists are working alongside sanitary engineers at the World Health Organization to investigate how tiny aerosols bearing the virus may be released into the environment; whether they are spread around rooms by air-conditioning units; and how infectious the particles may be.
Among the studies being conducted are experiments with caged hamsters to assess whether viruses wafting through the air in hospitals and other high-risk settings are sufficiently potent to spread infections.
In an open letter published on Monday, the scientists implied that the WHO was underplaying the risk of airborne transmission, prompting the organisation to concede that the possibility could not be ruled out, particularly in crowded, enclosed and poorly vented spaces.
Mike Pence, the US vice-president, on Wednesday followed up demands made by Donald Trump and declared: “It’s time for us to get our kids back to school,” even as the coronavirus surged beyond the bleak milestone of 3 million cases across the US – setting up what could be the next big battle of the pandemic.
Pence, who heads the White House coronavirus taskforce, said the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) would issue new guidance next week for the reopening of schools in the autumn, prompting criticism that it is yielding to pressure from the president.
“We’re working to reopen America and reopen America’s schools,” the vice-president said at a taskforce press briefing at the education department, where the top infectious diseases expert Dr Anthony Fauci was notably absent. “It’s time for us get our kids back to school.”
Pence added: “It is absolutely essential that we get our kids back in the classroom for in-person learning.”
In May the CDC issued guidelines for schools that included staggered arrival times, temperature screenings, face masks for staff, lunch in classrooms and desks positioned at least 6ft apart to ensure physical distancing.
Trump Health Secretary Says US Healthcare Workers 'Don't Get Infected' With Covid-19 (94,000 Have Contracted the Virus)
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Tuesday falsely claimed that healthcare workers "don't get infected" with Covid-19 "because they take appropriate precautions" as he attempted to make the case for reopening schools in the fall—even with coronavirus cases surging across the United States.
"There's no reason we can't do any of this," Azar, a former pharmaceutical lobbyist and executive, said during an event at the White House. "We have healthcare settings. We have healthcare workers, they don't get infected because they take appropriate precautions. They engage in social distancing, they wear facial covering, they use good personal hygiene. This can work, you can do all of this. There's no reason schools have to be in any way any different."
In addition to noting that Azar's claim about healthcare workers not getting infected is wildly false—according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 94,000 healthcare workers have contracted Covid-19 and at least 500 have died—medical professionals rejected the argument that precautionary measures taken in healthcare settings can easily be replicated in the nation's schools.
"We are trained in infection control and have used [personal protective equipment] for years," tweeted Prasad Jallepalli, MD, a professor at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. "This is almost as dumb as the 'give teachers guns' proposal."
Sarah Karlin-Smith, a reporter with Pink Sheet, asked: "If we don't have enough PPE for the healthcare workers on the front lines, how can we possibly have enough PPE for all of the country's teachers to take the same precautions?"
As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the US reached 3m, and another daily record fell with more than 60,000 new cases, Donald Trump insisted the US was “in a good place” and admitted he “didn’t listen to my experts”.
The president also publicly attacked the US’s most senior non-political member of the White House coronavirus taskforce, Dr Anthony Fauci, who said earlier this week the US was still “knee deep in the first wave” of the pandemic.
More than 130,000 Americans have now died from Covid-19, the highest death toll in the world.
Speaking to former Fox News host Greta Van Susteren for a Gray TV interview to be broadcast on Sunday, Trump said: “I disagree with him. You know, Dr Fauci said ‘don’t wear masks’ and now he says ‘wear them’. And you know, he’s said numerous things: ‘Don’t close off China. Don’t ban China.’
“And I did it anyway. I sort of didn’t listen to my experts and I banned China.”
There have been at least 68 vehicle attacks on protesters in the last several months, one of which was fatal.
On Tuesday evening in New York, as a Black Lives Matter protest that began in Washington Square Park hours earlier was winding down, an SUV approached a line of people on bikes protecting the demonstrators on the corner of 42nd Street and First Avenue. ... “He didn’t stop,” one eyewitness told NY1. “He literally put the pedal to the metal and literally drove through the crowd. It was devastating.” ...
According to data collected by Ari Weil, the deputy research director at the Chicago Project on Security and Threats of the University of Chicago, Tuesday night’s incident marks at least the 68th car attack nationwide since George Floyd was killed on May 25, sparking a wave of anti-racism protests across the country.
A number of attacks and incidents were reported in the last week alone. Several protesters were injured and one was killed. ...
As well as the attacks themselves, experts are expressing concerns about increased activity among an online community that opposes the protests and jokes about protesters getting injured. These jokes and memes often encourage vehicular attacks on protesters, targeting the Black Lives Matter movement in particular. “It is not just an extremist thing here, but there are social media circles online where people are sharing these and joking about them because they disagree with the protests and their methods,” Weil told the New York Times. “Sharing memes and joking about running over people can lead to real danger.”
Through deceptive editing, two recent campaign ads for President Donald Trump falsely portray law-abiding Black Lives Matter protesters who acted to prevent violence as dangerous thugs plotting to “unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities.” The Trump campaign ads mislead viewers by distorting the meaning of video recorded during a protest in Washington, D.C. on May 31 by Safvan Allahverdi, a reporter for Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu news agency.
As Allahverdi explained in a Twitter caption for his 92-second clip, the incident he caught on camera that day showed black protesters taking it upon themselves to head off trouble, by tackling and disarming a white man clad in black who was using a hammer to break up pieces of the sidewalk into potential projectiles.
Protestors in DC handed the white dude who was about to provocate the protest to the police.
— Safvan Allahverdi (@s_Allahverdi) May 31, 2020
After they subdued the man, the group of mainly black protesters dragged him to a line of police officers and insisted that he be arrested.
Ten days later, however, the Trump campaign released an ad that used images from the news footage — of the man hammering the pavement and part of the scuffle after he was tackled — to offer voters a glimpse of the “chaos in the streets” former Vice President Joe Biden would supposedly permit by failing “to stand up to the radical leftists fighting to defund and abolish the police.” The ad, which superimposed video of Biden kneeling at a church in Delaware last month on to the snippets from Allahverdi’s footage, is based on a pair of lies: that the protesters who tackled the man were bent on violence and that Biden, who had already stated, “I don’t support defunding the police,” would enable their reign of terror.
The New York Police Department arrested white and Black people by the hundreds at the height of the city’s Black Lives Matter protests, but the two groups often faced radically different fates in the criminal justice system.
White people made up about 44% of the 2,000-plus total arrests that occurred in connection to the protests between May 28 and June 7, according to data released Wednesday by the New York state’s Office of the Attorney General. Black people made up about 39%. But while 16% of the Black arrestees ended up being charged with a felony, just about 3% of arrested white people faced similar charges.
Latinx people made up about 13% of the total arrests. Nearly 8% of those arrestees were charged with felonies.
This new data backs up a June report by VICE News that found that Black and brown were already being punished more severely than white people for joining the demonstrations, according to accounts from public defenders and protesters. One public defender’s organization in Manhattan found that, between May 29 and June 6, just 5% of the 72 people it had arraigned in what the organization called “protest-related cases” were white.
Nine in 10 Americans believe that racism and police violence are problems in the country, a Guardian/Opinium Research poll has found, a sign that public opinion is shifting away from the views put forward by Donald Trump.
The US president has been criticised for relentlessly stoking white fear and grievance in recent weeks, putting him at odds with Black Lives Matter anti-racism protests that have swept the nation following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May.
But the Opinium survey of 2,000 US adults, conducted for the Guardian between 19 and 24 June, suggests that Trump is out of sync with the mood across the political spectrum.
Some 91% of Americans now agree that racism is a problem in the US and 72% deem it is a serious one. Similarly, 89% think police violence is a problem and 65% consider it serious.
This opinion also cuts across age groups. Although younger Americans are predictably more likely to view racism as a serious problem – four in five (80%) – the view is shared by nearly seven in 10 (68%) of 35- to 54-year-olds and even more (69%) and those over 55 – a demographic group often associated with Trump’s base.
As he campaigned for the presidency, Donald Trump promised to build a “big beautiful wall” along the US-Mexico border, claiming it would keep migrants out of the country and stop everything from drugs to disease. But with Covid-19 cases surging on both sides of the frontier, towns in northern Mexico are pleading to restrict cross-border movement – this time to stop tourists and travellers bringing in coronavirus from the US.
Over the weekend, townspeople in Sonoyta on the Arizona border used their own vehicles to block the road leading to Puerto Peñasco, a beach town on the Sea of Cortés popular with US tourists – and they plan to repeat the process this week.
“We invite US tourists not to visit Mexico,” Sonoyta’s mayor, José Ramos Arzate, said in a statement. “We agreed on this to safeguard the health of our community in the face of an accelerated rate of Covid-19 contagion in the neighboring state of Arizona.”
The Trump administration is free to let employers deny their workers birth control coverage if they have religious or moral objections, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.
The 7-2 decision caps off years of lawsuits over the Affordable Care Act’s so-called “birth control mandate.” Ever since the Obama administration required employers to offer their workers contraceptive coverage nearly a decade ago, religious liberty proponents and reproductive rights advocates have been locked in a fight over which employers should be exempt from that requirement. Over the years, the government has given churches and other houses of worship, as well as some other employers, ways to skirt that requirement. ...
In the majority opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas ruled that the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury did have the authority to carve out those exemptions. “The only question we face today is what the plain language of the statute authorizes,” Thomas wrote. “And the plain language of the statute clearly allows the Departments to create the preventive care standards as well as the religious and moral exemptions.”
The reliably conservative Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh all joined Thomas’ opinion, as did Chief Justice John Roberts (who recently sided with the liberals in multiple cases). Justice Elena Kagan also voted with the majority but wrote a separate opinion to explain why. Justice Stephen Breyer joined her opinion.
There is a one-in-five chance annual global temperatures will be at least 1.5C warmer than in pre-industrial times in the next five years, experts have said.
Annual global temperatures are likely to be at least 1C above the levels they were before the industrial era in each year between 2020 and 2024, a long-range forecast by experts led by the UK Met Office shows.
And there is a 20% likelihood that annual temperatures will exceed 1.5C above pre-industrial levels in at least one year, with the chances increasing over time, according to the analysis published by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).
Under the global Paris agreement countries have committed to keep temperature rises “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to curb them to 1.5C to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
Indigenous Americans and Polynesians bridged vast expanses of open ocean around the year 1200 and mingled, leaving incontrovertible proof of their encounter in the DNA of present-day populations, new studies have revealed. Whether peoples from what is today Colombia or Ecuador drifted thousands of kilometres to tiny islands in the middle of the Pacific, or whether seafaring Polynesians sailed upwind to South America and then back again, is still unknown.
But what is certain, according to a study in Nature, is that it took place hundreds of years before Europeans set foot in either region, and left individuals scattered across what became French Polynesia with signature traces of the New World in their DNA. ...
Archeologists and historians have tussled for decades over whether Oceania islanders and Indigenous Americans crossed paths during the Middle Ages, and how, if they did, that contact might have unfolded. In 1947, the Norwegian explorer and writer Thor Heyerdahl went so far as to build a primitive raft – which he called Kon-Tiki, after an Inca god – and sailed from Peru nearly 7,000km for 101 days before crashing into Tuamotus in French Polynesia.
As it turns out, that is one of the islands where snippets of New World DNA showed up.
A specialist search and recovery team has been deployed to recapture the last remaining survivors of a flock of endangered birds that absconded from a predator-free island in New Zealand during coronavirus lockdown. There are only 250 shore plover or tūturuatu left in the wild and they are the world’s rarest plover. Conservationists have been painstakingly reintroducing them to the mainland after they were almost wiped out by cats and rats by 1880.
The birds survived for another 100 years in a remote colony on the Chatham Islands, 650km west of New Zealand.
Shore plovers are endemic to New Zealand and renowned for their “attitude and friendliness” – traits which alongside their ground nests make them highly vulnerable to predators. Mana Island off the coast of the North Island’s Kapiti coast was a successful home to an introduced colony of plovers in 2007. But a few short years after being introduced a single rat wiped out half the population, with the rest dying shortly later due to “complications”.
After the 2007 devastation conservationists avoided reintroducing the plover until the pest situation was resolved. But in April and May they again took the plunge, transporting 29 young birds to the island, some of whom required ministerial approval to travel during the Covid-19 lockdown. The birds were colour-banded but not tracked, the department of conservation (DoC) said, and it now appears nearly the entire population has again vanished: either having being killed by avian predators such as rūrū, or having flown off to the mainland.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Alfred 'Blues King' Harris - I Need You Pretty Baby For My Own
Alfred ' The Blues King ' Harris - Miss Ida (Alternate Take)
Alfred ' The Blues King ' Harris - Great Lakes Boogie
Alfred 'Blues King' Harris - Miss Darling
Alfred 'Blues King' Harris - Blues and Trouble
Alfred 'Blues King' Harris - Sufficient Clothes
Alfred 'Blues King' Harris - Blues King Mambo
Alfred ' The Blues King ' Harris - Sundown Boogie Blues