The Evening Blues - 8-5-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald. Enjoy!
One For My Baby (And One More For The Road)
“This discourse of human rights, it's a very good format for TV--the great atrocity analysis and condemnation industry. Who comes out smelling sweet in the atrocity analysis? States have invested themselves with the right to legitimise violence--so who gets criminalised and delegitimised? The resistance. ... Human rights take the history out of justice. ... The idea of justice--even just dreaming of justice--is revolutionary. The language of human rights tends to accept a status quo that is intrinsically unjust--and then tries to make it more accountable. But then, of course, the catch-22 is that violating human rights is integral to the project of neoliberalism and global hegemony.”
-- Arundhati Roy
News and Opinion
In a report titled "The World is Watching," Amnesty International USA revealed on Tuesday that U.S. police violated the human rights of protesters, medics, journalists, and other people at least 125 times in the first weeks of the current U.S. racial justice uprising.
Between May 26 and June 5, police in 40 states and Washington, D.C. responded to protests with "shocking amounts of excessive force," according to (pdf) the organization.
Amnesty recorded the widespread "use of militarized equipment [and] excessive force including the use of batons, kinetic impact projectiles, and tear gas and pepper spray."
BREAKING: We documented the human rights violations by US federal, state, and local law enforcement against Black Lives Matter protesters, legal observers, journalists, and medics.
— Amnesty International USA (@amnestyusa) August 4, 2020
Demonstrations over the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless other Black Americans by police officers have continued across the country since Amnesty compiled its data, and videos posted to social media have shown hundreds of other violations by police at protests.
The report illustrates how "little has changed in how police respond to protests against police violence in the six years since Ferguson," Justin Mazzola, Amnesty's deputy director of research, told The Hill, referring to demonstrations against the killing of Michael Brown in 2014 which drew national attention to the Black Lives Matter movement.
The organization reported at the time that U.S. laws governing excessive force by police did not comply with international standards, which stipulate that tear gas and "less lethal" projectiles such as rubber bullets must only be used by police as a last resort.
"There has been a disturbing lack of progress over the past five years in ensuring that police officers use lethal force only when there is an imminent risk of death or serious injury to themselves or others," Tuesday's report reads. "Just three states—California, Washington, and Missouri—have taken important but incremental steps, such as by bringing their state laws on lethal force into compliance with U.S. constitutional standards."
Amnesty interviewed 50 protesters, journalists, medics, and legal observers who faced human rights violations at protests in late May and early June. ...
Amnesty released its report two weeks after the ACLU sued the Trump administration and the city of Portland, Oregon over federal and local law enforcement agents' attacks on volunteer street medics at ongoing protests in the city.
Amnesty's report included accounts of violence against street medics in Columbus, Ohio; Seattle; and Minneapolis.
National Lawyers Guild (NLG) legal observers Asia Parks and Megan Harrison also described being targeted in Atlanta. The women were clearly identified as legal observers, counseling protesters while wearing green NLG hats, when they were arrested and detained for 16 hours on June 1.
Within a few minutes of the city's curfew, Parks and Harrison were leaving the protest when they heard an officer say, "Get the girl in the green hat."
"I do think we were targeted as legal observers," Harrison told Amnesty. "I think there's no way they didn't know who we were. Police act differently when they know they are being watched. Similar to the arrest of journalists—at the end of day, we need people who can tell this story, collect this information, or the government can do whatever it wants."
A report released this week indicates the majority of Americans believe the media plays a critical role in democracy—and think United States news outlets are failing to deliver accurate coverage.
"That's a bad thing for democracy," John Sands, director of learning and impact at the Knight Foundation, which conducted the study in conjunction with Gallup, told the Associated Press. "Our concern is that when half of Americans have some sort of doubt about the veracity of the news they consume, it's going to be impossible for our democracy to function."
According to the report,
Less than half of Americans, 44%, say they can think of a news source that reports the news objectively. Republicans who can name an accurate source overwhelmingly mention Fox News, while Democrats' responses are more varied.
The Knight Foundation, referencing data from pre-Covid-19 pandemic polling, reports that a majority of U.S. adults consider "fake news" to be a threat to democracy. Four in 10 Republicans surveyed consider accurate news coverage that cast a politician or political group in a negative light to always be "fake news."
Americans on the whole, however, remain skeptical of information coming from the White House. A report released in June by the Pew Research Center shows citizens overwhelmingly trust news about Covid-19 from the CDC rather than the Trump administration. Trump's public disdain for CDC guidelines around Covid-19 and his active attempts to discredit top scientists, including the nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, have been the subject of much debate in recent months as the United States continues to lead the world in Covid-19 infections and deaths.
Social media has continued to gain ground as being a news source, with the Knight Foundation reporting an equal number of survey participants rely on newspapers as rely on social media for information.
However, a July 30 report by the Pew Research Foundation shows that people who rely on social media for news are "less likely to get the facts right about the coronavirus and politics and more likely to hear some unproven claims."
A newly released document exposes a US government operation to overthrow the democratically elected socialist government in Nicaragua. The document (PDF) details the creation of a new “task order” called Responsive Assistance in Nicaragua (RAIN) and its plan for “Nicaragua’s transition to democracy” – a euphemism for removing the leftist Sandinista Front for National Liberation (known commonly by the Spanish acronym FSLN) from power.
In the pages, the US government agency uses hardline neoconservative rhetoric, referring to Nicaragua’s elected government as the “Ortega regime,” and making it clear that Washington wants to install a neoliberal administration that will privatize the economy, impose neoliberal reforms, and purge all institutions of any trace of the leftist Sandinista movement.
The USAID regime-change scheme states openly that one of its top “mission goals” is for Nicaragua to “transition to a rules-based market economy” based on the “protection of private property rights.” The document concludes by calling for the future US-installed regime in Nicaragua to “rebuild institutions” and “reestablish” the military and police; to “dismantle parallel institutions” that support the Sandinista Front; and to persecute FSLN leaders through “transitional justice measures” – in other words, a thorough purge of the Sandinista movement to prevent it from ever returning to power.
In case it was not explicit enough that Washington’s goal was regime change, the 14-page USAID document employed the word “transition” 102 times, including nine times on the first page alone. USAID declared its intention to assist in what could be an “orderly transition” or a “sudden transition without elections,” which is clear code for a coup. At the same time, it acknowledged that Nicaragua’s right-wing opposition is divided and has little chance of winning the upcoming 2021 national election.
Couldn't happen to a nicer guy:
Colombia’s supreme court has ordered the detention of the hardline former president Álvaro Uribe amid an investigation into allegations of witness tampering and fraud in relation to crimes committed during the country’s 52-year civil war.
Tuesday’s decision shocked Colombians, who remained deeply divided over the Uribe’s 2002-10 administration, which was defined by his military campaign against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), a leftist rebel group that later demobilized in 2016. No Colombian president has been formally detained before. ...
Uribe remains an influential and deeply polarizing figure: his supporters say he neutered a violent Marxist group that had terrorized the country since the 1960s. His critics say he did so at an inexcusable cost to human rights.
During his presidency, rightwing paramilitary groups flourished, terrorizing civilians suspected of collaborating with the rebels. In what would later be known as the “false positives” scandal, soldiers from the army abducted and murdered thousands of civilians, declaring them rebel combatants in order to boost statistics and justify US aid. ...
The case against Uribe stems from a feud with leftist senator Iván Cepeda, who the former president in 2012 accused of plotting to falsely link him to paramilitary groups. The court in 2018 found that Cepeda’s investigation was legal, and that Uribe’s allies had attempted to tamper with witnesses. The court has yet to rule whether there is enough evidence to bring Uribe to trial. Uribe has denied any allegations against him.
Elliot Abrams Confirms to Senate Hearing That US Still 'Working Hard' to Overthrow Maduro in Venezuela
The U.S. Special Representative to Venezuela Elliott Abrams told a Senate panel Tuesday that despite a number of failed previous attempts, the Trump administration is continuing efforts to foment the ouster of President Nicolás Maduro, elected democratically by the Venezulean people two years ago.
"Obviously we hope that [Maduro] will not survive the year and we are working hard to make that happen," Abrams told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The comments by the the White House's top envoy were the latest sign that Washington will continue to apply pressure on Venezuela after over a year of failed attempts to install opposition leader Juan Guaidó as president despite Maduro's victory in the May 2018 election.
The Trump administration has recognized Guaidó as the nation's rightful leader after the Venezuelan politician, then the leader of the National Assembly, declared himself president in January 2019.
Progressives and left-leaning lawmakers alike have decried the administration's attempts to overthrow Maduro. In May 2019, as Common Dreams reported, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told liberal podcast Pod Save America that "the idea that we would intervene militarily in Venezuela is literally unbelievable."
The End of Big Tech? Calls Grow to Break Up Facebook, Amazon for "Mob-Like" Behavior, Monopoly Power
Watchdog Demands to Know If Drug Maker Sitting on Possible Covid-19 Treatment Due to Patent, Profit Concerns
As Covid-19 cases and deaths continue an upward trajectory in the United States, a watchdog group and allied scientists Tuesday urged the federal government and Gilead, the maker of the promising drug remdesivir, to explain why they have not pursued a similar treatment that might be cheaper for consumers though possibly less profitable to the company.
The drug in question, known as GS-4441524, closely resembles remdesivir in chemical makeup, Public Citizen and scientist co-signers wrote in a joint letter to Gilead and United States federal government agencies including the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.
Specifically, Public Citizen et al noted that GS-4441524:
- Has demonstrated marked effectiveness and safety in the treatment of a lethal coronavirus infection in cats;
- Has been shown in cultured cells to have antiviral activity against the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 that appears to be similar or superior to that of remdesivir, and at levels achievable in the body with low toxicity;
- Enters lung cells and is converted to its active form that halts reproduction of the coronavirus;
- Is a smaller molecule and is more water soluble than remdesivir, possibly facilitating its use in oral or inhaled forms for treatment of COVID-19, whereas remdesivir is currently limited to intravenous use only;
- Is substantially easier to manufacture than remdesivir; and
- In humans, following injection of remdesivir, GS-441524 is the predominant substance that provides antiviral therapeutic effects in the lungs.
In its letter, Public Citizen expressed concern over the drug's development and the possible motivations the company may have for putting one drug into trials over the other.
"It is unclear why Gilead and federal scientists have not been pursuing GS-441524 as aggressively as remdesivir, but the answer may be found in the corporation’s patent holdings," the group said. "Gilead holds patents on both agents, but the earliest patent approval date on remdesivir is 2015, whereas the earliest on GS-441524 is 2010. As a result, the corporation’s monopoly over remdesivir may last five years longer than that for GS-441524, allowing Gilead to make substantially greater profits from the sale of remdesivir as a COVID-19 treatment."
In June, Gilead announced it will charge between $2,300 and $3,100 for a five-day course of remdesivir, a potential for treatment for patients in advanced stages of Covid-19. The move angered lawmakers, including Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who pointed to the company's profit margins and drug development timeline as an example of excessive greed of the pharmaceutical industry, particularly amidst a global pandemic.
The United States Food and Drug Administration granted emergency authorization for the use of remdesivir in treatment of Covid-19 in May, and Gilead's stock prices have skyrocketed since. Barron's reported this week that remdesivir sales could top $3 billion this year.
As Public Citizen has noted, U.S. taxpayers helped fund remdesivir development research, yet Gilead seems intent on making citizens around the world pay a premium for this potentially life-saving treatment.
The husband of the Los Angeles district attorney has been charged with multiple firearm assaults after he pointed a gun at Black Lives Matter activists and said, “I will shoot you.” David Lacey, whose wife Jackie Lacey is the elected prosecutor currently running for re-election, is facing three misdemeanor charges for pointing his firearm at three organizers who were protesting outside their house on 2 March, the day before the primary election. The charges come from the state attorney general’s office. ...
Close to the door was Melina Abdullah, a Black Lives Matter Los Angeles leader, who said on the video: “He pulled a gun and pointed it at my chest.” Abdullah, who has been protesting against Jackie Lacey for years over her refusal to prosecute officers who kill civilians, told the Guardian on Tuesday that she was surprised to learn of the charges from the media, and said she had not had any contact with the attorney general or the district attorney.
She also pointed out that the charges were misdemeanors and that prosecutors typically file more serious felony charges for firearm threats like the one clearly captured on footage against her. “Had it been anyone else who pointed a gun at someone’s chest, at three people in fact, and said the words, ‘I will shoot you’, we know they’d be getting more than misdemeanors,” said Abdullah, who is also a professor of Pan-African studies at Cal State LA. “The system is there to protect themselves.”
Neil Young is suing Donald Trump’s campaign for alleged illegal usage of his music at a rally. The musician claims that Rockin’ in the Free World and Devil’s Sidewalk were played at the president’s recent rally in Tulsa without a license. Both songs have also been used before by the campaign.
“This complaint is not intended to disrespect the rights and opinions of American citizens, who are free to support the candidate of their choosing,” reads the copyright infringement complaint filed in New York federal court. “However, Plaintiff in good conscience cannot allow his music to be used as a ‘theme song’ for a divisive, un-American campaign of ignorance and hate.”
Young posted details of the lawsuit on his official site which details the singer “continuously and publicly” objecting to his music being used by Trump going back to 2015. “The Campaign has willfully ignored Plaintiff’s telling it not to play the songs and willfully proceeded to play the songs despite a lack of license,” it reads.
Joe Biden is a big 'ol pander bear.
Joe Biden’s election campaign on Tuesday unveiled a plan to address the economic inequalities facing Latinos in America amid financial turmoil caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which has disproportionately harmed communities of color. ...
Senior campaign officials announced plans and commitments focused on investing in the economic mobility of Latinos, starting with education and healthcare, as well as a commitment to support the building of a Smithsonian Latino museum on the National Mall in Washington DC.
Biden had previously promised to introduce a sweeping immigration plan on his first day in office, including protecting recipients of the Daca program, affording protections and rights to qualifying, young, undocumented immigrants, known as Dreamers– and also undoing the Trump administration’s hardline international asylum policies.
“The policies of [the Trump] administration amount to an onslaught of violence and fear against the community. That ends when Joe Biden is president,” a senior campaign official said on a call with reporters on Tuesday morning. ...
His Latino agenda also overlaps with Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan, an economic agenda that includes manufacturing, climate and caregiving. The plan promises “far reaching economic investment” into Latino communities through a first time homeowner credit and investment into Hispanic serving educational institutions. Its healthcare component promises to “tackle social determinants of health” by building on the Affordable Care Act.
David Sirota has read the collective mind of progressives when it comes to Presidential candidate Joe Biden. On August 1 Sirota Tweeted: “Give us an anti-Wall Street Treasury Secretary and AG [Attorney General], and you can have your sh*tty VP…On the other hand, give us a sh*tty Treasury Secretary and AG and try to paper it over with a good VP, and you’ve basically given everyone the big middle finger.”
There is growing concern about Biden among progressives because he has made the decidedly ill-advised move of using the infamous Larry Summers as an advisor. Summers is the man who played an outsized role in the creation of Frankenbanks on Wall Street in 1999 with his push to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act and the deregulation of derivatives in 2000 as Treasury Secretary in the Clinton administration.
Carrying on the proud tradition of failing up as a Wall Street Democrat, Summers became director of the National Economic Council under the Obama administration during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression – brought on in no small part as a result of the Wall Street deregulation endorsed by Summers during his time in the Clinton administration.
Summers’ economic policies during the Obama administration led to the Occupy Wall Street protests and chants around the country that “Banks got bailed out; we got sold out.” This was an accurate assessment of Summers’ policies. ...
Larry Summers’ brain is a menace to the financial system of the United States and the economy. He needs to find some obscure academic hole, where student minds are not involved, and crawl into it — perhaps researching the science and math aptitude of alpha male lab rats.
In an upset that will rock the House Democratic Caucus, Ferguson activist Cori Bush on Tuesday unseated Rep. Lacy Clay, whose family has represented the St. Louis-area congressional district for more than 50 years. Clay dominated Bush among mail-in and absentee ballots, leading some outlets to prematurely call the race, but Bush surged back with a commanding Election Day lead, narrowly topping Clay by 3 points when all were counted.
Bush was among the original Justice Democrat recruits in 2018, but lost her first challenge by 20 points. A registered nurse and pastor, she made a second run this cycle, again with the backing of Justice Democrats, the progressive group best known for recruiting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “It is historic that this year, of all the years, we are sending a Black, working-class single mother who’s been fighting for Black lives since Ferguson all the way to the halls of Congress,” Bush said in a victory speech.
Bush’s win follows the upset of veteran Rep. Eliot Engel at the hands of Jamaal Bowman in New York, and longtime Rep. Daniel Lipinski in Illinois, who fell to Marie Newman. Justice Democrats also supported a challenge against Rep. Henry Cuellar, who narrowly fended off Jessica Cisneros in Texas.
The growing but largely unrecognized death toll from rising global temperatures will come close to eclipsing the current number of deaths from all the infectious diseases combined if planet-heating emissions are not constrained, a major new study has found. Rising temperatures are set to cause particular devastation in poorer, hotter parts of the world that will struggle to adapt to unbearable conditions that will kill increasing numbers of people, the research has found.
The economic loss from the climate crisis, as well as the cost of adaptation, will be felt around the world, including in wealthy countries.
In a high-emissions scenario where little is done to curb planet-heating gases, global mortality rates will be raised by 73 deaths per 100,000 people by the end of the century. This nearly matches the current death toll from all infectious diseases, including tuberculosis, HIV/Aids, malaria, dengue and yellow fever.
The research used an enormous global dataset of death and temperature records to see how they are related, gathering not only direct causes such as heatstroke but also less obvious links such as a surge in heart attacks during a heatwave.
“A lot of older people die due to indirect heat affects,” said Amir Jina, an environmental economist at the University of Chicago and a co-author of the study, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. “It’s eerily similar to Covid – vulnerable people are those who have pre-existing or underlying conditions. If you have a heart problem and are hammered for days by the heat, you are going to be pushed towards collapse.”
Satellite images have revealed 11 previously unknown emperor penguin colonies in Antarctica, boosting the number of known colonies of the imperilled birds by 20%.
The discoveries were made by spotting the distinctive red-brown guano patches the birds leave on the ice. The finds were made possible by higher-resolution images from a new satellite, as previous scans were unable to pick up smaller colonies.
Two of the colonies were a particular surprise. They were found far from the coast, living on sea ice that is anchored to grounded icebergs, a location never seen before.
The new colonies are thought to number a few hundred penguins each, which is smaller than average, so the discoveries increase the total population of emperor penguins by a smaller proportion of about 5-10%.
Emperor penguins are the only penguins that breed on sea ice, rather than land, making them especially vulnerable to the climate crisis. All the new colonies are in areas that are at risk and researchers say these will be the “canaries in the coal mine” as global heating increasingly affects Antarctica.
The Apple fire in mountains east of Los Angeles that has forced thousands of people from their homes was sparked by a malfunctioning diesel vehicle, fire officials said Monday. The vehicle spewed burning carbon from its exhaust system, igniting several fires Friday and authorities were asking anyone who may have seen such a vehicle at the time to contact investigators, according to a statement from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The blaze in Riverside county, among several wildfires across California, had consumed nearly 42 sq miles (more than 108 sq km) of dry brush and chaparral since it broke out Friday evening, fire officials said.
As of Monday night, it was just 7% contained and the fire along with coronavirus precautions made for added stress at an evacuation center, said John Medina, an American Red Cross spokesman.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Ella Fitzgerald - On the Sunny Side of the Street
Ella Fitzgerald & Duke Ellington - Duke's Place
Ella Fitzgerald - Cry Me A River
Ella Fitzgerald - One note Samba
Ella Fitzgerald - When I Get Low I Get High
Ella Fitzgerald - Ain't Misbehavin'
Ella Fitzgerald & Duke Ellington - Take The A Train
Ella Fitzgerald - Russian Lullaby
Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington - It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)