The Evening Blues - 8-13-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues guitarist Otis Rush. Enjoy!
Otis Rush - Live Jooles Holland Show 1994
"A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government."
-- Edward Abbey
News and Opinion
People who have been arrested since late May on non-violent misdemeanor charges during protests taking place in Oregon’s largest city for more than 70 days will not be prosecuted.
The new policy announced on Tuesday recognizes the outrage and frustration over a history of racial injustice that has led to sustained, often violent protest in Portland as well as the more practical realities of the court system, which is running more than two months behind in processing cases because of Covid-19, the Multnomah county district attorney, Mike Schmidt, said.
At least several hundred people who have been arrested in the past few months will not face criminal prosecution, according to statistics provided by Schmidt’s office. People arrested on similar charges in future demonstrations will also not be prosecuted, he said.
“The protesters are angry … and deeply frustrated with what they perceive to be structural inequities in our basic social fabric. And this frustration can escalate to levels that violate the law,” Schmidt said. “This policy acknowledges that centuries of disparate treatment of our black and brown communities have left deep wounds and that the healing process will not be easy or quick.”
Portland’s police chief, Chuck Lovell, who was told of the policy change on Friday, said it did not change Oregon law and still held accountable people who commit violent acts or intentionally damage property.
Since the brutal police murder of George Floyd, protesters for racial justice have mobilized across the country, attracting a frenzy of media commentary. To gauge who got to take part in this discussion, FAIR looked at whose voices were featured in some of the most prominent and influential outlets.
We counted the columnists in the Washington Post and New York Times editorial sections, as well as the people interviewed on network Sunday morning political talk shows, including ABC’s This Week, CBS’s Face the Nation, CNN’s State of the Union, Fox News Sunday and NBC’s Meet the Press.
We found that establishment media overwhelmingly turned to columnists, pundits and government officials for interpretation of the uprisings—rather than to the activists facing tear gas on the frontlines. As a result, the protesters were denied the chance to present their demands in their own words, and the voices of those most impacted by police brutality went unheard.
Nowhere is media’s unwillingness to provide protesters with a platform more evident than in the opinion columns of the New York Times and the Washington Post, which were dominated by vague calls for justice and reform from neoliberal elites.
In the three weeks after George Floyd’s murder (5/25/20–6/16/20), the Post published 89 op-eds discussing race, policing and the uprisings at length. Some of the articles were penned by more than one person, resulting in 97 authors altogether. Out of these 97 authors, 61% were columnists for the Post and 39% were outside writers.
Current or former government officials made up 34% of the Post’s outside writers. Academics were another 30%, and 18% were freelance journalists.
16% of the Post’s guest writers worked in the criminal justice system, including Benjamin Crump, the civil rights attorney for the Floyd family, and Marilyn Mosby, the state’s attorney for Baltimore. (See FAIR.org, 7/21/20.) Guest columnists also included a former federal prosecutor, a public defender, a former police officer and a former deputy chief of police (the latter two co-authoring a piece).
The remaining outside writer featured by the Post was Hafsa Islam, whose father owns the Minneapolis restaurant Gandhi Mahal, which caught fire during the protests.
In the same three weeks, the New York Times published 83 op-eds discussing George Floyd and the protests, featuring a total of 87 writers. Out of these, 56% were Times columnists and 44% were outside sources.
The Times’ outside sources included 37% academics, 24% freelancers and 18% current or former government officials. 5% of the outside sources were people who worked in the criminal justice system (prosecutor Marilyn Mosby again, and former chief of police Brandon Del Pozo), while another 5% were activists (prison abolitionist Mariame Kaba and Thenjiwe McHarris, a strategist for the Movement for Black Lives)
Across both papers, in a total of 172 op-eds, only two organizers were afforded a platform—meaning that just 1% of the columns in the wake of these society-altering protests were written by the people who instigated the protests.
The Post (6/10/20) did publish a piece by Braxton Winston, a member of the Charlotte, N.C., city council, about the author’s experience with tear gas at a protest. Though we counted him as a government official, this was one of the few times a participant in racial justice protests was given a chance to speak for himself.
Even as the Post churned out numerous articles (6/1/20, 6/5/20, 6/11/20) comparing today’s domestic upheaval with that of the 1960s, veterans from past movements for racial justice—such as the Civil Rights movement, the Black Power movement, the Red Power movement or the Chicano movement—were not given space to share wisdom gained from their years of organizing against white supremacy.
As a result of this exclusion, none of the op-eds published in the Times or the Post explored the idea of boycotts, strikes, direct action campaigns or any other disruptive tactics protesters might use to leverage their power during this unprecedented moment.
The op-ed sections of the Times and the Post were lacking not only in historical insight from organizers, but also in global insight. The police murder of George Floyd sparked uprisings against racism, police brutality and state violence around the world, prompting countries to grapple with their colonial pasts and with ongoing inequalities exacerbated by the pandemic. But despite outpourings of solidarity from protesters across Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America, the Times and the Post presented exclusively US perspectives.
Activists weren’t the only ones who were overlooked by the Opinion sections of the nation’s two leading papers.
In the three weeks after George Floyd’s murder, neither the Times nor the Post featured any op-eds written by the people who have suffered most directly at the hands of America’s racist law enforcement: those who have experienced police brutality, or people who have had loved ones murdered by police. Nor did they elevate the viewpoints of any people who are incarcerated, even though many incarcerated writers have been sharing their experiences publicly for years.
Though many op-eds called for a nebulous “reimagining of police,” neither Opinion section highlighted community leaders who have for decades offered proven alternative to policing. Audiences were not given the chance to hear from former gang members who now combat gun violence through street outreach, or aboriginal Night Patrols in Australia, who mediate conflicts while also reducing Indigenous interactions with the criminal justice system.
Instead, we heard from the usual cast of powerful incumbents, who seized the opportunity to boast about their accomplishments on a national stage. The Post published op-eds by Muriel E. Bowser, Val Demings, Condoleezza Rice, David Axelrod and a consortium of Democratic House managers in the impeachment trial of President Trump. Government officials featured by the Times included Stacey Abrams, Susan E. Rice, Tom Cotton, Gretchen Whitmer and Keisha Lance Bottoms.
Despite the fact that activists have condemned many of these officials for their contestable records on race and policing, these op-eds were presented by media without context or criticism. As investigative journalist Justine Barron previously wrote for FAIR (6/21/20), these op-eds “give local leaders a chance to raise their national profiles without facing scrutiny.”
Media’s reliance on government bureaucrats to shape public opinion also has the effect, as Julie Hollar (FAIR.org, 6/11/20) wrote, of “placing limits of the acceptable and the possible”—resulting in coverage that “acknowledges the drive to defund the police, but seeks to blunt its radical edge.”
Much more detail at the link.
Rep. Eliot Engel, Democratic chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Tuesday that an inspector general report revealed the State Department's claim last year of an "emergency" to sell billions of dollars in arms to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates "was a sham" and accused the department of deploying "scare tactics to try to keep a lid on the report."
"This report is deeply damning for Secretary Pompeo and the administration. The lengths to which the State Department has gone in the last day to spin and obscure the facts show how desperate they are to hide the truth," Engel said in a statement.
The comments follow the release of an Office of Inspector General report (pdf) into the 2019 weapons transfer, for which the Trump administration dodged congressional oversight by invoking a provision in the Arms Export Control Act that allows the president to take such action if "an emergency exists which requires the proposed sale in the national security interest of the United States."
The sale prompted swift ire from lawmakers who'd blocked similar sales over justified concerns such weapons were being used to kill civilians in Yemen.
The OIG review of the matter began under IG Steve Linick, who was ousted in May by Pompeo and who told lawmakers State Department Undersecretary Brian Bulatao tried to bully him into dropping the probe.
A redacted version of the watchdog's report was published online Tuesday, with acting IG Diana Shaw noting in an accompanying memo that the document reflects redactions requested by the State Department. ...
In his statement, Engel said the report suggested that Pompeo overreached in his authority.
"No one ever doubted that the law provides for the authority to expedite the sale of weapons in the case of an emergency. The question was always, 'Did the administration abuse that authority in order to ram through more than $8 billion in sales to Gulf countries?' The IG didn't offer an opinion on that. But the report's details signal a resounding, 'Yes.'"
As the US-centralized empire’s slow-motion third world war against unabsorbed governments continues to accelerate, narrative management campaigns are getting more and more frenzied. We see this exemplified in two recent smear pieces published by imperial spinmeisters about critics of the establishment-authorized narratives about what’s happening in China.
The article’s author Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian makes flaccid guilt-by-association arguments about the fact that Chinese officials have cited Grayzone articles in the past, suggesting that this is a “classic Russian disinformation tactic” in which naughty governments use western voices to “bolster their claims”. She cites the fact that a Republican member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee condemned the outlet as though that’s an argument, and she bemoans the fact that Grayzone has been “attempting to discredit Adrian Zenz, a researcher whose work has helped uncover the existence and scale of mass internment camps in Xinjiang.”
Missing entirely from the article, conspicuously, is any argument or evidence that The Grayzone has ever published any false information. About Xinjiang, or about anything else.
Grayzone‘s Ben Norton wrote this past June that “in its more than four years of existence, including its first two years hosted at the website AlterNet… The Grayzone has never had to issue a major correction or retract a story.”
I am not citing Norton because I think taking the outlet’s word for it is a valid argument, I’m citing him because I’ve never seen a shred of evidence that what he said is false, and neither have you. There is so much spin going into discrediting The Grayzone at this point that we may rest assured that if it had ever been caught reporting something untrue, establishment narrative managers would have made damn sure we all knew about it.
But they haven’t, because they can’t. All they’ve been able to do is argue that The Grayzone reports things that other media outlets do not report, which are not in alignment with the approved viewpoint of the United States government. Which is to say, all they can argue is that The Grayzone is doing journalism.
In fact, if you believe as I do that journalism’s first and foremost function is to hold your government to account with the light of truth, you can easily make the argument that The Grayzone has published more real journalism just this year than all corporate media like Axios have put out this millennium. The outlet’s original reporting on the OPCW scandal and coverage of the US regime change operations in Nicaragua along with critical journalism on the persecution of Julian Assange, Venezuela, Bolivia, Syria, Russia, China and other unabsorbed governments, all just in the last few months, leave other publications far behind.
To say that this critical reporting shouldn’t be happening is to say that journalism shouldn’t be happening. It’s saying that only the narratives approved by the US State Department and ODNI should be reported, narratives which all happen to facilitate the geostrategic agendas of the United States. It’s saying that narratives which grease the wheels for war, regime change and military expansionism should be swallowed uncritically and receive no pushback of any kind. It’s saying that we still have the exact same mainstream media environment we had in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq.
Grayzone editor Max Blumenthal’s response to the smear piece–which Axios reportedly refused to publish in full–reads as follows:
Here's my full response to imperial court stenographer @BethanyAllenEbr, which she refused to publish in full.
— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) August 11, 2020
The Coda Story article Blumenthal refers to, titled “Pro-Beijing influencers and their rose-tinted view of life in Xinjiang“, is the other smear piece we’re discussing here. Not content with attacking small alternative media outlets, this one focuses on dishonestly smearing three individual Twitter users: Carl Zha, Jerry Grey, and an Australia-based account with a few thousand followers called Xi Fan.
As Blumenthal correctly notes, Coda is funded by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a US government-funded narrative management operation which according to its own cofounder was set up to do overtly what the CIA used to do covertly, namely orchestrate regime change and disrupt US-targeted governments. Coda‘s editor-in-chief Natalia Antelava, as noted by Youtube commentator Daniel Dumbrill, has blatantly lied about her outlet’s NED funding, tweeting just days ago that “we don’t take money from governments, oligarchs and tech platforms”. Since NED is a government-funded operation, this claim is objectively false.
Dumbrill has posted an excellent thread on Twitter using original footage of the interviews the Coda article’s author Isobel Cockerel did with Zha and Grey, demonstrating clearly and undeniably that Cockerell deceptively edited the words of her interviewees to deliberately misrepresent their positions. Both Carl Zha and Jerry Grey have also posted their own capable (if in my opinion overly kind) refutations of the deceitful smear piece.
In a healthy world, using dishonest manipulation to damage people’s reputations would cost a reporter their job. Instead, writers like Isobel Cockerel and Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian will be rewarded, elevated and offered many new opportunities for their willingness to twist the truth in order to stop people from speaking truth. They know this. That’s why they do it.
There are no words for the depravity of a news media institution which has been entrusted by the public to hold power to account and tell them the truth about what’s going on in the world, and instead abuses that trust by facilitating power and obfuscating the truth. Humanity’s inability to see the world clearly is the primary obstacle preventing us from using the power of our numbers to force real change to avert the manifold crises that our species is now approaching, and instead of helping people see clearly these perception managers are helping to tie the blindfold.
Utterly despicable. Despicable, and unforgivable.
On July 30, Chair Maxine Waters opened the House Committee on Financial Services hearing with a frustrated and ominous message: “I would like to welcome Director Kraninger to what I hope will be her last appearance before this committee as CFPB director.” Kathy Kraninger was being called to account for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s failure to protect consumers during the coronavirus pandemic. In separate House and Senate hearings, committee members levied their sharpest criticisms against the agency’s plan to deregulate small-dollar lending by repealing key consumer protections on predatory products like payday and auto title loans. The final rule decided on by the agency tore out the heart of the policy by rescinding provisions that required lenders to assess a borrower’s ability to repay their loan.
Small-dollar lenders, such as Speedy Cash and TitleMax, intentionally design high-cost, low-quality products to make it almost impossible for borrowers to repay their loans under the original terms. Finance fees and average annual interest rates of 400 percent prevent most borrowers from repaying payday loans in full, with borrowers ending up in debt five months out of the year for what was deceptively marketed as a two-week loan. Other loans within this industry are just as harmful. Ninety percent of auto title loans are re-borrowed, and 20 percent of borrowers have their vehicles repossessed. This rule makes it easier for lenders to trap borrowers in cycles of debt.
Payday lenders are well known for taking advantage of the precarious conditions experienced by working-class and poor people — and which disproportionately affect Black and brown people. ... The CFPB’s rule makes this form of racial capitalism even more punishing by paving the way for predatory lenders to prey on marginalized borrowers and extract lucrative profits. The economic stimulus payments that Congress approved under the CARES Act appeared to help people make it through the early months of the pandemic, and new applications for small-dollar loans declined during March and April. Now, with Congress’s failure to extend benefits, loan applications are rising steadily along with eviction fears, job losses, and coronavirus infection and death rates. In one survey, 36 percent of lower-income households applied for some type of small-dollar loan in June and July. Black and brown households applied for these loans at a rate three times higher than did white households.
Near the end of the House Committee on Financial Services hearing, Illinois Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García described CFPB’s final rule as a scary example of how the agency is working on behalf of predatory lenders instead of consumers. “I represent a working-class, immigrant district. There are a lot of payday lenders in my district,” said García. “My community was hit hard by the last crisis and many people never recovered. … That’s why the CFPB was established during the last crisis to give ordinary people, like my neighbors in Chicago, their own voice. … But that’s not what we see from watching the bureau today.”
A research team at the University of Florida has confirmed Covid-19 does live in aerosol droplets, and that the standard 6-foot social distancing protocols used around the world as safety precautions may not be sufficient.
"It's unambiguous evidence that there is infectious virus in aerosols," Linsey Marr, an expert in airborne spread of viruses who was not involved in the work told the New York Times.
For this study, researchers collected air samples from a room in a hospital ward dedicated to Covid-19 patients who were not subject to procedures that are known to produce aerosols, the Times reported.
The research team collected two sets of samples, one at approximately 7 feet from the patients and another at about 16 feet, and found that Covid-19 virus contained in samples at both distances could infect cells in a lab dish.
Although not peer reviewed, scientists are pointing to this study as a potential 'smoking gun,' regarding the issue of aeorsol transmission. ...
If this isn't a smoking gun, then I don't know what is. Successful isolation (cytopathic effect) of SARS-CoV-2 in aerosols collected 2-5 m from patients, genome identical to NP swab, TCID50:genome copies close to 1:1! /1 https://t.co/OJ7jo2P2a0
— Linsey Marr (@linseymarr) August 6, 2020
Top U.S. Infectious Disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has held his post as director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, has previously cautioned about the possibility and probability of Covid-19 transmission via aerosol droplets. If confirmed, the initial findings of the University of Florida study would bolster his concerns, and indicate the virus can survive greater distances than once thought.
"We know that indoors, those distance rules don’t matter anymore," Dr. Robyn Schofield, an atmospheric chemist at Melbourne University in Australia, who measures aerosols over the ocean told the the Times. "It takes about five minutes for small aerosols to traverse the room even in still air."
More than 165,000 Americans have now died from the coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The US passed the grim statistic of 5 million cases of COVID-19 earlier this month. As horrifying as these figures are, a new analysis shows that the number of deaths from the coronavirus likely has been significantly undercounted. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analyzed by the New York Times have revealed that 200,700 people died from March 15, when the pandemic took hold, to July 25. This is 54,000 higher than the confirmed death toll, averaged, for the same time period in the previous three years. Excess deaths in the analysis are rounded to the nearest hundred.
These 54,000 “excess deaths” are defined by the CDC as “the difference between the observed numbers of deaths in specific time periods and expected numbers of deaths in the same time periods.” The analysis strongly indicates that these excess deaths have been caused by the virus itself or by conditions triggered by the upheaval resulting from the pandemic. The Times looked at CDC figures for deaths from all causes, adjusting current death records to account for typical reporting lags. This allows for comparisons that don’t rely on the availability of COVID-19 tests in a given place or on the accuracy of cause-of-death reporting. Epidemiologists generally agree that assessing excess deaths is the best way to assess the impact of the pandemic.
Higher than normal death rates are widespread for the vast majority of US states. Only Alaska, Hawaii, Maine and West Virginia have death counts that look similar to recent years. Through July 25, the Times analysis shows that there were about 37 percent more excess deaths in the US than the official coronavirus fatality count. ...
The Times analysis shows that the pandemic’s toll cannot be attributed simply to the virus killing vulnerable people who would have died anyway. Most of the excess deaths revealed by the analysis could be attributed to the virus itself, but it is also likely that deaths from other causes have also risen due to hospitals being overwhelmed by COVID patients. People suffering from conditions that should be survivable have not sought care out of fear of contracting the virus. Such conditions include heart attack and stroke.
A sheriff in Florida is under fire for deciding Tuesday to ban his deputies from wearing face masks while on the job—ignoring the advice of public health experts about the safety measures that everyone should take during the coronavirus pandemic as well as the rising Covid-19 death toll in his county and state.
Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods' email to his deputies announcing the mask ban was first reported by the local Ocala Star-Banner, which noted that the county "set a single-day record on Tuesday for the most deaths related to Covid-19, with 13 more deaths reported," bringing the total to 102.
Various outlets across the nation then picked up the story on Wednesday—including the Washington Post, which obtained a copy of Woods' email and pointed out that Florida also set a record in deaths related to Covid-19 on Tuesday. At least 277 deaths were recorded statewide, according to the Post.
Deaths hit a record in Florida yesterday. This guy's jail system is rife with COVID. And he's banned masks in his sheriff's offices. (And the mayor vetoed a local law to require masks.) https://t.co/rhkqd0K1JF
— Michael McAuliff (@mmcauliff) August 12, 2020
The Post reported that Florida has seen over 542,000 cases and 8,600 deaths out of the nation's total 5.15 million cases and 162,000 deaths. As infections in Florida have soared in recent weeks, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has been widely condemned for rushing to lift restrictions.
Although some local and state leaders in other parts of the country have implored police officers to cover their faces while on duty during the crisis or even issued face mask requirements and punished law enforcement officials for refusing to comply, DeSantis has not mandated masks for anyone.
But Woods, in his email, prohibited his officers from wearing masks, with limited exceptions for those who are in a local courthouse, hospital, jail, or public school, or otherwise directly interacting with people suspected of being infected with the virus.
Cases of Covid-19 in Florida were below 50,000 in May when Rebekah Jones, creator and manager of the state’s official coronavirus database, first claimed she was ordered to censor information to justify Governor Ron DeSantis’s ambitious reopening plans for the state.
The retribution was swift and brutal.
Jones was fired for insubordination, and subjected to a vitriolic public character assassination by DeSantis, a Republican who is a close ally of Donald Trump, in the presence of Vice-President Mike Pence. DeSantis questioned Jones’s qualifications and personality and aired demonstrably false statements about her private life. To many observers, the governor’s strategy looked like a blatant attempt to intimidate and silence a troublesome data scientist obstructing the path to a speedy reopening. If so, it appears to have failed.
Not only was the reopening premature, with the pandemic still intensifying in Florida and this week surpassing half a million confirmed cases, but Jones continues to be a thorn in DeSantis’s side.
The leadership of the University of Massachusetts Amherst College Democrats began discussing an operation they believed could sink the campaign of Alex Morse for Congress as far back as last October, a plan they then helped engineer and which came to fruition on Friday, after the College Democrats sent a letter regarding Morse to the Daily Collegian, the school’s student newspaper.
The letter, sent three weeks before his primary challenge to Rep. Richard Neal, informed Morse that he was no longer welcome at College Democratic events, alleging he used such opportunities to socialize with students and later connect with them on social media in ways that made them feel uncomfortable. Message logs obtained by the Intercept — both from leaders of the College Democrats UMass Amherst chapter group as well as chats one of them had with Morse — shed new light on how this purported scandal was deployed. As a condition of obtaining the logs, The Intercept agreed to publish some of the chats and paraphrase others.
On Wednesday, following a statement by Morse, the statewide College Democrats chapter clarified that he had in fact only attended a single event during the course of his campaign. It was after that event in October 2019 that the leadership of the UMass Amherst chapter began to talk about leaking a story damaging to Morse, according to those online communications. Timothy Ennis, the chief strategist for the UMass Amherst College Democrats, admitted in the chats that he was a “Neal Stan” and said he felt conflicted about involving the chapter of the College Democrats in a future attack on Morse. “But I need a job,” concluded Ennis. “Neal will give me an internship.” At the time, Ennis was president of the chapter, a post he held from April 2019 to April 2020, when he was term-limited out.
Leaders of the College Democrats group went beyond merely plans to leak. They also explicitly discussed how they could find Morse’s dating profiles and then lead him into saying something incriminating that would then damage his campaign. That effort appears to have failed to generate the material they hoped for, but the group’s leaders did believe they held damning evidence they contemplated leaking: Instagram messages between Morse and Andrew Abramson, who in April became president of the organization. Ultimately, the College Democrats did not release any chats or any other specific claims against Morse, opting instead to level broader charges that he behaved inappropriately. ...
In a statement to MassLive on Monday, Neal spokesperson Kate Norton denied any collaboration between the Neal campaign and the student group, adding that the Neal campaign “commends these courageous students.” The College Democrats also responded to allegations of cooperation with the Neal campaign on Sunday, writing on Twitter, “To suggest that our decision to send the letter to Mayor Morse was a quid pro quo with Rep. Neal, his campaign, or anyone else is untrue, disingenuous, and harmful.”
You don't say.
One of the original law professors who denounced @AlexBMorse now admits this is a "smear campaign" and that it was wrong of her to do it.
What is being done to Morse is a huge travesty - much more sinister than people yet know. People are realizing & will more: pic.twitter.com/YtxlDOO38q
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) August 12, 2020
Much more at the link.
One of the most powerful health care industry lobbying groups has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the campaign to reelect Democratic Rep. Richard Neal as he blocks legislation to crack down on “surprise medical bills” and thwarts the push for Medicare for All.
The American Hospital Association’s (AHA) political action committee has spent more than $200,000 on digital ads to boost Neal’s reelection campaign as he faces a spirited primary challenge, according to campaign finance records.
AHA is one of the most powerful forces in Washington D.C. working to keep health care costs outrageously high. The trade group, which represents more than 5,000 hospitals and brings in more than $130 million annually, has lobbied against reforms to end surprise medical billing, against plans requiring hospitals to make their prices public, and against the single-payer Medicare for All proposal to eliminate for-profit health insurance. ...
As chair of the Ways and Means Committee, Neal controls all legislation that has a tax component, including most major health care bills. Neal has used his chairmanship in the current congressional session to block a deal to end surprise medical bills at the end of 2019 and to prevent his committee from debating a public health care option or so much as utter the words “Medicare for All.”
AHA’s first round of spending for Neal, totaling $69,000, came shortly after the congressman effectively blew up a measure opposed by AHA that would have eliminated surprise medical bills -- a euphemism for the costly charges that occur when patients visit a hospital within their insurance network but are unknowingly treated by a provider who is not part of their network. The proposal in Congress would have capped out-of-network charges at a benchmark rate based on the cost of equivalent in-network care.
Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota survived a stiff Democratic primary challenge Tuesday from a well-funded opponent who tried to make an issue of her national celebrity. Her win is the latest in a season of victories by a new generation of emboldened progressive lawmakers.
Omar, seeking her second term in November, easily defeated Antone Melton-Meaux, an attorney and mediator who raised millions to run against her.
Omar and her allies gained confidence in her reelection chances after primary victories last week by fellow “Squad” member Rashida Tlaib in Michigan and by Cori Bush, a Black Lives Matter activist who ousted a longtime St Louis-area congressman. They also claimed momentum from the renewed focus on racial and economic justice after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.
“Tonight, our movement didn’t just win,” Omar tweeted. “We earned a mandate for change. Despite outside efforts to defeat us, we once again broke turnout records. Despite the attacks, our support has only grown.”
'A Conspiracy to Steal the Election, Folks': Alarms Sound After Postal Worker Reports Removal of Sorting Machines
The head of the Iowa Postal Workers Union alleged Tuesday that mail sorting machines are "being removed" from Post Offices in her state due to new policies imposed by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a major GOP donor to President Donald Trump whose operational changes have resulted in dramatic mail slowdowns across the nation.
Asked by NPR's Noel King whether she has felt the impact of DeJoy's changes, Iowa Postal Workers Union President Kimberly Karol—a 30-year Postal Service veteran—answered in the affirmative, saying "mail is beginning to pile up in our offices, and we're seeing equipment being removed."
Karol went on to specify that "equipment that we use to process mail for delivery"—including sorting machines—is being removed from Postal Service facilities in Iowa as DeJoy rushes ahead with policies that, according to critics, are sabotaging the Postal Service's day-to-day operations less than 90 days before an election that could hinge on mail-in ballots.
"In Iowa, we are losing machines. And they already in Waterloo were losing one of those machines. So that also hinders our ability to process mail in the way that we had in the past," added Karol, who said she is "not a fan" of the postmaster general. Washington state election officials have also raised concerns about the removal of mail sorting machines.
"I grew up in a culture of service, where every piece was to be delivered every day. And his policies, although they've only been in place for a few weeks, are now affecting the way that we do business and not allowing us to deliver every piece every day, as we've done in the past," said Karol. "I don't see this as cost-saving measures. I see this as a way to undermine the public confidence in the mail service. It's not saving costs. We're spending more time trying to implement these policy changes. And it's, in our offices, costing more over time."
Observers reacted with alarm to Karol's comments, viewing them as further confirmation that DeJoy is deliberately attempting to damage the Postal Service with the goal of helping Trump win reelection in November.
"It's a conspiracy to steal the election, folks," tweeted The Week's political columnist Ryan Cooper.
Freelance journalist Erin Biba said there's "absolutely no way to see" the removal of mail sorting machines from Post Offices as anything other than "sabotage" of the most popular government institution in the U.S.
"It's so blatant," added Biba.
The past decade was the hottest ever recorded globally, with 2019 either the second or third warmest year on record, as the climate crisis accelerated temperatures upwards worldwide, scientists have confirmed.
Every decade since 1980 has been warmer than the preceding decade, with the period between 2010 and 2019 the hottest yet since worldwide temperature records began in the 19th century. The increase in average global temperature is rapidly gathering pace, with the last decade up to 0.39C warmer than the long-term average, compared with a 0.07C average increase per decade stretching back to 1880.
The past six years, 2014 to 2019, have been the warmest since global records began, a period that has included enormous heatwaves in the US, Europe and India, freakishly hot temperatures in the Arctic, and deadly wildfires from Australia to California to Greece.
Last year was either the second hottest year ever recorded, according to Nasa and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or the third hottest year, as recorded by the UK Met Office. Overall, the world has heated up by about 1C on average since the pre-industrial era.
“As this latest assessment comprehensively confirms, we have just witnessed the warmest decade on record,” said Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State University. “As other recent reports confirm, we must act dramatically over this next decade, bringing emissions down by a factor of two, if we are to limit warming below catastrophic levels of 1.5C that will commit us to ever-more dangerous climate change impacts.
Shortly before Lucille Daniel’s father died, he told her: “Take care of the land. Take care of the livestock.” This land, a patch of remote desert not far from the Grand Canyon on the western Navajo Nation, has been in the Daniel family for six generations. Lucille, 85, was born and grew up here. “We have a beautiful land here. We just want to keep it that way,” she said.
Aside from the addition of solar panels and a wind turbine to service her home, Daniel’s land is the same as it was generations ago. She still keeps sheep, goats, horses and cows on the property, as do her few neighbors nearby. When it rains – a rare occurrence in a part of the US that has been in a drought for decades – the animals flock to a canyon that transforms into their drinking water source. The canyon, however, as well as the regions nearby and the Native culture they sustain, could be altered permanently, if a duo of developers get their way.
Phoenix-based Pumped Hydro Storage LLC has received a preliminary permit from federal regulators for its Big Canyon Pumped Storage Project – a string of four huge dams near the Little Colorado River, along with reservoirs and a power-generation facility about three miles from Daniel’s home. The preliminary permit does not allow construction, but it gives Pumped Hydro priority in getting a license to build.
The project is the third Pumped Hydro has proposed in the Big Canyon region – the two previous ones received major pushback from tribes and environmentalists. If built, it would function as both a battery and station for generating up to 7,900 gigawatt-hours of electricity. It would pump groundwater up into four reservoirs, one of which would flood Big Canyon. That water would be stored as potential power, ready to be unleashed down canyons, through generators and toward the Little Colorado River when electricity is needed.
The environmental and cultural costs of this proposal would be major. Tribal members and environmentalists say the project would flood several miles of canyons sacred to the Navajo; risk damaging cultural sites for several tribes; draw vast amounts of critical groundwater; potentially harm habitats for plants and animals, including some endangered species; and risk adverse effects for waterways leading into the Grand Canyon.
Any electricity the Big Canyon project generates would go off the reservation, probably to the bigger cities in southern Arizona.
The US president’s hair-washing complaints on Wednesday prompted the government to propose an easing of shower pressure standards. The Trump administration proposed rule changes that would allow shower heads to boost water pressure, after Donald Trump repeatedly complained that bathroom fixtures do not work to his liking.
The Department of Energy plan followed comments from Trump last month at a White House event on rolling back regulations. He said he believed water does not come out fast enough from fixtures.
“So what do you do? You just stand there longer or you take a shower longer? Because my hair – I don’t know about you, but it has to be perfect,” he said. ...
Consumer groups decried the plan, saying current rules saved consumers money by conserving water and fuel. The proposal would effectively allow shower fixtures to include multiple shower heads that would get around the 2.5 gallon per minute standard Congress set in 1992, when Trump’s fellow Republican George HW Bush was president.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Otis Rush w/Duane Allman - Reap What You Sow
Otis Rush - Sweet Little Angel
Otis Rush - Double Trouble (original)
Otis Rush - All Your Love (I Miss Loving)
Otis Rush - So Many Roads
Otis Rush - I Can't Quit You Baby
Otis Rush - This Is A Mean Old World
Otis Rush - Three Times a Fool
Otis Rush - It Takes Time
Otis Rush and Friends at Montreux 1986 Full Concert blues