The Evening Blues - 11-30-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features New Orleans blues singer and guitarist Smiley Lewis. Enjoy!
Smiley Lewis - I Hear You Knockin'
“Day and night we are watching over your welfare. It is for YOUR sake that we drink that milk and eat those apples. Do you know what would happen if we pigs failed in our duty? Jones would come back! Yes, Jones would come back! Surely, comrades," cried Squealer almost pleadingly”
-- George Orwell
News and Opinion
Meet the new (corrupt) boss, same as the old (corrupt) boss:
Two former government officials who may now run President-elect Joe Biden’s national security team have been partners at a private equity firm now promising investors big profits off government business because of its ties to those officials, according to government documents reviewed by The Daily Poster.
Pine Island Capital Partners lists former Under Secretary of Defense Michele Flournoy and retired General Lloyd Austin as a partner in the firm, and lists former Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken as a partner on a leave of absence. Flournoy and Austin are reportedly among the leading candidates being considered for Secretary of Defense, and Blinken is Biden’s designated nominee for Secretary of State. Pine Island’s chairman is John Thain, the former top executive at Merrill Lynch when the company paid out huge executive bonuses as it began to collapse during the financial crisis.
Flournoy and Blinken’s ties to Pine Island were first reported by The American Prospect.
In Securities and Exchange Commission filings, Pine Island describes one of its investment vehicles as “a newly organized blank check company incorporated in Delaware” that will use its connections to top officials to take advantage of rising government expenditures on the national security agencies that Flournoy and Blinken could oversee. Pine Island’s first filings about the investment vehicle were made in September — the same month Biden suggested that he will not push for significant reductions in Pentagon expenditures, which have reached record levels.
“The reputations and networks of Pine Island Capital Partners’ team, both individually and collectively, will ensure exposure to a significant number of proprietary opportunities,” the company said in one SEC document. “We believe there will be increased demand in the U.S. defense market for advanced electronics, communications, sensor and detection processing and other technologies that enhance the modernization efforts of the Department of Defense’s military readiness. We believe this demand represents strong growth that our management team is uniquely positioned to capitalize on given our combined investment experience and deeply connected partner group of former U.S. defense and government officials.” ...
"This is so explicit that it's astonishing Pine Island even put it on paper,” said David Segal of Demand Progress, a grassroots group pressing Biden to reject Cabinet appointments tied to corporations. “This is not an example of people who happen to work at a big company — these are partners at a firm whose stated business model is to profit from the revolving door and connections gained from time in government."
The body of Iran’s most senior nuclear scientist has been prepared for burial as anger at Israel and the US boiled over in the country following his assassination. ...
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has promised a “definitive punishment of the perpetrators and those who ordered it”, putting Israel on alert for a potential military response in the coming days.
An opinion piece published by a hardline Iranian newspaper on Sunday suggested that Iran should attack Haifa, a port city in northern Israel. The Kayhan newspaper published an opinion piece by an Iranian analyst, Sadollah Zarei, who suggested a strike that destroys facilities and “also causes heavy human casualties”. Such an attack would be an effective deterrent, he said, “because the United States and the Israeli regime and its agents are by no means ready to take part in a war and a military confrontation”. ...
Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, Iran’s parliamentary speaker, said on Sunday that Iran’s enemies must be made to regret the killing. “The criminal enemy does not regret it except with a strong reaction,” he said in a broadcast on Iranian state radio. ...
All future UN inspections of Iran’s nuclear sites should be ended as a result of the assassination of Fakhrizadeh, the Iranian parliament agreed unanimously on Sunday. The response suggests the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, already breached by Iran’s breaking of the agreed limits on enriched uranium stockpiles, is going to come under severe pressure in the coming weeks as Iran responds to the attack. The parliament said in a reference to Israel that what it described as “the hand of the murderous Zionist regime” could be clearly seen in the assassination. Tehran said those that thought negotiation with the US was the right path had been proved wrong. ...
Numerous Iranian military and political officials have said Iran will not respond militarily to the assassination at this stage since it would play into the hands of those in Israel and the US wanting to foment a war in the Middle East before Trump stands down in January. But Iran is debating whether the assassination has shown diplomatic negotiations with the Biden administration will be pointless.
An 'Implicit Approval If There Ever Was One': Trump Retweets Post Calling Assassination of Iranian Scientist a 'Major' Blow
Amid swirling questions over what, if any, role the United States played in the assassination of top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, President Donald Trump on Friday amplified to his 88 million followers a Twitter post describing the killing as a "major psychological and professional blow" to Iran.
Sina Toossi, a senior research analyst at the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), characterized the U.S. president's move as an "implicit approval if there ever was one." The president also retweeted a New York Times report on the killing, an ambush that took place as Fakhrizadeh was traveling by car in northern Iran.
As of this writing, Trump—who ordered the killing of top Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani earlier this year—has not otherwise responded to the assassination, which is drawing widespread condemnation from anti-war groups and Iranian officials.
12. There you have it. Trump retweets a tweet saying #Fakhrizadeh’s assassination is a “psychological & professional blow” to #Iran. A implicit approval if there ever was one pic.twitter.com/9WQrK1GZbk
— Sina Toossi (@SinaToossi) November 27, 2020
It is not entirely clear who carried out the Fakhrizadeh killing, but some—including Iran's top diplomat, Javad Zarif—said they believe Israel, the top U.S. ally in the region, may be responsible, noting its history of similar attacks.
Joaquin Castro, in a long-shot bid for Foreign Affairs Committee chair, says he wants to hold the Trump administration accountable
On November 2, anticipating President Donald Trump’s impending electoral demise, Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, outlined a plan to turn the page on the administration’s treatment of migrants and asylum-seekers. Castro called on Congress to create a special body — either a human rights commission or a select committee — that would investigate family separations under Trump and refer any violations of the law to the Department of Justice for possible prosecution.
Castro has also called for bringing the war in Afghanistan to an end, cutting off U.S. support for the Saudi-led conflict in Yemen, and having Congress end blank-check authorizations for wars in the Middle East — which would force Congress to debate and define the scope of the war on terror.
Come next Congress, Castro may have a real power to make good on those ideas. But first, he has to win his bid to become chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, beating two senior members in an uphill, secret-ballot election. If Republicans keep control of the Senate, whoever is elected chair in the Democratic-controlled House could end up becoming one of the most important congressional figures in shaping a post-Trump foreign policy.
The position is only open because insurgent Jamaal Bowman, a middle school principal, ousted committee chair Rep. Eliot Engel in a New York primary. Though Castro isn’t particularly known as a leader in the progressive foreign policy space, among the contenders, he is by far the most sympathetic to the broader left, explaining why he has rounded up near-unanimous support among the country’s progressive foreign policy organizations. But despite that support, it’s unclear how many progressive votes Castro may actually get. Often, member-to-member races can be less ideological and have more to do with personal relationships.
A former Trump campaign associate who was the target of a secret surveillance warrant during the FBI’s Russia investigation says in a federal lawsuit that he was the victim of “unlawful spying.” ...
“Since not a single proven fact ever established complicity with Russia involving Dr. Page, there never was probable cause to seek or obtain the FISA Warrants targeting him on this basis,” the lawsuit says, using the acronym for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Page has received death and kidnapping threats and has suffered economic losses and “irreparable damage to his reputation,” according to the lawsuit, which was filed Friday in federal court in Washington. ...
The suit names as defendants the FBI and the Justice Department, as well as former FBI Director James Comey, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and additional officials who were involved in the Russia investigation.
So far, Joe Biden has avoided one of the biggest potential pitfalls of the transition process that will end with him moving into the White House: infuriating the left wing of the Democratic party. Yet Biden’s transition has also yielded the results he wanted in terms of ushering in a team of experienced figures drawn mostly from his own circle of friends and advisers who have given a decidedly centrist tone to the incoming administration.
Biden has so far named his senior staff, who don’t require confirmation from the Senate, to a generally positive response. As he’s begun unveiling his nominations for cabinet secretary positions, the reaction from leftist quarters of the Democratic party – and its cadre of often young activists primed to attack – has mostly turned out to be be a mix of yawning and marginal grumbling. ...
So far, Biden has avoided nominating ostentatious prospects to cabinet posts, opting instead to bring in veterans of the agencies they are set to run. ... More telling is who Biden hasn’t appointed. He hasn’t brought on a liberal standard-bearer like Elizabeth Warren. And the president-elect passed over Democrats with a national profile who campaigned for him, like the former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg whose name had been floated for ambassador to the UN. He picked Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a former ambassador and state department official. The former Obama administration national security adviser Susan Rice was seen as a frontrunner for that job.
Yet the progressive groups most eager to bash top agency picks from such an establishment Democrat like Biden are somewhat satisfied. “We are encouraged by Joe Biden making one of his first major appointments John Kerry, as it demonstrates the urgency of taking bold, global action on the climate crisis,” Alexandra Rojas, the executive director of the Justice Democrats political action committee said in a statement. ...
There are signs, though, that the Biden administration and liberals are just enjoying a perhaps temporary detente as the Trump era winds down and before Biden has even occupied the Oval Office. Not all appointments have been without grumbling. Liberal groups have expressed opposition to the longtime Biden adviser Bruce Reed, possibly running the Office of Management and Budget, an agency charged with producing the administration’s budget. Leftwing congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar have signed a petition against Reed, calling him a “deficit hawk” and criticizing his past support for benefit cuts, like social security.
Disgusting yet completely predictable. Lots more at the link if you have the stomach for it.
President-elect Joe Biden will reportedly nominate a White House budget director who has been one of the country’s most prominent critics of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and who has previously backed Social Security cuts.
Biden — who has repeatedly pushed for Social Security cuts throughout his career — announced his selection of Center for American Progress president Neera Tanden as his choice to run the powerful White House Office of Management and Budget. A longtime aide to Hillary Clinton, Tanden touted her think tank’s 2010 proposal to reduce Social Security benefits in 2012, as Biden was pushing for such cuts in the Obama administration.
Tanden’s Social Security push followed the 2010 midterms, during the deficit reduction negotiations between the Obama administration and the new GOP Congress. Republicans drew a hard line but Obama sought a middle ground. Central to the administration’s efforts, which were led by Biden, was a plan called the “chained CPI” that would have slowed the rate at which Social Security benefits increase over time. ...
Republicans are already warning that Tanden won’t win approval from GOP Senators. A spokesperson for Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, tweeted that she “stands zero chance of being confirmed.”
Sunday's vote in Switzerland to make multinational companies headquartered in the country—like Nestlé, minerals giant Glencore, agribusiness company Syngenta— liable for human rights violations and environmental abuses abroad failed in a country-wide referendum on Sunday.
The initiative titled "Responsible Companies — to protect people and the environment'' won a narrow majority of votes on Sunday, with 50.7% percent backing it, but failed because a majority of the country's states (or cantons), came out against it. Under the Swiss system, because the initiative proposed a constitutional amendment, it needed the backing of both a popular majority and a majority of cantons to pass.
Organizations like Amnesty International, Greenpeace and the Swiss watchdog group Public Eye backed the proposal. Andreas Missbach, director of Public Eye, said it was a shame that the tougher proposals did not pass, considering that a majority of Swiss voters were in favor. He added that the government-backed legislation was insufficient. “The counterproposal doesn’t really bring us anything other than more glossy corporate sustainability reports,” he said. “The problems are still here; they are not going away.”
The initiative, promoted by a coalition of over 130 civil society organizations, had faced strong opposition from the business sector and the government, which claimed the rules would hurt Swiss companies.
— National Geographic (@NatGeo) November 26, 2020
The United States passed four million cases of the coronavirus for November on Saturday, more than double the record 1.9 million cases set in October. Now experts have warned Americans to expect that sharp rise in cases to continue, due in part to the Thanksgiving holiday – potentially worsening heading into the December holiday season.
“What we expect, unfortunately, as we go for the next couple of weeks into December, is that we might see a surge superimposed on the surge we are already in,” Dr Anthony Fauci said in an interview on NBC News’ Meet the Press on Sunday.
The government’s leading infectious disease expert added officials “tried to get the word out for people, as difficult as it is, to really not have large gatherings” but ultimately the travel industry suggested many Americans didn’t heed calls to stay home.
Airline and transportation authorities report Americans traveled by the millions over the weekend, and amid Black Friday, retailers experienced large crowds and overnight lines despite government and merchant pleas to primarily shop online.
US surgeon general Jerome Adams acknowledged the surge on Sunday, adding that he expects the rise to continue. Covid-19 has now killed more than 265,000 people in America, with 1,192 new deaths from the virus reported on Saturday.
As of the last week of November, Covid-19 has claimed the lives of more than 100,000 people who live and work in long-term care facilities in the United States, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation's latest analysis of state-reported data. ...
"While early action to prevent the spread of coronavirus in long-term care facilities led to strict protocols related to testing, personal protective equipment, and visitor restrictions," KFF pointed out that "several of these measures have been reversed in recent months, and some long-term care facilities continue to report shortages of PPE and staff."
According to physician and public health expert Michael Barnett, 7.7% of the nation's nursing home residents, or one in 13, have now died as a result of Covid-19. "Things have never really gotten better," he tweeted. "Testing is a struggle, PPE and staff are daily challenges."
Soon after reaching the "bleak milestone" of 100,000 pandemic deaths in long-term care facilities, which happened on Tuesday, the U.S. on Thursday experienced a new record-high number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations, as Common Dreams reported earlier Friday. ...
The country's Covid-19 death toll surpassed 264,000 on Friday. Meanwhile, Thanksgiving marked the 24th consecutive day of more than 100,000 new daily cases in the U.S.
Given the pandemic's disproportionate impact on the high-risk populations who live and work in long-term care facilities, even more nursing home residents, employees, and their families are expected to be negatively affected by coronavirus as long as the number of infections continues to grow.
"Post-Thanksgiving surges in cases are unlikely to spare this community and will likely lead to an even higher death toll in long-term care facilities," KFF said, "raising questions about whether nursing homes and other facilities are able to protect their residents and, if not, what actions can be taken to mitigate the threat posed by the virus."
As the New York Times reported in June, when the Covid-19 death toll in long-term care facilities was just over 50,000, some critics have argued that the profit-driven nature of the private nursing home industry is the underlying problem, since treating elder care as a commodity rather than a public good can incentivize cost-cutting or money-making measures that put people in harm's way.
An investigation of long-term care facilities in Connecticut, the results of which were published in August, lent credence to that hypothesis. According to the study, "For-profit nursing homes had about 60% more cases and deaths per licensed bed than nonprofit ones," while "larger facilities were hit harder than smaller ones, and... homes serving as part of a chain had worse outcomes," as Reuters reported at the time.
According to new reporting from Business Insider, the Make Amazon Pay coalition has planned Black Friday actions in 15 countries: Brazil, Mexico, the U.S., the U.K., Spain, France, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Italy, Poland, India, Bangladesh, the Philippines, and Australia.
Workers at several logistics centers across Germany are engaged in a three-day strike meant to disrupt Amazon's profitable holiday sales during the retail industry's busiest period, Euronews reported Friday. ...
In addition to labor protests, left-wing economist Yanis Varoufakis called on consumers to participate in a Black Friday boycott of Amazon, which he described as "a gigantic, behavior modification machine," pointing to the relationship between its data services, algorithms, and policymaking.
"By boycotting Amazon, you will be adding your strength to an international coalition of workers and activists," he said in a video shared online Thursday. "Amazon is not a mere company. It is not merely a monopolistic mega firm. It is far more, and far worse than that. It is the pillar of a new techno-feudalism."
The Covid-19 pandemic, in particular, "has exposed how Amazon places profits ahead of workers, society, and our planet," the Make Amazon Pay coalition noted on its website, where strike fund donations are accepted.
The wealth of billionaire CEO Jeff Bezos—whose record-breaking personal fortune surpassed $200 billion in August 2020—and other super-rich corporate executives has ballooned during the coronavirus crisis, yet Amazon employees' short-lived hazard pay was taken away at the end of May, even though these essential workers have continued toiling at great risk to their own health.
Ahead of the Black Friday rush, human rights advocates at Amnesty International on Thursday released a report (pdf) detailing Amazon's "adversarial relationship with trade unions" and lackluster approach to health and safety.
The Make Amazon Pay campaign also pointed out that Amazon's carbon footprint "is larger than two thirds of all countries in the world," but rather than address how its "growing delivery and cloud computing businesses are accelerating climate breakdown," the corporation has intimidated workers who speak out.
"Like all major corporations, Amazon's success would be impossible without the public institutions that citizens built together over generations," the statement continued. "But instead of giving back to the societies that helped it grow, the corporation starves them of tax revenue through its world-beating efforts at tax dodging."
In 2019, the trillion-dollar technology titan "paid just 1.2% tax in the U.S., the country it is headquartered in, up from 0% the two previous years," the campaign said.
With the government set to shut down in just two weeks without action from Congress, Senate Republicans are advocating an across-the-board pay freeze for civilian federal workers in 2021 as part of their plan to fund agencies amid the deadly coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic crisis.
Employee organizations and Democratic lawmakers reacted with outrage after Republicans on the Senate Appropriations Committee quietly unveiled their pay-freeze proposal earlier this month, with the largest union of federal workers calling the plan a "cruel slap in the face to those who have risked their lives to maintain government services for all Americans during the worst health crisis in our lifetimes."
"Trying to outdo President Trump in disrespecting federal employees by eliminating even the paltry raise he put forth is completely unwarranted and will only worsen the government's ability to function effectively," Everett Kelley, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) said in a statement. "There is no justification for denying our civil servants a decent pay increase next year. We call on lawmakers to reject this insulting maneuver."
Jessica Klement, staff vice president for programs and policy at the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, noted that "this is a year when federal employees have stepped up to respond to a global pandemic, with tens of thousands on the frontlines working on behalf of the American people and contracting Covid-19 in the process."
"Yet they face the prospect of a pay freeze," said Klement. "That's not just an affront to public service; it's a policy that risks losing highly competent and productive employees from the ranks of our federal government, to the detriment of the citizens they serve."
The GOP proposal—which falls short of Trump's call for a meager 1% across-the-board pay increase for federal workers in 2021—came as lawmakers are working to avert what would be a devastating government shutdown amid twin public health and economic crises with no end in sight. If Congress fails to reach an agreement or Trump refuses to sign off, the government will shut down on December 11.
DOJ to Appeal Judge's Injunction Against 'Cruel, Unprecedented Policy' of Deporting Migrant Children
A week after a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against a Trump administration directive ordering it to stop deporting unaccompanied children under the pretext of preventing the spread of the coronavirus, the U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday night filed a notice to appeal to a higher court.
The Associated Press reports the Justice Department asserted the November 18 injunction by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan "likely will have an irreversible impact on public health" by straining the ability of hospitals and other medical facilities and personnel to adequately manage the worsening coronavirus pandemic. Citing spiking Covid-19 cases in border communities in Arizona and Texas, the DOJ warned of the potential risks of transporting "potentially infected" children through airports and other transit hubs.
Sullivan's injunction involved Title 42, which the Trump administration unsuccessfully argued allows for the removal of non-U.S. citizens who carry diseases. Sullivan ruled that while Title 42 allows the government to deny such people entry into the country, it does not provide for their expulsion. Stephen Miller, a senior immigration adviser to President Donald Trump who has espoused xenophobic and white nationalist views, was a leading proponent of using Title 42 and the pandemic as pretext for deporting children.
Since March, some 200,000 migrants have been removed from the U.S. under the guise of pandemic protection, including at least 8,800 unaccompanied children. These minors are unable to apply for asylum in the U.S. or consult with an attorney.
Critics have expressed serious skepticism that an administration led by a president who has downplayed or even denied the severity of the deadliest pandemic in a century—even while knowing the truth about it—is really concerned about protecting the public and the children it seeks to deport. The administration, they say, showed little such concern when it packed children and other jailed migrants in cold, crowded cages, or when it arrested parents who unlawfully entered the country and seized their children—666 of whom still have not been reunited with their families years later.
Hundreds of thousands protest across France against police violence and Macron’s police immunity law
Hundreds of thousands of people joined demonstrations across France on Saturday afternoon to protest police violence and oppose the Macron government’s law to criminalize the filming of the police. Opposition is growing amid a series of acts of police violence over the past week. More than 100 protests were organized across every major city. The largest protest, which took place in Paris, began at Republic Square at 2:00 p.m. and marched to the Place de la Bastille. The government’s own underestimated account claimed that 46,000 people were in Paris alone, but images and videos show that the real number was several times higher. There were more than 10,000 in Bordeaux and Lille, and thousands in Marseille, Lyon, and Toulouse.
The police responded with a violent crackdown on the protests, particularly in Paris, where hundreds of riot police were deployed. This included the beating of 24-year-old Syrian freelance photographer Ameer Al-Halbi, who works with AFP, at the Place de la Bastille. Reporters Without Borders general secretary Christophe Deloire published a tweet of Al-Halbi in a hospital with his head and faced bandaged on Saturday evening, stating that he had been hit in the face with a police truncheon.
Gabrielle Cézard, another journalist who was with Al-Halbi in a narrow street when the police attacked, said, “We were identifiable as photographers and stuck against the wall. We cried, ‘Press, press!’ There were projectiles thrown from the side of the protesters. Then the police led a charge, truncheons in hand. Ameer was the only photographer not wearing a helmet or armband. I lost him from my sight and then found him surrounded by people, his face covered in blood and bandages.”
In another video, a riot police officer can be seen pointing a beanbag gun point blank at the face of another journalist.
The “global security” law, which was passed by the National Assembly on Monday and will go to the Senate in January, would make it an offense punishable by a €45,000 fine and three years in jail to publish a video showing the face of a police officer. In addition, it expands the powers of off-duty police to carry their firearms, by requiring that they not be refused entry to any public places for carrying a weapon. The law also provides a blanket permission for the use of drones to film protesters by police, which had already been in practice. ...
The “global security” law is correctly recognized as aimed at providing the police with enhanced impunity to use violence against the population. Over the past two years, not a single policeman was charged for the brutal crackdowns on “yellow vest” protests and railway strikes, during which dozens of people had their eyes shot out and hands blown off by stun grenades and bean bag bullets. On the contrary, the riot police commander whose unit fired the tear gas canister that killed the octogenarian Zineb Redouane in Marseille was among the 9,000 police bestowed with medals of honor, as was the head of the unit that raided a music concert in Nantes that caused the drowning of 24-year-old Steve Canico.
An excellent piece worth a full read:
The idea of defunding the police is roiling Democratic Party politics — but it’s not about that. It’s about the horrors of policing.
In recent weeks, mainstream political discussions around the notion of “defunding the police” have taken a pernicious, if predictable turn. The so-called debate is no longer focused on the violent facts of U.S. policing. Instead, this ongoing news story has become, first and foremost, a narrative about the Democratic Party and its divisions. Such is the nature of the media-politics machine: A demand situated in a fight for life and liberation has been transmogrified into a realpolitik hot button — replete with polls, right-wing fearmongering, questions of electability, and calls for less “divisive” rhetoric.
Pushed to the background, meanwhile, is the unending flood of reports and revelations that again and again show policing to be an institution worthy of abolition. Just this month, two such stories came from Louisville, Kentucky, where 26-year-old Breonna Taylor was killed by police in March during a botched raid. Louisville Metro Police, the same department to which Taylor’s killers belonged, was found to have hidden from the public a staggering 738,000 records documenting sexual abuse of minors by two officers — concealment that was aided by the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office. The records related to the abuse of youths in the “Explorer Scouts” program, created for young people interested in law enforcement careers.
And just two weeks ago, a woman filed a sexual assault lawsuit against former Louisville detective Brett Hankison, one of the cops directly involved in Taylor’s death. The lawsuit claims that Hankison has a history of using his authority as a police officer to prey on women.
The wanton killing of a young Black woman involving a cop with an alleged history of predation, alongside the coverup of a major case of child sexual abuse — all recent events from just one department in one U.S. city. As is typical, funding for the policing operations will constitute the largest expenditure of Louisville’s 2020 city budget: $190.6 million out of $613 million.
Highlighting recent abuses committed by this one police department, which takes nearly a third of a city’s budget, does not dispositively prove the need for police abolition, let alone defunding. Reformists could well respond that oversight and training, or more drastic reforms, are the appropriate solutions. ... Yet the Louisville cases highlight the problems of a violent and unaccountable law enforcement apparatus; problems which are so widespread and historic that they point to an unreformable institution. ... Incident after incident might not convince a skittish liberal of the need to go beyond reform and toward abolition, but it should be sufficient to show that police defunding is a reasonable demand. The argument that police presence in communities is a source of harm should not be considered controversial.
A day after Pennsylvania’s highest court had thrown out a lower court’s order preventing the state from certifying results from the 3 November US elections, Donald Trump blasted the judges’ decision. Saturday’s case – which had attempted to throw out 2.5m mail in votes in the crucial state – was the latest of dozens of failed lawsuits by Trump’s lawyers, with judges castigating his lawyers for failing to present evidence of fraud.
With states certifying results, Trump has an ever dwindling route to contest the election as Joe Biden pushes on with preparations for his inauguration as president on 20 January and recruits the team for his administration.
However, on Sunday in his first media appearance since losing the presidential contest to his Democratic rival, the president phoned into Fox News to blame the courts for his campaign’s so far unsuccessful legal challenges, which are based on a series of debunked conspiracies alleging widespread voter fraud.
“We’re not allowed to put in our proof. They say you don’t have standing,” Trump told Fox’s Sunday Morning Futures. “We have affidavits, we have hundreds and hundreds of affidavits,” Trump added, noting he’d “file one nice, big beautiful lawsuit” without providing any details on the supposed “tremendous proof” attorneys have. ...
The defeat on Saturday followed Friday’s decision by a federal appeals court to dismiss a separate challenge to the Pennsylvania result and back a district judge who likened the president’s evidence-free and error-strewn lawsuit to “Frankenstein’s monster”.
While continuing to spread falsehoods about the election and complain that the contest was rigged against him—citing examples of supposed malfeasance that were summarily debunked by reporters in real time—President Donald Trump on Thursday said he intends leave the White House willingly if the Electoral College certifies President-elect Joe Biden as the winner.
Legal experts were quick to note that Trump, having suffered a landslide loss in the popular vote and a sizable Electoral College defeat, doesn't have a choice in the matter.
"That's good but it's not up to him anyway," tweeted Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, after the president said he "certainly" will leave the White House if Electoral College electors vote for Biden, as they are set to do next month.
"If they do, they've made a mistake," said the president, who ahead of the election repeatedly declined to say he would allow a peaceful transition of power. ...
Trump's remarks—his first public commitment to willingly leave office if defeated—came in the wake of reports that the president and his allies have been pressuring state GOP leaders to help stage a highly unlikely and potentially unlawful Electoral College revolt in a last-ditch effort to overturn the election.
Documents made public by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency show that PFAS compounds the chemical company Solvay has released in New Jersey are toxic to lab animals and people, stay in the human body for years, and were found in the blood of workers at two of Solvay’s plants. According to a December 2019 letter Solvay sent to the EPA, blood monitoring of workers at two of its plants between 2011 and 2019 showed that the compounds were present at high levels and had harmful effects. The same compounds have been found in soil and private well water near the company’s plant in West Deptford, New Jersey.
The scientists found “positive statistical associations” between the levels of the compounds in the blood samples and liver enzymes; triglycerides, a type of fat that can increase the risk of heart disease; and FT3, a hormone produced by the thyroid. The letter also noted “potential positive statistical associations” between the compounds and PSA, or prostate-specific antigen, which is a marker for prostate cancer. Increased levels of the chemicals were associated with decreased markers of immune response, according to the letter.
Importantly, the company also revealed that the compounds stay in the body for significant amounts of time. The letter estimates the half-life of the compounds in humans — or the amount of time it takes for internal levels of the chemical to be reduced by half — to be “approximately 2.5-3 years.” The compounds have been referred to as “replacements” because Solvay has continued to use them even after it phased out PFOA and PFNA, chemicals in the same industrial family that were used for similar purposes and were deemed dangerous because of their toxicity and the amount of time they lasted in the human body. But the replacements have an almost identical half-life in humans to PFNA.
Apparently, some of the chemicals, which are produced outside of the U.S., were granted “low-volume exemptions” by the EPA, a process that allows companies to begin producing or importing less than 10,000 kilograms per year of a substance without having to undergo a full safety review.
Despite acknowledging that the move would lead to an increase in the 500 million to one billion birds that die each year in the United States due to human activity, the Trump administration on Friday published a proposed industry-friendly relaxation of a century-old treaty that protects more than 1,000 avian species.
As part of the administration's race to rush through as many regulatory rollbacks as possible before President-elect Joe Biden enters office on January 20, the U.S. Department of the Interior released an analysis that sets the stage for modification of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's interpretation of the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).
One of the nation's oldest wildlife protection laws, the MBTA saves the lives of millions of birds each year and, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, "is credited with rescuing the snowy egret, wood duck, and sandhill crane from extinction."
The proposed rule shift would let energy, construction, and land development companies off the hook for "incidentally" killing birds, even though the Interior Department's analysis concludes that "increased bird mortality" will "likely result" from the change.
Breaking news! “This is another step by the #USFWS to jam through a rule to cement an interpretation of the #MigratoryBirdTreatyAct that a federal court has already declared illegal,” said @JClarkprez. Read more: https://t.co/SWxZWOHioS via @washingtonpost #ProtectTheBirds
— Defenders of Wildlife (@Defenders) November 27, 2020
Under the MBTA, ExxonMobil was compelled to pay $125 million in criminal penalties after the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska and BP was fined $100 million following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill that leaked over 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, killing an estimated 100,000 sea birds.
It is precisely such penalties that corporate bird-killers are seeking to dodge in the future through the proposed rule change, which Trump administration officials including Daniel Jorjani, a former Koch brothers adviser who is now the head lawyer at the Interior Department, have pushed for years.
During his 2019 Senate confirmation hearing, Jorjani lied to Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) about whether he had been in recent contact with the Koch brothers or any of their business interests. Before joining the government, Jorjani was formerly a highly paid operative at several organizations linked to the brothers and their fossil fuel empire.
Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said last year that Jorjani "opened the floodgates to bird killing by the oil and gas industry and other campaign contributors of the Trump administration," and accused him of being "part of a pattern in which Interior is basically run by the Koch Foundation for the benefit of the Koch Foundation."
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
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Smiley Lewis - Come On
Smiley Lewis - She’s Got Me Hook, Line & Sinker
Smiley Lewis - Lillie Mae