The Evening Blues - 4-19-21
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues singer and guitarist Chick Willis. Enjoy!
Chick Willis - This Is My Life
“The media tends to report rumors, speculations, and projections as facts... How does the media do this? By quoting some 'expert'... you can always find some expert who will say something hopelessly hopeless about anything."
-- Peter McWilliams
News and Opinion
Glenn Greenwald, worth a click and a full read:
That Russia placed "bounties” on the heads of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan was one of the most-discussed and consequential news stories of 2020. It was also, as it turns out, one of the most baseless — as the intelligence agencies who spread it through their media spokespeople now admit, largely because the tale has fulfilled and outlived its purpose. ...
The story appeared — coincidentally or otherwise — just weeks after President Trump announced his plan to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2020. Pro-war members of Congress from both parties and liberal hawks in corporate media spent weeks weaponizing this story to accuse Trump of appeasing Putin by leaving Afghanistan and being too scared to punish the Kremlin. Cable outlets and the op-ed pages of The New York Times and Washington Post endlessly discussed the grave implications of this Russian treachery and debated which severe retaliation was needed. “This is as bad as it gets,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Then-candidate Joe Biden said Trump's refusal to punish Russia and his casting doubt on the truth of the story was more proof that Trump's “entire presidency has been a gift to Putin,” while Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) demanded that, in response, the U.S. put Russians and Afghans “in body bags.”
What was missing from this media orgy of indignation and militaristic demands for retaliation was an iota of questioning of whether the story was, in fact, true. All they had was an anonymous leak from “intelligence officials” — which The New York Times on Thursday admitted came from the CIA — but that was all they needed.
Predictably, now that this CIA tale has served its purpose (namely, preventing Trump from leaving Afghanistan), and now that its enduring effects are impeding the Biden administration (which wants to leave Afghanistan and so needs to get rid of this story), the U.S. Government is now admitting that — surprise! — they had no convincing evidence for this story all along. The Daily Beast on Thursday was the first to notice that “the Biden administration announced that U.S. intelligence only had ‘low to moderate’ confidence in the story after all.” The outlet added: “that means the intelligence agencies have found the story is, at best, unproven—and possibly untrue.” The Guardian also reported that “US intelligence agencies have only ‘low to moderate confidence’ in reports last year that Russian spies were offering Taliban militants in Afghanistan bounties for killing US soldiers.” NBC News went even further, citing Biden’s campaign attacks on Trump for failing to punish Putin for these bounties, and noting: “Such a definitive statement was questionable even then….They still have not found any evidence, a senior defense official said Thursday.” ...
If you think that, upon learning yesterday's news, there was any self-reflection on the part of the media figures who spread this, or that they felt chastened about it in any way, you would be very, very wrong. In fact, not only did few if any admit error, but they did exactly the same thing on Thursday about a brand new evidence-free assertion from the U.S. Government concerning Russia: they mindlessly assumed it true and then stated it to millions of people as fact. They are not embarrassed to get caught spreading false CIA propaganda. They see their role, correctly, as doing exactly that. On Thursday, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, run by Biden’s Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, issued a short Press Release about its targeting of Russian-Ukrainian political consultant, Konstantin Kilimnik, with new sanctions. One sentence of this press release asserted a claim that the Mueller investigation, after searching for eighteen months, never found: namely, that “Kilimnik provided the Russia intelligence services with sensitive information on polling and campaign strategy” that he received from then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.
Is it true that Kilimnik passed this polling data to the Kremlin? Maybe. But there is no way for a rational person — let alone someone calling themselves a “journalist” — to conclude that it is true. Why? Because, like the CIA tale about Russian bounties — a claim they learned yesterday had no evidence — this is nothing more than a U.S. Government assertion that lacks any evidence. ...
These are not journalists. They are obsequious spokespeople for the CIA and other official authorities. Even when they learn that they deceived millions of people by uncritically repeating a story that the CIA told them was true, they will — on the very same day that they learn they did this — do exactly the same thing, this time with a one-paragraph Treasury Department Press Release. These are agents of disinformation: state media. And when they speak, you should listen to them with the knowledge of what they really are, and treat them accordingly.
Yesterday U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga met at the White House to hold a joint press conference reaffirming and expanding bilateral relations between the two nations. A statement was released after the press event which has raised the ire of China.
Both the press conference and the statement addressed a multitude of issues from economic to security to environmental to cyber concerns, but what caught the attention of many, especially Chinese, observers is this sentence: “The United States restated its unwavering support for Japan’s defense under the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, using its full range of capabilities, including nuclear.” The treaty marks its seventieth anniversary this year, first having been signed during the height of the Cold War, as the war in Korea raged, in 1951.
The statement, titled U.S.-Japan Global Partnership for a New Era – also reaffirmed the two nations’ understanding that Article 5 of that pact – “Each Party recognizes that an armed attack against either Party in the territories under the administration of Japan would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional provisions and processes” – would apply to China and Japan’s dispute over what Japan and the U.S. refer to as the Senkaku Islands, but China knows as the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. (Japan is also embroiled in a dispute with Russia over the Kuril Islands, which Japan, and occasionally the U.S. State Department, refer to as Japan’s Northern Territories.) The two leaders pledged to intensify military cooperation “across all domains, including cyber and space, and to bolster extended deterrence.” ...
A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington said that Biden’s and Suga’s statements went “far beyond the scope of normal development of bilateral relations.”
President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw most U.S. troops from Afghanistan marks a significant reduction in America’s participation in the war. But it is unlikely to mean peace for Afghans themselves, who remain caught between a weak and corrupt central government long propped up by U.S. military might and a resurgent Taliban movement that is stronger than at any time since the United States invaded. ... The U.S. will leave without having accomplished its goals and with more Afghan suffering ahead. It also doesn’t seem that America’s own “forever war” is actually ending. Biden reserved the right to carry out airstrikes and raids against suspected threats in Afghanistan indefinitely — washing America’s hands of its involvement in inter-Afghan conflict, while signaling that the United States would still be killing people in the country when it deems necessary.
This “light footprint” approach could have been adopted by the U.S. government from a position of greater strength in 2002, or at many points since. Having achieved the baseline goal of responding to the 9/11 attacks and scattering Al Qaeda’s networks in the country, there was a genuine chance to declare victory in the conflict. Instead, successive administrations chose to become permanent parties to an Afghan civil war that began with the Soviet invasion and has raged ever since. The net result has been to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Biden’s somber words reflected the undeniable fact that the U.S. did not win the war in Afghanistan. While no one else really won either, the Taliban make perhaps the most compelling case for having achieved victory after successfully enduring 20 years of pressure from a coalition of the most powerful militaries on the planet. ...
The costs of waging this war of choice have been high. In addition to roughly 2,400 U.S. service members who have died in Afghanistan, roughly 157,000 Afghans have lost their lives, according to the Costs of War Project run by Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, including tens of thousands of civilians. The number of wounded and displaced is unknown but is believed to run into the millions. In addition to civilian casualties inflicted directly by U.S. raids and airstrikes, a network of death squads and militias built with American support seems likely to continue terrorizing Afghans for years to come. ... Many haunting questions remain, including why this change in America’s approach wasn’t made decades ago, what has been accomplished by the huge loss of life and resources, and who is responsible for the ultimate failure of the U.S. project in Afghanistan.
Biden isn’t ending the Afghanistan War, he’s privatizing it: Special Forces, Pentagon contractors, intelligence operatives will remain
On April 14, President Joe Biden announced that he would end the U.S.’s longest war and withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan on the 20th anniversary of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks. Over 6,000 NATO troops will also be withdrawn by that time. ... Biden’s claim that he is ending the forever war is misleading. As The New York Times reported, the United States would remain after the formal departure of U.S. troops with a “shadowy combination of clandestine Special Operations Forces, Pentagon contractors and covert intelligence operatives.” ...
The meaninglessness of President Biden’s announcement becomes apparent when we consider that the Pentagon employs more than seven contractors for every serviceman or woman in Afghanistan, an increase from one contractor for every serviceman or woman a decade ago. As of January, more than 18,000 contractors remained in Afghanistan, according to a Defense Department report, when official troop totals had been reduced to 2,500. These totals reflect the U.S. government’s strategy of outsourcing war to the benefit of private mercenary corporations, and as a means of distancing the war from the public and averting dissent, since relatively few Americans are directly impacted by it. ...
The Afghan War will go on indefinitely not because of the threat of terrorism — which is accentuated by the U.S. military presence — but because the United States will not concede ground in the region. The U.S. has announced intentions to retain at least two military bases in Afghanistan after the official troop drawdown, and set up over 1000 bases during the war.
Uncle Sam also covets Afghans’ mineral wealth. A 2007 United States Geological Service survey discovered nearly $1 trillion in mineral deposits, including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold, and critical industrial metals like lithium, which is used in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and cellphones. An internal Pentagon memo stated that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium.” ...
As a previous CovertAction Magazine article documented, the current Afghan government led by Ashraf Ghani is largely a creation of the United States. Its military is funded by the United States at a cost of around $4 billion per year. This support is going to continue — unless Congress cuts it off — alongside large-scale U.S. foreign aid programs that amount to nearly $1 billion per year. The U.S. wants to keep Ghani in power, or replace him with another proxy that can help it win the geopolitical competition with Russia and China, which is little different from the 19th-century “great game” between Great Britain and Czarist Russia.
As long as the U.S. empire remains intact, the war as such will go on, and on — and on.
For the first time since the 1950s, Cuba will have a leader whose name is not Castro, as Raúl Castro announced Friday that he will step down as first secretary of the country's ruling Communist Party just ahead of the 10th anniversary of his appointment.
Castro—who has ruled Cuba since his brother Fidel resigned from the Communist Party central committee on April 19, 2011—announced his retirement during the 8th Party Conference in Havana, teleSUR reports.
"I believe fervently in the strength and exemplary nature and comprehension of my compatriots," he told the conference, "and as long as I live I will be ready with my foot in the stirrups to defend the fatherland, the revolution, and socialism."
The 89-year-old—who played a key role as a military commander in the revolution that overthrew the brutal U.S.-backed Fulgencio Batista regime in 1959—said that he has fulfilled his mission and "is confident in the future of the fatherland."
Castro leaves office after having implemented significant economic reforms, with the government recently allowing private businesses to operate in most sectors of the economy. While the government continues to repress political freedom, Cubans still enjoy social benefits unheard of in the United States, including free cradle-to-grave healthcare and education.
Under Castro, Cuba continued its globally renowned policy of international humanitarian assistance, which drew praise from then-U.S. President Barack Obama during his historic March 2016 visit to Havana. Last year, the Cuban government sent 2,000 doctors and nurses abroad to nearly two dozen nations during the coronavirus pandemic.
This year's party conference coincides with the 60th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion, a failed attempt by CIA-backed Cuban exiles to destroy the revolution that ended half a century of U.S. domination. In 1898, the U.S. conquered Cuba from Spain and directly ruled the island as a colony for years before backing a series of dictators friendly to Washington and Wall Street interests.
The U.S. repeatedly tried to murder the Castros, with Raúl becoming the target of the earliest-known CIA assassination plot against the brothers. The Castros survived more than 600 often outrageously outlandish assassination attempts against them, and outlasted 12 U.S. presidents. They also defiantly endured 60 years of internationally condemned U.S. economic embargo and a decades-long campaign of terror against the Cuban people.
It is widely believed that Miguel Díaz-Canal, the 60-year-old president, will replace Castro. The next Cuban leader will face an ongoing pandemic and concurrent economic crisis exacerbated by the continuing U.S. embargo, and will face internal and external pressure to enact further reforms while remaining faithful to the ideals of the revolution.
A grim Covid-19 milestone was passed on Saturday when it was revealed that the global death toll from the disease had passed three million.
The news was described as “chilling” by Wellcome Trust director Jeremy Farrar, who warned that the true number of deaths was probably much higher. “Worryingly, this pandemic is still growing at an alarming rate,” he said. “Hundreds of thousands are dying every month.”
According to the Covid-19 dashboard, run by Johns Hopkins University, there have been more than 140 million cases of the disease since the pandemic began last year with the official death toll reaching 3,001,068 yesterday morning. The worst affected country was the US with more than 31 million cases and more than 560,000 deaths.
India and Brazil have also fared badly with the former recording more than 14 million cases and 175,000 deaths, while the latter has suffered just under 14 million cases and almost 370,000 deaths. Britain, which has also been hit heavily by the disease, has had more than four million cases and has a death toll that currently stands at more than 127,000.
“Only when we have tools to detect, treat and prevent Covid-19 everywhere will we be able to stop this pandemic and this senseless, tragic loss of life,” added Farrar, who said that a small number of rich countries had key roles to play in bringing the pandemic to a halt.
President Joe Biden said on Saturday he will raise the cap on the number of refugees admitted this year to the United States, a day after he drew criticism from Democratic lawmakers for agreeing to keep the historically low figure in place.
Biden signed an order on Friday extending a 15,000 refugee admissions cap issued by his predecessor Donald Trump through the end of September. In signing the order, Biden shelved a plan announced in February to increase the cap to 62,500.
Biden told reporters in Delaware on Saturday after playing golf that he would go beyond the 15,000 limit.
"We are going to increase the number. Problem was the refugee part was working on the crisis that ended up at the border with young people. We couldn’t do two things at once, so now we are going to raise the number," he said.
Nearly 800 people were killed by police in the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro in the past nine months, as raids remain a terrifying routine for favela families – despite a supreme court ruling to halt incursions during the coronavirus pandemic. ... The court ruled to suspend police raids in Brazilian favelas in June 2020, amid public outcry following the death of 14-year-old João Pedro Matos Pinto, who was shot in the back during a police incursion.
Between June and September, police raids plummeted 64% compared with the average for the same period in previous years, according to a report by Geni, a research group at the Federal Fluminense University (UFF). But incursions resumed in October, one month after the acting governor, Cláudio Castro, took office and rapidly doubled to 38 in October, compared with the previous month. In the following nine months, the communities of Greater Rio saw an average of nearly one raid every day, the report showed.
“It’s absurd,” Daniel Hirata, an author of the report and professor of sociology at UFF, said. “The highest court takes a decision, and political authorities do not respect it, violate it deliberately. This is a risk to the rule of law in Brazil.”
On Friday, the state supreme court started a two-day public hearing on police raids to draw up a new plan to reduce police killings and human rights violations. Police in Rio de Janeiro state, kill almost twice as many people each year as they do in the US. Most of the victims are black and brown.
‘This is some ‘RoboCop’ sh*t. This is crazy’ — Rep. Jamaal Bowman called out the NYPD for spending money on robot police dogs amid the fight for racial justice and a poverty crisis pic.twitter.com/4mEwumotiD
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) April 16, 2021
Hundreds marched through the streets of Chicago on Friday to protest the police shooting of Adam Toledo, a day after police released of body-cam video showing the deadly shooting of the 13-year-old boy with his hands in the air.
About a thousand people gathered on Friday evening in a park on Chicago’s north-west side, some holding signs that read “Stop killing kids” and “CPD can’t be reformed”. A brass band played music as the crowd chanted: “No justice, no peace.”
The demonstrators observed a moment of silence and expressed solidarity with the boy’s relatives, who had implored protesters to remain peaceful. The rally began in Logan Square Park, about five miles (8km) north of where the shooting occurred. ...
Speaking Friday on the floor of the Illinois house of representatives, the state representative Edgar Gonzalez, who lives four blocks from where Toledo died, called the killing a “murder” and expressed frustration at what he described as a too-familiar pattern of police abuse.
“So if you put your hands up, they shoot. If you put your hands down, they shoot. If you walk, you run, you hide, you sleep, you do exactly as they say, they still shoot,” Gonzalez said. “So I ask the members of this chamber, what are we supposed to do?”
Protests against police killings flared across the US this weekend, from Minneapolis to Chicago to Portland, as Americans wait for a verdict in the trial of the white police officer charged with murdering George Floyd last year.
Closing arguments are expected in the Derek Chauvin trial on Monday. The most serious charge the former Minneapolis officer is facing in Floyd’s death is second-degree murder, but the jury might choose to find him guilty on third-degree murder or manslaughter, or acquit him altogether. ...
Benjamin Crump, a civil rights attorney representing the families of Floyd and Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old shot to death in Brooklyn Center, a suburb of Minneapolis, by a white police officer during a traffic stop on 11 April, as the Chauvin trial played out, said guilty verdict for Chauvin could set a precedent in the US.
“The outcome that we pray for and Derek Chauvin is for him to be held criminally liable for killing George Floyd, because we believe that could be a precedent,” Crump told ABC’s This Week on Sunday. “Finally making America live up to its promise of liberty and justice for all. That means all of us - Black people, Hispanic people, Native people - all of us.” ...
Minneapolis is braced for potential citywide protests if Chauvin is acquitted or convicted on one of the lesser charges, with buildings across town boarded up, and National Guard troops already in place across the city. The outcome in the case is expected to resonate nationwide, particularly in cities that have seen continuing demonstrations over police violence.
As police riot against protesters and journalists, Democratic governors activate thousands of National Guard soldiers to quell protests
In response to protests against unending police violence and in anticipation of a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial in the coming days, Democratic governors and mayors across the country are preemptively declaring emergency protocols at police departments and activating National Guard soldiers in an attempt to intimidate protesters and deprive them of their First Amendment rights. In Minneapolis and the surrounding suburbs of Champlin and Brooklyn Center, where 20-year-old Daunte Wright was shot and killed by 26-year police veteran Kimberly Potter, after she allegedly mistook her pistol for a Taser last Sunday, more than 3,000 National Guard troops and at least 1,100 law enforcement agents from agencies across the state have been activated as part of the misnamed “Operation Safety Net.” ...
In addition to flooding working class neighborhoods with tear gas, militarized police and soldiers, an unconstitutional curfew has been in effect for the last week in Champlin and Brooklyn Center, preventing many residents from going about their day. Disturbing images and videos over the weekend revealed scenes of militarized police backed by soldiers, pointing semi-automatic rifles at unarmed women attempting to pump gas who were allegedly in violation of the curfew.
Demonstrating the immense fear within the ruling class and the state that the protests, similar to last summer’s, might grow to encompass broad layers of workers and youth and spiral out of their control, state agents have been deliberately targeting journalists to prevent the distribution and documentation of on-the-ground footage of the occupation. During Friday evening’s protest in Brooklyn Center, during which police boasted of 136 arrests, multiple journalists reported being assaulted by police while taking photographs or simply standing on the sidewalk. Freelance photographer Tim Evans told the Associated Press that he witnessed police charge into a crowd of peaceful protesters and begin pepper-spraying and tackling people, with one officer punching Evans in the face before ripping off his press credentials and forcing him to lie on his stomach with a knee in his back.
“I was yelling ‘press.’ He said he didn’t care and to shut the f*ck up,” Evans told the AP. Evans said another officer came over and smashed his head into the ground and then zip-tied his hands behind his back. “I’m extremely upset,” Evans said. “I felt like they were targeting the press in general. I’m out there doing what I’m doing because I have such strong convictions about the importance of this work.” Evans added that without his protective equipment, such as goggles, respiratory mask and helmet, he would have been seriously injured. ...
Maribel Perez Wadsworth, president of USA TODAY Network and publisher of USA Today, issued a statement following the police riot Friday night condemning the actions of the police in Brooklyn Center. “We condemn the actions of the police in Brooklyn Center in the strongest possible terms,” Wadsworth said. “Requiring journalists to lie prone on the ground and photographing their credentials are purposeful intimidation tactics. To be clear, we will not be intimidated or deterred in fulfilling our First Amendment right and responsibility to hold power to account in our reporting.”
A member of the far-right Oath Keepers militia group and heavy metal guitarist has become the first defendant to plead guilty to federal charges in connection with the insurrection at the US Capitol.
Jon Ryan Schaffer, the frontman of the band Iced Earth, has agreed on Friday to cooperate with investigators in hopes of getting a lighter sentence, and the Justice Department will consider putting Schaffer in the federal witness security program, a US district judge said.
This signals that federal prosecutors see him as a valuable cooperator as they continue to investigate militia groups and other extremists involved in the insurrection on 6 January as Congress was meeting to certify Joe Biden’s electoral win.
Schaffer, a supporter of Donald Trump, was accused of storming the Capitol and spraying police officers with bear spray. He pleaded guilty in a deal with prosecutors in federal court in Washington to two counts: obstruction of an official proceeding, and entering and remaining in a restricted building with a dangerous or deadly weapon. ...
The 53-year-old was not charged in the case involving Oath Keepers members and associates, who are accused of conspiring with one another to block the certification of the vote. The case is the largest and most serious brought by prosecutors so far in the attack.
As part of Wall Street's "relentless push to influence decision-making" in Washington, D.C., the powerful financial sector spent a record $2.9 billion on campaign donations and lobbying in the 2020 election cycle, a new report shows, with Democrats including President Joe Biden accepting millions of dollars.
According to Americans for Financial Reform (AFR), which published the study Thursday, the historic sum was spent by Wall Street executives, employees, and trade groups, and included campaign contributions as well as lobbying expenses.
The sector's goal was to ensure lawmakers pass "policy that makes the already wealthy richer, and the rest of us poorer," regardless of which party is in power.
The spending detailed in AFR's report likely does not represent Wall Street's total contributions, the organization noted, because $1.05 billion in dark money, with unknown original sources, was spent on the 2020 federal elections.
"Thus, total Wall Street spending [accounts] for, at a minimum—because it is impossible to track dark money from the industry—one in seven dollars that financed the 2020 federal elections, the most expensive ever," AFR reported.
The financial sector spent the most money ever on political elections last year since 2016, when Wall Street poured $2 billion into campaigns and lobbying efforts. AFR executive director Lisa Donner noted that Wall Street is likely to continue breaking records in the coming years.
"The enormous sums that Wall Street has at its disposal, combined with a broken campaign finance system, means there is little practical limit to the amount of money the financial services industry can inject into American debate on politics and policy," Donner said in a statement.
The majority of the campaign contributions from Wall Street went to Democratic candidates, with Democrats taking 53% of the donations. More than $74 million was given to Biden's campaign.
As the Biden administration reviews the U.S. government's federal fossil fuels program and faces pressure to block any new dirty energy development, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland won praise from environmentalists on Friday for issuing a pair of climate-related secretarial orders. ...
Secretarial Order 3398 (pdf) rescinds a dozen orders issued under the Trump administration which an Interior statement collectively described as "inconsistent with the department's commitment to protect public health; conserve land, water, and wildlife; and elevate science."
Specifically, she revoked: S.O. 3348; S.O. 3349; SO 3350; S.O. 3351; SO 3352; S.O. 3354; S.O. 3355; S.O. 3358; S.O. 3360; S.O. 3380; SO 3385; and SO 3389 (pdfs). Implemented throughout former President Donald Trump's term, they related to "American energy independence," the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska, and leasing and permitting for energy projects, among other topics. With the order, Haaland reinstated the federal moratorium on coal leasing.
Haaland's other measure, Secretarial Order 3399 (pdf), establishes a departmental Climate Task Force that will identify policies needed to tackle the climate emergency, support the use of the best available science on greenhouse gas emissions, implement the review and reconsideration of federal gas and oil leasing and permitting practices, identify actions needed to "address current and historic environmental injustice" as well as "foster economic revitalization of, and investment in, energy communities," and work with state, tribe, and local governments.
The department also noted that "the solicitor's office issued a withdrawal of M-37062, an opinion that concluded that the Interior secretary must promulgate a National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program consisting of a five-year lease schedule with at least two lease sales during the five-year plan," which allows DOI "to evaluate its obligations under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act."
Trump administration officials withheld information about carcinogenic pollution from Illinois communities, according to a report released yesterday by the Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general. Bill Wehrum, who served as assistant administrator of the office of Air and Radiation until 2019, kept information from residents of Willowbrook, Illinois, about results of air monitoring that showed they had an elevated risk of cancer due to ethylene oxide from a local sterilizing plant, according to the report, “EPA Delayed Risk Communication and Issued Instructions Hindering Region 5’s Ability to Address Ethylene Oxide Emissions,” which was produced in response to a request from Congress.
Measurement of the levels of ethylene oxide around the facility, which was owned by Sterigenics and has since closed, was conducted in May 2018 and showed an elevated risk of cancer due to the gas. In June, the regional administrator responsible for the area was briefed on the monitoring results and was preparing to release them to the public by posting them to the agency’s website. According to the report, “the then-Region 5 regional administrator expressed concern about the monitoring results and wanted to immediately release them to the public to avoid another public health emergency like the Flint, Michigan drinking water crisis.”
But Wehrum, who was not mentioned by name but referred to as “then-assistant administrator for air and radiation,” directed the regional administrator not to release the results to the public, according to the report. Before serving as head of EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, Wehrum was a lobbyist who represented chemical and oil companies. He left the post in 2019, while under scrutiny from the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the EPA’s inspector general. The Senate report found Wehrum was instituting changes that would increase air pollution and benefit his former clients at the lobbying firm Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP.
Worth a full read:
As the Canadian oil pipeline company Enbridge awaited its final permits last summer to begin construction on the Line 3 tar sands oil transport project, Minnesota sheriff’s offices along the route fretted. With an Anishinaabe-led movement pledging to carry out nonviolent blockades and demonstrations to prevent the pipeline’s construction, local police worried they’d be stuck with the costs of policing and wanted Enbridge to pay instead.
As part of its permit to build Line 3, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, or PUC, created a special Enbridge-funded account that public safety officials could use to pay for policing Enbridge’s political opponents. The police were concerned about who state officials would hire to decide which invoices to pay or reject.
Last June, Kanabec County Sheriff Brian Smith wrote an email to other sheriffs along the pipeline route. “I think we need to let the PUC know that the person selected needs to be someone that we also agree upon,” Smith wrote. “Not a member of the PUC, not a state, county or federal employee, but someone that has an understanding of rioting and MFF operations” — referring to mobile field force operations, or anti-riot policing.
In response, Enbridge offered reassurances, according to other police on the email chain. “I had a discussion with Troy Kirby (Enbridge Chief of Security) this morning, and expressed concern over that position and the escrow account,” Aitkin County Sheriff Daniel Guida replied. “He indicated they have some influence on the hiring of that positon [sic] and he would be involved to ensure we are taken care of, one way or another.”
The exchange between the sheriffs is an example of the public-private collaborations between law enforcement and fossil fuel companies that have raised alarms for civil rights advocates and environmental activists across the U.S. Oil, gas, and pipeline corporations have forged a range of creative strategies for funding the police who respond to their political opponents, from paying elected constables for work as private security to creating an entire police unit dedicated to protecting infrastructure. Other industries have found ways to route money to police, but corporate law enforcement funding related to pipeline projects is among the most pervasive. Civil liberties advocates say the corporate cash raises troubling questions about private influence over the public institution of policing, noting that growing anti-pipeline protest movements have been met by heavy-handed police tactics.
Along the beaches of northern California, and the past year has seen a boom in crowds on the hunt for one of the region’s favorite edible delights: clams. But among the buckets and shovels, clam hunters are increasingly coming armed with a powerful new tool: hand-operated, water-squirting pumps that allow them to take more clams, faster than ever before.
The surge in the use of these hydraulic pumps, which have the capacity to collect a day’s worth of clams in just a few minutes, has raised concerns about their effects on the coastline and clam populations. As a result, the state is cracking down – opting in March to temporarily ban their use until the impact can be fully understood.
Fishing and hunting license sales increased 10% in California during the pandemic, reversing years of decline. Clamming has grown in popularity for several reasons: people are looking for safe activities to do outdoors, but also some are clamming for subsistence and trying to get money from selling the shellfish (which is illegal without a commercial license). The most common clams dug on the beaches are Pacific gaper clams, fat gaper clams, and butter clams. They can make a tasty dinner alone or chopped up in a clam chowder.
The new hydraulic pumps work like a bicycle pump, liquifying the sediment around the clam and allowing people to easily pick them up in shallow water. A team of clammers can catch their allotted amount of gaper clams and butter clams in just minutes. Legal catch limits are 10 per day. While the pumps aren’t a new problem, their prevalence has risen. Two years ago, Mastrup says, you might see one or two pumps among 50 groups. But this year, about 80% of the clammers are using the hydraulic pumps.
That can be a problem because the pumps are just too efficient, meaning clammers hit their daily limit very quickly. They don’t often bury the smaller clams they’re not taking home, and leaving them on the warm sandy beach can kill them. Using the pumps can disturb the eelgrass bed – floating underwater plants that play an important role in feeding and sheltering creatures – since the catchers are often walking in shallow water rather than standing on the shore.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Chick Willis - Mr. Moon Man I've Come To Bring You Some Food
Chick Willis - Stoop-Down Baby
Chick Willis - You Win Again
Chick Willis - It Ain't Right
Robert Chick Willis - Pleading
Chick Willis - Something To Remember You By
Chick Willis - Call My Name
Chick Willis - Mother Fuyer
Chick Willis - Lou's Place
Chick Willis & The Kenyattas - Love Doctor
Chick Willis - Black Widow Spider