The Evening Blues - 5-6-21
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues harmonica player Billy Branch. Enjoy!
Billy Branch & the Sons of Blues - Mellow Down Easy
"Law and order is one of the steps taken to maintain injustice."
-- Edward Bond
News and Opinion
Whistleblower mysteriously commits offense that cannot be described to the public but requires his jailing. Star chamber to reconvene as soon as the Kangaroo convention concludes.
Daniel Hale, a former Air Force intelligence analyst who pled guilty to sharing classified documents about drone strikes with a reporter, has been arrested ahead of his sentencing in July.
In March, Hale pled guilty to one charge under the Espionage Act and faces up to 10 years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced in July, but a federal judge has ordered him incarcerated until then for violating the terms of his pretrial release, according to court records.
It’s unclear precisely what Hale is accused of doing and court documents show that his lawyers objected to his jailing. Minutes from a hearing last week indicated that the prosecution “seeks continued detention at this time,” and that Hale’s lawyers argued that “there [are] no actual violations committed by the [defendant] as alleged.”
An attorney for Hale, Cadence Mertz, declined to explain the reason for Hale’s arrest. “Unfortunately there isn’t any comment we can make,” Mertz told The Intercept by email.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said on Wednesday that the “rise of China” threatens the US’s status as the dominant global military power, warning that the world could be entering an era of “potential international instability.”
“Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the United States essentially was the unchallenged global military, political and economic power. With the rise of China, that is changing and changing fast,” Milley told a graduating ROTC class at Howard University. ...
Milley’s comments reflect the Biden administration’s foreign policy priority, which is confronting China. ... As the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Milley is the highest-ranking officer in the military. He is a hold-over from the Trump administration, which also prioritized countering China, especially in the last year.
The US faces an uphill task presenting itself as the chief guardian of global democracy, according to a new poll that shows the US is seen around the world as more of a threat to democracy than even Russia and China. The poll finds support for democracy remains high even though citizens in democratic countries rate their governments’ handling of the Covid crisis less well than people in less democratic countries.
Inequality is seen as the biggest threat to global democracy, but in the US the power of big tech companies is also seen as a challenge.
The findings come in a poll commissioned by the Alliance of Democracies Foundation among 50,000 respondents in 53 countries.
The results will make stark reading for the G7 foreign ministers as they hold a final day of talks in London in which they have collectively assumed the role as bulwarks of democratic values determined to confront autocracy. ...
In perhaps the most startling finding, nearly half (44%) of respondents in the 53 countries surveyed are concerned that the US threatens democracy in their country; fear of Chinese influence is by contrast 38%, and fear of Russian influence is lowest at 28%. The findings may in part reflect views on US comparative power, but they show neither the US, nor the G7, can simply assume the mantle of defenders of democracy.
Since last year, the perception of US influence as a threat to democracy around the world has increased significantly, from a net opinion of +6 to a net opinion of +14. This increase is particularly high in Germany (+20) and China (+16).
Boris Johnson has dispatched two Royal Navy patrol boats to protect Jersey from a feared blockade by French fishing vessels, in an escalation of a dispute over post-Brexit access to waters around the Channel island. The move followed talks on Wednesday evening between the prime minister and the chief minister of the British crown dependency, John Le Fondré, who had warned Downing Street of imminent movements by French fishing boats to cut off the island’s main port.
Jersey’s government had already been reeling from comments on Tuesday from France’s minister for maritime affairs, Annick Girardin, who had warned that the island’s electricity supply could be turned off in retaliation over a lack of access for the French fishing fleet to its waters.
The two Royal Navy river-class patrol boats, HMS Severn and HMS Tamar, are being deployed on Wednesday and Thursday respectively. Both vessels are armed with cannon designed to protect against fast moving attack crafts and two on-deck machine guns. ...
A Downing Street spokesperson said: “This evening the prime minister spoke to the chief minister of Jersey and the minister of external affairs, Ian Gorst, about the prospect of a blockade of Saint Helier. “The prime minister and chief minister stressed the urgent need for a de-escalation in tensions and for dialogue between Jersey and France on fishing access.”
The spokesperson said Johnson had “underlined his unwavering support for Jersey” in the crisis, describing any threat to blockade Jersey’s main entry point for vital supples as “unjustified”.
“Nothing to Lose”: Colombians Protest “Fascist Mafia Regime” Amid Deadly Police & Military Crackdown
Mass protests were held across Colombia on Wednesday after a night of unrest in the capital city, as street violence continued after more than a week of angry anti-government demonstrations. Twenty-three protesters and one police officer have been killed in the unrest that began with with a general strike over an unpopular tax reform but has grown into an outburst of rage over poverty exacerbated by the pandemic, human rights abuses and the authorities’ heavy-handed response to protests.
On Wednesday, tens of thousands marched through Bogotá, the capital, despite the threat of police violence and the pounding rain. ...
President Iván Duque, whose three years in office have been marked by nationwide protests, has been powerless to quell the unrest despite ordering the militarization of major cities and withdrawing his tax plan. His government has attempted to frame the protests as the work of “terrorists” from dissident rebel groups.
Meanwhile Colombia continues to be ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has so far claimed more than 75,000 lives, with daily deaths last week breaking the country’s records. The number of people living in extreme poverty grew by 2.8 million people last year amid coronavirus lockdowns that exacerbated the country’s deeply entrenched inequalities.
Much criticism has focused on the police response to the disturbances, with warlike scenes in cities across the country as officers in riot gear launch teargas and fire on crowds, sometimes with live rounds. Videos analysed by Amnesty International confirmed that police have used lethal weapons, including rifles and semi-automatic guns, against protesters around the country.
The US has declared its support for a patent waiver on Covid-19 vaccines to boost their production and distribution around the world.
The waiver will not take place immediately as it has to be approved by consensus at the World Trade Organization (WTO), but the decision of the Biden administration to throw its weight behind a waiver will have a strong influence on the outcome of that decision.
“This is a global health crisis,” Katherine Tai, the US trade representative, said in a written statement. “The extraordinary circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures.
“The administration strongly believes in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for Covid-19 vaccines. We will actively participate in text-based negotiations at the WTO needed to make that happen.”
The first “tweaked” vaccine against the worrying coronavirus variants that emerged in South Africa and Brazil has successfully neutralised them in laboratory trials, the US company Moderna has said.
The results of the small trial suggest that boosters against the variants will be feasible and could be rolled out this year to counter the threat from variants that have appeared around the world and are feared in some cases to be more transmissible or partially vaccine-resistant.
Leading companies have been racing to produce adapted versions of their Covid vaccines. Pfizer/BioNTech, which has a similar mRNA vaccine to Moderna’s, and Oxford/AstraZeneca are also in the process of developing tweaked vaccines against the South African variant, B1351, and the Brazilian variant, P1, which appear to be the major threat to current immunisation programmes.
Moderna became the first to announce results on Wednesday night. They appear to be very positive, although only basic information from an initial analysis of results is available so far.
A federal judge on Wednesday threw out the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's nationwide moratorium on evictions but agreed to put a temporary hold on her ruling as the government seeks to reverse the decision on appeal.
U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich said that although there was "no doubt" Congress intended to empower the CDC to combat COVID-19 through a range of measures such as quarantines, a moratorium on residential evictions was not among them. The ruling was a setback for millions of Americans who have fallen behind on rent payments during the pandemic.
The Justice Department sought an emergency order to put Friedrichs's decision on hold, arguing "evictions exacerbate the spread of COVID-19, which has already killed more than half a million Americans, and the harm to the public that would result from unchecked evictions cannot be undone."
Friedrich agreed to temporarily put her ruling on hold and gave the landlord groups that challenged the moratorium until May 12 to file legal papers opposing the delay. She emphasized she had not ruled on the merits of the government's request.
Friedrich's order gives the Justice Department four days to respond after the landlord groups' file legal papers.
Worth a click and a full read:
The International Commission of Inquiry on Systemic Racist Police Violence Against People of African Descent in the United States on Wednesday issued its long-awaited report on the U.S.’s police-perpetrated racist violence.The commissioners concluded that the systematic police killings of Black people in the U.S. constitutes a prima facie case of crimes against humanity and they asked the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to initiate an investigation of responsible police officials.
These crimes against humanity under the ICC’s Rome Statute include murder, severe deprivation of physical liberty, torture, persecution of people of African descent, and inhumane acts causing great suffering or serious injury to body or mental or physical health. All of the crimes occurred in the context of a widespread or systematic attack directed against the civilian population of Black people in the United States, as documented by the findings of fact in the 188-page report. ...
After 18 days of hearings and extensive research, the commissioners found that both U.S. law and police practices do not comply with international law. Testimony of family members, attorneys, activists and experts about police killings of 43 Black people, and the paralyzing of another, was presented to the commissioners. All of the victims were unarmed or were not threatening the officers or others.
Philonise Floyd, brother of George Floyd, testified before the commissioners. At the press conference announcing the release of the report, he said, “I want to thank the commissioners for recognizing my humanity as a good Black man in America, and for recognizing my brother George’s humanity, and the humanity of other families across this nation. And bringing to light and acknowledging the United States government is perpetrating crimes against humanity against Black people in the United States.” ...
The commissioners found that systemic racist police violence against people of African descent in the United States has resulted in a pattern of gross and reliably attested violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. These include violations of the right to life; the right to liberty and security; the right to mental health; the right to be free from arbitrary detention; and the right to be free from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, including by the use of tasers, chokeholds and compression asphyxia. The U.S. Torture Statute only punishes torture committed abroad.
Garrett Rolfe, the Atlanta police officer who was fired after the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks, has been reinstated after appealing against his firing to the Atlanta Civil Service Board. The decision to reinstate Rolfe was delivered on Wednesday by the Atlanta Civil Service Board, which is the “official protector of the civil service system”, according to the City of Atlanta’s official website.
The board’s sole purpose, according to the order that was released, “is to examine the issues of adverse employment action(s) in accordance with the Atlanta City ‘Code’”. The order also said that the board was not charged with determining or making reference to the criminality of Rolfe’s actions. To date, Rolfe has not been indicted. The board is composed of Atlanta citizens who are recommended by the mayor and confirmed by Atlanta’s city council.
Rolfe, who was charged with murder following the shooting death of Brooks, shot him in the parking lot of a Wendy’s fast-food restaurant, just south of downtown Atlanta. He was fired on 13 June, a day after he and another police officer responded to complaints that Brooks had fallen asleep in his car in the drive-thru lane of the Wendy’s restaurant.
Police body-camera video shows the 27-year-old Black man struggling with two white officers after they told him he had had too much to drink to be driving and tried to arrest him. Brooks grabbed a Taser from one of the officers and fled, firing it at Rolfe three times, according to the order released on Wednesday, as he ran.
An autopsy found that Brooks was shot twice in the back.
Last year, after New York officials announced a plan to dispatch 500 additional police officers to the city’s subway system, a coalition of activist groups organized a series of protests. On January 31, they held a “day of transit action” that saw small demonstrations pop up at stations and on trains across the city. “Fuck your $2.75,” a flyer promoting the event read, referring to the cost of a subway ride. “Public transit should be free,” read another, “which means free fares, free of policing, free of accessibility barriers, free to sell churros, free to dance, free to sleep.”
The flyers, along with other protest-related literature on topics like what to do if arrested, ultimately made their way into instructional materials used by the New York Police Department’s Police Academy, the six-month training all aspiring cops go through at the beginning of their career. The protest literature — “propaganda,” as the NYPD referred to it — was included in a Police Academy student guide on civil disorder and came with a warning: “The FTP (F**k the Police) group, also known as ‘Decolonize this place’ and ‘shutitdown,’ considers themselves an activist group that claims to fight for the rights of the poor and ‘indigenous people,’” the guide noted, mischaracterizing what is actually a loose formation of several groups that shared the materials. “This group has been responsible for vandalizing NYPD vehicles and property, entering the transit system without paying, and additional illegal destructive behavior.” ...
No part of the academy’s basic curriculum is specifically dedicated to the policing of protest, even as officers are frequently deployed to do so, leading to frequent abuses and fierce backlash against the department. Instead, lessons about other aspects of the job, like how to take an uncooperative person into custody, include nebulous protest-related tidbits, such as advice on balancing the NYPD’s position as guardian of “public order” and its stated commitment to safeguarding constitutional rights. “It is important in our democratic society that the rights of assembly and the freedom to peaceably protest be protected,” officers are taught, according to the documents obtained by The Intercept. “At the same time, these rights cannot be used as an excuse for violence nor may the exercise of those rights unnecessarily interfere with other important rights, such as those of non-demonstrators.” ...
Together, the documents offer an overview of the NYPD’s protest-related training that is striking for its vagueness and the lack of practical guidance to back the department’s declared commitment to the rights of protesters. “The key to quelling a civil disturbance without a need for force is the threat of force, coupled with tight discipline and control,” one of the documents reads. “A well-disciplined, well-armed unit creates the impression of a powerful, competent police force. Usually, a large, overpowering police presence will stop rioters in their tracks. If force must be used, remember to use only the minimum amount necessary to control the situation.”
Corey Stoughton, an attorney at the Legal Aid Society, which together with the New York Civil Liberties Union has sued the city over the police’s violent response to last year’s George Floyd protests, said the training on protesters’ constitutional rights is practically meaningless. “We’re talking about a maximum 45-minute discussion session on how to protect people’s First Amendment rights at protests,” she said. “The tools you walk out of that training room with, as an officer, are all geared towards finding ways to justify the arrest of protesters, rather than finding practical ways to facilitate peaceful protests and the exercise of free speech rights.” Stoughton, who reviewed the documents obtained by The Intercept, noted that while they contain “rhetorical commitments” to protesters’ rights, they focus almost exclusively on ways police can limit them: “The only practical information you would leave a training like that with is, ‘How can I arrest protesters?’”
Donald Trump’s Facebook account should not be reinstated, the social media giant’s oversight board said on Wednesday, barring an imminent return to the platform. However, the board has punted the final decision over Trump’s account back to Facebook itself, suggesting the platform make a decision in six months regarding what to do with Trump’s account and whether it will be permanently deleted.
Trump was initially suspended from Facebook and Instagram after the Capitol attack of 6 January, for 24 hours, as a result of two posts shared to the platform in which he appeared to praise the actions of the rioters. The company then extended the president’s ban “at least until the end of his time in office”.
His account was suspended indefinitely pending the decision of the oversight board, a group of appointed academics and former politicians meant to operate independently of Facebook’s corporate leadership. The board assigned ultimate responsibility to the social media company regarding whether the account will be given a reinstatement date and said Facebook must complete its review of this matter within six months. It said Facebook failed to impose proper penalties against Trump for violating its policies.
Trump lashed out against Facebook and other social media giants in response to the decision on Wednesday, saying such companies “must pay a political price” for suspending his accounts. “What Facebook, Twitter, and Google have done is a total disgrace and an embarrassment to our Country,” Trump said in a statement. “The People of our Country will not stand for it!”
Evil and eviler? Devil's daughter warns Republicans to repudiate Trump's sins.
Liz Cheney, the third-most-powerful House Republican, has warned that her party is “at a turning point” as it prepares to try to remove her from leadership for rejecting Donald Trump’s false claims about the election.
Writing in a defiant op-ed, published by the Washington Post on Wednesday, the Wyoming Republican told her party that standing with Trump meant undermining the rule of law and risking continued violence.
“Trump is seeking to unravel critical elements of our constitutional structure that make democracy work – confidence in the result of elections and the rule of law. No other American president has ever done this,” Cheney said in the article.
“The Republican party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the constitution.”
“History is watching us,” she warned.
A justice department memorandum explaining the decision not to charge Donald Trump with obstruction at the conclusion of the Mueller investigation must be made public, a federal judge has ruled. Attorneys for the department were “disingenuous” in their attempts to keep the document secret, district court judge Amy Berman Jackson said, according to CNN which reported the story on Wednesday.
The almost totally redacted memo, the lawyers had claimed, was legal reasoning that merely assisted William Barr, the then attorney general, to come to the decision not to charge the president for obstructing Mueller’s inquiry, and was therefore protected from public release.
But Barr’s decision not to charge Trump was predetermined, Jackson said in her 35-page opinion in a lawsuit brought in the US district of Columbia by the government transparency group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (Crew). “The agency’s redactions and incomplete explanations obfuscate the true purpose of the memorandum, and the excised portions belie the notion that it fell to the attorney general to make a prosecution decision or that any such decision was on the table at any time,” Jackson said in the opinion released Tuesday.
“The fact that [Trump] would not be prosecuted was a given,” she added.
The current pace of global heating risks unleashing “rapid and unstoppable” sea level rise from the melting of Antarctica’s vast ice sheet, a new research paper has warned.
Unless planet-heating emissions are swiftly reduced to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement, the world faces a situation where there is an “abrupt jump” in the pace of Antarctic ice loss around 2060, the study states, fueling sea level rise and placing coastal cities in greater peril.
“If the world warms up at a rate dictated by current policies we will see the Antarctic system start to get away from us around 2060,” said Robert DeConto, an expert in polar climate change at the University of Massachusetts and lead author of the study. “Once you put enough heat into the climate system, you are going to lose those ice shelves, and once that is set in motion you can’t reverse it.”
DeConto added: “The oceans would have to cool back down before the ice sheet could heal, which would take a very long time. On a societal timescale it would essentially be a permanent change.”
This tipping point for Antarctica could be triggered by a global temperature rise of 3C (5.4F) above the preindustrial era, which many researchers say is feasible by 2100 under governments’ current policies. The new research, published in Nature, finds that ice loss from Antarctica would be “irreversible on multi-century timescales” should this happen, helping raise the world’s oceans by 17cm to 21cm (6.69in to 8.27in) by the end of the century.
There would seem to be a lot of bored killers with itchy trigger fingers in the U.S.
More than 45,000 people are vying for one of a dozen spots to help thin a herd of bison at Grand Canyon national park. The odds aren’t as good as drawing a state tag to hunt the massive animals beyond the boundaries of the Grand Canyon, but they’re far better than getting struck by lightning or winning the Powerball.
“Just keeping my fingers crossed that I’m one out of 12,” said Rich Dawley Jr a 29-year-old farmer outside of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania who applied. “You can’t win unless you play.”
The National Park Service opened a rare opportunity for skilled shooters to kill bison at the Grand Canyon’s north rim where officials say they’ve been trampling on archaeological and other resources, and spoiling the water. ...
The department will select 25 names through a lottery, vet them and forward finalists to the park service. The first 12 who to submit a packet of information requested by the park service will be part of the volunteer program in the fall, said Kaitlyn Thomas, Grand Canyon spokeswoman, on Wednesday. The volunteers who are selected will find out by 17 May.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues - Blues Shock
Billy Branch - Hoochie Coochie Man
Billy Branch & Kenny Neal - I Just Keep Loving Her!
Billy Branch, Lurrie Bell, SOBs - The Train I Ride
Billy Branch - Hate To See You Go
Tinariwen & Billy Branch
Billy Branch & The Sons Of Biues - Mississippi Flashback
Billy Branch & The Sons Of Biues - Nobody But You
Billy Branch feat. Lurrie Bell & The Sons Of Blues - Help Me