The Evening Blues - 5-17-21
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features r&b guitarist and bandleader Jimmy Liggins. Enjoy!
Jimmy Liggins & His Drops of Joy - I Can't Stop It
"In this society, dominated as it is by the profit-seeking ventures of monopoly corporations, health has been callously transformed into a commodity - a commodity that those with means are able to afford, but that is too often entirely beyond the reach of others."
-- Angela Davis
News and Opinion
Producers and consumers seem helpless as food all over the world comes under fast growing corporate control. Such changes have also been worsening environmental collapse, social dislocation and the human condition. The recent joint report – by the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) and the ETC Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration – is ominous, to say the least. “A Long Food Movement,” principally authored by Pat Mooney with a team including IPES-Food Director Nick Jacobs, analyses how food systems are likely to evolve over the next quarter century with technological and other changes.
The report notes that hi-tech data processing and asset management corporations have joined established agribusinesses in reshaping world food supply chains. If current trends continue, the food system will be increasingly controlled by large transnational corporations (TNCs) at the expense of billions of farmers and consumers.
The Davos World Economic Forum’s (WEF) much touted “Fourth Industrial Revolution” (IR4.0), promoting digitization, is transforming food systems, accelerating concentration in corporate hands. New apps enable better tracking across supply chains, while “precision farming” now includes using drones to spray pesticides on targeted crops, reducing inputs and, potentially, farming costs. Agriculture is now second only to the military in drone use. Digital giants are working with other TNCs to extend enabling “cloud computing” infrastructure. Spreading as quickly as the infrastructure allows, new ‘digital ag’ technologies have been displacing farm labour. Meanwhile, food data have become more commercially valuable, e.g., to meet consumer demand. Big Ag profits have also grown by creating “new needs.” Big data are already being used to manipulate consumer preferences. ...
Meanwhile, hi-tech and asset management firms have acquired significant shareholdings in food giants. Powerful conglomerates are integrating different business lines, increasing concentration while invoking competition and “creative disruption.” The IPES-ETC study highlights new threats to farming and food security as IR4.0 proponents exert increasing influence. The report warns that giving Big Ag the ‘keys of the food system’ worsens food insecurity and other existential threats. Powerful corporations will increase control of most world food supplies. Big Ag controlled supply chains will also be more vulnerable as great power rivalry and competition continue to displace multilateral cooperation.
The eruption of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is heading for an “uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis”, the UN secretary general has warned after a day of significant escalation with 42 Palestinians killed by airstrikes in Gaza. The death toll made it the deadliest single attack since fighting broke out between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas a week ago. Fifty Palestinians were injured. Meanwhile, air-raid sirens sounded for the seventh consecutive day across southern Israel as Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza launched more rocket attacks into the country – and reaching further – than in the entirety of the 2014 war.
As the UN security council met in a specially convened session, foreign ministers and ambassadors called for a ceasefire and for both sides to respect international humanitarian law, but there was no sign of even a temporary truce to allow medics in Gaza to recover people – alive and dead – from under collapsed buildings. “The fighting risks dragging Israelis and Palestinians into a spiral of violence with devastating consequences for both communities and for the entire region,” António Guterres told the council. “It has the potential to unleash an uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis and to further foster extremism, not only in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel, but in the region as a whole.”
The UN coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Tor Wennesland, summed up the week’s dark balance sheet: 950 Israeli airstrikes on Gaza have killed 181 Palestinians, including 52 children. Over the same period, more than 2,900 rockets fired by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad killed 10 people, including two children.
Wennesland said 40 schools and four hospitals were completely or partially destroyed in Gaza and 18 buildings including four high-rise towers, including one housing several press offices, had been razed. The Norwegian diplomat also warned of the impact of loss of power supply inside the Palestinian enclave. “The lack of electricity has resulted in a decrease of clean water and sewage treatment affecting hundreds of thousands,” he said, adding that the Gaza health system “will likely be unable to meet the needs of those injured during the violence”, particularly as hospitals face potential electricity shortages.
In his staunch defence of Israel, Joe Biden is sticking to a course set decades ago as a young senator, and so far he has not given ground on the issue to the progressive wing of his party or many Jewish Democrats urging a tougher line towards Benjamin Netanyahu. Biden has even been prepared to face isolation at the UN security council, at the potential cost of his own credibility on multilateralism and human rights. But analysts say that as the death toll rises with no sign of a ceasefire, the domestic and international pressures on the president could become impossible to ignore.
American Jews have grown increasingly sceptical of Netanyahu and his policies. A Pew Research Center survey published last week found that only 40% thought the prime minister was providing good leadership, falling to 32% among younger Jews. Strikingly, only 34% strongly opposed sanctions or other punitive measures against Israel. The liberal Jewish American lobby, J Street, has growing influence in the Democratic party and has urged Biden to do more to stop the bloodshed and the Israeli policies that have helped drive the conflict. ...
However, he cannot afford to alienate the progressive wing of his own party. It was progressive enthusiasm, and the support of prominent figures such as Bernie Sanders, that helped Biden win the presidency where Hillary Clinton failed. Congressional progressives such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have been more and more outspoken in their criticism of the Biden line of emphasising Israel’s right of defence “If the Biden admin can’t stand up to an ally, who can it stand up to? How can they credibly claim to stand for human rights?” Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter on Saturday.
Biden worked hard to cultivate the progressives during the campaign and afterwards, setting up policy workshops with them, but the current crisis has brought that honeymoon in an end.
Israel would halt its deadly assault on Gaza if the United States asked it to do so, the former chief of Israeli military intelligence has said in a private meeting with South African Zionists, Middle East Eye can reveal.
In a meeting with the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) on Thursday, Amos Yadlin, the former IDF Military Intelligence Directorate chief and former Israeli military attache to the US, claimed that President Joe Biden's administration was growing impatient with Tel Aviv's ongoing bombing campaign and said he would "not surprised if this will all stop in 48 hours".
"When the Egyptians ask Israel to stop, Israel doesn't want to stop. But if the Americans will ask Israel to stop, Israel will have to listen," Yadlin said in a video streamed on Facebook but taken down minutes after it had ended.
The event, called "The situation on the ground", was organised by the SAZF and the Jewish Agency for Israel, and aimed to provide answers about Israel's position in the light of public outrage unfolding in South Africa at Israeli actions in Jerusalem and Gaza.
Yadlin, currently director of the Institute for National Security Studies in Israel, said that whereas Trump gave Israel "an open cheque to everything" because he thought "Palestinians were to blame basically for everything", he described the Democratic Party as more balanced.
A week of relentless Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip has destroyed power lines, smashed water pipes beneath roads and left human waste spilling out of the ground. With 188 Palestinians having been killed, and families trapped under rubble, fears are mounting of a deepening humanitarian crisis in the enclave, where 2 million people live under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade in place for 14 years. ...
Throughout its intense bombing campaign, Israel has blocked access to the territory, including for aid workers, and prevented fuel from entering, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Supplies of vital animal feed sitting in trucks are being held on the Israeli side of the frontier waiting to go in, OCHA said, adding that Gaza’s stockpiles would run out on Sunday. It said the Palestinian ministry of agriculture had warned that without deliveries, livestock and poultry farms would run out. In turn, the strip’s main protein source would be affected. Israel has also prevented fishers from sailing off the Gaza coast and has bombed farms, OCHA said.
A seawater desalination plant is out of action, leaving 250,000 people without proper supplies of drinking water. In the northern town of Beit Lahia, “sewage and solid waste are accumulating in the streets”, OCHA said. ...
According to the UN agency responsible for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, more than 17,000 people have fled their homes and are sheltering in roughly 40 schools. The agency warned of a secondary threat during the Covid pandemic, saying it had to consider “how to minimise the risk of people crowding in a very confined space and spreading the virus”. Gisha, an Israeli rights group, said the decreasing supply of electricity had affected the production of oxygen needed for respirators. Israel, which has vaccinated most of its citizens, has said it is not responsible for giving inoculations to all Palestinians in the occupied territories, including the West Bank and Gaza.
American Jewish group IfNotNow was among numerous groups pushing for more Democratic support for Minnesota Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum’s bill to prohibit Israel from using U.S. military aid to demolish Palestinian homes, arrest Palestinian children, and annex Palestinian land amid Israel’s assault on Gaza and Israeli police brutality targeting Jerusalem’s Palestinians. The bill, which would impose “end-use restrictions” on how Israel can employ U.S. aid, currently has 19 co-sponsors. As part of the bill’s push to prohibit U.S. military aid from being used to subsidize Israeli human rights abuses, the legislation would implement unprecedented transparency measures that would account for how Israel uses U.S. military aid in the occupied Palestinian territories. The U.S. government sends Israel an annual check of $3.8 billion in military aid, but there is little done to prevent Israel from using such aid to violate human rights, despite U.S. laws prohibiting exactly that.
“Everyone wants peace, but peace will not happen without clear limits placed on how Israel uses our aid. Now is the time to send a clear message to the Israeli government: Not one dollar more of U.S. military aid can be used to demolish Palestinian homes, annex Palestinian lands, and torture or kill Palestinian children,” McCollum told The Intercept, while emphasizing that she supports U.S. support for Israel’s Iron Dome, the U.S.-funded system that shoots down Palestinian-fired rockets. “Members need to decide if they want to talk peace and perpetuate conflict or if they want to really work toward reducing violence and conflict while actually taking a stand to advance human rights.”
Palestinian rights activists have spent the week emailing and calling their representatives in Congress in a bid to garner support for McCollum’s bill. Advocacy group Jewish Voice for Peace Action told The Intercept that its supporters had sent over 10,000 emails to congressional offices in recent days, while supporters of the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights sent over 51,000 emails since Wednesday. ... But McCollum’s bill faces an uphill battle. Only one member of Congress, Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., has joined since the current crisis in Israel-Palestine began. Huffman declined an interview request from The Intercept. The Intercept contacted 10 Democratic members of Congress to inquire about whether they would support McCollum’s bill. Nobody offered a comment. ...
The campaign to impose conditions on aid to Israel has run into a wall of opposition from Israel lobby groups. Last month, more than 300 representatives signed an American Israel Public Affairs Committee-supported letter against conditioning aid, which stated that “reducing funding or adding conditions on security assistance would be detrimental to Israel’s ability to defend itself against all threats.” Among the signatories to AIPAC’s letter were Progressive Caucus members such as Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-N.Y., and Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., who has been a particular target of the Palestinian rights movement. While Khanna, in 2017, co-sponsored McCollum’s bill to prohibit U.S. funding of Israel’s military detention of Palestinian children, he has so far refused to support her current bill. ...
Continued refusals to co-sponsor the McCollum bill would send a disappointing message, said Zaha Hassan, a Palestinian American human rights lawyer and visiting fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “The message if they don’t act is, Israel has a blank check when it comes to U.S. support,” said Hassan. “At this moment, when you’re seeing mobs attacking Palestinian citizens of Israel, beating them on the streets and in their homes, that can’t be the message we want to send — that Israel has a blanket right to ‘self-defense’ while it’s dropping U.S.-made bombs on civilian buildings.”
Fighting between the Taliban and Afghan government forces has resumed in the southern province of Helmand, officials said, ending a three-day ceasefire agreed by the warring sides to mark the Eid al-Fitr holiday.
There were clashes on Sunday on the outskirts of Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand, which has seen intense fighting since the United States began its final troop withdrawal from Afghanistan on 1 May, an Afghan military spokesperson and a local official said.
“The fighting started early today morning and is still ongoing,” Attaullah Afghan, head of the Helmand provincial council, told AFP. He said Taliban fighters attacked security checkpoints on the outskirts of Lashkar Gah and other districts. An Afghan army spokesperson in the south confirmed fighting had resumed. ...
Taliban political spokesperson Suhail Shaheen said the negotiating teams of the government and the Islamic Emirate, as the Taliban refer to their ousted regime, met briefly Saturday in Qatar. They renewed their commitment to finding a peaceful end to the war and called for an early start to talks that have been stalled, he said.
The Russian government has officially deemed the United States and the Czech Republic “unfriendly” states, and announced that US diplomatic missions could no longer employ local staff while Czech missions could employ a maximum of 19.
Moscow first announced the ban on the US hiring local staff last month as part of its retaliation for a slew of new US sanctions against Russia for interfering in the 2020 US presidential election and for involvement in the SolarWind hack of US federal agencies. A Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said the United States has until 1 August to comply with the new requirements.
Relations between Russia and the Czechs were badly hit last month when the Czechs accused Russian military intelligence of being behind a 2014 blast at an ammunition depot, and expelled dozens of Russian diplomats. Russia rejected the allegations and retaliated by expelling Czech diplomats, and also ordered the Czechs to dismiss the majority of their local employees in Moscow, many of whom have staffed a Czech hospitality and business centre in the city.
Russian court bailiffs showed up Friday at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Moscow bureau to notify it about the launch of enforcement proceedings over unpaid fines as part of mounting pressure on the U.S.-funded broadcaster. RFE/RL President Jamie Fly said the broadcaster’s Moscow bank accounts were also frozen Friday in what he denounced as a serious escalation in the Russian government’s campaign to drive it out of the country.
“RFE/RL will continue to fight these desperate attempts by the Kremlin to censor uncomfortable truths,” Fly said in a statement. “We will not be silenced by these heavy-handed tactics and we will not abandon our Russian audience.”
Last year, Russia’s media watchdog Roskomnadzor ordered the media designated as foreign agents, including RFE/RL, to add a lengthy statement to news reports, social media posts and audiovisual materials specifying that the content was created by an outlet “performing the functions of a foreign agent.” The move, which applies to nongovernmental political organizations and media receiving foreign funding, has been widely criticized as aiming to discredit critical reporting and dissent. The term “foreign agent” carries strong pejorative connotations in Russia.
Roskomnadzor has filed 520 violation cases against RFE/RL, which could entail fines totaling $2.4 million.
A detainee at Guantánamo Bay has agreed to a deal intended to lead to his release in the next few years in return for giving up the right to question the C.I.A. in court about its torture program, United States government officials said.
The deal, negotiated by the Pentagon official who oversees the military commissions that serve as a court for some detainees, was reached in recent weeks, and comes as a number of those who have been charged at Guantánamo are seeking to cite their abuse at the hands of the C.I.A. as part of their defense.
Under the deal, the prisoner, Majid Khan, 41, who has pleaded guilty to serving as a courier for Al Qaeda, would complete his prison sentence as early as next year and no later than 2025 and then could be released to another country, assuming one will take him, according to people who have seen the terms or are familiar with its details.
In exchange, Mr. Khan will not use his sentencing proceedings to invoke a landmark war court decision that allowed him to call witnesses from the C.I.A.’s secret prison network to testify about his torture.
The arrangement means that the C.I.A. for now will avoid a further accounting in court for its use of what it called “enhanced interrogation techniques” under the Bush administration after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Organisers of New York City’s Pride events say they will ban police and other law enforcement personnel from marching in their annual parade until at least 2025 and will also seek to keep on-duty officers a block away from the celebration of LGBTQ+ people and history.
In a statement released on Saturday, NYC Pride urged members of law enforcement to “acknowledge their harm and to correct course moving forward”.
“The sense of safety that law enforcement is meant to provide can instead be threatening, and at times dangerous, to those in our community who are most often targeted with excessive force and/or without reason,” the group said.
It will also increase the event’s security budget to boost the presence of community-based security and first responders while reducing the police department’s presence.
Police will provide first response and security “only when absolutely necessary as mandated by city officials,” the group said, adding it hoped to keep police officers at least one city block away from event perimeter areas where possible.
Elected officials in the Minneapolis suburb where a police officer shot dead Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in April have approved a plan to dramatically change policing practices. The Brooklyn Center city council voted 4-1 on Saturday for a resolution to create new divisions of unarmed civilian employees to handle non-moving traffic violations and respond to mental health crises.
The resolution also limits situations in which officers can make arrests and requires more de-escalation efforts by police before using deadly force. A new Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention is envisioned, to oversee efforts on community health and public safety, led by a director with public health expertise.
The city attorney has said adopting the resolution isn’t a final action, but commits the city to change.
Several police groups have raised concerns, saying parts of the resolution conflict with state law and will put public safety at risk. No police officers spoke at Saturday’s meeting.
The Democrats' new Republican Resistance heroine:
In an interview on Tuesday with Fox News’ Bret Baier, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) denied that she spread the discredited CIA "Russian bounty” story. That CIA tale, claiming Russia was paying Taliban fighters to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan, was cooked up by the CIA and then published by The New York Times on June 27 of last year, right as former President Trump announced his plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. The Times story, citing anonymous intelligence officials, was then continually invoked by pro-war Republicans and Democrats — led by Cheney — to justify their blocking of that troop withdrawal. The story was discredited when the U.S. intelligence community admitted last month that it had only “low to moderate confidence” that any of this even happened.
When Baier asked Cheney about her role in spreading this debunked CIA story, Cheney blatantly lied to him, claiming “if you go back and look at what I said — every single thing I said: I said if those stories are true, we need to know why the President and Vice President were not briefed on them.” After Baier pressed her on the fact that she vested this story with credibility, Cheney insisted a second time that she never endorsed the claim but merely spoke conditionally, always using the “if these reports are true” formulation. Watch Cheney deny her role in spreading that story.
Liz Cheney, as she so often does, blatantly lied. That she merely spoke of the Russian bounty story in the conditional — “every single thing I said: I said if those stories are true” — is completely and demonstrably false. Indeed, other than Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), there are few if any members of Congress who did more to spread this Russian bounty story as proven truth, all in order to block troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. In so doing, she borrowed from a pro-war playbook pioneered by her dad, to whom she owes her career: the former Vice President would leak CIA claims to The New York Times to justify war, then go on Meet the Press with Tim Russert, as he did on September 8, 2002, and cite those New York Times reports as though they were independent confirmation of his views coming from that paper rather than from him. So having CIA stories leak to the press that fuel the pro-war case, then having pro-war politicians cite those to justify their pro-war position, is a Cheney Family speciality.
On July 1, the House Armed Services Committee, of which Rep. Cheney is a member, debated amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act, the bill that authorized $740.5 billion in military spending. One of Cheney's top priorities was to align with the Committee's pro-war Democrats, funded by weapons manufacturers, to block Trump's plan to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2020 and to withdraw roughly 1/3 of the 34,000 U.S. troops in Germany. To justify her opposition, Cheney — contrary to what she repeatedly insisted to Baier — cited the CIA's Russian bounty story without skepticism. In a joint statement with Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, that Cheney published on her website on June 27 — the same day that The New York Times published its first story about the CIA tale — Cheney pronounced herself "concerned about Russian activity in Afghanistan, including reports that they have targeted U.S. forces.” There was nothing conditional about the statement: they were preparing to block troop withdrawal from Afghanistan and cited this story as proof that “Russia does not wish us well in Afghanistan.”
Magic! No emissions up muh sleeve...
The US climate envoy, John Kerry, has said 50% of the carbon reductions needed to get to net zero will come from technologies that have not yet been invented, and said people “don’t have to give up a quality of life” in order to cut emissions.
He said Americans would “not necessarily” have to eat less meat, because of research being done into the way cattle are herded and fed in order to reduce methane emissions.
“You don’t have to give up a quality of life to achieve some of the things that we know we have to achieve. That’s the brilliance of some of the things that we know how to do,” he told BBC One’s Andrew Marr show. “I am told by scientists that 50% of the reductions we have to make to get to net zero are going to come from technologies that we don’t yet have. That’s just a reality.
"The reckoning for Roundup rolls on."
So said George Kimbrell, legal director of the Center for Food Safety, on Friday after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco affirmed a lower court ruling against Monsanto (since acquired by Bayer) which found the chemical giant responsible for the cancer suffered by users of its signature herbicide Roundup.
The 9th Circuit rejected an appeal by Bayer in Hardeman vs. Monsanto, in which Edwin Hardeman accused the company of failing to disclose the dangers glyphosate poses to human health. Hardeman was awarded $80 million in the case, which was later reduced to $25 million.
Hardeman was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 2015 after two decades of using Roundup as an herbicide on his 56-acre property. His case was one of several high-profile lawsuits against Monsanto over its use of glyphosate. The company agreed to pay $10.9 billion to a total of about 125,000 people last year, all of whom alleged the use of Roundup was to blame for their cancer diagnoses.
The Environmental Protection Agency backed Bayer in its latest appeal in Hardeman's case, in which the company claimed the jury verdict should be nullified because states don't have the authority to deviate from federal regulations for herbicides.
The three-judge panel ruled that California's failure-to-warn law was consistent with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).
"FIFRA did not impliedly preempt Hardeman's state failure-to-warn claims," the court said.
Bayer also claimed that the World Health Organization's classification of glyphosate as a carcinogen should not have been entered into the court record as evidence. The judges ruled that "that the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting" the evidence.
Authorities are trying to establish how 18 wild Asiatic elephants died in a remote corner of India’s north-east.
The elephants, including five calves, were found dead in the protected Kondali forest reserve in the state of Assam, Jayanta Goswami, a wildlife official, told Associated Press. The forest guard reached the area on Thursday and found 14 elephants dead atop a hill and four at its bottom.
Forest officials and a local lawmaker, Jitu Goswami, told Agence France-Presse they believed the elephants died after lightning struck the forest. But Soumyadeep Datta, a prominent conservationist with the environmental activist group Nature’s Beckon, said that was unlikely, based on images shared on social media.
“Poisoning could be behind the death of the elephants,” Datta said. “We have to wait for the autopsy report, which the forest department will do soon.”
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Jimmy Liggins - Saturday Nite Boogie Woogie Man
Jimmy Liggins - I Ain't Drunk
Jimmy Liggins, his Guitar & Orch. - Blues For Love
Jimmy Liggins - Shuffle Shuck
Jimmy Liggins - Boogie Woogie King
Jimmy Liggins - Come Back Home
Jimmy Liggins - Don't Put Me Down
Jimmy Liggins and his Drops of Joy - The Washboard Special
Jimmy Liggins - I'll Never Let You Go
Jimmy Liggins - Ada From Decatur