The Evening Blues - 1-14-22


The day's news roundup + tonight's musical feature: Dr. Feelgood

Hey! Good Evening!

This evening's music features blues-rock band Dr. Feelgood. Enjoy!

Dr Feelgood - I'm A Man

“Every major power has some widely publicized justification for its procurement and stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction, often including a reptilian reminder of the presumed character and cultural defects of potential enemies (as opposed to us stout fellows), or of the intentions of others, but never ourselves, to conquer the world.”

-- Carl Sagan

News and Opinion

Russia threatens military deployment to Cuba and Venezuela as diplomacy stalls

Russia has refused to rule out a military deployment to Cuba and Venezuela if talks with the west on European security and Ukraine fail to go its way, while warning the latest discussions with Nato were hitting a dead end.

In an apparent attempt to up the ante with the Biden administration, Sergei Ryabkov, who led Russia’s delegation in a meeting with the US on Monday, told Russian television he could neither confirm nor exclude sending military assets to Cuba and Venezuela if talks fail. Asked about these steps, he said “it all depends on the actions by our US counterparts”. Meanwhile another senior Russian diplomat threatened unspecified “necessary measures” if Moscow’s security demands were not met.

At the end of a week of diplomacy that appears to have produced no progress, the US national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said US had intelligence Russia was preparing to fabricate claims of an imminent Ukrainian attack on Russian forces as a pretext for invasion. ...

Meanwhile the US defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, promised his Ukrainian counterpart, Oleksii Reznikov, continuing US provision of “defensive assistance” to help build the capacity of Ukraine’s armed forces. Michael Carpenter, the US representative at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), made clear that there had been no progress made in defusing tensions at Thursday’s meeting. “The drumbeat of war is sounding loud, and the rhetoric has gotten rather shrill,” Carpenter told journalists afterwards.

Russian FM Comments on NATO Expansion

CIA-trained Ukrainian paramilitaries may take central role if Russia invades

The CIA is overseeing a secret intensive training program in the U.S. for elite Ukrainian special operations forces and other intelligence personnel, according to five former intelligence and national security officials familiar with the initiative. The program, which started in 2015, is based at an undisclosed facility in the Southern U.S., according to some of those officials.

The CIA-trained forces could soon play a critical role on Ukraine’s eastern border, where Russian troops have massed in what many fear is preparation for an invasion. The U.S. and Russia started security talks earlier this week in Geneva but have failed thus far to reach any concrete agreement.

While the covert program, run by paramilitaries working for the CIA’s Ground Branch — now officially known as Ground Department — was established by the Obama administration after Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014, and expanded under the Trump administration, the Biden administration has further augmented it, said a former senior intelligence official in touch with colleagues in government.

By 2015, as part of this expanded anti-Russia effort, CIA Ground Branch paramilitaries also started traveling to the front in eastern Ukraine to advise their counterparts there, according to a half-dozen former officials. The multiweek, U.S.-based CIA program has included training in firearms, camouflage techniques, land navigation, tactics like “cover and move,” intelligence and other areas, according to former officials.

The program has involved “very specific training on skills that would enhance” the Ukrainians’ “ability to push back against the Russians,” said the former senior intelligence official. The training, which has included “tactical stuff,” is “going to start looking pretty offensive if Russians invade Ukraine,” said the former official. One person familiar with the program put it more bluntly. “The United States is training an insurgency,” said a former CIA official, adding that the program has taught the Ukrainians how “to kill Russians.”

1 million children suffering acute malnutrition. Quick, somebody call Madeleine Albright to see if it's "worth it."

Afghanistan in Freefall: Deadly U.S. Sanctions Blamed for Shocking Humanitarian Crisis

Excellent article, worth a full read:

Biden Tightens the Noose Around China

The word “encirclement” does not appear in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), signed into law by President Joe Biden on Dec. 27, or in other recent administration statements about its foreign and military policies. Nor does that classic Cold War era term “containment” ever come up. Still, America’s top leaders have reached a consensus on a strategy to encircle and contain the latest great power, China, with hostile military alliances, thereby thwarting its rise to full superpower status.

The gigantic 2022 defense bill — passed with overwhelming support from both parties — provides a detailed blueprint for surrounding China with a potentially suffocating network of U.S. bases, military forces, and increasingly militarized partner states. The goal is to enable Washington to barricade that country’s military inside its own territory and potentially cripple its economy in any future crisis. For China’s leaders, who surely can’t tolerate being encircled in such a fashion, it’s an open invitation to… well, there’s no point in not being blunt… fight their way out of confinement.

Like every “defense” bill before it, the $768 billion 2022 NDAA is replete with all-too-generous handouts to military contractors for favored Pentagon weaponry. That would include F-35 jet fighters, Virginia-class submarines, Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, and a wide assortment of guided missiles. But as the Senate Armed Services Committee noted in a summary of the bill, it also incorporates an array of targeted appropriations and policy initiatives aimed at encircling, containing, and someday potentially overpowering China. Among these are an extra $7.1 billion for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, or PDI, a program initiated last year with the aim of bolstering U.S. and allied forces in the Pacific.

Nor are these just isolated items in that 2,186-page bill. The authorization act includes a “sense of Congress” measure focused on “defense alliances and partnerships in the Indo-Pacific Region,” providing a conceptual blueprint for such an encirclement strategy. Under it, the secretary of defense is enjoined to “strengthen United States defense alliances and partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region so as to further the comparative advantage of the United States in strategic competition with the People’s Republic of China,” or PRC. ...

For Chinese leaders, there can be no doubt about the meaning of all this: whatever Washington might say about peaceful competition, the Biden administration, like the Trump administration before it, has no intention of allowing the PRC to achieve parity with the United States on the world stage. In fact, it is prepared to employ every means, including military force, to prevent that from happening. This leaves Beijing with two choices: succumb to U.S. pressure and accept second-class status in world affairs or challenge Washington’s strategy of containment. It’s hard to imagine that country’s current leadership accepting the first choice, while the second, were it adopted, would surely lead, sooner or later, to armed conflict. ...

How will Chinese leaders react to all this? No one yet knows, but President Xi Jinping provided at least a glimpse of what that response might be in a July 1st address marking the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party. “We will never allow any foreign force to bully, oppress, or subjugate us,” he declared, as China’s newest tanks, rockets, and missiles rolled by. “Anyone who would attempt to do so will find themselves on a collision course with a great wall of steel forged by over 1.4 billion Chinese people.”

Welcome to the new 21st century Cold War on a planet desperately in need of something else.

What's going on in Kazakhstan? How coup attempt affects US, Russia, China

Blinken says US stumped over Havana syndrome as more diplomats fall ill

The United States still does not know what the illness known as Havana syndrome is or who is responsible for it, the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said on Thursday after more American diplomats were reported ill in Paris and Geneva.

Blinken said the entire federal government was working to get to the bottom of the illness, which has afflicted about 200 US diplomats, officials and family members overseas.

“To date, we don’t know exactly what’s happened and we don’t know exactly who is responsible,” Blinken said in an interview with MSNBC.

The Wall Street Journal on Thursday reported additional illnesses among officials serving in US diplomatic missions in Paris and Geneva, where the United States and Russia held security talks on Monday over Moscow’s troop buildup near the Ukraine border.

Three officials at the US consulate in Geneva reported symptoms of the mysterious syndrome, the newspaper reported, and at least one of them was medevacked from Switzerland to the US for treatment. Blinken said the United States had raised the illnesses with the Russians but still cannot make a determination about who was responsible.

Pegasus spyware used in ‘jaw-dropping’ phone hacks on El Salvador journalists

Dozens of journalists and human rights defenders in El Salvador have been subjected to “jaw-dropping” phone hacks using the Pegasus spyware allegedly deployed by governments around the world against dissidents, reporters, diplomats and members of the clergy, according to internet security researchers. Reporting on its latest findings about the use of the Israeli firm NSO Group’s spyware, the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab said it had identified a Pegasus operator working almost exclusively in El Salvador in early 2020.

Citizen Lab found that 35 journalists and civil society activists had been targeted over a 16-month period that coincided with their investigations into allegations that the government of President Nayib Bukele was negotiating a pact with El Salvador’s street gangs to reduce violence and win their electoral support. ...

Although the researchers could not conclusively link the hacks to Bukele’s government, the report said “the strong country-specific focus of the infections suggests that this is very likely”. Such suggestions, however, were denied by the Bukele government. ...

The 40-year-old president – who once referred to himself as “the world’s coolest dictator” – made international headlines in February 2020 when he marched soldiers in combat fatigues into congress and told MPs to approve a loan for new security equipment or be summoned back in seven days for another session. ...

John Scott-Railton, senior researcher at Citizen Lab and an author of the report, said the “aggressiveness and persistence of the hacking was jaw-dropping”.

‘We have people living out of their cars’: 8,000 Kroger workers strike over wages

More than 8,000 workers at nearly 80 Kroger-owned King Soopers grocery stores around Colorado started a three-week strike on Wednesday as new union contract negotiations stalled.

The dispute is the latest in which workers have accused a corporation of making big profits during the pandemic while not paying high enough wages.

Kenny Sanchez, a King Soopers worker in Broomfield, Colorado, for 10 years has attended new contract negotiation meetings with the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 union and Kroger – and said there was a gulf between the two sides.

Sanchez said the lawyers from out of state acting on behalf of Kroger don’t get that the cost of living in Colorado has been soaring, and the workers’ wages aren’t keeping up with it. “We’re not making a living wage. We have people living out of their cars and struggling to pay bills,” said Sanchez. “This company does not get it. We can’t survive on what they’re paying out here and the competition is paying more.”

Union members voted nearly unanimously to authorize the strike over unfair labor practices against Kroger, as the company’s last, best and final offer included several concessions such as permitting the company to lower wages, use non-union gig workers, shortening leave of absence periods, relying on a part-time workforce, and offering only a $0.13 wage increase for some workers.

After Year of Vaccine Profiteering, Pfizer Hikes Prices on 125 Drugs

After raking in enormous profits from its coronavirus vaccine in 2021, the U.S.-based pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has kicked off the new year by hiking the prices of more than 120 of its drugs, resulting in significantly higher costs for patients amid a deadly pandemic.

That's according to a new report released Thursday by Patients for Affordable Drugs (P4AD), which found that pharmaceutical companies have raised the prices of 554 medicines this month alone. Pfizer led the way with 125 price hikes to start 2022, leading P4AD to label the company the industry's "poster child for greed."

"Due to sales of its Covid-19 vaccine, which is set to be the best-selling drug of all time, Pfizer shattered profit records in 2021. Projected sales for 2022 are $54.5 billion—more than double the previous record for one-year sales for a prescription drug," the report notes. "To put this into perspective, AbbVie's Humira previously held the spot with $19.8 billion in sales, and Pfizer’s best-selling product just prior to the pandemic achieved worldwide revenues of $5.8 billion." ...

While the worst offenders, Pfizer and its subsidiaries were hardly alone in raising drug costs for patients during the first month of 2022, according to P4AD, which also spotlighted price hikes by Gilead, Eli Lilly, and other prominent pharmaceutical companies.

"So far in 2022," the group noted in a press release, "drug companies have increased prices on 554 drugs, 183 drugs were hiked by $100 or more, and 118 drugs with increases carry a price over $5,000. The average price hike was 6.3%, and one in four price hikes exceeded the most recently available inflation rate at the time of analysis."

David Mitchell, P4AD's founder and a blood cancer patient whose medications have a list price of more than $900,000 annually, said in a statement Thursday that "even as we enter the third year of a pandemic, Big Pharma continues its practice of targeting American patients and consumers with price increases, completely undeterred by the financial and health challenges facing American families."

"Drug corporations can do this because we let them—unlike other nations that use their purchasing power to get a better deal," Mitchell added.

Justice Roberts Is Wrong: Federal Judges' Conflicts of Interest Threaten the Entire Judiciary

This fall, a sweeping Wall Street Journal investigation found that at least 131 federal judges violated the law by hearing cases in which they had a financial interest in one of the parties. What's more, 61 judges actively traded shares in a party to an ongoing case.

These findings are a stunning indictment of the federal judicial ethics system. The requirement of a neutral arbiter to a dispute—that is, that "no one shall be judge in his own cause"—is a foundational principle of equal justice, dating back to the Justinian Code. There is no due process, no rule of law, no justice without it. It's hard to overstate the magnitude of this ethical crisis.

Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts appears to disagree. In his yearly report on the federal judiciary, the Chief Justice took pains to address—and then downplay—the significance of the crisis. As Roberts would have us see it, the problem boils down to "a small number," of judges who "did not take sufficient note" of their ethics training. In general, he says, these were "isolated violations" that were the result of "unintentional oversights," and he takes pains to note that the 685 specific cases uncovered by the Journal amount to "three hundredths of one percent" of the civil cases heard. Critically, and most egregiously, he ends this exercise in reframing and obfuscating by asserting that, "for all the conflicts identified, the Journal did not report that any affected the judge's consideration of a case or that the judge's actions in any of those cases … actually financially benefited the judge."

There are multiple problems with the picture the Chief Justice is painting. First, the numbers he cites—the total cases heard by conflicted judges—aren't particularly useful in understanding the scope of the problem. The total number of known conflicted cases is less important than the sheer number of judges who violated the law by hearing a conflicted case. The number of judges—131—is staggering because there are only 870 total federal judges at any given time. Even with some attrition during the period of the study, the percentage of judges who have failed to live up to their ethical obligations is far larger than "three hundredths of one percent."

The issue here is not simply that Roberts is cherry-picking numbers to suit his argument—he's a lawyer, after all. Rather, it's that he's arguing this point at all. Roberts, who by all accounts is acutely aware of the judiciary's public perception, is apparently unwilling to see these conflicts for what they are: a crisis of institutional legitimacy. The federal judiciary is tasked with upholding and executing fundamental principles of justice in our country, and granted the extraordinary privilege of lifetime tenure. Not only does a conflicted judiciary violate a litigant's constitutional right to due process, it undermines the public's belief in the rule of law in general. The judiciary is built on a foundation of public trust: it doesn't have the power of the purse or the authority to enforce the laws that it interprets. Credibility is its currency. If that falls away then the entire institution crumbles.

This is precisely why Roberts' statement that the Journal didn't prove that the conflicts actually resulted in a benefit to the judges is so troubling. The problem isn't the result of the cases or whether it benefitted a judge. Rather, the problem is the existence of the conflicts themselves. Hundreds of judges presided over cases in which they had a direct financial interest, and in doing so they violated both the law and basic principles of fairness and equality under the law. As Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet said during a recent hearing, "it is in the appearance of impartiality that Americans find faith in their courts and trust in their democracy. … The damage has been done. Federal judges did not follow the law. … The appearance of impropriety has already tainted their judgments." Public confidence that the system of law is fair and just is critical to maintaining democratic governance, and these judges undermined that confidence.

the horse race

'I don’t know whether we can get this done,' Biden says of voting rights bill

Joe Biden acknowledged it will be difficult to get a voting rights bill through the Senate, after the president met with Democratic senators on Capitol Hill this afternoon.

“I hope we can get this done. The honest to God answer is, I don’t know whether we can get this done,” the president told reporters.

Biden noted that past civil rights bills have required multiple attempts to get them passed, and he expressed hope that Democrats will have another opportunity to enact their proposals.

Manchin reiterates opposition to changing filibuster rules

This day could not get much worse for Joe Biden. Joe Manchin has now reiterated that he is opposed to changing filibuster rules to pass voting rights bills.

“As I have said many times before, I will not vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster,” Manchin said in a new statement, released shortly after Senate Democrats met with Biden on Capitol Hill.

“The filibuster plays an important role in protecting our democracy from the transitory passions of the majority and respecting the input of the minority in the Senate.” ...

Both Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have now indicated they are against filibuster reform, leaving Democrats with no path for passing their voting rights bills.

“Who We Are”: New Film Chronicles History of Racism in America Amid Growing Attack on Voting Rights

The Anti-Abortion Crusade For The Filibuster

The nation’s most prominent anti-abortion group has been leading the campaign to protect the Senate’s legislative filibuster, in order to ensure that Democrats don’t pass voting rights protections. The right-wingers promoting the filibuster have been fully transparent about their goal: They want to block a federal voting rights law so they can elect more anti-choice politicians and to protect the Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority that’s threatening abortion rights. It’s one more piece of evidence that defending the filibuster isn’t about preserving a rarified legislative tradition — it’s all about rigging the game to maximize conservatives’ power. ...

Last year, the Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) helped launch the Election Transparency Initiative, with the stated goal of blocking Democrats from passing a national voting rights bill that would undo new Republican voter suppression laws around the country. Central to that effort: defending the filibuster, the Senate rule requiring 60 votes to advance most legislation. In a press release announcing the initiative, the SBA List said the effort would include opposing H.R.1 — the strongest voting rights and democracy reform bill that Democrats have considered — and “mounting a vigorous defense of the filibuster and current Senate rules governing the reconciliation process, so as to prevent the worst of the pro-abortion Democrat agenda: unilaterally passing H.R.1. and expanding the Supreme Court.” ...

In recent months, the Election Transparency Initiative has been running ads pressuring corporate Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — the two Democrats who have publicly opposed filibuster reforms — not to allow any changes to the filibuster. “For a century the filibuster has been a bedrock senate tool ensuring bipartisanship,” says one video ad from the Election Transparency Initiative. “Ending it means more dysfunction. Thankfully, Sen. Joe Manchin pledged to protect the filibuster, despite partisan pressure to cave. If Manchin sides with liberal elites to weaken the filibuster with carve-outs for Democrats' priorities, he would violate the trust of voters. Tell Manchin: Keep your promise. Protect the filibuster.” A similar version has aired recently on West Virginia radio stations.

An Arizona ad from the group says: “Congress is broken and extreme politicians want to make it worse by abolishing the senate's 60-vote filibuster rule. Sen. John McCain knew better and pledged preservation of the filibuster to ensure bipartisan cooperation. Thankfully Sen. Kyrsten Sinema has promised to honor McCain's legacy and protect the filibuster. But if Sinema votes to eliminate or weaken the filibuster, she would be just another hypocritical politician.” ...

To be clear, it’s not as if the SBA List has any kind of ideological affection for the filibuster or Senate rules: When Republicans eliminated the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees in order to confirm Justice Neil Gorsuch, the SBA List issued a press release praising the move.

11 Right-Wing Oath Keepers Charged With Seditious Acts Over Jan. 6 Plot

Eleven members of the so-called "Oath Keepers"—including the right-wing extremist group's leader—have been charged with seditious conspiracy for actions related to the January 6, 2021 assault on the U.S. Capitol.

The Department of Justice unsealed the indictment Thursday a day after it was handed down by a grand jury.

The indictment states that Oath Keepers leader and former Army paratrooper Stewart Rhodes and others conspired "to oppose by force the lawful transfer of presidential power."

It cites a message on the encrypted application Signal two days after President Joe Biden won the 2020 election in which Rhodes wrote: "We aren't getting through this without a civil war. Too late for that. Prepare your mind, body, spirit."

Rhodes and others associated with the Oath Keepers used encrypted and private communications for their efforts to recruit and mobilize others, including "trainings to teach and learn paramilitary combat tactics; bringing and contributing paramilitary gear, weapons, and supplies," authorities said.

Rhodes was arrested Thursday, as was Edward Vallejo, who is identified as a "quick reaction force" leader in the indictment. QRF teams, according to the indictment, "were prepared to rapidly transport firearms and other weapons into Washington, D.C." to support the Oath Keepers' operations that day.

While those two men were arrested for the first time related to the Capitol attack, the other nine people named in the indictment were previously charged, and now face the sedition conspiracy charges.

Other charges listed against the Oath Keepers in the new indictment include conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, destruction of government property, and conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging any duties.

Rhodes' arrest, the New York Times reported, marked "a major step forward in the sprawling investigation of the Capitol attack," as well as the first time prosecutors made sedition charges.

According to CNN:

The Justice Department until now had been careful not to push the idea of sedition, instead charging defendants affiliated with right-wing groups with conspiracy to obstruct the congressional proceeding on January 6. The seditious conspiracy charge carries the same possible consequence as an obstruction charge, but is rarely used, politically loaded and has been difficult for the Justice Department to use successfully against defendants in the past. [...]

Rhodes has also been of interest to the House's January 6 investigation, which issued subpoenas in November for him and his organization for a deposition and documents related to the events of that day.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.)—who recently warned that "the next coup is not only possible; it has already begun"—said that the sedition charges could mark a turning point.

Following the news of the indictments on Thursday, Omar tweeted:

Following the news, watchdog group Accountable.US said it was important to recognize a link between the attack on democracy and anti-public lands movement spearheaded by right-wing militia groups like the Oath Keepers.

Rhodes and other Oath Keepers were involved in multiple standoffs in recent years with the Bureau of Land Management, including a noted armed dispute in 2014 as the group stood with Nevada cattle rancher and fervent anti-government activist Cliven Bundy, who defied the feds by letting his animals graze on public lands without payment or permit for years.

“Rhodes' challenges to the electoral process and to public ownership of land are two sides of the same coin,” said Accountable.US president Kyle Herrig.

“The crisis of conservation is a crisis of democracy," he continued. "We must hold accountable the special interests that threaten the public's role in guiding the government's decisions.”

Republican party signals plans to withdraw from US presidential debates

The Republican party has signaled plans to withdraw from traditional US presidential debates, which it claims are biased against it. The New York Times first reported the move, citing a letter sent on Thursday by the Republican National Committee (RNC) to the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD).

The commission was set up in 1987, as a non-partisan body “to ensure, for the benefit of the American electorate, that general election debates between or among the leading candidates for the offices of president and vice-president … are a permanent part of the electoral process”. ...

The Times said the Republican move against the CPD was born of longstanding complaints that it favors Democrats, “mirroring increasing rancor from conservatives toward Washington-based institutions”. Among Republican complaints in 2020 was that the first debate took place on 29 September, more than a month before election day but after nearly a million votes had been cast.

Trump and Republicans also complained about supposed bias among debate moderators – even from Chris Wallace, then of the conservative Fox News network, in the first debate. ...

The threatened withdrawal from CPD debates, the Times said, followed “months of discussions between the commission and party officials”.

the evening greens

Six in 10 Americans ‘alarmed’ or ‘concerned’ about climate change – study

A new report has revealed that a record number of Americans are now alarmed about the climate crisis.

The study, published by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, found that Americans overall are becoming increasingly worried about global heating, more engaged with the issue and more supportive of finding solutions to the issue.

The study categorized Americans into six distinct groups based on their beliefs, attitudes, policy support and behavior about climate change.

The six distinct groups are: the Alarmed, who are the most engaged and very worried about global warming; the Concerned, who think global warming is a significant threat but prioritize it less and are less likely to take action; the Cautious, who are aware of climate change but are uncertain about its causes and are not very worried; the Disengaged, who are largely unaware of global warming; the Doubtful, who doubt it is happening or human-caused and the Dismissive, who firmly reject its reality and oppose most climate change policies.

The study revealed that the largest group, Alarmed (33%) greatly outnumber the dismissive (9%) by more than three to one. Approximately six in 10 Americans (59%) are either Alarmed or Concerned while only approximately two in 10 (19%) are Doubtful or Dismissive. Over the last five years, the Alarmed group has nearly doubled in size, growing 15 percentage points in total.

Big Bank, Corporate Destruction of Forests Worsening Climate Crisis: Report

A new report published Thursday details how some of the world's biggest corporations and banks are exacerbating the global climate emergency by fueling the destruction of the world's tropical rainforests.

Forest 500, a project of Global Canopy, asserts that "500 companies and financial institutions have the power to transform cattle, timber, soy, and palm oil supply chains." But according to the group's latest annual assessment, those firms that are well-positioned to eliminate deforestation and related human rights abuses are failing to do so.

Titled A Climate Wake-Up, the analysis finds that 72% of the 350 largest producers of palm oil, soy, beef, leather, timber, pulp, and paper "do not have a deforestation commitment for all of the forest-risk commodities in their supply chains." One-third of the companies "have no deforestation commitments at all," and none have a "comprehensive approach to human rights."

"While 28 companies published a new commitment to address deforestation since last year," the report notes, "just 11 of these have a deforestation commitment for all of the commodities they are exposed to."

Even among the companies that do have deforestation policies, the report points out, many of them do not provide evidence of implementation, such as monitoring their suppliers or their own operations to ensure compliance.

The Forest 500 report also identifies the 150 banks that are driving the deforestation economy by providing more than $5.5 trillion in finance to companies active in forest-risk commodity supply chains.

Ninety-three of the 150 financial institutions most responsible for bankrolling deforestation—including BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street, the world's three biggest asset managers—"do not have a deforestation policy covering their investments and lending to" the 350 corporations analyzed. Those 93 firms provide $2.6 trillion in finance to companies linked to clear-cutting.

Alluding to the Glasgow Leaders Declaration on Forest and Land Use issued during last year's United Nations climate summit, Global Canopy executive director Niki Mardas said in a statement that more than 140 governments have acknowledged "the urgent need to protect forests" and promised to take action to stop clear-cutting by the end of the decade.

And yet, Mardas added, "most companies and financial institutions with the greatest ability to halt deforestation are doing little or nothing."

Ultimately, the report makes clear, "only mandatory action and reporting will drive market-wide change at the scale required."

Environmental Justice Advocates Raise Alarm After White House Exits

The Biden administration's commitment to the advancement of environmental justice is the target of fresh doubt Thursday following departures in recent days of two key officials focused on the issue.

The administration's top environmental justice official, Cecilia Martinez—who served as senior director for environmental justice at the Council for Environmental Quality—announced her resignation last week.

She had been hailed by Earthjustice president Abigail Dillen as "a superb choice" for the CEQ role, as she's "dedicated her life's work to advancing equity and environmental justice all."

Martinez told the Associated Press, which first reported her resignation, that "it was a hard decision" to go. From AP:

Martinez helped develop then-candidate Joe Biden's environmental justice agenda while he was campaigning by setting up meetings between Biden's team and key environmental justice leaders from around the country. She went on to oversee a review of the Council on Environmental Quality as part of Biden's transition team and was eventually appointed as the top ranking official on environmental justice in the administration.

"Colleagues at the White House and in Congress say her departure is a loss," AP added, "since she played a pivotal role in centering disadvantaged communities in President Biden's environmental and climate policies."

And as Grist further noted:

Most notably under Martinez' leadership, the federal government has been working to create and implement the long-touted Justice40 initiative, through which the Biden administration committed to ensuring that 40 percent of government sustainability investments benefit the country's most pollution-burdened communities. The program is meant to guide the government's spending throughout the Biden administration, including spending from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the now-idled Build Back Better Act.

In a statement Thursday, CEQ chair Brenda Mallory said that Martinez was "the heart, soul, and mind of the most ambitious environmental justice agenda ever adopted by a president."

She continued by saying that Martinez "is an unwavering and effective champion for the communities that, for far too long, have been overburdened by pollution and left out of government decisions that affect them."

Just days after Martinez's exit, the Council for Environmental Quality announced the departure of David Kieve, who served as director of public engagement at CEQ.

Kieve, who is married to White House communications director Kate Bedingfield, "was one of the Biden campaign's point people on outreach to environmentalist and climate groups during the 2020 campaign," The Hill reported.

White House counselor Steve Ricchetti said in a statement that Kieve's "advocacy and work on climate issues has made him an important ambassador for the president to the climate community, rallying their support behind our ambitious agenda to tackle the climate crisis, the existential threat of our time."

Their departures have reportedly rattled some inside the administration.

According to Politico, three members of Biden's White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council urged in a Monday letter to White House chief of staff Ron Klain that the administration install an environmental justice expert in the Climate Policy Office.

That office, established under Biden, is headed by Gina McCarthy.

Maria Lopez-Nuñez, an advisory council member and deputy director at the Ironbound Community Corporation, told Politico the fresh departures were "a big blow to being able to believe in the administration's seriousness to its commitment of environmental justice."

"Everybody that environmental justice people were connected with are gone," Beverly Wright, executive director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, told Politico. "I'm speechless."

"What's going on in D.C. right now is very bothersome to me," she added. "Black people—now I can't speak for anyone else—we're kind of feeling like we've been thrown under the bus."

In addition, the Climate Justice Alliance said in a tweet sharing Politico's story that the White House "was already too short-staffed to achieve its ambitious environmental justice goals, even before Brigitte Cecilia Martinez and David Kieve abruptly exited from the White House's Council on Environmental Quality."

Also of Interest

Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.

The Failure Of This Week's US-NATO-Russia Meetings Make War More Likely

US, Iran at Odds Over Guarantees and Verification for Sanctions Relief

Guantanamo: An enduring symbol of the savagery unleashed upon innocent Muslims

Trump loyalists form alliance in bid to take over election process in key states

$2.7 Billion in Credit Default Swaps Blew Up One Day Before the Fed Launched Its Repo Loan Bailouts in 2019

Manatee feeding experiment starts slowly as cold looms

Prof. Richard Wolff: New Year's Revolutions

A Little Night Music

Dr.Feelgood - Rolling and Tumbling

Dr.Feelgood - Going Back Home

Dr.Feelgood - She Does It Right

Dr. Feelgood - Boom Boom

Dr. Feelgood - Riot in Cell Block Number Nine (Live)

Dr. Feelgood - Roxette

Dr. Feelgood - Back In The Night

Dr Feelgood - I'm a Hog for You Baby

Dr.Feelgood - Keep It Out Of Sight

Dr.Feelgood - Bonie Moronie / Tequila

Dr.Feelgood - Johnny Be Goode

13 users have voted.


QMS's picture

I think it is funny how the US warmonger conglomeration got their collective panties in a bunch
when Russia played their trump card. So if it is OK for US backed NATO to crowd the borders of
eastern EU with military toys and boots, well check this out dudes. We can do the same to youse
guys in Cuba and Venezuela. Perhaps China will help in a few other Caribbean nations. What say you now? Turnabout is fair play. Tit for tat is kinda adolescent, but perhaps that the only language the war pigs understand?

On the other hand, we could behave like responsible adults and stop this world domination game.
Tactical nukes is no solution. Peaceful cooperation is.

12 users have voted.


9 users have voted.

@humphrey We own Latin America and Cuba.

But Russia cannot protect its borders....Even Ukraine which has been part of Russia for at least some of its history?

How much longer will the world put up with us?

10 users have voted.



9 users have voted.

@humphrey that Russia's patience has worn out.

It's amazing that it lasted this long.

8 users have voted.


QMS's picture


will not be happy with the blowback
created by their obstinance.

3 users have voted.
joe shikspack's picture


it seems like the u.s. is getting just a little too big for its britches in the face of several competitor nations in the world that are starting to fill out their own.

looks like it's going to be a bumpy ride.

6 users have voted.
Lookout's picture

was very interesting (about an hour)
Max Blumenthal and geopolitical analyst Pepe Escobar discuss the violent coup attempt in Kazakhstan, and its crucial importance as an ally of Russia and the center of China's Belt and Road Initiative. Pepe addresses US and Turkish meddling, and why this massive and misunderstood country is suddenly at the heart of the new cold war. They also talk about the failure of the US-Russia talks in Geneva and if war could be on the horizon.

Then Pepe and Ben discuss Central and South America. last 50 min

I had to take it in 3-4 doses while busying around inside today, but found it intriguing.

Expecting a bit of snow this weekend, but a sunny 30's up to 50's day...ideal winter weather here.

Thanks as always for the news and music. My routine is to click the lead cut while scanning/reading...always fun...thanks!

10 users have voted.

“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

joe shikspack's picture


i haven't made it past the first half hour of the pepe/grayzone interview, but so far it's been quite interesting. i'll definitely watch the rest of it when i get a chance.

heh, my favorite weatherman hasn't yet decided whether we are going to get snow, ice or rain (or a mix of the above) here, baltimore is so far in the division area between cold enough and not quite cold enough for the white stuff. but they are talking about high winds and maybe some coastal surges. i guess we'll see what the snow gods bring us.

have a great weekend!

4 users have voted.

This music was new to me. I like it quite a bit. Thank you.

And, oh, the news. Blue.

7 users have voted.


joe shikspack's picture


heh, i've been digging through some of my old albums and i found them last week in a box of some of my old blues rock albums along with blue cheer, the mc5, some rory gallagher and johnny winter and a bunch of other stuff. the dr. feelgood album that i have (malpractice) was already up on youtube along with some other stuff so, there you go. happy friday!

glad you liked it!

6 users have voted.
Azazello's picture

One of his research projects went viral and the cover-up is failing.

More on Kazakhstan: Kazakh steppes come alive

10 users have voted.

We wanted decent healthcare, a living wage and free college.
The Democrats gave us Biden and war instead.

joe shikspack's picture


it looks like the u.s. reach has exceeded its grasp where kazakhstan is concerned. it will be interesting to see if any western operatives got swept up in the mass arrests.

have a great weekend!

4 users have voted.
Azazello's picture

@joe shikspack
Good discussion here, highly recommend:

6 users have voted.

We wanted decent healthcare, a living wage and free college.
The Democrats gave us Biden and war instead.

snoopydawg's picture

I think that sums up almost every aspect of the parasite class of America. Time after time we have watched as the rich and powerful people escape justice and all responsibility for their criminal actions while people who steal small amounts to live are sentenced for years in prison. The s there’s congress taking boatloads of money given to do their donor’s bidding and playing the stock market with a stacked hand. I bet it’d take years to expose all their rottenness.

Can they do it though?

Still, America’s top leaders have reached a consensus on a strategy to encircle and contain the latest great power, China, with hostile military alliances, thereby thwarting its rise to full superpower status.


First off China is a huge country and it makes a shitload of things that we need since we’ve offshores our manufacturing bases there. Secondly since we’ve done that won’t China just stop sending the things we rely on here if they do it? Seems to me that they haven’t thought things through very well or maybe I’m missing something? Besides China shares a border with Russia and many other states and lots of our poodles also import things from China. And meanwhile while congress keeps stealing the money needed to maintain our country we slip further and further away from being a great power. The military is having trouble finding people who want to join up. Hey maybe they will bring back the draft and then the woman can be drafted to serve their country that doesn’t give a damn about it’s own people.


Where the hell did the snow go?


11 users have voted.

It is not until the tide goes out that you discover who has been swimming naked.

joe shikspack's picture


heh, i've been wondering since the 70's sometime how long the american people will put up with their captured government pissing away their resources, enriching ruling class cronies and doing little for the people. so far, the answer has been, "a damnably long time."

there seems to be a bit of ferment now with all the strikes and the great resignation going on. i'm not holding my breath, but maybe we will finally see some action.

have a great weekend and please give sam some scritches for me.

5 users have voted.
enhydra lutris's picture

I had forgotten about Dr. Feelgood (and their covers of the Robins/Coasters) so thanks a bunch for them. That is some absolutely classic Wilco Johnson performance in snippets on "She Does It Right" which pretty much seems to demand this wild reprise/cover of
"Going Back Home".

Forget when I stumbled across him and his crazy style, a prior less-known band iirc, but damn distinctive.

Be well and have a good one as well as a fabulous weekend.

8 users have voted.

That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

joe shikspack's picture

@enhydra lutris

great tune, thanks!

johnson had a really unique percussive style of playing that really grabbed me years ago. i hadn't thought about them in years until i dug out some albums i packed away decades ago when i moved to my current house. glad i ran across them again.

have a great weekend!

5 users have voted.

14 Jan 2022
United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken says there are only “a few weeks left” to save the 2015 Iran nuclear deal before Tehran’s advancements will become too difficult to reverse.

Blinken spoke on Thursday as negotiations in Vienna between Tehran and the other signatories of the 2015 deal, from which former US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew in 2018, continued.

At least he has been consitant. Look what a google search found.

Yet there is this.

Vienna (AFP) – Despite a painful start weeks ago, international talks to save the Iran nuclear deal have entered the New Year with positive signals emerging, including the EU saying Friday that a deal remained possible.

There has been a marked shift in tone since the current round began in November, even if the Western powers complain how slow the process is at a time when Iran accelerates its nuclear work.

"There's a better atmosphere since Christmas -- before Christmas I was very pessimistic," European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Friday.

"Today I believe reaching an accord is possible," even within the coming weeks, he said after an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brest, France.

January/February 2022
By Julia Masterson

Parties to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal seem to be making some progress in their negotiations, reviving hope that they could soon agree on mutual steps to restore the accord, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

After months of stalemate, recent talks in Vienna suggested a growing convergence among the negotiating states (China, France, Germany, Iran, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) on a baseline for negotiations and the identification of key gaps requiring further discussion, according to participants.

The measured optimism was apparent before the eighth round of negotiations resumed on Jan. 3 after a break for the New Year’s holiday. Ali Bagheri Kani, the chief Iranian negotiator, said that when the talks paused on Dec. 30, there had been “relatively satisfactory progress.” U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price, speaking the same day, agreed that “there may have been some modest progress" in the negotiations. Earlier in the week, Price acknowledged progress on “identifying the hard issues left to be negotiated” and stressed the need to “add real urgency” to discussions in Vienna

11 users have voted.
QMS's picture


with their tails down to cover their asses.
The western alliance (NATO) have to make a choice .. screw with Iran, China and Russia
or shut the F*ck up. The writing is on the wall.

7 users have voted.
joe shikspack's picture


heh, i don't know if he's an israeli agent, but i wouldn't trust him as far as i can spit.

he is far too eager to start wars.

8 users have voted.

Between this evenings blues and news and JtC Where to be when it all ends, I have to agree things are pretty grim. Did find a glimmer of hope in the feeding of the manatees. Of course the reason being the algae bloom etc. killing them off.

Believe I will follow the words of Lookout and enjoy each day to the fullest. Easy for me to do since I am retired but still my plan. Spent most of the day today outside raking leaves, biking and walking along the river.

Hope you have a great evening and restful weekend.

5 users have voted.

Life is what you make it, so make it something worthwhile.

This ain't no dress rehearsal!

joe shikspack's picture


yep, i agree that things look grim. i think that under the circumstances it's best to enjoy our time on this amazing planet while we can and be ready to pitch in if humanity starts coming to its senses.

have a great weekend!

4 users have voted.
mimi's picture

I just ask, what do we do, when everybody is angry, frustated, a step away to lose their sheltered 'home' and scared to the bones?

How do you deal with fear?

I have lost my understanding I used to believe I had about the atmosphere in DC and MD. It is all gone. Why for heavens sake are we at this point in time so utterly helpless?

Best well wishes for all in the Shikspack clan. Stay put and healthy and well have some hope that miracles can happen. /bullshit here I just don't know what to say.

Have a good weekend.

6 users have voted.


joe shikspack's picture


How do you deal with fear?

the way i deal with it is to imbibe in music, art, literature, etc. i try to find ways to look at a bigger picture rather than from my narrow perspective.

but that's the way i deal with it. ymmv.

5 users have voted.
mimi's picture

@joe shikspack
feels like
this Balancing between HI, DC, and Germany.

4 users have voted.


snoopydawg's picture

From a source with imbecile understanding of Putin’s brain I guess.

Here's how an almost unbelievable Friday Bloomberg story begins, "The Biden administration believes Russian actors are preparing potential sabotage operations against their own forces and fabricating provocations in social media to justify an invasion into Ukraine, according to a U.S. official." The claims based unnamed sources first appeared in CNN.

As part of the plan, President Vladimir Putin’s government has prepositioned operatives trained in urban warfare and in using explosives, possibly to carry out acts of sabotage against Russia’s proxy forces in or near Ukraine, according to the person, who asked not to be identified discussing the sensitive issue," the report continues.

As sensational and unusual as the allegations are, it's perhaps highly revealing that the anonymous admin officials provide no evidence the Kremlin has plans for staging attacks on its own forces. The report only alludes to Friday's simultaneous revelation of a major cyberattack by hackers on several Ukrainian federal government websites.

The Washington Post detailed earlier of the sweeping cyberattack, "Just hours before the attacks, Dmitri Alperovitch, an expert on cybersecurity and co-founder of CrowdStrike, a leading firm in the field, told a Washington Post Live discussion that Ukraine had already been subjected to increased cyberattacks, which he said could be a prelude to an invasion."

Ah so the plot thickens. Hey wasn’t Crowdstrike used to cook up the allegations about Russia hacking the DNC computers which they finally admitted that they saw no evidence of them doing it? And what was that dastardly cyberattack that got his panties in a twist?

Major public sites like Ukraine Foreign and Agriculture Ministries were breached, with words replacing homepages that ominously warned " afraid and expect the worst." So the suggestion is that the world is now witnessing the start of shadowy 'kinetic operations' by Russia in order to justify offensive operations across the Ukraine border in Donbass. Crucially, the individuals or entities behind the attack have not been uncovered as an investigation continues, yet fingers quickly pointed to Russia of course.

Seriously, Ned?

"No one should be surprised if Russia spreads disinformation about commitments that have not been made, or if Moscow goes even further and instigates something as a pretext for further destabilizing activity," State Department spokesman Ned Price had said Wednesday, which was when the White House first alluded to the supposed Kremlin plans for a false flag event.

Om my. I can see what he’s so concerned about that devious Putin dude. That anyone would even post that crap is mind boggling. To say the least because there’s a lot more I could say.

SMH worst cyberattack? Now who’s creating fear?

7 users have voted.

It is not until the tide goes out that you discover who has been swimming naked.

joe shikspack's picture


strikes me that if russia wanted to run a cyberattack on ukraine, defacing a few websites is such a ridiculously small demonstration of russian capabilities as to be laughable.

however, no event, no matter how ridiculous, is too small to be grist for the mill which churns out propaganda.

6 users have voted.

6 users have voted.
lotlizard's picture

shrine, and mural subject, sanctified in martyrdom, as George Floyd.

6 users have voted.

7 users have voted.

6 users have voted.