The Evening Blues - 5-17-22
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Texas blues musician Weldon "Juke Boy" Bonner. Enjoy!
Juke Boy Bonner - American Blues Festival 1969 (I'm Going Back to the Country Where They Don't Burn the Buildings Down)
“You can't hold a man down without staying down with him.”
-- Booker T. Washington
News and Opinion
Worth a full read:
Shireen Abu Akleh, the Al Jazeera reporter with more than two decades of experience covering armed conflicts, knew the protocol. She and other reporters remained last Wednesday in the open, clearly visible to Israeli snipers about 650 feet away in a building. Her flak jacket and helmet were emblazoned with the word “PRESS.” There were three shots fired in her direction. The second bullet hit the Al Jazeera producer Ali al-Samoudi in the back. The third shot, al-Samoudi remembered, hit Abu Akleh in the face below the rim of her helmet.
There were a few seconds when the Israeli sniper saw profiled in his scope Abu Akleh, one of the most recognizable faces in the Middle East. The 5.56 mm bullet from the M-16, designed to spin end over end upon impact, would have obliterated most of Abu Akleh’s head. The accuracy of the M-16, especially the M16A4s equipped with the Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight (ACOG), a prismatic telescopic sight, is very high. In the fighting in Fallujah so many dead insurgents were found with head wounds that observers at first thought they had been executed. The bullet that killed Abu Akleh was deftly placed between the very slim opening separating her helmet and the collar of her flak jacket. I have been in combat, including in clashes between Israeli and Palestinian forces. Snipers are dreaded on a battlefield because each kill is calculated. The execution of Abu Akleh was not an accident. She was singled out for elimination. Whether this killing was ordered by commanding officers, or whether it was the whim of an Israeli sniper, I cannot answer. Israelis shoot so many Palestinians with impunity my guess is the sniper knew he or she could kill Abu Akleh and never face any consequences. ...
Her funeral attracted thousands of mourners, the largest in Jerusalem since the death in 2002 of the Palestinian leader Faisal Husseini. Israeli police in full riot gear disrupted the procession, confiscating and ripping down Palestinian flags. The police fired stun grenades and pushed, clubbed and beat mourners and pallbearers, causing them to lose their grip on the coffin. Thousands chanted: “We sacrifice our soul and blood for you, Shireen.” It was another example of the daily humiliation meted out to Palestinians by their Israeli occupiers. It was also a moving tribute to a reporter who understood that the role of journalism is to give a voice to those the powerful seek to silence. ...
When Israel is caught lying, as it was with the murder of Abu Akleh, it immediately promises an investigation. The narrative shifts from one of blaming the Palestinians to the outcome of an inquiry. Impartial investigations into the hundreds of killings by soldiers and Jewish settlers of Palestinians are rarely carried out. Perpetrators are almost never brought to trial or held accountable. The pattern of Israeli obfuscation is pathetically predictable. So is the collusion of much of the corporate media along with Republican and Democratic politicians. US politicians decried the murder of Abu Akleh and dutifully repeated the old mantra, calling for a “thorough investigation” by the army that carried out the crime. ...
The killing of Abu Akleh would have been treated very differently if she was killed by Russian soldiers in Ukraine. There would have been no equivocations about who carried out the murder. Her death would have been denounced as a war crime. No one would have acquiesced to let the Russian military carry out the investigation. The world is divided into worthy and unworthy victims, those who deserve our compassion and support and those who do not. Ukrainians are white and largely Christian. We see the struggle against the Russian occupier as a battle for freedom and democracy. We provide $40 billion in weapons and humanitarian aid. We impose punishing sanctions on Moscow. We make the Ukrainian cause our own. The 55-year-long fight for Palestinian freedom is no less just, no less worthy of our support. But Palestinians are occupied by our Israeli ally. They are not white. Most are not Christian, although Abu Akleh was Christian. They are not deemed worthy. They suffer and die alone. The war crimes carried out by Israel go unheeded and unpunished. The Palestinians doggedly refuse to give up. This makes them as heroic, maybe more heroic, than Ukrainian fighters. We are on the wrong side of history in Israel. Abu Akleh’s blood is on our hands.
Russian forces opened fire on Israeli jets with advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missiles as they allegedly attacked targets in northwestern Syria last week, Channel 13 news reported Monday, in what could signal a significant shift in Moscow’s attitude to Israel.
According to the unsourced report, the incident occurred on Friday as the Israeli air force bombed several targets near the city of Masyaf in northwestern Syria. ...
If confirmed, this would mark the first time such an incident has taken place and a concerning development for Israel which has carried out hundreds of airstrikes inside Syria in the course of the country’s civil war, targeting what it says are arms shipments bound for Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group.
The Guardian's propaganda mill account:
More than 260 Ukrainian soldiers, many of them wounded, have been evacuated from the besieged Azovstal steel plant in the port city of Mariupol, appearing to cede control of the city to Russia after 82 days of bombardment.
Ukraine’s deputy defence minister Hanna Maliar said late on Monday that 53 heavily wounded soldiers were evacuated to a hospital in the Russian-controlled town of Novoazovsk and that more than 200 others were transported through a corridor to Olenivka. ...
The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said that the soldiers defending the steel plant had fulfilled their combat mission. “The supreme military command ordered the commanders of the units stationed at Azovstal to save the lives of the personnel,” the General Staff said in a statement on its Facebook account. “Efforts to rescue defenders who remain on the territory of Azovstal continue.”
In a statement, the Azov regiment said that it was fulfilling orders to save the lives of its troops.
Turkey has said it will not approve Sweden and Finland joining it as Nato members, hours after Stockholm followed Helsinki in a historic Nordic security policy shift by formally confirming that it intended to apply for membership of the alliance. Recep Tayyip Erdogan said diplomatic delegations from the two countries, which have reversed decades of military non-alignment in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, should not even bother coming to Ankara to discuss the move.
“We will not say yes to those [countries] that apply sanctions to Turkey to join the security organisation Nato,” Erdogan said. “They say they will come to Turkey on Monday. Will they come to persuade us? Excuse us, but they shouldn’t bother.” ...
Ankara first raised objections to Finnish and Swedish membership on Friday, citing their history of hosting members of Kurdish militant groups and Sweden’s suspension of arms sales to Turkey since 2019 over Ankara’s military operation in Syria. ...
The Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, has repeatedly said the two Nordic countries would be “welcomed with open arms”, but the process requires unanimity among the alliance’s 30 existing members. Turkey’s objections, even if aimed at extracting concessions, could delay the process.
The growth prospects for the EU have been revised sharply downwards after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine put paid to hopes of a strong and sustained recovery from Covid-19 over the next two years. Rocketing energy prices as a result of the conflict have pushed up inflation and increased economic headwinds during a period when they were expected to subside, the European Commission said in its latest forecasts.
The commission now expects 2022 growth of 2.7% in the 19-nation euro area and the broader 27-country EU – down from a forecast of 4% three months ago. But it said a complete cut in supplies of Russian gas would shave a further 2.5 points off growth – bringing the economy to a virtual standstill this year.
With many European countries heavily dependent on Russian energy exports, growth is expected to slow further next year – to 2.3% in the EU and the euro area.
Inflation, already at its highest in the euro area since the creation of the single currency more than two decades ago, is expected to average 6.1% this year, up from 3.5% in the last set of commission predictions in February. EU-wide inflation is expected to average 6.8%. Inflation would average close to 10% in the event of a Russian gas ban, the commission said.
The US will send up to 500 soldiers back on full-time deployment to Somalia, to train the country’s army to combat the increasing threat posed by al-Shabaab militants.
The White House insisted that the move, deepening the US long-term military commitment in an intractable foreign conflict, did not contradict Joe Biden’s overall policy of disengaging from “forever wars”, which underlay the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The decision does not affect overall deployments in the region, officials said on Monday, but replaces a rotating deployment with a “persistent” presence – longer tours by the same special forces soldiers. They argued the deployment should not be called permanent, as that implied the soldiers would be there forever.
The move marks a reversal of Donald Trump’s abrupt decision, in the last weeks of his presidency, to withdraw 750 US troops who had been stationed in Somalia until then. A senior administration official called Trump’s decision “irrational”.
The top Catholic clergyman in the Holy Land has condemned the Israeli police beating of mourners carrying the casket of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh, accusing the authorities of violating human rights and disrespecting the Catholic church.
Latin patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa told reporters that Friday’s incident, broadcast around the world, was a “disproportionate use of force” against a large crowd of people waving Palestinian flags as they proceeded from the hospital to a nearby Catholic church in Jerusalem’s Old City. The attack drew worldwide condemnation and added to the shock and outrage over the death of Abu Akleh, who was killed during an Israel Defence Forces (IDF) operation in the occupied West Bank.
The police attack, Pizzaballa told reporters, “is a severe violation of international norms and regulations, including the fundamental human right of freedom of religion, which must be observed also in a public space.”
After 10 months of fraught negotiations, Chile has finalised the draft of a new constitution that could replace the document drawn up during Gen Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship. María Elisa Quinteros, the president of the gender-equal, 154-member assembly will formally present the draft at a ceremony in the port city of Antofagasta on Monday afternoon. “This is an ecological and equal constitution with social rights at its very core,” she said in an interview.
Among the long list of rights and freedoms the draft enshrines, the new constitution makes higher education free, ensures gender parity across government and makes the state responsible for preventing, adapting to and mitigating climate change.
The constitution will be put to a referendum on 4 September in which all Chileans aged 18 or older must vote. ...
The new document will for the first time offer constitutional recognition to Chile’s Indigenous population. ... The new document even includes a clause for the compensated restitution of historically Indigenous lands.
Among a host of other changes, it opts to eliminate the senate in favour of a single-chamber legislature, and paves the way for Chile’s deeply unpopular private water rights system to be replaced.
If the US supreme court follows through with its initial decision to overturn Roe v Wade next month, 26 states are certain or likely to ban abortion. For those who want to protect abortion rights, a governor’s veto pen is about to become all the more powerful. The probable end of Roe has raised the stakes in gubernatorial races across the country, particularly in states with Republican-led legislatures that would probably move to ban abortion unless a Democratic governor steps in.
Democratic gubernatorial candidates are now stressing the urgency of the moment to voters, portraying themselves as the last line of defense against an abortion ban in their states.
Four states with Republican-controlled legislatures and Democratic governors – Kansas, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – are holding gubernatorial races in November. Democrats are also paying close attention to gubernatorial elections in battleground states where Republicans currently control both the governor’s mansion and the state legislature, such as Georgia and Arizona.
If the supreme court overturns Roe and Republicans have full control of the state government, abortion bans in those states will become all but certain. Some of the toss-up states holding gubernatorial races this year – including Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona – already have abortion bans on the books that predate Roe, and Republicans have called for their enforcement if the court reverses the landmark case.
In Kansas and Pennsylvania, the sitting Democratic governors have both previously vetoed bills restricting abortion access, and those proposals would probably be enacted if a Republican took control.
Millions of people across the United States who purchase health coverage on the Affordable Care Act exchanges could soon see their premiums soar if Congress doesn't extend subsidy programs that Democratic lawmakers enacted as part of their response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The nonprofit group Families USA estimates in an issue brief published Monday that "health insurance premiums are slated to shoot up by more than 53% next year for 14 million people who buy their own insurance from health insurance marketplaces."
"The total cost increase for struggling families in America will likely exceed a staggering $12 billion a year," the analysis warns. "Congress must act decisively to prevent huge increases in health insurance costs for families who already face serious challenges coping with rapidly rising living expenses."
Despite the potentially devastating implications for millions of households, the looming premium hike has largely flown under the radar on Capitol Hill. Back in March, journalist Jon Walker warned in The American Prospect that Democrats are "sleepwalking into a healthcare disaster that's entirely of their own making."
"Democrats are on the verge of dooming millions of Americans to huge new healthcare bills," Walker added, "which will in turn serve to ruin any hope Democrats have of winning the midterms."
The American Rescue Plan, a sprawling coronavirus relief package that President Joe Biden signed into law last year, included provisions that boosted ACA subsidies for low-income people and ended the income cap on subsidies. The latter measure ensures that no one is forced to pay more than 8.5% of their total income to buy health coverage on the ACA exchanges.
The issue is that the provisions were designed to last just two years, and legislation that many Democrats and advocates hoped would make the benefits permanent—the Build Back Better Act—is dead in the Senate thanks in large part to the opposition of Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).
According to Families USA, the roughly 23,000 West Virginians who buy health insurance on the ACA exchanges will see their annual premiums rise by an average of $1,536—63%—if the American Rescue Plan provisions aren't extended beyond this year.
Arizonans will be hit with an average yearly premium hike of $828, Families USA noted.
Across the U.S., more than 3 million people will likely lose insurance coverage entirely if Congress doesn't re-up the subsidy enhancements.
In a decision Monday that liberal Justice Elena Kagan warned will further corrupt the nation's money-dominated political system, the U.S. Supreme Court's right-wing majority struck down a campaign finance regulation limiting federal candidates' ability to use campaign funds to repay personal loans. ...
In her dissent, Kagan argued that the court's ruling will make even more common the kinds of "crooked exchanges" that have long sullied the U.S. political system, which is awash in money from corporations and ultra-wealthy individuals.
"Political contributions that will line a candidate's own pockets, given after his election to office, pose a special danger of corruption," Kagan argued, pointing to the issue of recouping personal loans. "The candidate has a more-than-usual interest in obtaining the money (to replenish his personal finances), and is now in a position to give something in return. The donors well understand his situation, and are eager to take advantage of it. In short, everyone's incentives are stacked to enhance the risk of dirty dealing."
Kagan went on to contend that quid pro quos—political favors carried out in exchange for money, in this case post-election donations—could become more rampant thanks to the Supreme Court's new ruling, which was authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, who helped orchestrate the high court's infamous Citizens United ruling and other attacks on campaign finance law.
"Post-election donors can be confident their money will enrich a candidate personally," Kagan wrote. "And those donors have of course learned which candidate won. When they give money to repay the victor's loan, they know—not merely hope—he will be in a position to perform official favors. The recipe for quid pro quo corruption is thus in place: a donation to enhance the candidate's own wealth (the quid), made when he has become able to use the power of public office to the donor's advantage (the quo)."
"The politician is happy; the donors are happy. The only loser is the public. It inevitably suffers from government corruption," she continued. "In allowing those payments to go forward unrestrained, today's decision can only bring this country's political system into further disrepute."
The expansion of an iron ore mine in the Arctic that would have increased shipping and led to the “complete extirpation of narwhal” from the region has been blocked.
After four years of consultations and deliberations, the Nunavut Impact Review Board rejected a request from Baffinland Iron Mines Corp asking to significantly increase mining on the northern tip of Baffin Island in Nunavut, Canada. The area is home to one of the world’s richest iron ore deposits, and the densest narwhal population in the world. ...
The review board issued a statement on Friday saying that the Mary River mine expansion project carried potential for “significant and lasting negative effects on marine mammals, the marine environment, fish, caribou and other terrestrial wildlife, vegetation and freshwater”.
“In the Board’s view, these negative effects could also impact Inuit harvesting, culture, land use and food security,” it said.
Dan Vandal, Canada’s northern affairs minister, can now decide whether to side with the review board or with Baffinland. He is expected to make his decision within the next three months.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Weldon ''Juke Boy'' Bonner - Gimme Some Boone's Farm
Juke Boy Bonner - Houston, The Action Town
Weldon "Juke Boy" Bonner - Texas zydeco
Juke Boy Bonner - Mr Downchild
Juke Boy Bonner - Live My Trouble On Down
Juke Boy Bonner - I'm A Bluesman
Juke Boy Bonner - Call Me Juke Boy
Juke Boy Bonner - Nowhere To Run
Juke Boy Bonner - Running Shoes