The Evening Blues - 5-19-22
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues piano player Otis Spann. Enjoy!
Otis Spann - The Blues Don't Like Nobody
"Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle. The real extent of this state of misinformation is known only to those who are in situations to confront facts within their knowledge with the lies of the day."
-- Thomas Jefferson
News and Opinion
Looky, the Pentagon investigated its wrongdoing and found out that they should not be held accountable:
No U.S. personnel will be held accountable for a March 2019 airstrike that killed scores of Syrian civilians including women and children, the Pentagon said Tuesday in announcing that an internal investigation into the massacre found that no laws of war were broken and that there was no cover-up of the incident as alleged in a New York Times exposé.
An executive summary of a classified investigation led by U.S. Army Gen. Michael Garrett stated that "no rules of engagement (ROE) or law of war (LOW) violations occurred" in connection with the March 18, 2019 strike near the Syrian town of Baghuz that, according to an initial battle assessment, killed around 70 people.
While finding that "policy compliance deficiencies at multiple levels of command led directly to numerous delays in reporting" the civilian casualties, and that "administrative deficiencies contributed to the impression" that the Pentagon did not take the incident seriously, the probe concluded there was "no malicious or wrongful intent" by the military, and that there was "no evidence" to support allegations of a cover-up.
However, a former evaluator in the Defense Department inspector general's office who attempted to investigate the Baghuz strike said he personally witnessed Pentagon brass trying to bury reports of the bombing.
"It's the standard government line: Mistakes were made but there was no wrongdoing," Eugene Tate told the Times in response to Garrett's summary. "But if the same mistakes were being made over and over again for years, shouldn't someone have done something about it? It doesn't sit well with me, and I'm not sure it should sit well with anyone else."
"The investigation says the reporting was delayed," Tate added. "None of the worker bees involved believe it was delayed. We believe there was no reporting."
The airstrike remained concealed from the public until the publication of a November 2021 Times investigation, which also revealed that a secretive Special Forces unit, Task Force 9, was responsible for the attack. One strike cell within the task force known as Talon Anvil reportedly killed and wounded Syrian civilians at 10 times the rate of similar units' airstrikes.
According to Pentagon officials familiar with the contents of Garrett's classified report, the military concluded that 56 people died in the Baghuz strike—52 Islamic State militants and four civilians—when a U.S. F-15E attack jet dropped a single 500-pound bomb on a large group of people.
However, evaluators appear to have used a standard adopted during the administration of former President Barack Obama under which all military-aged males in a blast zone are classified as combatants regardless of their actual status.
The officials' claim stands in stark contrast with what U.S. personnel quoted in the Times exposé reported seeing at the time of the attack. According to the report, U.S. troops watching real-time footage of the strike "looked on in stunned disbelief," according to an officer who was there, with one military analyst stating that "we just dropped on 50 women and children."
After the strike, civilian observers "found piles of dead women and children," according to Times reporters Dave Philipps and Eric Schmitt, who spent months investigating the attack.
"A legal officer flagged the strike as a possible war crime that required an investigation. But at nearly every step, the military made moves that concealed the catastrophic strike," the pair explained. "The death toll was downplayed. Reports were delayed, sanitized, and classified. United States-led coalition forces bulldozed the blast site. And top leaders were not notified."
Responding to Garrett's summary, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a memorandum Tuesday that "our efforts to mitigate and respond to civilian harm resulting from U.S. military operations are a direct reflection of U.S. values," and that "protecting innocent civilians is fundamental to our operational success and is a strategic and moral imperative."
However, U.S. bombs and bullets have killed more foreign civilians than those of any other armed force in the world in recent decades. According to the Costs of War Project at Brown University's Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, at least 900,000 people—including nearly 400,000 civilians—have died during the course of the 21-year U.S.-led War on Terror.
Throughout the war, few U.S. troops—and even fewer people higher up the chain of command—have been held accountable for harming civilians.
When asked during a Tuesday press conference why no one being held accountable for the Baghuz strike, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby replied, "I understand the questions about accountability, I get it."
"In this case, Gen. Garrett found that the ground force commander made the best decisions that he could, given the information he had at the time, given a very lethal, very aggressive threat, in a very confined space," he added. "It is deeply regrettable... we apologize for the loss of innocent life."
Consortium News Editor Joe Lauria addressed the 54th annual PEN International Writers for Peace Committee meeting in Bled, Slovenia last Thursday on the subject of growing censorship in the West.
Because of time limits imposed by the conference, Lauria’s remarks were not delivered in full. The text of his remarks is provided [at the link].
Twice in the month of April Barack Obama spoke about “disinformation.” First at the University of Chicago and then at Stanford University he claimed that democracy is at risk because of social media. Democracy is certainly at risk but not because of anyone’s tweets. His words were really meant to frighten Americans into accepting censorship should anyone dare to present a narrative that differs from the state’s. Of course, that isn’t what Obama said. He spoke of Trump’s claims of election fraud and racist posts and all sorts of things that liberals would support. But neither Trump nor anyone else on the right was his target. The left are his targets and the need to silence the public about Ukraine was the reason for his renewed efforts to address an issue concocted by the democratic establishment.
Less than one week after the Stanford speech the Department of Homeland Security announced the establishment of a Disinformation Governance Board. (They needed Obama to lay the groundwork with his disinformation tour.) Of course only conservatives and those who are truly on the left saw the danger in what some called a Ministry of Truth, as described in George Orwell’s 1984.
While republicans deemed lesser lights and the butt of liberal jokes such as Representative Lauren Boebert spoke out against the very problematic entity, liberals said nothing at all. Bernie Sanders, House members known as “the Squad” and others thought of as progressives or leftists were silent. While democrats go along with and defend every Biden administration policy, republican members of congress held a press conference to share their concerns. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and other republicans are seeking to defund the Board. “The President’s Ministry of Truth is just an un-American abuse of power, which is a scheme conjured up by Washington Democrats to grant themselves the authority to control free speech.” Of course abuses of power are very American but McCarthy’s assessment of what Biden and the democrats want to do is correct.
Fortunately there was enough pushback that the Biden administration felt the need to create a Fact Sheet in order to quell doubts about the dubious endeavor. “The working group does not have any operational authority or capability.” In other words, it is unneeded. Or rather it is needed to discredit anyone who dares to oppose state narratives, especially now when the Ukraine crisis needs a constant supply of public buy-in.
Yet the question must be asked about liberals’ silence. There was a time when they would be the first to oppose governmental overreach, including any efforts to control public discourse or to even give an appearance of limiting what was deemed acceptable to speak and to write. But liberals are joined at the hip with the democratic party and that means they are the worst purveyors of misinformation and the group most interested in censorship. ...
Sneer at Lauren Boebert if you like. Her reasons for opposing censorship are not those of the left but she doesn’t go along with wholesale war propaganda either. In that regard she has more to say for herself than Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. The people making fun of Boebert would be far more effective if they made demands of fake heroes in the liberal class. Of course if they did that they wouldn’t be liberals any more. They just might have become true leftists.
Disinformation has become a central tool in the United States and Russia’s expanding information war. US officials have openly admitted to “using information as a weapon even when the confidence and accuracy of the information wasn’t high,” with corporate media eager to assist Washington in its strategy to “pre-empt and disrupt the Kremlin’s tactics, complicate its military campaign” (NBC, 4/6/22).
In defense of the US narrative, corporate media have increasingly taken to branding realities inconvenient to US information goals as “disinformation” spread by Russia or its proxies.
The New York Times (1/25/22) reported that Russian disinformation doesn’t only take the form of patently false assertions, but also those which are “true but tangential to current events”—a convenient definition, in that it allows accurate facts to be dismissed as “disinformation.” But who determines what is “tangential” and what is relevant, and what are the guiding principles to make such a determination? In this assessment, Western audiences are too fickle to be trusted with making up their own mind.
There’s no denying that Russia’s disinformation campaign is key to justifying its war on Ukraine. But instead of uncritically outsourcing these decisions to Western intelligence officials and weapons manufacturers, and as a result erasing realities key to a political settlement, the media’s ultimate guiding principle for what information is “tangential” should be whether it is relevant to preventing the further suffering of Ukrainian civilians—and reducing tensions between the world’s two largest nuclear powers.
For Western audiences, and US citizens in particular, labeling or otherwise marginalizing inconvenient realities as “disinformation” prevents a clear understanding of how their government helped escalate tensions in the region, continues to obstruct the possibility of peace talks, and is prepared to, as retired senior US diplomat Chas Freeman describes it, “fight to the last Ukrainian” in a bid to weaken Russia.
For example, the New York Times (4/11/22) claimed that US support for the 2014 “Maidan Revolution” that ousted Ukraine’s democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych was a “conspiracy theory” being peddled by the Chinese government in support of Russia. The article featured an image with a red line crossing out the face of journalist Benjamin Norton, who was appearing on a Chinese news channel to discuss how the US helped orchestrate the coup. (Norton wrote for FAIR.org frequently from 2015–18.) The evidence he presented—a leaked call initially reported by the BBC in which then–State Department official Victoria Nuland appears to select opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk to be Ukraine’s new prime minister—is something, he noted, that the Times itself has reported on multiple times (2/6/14, 2/7/14).
Not having been asked for comment by the Times, Norton responded in a piece of his own (Multipolarista, 4/14/22), claiming that the newspaper was “acting as a tool of US government information warfare.”
Beyond Nuland’s apparent coup-plotting, the US campaign to destabilize Ukraine stretched back over a decade. Seeking to isolate Russia and open up Ukraine to Western capital, the US had long been “fueling anti-government sentiment through mechanisms like USAID and National Endowment for Democracy (NED)” (FAIR.org, 1/28/22). High-profile US officials like Sen. John McCain even went so far as to rally protesters in the midst of the Maidan uprising.
In the wake of the far right–led and constitutionally dubious overthrow, Russia illegally annexed the Crimean Peninsula and supported a secession movement in the eastern Donbass region, prompting a repressive response from Ukraine’s new US-backed government. Eight years later, the civil war has killed more than 14,000. Of those deaths, 3,400 were civilian casualties, which were disproportionately in separatist-controlled territories, UN data shows. Opinions on remaining in Ukraine vary within the Donbass.
When the Times covered the Russian annexation of Crimea, it acknowledged that the predominantly ethnic Russian population there viewed “the Ukrainian government installed after the ouster last weekend of Mr. Yanukovych as the illegitimate result of a fascist coup.” But now the newspaper of record is using allegations of disinformation to change the record.
To discredit evidence of US involvement in Ukraine’s 2014 regime change hides crucial facts that could potentially support a political solution to this crisis. When the crisis is reduced merely to the context of Russian aggression, a peace deal that includes, for example, a referendum on increased autonomy for the Donbass seems like an outrageous thing for Ukraine to have to agree to. But in the context of a civil war brought on by a US-backed coup—a context the Times is eager to erase—it may appear a more palatable solution.
More broadly, Western audiences that are aware of their own government’s role in sparking tensions may have more skepticism of Washington’s aims and an increased appetite for peace negotiations.
The outsized influence of neo-Nazi groups in Ukrainian society (Human Rights Watch, 6/14/18)—including the the Azov Regiment, the explicitly neo-Nazi branch of Ukraine’s National Guard—is another fact that has been dismissed as disinformation.
Western outlets once understood far-right extremism as a festering issue (Haaretz, 12/27/18) that Ukraine’s government “underplayed” (BBC, 12/13/14). In a piece called “Ukraine’s Got a Real Problem with Far-Right Violence (and No, RT Didn’t Write This Headline),” the Atlantic Council (UkraineAlert, 6/20/18) wrote:
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House and Front Line Defenders warned in a letter that radical groups acting under “a veneer of patriotism” and “traditional values” were allowed to operate under an “atmosphere of near total impunity that cannot but embolden these groups to commit more attacks.”
To be clear, far-right parties like Svoboda perform poorly in Ukraine’s polls and elections, and Ukrainians evince no desire to be ruled by them. But this argument is a bit of “red herring.” It’s not extremists’ electoral prospects that should concern Ukraine’s friends, but rather the state’s unwillingness or inability to confront violent groups and end their impunity.
But now Western media attempt to diminish those groups’ significance, arguing that singling out a vocal but insignificant far right only benefits Russia’s disinformation campaign (New Statesman, 4/12/22). Almost exactly three years after warning about Ukraine’s “real problem” with the far right, the Atlantic Council (UkraineAlert, 6/19/21) ran a piece entitled “The Dangers of Echoing Russian Disinformation on Ukraine,” in which it seemingly forgot that arguments about the electoral marginalization of Ukraine’s right wing are a “red herring”:
In reality, Ukraine’s nationalist parties enjoy less support than similar political parties in a host of EU member states. Notably, in the two Ukrainian parliamentary elections held since the outbreak of hostilities with Russia in 2014, nationalist parties have failed miserably and fallen short of the 5% threshold to enter Ukrainian parliament.
Russian propaganda does overstate the power of Nazi elements in Ukraine’s government—which it refers to as “fascist”—to justify its illegal aggression, but seizing on this propaganda to in turn downplay the influence and radicalism of these elements (e.g., USA Today, 3/30/22; Welt, 4/22/22) only prevents an important debate on how prolonged US and NATO military aid may empower these groups.
The Financial Times (3/29/22) and London Times (3/30/22) attempted to rehabilitate the Azov regiment’s reputation, using the disinformation label to downplay the influence of extremism in the national guard unit. Quoting Azov’s founder Andriy Biletsky as well as an unnamed Azov commander, the Financial Times cast Azov’s members as “patriots” who “shrug off the neo-Nazi label as ‘Russian propaganda.’” Alex Kovzhun, a “consultant” who helped draft the political program of the National Corps, Azov’s political wing, added a lighthearted human interest perspective, saying Azov was “made up of historians, football hooligans and men with military experience.”
That the Financial Times would take Biletsky at his word on the issue of Azov’s Nazi-free character, a man who once declared that the National Corps would “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade…against Semite-led Untermenschen [subhumans]” (Guardian, 3/13/18), is a prime example of how Western media have engaged in information war at the expense of their most basic journalistic duties and ethics.
Azov has opened its ranks to a flood of volunteers, the Financial Times continued, diluting its connection to Ukraine’s far-right movement, a movement that has “never proved popular at the ballot box” anyways. BBC (3/26/22) also cited electoral marginalization in its dismissal of claims about Ukraine’s far right as “a mix of falsehoods and distortions.” Putin’s distortions require debunking, but neither outlet acknowledged that these groups’ outsized influence comes more from their capacity for political violence than from their electoral participation (Hromadske, 10/13/16; Responsible Statecraft, 3/25/22).
In the London Times piece, Azov commander Yevgenii Vradnik dismissed the neo-Nazi characterization as Russian disinformation: “Perhaps [Putin] really believes it,” as he “lives in a strange, warped world. We are patriots but we are not Nazis.” Sure, the article reports, “Azov has its fair share of football hooligans and ultranationalists,” but it also includes “scholars like Zaikovsky, who worked as a translator and book editor.”
To support such “patriots,” the West should fulfill their “urgent plea” for more weapons. “To retake our regions, we need vehicle-mounted anti-aircraft weapons from NATO,” Vradnik said. Thus Western media use the “Russian disinformation” label to not only downplay the threat of Ukraine’s far right, but even to encourage the West to arm them.
Responsible Statecraft (3/25/22) pushed back on the media’s dismissiveness, warning that “Russian propaganda has colossally exaggerated the contemporary strength of Ukrainian extreme nationalist groups,” but
because these groups have been integrated into the Ukrainian National Guard yet retain their autonomous identities and command structures, over the course of an extended war they could amass a formidable fifth column that would radicalize Ukraine’s postwar political dynamic.
To ignore the fact that prolonged military aid could reshape Ukraine’s politics in favor of neo-Nazi groups prevents an understanding of the threats posed to Ukrainian democracy and civil society.
[There's more at the link. It's a long article, but contains a lot of documentation. -js]
Sweden and Finland have formally submitted their applications to join Nato but Turkey blocked an early move to fast-track the Nordic countries’ requests, demanding they extradite “terrorists” and that the alliance respect its concerns.
The Nato secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, accepted the two historically non-aligned Nordic countries’ membership requests, each in a white folder embossed with their national flag, at the US-led defensive alliance’s HQ in Brussels on Wednesday.
“I warmly welcome the requests by Finland and Sweden to join Nato. You are our closest partners,” Stoltenberg told the two countries’ ambassadors, hailing the occasion as “a historic step” and “a good day at a critical time for our safety”.
However, multiple reports cited diplomatic sources as saying Turkey later blocked a vote by Nato ambassadors on opening talks immediately, suggesting the first stage of the accession process may take longer than the two weeks the alliance planned.
The enlargement of Nato must be approved by all 30 members and then ratified by their parliaments, which could take up to a year. The alliance has said it wants to move as fast as possible given the potential Russian threat to Finland and Sweden.
As America prepares for a future in which the federal protection of abortion rights is removed as the supreme court appears set to overturn the Roe v Wade ruling, experts are warning that it could pave the way for increased prosecutions of those who seek abortions. Last week a Louisiana bill classifying abortion as murder was withdrawn after causing a firestorm of controversy, mainly for seeking to subject people seeking to end their own pregnancies to criminal prosecution. For years, much of the anti-abortion movement has insisted that the criminalization of abortion should target providers but exempt pregnant people.
But that view stands in tension with the trajectory of the anti-abortion movement, which has successfully labored to enshrine the notion of “fetal personhood” in law and rhetoric, leading to the growing criminalization of pregnancy outcomes in recent years. ...
Even with Roe in place, the notion that fetuses have status separate from the people who carry them has helped fuel the criminalization of at least 1,700 people – probably a dramatic undercount, advocates say – in connection with their pregnancies, for crimes like homicide and delivering drugs to a minor. It has also paved the way for a wider dragnet should the supreme court overturn Roe, as the draft opinion leaked earlier this month signaled will happen in a matter of weeks.
Most such laws exempt the pregnant person from criminal charges. But that didn’t stop the arrest of Lizelle Herrera, a Texas woman recently charged with murder for “intentionally and knowingly causing the death of an individual by self-induced abortion”. The charges were ultimately dropped, with the district attorney admitting they had no basis in law. Self-managed abortion remains legal in the vast majority of states. (South Carolina, Oklahoma and Nevada are exceptions.) Similar incidents could become more common without Roe, if 26 states ban abortion as expected.
As congressional lawmakers prepare to vote on a bill aimed at curbing Big Oil profiteering, an analysis published Wednesday by a trio of advocacy groups shows how fossil fuel companies "continue to generously reward their investors while consumers pay sky-high prices."
Data compiled by Friends of the Earth, BailoutWatch, and Public Citizen shows that "the biggest oil and gas companies are returning billions more in cash to themselves and their investors amid windfall profits from war."
Public Citizen researcher Alan Zibel said in a statement that "fossil fuel executives are sending windfall profits to their shareholders and sticking consumers with the bill while accelerating the climate crisis. Now is the time, finally, to hold Big Oil accountable."
According to the analysis, the 20 biggest U.S.-based fossil fuel companies reported $30.3 billion in profits in the first quarter of 2022, a 155% increase from the same period last year.
Meanwhile, during the first five months of 2022, eight companies authorized plans to buy back and retire $46 billion in stock, a 116% increase over all combined buybacks last year. Stock buybacks surged by $36 billion since February 2022, when anticipation of Russia's invasion of Ukraine fueled a dramatic surge in oil prices.
BailoutWatch data analyst Chris Kuveke asserted that the war's impact "has laid bare how little these companies care about their impact on the wider world."
"The least we can do is impose a modest measure of accountability on this historic money grab," he added.
Lukas Ross, program manager at Friends of the Earth, said that "Big Oil is turning humanitarian disaster and consumer pain into Wall Street profits."
"It's about time," he argued, "that Democrats put price gouging and war profiteering to a vote."
U.S. House lawmakers are expected to do so as soon as Wednesday, when H.R. 7688, the Consumer Fuel Price Gouging Prevention Act, comes up for a vote. Introduced by Reps. Kim Schrier (D-Wash.) and Katie Porter (D-Calif.), the proposed legislation would give the U.S. Federal Trade Commission expanded authority to hold energy companies accountable for charging "unconscionably excessive" fuel prices.
"At a time when people in the 8th district and across the country are feeling the pinch at the gas pump, Congress needs to be doing all it can to bring down costs for American families," Schrier asserted. "What's infuriating is that this is happening at the same time that gas and oil companies are making record profits and taking advantage of international crises to make a profit. This must stop."
"Gas and oil companies should be held accountable and should not be making the situation worse by gouging Americans at the pump," she added. "This bill needs to be passed and signed into law as soon as possible."
Porter noted that "companies are not struggling—they continue to announce record profits and tens of billions dollars' worth of stock buybacks—but families are."
"Big Oil is price gouging families because they can," she added. "Enough is enough. I'm proud to help introduce this bill that will hold these corporations accountable, stop their abuse, and give families relief."
In addition to H.R. 7688, Congress is also considering a Big Oil Windfall Tax—introduced in the House by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) in the Senate—an overwhelmingly popular measure supported by 80% of U.S. voters, including nearly three-quarters of self-described Republicans.
"Unless we fight back, Big Oil profiteers will continue adding to their profits—and to those of the authoritarian petrostates they've long been in bed with," Lindsay Owens and Hebah Kassem wrote on Wednesday. "Congress has a narrow window of opportunity to stop profiteering at the pump and secure a more stable, sustainable future for all. It's time to act—before it's too late."
The wild ride on the US stock markets continued on Wednesday with the Dow Jones Industrial Average sinking more than 1,100 points as investors worried about a looming recession. All of the major US markets fell sharply, with the S&P closing down 4%, its largest fall since June 2020, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq losing 4.7%.
On Tuesday markets had rallied following positive news about consumer spending and signs that China was relaxing its strict Covid-19 lockdowns. Just a day later concerns about an economic slowdown triggered a wide-ranging sell-off.
The sell-off began after Target said supply chain costs and inflationary pressures had cut into its profits and customers were buying fewer higher-margin items such as kitchen appliances, televisions and furniture. The retailer’s announcement came a day after Walmart said its profit had also been hit by higher costs. The latest news from Target led to a sell-off for retailers including Amazon, BestBuy, Costco and Dollar General.
Investors are increasingly concerned that rising inflation, and the Federal Reserve’s plans to tackle it by sharply hiking interest rates, will trigger a recession. Target’s management expects inflation to add $1bn to its fuel and freight costs this year and sees little sign of those costs easing throughout 2022. Gas prices topped $4 a gallon in every state this week for the first time.
Workers at a Target store in Christiansburg, Virginia, have filed for a union election and, if successful, the store would be the first belonging to the retail chain to unionize.
Target has long opposed unionization, with anti-union videos to discourage workers from unionizing. Earlier this year, Target training documents for managers to prevent unionization within stores were leaked.
Target has already reportedly pushed back on the union organizing effort in Virginia, trying to use union dues as a tactic to deter workers. ...
The last union election to be held at a Target store in the US was on Long Island, New York in 2011, where workers voted 137 to 85 against unionizing with the United Food and Commercial Workers. An administrative law judge ruled in 2012 that during that union organizing campaign, Target violated labor law by interrogating and threatening workers over their unionizing efforts. The union election results were overturned by the National Labor Relations Board in 2013, but the UFCW opted against re-running the election due to long delays.
A pharmacy department at a Target store in Brooklyn, New York, became the first to unionize at Target in 2015, joining the UFCW, but Target sold off their pharmacy business to CVS shortly after the election win.
A former Minneapolis police officer pleaded guilty on Wednesday to manslaughter in the murder of George Floyd and agreed to spend three years in state prison, officials said.
Thomas Lane’s plea to a count of aiding and abetting manslaughter came a year after his former colleague Derek Chauvin, who was recorded by a bystander killing Floyd by kneeling on his neck, was convicted of murder and sentenced to more than two decades in prison.
In February, Lane and former officers Tou Thao and J Alexander Kueng were convicted in federal court of violating Floyd’s civil rights. Sentences have not yet been handed down for them.
Lane, 39, was tentatively scheduled to be sentenced for Wednesday’s plea on 21 September. He agreed to serve that 36-month punishment at the same time as the sentence ultimately handed to him in the federal case, said a state court spokesperson, Jael McLemore.
Thao, 36, and Kueng, 28, remain scheduled to go to trial in June on state charges of aiding and abetting murder as well as aiding and abetting manslaughter. Lane avoided that trial, which could take weeks, with his guilty plea, ensuring prosecutors also dismissed a charge of aiding and abetting murder.
Heading into pivotal congressional primaries in Pennsylvania and Oregon, Democratic elites and their corporate donors were likely feeling confident that their huge super PAC spending would successfully buy yet more primary victories for corporate-aligned candidates. Indeed, House Democratic leaders planned to spend Wednesday honoring the anniversary of the New Democrat Coalition, which is the official arm of the party’s corporate faction.
But those football-spiking celebrations now seem premature.
If projected election results hold, underdog progressive candidates will end up winning most of the big primary contests of the night, despite being vilified by oligarch-bankrolled super PACs linked to the Democratic Party machine.
Notably, in at least two of the races, the progressive candidates framed their primary contest as a referendum on the politics of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).
The progressive candidates’ success comes as new polling data show Democratic voters are frustrated with their party’s leadership’s incrementalism.
In Pennsylvania, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s anti-establishment campaign easily withstood attacks from a health insurance-aligned super PAC, as he won every county in the state to secure its Democratic U.S Senate nomination. Fetterman explicitly slammed Manchin, who represents neighboring West Virginia. It is not yet clear which Republican candidate will win the GOP Senate nomination.
Even more shocking, progressive Democratic state Rep. Summer Lee is narrowly ahead of corporate union-avoidance lawyer Steve Irwin, despite nearly $3.4 million being spent against her by organizations affiliated with the powerful pro-Israel advocacy group, American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Lee saw support from the progressive group Justice Democrats.
The spirited campaigns by Fetterman and Lee follow a series of progressive wins in the Keystone State, which is seen as a national bellwether. There, progressive candidates have recently defeated Democratic machine-backed candidates to win major city council, judicial, district attorney, mayoral and state legislative races.
[See article for further details of contests. -js]
Critical global indicators of the climate crisis broke records in 2021, according to a UN report, from rising oceans to the levels of heat-trapping emissions in the atmosphere. The UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said these were clear signs of humanity’s impact on the planet, which was bringing long-lasting effects. Extreme weather, which the WMO called the day-to-day face of the climate emergency, wreaked a heavy toll on human lives and led to hundreds of billions of dollars in damages, the agency said.
Droughts and floods triggered food price rises that have been exacerbated in 2022. The WMO’s State of the Global Climate in 2021 report also found the past seven years have been the hottest recorded. “Today’s State of the Climate report is a dismal litany of humanity’s failure to tackle climate disruption. Fossil fuels are a dead end – environmentally and economically,” said António Guterres, the secretary general of the UN. ...
The world’s oceans absorb more than 90% of the heat trapped by greenhouse gases and 2021 set a record. The increasing warmth in the ocean, which is irreversible over timescales of centuries to millennia, has been especially strong in the last 20 years. Much of the ocean experienced at least one strong marine heatwave in 2021, the WMO said. The global sea level also reached a new record high in 2021. It has increased by 10cm since 1993 and the rise is accelerating, driven by the melting of ice sheets and glaciers and the thermal expansion of the ocean. The rise imperils hundreds of millions of coastal dwellers, the WMO said, and increases the damage caused by hurricanes and cyclones.
Despite outcry from local leaders and the Japanese public and warnings from environmental campaigners, Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority on Wednesday gave its approval for a plan to discharge contaminated water from Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean, a move critics say will pose a major threat to marine life.
After spending several months reviewing the plan announced by then-Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's administration last spring, the NRA said discharging more than 1.2 million tons of treated wastewater will help the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) secure space needed to decommission the plant, where three reactors melted down in March 2011 after a tsunami.
Assuming the plan goes forward, the discharge is expected to begin in 2023, but critics including the governor of a neighboring prefecture are calling on TEPCO and the Japanese government to consider other options.
The plan "will extensively affect many industries in the prefecture, including fisheries, that are only now recovering from the earthquake damage," said Gov. Yoshihiro Murai of Miyagi Prefecture last year after the central government proposed the discharge.
TEPCO will use an Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) to treat wastewater that has been pumped in to Fukushima to cool fuel from the melted reactors and has mixed with rainwater and groundwater since the tsunami.
According to TEPCO, the water will be diluted to one-40th of the concentration permitted in Japan.
The system, however, is not able to remove tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, from the water. South Korean officials and fishing communities in the area have expressed concern that tritium will harm marine life in the Pacific.
TEPCO also acknowledged in 2018 that other isotopes including ruthenium, cobalt, strontium, and plutonium, "sometimes slip through the ALPS process," according to Science.
"These radioactive isotopes behave differently than tritium in the ocean and are more readily incorporated into marine biota or seafloor sediments," Ken Buesseler, a marine chemist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, told the magazine last year.
The Japan Fisheries Cooperatives told Prime Minister Fumio Kishida last month that its opposition to the water discharge plan, which it previously stated last year, "remains exactly the same."
"We just hope people in the fisheries industry will be able to continue fishing with peace of mind," Hiroshi Kishi, head of the cooperative, told Kyodo News.
Following the NRA's endorsement, the discharge plan could be officially approved as early as July. The International Atomic Energy Agency will begin an inspection of the Fukushima plant Thursday, with South Korean officials participating in monitoring the plan.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Otis Spann - Nobody Knows My Trouble & Cold Cold Feeling
Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac & Otis Spann - Ain't Nobody's Business & It Was A Big Thing
Otis Spann - Spann's Stomp
Otis Spann & Fleetwood Mac - Hungry Country Girl
Otis Spann - Stirs Me Up
Otis Spann - Good Morning Mr. Blues
Otis Spann - It must have been the devil
Otis Spann - I Was Raised In Mississippi
Otis Spann - Sweet Giant of the Blues
Otis Spann - The Biggest Thing Since Colossus