The Evening Blues - 3-29-23
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features r&b/soul singer Ben E. King. Enjoy!
Ben E. King - Stand By Me
"Imperialism creates the illusion of wealth as far as the masses are concerned. It usually serves to hide the fact that the ruling classes are gobbling up the natural resources of the home territory in an improvident manner and are otherwise utilizing the national wealth largely for their own purposes. Eventually the general public is called upon to pay for all of this, frequently after the military machine can no longer maintain external aggression."
-- Jack D. Forbes
News and Opinion
U.S. inconvenienced by peace breaking out. Worth a full read:
The circumstances surrounding the flare-up in Syria between the U.S. occupation forces and pro-Iranian militia groups remain murky. President Joe Biden claims that the U.S. is reacting, but there are signs that it is likely being proactive to create new facts on the ground. The U.S. Central Command claims that following a drone attack on an American base near Hasakah on the afternoon of March 23, retaliatory air strikes were undertaken later that night, at Biden’s direction, against “facilities used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.”
This version has been disputed by the spokesman of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, however, who accused Washington of “creating artificial crises and lying.” The Iranian official alleged that “over the past two days, American helicopters have carried out several sorties with the aim of increasing instability in Syria, and transferred Daesh (Islamic State) terrorists in the territory of this country.” ...
Is the U.S. deliberately ratcheting up tensions in Syria as the China-brokered, Saudi-Iranian rapprochement is radically changing the security scenario in the West Asian [Middle East] region in a positive direction?
There is optimism that Syria stands to gain from the Saudi-Iranian rapprochement. Already, the Saudi Foreign Ministry has revealed that talks are going on with Syria for resuming consular services between the two countries, which will pave the way for the resumption of diplomatic relations, making it possible to reinstate Syria’s membership of the Arab League. ... The backdrop is that the normalization of relations between Syria and its estranged Arab neighbors has accelerated. It must be particularly galling for Washington that these regional states used to be active participants in the U.S.-led regime change project to overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The Saudi-Iranian rapprochement badly isolates the U.S. and Israel.
From such a perspective, it stands to reason that the U.S. is once again stirring up the Syrian cauldron as Russian aircraft have been reported to be frequently flying over the U.S. military base At Tanf on the Syrian-Iraqi border where training camps for militant groups are known to exist.
Israel too is a stakeholder in keeping Syria unstable and weak. In the Israeli narrative, Iran-backed militia groups have been increasing their capability in Syria in the last two years and the continued U.S. occupation of Syria is vital for balancing these groups. Israel is paranoid that a strong government in Damascus might start challenging its illegal occupation of the Golan Heights.
A key factor in this matrix is the nascent process of Russian mediation between Turkey and Syria. With an eye on the forthcoming presidential and parliamentary election in Turkey in May, President Recep Erdogan is keen to achieve some visible progress in improving ties with Syria. Erdogan senses that Turkish public opinion strongly favours normalization with Syria. Polls in December showed that 59 percent of Turks would like an early repatriation of Syrian refugees who are a burden on the Turkish economy, which has an inflation rate of 90 percent. ...
Significantly, Erdogan telephoned Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday and the Kremlin readout mentioned that amongst “topics concerning Russian-Turkish partnership in various fields,” during the conversation, “the Syrian issue was touched upon, and the importance of continuing the normalization of Turkish-Syrian relations was underlined. In this regard the President of Türkiye highlighted the constructive mediatory role Russia has played in this process.” ...
If Turkey ends its military presence in Syria, the spotlight will fall on the U.S.’ illegal occupation of one-third of Syrian territory and the massive smuggling of oil and other resources from Syria in American military convoys. ... Thus, the U.S. needs an alibi to justify remaining in Syria to fight “terrorism” when dialogue and reconciliation is in ascendance in West Asian politics.
Washington’s intention could be to confront Iran on Syrian soil — something Israel has been espousing — by taking advantage of Russia’s distraction in Ukraine. The U.S. would also like to disturb improving Russian-Iranian ties. The specter that is haunting Washington is that the stabilization of Syria following Assad’s normalization with the Arab countries and with Turkey will inexorably coalesce into a Syrian settlement that completely marginalizes the “collective West.”
The curiously incurious congress strikes again:
The Senate on Tuesday night voted down an amendment to create a special inspector general to oversee the over $113 billion that the US has authorized to spend on the war in Ukraine.
The amendment, which was introduced by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), failed in a vote of 26-68, with 24 Republicans and only two Democrats voting in favor of more oversight for the billions in weapons that are being shipped to Ukraine.
French retirement overhaul showdown has united all walks of life in 'widespread broad based protest'
Protesters and police clashed on the edges of street demonstrations in France on Tuesday as hundreds of thousands of people took part in marches against Emmanuel Macron’s use of constitutional executive powers to push through an unpopular rise in the pension age to 64. While demonstrations in Paris and Nantes were peaceful, with the majority of demonstrators chanting and calling for the pension changes to be scrapped, on the margins in some cities, men in masks or hoods clashed with police.
In Paris, police fired teargas and launched a charge after some people at the head of the protest, dressed in black with their faces covered, raided and looted a supermarket and then started a fire as the march approached Place de la Nation in the east of the city. At least 22 people were arrested in the capital by the afternoon, Paris police said.
In the western city of Nantes, protesters threw projectiles at security forces who responded withtear gas, AFP reported. A bank branch was set on fire and rubbish bins were set alight near a court building. Police in Lyon in southeastern France used water cannon. In Lille, police used teargas after bus stops were smashed. In Bordeaux some hooded people lit fires and projectiles were thrown. In Toulouse, police used water cannon.
Turnout at the street protests across France appeared to be slightly lower than the last day of strikes and protests last Thursday. The interior ministry said 740,000 people took part in protests across France.
French grassroots movement challenges executive power in name of 'democracy' and 'freedom of speech'
Israeli politics has descended into disarray with questions over whether a fired defence minister is refusing to step down and concerns Benjamin Netanyahu may have promised too much to far-right politicians in exchange for a deal aimed at quelling nationwide demonstrations. ...
Aides to the fired defence minister said that despite his dismissal, Gallant would remain in his post. While the termination would have ordinarily gone into effect by Tuesday, Gallant’s aides said he had never been formally notified. Spokespeople for Netanyahu and his party, Likud, made no immediate comment.
Meanwhile, protest organisers have promised to continue to rally, accusing the prime minister of deception. Adding to their anxiety and that of the opposition, the ruling coalition on Tuesday tabled a final reading of a bill that would give Netanyahu, who is on trial on corruption charges he denies, greater control of the system for selecting judges.
Jeremy Corbyn has given his strongest hint yet that he will stand as an independent candidate, saying he has “no intention of stopping the fight” to represent his north London constituents. The former party leader was on Tuesday formally blocked from standing for Labour at the next election, prompting leftwingers to fiercely criticise Keir Starmer’s “authoritarian” and “divisive” move.
Corbyn is unable to put himself forward for selection in his Islington North constituency Labour party (CLP), where he still has a solid support base, because the party’s national executive committee (NEC) signs off on all candidate lists. He released a statement hours after the NEC backed Starmer’s motion to block him from standing as a party candidate, with 22 votes to 12.
“The NEC’s decision to block my candidacy for Islington North is a shameful attack on party democracy, party members and natural justice,” Corbyn said. “Now, more than ever, we should be offering a bold alternative to the government’s programme of poverty, division and repression. Keir Starmer has instead launched an assault on the rights of his own Labour members, breaking his pledge to build a united and democratic party that advances social, economic and climate justice.
“I will not be intimidated into silence. I have spent my life fighting for a fairer society on behalf of the people of Islington North, and I have no intention of stopping now.”
The Momentum founder, Jon Lansman, who was once one of Corbyn’s closest allies, said Starmer was “behaving like some kind of Putin of the Labour party” who had failed to fulfil his leadership promise of ending factionalism. ... The Islington North CLP has publicly rejected Starmer’s move to block Corbyn, saying north London voters “deserve a free and fair vote on who gets to represent them”. Many leftwing MPs have resorted to sharing the CLP’s statement, instead of outrightly condemning Starmer’s leadership.
California lawmakers on Monday approved the nation’s first penalty for price gouging at the pump, voting to give regulators the power to punish oil companies for profiting from the type of gas price spikes that plagued the nation’s most populous state last summer. The Democrats in charge of the state legislature worked quickly to pass the bill on Monday, just one week after it was introduced. It was an unusually fast process for a controversial issue, especially one opposed by the powerful oil industry that has spent millions of dollars to stop it.
The Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, used his political muscle to pass the bill, which grew out of his call last October for a special legislative session to pass a new tax on oil company profits after the average price of gas in California hit a record high of $6.44 per gallon, according to the American Automobile Association. Taking on the oil industry has been a major policy priority for Newsom, who is widely viewed as a future presidential candidate. ... He is expected to sign the bill into law on Tuesday.
Newsom and lawmakers agreed to let the California energy commission decide whether to penalize oil companies for price gouging. But the crux of the bill isn’t a potential penalty. Instead, it’s the reams of new information oil companies would be required to disclose to state regulators about their pricing. The companies would report this information, most of it to be kept confidential, to a new state agency empowered to monitor and investigate the petroleum market and subpoena oil company executives. The commission will rely on the work of this agency, plus a panel of experts, to decide whether to impose a penalty on oil company profits and how much that penalty should be.
“If we force folks to turn over this information, I actually don’t believe we’ll ever need a penalty because the fact that they have to tell us what’s going on will stop them from gouging our consumers,” said Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, a Democratic state representative from Orinda.
A court in Maryland has reinstated the murder conviction of Adnan Syed, the Baltimore man whose alleged involvement in the 1999 murder of 17-year-old Hae Min Lee was the subject of the hit podcast Serial. ... In September last year, state prosecutors revealed they had uncovered new evidence they said undermined Syed’s conviction and pointed to two alternative suspects.
A circuit court judge then threw out Syed’s conviction, saying that the state had failed to turn over exculpatory evidence with the defense. Prosecutors declined to recharge the case, entering what is known as a “nolle prosequi” in the court record.
In December, Young Lee, Hae Min’s brother, filed an appeal arguing that prosecutors violated state law requiring them to give sufficient notice of hearings to victims or their representatives so they may attend in person.
In its ruling on Tuesday, the Maryland appeals court agreed with Lee that the state violated his rights by giving him just one business day’s notice, and said “this court has the power and obligation to remedy those violations, as long we can do so without violating Mr Syed’s right to be free from double jeopardy”.
But the ruling also suggests Syed will not remain convicted for long and that the reinstatement will be temporary until the hearing is repeated.
Former US vice-president Mike Pence must testify in front of a grand jury investigating Donald Trump’s election subversion and incitement of the January 6 attack on Congress, a federal judge reportedly ruled on Tuesday.
Trump and Pence himself have both sought to stop Pence from testifying in the justice department investigation of Trump’s attempt to overturn his defeat by Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. ... Lawyers for Trump cited executive privilege, the concept that communications between a president and aides are protected.
Lawyers for Pence argued he was protected by the separation of powers, via the vice-president’s role as president of the Senate, which he performed on 6 January 2021, the day supporters who were told to “fight like hell” by Trump tried to block certification of Biden’s win.
On Tuesday, James E Boasberg, a judge in federal district court in Washington DC, reportedly rejected both arguments.
Plastics are responsible for wide-ranging health impacts including cancers, lung disease and birth defects, according to the first analysis of the health hazards of plastics across their entire life cycle – from extraction for manufacturing, through to dumping into landfill and oceans. Led by the Boston College Global Observatory on Planetary Health in partnership with Australia’s Minderoo Foundation and the Centre Scientifique de Monaco, the review found “current patterns of plastic production, use, and disposal are not sustainable and are responsible for significant harms to human health … as well as for deep societal injustices”.
“The main driver of these worsening harms is an almost exponential and still accelerating increase in global plastic production,” the analysis, published in the medical journal Annals of Global Health, found. “Plastics’ harms are further magnified by low rates of recovery and recycling and by the long persistence of plastic waste in the environment.”
Coalminers, oil workers and gas field workers who extract fossil carbon feedstocks for plastic production, along with plastic production workers, were at particular risk of harm, the report found. These workers “suffer increased mortality from traumatic injury … silicosis, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lung cancer,” the report said.
“Plastic production workers are at increased risk of leukaemia, lymphoma … brain cancer, breast cancer, mesothelioma … and decreased fertility. Plastic recycling workers have increased rates of cardiovascular disease, toxic metal poisoning, neuropathy, and lung cancer.” Meanwhile, residents of communities adjacent to plastic production and waste disposal sites experience increased risks of premature birth, low birth weight, asthma, childhood leukaemia, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lung cancer. The report referred to evidence that infants in the womb and young children were at particularly high risk.
The UK is “strikingly unprepared” for the impacts of the climate crisis, according to the Climate Change Committee (CCC), which said there had been a “lost decade” in efforts to adapt for the impacts of global heating. The CCC, the government’s official climate adviser, said climate damages will inevitably intensify for decades to come. It has warned repeatedly of poor preparation in the past and said government action was now urgently needed to protect people and their homes and livelihoods.
The extreme heatwave in 2022, when temperatures surpassed 40C for the first time, was both an example and a warning, the CCC said. More than 3,000 people died early and 20% of hospital operations were cancelled at the peak of the heatwave, while rail lines buckled, wildfires raged and farmers struggled with drought. “It won’t be long before those kinds of very hot summers are a normal summer,” said Chris Stark, CCC chief executive.
Areas where needed action is missing include heat-proofing homes, stemming leaks from water supply pipes and preparing for flash floods and shortages of food and other imports from nations struck by climate impacts.
“The government is not putting together a plan that reflects the scale and the nature of the risks that face the whole country,” said Stark. “This is completely critical. There is no option but to adapt to the change in the climate. The question is only whether we do that well by doing it early or wait until later.”
A local Democratic lawmaker in Baltimore on Tuesday credited community members and clean water advocates for helping to secure an environmental victory, as the City Council unanimously approved a resolution to block shipments of contaminated wastewater from East Palestine, Ohio.
Days after water treatment company Clean Harbors informed Baltimore and Maryland officials that it intended to receive 675,000 gallons of contaminated wastewater containing vinyl chloride and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from the site of a toxic train derailment in February, Councilmember Zeke Cohen introduced a resolution on Monday to stop the shipment.
The treatment facility where the wastewater would be going, the resolution noted, has been operated by the state since March 2022 "due to catastrophic failures at the facility that led to illegal releases of partially treated sewage."
"Ongoing sludge management issues" have also been identified as a cause of a recent explosion at the plant, which treats water that ultimately flows into the Chesapeake Bay, and the neighborhoods surrounding the facility "have an air toxics risk in the 80th-100th percentile and wastewater discharges in the 90th-100th percentile, nationally."
"The decision to send at least 675,000 gallons (that's at least 20 train cars) of contaminated water to an already environmentally overburdened community is reckless," tweeted Cohen on Monday as he introduced the resolution. "We stand in solidarity with the people of East Palestine. We understand all too well the long-term costs of environmental injustice."
"But now is not the time, and our city is not the place to clean up Norfolk Southern's mess," he added, referring to the rail company responsible for the derailment in East Palestine.
Environmental justice group Blue Water Baltimore demanded to know last week why U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials "believe it is appropriate to send the toxic waste that is too dangerous for East Palestine to the shores of Baltimore."
"It is entirely inappropriate to further stress-test this facility by adding even more toxic contaminants to the waste-stream from wastewater produced outside of the watershed," said the group.
The February 3 derailment involved several train cars carrying vinyl chloride and has so far led Norfolk Southern to remove more than eight million gallons of wastewater from the town, shipping it to facilities in states including Michigan and Texas.
Residents of East Palestine have reported symptoms including headaches and vomiting since leaders told them the town was safe to return to following a brief evacuation. Soil near the crash site has been found to contain levels of dioxin that far exceed the cancer risk threshold recommended by scientists.
Democratic Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said late Monday that following the City Council's unanimous adoption of Cohen's resolution, city lawyers concluded he could legally modify a sewage permit and halt City Harbors' plan, which was overseen by the EPA.
"Thank you to Mayor Scott for taking bold and decisive action to deny Clean Harbors from discharging toxic water from East Palestine into our wastewater collection system," said Cohen.
The council member said the victory "was made possible because elected officials listened to voices on the ground."
Residents of the Houston area spoke out last month about plans to inject toxic wastewater from East Palestine into the ground in a suburban area, and Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, a Republican, blocked a shipment of contaminated soil earlier this month.
"Too often cities with high rates of concentrated poverty and environmental degradation are asked to shoulder the burden for corporate malfeasance," said Cohen on Monday. "East Palestine and Baltimore deserve better."
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Ben E King - Spanish Harlem
Ben E. King - That's when it hurts
Ben E King and The Drifters - This Magic Moment
Ben E. King - Don't Play That Song
Ben E King and The Drifters - Save the Last Dance for Me
Ben E. King and The Drifters - There Goes My Baby
Ben E King - Young Boy Blues
Ben E. King - Too Bad
Ben E King - I'm Standing By