The Evening Blues - 6-9-23
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues piano player Detroit Junior. Enjoy!
Detroit Jr - The Way I Feel
"The most odious of all oppressions are those which mask as justice."
-- Robert H. Jackson
News and Opinion
Julian Assange has lost his appeal against extradition to the US on espionage charges.
The judgment was handed down privately on Monday at the High Court.
WikiLeaks founder Assange, 51, launched the appeal last June after then-Home Secretary Priti Patel signed an order authorizing his removal.
Yesterday his wife Stella said that he will appeal the decision. It will be Assange's last chance to overturn the ruling before his options in the UK courts are exhausted. ...
There is still a chance that his extradition could be blocked by a last minute intervention from judges in Europe.
In December, Assange appealed to the European Court of Human Rights.
To halt his extradition now, the European Court would have to issue an emergency injunction known as a Rule 39 order.
This allows a judge to effectively block any action until further legal proceedings to decide on the merits of a case.
Intn'l Federation of Journalists: "The UK decision to allow the extradition of #Assange is vindictive and a real blow to media freedom"
Amnesty: "sends a chilling message to journalists the world over"
RSF: "implications for journalism around the world cannot be overstated" pic.twitter.com/HnYwfzvf6y
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) June 8, 2023
With this week marking 10 years since whistleblower Edward Snowden disclosed information to journalists about widespread government spying by United States and British agencies, the former National Security Agency contractor on Thursday joined other advocates in warning that the fight for privacy rights, while making several inroads in the past decade, has grown harder due to major changes in technology.
"If we think about what we saw in 2013 and the capabilities of governments today," Snowden told The Guardian, "2013 seems like child's play."
Snowden said that the advent of commercially available surveillance products such as Ring cameras, Pegasus spyware, and facial recognition technology has posed new dangers.
As Common Dreams has reported, the home security company Ring has faced legal challenges due to security concerns and its products' vulnerability to hacking, and has faced criticism from rights groups for partnering with more than 1,000 police departments—including some with histories of police violence—and leaving community members vulnerable to harassment or wrongful arrests.
Law enforcement agencies have also begun using facial recognition technology to identify crime suspects despite the fact that the software is known to frequently misidentify people of color—leading to the wrongful arrest and detention earlier this year of Randal Reid in Georgia, among other cases.
Last month, journalists and civil society groups called for a global moratorium on the sale and transfer of spyware like Pegasus, which has been used to target dozens of journalists in at least 10 countries.
Protecting the public from surveillance "is an ongoing process," Snowden told The Guardian on Thursday. "And we will have to be working at it for the rest of our lives and our children's lives and beyond."
A group of Republican senators on Thursday introduced a bill to repeal the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) that was passed in the wake of the September 11th attacks and is still being used to justify wars today.
The End Endless Wars Act was introduced by Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Mike Lee (R-UT), JD Vance (R-OH), and Mike Braun (R-IN). The legislation would repeal the 2001 AUMF 180 days after its enactment.
“If there exists any desire to reclaim our Constitutional power and send a message to the world that we are a nation of peace, Congress should pass this bill and repeal the 2001 Authorization for war. After all, the 2001 AUMF never intended to authorize worldwide war, all the time, everywhere, forever,” said Sen. Paul, according to a press release from his office. ...
The 2001 AUMF currently authorizes war in Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, and several other countries. There’s been a push in Congress to repeal the 2002 AUMF that was used for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, but that authorization is not used today, and repealing it won’t end any current wars.
Ukr Offensive Standstill, Leo2 Tanks Destroyed, No Ground Taken; China-Russia Increase Military Ties
A substantial Ukrainian force was pushing an assault against Russian positions in the south on Thursday, in an intensification of fighting that some Ukrainian officials and western analysts said marked the start in earnest of Kyiv’s much-vaunted counteroffensive.
The combat against Russian positions south of Zaporizhzhia included western-supplied tanks and armoured vehicles and infantry backed by artillery. There were reports of intense fighting outside the town of Tokmak, a key Russian logistical hub.
Asked about US media reports that the counteroffensive had begun, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s general staff said: “We have no such information. And we do not comment on anonymous sources.”
Ukrainian officials, however, have insisted that they would not make an official announcement when the counteroffensive begins and have cautioned against focusing on a single area, suggesting it could involve a number of components.
The Institute for the Study of War, a US-based thinktank that has been producing daily updates on the war, said it had concluded on Thursday that the Ukrainian counteroffensive had begun.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Tuesday that Ukraine has received a “powerful offer” from countries that are willing to provide their American-made F-16 fighter jets.
Since President Biden approved the delivery of F-16s from Europe to Ukraine, it hasn’t been clear which countries will send the jets. European nations that are expected to arm Ukraine with their F-16s include the Netherlands, Belgium, and Denmark, but they haven’t made a commitment.
Zelensky signaled that a deal on the aircraft will be reached soon. “Our partners know how many aircraft we need,” he said. “I have already received an understanding of the number from some of our European partners … It is a serious, powerful offer.”
The US authorities must give a concrete answer as to whether or not they know how American weapons are being used on the territory of Ukraine, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a briefing in comments on the attack on the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant.
Against the backdrop of the recent attack on the Kakhovka HPP, she pointed to a statement made last December by Ukrainian General Andrey Kovalchuk in an interview with The Washington Post, in which he said that the Ukrainian army had already conducted a test strike from a US HIMARS system on one of the dam's gates to punch it and see how high the water level of the Dnieper River rises.
"Now, the question for [White House National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John] Kirby, [White House Press Secretary] Karin Jean-Pierre, all the people who are in charge of communications at the White House. [...] Were you aware of how American weapons, the weapons that are being supplied to Ukraine, are used?" she asked.
"That trial tests of a terrorist attack against civilian infrastructure in third countries are being made? These are the questions that we directly pose in the public space before the White House; you must answer them," she said, adding that the attack on the Kakhovka HPP "is certainly an act of terrorism."
The Russian embassy in the United States said on Wednesday that a report the United States knew of a Ukrainian plan to attack the Nord Stream natural gas pipelines was part of a coordinated Western attempt to confuse the world over the truth.
The Washington Post reported on Tuesday, citing leaked information posted online that the CIA learned last June, through a European spy agency, that a six-person team of Ukrainian special operations forces intended to blow up the Russia-to-Germany project.
"The coordinated campaign of the West, led by the United States, to confuse the international community is sewn with white threads," Russian diplomat Andrey Ledenev was quoted as saying in a post on the embassy's Telegram messaging channel.
"The reason for the proliferating theories and versions, supported by the notorious 'confidential' data of the local intelligence community, is simple to the point of banality."
China has reached a secret deal with Cuba to establish an electronic eavesdropping facility on the island roughly 100 miles (160km) from Florida, the Wall Street Journal has reported, but the US and Cuban governments cast strong doubt on the report.
Such a spy installation would allow Beijing to gather electronic communications from the south-eastern United States, which houses many US military bases, as well as to monitor ship traffic, the newspaper reported.
The US Central Command headquarters is based in Tampa. Fort Liberty, formerly Fort Bragg, the largest US military base, is based in North Carolina.
The countries have reached an agreement in principle, the officials said, with China to pay Cuba “several billion dollars” to allow the eavesdropping station, according to the Journal.
“We have seen the report. It’s not accurate,” John Kirby, spokesperson for the White House national security council, told Reuters. But he did not specify what he thought was incorrect. He said the United States has had “real concerns” about China’s relationship with Cuba and was closely monitoring it.
Republican governors from 14 states are sending national guard troops and other personnel to the Texas-Mexico border in a show of force that immigration advocates warn risks lives and critics denounce as “political stunts”.
Florida’s Ron DeSantis has assigned the most – 1,100 people, including 500 national guard and others such as law enforcement officers, a group about 10 times larger than the anti-immigration governor sent in 2021.
Others have promised troops are on the way or will arrive in the next three months from Arkansas, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia and elsewhere, with governors using words such as “crisis” or “war zone” and accusing Joe Biden of “failing to repel illegals” in their public announcements.
Their rush answers a call from the Texas governor, Greg Abbott, for reinforcements, citing an emergency, amid his repeated challenges to federal authority at the border. Abbott said that since 2021 “Texas has spent more than $4.5bn on essential border security operations, and the Texas legislature is currently contemplating an additional $4.6bn for the next two years.”
State personnel do not have the power to process people crossing the US-Mexico border to request asylum, which comes under federal authority, and experts caution their presence is confusing, intimidating and potentially dangerous.
Alabama discriminated against Black voters when it drew its seven congressional districts last year, the supreme court has ruled, a decision that is a major victory for the Voting Rights Act (VRA).
The decision was 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joining the court’s three liberal justices in the opinion. Writing for the majority of the court, Roberts noted the court was rejecting Alabama’s effort to get it to rewrite its longstanding interpretation of section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which outlaws voting practices that discriminate on the basis of race. The decision means that section 2 of the law, one of its last remaining powerful provisions, will remain intact. ...
The decision in the case, Allen v Milligan, means that Alabama will have to draw its congressional map to include a second majority-Black district. Black voters currently comprise a majority of the voting age population in just one district, despite making up a quarter of the state’s population.
“This decision is a crucial win against the continued onslaught of attacks on voting rights,” Deuel Ross, an attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund who argued on behalf of the plaintiffs, said in a statement. “Alabama attempted to rewrite federal law by saying race had no place in redistricting. But because of the state’s sordid and well-documented history of racial discrimination, race must be used to remedy that past and ensure communities of color are not boxed out of the electoral process.”
The ruling also is a boon to similar cases in Louisiana, Texas and Georgia, where litigants currently are suing to require the drawing of additional majority-minority districts. “This precedent also lays a foundation for fair map decisions in our other Section 2 cases,” said Marina Jenkins, the executive director of the National Redistricting Foundation, a Democratic-aligned group that is involved in those cases.
Former President Donald Trump has been indicted on seven counts in the special counsel’s classified documents probe, a stunning development that marks the first time a former president has faced federal charges.
Trump is facing a charge under the Espionage Act, his attorney Jim Trusty said on CNN Thursday, as well as charges of obstruction of justice, destruction or falsification of records, conspiracy and false statements.
The special counsel has been investigating Trump’s handling of classified documents that were brought to his Mar-a-Lago Florida resort after he left the White House in 2021, as well as possible obstruction of the investigation and government efforts to retrieve the material.
The former president wrote on Truth Social that he had been informed by the Justice Department he was indicted and that he was “summoned to appear at the Federal Courthouse in Miami on Tuesday, at 3 PM.”
“The corrupt Biden Administration has informed my attorneys that I have been Indicted, seemingly over the Boxes Hoax,” Trump wrote.
The US experienced its worst toxic air pollution from wildfire smoke in its recent recorded history on Wednesday, researchers have found, with people in New York exposed to levels of pollution more than five times above the national air quality standard.
The rapid analysis of the extreme event, shared with the Guardian, found that smoke billowing south from forest fires in Canada caused Americans to suffer the worst day of average exposure to such pollution since a dataset on smoky conditions started in 2006.
“It’s the worst by far, I mean, Jesus, it was bad,” said Marshall Burke, an environmental scientist at Stanford University who led the work. “It’s hard to believe to be honest, we had to quadruple check it to see if it was right. We have not seen events like this, or even close to this, on the east coast before. This is a historic event.”
The Stanford researchers calculated that the average American on Wednesday was exposed to 27.5 micrograms per cubic meter of small particulate matter carried within the plumes of smoke. These tiny flecks of soot, dust and other burned debris, known as PM2.5, bury deep in the lungs when inhaled and are linked to a variety of health conditions and can cause deaths.
In the scramble before the end of Texas’s legislative session last week, a must-pass bill was amended to impose new costs upon renewable energy. This came amid a barrage of anti-solar and wind power measures pushed forward by Republicans to reshape a state that has become the US’s powerhouse of clean energy.
But the conservative lawmakers had help.
Sections of the bill that impose new burdens upon clean energy providers were directly crafted and edited by the Texas Public Policy Foundation (or TPPF), a conservative group that has led the backlash to renewables and to make what it calls “the moral case for fossil fuels”, according to a copy of the draft language seen by the Guardian.
Several dozen edits were made to the bill’s amendments by Brent Bennett, a TPPF policy staffer, the document shows, and Texas lawmakers subsequently passed parts of this language along with the key TPPF desires – to impose new transmission costs on renewables and require them to source fossil fuel “backup” power when the sun isn’t shining or wind isn’t blowing.
The passage of the bill, which funds the ongoing operation of the Public Utility Commission of Texas, was the flagship victory for TPPF even as a raft of other Republican bills that would have “shut down the renewable energy industry in Texas”, as energy analyst Doug Lewin put it, faltered.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Detroit Jr - So Unhappy
Detroit Jr - Turn Up The Heat
Detroit Jr - Too Poor
Detroit Jr - Call My Job
Detroit Junior - All Through With Love
Detroit Junior - Dance with Me Baby
Detroit Jr. - I Got Money
Detroit Jr. - Money Crazy
Detroit Junior - Boogie Blues
Detroit Junior - If I Hadn't Been High