The Evening Blues - 11-17-23
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues singer, songwriter and guitarist Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter. Enjoy!
Leadbelly - Where Did you Sleep Last Night
"International law? I better call my lawyer; he didn't bring that up to me."
-- George W. Bush
News and Opinion
On Tuesday night, after two weeks of constant bombardment that killed dozens of doctors, patients and refugees, Israeli forces entered Al-Shifa hospital and raised the Israeli flag over it. Just hours before, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre asserted that “Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad use some hospitals in the Gaza Strip, including Al-Shifa, and tunnels underneath them to conceal and to support their military operations and to hold hostages.” The US media went even further, with Fox News describing Al-Shifa as a “hospital used as Hamas underground terror HQ.”
These claims proved to be a complete lie. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) produced no hostages, no underground bunker. After searching a sprawling hospital complex that at one point housed 60,000 people in the middle of an active war zone, the IDF could only show a few assault rifles and two flak jackets as “evidence.”
The real reason Al-Shifa was attacked was symbolic. The hospital’s medical workers, subject to continuous bombardment and sniper fire, defied orders by the IDF to leave, saying they would rather die than abandon their patients. Their courage and defiance in the face of Israel’s genocide won the solidarity and support of millions of people all over the world.
The First and Second Geneva Conventions of 1949 stipulate that hospitals and other medical units must not be attacked and should be protected at all times. This includes civilian and military hospitals. Attacking hospitals and medical personnel is a war crime under international criminal law. In the face of emphatic declarations by the United Nations, the World Health Organization (WHO), and countless human rights organizations that hospitals are “not a target,” Israel and its imperialist backers are sending a different message: Yes, they are.
While the US repeatedly attacked hospitals during the “war on terror,” it sought to present these actions as accidents. In October 2015, a US airstrike killed at least 22 people in a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. At the time, US President Barack Obama issued an apology, claiming the strike was a “mistake.” Now, however, the United States is upholding attacks on hospitals and other war crimes as legitimate acts of “self defense.” As US officials have repeatedly declared in response to Israeli massacres at hospitals in Gaza, there are no “red lines.”
Since the start of Israel’s assault on Gaza, the WHO has recorded at least 137 attacks on healthcare facilities, resulting in 521 deaths and 686 injuries, including 16 deaths and 38 injuries of health workers. These statistics do not include the most horrific attack on a hospital, the October 17, 2023 Al-Ahli Arab Hospital bombing that killed between 250 and 471 people, but which Israel and the United States, citing evidence that was quickly disproven, claimed was the result of a rocket fired from Gaza. Israel’s war on hospitals is part of a systematic campaign of genocide. The deliberate targeting of civilian populations, children, medical workers and aid workers has been elevated to a governing principle.
The New York Times reports Israel attacked the largest hospital in Gaza in hopes the raid would cause Hamas to relent and accept a hostage deal on terms proposed by Tel Aviv. An Israeli official said that if Hamas accepts the agreement, Tel Aviv will resume the war in Gaza after the exchange of captives.
The outlet reported, “Israel believes that Wednesday’s raid on Al-Shifa Hospital will put pressure on Hamas to finish a deal to trade dozens of Israeli captives for Palestinian prisoners, according to two senior Israeli officials.” It adds, “Israel believes that by taking Shifa, which it says Hamas uses as a military command center and its patients as human shields, the militant group is deprived of a key asset and more inclined to trade hostages, according to officials.” Tel Aviv has failed to prove its claims the Shifa hospital was being used as headquarters for Hamas or a holding area for hostages. The Israeli raid on the hospital uncovered a few rifles and uniforms. ...
The agreement, currently under mediation through Qatar, would see Hamas release captives taken on October 7 and Israel release Palestinians held in prisons. The release of children and women will be prioritized. Additionally, there would be a three or five-day pause in fighting to allow the agreement to unfold. During the halt in fighting, Israel will allow aid into Gaza. Axios reports that Israeli negotiators have pressed to decrease the length of any pause in the war.
Israeli War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz explained even if Tel Aviv agrees to a short pause to military operations in Gaza, it plans to settle the war with its military. “Even if we are required to pause fighting in order to return our hostages, there will be no stopping the combat and the war until we achieve our goals,” he said.
The Israeli military said late on Thursday that it uncovered a Hamas tunnel shaft and a vehicle with weapons at Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital complex. “In the Shifa hospital, IDF [Israel Defense Forces] troops found an operational tunnel shaft and a vehicle containing a large number of weapons,” the military said. It made videos and photographs of the tunnel shaft and weapons public, but no independent verification was possible. ...
Hamas and medical administrators have strenuously denied the allegation the hospital was a command centre and the health ministry in Gaza said the Israeli military did not find any weapons in the hospital. A British doctor working at Shifa said the charge was an “outlandish excuse”. ...
John Kirby, the White House national security spokesperson, was questioned by reporters on Thursday about the evidence Israel had so far produced to back its claims. “We have our own intelligence that convinces us that Hamas was using al-Shifa as a command and control node and most likely as well as a storage facility,” Kirby said. “They were sheltering themselves in the hospital, using the hospital as a shield against military action, placing the patients and medical staff at greater risk. We are still convinced of the soundness of that intelligence.” ...
Human Rights Watch said on Thursday that images released by Israel of weapons it says its soldiers found inside Shifa were not sufficient to justify revoking the hospital’s status as protected by the laws of war. “Hospitals only lose those protections if it can be shown that harmful acts have been carried out from the premises. The Israeli government hasn’t provided any evidence of that.”
Israel has dropped leaflets into southern Gaza telling Palestinian civilians to leave four towns on the eastern edge of Khan Younis, raising fears that its war against Hamas could spread to areas it previously said were safe. The flyers told civilians in Bani Shuhaila, Khuza’a, Abassan and al-Qarara that anyone in the vicinity of militants or their positions was “putting his life in danger”, local people told Reuters. ...
Tens of thousands of people have fled from north to south Gaza in recent weeks, crowding into UN-run shelters and family homes in Khan Younis, the biggest city in the south.
The UN’s human rights chief, Volker Türk, said that five weeks into the war, “massive outbreaks of infectious disease, and hunger” seemed inevitable in the densely populated Palestinian territory. He predicted catastrophic consequences if fuel supplies ran out, including the collapse of sewage systems and healthcare and an end to the already scarce supplies of humanitarian aid. ...
On Wednesday, Israel’s defence minister, Yoav Gallant, said the IDF’s ground operation would eventually “include both the north and south”. “We will strike Hamas wherever it is,” he said.
Two-thirds of the Gaza Strip’s population of 2.3 million have been made homeless by the war and every available space in Khan Younis and other southern towns is crammed.
Israel's war on Gaza has killed more than 11,000 Palestinians, including over 100 civilian victims of a single Israeli bombing in the densely populated Jabalia refugee camp on October 31 who were publicly identified on Thursday by the U.K.-based watchdog Airwars.
The group identified 116 names of civilians killed in the strike—including 10 cases with the death of multiple family members, three of which reportedly involved entire families being wiped out. The estimated civilian death toll is 126-136, including 69 children.
Airwars noted on social media that this is "the most named victims we have ever monitored in a single event," and "almost every named victim we found died along with at least one other family member."
The analysis is just for the Israeli attack on October 31, but the group is separately reviewing a strike from the following day. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed both bombings and claimed to be targeting "a very senior Hamas commander."
As Guardian reporting cited by Airwars detailed:
A spokesperson for the Israeli military said the attack had been authorized to assassinate a senior Hamas commander and destroy his base. IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari named the target as Ibrahim Biari, commander of Central Jabaliya Battalion, who he said had been leading fighting in northern Gaza from a network of tunnels under the camp.
Hagari declined to comment on how many munitions, or which types, were used to target the camp, or identify which craters were caused by tunnel collapses. He said Israel would provide some of these details at a later date.
But a visual analysis by The Guardian has identified at least five craters in the densely populated refugee camp, which weapons experts said were left by the use of multiple JDAMs—joint direct attack munitions—in the airstrike.
"Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem denied any senior commander there and called the claim an Israeli pretext for killing civilians," according to Reuters.
Ahmad al-Kahlout, a spokesperson for the Hamas-controlled Gaza Interior Ministry in Gaza, told reporters at the time that "these buildings house hundreds of citizens. The occupation's air force destroyed this district with six U.S.-made bombs. It is the latest massacre caused by Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip."
Hagari claimed the IDF killed "scores" of militants alongside Biari.
"With ambiguity around the exact number of militants killed, Airwars has applied a 12-24 combatant casualty range to account for comments such as 'dozens' of targets killed," the watchdog said.
Those in the camp remain at risk. Middle East Eye reported Wednesday that "renewed heavy Israeli shelling has targeted residential homes in the Jabalia refugee camp. Footage showed blocks falling to the ground and survivors digging in the rubble with their hands to retrieve dead bodies."
The Israeli army released a propaganda photo of one of its soldiers helping an elderly Palestinian man with a walking stick in an attempt to showcase its “safe corridor” for civilians fleeing northern Gaza. Shortly afterwards, Bashir Hajji, a 79-year-old resident of Gaza City's Zaytoun neighbourhood, was executed in cold blood by Israeli soldiers, according to Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor.
The photo published on social media by the Israeli army was taken on 10 November, as Hajji walked on the Salah al-Din Road, the main route towards southern Gaza. According to his family, he was alone and had difficulty walking. Hajji’s granddaughter, Hala Hajji, told the Euro-Med Monitor team that he was executed after the photo was taken with one bullet to the head and back. "He died tired, cold, thirsty & hungry," she wrote in a post on Instagram, confirming her grandfather's death.
A photo of Hajji's body was also circulated by the human rights organisation.
In a pioneering move for a major U.S. newspaper, the Los Angeles Times' editorial board on Thursday joined growing global demands for a cease-fire in Israel's war on the Gaza Strip.
"It has become impossible to distinguish between Israel's decidedly nonsurgical operation against Hamas militants in Gaza and the indiscriminate killing of Palestinian civilians," the editorial board wrote. "When so-called humanitarian pauses in the bombardment and ground operations are too brief to realistically permit innocents to flee, or when there is no place for noncombatants to go that is not also in the line of fire, such pauses are so deficient as to be meaningless."
"It is time for a cease-fire," the board declared, urging U.S. President Joe Biden to pressure Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop attacks on the besieged enclave that have killed more than 11,400 Palestinians, including at least 4,710 children, and displaced over 1.5 million. "The world cannot stand by to witness more slaughter of civilians."
Progressives in Congress and Jewish advocates for Palestinian rights were among those applauding Thursday as U.S. Rep. Becca Balint became the first Jewish federal lawmaker—and the first representing Vermont—to support a cease-fire in Gaza.
Balint (D-Vt.) reversed her earlier position, writing in the VTDigger that the anguish she has felt since Hamas killed about 1,200 Israelis and kidnapped 240 people "has only grown" in the past month as Israel's "ensuing siege has killed thousands of civilians in Gaza who were already struggling under Hamas rule and Israeli blockade."
Echoing 31 other members of Congress who have demanded the Biden administration call for a cease-fire—an action that would likely put a swift end to the deadly bombing of hospitals, refugee shelters, and homes in Gaza—Balint strongly condemned Hamas and said stopping the bombardment could facilitate the return of hostages.
"I'm one generation removed from the horrific trauma of the Holocaust, which impacted my family and reshaped the world," wrote Balint. "Like me, there are thousands of American Jews that share a deep emotional connection to Israel because of what it meant for the survival of the Jewish people in the face of extermination. This same history also drives so many of us to fight for the protection of Palestinian lives. I do not claim to know how to solve every aspect of this decadeslong conflict. But what I do know is that killing civilians, and killing children, is an abomination and categorically unacceptable—no matter who the civilians are, and no matter who the children are."
"What is needed right now is an immediate break in violence to allow for a true negotiated cease-fire," she continued. "One in which both sides stop the bloodshed, allow critical access to humanitarian aid, and move towards negotiating a sustainable and lasting peace."
The congresswoman added that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's current strategy "does not make Israel safer" and in addition to killing at least 11,470 Palestinian civilians, Israel is likely fueling "recruitment for terrorist groups like Hamas."
"This pattern further undermines the security of both Palestinians and Israelis," wrote Balint. "The aerial bombing must end."
A pro-Palestinian student group in Florida is suing the state’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, and the university system for trying to “deactivate” it in a manner that violates the students’ free speech rights.
The University of Florida chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (UF SJP) filed the suit on Thursday in a federal court in Gainesville. It calls on the court to block what amounts to one of the first attempts in the US to silence a pro-Palestinian student group amid the roiling fallout of the Israel-Hamas war on American campuses.
Last month the chancellor of Florida’s university system, Raymond Rodrigues, issued a “deactivation order” targeted at UF SJP. The order, which Rodrigues said had been framed “in consultation with DeSantis”, instructed all University of Florida personnel to strip the student group of official recognition.
Rodrigues based his decision on the actions of the national entity of SJP which he accused of engaging in “support of terrorism”. The Florida chapter insists that it has had nothing to do with the national body and its controversial statements. In the lawsuit, UF SJP argues that it is fully autonomous and has no financial or other ties with the national body. The Florida chapter was founded in 2009 as a “human rights advocacy organization” with the mission of finding “a just and reasonable solution to the Palestine-Israel conflict”.
A spokesperson for UF SJP said that the aim of the lawsuit was to counter any official attempt to silence them or “others like us. As students on a public college campus we have every right to engage in human rights advocacy and promote public awareness and activism for a just and reasonable solution to the Palestine-Israel conflict.”
The US Senate took the risk of an impending partial government shutdown off the table on Wednesday as it passed a stopgap spending bill and sent it to Joe Biden to sign into law before a weekend deadline.
The 87-11 vote marked the end of this year’s third fiscal standoff in Congress that saw lawmakers bring Washington to the brink of defaulting on its more than $31tn in debt this spring and twice within days of a partial shutdown that would have interrupted pay for about four million federal workers.
But lawmakers have bought themselves just a little more than two months’ breathing room. The Democratic-majority Senate and Republican-controlled House of Representatives’ next deadline is 19 January, just days after the Iowa caucuses signal the start of the 2024 presidential campaign season.
Protesters against Israel’s military offensive in Gaza were locked in a battle of words with Washington police on Thursday after accusing officers of violently breaking up a demonstration on Capitol Hill that organisers insist was peaceful.
Leaders of the Ceasefire Now Coalition said 90 of their activists were injured in confrontations that took place after they staged a candlelit vigil outside the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters on Wednesday evening.
The coalition said volunteers were pepper-sprayed, kicked, pulled by the hair and dragged down flights of stairs by officers in riot gear, who they accused of ignoring longstanding protocols for non-violent protest by failing to issue dispersal notices or engage with the rally’s specially designated police liaison representative.
But in a rebuttal, police said the group was “not peaceful” and said six officers had to be treated for injuries after being pepper-sprayed and punched. One 24-year-old protester was arrested for allegedly slamming a female officer into a garage door and punching her in the face, police said in a statement. They also accused the protesters of moving dumpsters to block entrances.
“We have handled hundreds of peaceful protests, but last night’s group was not peaceful,” the police statement said. “The crowd failed to obey our lawful orders to move back from the DNC, where members of Congress were in the building. ...
In a video news conference, the coalition denied the accusations of aggression against police and pointed to video footage which it said showed only officers committing acts of violence.
A federal judge declared a mistrial on Thursday afternoon after a jury deadlocked on civil rights charges against a former Louisville police officer who fired stray bullets in the raid that left Breonna Taylor dead.
Brett Hankison was charged with using excessive force that violated the rights of Breonna Taylor, her boyfriend and her nextdoor neighbors. Hankison fired 10 shots into Taylor’s window and a glass door after officers came under fire during the flawed drug warrant search on 13 March 2020. Some of his shots flew into a neighboring apartment, but none of them struck anyone.
The 12-member, mostly white jury struggled to reach a verdict over several days. On Thursday afternoon, they sent a note to the judge saying they were at an impasse. Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings urged them to keep trying, and they returned to deliberations.
The judge reported that there were “elevated voices” coming from the jury room at times during deliberations this week, and court security officials had to visit the room. Jurors told the judge on Thursday they were deadlocked on both counts against Hankison, and could not come to a decision.
The mistrial could result in a retrial of Hankison, but that would be determined by federal prosecutors at a later date.
A New York appeals court judge on Thursday paused a gag order that barred Donald Trump from commenting on court staffers in his civil fraud trial. The trial judge had imposed the gag order last month and later fined Trump $15,000 for violations after the former president made a disparaging social media post about a court clerk.
In his decision, Judge David Friedman of the state’s intermediate appeals court cited constitutional concerns about restricting Trump’s free speech. He issued a stay of the gag order, allowing Trump to comment freely about court staff while a longer appeals process plays out.
Trump’s lawyers filed a lawsuit against the trial judge, Arthur Engoron, late on Wednesday challenging the gag order as an abuse of power. Friedman scheduled an emergency hearing for Thursday afternoon around a conference table in a state appellate courthouse a couple of miles from where the trial is unfolding.
Air, water, soil, food and even blood – microplastics have found their way virtually everywhere on Earth, and now that list includes clouds. Bits of plastic particles were recently discovered above eastern China, with new research showing that these microplastics could influence cloud formation and the weather.
A group of scientists from Shandong University in China collected cloud water atop Mount Tai, finding microplastics in 24 out of 28 samples. They include polyethylene terephthalate (otherwise known as PET), polypropylene, polyethylene and polystyrene, all particles commonly found in synthetic fibers, clothing and textiles, as well as packaging and face masks.
“This finding provides significant evidence of the presence of abundant MP’s [microplastics] in clouds,” the researchers stated in the paper published today in Environmental Science and Technology Letters. ...
Aged plastics – in other words, ones that have already been weathered from ultraviolet radiation – were smaller in size and had rougher surfaces. They also contained more lead, mercury and oxygen compared to pristine, untouched plastics. Scientists found that clouds can modify microplastics, possibly resulting in these particles affecting cloud formation.
“Cloud formation has a huge implication for not just our local weather patterns, but for our global temperatures,” said Fay Couceiro, a professor of environmental pollution at the University of Portsmouth, who was not involved in the study. Clouds affect the climate in a plethora of ways. They produce precipitation and snow, affecting global rainfall and vegetation. Clouds block sunlight, cooling the surface of the planet and providing shade on the ground. But they can also trap heat and humidity, subsequently warming the air.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Leadbelly - House of the Rising Sun
The Animals - House Of The Rising Sun
Leadbelly - Black Betty
Ram Jam – Black Betty
R.L. Burnside - Old Black Mattie
North Mississippi Allstars - Po Black Maddie
Leadbelly - Gallows Pole
Led Zeppelin - Gallows Pole
Appalachian Road Show - Gallows Pole
Alvin Youngblood Hart - Gallows Pole
Leadbelly - When I Was a Cowboy
Rory Gallagher - Out On The Western Plain
Leadbelly - Goodnight Irene
Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band ~ Goodnight Irene
Leon Russell – Goodnight Irene
Dr. John - Goodnight Irene