The Evening Blues - 1-29-16


Hey! Good Evening!

This evening's music features Chicago blues guitarist and singer Son Seals. Enjoy!

Son Seals - Call My Job

“Deregulation is a transfer of power from the trodden to the treading. It is unsurprising that all conservative parties claim to hate big government.”

-- George Monbiot

News and Opinion

Elizabeth Warren Challenges Clinton, Sanders to Prosecute Corporate Crime Better Than Obama

Three days before the Iowa caucuses, Senator Elizabeth Warren has released what might have been her closing argument had she been a candidate in the presidential race.

It’s a thorough indictment of a rigged system in Washington that allows corporate criminals to go free while those without the same power and influence get severely punished.

The report – a 12-page booklet entitled Rigged Justice: How Weak Enforcement Lets Corporate Offenders Off Easycites 20 well-documented civil and criminal cases from 2015 “in which the federal government failed to require meaningful accountability.”

Of the 20 cases, which span Wall Street, the auto industry, pharmaceuticals, natural resources, and more, only one resulted in any convictions to executives, and that was for a misdemeanor — in the Upper Big Branch mine case, where 29 Americans died.

The focus on how laws are enforced rather than the intricacies of the law itself carries on a theme Warren has stressed throughout primary season – that personnel is policy, that who you will put in power in those key regulatory positions matters as much as your 10-point plan. ...

Warren also published an op-ed in the New York Times on Friday discussing her report. “Enforcement isn’t about big government or small government,” she writes there. “It’s about whether government works and who it works for.”

Is America about to sleepwalk into a war in Libya? We need a debate now

You wouldn’t know it from the presidential campaign, but the US is preparing to start military action in Libya … again. And given that Hillary Clinton was the leading proponent inside the Obama administration for bombing Libya and regime change the first time around, this should have a direct bearing on the presidential debate. Should, but hasn’t.

Libya has devolved into chaos since the US decided to launch airstrikes and overthrow dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and has increasingly become a base for Isis operations in recent months thanks to infighting among the new government and its inability to control its own territory – a result that the advocates of the first Libyan intervention who hailed the move four years ago are conspicuously silent on now.

And instead of discussing the havoc military campaigns can wreak and the blowback they often engender, Republicans and Hillary Clinton have all been arguing about who is going to increase military action in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. ...

Instead of discussing expanding the still-undeclared Isis war to a third country in Congress, where the debate belongs, it’s being leaked to newspapers by anonymous officials and treated as an inevitability. And no one is giving second thought to the fact that constitutional scholars across the political spectrum consider such a move illegal.

It continues to be amazing that this legal aspect receives almost zero attention: the US government apparently thinks it can expand the Isis war to a third country without the congressional authorization required by the constitution (they didn’t get congressional authorization for the first Libya war either – they actually went ahead with their bombing campaign after the House explicitly rejected the idea). “The president has made clear that we have the authority to use military force,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the other day, pretending it’s a cut-and-dried issue.

Obama Orders Advisers to Counter ISIS in Libya

With several Pentagon officials, including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joe Dunford and Press Secretary Peter Cook talking up military efforts to lay the groundwork for a US war in Libya, which Dunford suggested would be formalized in several weeks, President Obama is starting to talk up the idea too.

The White House confirmed today that President Obama has ordered his national security advisers to draw up plans to “counter” ISIS efforts to expand in Libya. Defense Secretary Ash Carter confirmed the move, saying several options are being drawn up.

Still, Carter claimed that no decision has been made yet on attacking Libya.

‘Mixed signals’: US may re-launch military action in Libya

Pentagon Seeks ‘Hundreds More’ US Troops in Iraq and Syria

Last week, Pentagon officials were talking up a few hundred additional “trainers” for the ISIS war in Iraq and Syria. This appears to have just been the start, as reports now suggest that over the last several weeks, the Pentagon has sought another 800 US troops for the war.

800 would be a big deployment for a war in which the “no boots on the ground” mantra has continued to be repeated by the administration, so the plan is to split this up over several deployments. Over the past 18 months, the US has brought some 3,700 troops into Iraq, over a large number of small escalations. ...

Even this effort to get up to 4,500 troops on the ground is just the near-term goal, and doesn’t seem like it’s going to be anything close to the end of the ongoing escalation of the war.

Syrian Peace Talks Are Due to Start Today But No One Knows Who'll Be There

A third attempt at Syrian peace talks is scheduled to go ahead in Switzerland today, amid much confusion about who will attend negotiations that already seem destined for a stalemate.

On Friday morning, it was still uncertain whether or not the opposition would boycott the talks, after leaders announced they were not willing to engage unless aid blockades were lifted and the bombing of civilians was halted. However, other opposition members assured reporters that they would be in attendance.

United Nations spokesman Ahmad Fawzi told reporters on Friday that while the talks would proceed as planned there was still little information about what was expected or who would turn up.

Sorry, Public, You're Entirely Blocked From Hearing on Surveillance Program

Are our elected officials "once again cutting out the public from an important debate over mass surveillance?" as Mark Jaycox and Dave Maass of Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) write?

It appears to be the case, as EFF and two dozen other civil liberties organizations say, because the House Judiciary Committee's upcoming hearing on Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) is to be held in a classified format.

That law allows for two surveillance programs: "Upstream" and PRISM—the existence of which was revealed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Upstream, as Techdirt previously explained, "lets the NSA partner with backbone providers like AT&T and tap their fiber lines at entry/exit points from the country and sniff through all the traffic," while PRISM is a program "in which a list of big internet firms agree to hand over certain information pursuant to a FISA court ruling rubber stamp telling them to hand over that information."

In their letter (pdf) sent Wednesday to committee chairman Rep. Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.) and ranking member John Conyers (D-Mich.), the groups urge the committee to commit to "principles of transparency and justice" by holding an open hearing, and state that section 702 "implicates the privacy rights of millions of people in the U.S. and around the world" including journalists, human rights activists, and criminal defendants.

Canadian Spies Get Spanked Again For Sharing Citizens' Data With the NSA

They won't tell us what it means, but the Canadian government has confirmed that its spy agencies have a real problem with mass-collecting its citizens' metadata.

They won't say how many Canadians were affected, what processes led to the mass-spying, how much information was shared with international intelligence agencies like the NSA, or even how they define "metadata." But they're confident everything will be okay.

After news broke that untold number of Canadians had their private information collected by a top-secret intelligence agency, Minister of National Defence Harjit Singh Sajjan told reporters even he didn't know how far it went. ...

CSE, which handles signals intelligence and deals directly with the National Security Agency (NSA), had its knuckles rapped over its classified metadata collection program.

The collection process, according to Thursday's report, led to Canadians' information being grabbed, likely from the very backbone of the internet, and being passed on to agencies in other Five Eyes countries like the NSA.

This, despite the fact that the law specifically forbids CSE from targeting Canadians, or holding on to their information without a valid authorization.

Canada Cuts Off Some Intelligence Sharing With U.S. Out of Fear for Canadians’ Privacy

Canada’s CBC network reported Thursday that the country is slamming on the brakes when it comes to sharing some communications intelligence with key allies — including the U.S. — out of fear that Canadian personal information is not properly protected. ...

“Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan says the sharing won’t resume until he is satisfied that the proper protections are in place,” CBC reported. ...

Canada’s decision to temporarily stop sharing information comes at a time when the U.S. is scrambling to come up with a new data-sharing arrangement with the European Union before a January 31 deadline. Europe’s top court decided in October that European privacy isn’t sufficiently respected by the American government or its spying agencies.

Israeli Drone Feeds Hacked By British and American Intelligence

American and British intelligence secretly tapped into live video feeds from Israeli drones and fighter jets, monitoring military operations in Gaza, watching for a potential strike against Iran, and keeping tabs on the drone technology Israel exports around the world.

Under a classified program code-named “Anarchist,” the U.K.’s Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, working with the National Security Agency, systematically targeted Israeli drones from a mountaintop on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. GCHQ files provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden include a series of “Anarchist snapshots” — thumbnail images from videos recorded by drone cameras. The files also show location data mapping the flight paths of the aircraft. In essence, U.S. and British agencies stole a bird’s-eye view from the drones.

Several of the snapshots, a subset collected in 2009 and 2010, appear to show drones carrying missiles. Although they are not clear enough to be conclusive, the images offer rare visual evidence to support reports that Israel flies attack drones — an open secret that the Israeli government won’t acknowledge. ...

The drone-watching documented in the GCHQ files covered periods of Israeli military offensives in Palestine, and also indicates that the intelligence agencies monitored drones for a potential strike against Iran. ...

The documents highlight the conflicted relationship between the United States and Israel and U.S. concerns about Israel’s potentially destabilizing actions in the region. The two nations are close counterterrorism partners, and have a memorandum of understanding, dating back to 2009, that allows Israel access to raw communications data collected by the NSA. Yet they are nonetheless constantly engaged in a game of spy versus spy. Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that, although President Obama had pledged to stop spying on friendly heads of state, the White House carved out an exception for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top Israeli officials. Michael Hayden, former head of the CIA and NSA, told the Journal that the intelligence relationship with Israel was “the most combustible mixture of intimacy and caution that we have.”

Guatemalan soldiers face civil war sexual slavery charges in historic trial

First the army came for the men. Fifteen Mayan peasant leaders in the tiny hamlet of Sepur Zarco in eastern Guatemala were seized and killed or forcibly disappeared.

A few weeks later, they came back for the women. Soldiers raped them in front of their children, burned down their houses and crops, stole their meagre belongings and made them move into shacks outside the nearby military base.

Every two or three days, each woman was made to report for 12-hour “shifts” at the base where they were forced to cook, clean and submit to systematic rape, often by several soldiers.

It was 1982, one of the bloodiest years of the country’s civil war as counter-insurgency operations against ethnic Mayans intensified under the rule of the military dictator and evangelical Christian, Efraín Ríos Montt.

More than 30 years later, two former military officers will finally face charges of sexual and domestic slavery and forced disappearance in a landmark trial which opens on Monday. ...

Guatemala’s 1960-1996 civil war was triggered by a CIA-backed coup after a democratically elected president promised land reforms. Ríos Montt justified the state-sponsored violence by claiming the victims were communist guerrillas. But army actions were largely about protecting the interests of rich landowners.

In Sepur Zarco, Mayan Q’eqchi’ peasant leaders had angered local landowners by fighting for the legal titles to the land upon which they had lived and worked for years. The landowners called in the army for protection.

Business: why did Central Bank of Japan surprise markets with a move to negative interest?

Bank of Japan shocks markets by adopting negative interest rates

Japan’s central bank has made a shock decision to adopt negative interest rates, in an attempt to protect the flagging economy from market volatility and fears over the global economy.

In a 5-4 vote, the bank’s board imposed a 0.1% fee on deposits left with the Bank of Japan (BoJ) – in effect a negative interest rate.

The move, which follows the similarly aggressive precedent set by the European Central Bank in June 2014, is designed to encourage commercial banks to use excess reserves they keep with the central bank to lend to businesses.

Is the global economy about to crash?

Inadequate Corporate Investment Falls Even Further

American corporations borrowed more in the years following the Financial Crisis than ever before. Debt was dirt-cheap even for the riskiest borrowers, and they went out and sold bonds and borrowed from banks, and blew the proceeds on funding operating losses, buy each other out in a record-breaking wave of M&A, and buy back their own shares. And not enough went into productive investments that would help their businesses grow and thrive.

This has been one of the reasons the economic recovery has been so crummy. Business investment is crucial, and there just wasn’t enough. And now it’s getting even worse. ...

Orders for non-military capital goods excluding aircraft, a measure of investment in business equipment, fell 4.3% in December on a monthly bases, the sharpest drop in 10 months. They’re down 8.1% year-over-year.

This is what companies order to build and expand their businesses, update their technologies and equipment, become more competitive, and move the company forward. ...

The collapse of oil & gas investments has had some impact on the recent decline in business investment. But in prior years, when oil & gas investments were booming, overall business investment was already stagnating, and without oil & gas would have looked even more miserable.

Years of QE and ZIRP, instead of generating a tsunami of investment in productive activities, and thus economic growth, have pushed financial engineering – share buybacks and M&A – to new levels that have left corporate America more leveraged, more fragile, and more financially unstable than ever before. As companies are starting to grapple with the consequences of their financial engineering strategies in this environment, business investment is going to be relegated to an afterthought. And this will be a further whack-down for the already limping economy.

Falling oil prices: could oil producers accept the production cut considered by Moscow and Riyadh?

Hackers post private files of America's biggest police union

Private files belonging to America’s biggest police union, including the names and addresses of officers, forum posts critical of Barack Obama, and controversial contracts made with city authorities, were posted online Thursday after a hacker breached its website.

The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), which says it represents about 330,000 law enforcement officers across the US, said the FBI was investigating after 2.5GB of data taken from its servers was dumped online and swiftly shared on social media. The union’s national site,, remained offline on Thursday evening. ...

Hundreds of contracts between regional authorities and local fraternal order of police lodges across the country were posted online as part of the hack. Some such deals have been sharply criticised as shielding police officers from prosecution or disciplinary action following the excessive use of force.

Alex Vitale, an associate professor of Sociology at Brooklyn College, said the leaked contracts could shed light on agreements frequently struck behind closed doors.

“Police associations, they’re certainly not very transparent,” said Vitale. “No one really knows what is going on inside police unions. The most troubling thing is that they have been able to work out disciplinary procedures that shield them from oversight, as in what steps that the employer has to go to discipline or terminate someone.”

the horse race

Erica Garner: Black Lives Like My Father’s Should Matter. That’s Why I’m Endorsing Bernie Sanders.

When I talk to other black voters about this year’s presidential election, some seem ready to dismiss it. Why, they ask, should we continue to put our faith in a system that continues to fail us? And why trust leaders who don’t care about our lives?

I understand.

A year and a half ago, New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo barbarically choked my father, Eric Garner, on a Staten Island sidewalk in broad daylight. My father died that day. His death was ruled a homicide. Despite viral video footage of the incident, international media attention and widespread protests, our justice system failed to find Officer Pantaleo guilty of any crime. In fact, until a few weeks ago, the only person indicted in relation to the case was Ramsey Orta, the man who filmed it all. ...

I trusted establishment Democrats who claimed to represent me, only to later watch them ignore and explain away the injustice of my father’s death. I trusted the system; then I watched as politicians on both sides of the aisle — from Chicago’s Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel to Michigan’s Republican Gov. Rick Snyder — disregard the will of the people they were elected to represent and abdicate their responsibility to protect them. I’ve watched as our system criminalizes blackness while allowing Wall Street to bilk the American people with impunity. ...

Who will address the criminalization of our people? Who understands that we’re experiencing an economic crisis made worse by structural barriers to jobs and education? Who will bring us closer to real safety, freedom and power? Who has clearly shown us where they stand? ...

Black Americans — all Americans — need a leader with a record that speaks for itself. And to me, it’s clear. Of all the presidential candidates, Sen. Bernie Sanders is our strongest ally.

Seizing on Establishment Panic, Sanders Sharpens Contrast with Clinton

With just a few days to go until the Iowa caucus, Bernie Sanders spoke to an evening rally in Burlington, Iowa on Thursday and made some of his boldest statements yet criticizing Democratic rival Hillary Clinton's political track record and Wall Street ties.

Sanders, who has faced an escalation of establishment ire in recent weeks, made a sharp contrast between his principles and his rival's—such as his early and consistent opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Keystone XL pipeline, the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton.

"Check the record, find out where my opponent was on all of these issues," Sanders said. "It is great to be against the war after you vote for the war. It is great to be for gay rights after you insult the entire gay community by supporting DOMA."

In recent months, Clinton has come out against the TPP and the Keystone XL pipeline, despite her previous support for both projects. Sanders depicted her evolution as calculated—responding to public opinion rather than taking a principled stance.

Sanders Calls Out WaPo 'Geniuses' for Epic Failures on Iraq, Economic Meltdown

Following Thursday's criticism of his campaign by the Washington Post editorial board, Bernie Sanders quietly took off his gloves and then let loose on the prominent newspaper.

Asked specifically to respond to the editorial at a breakfast event in Iowa hosted by Bloomberg Politics, Sanders said: "That's not a new argument. We've been hearing that months and months, and that's in a sense what this campaign is about. People are telling us, whether it's the Washington Post editorial board or anybody else, our ideas are too ambitious — can't happen. Too bold — really? Well, here's something which is really bold. In the last 30 years, there has been a massive transfer of wealth from the middle class and working families of this country. The middle class has become poorer and trillions of dollars have been transferred to the top one-tenth of 1 percent."

"That's pretty radical, isn't it?" Sanders said. "Where was The Washington Post to express concern that the middle class was shrinking? Where was The Washington Post talking about this radical transformation of America?"

Later in the event, Sanders took the opportunity to further criticize the paper by when the conversation turned to the Middle East and foreign policy.

"Getting back to The Washington Post — check out where all the geniuses on the editorial page were with regard to the invasion of Iraq."

Trump Absent, GOP Presidential Candidates Face Off on Syria, Planned Parenthood & Islamophobia

FBI's Hillary Clinton email investigation not letting up

Six months after it began, the federal investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server shows no signs of slowing down.

Former FBI officials said the length of the probe is not unusual and speculated that a decision on whether to file charges against Clinton or her top aides could come later this year, during the heat of the general election campaign.

“I don’t know that there’s any magical cutoff date,” said Ron Hosko, the FBI’s former assistant director of the criminal investigative division and a 30-year veteran of the bureau. ...

Officials have indicated that the bureau is not targeting Clinton specifically, however, but is investigating whether any information on her account was mishandled. Earlier this month, Fox News reported that the FBI had expanded its inquiry to examine how the State Department’s work intersected with the Clinton family foundation.

“Black Americans for a Better Future” Super PAC 100% Funded by Rich White Guys

New FEC filings show that all of the $417,250 in monetary donations to a Super PAC called “Black Americans for a Better Future” comes from conservative white businessmen — including $400,000, or 96 percent of the total, from white billionaire hedge fund manager Robert Mercer. ...

BABF appears to exist solely as a vehicle for Washington, D.C., consultant Raynard Jackson, who is African-American. Jackson is quoted on his firm’s website stating that “You have a fundamental right to pursue business interests with the least amount of interference from the government.” Jackson has elsewhere accused Barack Obama of “relentless pandering to homosexuals.”

At an event in November 2015 at the National Press Club, which cost BABF $13,252.79 for the venue and catering, Jackson said that “Having well-trained, credible, experienced African-Americans constantly challenging the liberal orthodoxy in the media will create a tectonic shift in the perception of the Republican Party within the Black community.”

Iowa college that saw Clinton’s 2008 letdown is now ground zero for Sanders

In 2008, Grinnell College served as a microcosm for Hillary Clinton’s disappointing letdown in Iowa. Eight years later, it has become ground zero for the movement surrounding the insurgent candidacy of Bernie Sanders.

Clinton supporters didn’t even reach the 15% threshold needed in a Democratic caucus on the college campus eight years ago. Instead of supporting Clinton, her meager band of supporters there were forced to caucus for Joe Biden instead.

Clinton’s poor performance didn’t come as a surprise. The elite liberal arts college in central Iowa has long been a bastion of progressive thought and for Democratic votes. ...

Student voting had been a hot point of contention eight years ago. Then, with the surge in support among young people for Obama, the Clinton campaign actively tried to discourage college students who came to Iowa from outside the state from participating in the caucuses.

Clinton denigrated student participation in the caucuses then by saying that it is “a process for Iowans. This needs to be all about Iowa, and people who live here, people who pay taxes here”, something amplified when Bill Clinton came to Grinnell’s campus, a school where a vast majority of the students are from out of state, and said students not from Iowa should consider not caucusing there as “a matter of conscience”. This had particular resonance at Grinnell, where local Republicans have long sought to try to prevent college students from voting.

New York Times Gets it Wrong: Bernie Sanders Not “Top Beneficiary of Outside Money”

The New York Times caused a stir by publishing a classic man-bites-dog style campaign finance story in its Friday editions titled “Bernie Sanders Is Top Beneficiary of Outside Money.” The article charges that despite his fiery campaign rhetoric against Super PACs and big money in politics, Sanders has gained much more from Super PAC spending than his Democratic opponents. ...

While more money has indeed been spent on a certain type of campaign spending in support of Sanders, the article leaves the wrong impression by suggesting that pro-Sanders Super PACs have outpaced outside groups supporting Hillary Clinton or Martin O’Malley. If that sounds confusing, that’s because the Times article hinges on a technicality in campaign finance law. ...

The National Nurses United, a labor group for nurses and the only significant group to pour money into a Super PAC supporting Sanders, has indeed backed the Vermont senator by spending a little more than $1 million on “independent expenditures,” a term used by the Federal Election Commission to describe communications spent “expressly advocating the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate.” ...

To debunk the claim that the nurses are outspending all pro-Clinton outside groups, one merely has to look at six months of spending and limited independent expenditure disclosures by the primary pro-Clinton Super PACs Correct the Record and Priorities USA Action. Doing so finds that pro-Clinton outside organizations have spent well over $2.2 million during this campaign cycle on staff, consultants, research, advertising, communications, advocacy, and other campaign-related expenses. If you add in pro-Clinton independent expenditures from Planned Parenthood, the Service Employees International Union, the League of Conservation Voters, and the Human Rights Campaign, the pro-Clinton total rises to more than $2.6 million.

the evening greens

The Republicans have won. Government is the problem.

It's great celebrities are helping in Flint – but the government should do its job

It’s undeniably a good use of a famous name and the princely income attached to it to deliver a healthy water supply for the impoverished, abused residents of Flint – and an impressive array of celebrities, from Matt Damon and Cher to Eminem and Big Sean, have stepped in to send clean bottled water to Flint residents.

But it’s important not to lose sight of the big picture here. It should shock us to see fellow citizens consigned to the same penitent position that poor people inhabiting failed states in the global South find themselves in – relying on the largesse of remote philanthropic actors (in both senses of the word) for their sustenance.

Flint is a former manufacturing capital, long sunk into deindustrialized poverty and civic bankruptcy. The official attempt to fix the system was a fiscal takeover by a myopic, privatization-happy Republican state government. ...

Instead of a government fix, we have mass celebrity mobilization, and we should be scandalized at the way this tacitly indicts our civic status quo: rather than living with the reasonable expectation that accountable political leaders can be entrusted with seeing that basic human needs get fulfilled, we’re relying on the goodwill of a knowledge-economy aristocracy to make good on government failures.

The outcome is certainly a quantum improvement over the malign neglect that Rick Snyder arranged for the overwhelmingly poor, black and Democratic-voting residents of Flint – but the underlying structure of things here is far more feudal than (small-d) democratic.

[Also see this related article by Marcy Wheeler: How Rick Snyder doomed Flint from the start: Tax cuts for the ultra-rich, poison for the poor - js]

State workers in Flint got bottled water as crisis brewed

Michigan offered fresh bottled water for state employees in Flint starting in January 2015, although residents were told that tap water was safe to drink until last fall, a state official said.

Flint residents are now warned to drink only filtered or bottled water because of lead contamination in the city's supply.

Caleb Buhs, a spokesman for the agency that manages state buildings, said water coolers were introduced at the State Office Building after Flint flunked some drinking water standards that weren't related to lead. ...

Water coolers were introduced after Flint officials warned residents about elevated levels of a disinfection byproduct called trihalomethane in the city's water.

Notices from the city at the time said drinking water with excessive amounts of trihalomethanes over many years could cause liver, kidney or central nervous system problems and an increased risk of cancer. The notices, however, described Flint's water as safe to drink.

Snyder asked to explain why he delivered bottled water to state workers while allowing Flint residents to drink unsafe water

A newly obtained document and related emails released on Thursday show that while the residents of Flint, Michigan were slowly being poisoned by lead-contaminated water last year, the offices of state officials in the city were "quietly" outfitted with water coolers by Gov. Rick Snyder's administration. ...

Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan, said the emails and document offer new evidence of the Snyder administration's indifference towards the people of Flint.

"It appears the state wasn’t as slow as we first thought in responding the Flint Water Crisis," said Scott in a statement. "Sadly, the only response was to protect the Snyder administration from future liability and not to protect the children of Flint from lead poisoning. While residents were being told to relax and not worry about the water, the Snyder administration was taking steps to limit exposure in its own building."

Philadelphia's water-testing procedures are ‘worse than Flint’ – expert

The Philadelphia city council will investigate how it tests its water, after an expert told the Guardian the city’s procedures are “worse than Flint” and risk putting residents’ health in jeopardy. ...

Water testing instructions given out to Philadelphia residents include the requirement to remove the faucet’s aerator, a small filter, from the nozzle of the tap before sampling. Testers are asked to run cold water through the tap for two minutes, known as “pre-flushing”, at least six hours before the test.

Research suggests both of these practices reduce the amount of lead flowing into the sample. Tests conducted by scientists at Virginia Tech showed that of 21 samples taken from Flint households, 16 were found to have higher lead levels than the official results when tested under conditions that replicate how people use tap water.

While they are not illegal, the US Environmental Protection Agency has advised against these procedures as they hinder the test’s objective: to find the highest possible lead corrosion level in a household’s water supply.

Microsoft co-founder's yacht tears up protected coral reef in Cayman Islands

A yacht owned by Microsoft co-founder and marine conservationist Paul Allen has ploughed into a sensitive reef in the Cayman Islands, destroying the majority of coral on the protected ecosystem.

The MV Tatoosh, a 300ft yacht owned by the billionaire Allen, ripped up 14,000 square feet of coral reef in the West Bay replenishment zone, according to local officials. About 80% of the reef, situated in a protected area, was destroyed by the ship’s chain. It is thought that Allen was not on board at the time.

According to a statement from Allen’s investment firm Vulcan, the incident occurred on 14 January. “When [the MV Tatoosh] crew was alerted by a diver that her anchor chain may have impacted coral in the area, the crew promptly, and on their own accord, relocated their position to ensure the reef was protected,” it said, adding that the crew was aiding investigations into the damage.

The incident is particularly embarrassing for Allen given his foundation’s work supporting marine conservation and tackling overfishing. The damage to the reef could prompt a fine of up to $600,000, although Allen is likely to be able to easily foot the bill, given his net worth is estimated by Forbes to be $17.4bn.

Zika in Texas? 'We have the perfect storm to allow virus to flourish'

Dr Peter Hotez gestured at three tyres dumped on the weed-ravaged, litter-strewn roadside by a boarded-up house on Worms Street.

To Hotez they were more than an eyesore – they signified a potential health hazard, the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes that could spread the Zika virus. ...

“I’m quite convinced it’s going to be all over the Caribbean within the next few weeks. And then, where’s next?” he said. “Where we’re standing here in the Gulf Coast … Pretty much all of the Gulf Coast cities are vulnerable but Houston is the largest.”

It is less than 15 minutes’ drive from Hotez’s office in the world’s biggest medical complex to the Fifth Ward, a historic, mostly African American quarter just north-east of downtown Houston.

When he hears experts assert that Zika is unlikely to spread significantly in the US, his response is: go to the Fifth Ward and look around. ...

“I could show you dozens of neighborhoods like this in south-east Texas, along the Gulf Coast,” said Hotez. “What we have is dilapidated housing, inadequate or absent window screens, standing water, poor drainage, which are going to allow the mosquitoes to breed, and then the classic piece to this is the discarded tyres along the side of the road. Aedes mosquitoes love discarded tyres filled with water.”

Also of Interest

Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.

Hillary Clinton’s Own Petard

American Democracy Down for the Count

Education reform’s devious blame game: The charter school movement doesn’t want you to know it’s failing

Washington Post’s Wild Swings at Sanders

If you want to watch that sort of thing, here it is:

FBI Releases Unedited Footage of Oregon Militia Spokesman's Fatal Shooting

Was there ever a time when so few people controlled so much wealth?

Bears get a handle on opening car doors – but could it be their downfall?

Jefferson Airplane founder Paul Kantner dies, aged 74

A Little Night Music

The Son Seals Blues Band - Look Now Baby

Son Seals - On My Knees

Son Seals - I Can't Hear Nothing But The Blues

Son Seals - Sadie

Son Seals - Before The Bullets Fly

Son Seals - Goin' Home

Son Seals - Don't You Lie to Me

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The White House confirmed today that President Obama has ordered his national security advisers to draw up plans to “counter” ISIS efforts to expand in Libya. Defense Secretary Ash Carter confirmed the move, saying several options are being drawn up.

Still, Carter claimed that no decision has been made yet on attacking Libya, and that the US is just watching the situation “very carefully.” He also talked up efforts to back “the Libyans,” though he didn’t indicate which ones, likely reflecting Cook’s comments yesterday that the US is seeking “worthy” factions to back.

Carter’s denial that a decision has been made may be technically true, but given the comments of Gen. Dunford it is very misleading, as clearly the broader decision has already been made, and the questions are just the specifics and the timing of the announcement.

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joe shikspack's picture

i guess obama will get back to killing civilians just as soon as he can find a libyan willing to run around and pass on their coordinates.

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NCTim's picture

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The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself. - Friedrich Nietzsche -

joe shikspack's picture

there's a killer on the road...

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NCTim's picture

Santorum, Huckabee, Cruz, Paul and Christie are just regular Republicans.

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The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself. - Friedrich Nietzsche -

mimi's picture

extreme, nor is it the same as a regular republican Dummkopf.
Good Night NCTim.

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shaharazade's picture

is a real moderate. His proposals are not radical they are moderate. So crazy that he's called a Dirty Commie Rat socialist for saying single payer is the way to go. So crazy that advocating for the common good or all people is considered too far left. So insulting to 'we the people' to say that anyone who embraces real representative democracy is naive. I do not give a rats ass what the lunatic RW'ers are nattering on about. They are nuts and stupid to boot.

I care about what the Democratic party is offering and if they tell me that Hillary and Obama are still the 'way forward' and inevitable they can go fuck themselves. I've seen what these Vichy Dems. offer and I'm not about to touch it let alone 'embrace the suck'. So sad that Billlary is all we are offered as a choice by the party apparatchik featuring 'We came we saw we killed' and CEO's are people my friends. They offer nothing, including Bernie that will stop this insanity. At least he is for some kind of economic relief. Not too much that would be too radical. Foreign Policy forget about it and empower the Saudis cause they ????? need to step up and kill some ???? Islamic ass.

Patriotic tortures are just doing their job and God bless America. Lets all get up and dance to a tune that was a hit before your mother was born. Yeah fascism it's the way forward . And please folks don't forget to support the boots on the ground. They are doing a good job for the groundwork the CIA lays down. God knows we do not want weird viruses or extremists that we create to bring us all to the final solution. Which seems to be kill anyone who threatens our transnational interests or dares to stand up to this shit.

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NCTim's picture

Did you know Son Seals covered Billy Price?

I shared a smoke with Son Seals and his bass player under the awning of The Decade.

Son Seals influenced unexpected artists. And it is Friday.

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The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself. - Friedrich Nietzsche -

joe shikspack's picture

glad you got to hang with son seals, that's really cool!

seals also covered little sonny:

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divineorder's picture

Don' t think I can handle 25 m8nutes of raw fbi footage but had been curios about what happened. We missed protest at NM capitol about Governors plan to seek state takeover of federal public lands. She is a prime example of why a not to vote to elect a woman to high office just because of her sex or ethnicity. Gah she is hortible.

Sanders is about to have the chance to differentiate himself from BO and HRC re:ibbya. Would be great if heat least introduced new legislation or something to differentiate himself from them but that revolution may be more than he is willing to take on.

Here in Costa Rica have been following the Zika news on TripAdvisor Forum and also got an email alert from STEP program US State Dept.. Forum posts pregnant parents people agonizing on whether to cancel there plans even though only 9ne confirmed case so far.

Yup, and for sure that guy is 100% right about the old tires and all manner of other reasons this could spread in SE Texas. Instead of helping folks get screens etc would be afraid the response will be 8nceas3d use 9f pesticide spraying that is bound to affect the ecological web, not just mosqitos.

Trying to stay zen about the Global Economy, climate change , etc.

We voted by mail for Bernie before we left for CR. If he loses, guess will look at voting for a woman for President.

All the best to you and 99ers!

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A truth of the nuclear age/climate change: we can no longer have endless war and survive on this planet. Oh sh*t.

NCTim's picture

A song for NM gov.

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The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself. - Friedrich Nietzsche -

joe shikspack's picture

i hope that bernie does step up and call bullshit on obama's unconstitutional libya bombing campaign continuation.

screens vs. spraying? depends on whether the manufacturer of screens can pony up more money than the chemical industry. long odds for the screen manufacturing industry.

i hope that you and jb are well and having a great time.

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enhydra lutris's picture

The war mongers seem to be slipping another one into play. Sux.

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

NCTim's picture

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The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself. - Friedrich Nietzsche -

joe shikspack's picture

yeah, they're a slippery bunch.

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snoopydawg's picture

Obama has only spoken out against black people being murdered when Trayvon Martin was killed by Zimmerman.
Since then, how many unarmed black people have been killed by cops and he's has stayed silent.
And then there's his buddy Rahm who is continuing to run the off site torture center at Hoffman square. Where the hell is his DOJ and their investigation into that?

And he couldn't bother to go to a Flint when he was in Detroit. It's his Katrina, IMO.
Black people have not only been killed in greater numbers since he was elected, but their incomes, unemployment and basic standards of living have declined under him.
And that's why I don't understand why blacks are going to vote for Hillary. Don't they remember when they passed both the welfare reform and crime bills that affected them more than anyone else?
Then there's the fact that Hillary took so much money from the prison industry until Bernie called her out on it.
Why aren't they flocking to Bernie.

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"I will be the best, the best, you know, you know the thing!”
- Joe Biden

Grope and Hope

joe shikspack's picture

that endorsement is worth reading in full. i think that it is part of a tipping point for sanders and it's indicative that his outreach is getting to the right people.

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NCTim's picture

The Seals family lived behind Jim Seals's famous nightclub, the Dipsy Doodle, which featured blues up front and dice in the back room. There, in the sleepy town of Osceola, blues legends such as Sonny Boy Williamson and Albert King hung out and performed. King, a native of Osceola, became Son Seals's mentor. By the age of 13, Seals was playing drums with Williamson, Robert Nighthawk, and Earl Hooker. In addition to the blues, Seals loved the big band music of Count Basie and the swing bands out of Memphis, Tennessee. In an October 2001 interview with Charles Chapman, published on the Guild Guitars Web site, Seals recalled: "In all the movies back then there were always big bands in them and I just loved it. The arrangements of the horns really stood out to me and I especially liked Basie's sound. Many people do not realize that blues music has always consisted of horns." In later years Seals included prominent horn sections on his recordings.

Seals formed his first band, Son Seals and the Upsetters, in 1959, playing throughout Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi. By 1960 Son Seals was playing guitar with his band four nights a week at the Chez Paris in Little Rock, Arkansas, while spending his weekends playing drums behind blues masters at the Dipsy Doodle. In 1963, while visiting his sister in Chicago, Seals joined Earl Hooker's Roadmasters on guitar. After six months on the road, he returned to Little Rock and rebuilt his band. In 1966 Seals went on the road again as Albert King's drummer and appeared on King's Live Wire/Blues Power, recorded at the Fillmore West in San Francisco. When his father became ill, Seals returned to Osceola, playing in local clubs until his father's death in 1971.

Put down those drum sticks and wank a little.

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The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself. - Friedrich Nietzsche -

mimi's picture

ask myself what the people in Flint will do with all their empty water bottles. Are they recyclable or just the next load of Dreck ending up in the water of the rivers and oceans ?

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enhydra lutris's picture

probably wind up in landfills or elsewhere all the same

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

joe shikspack's picture

i think that it's quite likely that millions of plastic water bottles are going to wind up in landfills.

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