The Evening Blues - 1-9-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features boogie woogie piano player Rufus "Speckled Red" Perryman. Enjoy!
Speckled Red - Blues Hurt My Tongue To Talk
"The Obama administration says we only destroy the privacy of non-Americans. That is not true. The government is spying on Americans."
-- Glenn Greenwald
News and Opinion
It's funny how the government used to deny that it happened and now in a few short years later, they see an opportunity and they are about to codify it into law.
With major NSA surveillance authorities set to expire later this month, House Republicans are rushing to pass a bill that would not only reauthorize existing powers, but also codify into law some practices that critics have called unconstitutional.
The bill takes aim at reforming how federal law enforcement can use data collected by the National Security Agency, putting a modest constraint on when the FBI can conduct so-called backdoor searches of Americans’ communications. But because such searches make use of a legal loophole, critics say the current bill may do more harm than good by explicitly writing the practice into law.
The bill would reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which serves as the basis for some of the NSA’s largest surveillance programs, and keep it on the books through 2023. The law was first passed in 2008 after the George W. Bush administration’s secret warrantless wiretapping was made public, effectively to legalize what the administration was doing. ...
The new version of the bill, posted on the Rules Committee website late Friday, is designed to get the buy-in of Republicans on the Judiciary Committee. It includes compromise language taken from a separate bill passed out of that committee in November, which included some modest limitations on existing authorities, including the reform to backdoor searches.
The Trump administration plans to loosen constraints on the use of nuclear weapons and develop a new low-yield nuclear warhead for US Trident missiles, according to a former official who has seen the most recent draft of a policy review.
Jon Wolfsthal, who was special assistant to Barack Obama on arms control and nonproliferation, said the new nuclear posture review prepared by the Pentagon, envisages a modified version of the Trident D5 submarine-launched missiles with only part of its normal warhead, with the intention of deterring Russia from using tactical warheads in a conflict in Eastern Europe.
The new nuclear policy is significantly more hawkish that the posture adopted by the Obama administration, which sought to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in US defence.
Arms control advocates have voiced alarm at the new proposal to make smaller, more “usable” nuclear weapons, arguing it makes a nuclear war more likely, especially in view of what they see as Donald Trump’s volatility and readiness to brandish the US arsenal in showdowns with the nation’s adversaries.
The NPR [nuclear posture review] also expands the circumstances in which the US might use its nuclear arsenal, to include a response to a non-nuclear attack that caused mass casualties, or was aimed at critical infrastructure or nuclear command and control sites.
On Tuesday, for the first time in two long years, representatives of the Koreas will meet across a polished wood table on the heavily militarized border between North and South. ... South Korean President Moon Jae-in, an experienced politician and human rights lawyer, campaigned on peaceful relations with Pyongyang and more equitable domestic policies. But since his inauguration in May, after the dramatic impeachment of his predecessor Park Geun-hye, Moon has presided over a government-wide audit, shaking out each ministry like a poorly laundered sheet.
One result of that process has come to bear not only on domestic politics, but on regional ties as well: The painful history of Korean “comfort women” may figure into the nuclear standoff with Kim Jong Un — seeding tensions between Tokyo and Seoul (and, by extension, between Washington and Seoul), while easing relations between the two Koreas.
In 2015, then-President Park, the daughter of a 1970s military dictator aligned with Tokyo, signed an agreement with Japan intended to extinguish the claims of women victimized during World War II. Then-President Barack Obama praised the deal as a “lasting settlement to this difficult issue,” while North Korea called it a “humiliating” concession to Japan. Historians estimate that some 200,000 women from areas colonized by Tokyo were conscripted as sex slaves by the imperial army. Their stories became known in the early 1990s, when Korean, Filipina, Taiwanese, and Dutch women in their 60s and 70s came forward, despite severe local stigmas, with stomach-turning stories of capture, imprisonment, and daily rape. ...
Just before the new year, a South Korean task force reviewing the 2015 deal released its findings. Unbeknownst to the public, Park had, in exchange for a dubiously constituted $8.8 million compensation fund, agreed that the Korean government would free Tokyo of legal liability, dismantle the girl statue in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul (the site of weekly protests), and disavow the term “sex slave.” No comfort women had been consulted. ...
In a recent speech to an audience of senior citizens, Moon promised to “unify the national discourse” around North Korea. His appeal to older South Koreans might be aided by his fight for the comfort women. Even before the task force made its findings known, the vast majority of the country did not accept the terms of the 2015 deal. Soojin Park says that the South Korean government, though wary of “letting this historical matter poison current international relations,” was obligated to re-examine its pact with Japan. “It’s not possible for the government to simply ignore the comfort women.”
Russia has said that a recent series of drone attacks on its military bases in Syria would have required assistance from a country possessing satellite navigation technology – a statement that appeared to be aimed at the United States.
Russia’s defense ministry said its forces repelled a series of drone attacks on Saturday on the Hemeimeem air base and a naval facility in Tartus, adding that out of the 13 drones involved, seven were shot down and six were forced to land without inflicting any damage.
Without blaming any specific country, the ministry said data for the attacks could only have been obtained “from one of the countries that possesses knowhow in satellite navigation”.
In Tuesday’s statement, it noted a “strange coincidence” of a US military intelligence plane flying over the Mediterranean near the two Russian bases at the moment of the attack.
American kids are 70 percent more likely to die during childhood compared with children in other wealthy, democratic nations, according to a peer-reviewed study published Monday by Health Affairs.
"This study should alarm everyone," Dr. Ashish Thakrar, the study's lead author and an internal medicine resident at Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System, told CNN.
"The U.S. is the most dangerous of wealthy, democratic countries in the world for children," he added. "Across all ages and in both sexes, children have been dying more often in the U.S. than in similar countries since the 1980s."
The most common causes of death among children renews concerns about the American healthcare system, access to guns, and vehicle safety.
The risk of death is even higher for American infants and teenagers compared with their counterparts abroad. Babies in the U.S. are 76 percent more likely to die during their first year of life—often because of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or complications related to being born prematurely—while 15- to 19-year-olds are 82 times more likely to die from gun violence, which Thakrar called "the most disturbing new finding." ...
The frequency of childhood deaths in all of these countries, including the United States, notably declined during those 50 years. However, the U.S.'s high childhood mortality rate compared with the other nations studied, as Thakrar pointed out, "means 600,000 more children died since 1961 than would have if we performed at just the average of the other 19 countries."
Thakrar told Vox's Sarah Kliff he believes the study's findings are tied to a rise in childhood poverty in the U.S. during the 1980s, but also is in large part "the impact of our fragmented healthcare system" in the United States. For example, he said, "Mothers who are qualifying for Medicaid for the first time because they're mothers might be seeing doctors for the first time. They might not have a family physician, or a clear support system."
As numerous analyses and studies have shown over the years, the lack of a universal healthcare system in the U.S. has led to higher mortality rates and poorer healthcare outcomes than in countries that have robust systems that cover all people.
The Cleveland Police Department fired Officer Timothy Loehmann in May 2017, not for killing Rice, but for lying on his job application. On Wednesday, Loehmann will begin arbitration proceedings, a third-party review of his firing, according to Northeast Ohio Media Group, in hopes of getting his job back. ...
A 2017 Washington Post investigation found that hundreds of officers fired for misconduct have regained their jobs thanks to arbitration.
Keith Noreika, the former corporate lawyer thrust into the role of acting comptroller of the currency last year, has returned to his corporate law firm, where he’ll consult large domestic and international banks on precisely the issues handled by the agency he recently led.
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, where Noreika worked before joining the Trump administration, announced the hire yesterday. Noreika, who will again become a partner at the firm, has previously advised Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, TD Ameritrade, and U.S. Bancorp. According to the Wall Street Journal, he will occupy the same office at Simpson Thacher.
Last May, Noreika was tapped as acting head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which regulates national banks, replacing Barack Obama’s OCC chief Thomas Curry. He served as a “special government employee,” a designation allowing him to evade formal gift and payment statutes that prohibit outside sources of income and restrict outside employment, as well as certain conflict of interest burdens. Noreika never signed the Trump-era “ethics pledge,” which prohibits executive branch officials from working on matters involving their former clients for two years, or communicating with colleagues about their activities for one year after they’ve left the government.
Typically, special government employees serve on advisory committees rather than run federal agencies. In this case, the Treasury Department made Noreika a “first deputy” comptroller and then slid him immediately into the top slot.
Sheriff Joe is running.
Joe Arpaio, the 85-year-old former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, known for his harsh stance toward immigrants, announced Tuesday that he’ll be running for the Senate seat vacated by Republican Sen. Jeff Flake.
Arpaio is a close ally of President Donald Trump, who pardoned the former sheriff after he was convicted of ignoring a federal court order in a racial profiling case. He had been convicted on a misdemeanor charge of criminal contempt that carried a maximum six-month prison sentence and a monetary fine.
In his announcement on Twitter, Arpaio said he was running for one reason: “to support the agenda and policies of President Donald Trump in his mission to Make America Great Again.”
A source within the Trump campaign reported concerns to the FBI, according to the man behind a controversial dossier on Donald Trump, a new transcript reveals. Senator Dianne Feinstein on Tuesday unilaterally released the transcript of a congressional interview with Glenn Simpson, whose research firm, Fusion GPS, was behind the dossier on alleged contacts between Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russian government.
The dossier makes an allegation that there was a “conspiracy of cooperation” between Russian agents and the Trump campaign, and the president has frequently scorned it since its publication last January.
According to the transcript, Simpson told the senators that “an internal Trump campaign source” or “a human source from inside the Trump organization” reported his or her concerns to the FBI. Simpson said that this information was drawn from Christopher Steele, the former British spy who compiled the dossier during the 2016 presidential campaign, after the FBI “had debriefed him” that fall.
Steele approached the FBI earlier in 2016, according to Simpson, because “he thought from his perspective there was an issue – a security issue about whether a presidential candidate was being blackmailed”. ... Simpson cautioned that he was paraphrasing Steele’s account, and added: “we did not have the detailed conversations where he would debrief me on his discussions with the FBI.” He added: “I think it was a voluntary source, someone who was concerned about the same concerns we had. It was someone who decided to pick up the phone and report something.” He said that Steele did not rely on this source for his work with the firm.
Green Groups Welcome Regulators Rejection of Perry's "Ludicrous" Plan to Bail Out Coal and Nuclear Industries
Green groups and opponents of nuclear energy welcomed a decision by federal regulators late Monday to reject a "ludicrous" plan put forth by U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry that would have forced taxpayers and ratepayers to bail out the struggling coal and nuclear industries.
The decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) comes after Perry last year submitted a contentious plan called for subsidizing the nation's coal-fired and nuclear power plants that are no longer economically viable on their own. According to Bloomberg, "Consumers in more than a dozen states would have foot the bill, which could have totaled billions."
Though dominated by Trump-appointed commissioners, FERC said Perry's plan did not meet legal and statutory requirements.
Damon Moglen, ssenior strategic advisor for Friends of the Earth, credited the tens of thousands of people wrote to FERC demanding the agency reject Perry's "ludicrous proposal" to bailout financially bankrupt and environmentally damaging nuclear and coal projects.
"No matter how forceful industry lobbying, the market factors simply dictate that nuclear and coal power plants should be replaced by cheaper, cleaner, and safer solar and wind power," Moglen said. "This is a good day for the public and a good day for the cause of addressing catastrophic climate change."
A colony of flying foxes has been nearly wiped out by extreme heat in Campbelltown in south-west Sydney, according to environmentalists.
The Help Save the Wildlife and Bushlands in Campbelltown campaign posted a series of images to Facebook showing the corpses of the animals lying in the ground, apparently after they had died from dehydration in the soaring temperatures. The group say more than 400 of the animals were lost, many of them juveniles.
Volunteers have been working to save the animals, rehydrating them and taking them to places where they can be kept cool. Temperatures in Sydney reached a 80-year record high of 47.3C on Sunday.
The campaign group also regularly post information about why protecting the species is so important for the local habitat. “Flying foxes are intelligent and remarkable,” the group says. “These unique animals help regenerate our forests and keep ecosystems healthy through pollination and seed dispersal. They don’t use sonar like smaller, insect-eating bats; only their eyes and ears, like us. They see as well as a cat at night and are just about as smart. Flying foxes are foresters keeping the eco-system together. If we are to keep the remnants of our forests healthy, we need the flying foxes. The two are inseparable.”
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Speckled Red - You Got To Fix It
Speckled Red - You ain't no good
Speckled Red - Little Girl
Speckled Red - Red's Own Blues
Speckled Red - Wilkins Street Stomp
Speckled Red - Blue Goose Blues
Speckled Red - Early In the Morning
Speckled Red - Uncle Sam's Blues
Speckled Red - The Dirty Dozen