The Evening Blues - 10-15-21
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues guitarist Lonnie Brooks. Enjoy!
Lonnie Brooks & Koko Taylor - It's a Dirty Job
"It’s trippy how a government that’s been democratically elected by free people behaves in exactly the same way you’d expect a government to behave if it was run by corporations."
-- Caitlin Johnstone
News and Opinion
Oh my, I am shocked, shocked I tell you, to find out that the federal justice system is corrupt to its core.
Condemning 'Stunning' Ethics Violations, Warren and Jayapal Demand Answers on US Judges With Financial Conflicts
Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Pramila Jayapal demanded answers on Thursday from U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts in response to a report that
In a letter to Roberts, Reuters reported, the Democratic lawmakers questioned whether Roberts had done enough in his role as the presiding officer of the Judicial Conference of the United States to uphold the integrity of the federal judiciary and enforce ethic rules.
Warren and Jayapal cite a Wall Street Journal report that revealed 131 judges failed to recuse themselves from cases involving companies in which they or their family members owned stock—a scope of ethics violations the lawmakers called "stunning."
The letter cites legal precedents from the code of conduct that require judges to recuse themselves from all cases where financial interest is involved, calling the extensive ethic breaches, at least in part, "a direct result of the inadequate processes for judicial accountability."
"These conflicts of interest have affected hundreds of cases and the integrity of the justice system," the letter reads.
The letter references other instances in which Supreme Court justices similarly did not recuse themselves from cases despite potential financial conflicts, including through ownership of individual stock, as further evidence of a "systemic failure that requires accountability."
Warren and Jayapal argued that their comprehensive ethics legislation—the Anti-Corruption & Public Integrity Act—if passed—would close the large gaps in the U.S. judicial ethics system by requiring public release of disclosure reports, overhauling the recusal system, and barring judges from owning individual stocks.
While emphasizing that Congress should pass those reforms, the lawmakers added that "a decisive response from the judiciary is urgent and necessary."
They asked Roberts to provide information on why the 131 judges failed to disqualify themselves and what actions the judiciary was taking in response to the report.
"Over 131 judges violated federal law and ethics rules by overseeing cases in which they had personal financial interests," Warren tweeted. "Rep. Pramila Jayapal and I want answers from Chief Justice Roberts about what he's doing in response to uphold the integrity of the judiciary."
The United States was urged Thursday to "step up and prioritize human rights in domestic policy" in response to its reelection to the United Nations Human Rights Council.
The U.S. was among the 18 members the U.N. General Assembly elected for the human rights body for a three-year term beginning next year.
In 2018, then-President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the council, with Ambassador Nikki Haley accusing the body of having a "chronic bias against Israel" and being a "self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights."
In a statement followng the Thursday vote, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. would "work hard to ensure the council upholds its highest aspirations and better supports those fighting against injustice and tyranny around the world."
While praising the U.N. body for playing "a meaningful role in protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms by documenting atrocities in order to hold wrongdoers accountable" and focusing "attention on emergencies and unfolding human rights crises, ensuring that those who are voiceless have a place to be heard," he said it still has "serious flaws."
Those flaws, said Blinken, include its "disproportionate attention on Israel and the membership of several states with egregious human rights records."
The U.S. move to rejoin council, meanwhile, was welcomed by Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU Human Rights Program, who said the Biden administration must now follow up with greater action to protect human rights within the United States.
"The tough work still lies ahead," he said, adding that "the United States' uncontested election to the Human Rights Council doesn't change the fact that we lag far behind on our international human rights obligations."
"From ending mass incarceration to dismantling systemic racism to protecting immigrants' rights, the Biden administration must take bold action to advance human rights and racial justice at home and abroad," Dakwar continued.
"Rhetoric and symbolic gestures are not enough," he said, "it's time for the United States to step up and prioritize human rights in domestic policy."
Monday, October 11, marked the official closure of the U.N. Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen (also known as the Group of Experts or GEE). For nearly four years, this investigative group examined alleged human rights abuses suffered by Yemenis whose basic rights to food, shelter, safety, health care and education were horribly violated, all while they were bludgeoned by Saudi and U.S. air strikes, drone attacks, and constant warfare since 2014.
"This is a major setback for all victims who have suffered serious violations during the armed conflict," the GEE wrote in a statement the day after the U.N. Human Rights Council refused to extend a mandate for continuation of the group's work. "The Council appears to be abandoning the people of Yemen," the statement says, adding that "Victims of this tragic armed conflict should not be silenced by the decision of a few States."
Prior to the vote, there were indications that Saudi Arabia and its allies, such as Bahrain (which sits on the U.N. Human Rights Council), had increased lobbying efforts worldwide in a bid to do away with the Group of Experts. Actions of the Saudi-led coalition waging war against Yemen had been examined and reported on by the Group of Experts. Last year, the Saudi bid for a seat on the Human Rights Council was rejected, but Bahrain serves as its proxy.
Bahrain is a notorious human rights violator and a staunch member of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia-led coalition which buys billions of dollars worth of weaponry from the United States and other countries to bomb Yemen's infrastructure, kill civilians, and displace millions of people.
The Group of Experts was mandated to investigate violations committed by all warring parties. So it's possible that the Ansar Allah leadership, often known as the Houthis, also wished to avoid the group's scrutiny. The Group of Experts' mission has come to an end, but the fear and intimidation faced by Yemeni victims and witnesses continues.
Mwatana for Human Rights, an independent Yemeni organization established in 2007, advocates for human rights by reporting on issues such as the torture of detainees, grossly unfair trials, patterns of injustice, and starvation by warfare through the destruction of farms and water sources. Mwatana had hoped the U.N. Human Rights Council would grant the Group of Experts a multi-year extension. Members of Mwatana fear their voice will be silenced within the United Nations if the Human Rights Council's decision is an indicator of how much the council cares about Yemenis.
"The GEE is the only independent and impartial mechanism working to deter war crimes and other violations by all parties to the conflict," said Radhya Almutawakel, Chairperson of Mwatana for Human Rights. She believes that doing away with this body will give a green light to continue violations that condemn millions in Yemen to "'unremitting violence, death and constant fear.'"
Rejoicing in Israel as Biden administration assents to a future of military action against Iran.
Yair Lapid got what he wanted out of his Washington visit: the word “every,” instead of “other.”
During Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s first meeting with United States President Joe Biden in August, Bennett was happy with what he heard: the American president, despite his desire to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal, said that if Iran does not engage in good faith diplomacy with the nations involved in the deal, the US would consider “other options” in getting Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions.
It was a sign that Israel and US Democrats, long far apart in their opinions on how to best contain Iran, were coming closer together. Lapid, on his official trip as foreign minister in Washington, pushed things along even further.
He looked on Wednesday as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that “every” option was on the table if Iran does not engage in a good faith effort to negotiate the US reentry into the nuclear deal.
It was one of those blink-and-you-miss-it moments in diplomacy, but it had significant weight. According to insiders involved in the issue, “other options” can be seen as referring to enhanced sanctions, or other non-military forms of pressure. “Every option” means military action may be on the table as well.
The Guardian carrying water for the mic:
On a blazing afternoon in Syria’s eastern desert this month, a Kurdish commander was hot under the collar. An American raid had just taken place against remnants of Islamic State (IS), and Lukman Khalil, the region’s most senior military leader, had known nothing about it. The US forces had flown across the wasteland of the terrorist group’s last redoubt. Three years ago it was teeming with diehard IS members, but when thousands of holdouts emerged from the decimated town of Baghuz, the war against the so-called caliphate was won, or so it seemed.
“People couldn’t be more wrong,” said Khalil. “[IS] thinks this was a lull, not a loss. And now they’re back to fighting us from the shadows.”
IS and the destruction it wreaked may be slipping from the memory of a relieved world. But where it all began – and seemingly ended – Kurdish forces say a new crisis is building. “An ideology cannot be finished easily,” said Khalil. “They are regrowing and learning to be patient again. And this time they’re doing so on both sides of the river.” ...
In the nearby city of Hasakah, Mazloum Abdi, the overall SDF commander, who has led the IS fight since 2014, said IS could again rise to threaten the global order. “We fought them so hard for so long and we want to ensure that they never become strong again,” he said. “Their leadership is reassembling. We are still arresting many of them, but it’s hard to keep up. In towns and villages they are often standing over people. There is a lot of threatening going on, and the communities are not yet strong enough to defy them.
“In Deir ez-Zor, and in Iraq in Anbar province and in Hmeimim mountains, IS has a coordinated presence. We can’t take our eyes off this. And nor can we ignore the camps.” Kurdish officials say their primary concern, for now, remains Deir ez-Zor province, an area that remains nearly impossible to tame even with the regular contribution of US and French special forces. With US forces due to leave Iraq and the debacle of the Afghanistan withdrawal still vivid, there are increasing concerns that Washington may also order the departure of its troops from Syria.
At least six people have died in Beirut’s worst street violence in 13 years, as hundreds of armed militia men took to the streets and much of the city was forced into lockdown by heavy fighting. The bloody violence took on a sectarian tone that invoked images of the Lebanese civil war and alarmed residents who had long feared that the multiple crises ravaging the country could spark a deadly conflagration.
The trigger for the clashes in neighbourhoods near the justice courts, which left dozens more injured, was a protest by members of Amal and Hezbollah, two predominantly Shia political parties, against a judicial probe into the massive blast in the city’s port last year.
The violence started with sniper fire from residential buildings targeting the protesters, who returned fire with AK-47 assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. Hezbollah claimed that protesters were fired on by gunmen from the rightwing Christian Lebanese Forces. ...
Interior minister Bassam Mawlawi said snipers had opened fire and aimed at people’s heads. All the dead were from one side, he said, meaning Shias. Politicians from the Shia blocs called for supporters to refrain from “being drawn further in” to fighting. ...
The violence unfolded while the US under secretary of state for political affairs, Victoria Nuland, was in town to meet Lebanese officials. Nuland later said an impartial judiciary was the guarantor of all rights, in apparent criticism of Hezbollah. “The Lebanese people deserve no less and the victims and the families of those lost in the port blast deserve no less,” she said. “Today’s unacceptable violence makes clear what the stakes are.”
US lawmakers announced two major new proposals seeking to rein in the power of big tech, days after the revelations from a former Facebook employee spotlighted the company’s sweeping impact.
The first bill, proposed by a group of senators headed by Democrat Amy Klobuchar and Republican Chuck Grassley would bar big tech platforms from favoring their own products and services. The second bill, put forward by House Democrats, would remove some protections afforded tech companies by Section 230, a portion of the Communications Decency Act that exempts them from liability for what is posted on their platforms.
The proposals are part of a slew of bills from this Congress aimed at reining in tech firms, including industry leaders Facebook and Apple. Thus far, none have become law although one, a broader measure to increase resources for antitrust enforcers, has passed the Senate.
Klobuchar and Grassley’s bill would specifically prohibit platforms from requiring companies operating on their sites to purchase the platform’s goods or services and ban them from biasing search results to favor the platform. It is a companion bill to a measure which has passed the House judiciary committee and must pass both houses of Congress to become law. ...
The bill House Democrats introduced on Thursday would create an amendment in Section 230 that would hold companies responsible for the personalized algorithmic amplification of problematic content. In other words it seeks to simply “turn off” the Facebook news algorithm, said Evan Greer, director of digital rights group Fight For the Future. ... “This bill is well-intentioned, but it’s a total mess,” added Greer. “Democrats are playing right into Facebook’s hands by proposing tweaks to Section 230 instead of thoughtful policies that will actually reduce the harm done by surveillance-driven algorithms.”
Get ready to pay sharply higher bills for heating this winter, along with seemingly everything else. With prices surging worldwide for heating oil, natural gas and other fuels, the US government said Wednesday it expects households to see their heating bills jump as much as 54% compared with last winter.
Nearly half the homes in the US use natural gas for heat, and they could pay an average $746 this winter, 30% more than a year ago. Those in the midwest could get particularly pinched, with bills up an estimated 49%, and this could be the most expensive winter for natural gas heated homes since 2008-2009.
The second-most used heating source for homes is electricity, making up 41% of the country, and those households could see a more modest 6% increase to $1,268. Homes using heating oil, which make up 4% of the country, could see a 43% increase – more than $500 – to $1,734. The sharpest increases will probably be for homes that use propane, which account for 5% of US households.
This winter is forecast to be slightly colder across the country than last year.
Oh my, I am shocked, shocked I tell you, to find out that the
federal justice system U.S. Legislative Branch is corrupt to its core.
Sen. Joe Manchin, one of a handful of Democratic lawmakers threatening to tank President Joe Biden's legislative agenda, has received at least $1.5 million in campaign donations from the businesses and trade groups leading corporate America's lobbying blitz against the Build Back Better reconciliation package, a new analysis by Accountable.US reveals.
The watchdog group's report, provided exclusively to Common Dreams, shows that corporate powerhouses including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce—the highest-spending lobbying firm in the U.S—and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America have donated a combined $1,525,700 to Manchin (D-W.Va.), a key swing vote who is currently working to lop as much as $2 trillion off his own party's popular legislation.
"Senator Manchin knows big corporations managed to make billion-dollar profits despite the pandemic as everyday families fell further behind," Kyle Herrig, president of Accountable.US, told Common Dreams. "Manchin now has a golden opportunity to level the playing field for working people by backing investments and tax relief aimed at them for a change—investments that will lower health and childcare costs for most in West Virginia."
"Rich corporations may have given Senator Manchin over a million reasons to avoid paying their fair share—but is it all worth it if he has nothing to show for the families he actually represents?" Herrig asked.
[Pffffftttt!!!! I think that we know the answer to that question. -js]
The Chamber of Commerce—whose members include such corporate behemoths as ExxonMobil, Pfizer, and Facebook—has promised to do "everything in [its] power to ensure" the reconciliation bill fails. Earlier this year, the lobbying group said it would financially reward Manchin after he voiced opposition to some of Biden's domestic policy initiatives.
According to Accountable.US, the Chamber's political action committee has given Manchin $10,000 since 2011. Big corporations on the business organization's leadership boards—including Shell Oil, Microsoft, and Honeywell—have donated a total of $565,700 to Manchin through their political arms, the watchdog group found.
Accountable's report also spotlights campaign cash the West Virginia Democrat has received from the Business Roundtable—"whose board is stocked with CEOs from 12 corporations that have given $245,500 to Sen. Manchin"—and the National Association of Manufacturers, "which gave $7,500 to Manchin as its leading corporate members gave him $487,000."
While Manchin has publicly been cagey about what specific programs he wants to cut from the emerging reconciliation package, recent news reports have indicated that the senator—a major ally of the fossil fuel and a coal profiteer—opposes some of Democrats' green-energy proposals, Medicare expansion, and other elements of the sprawling reconciliation plan, despite their popularity in West Virginia and across the nation. ...
A separate report released by Accountable.US earlier this month found that Manchin and his fellow right-wing Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.)—another key obstacle to the passage of Biden's agenda—have received at least $170,000 in campaign contributions from "known corporate tax dodgers," including JPMorgan Chase, Walmart, and FedEx.
Calls are growing for President Joe Biden’s Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary, Xavier Becerra, to use his administrative power to control drug pricing in a way that Becerra himself supported both as a member of Congress and as California Attorney General. Becerra’s delay in doing so spotlights the gap between Biden’s campaign promises and the actions of his administration and his personnel picks.
While much of the ongoing political debate about lowering the country’s wildly exorbitant and unfair drug prices has focused on whether Congress will authorize Medicare to use its purchasing power to negotiate more reasonable pharmaceutical prices, Becerra’s office also has the power to license patented pharmaceutical products made with federal funding. In July, lawmakers sent a letter to Becerra’s office calling on the secretary to examine making use of these so-called “march-in” rights to control drug pricing.
During his presidential campaign, Biden promised to tackle out-of-control pharmaceutical prices. "I'm going to lower prescription drugs by 60%, and that's the truth," he declared in November 2020.
An obvious way the Biden administration could now do something about drug prices would be exercising its power to employ march-in rights. Such government rights were established under the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 and give federal agencies the power to license patented products to other manufacturers if they were developed with government funding under special circumstances — including when “action is necessary because the contractor or assignee has not taken, or is not expected to take within a reasonable time, effective steps to achieve practical application of the subject invention in such field of use” and when “action is necessary to alleviate health or safety needs which are not reasonably satisfied by the contractor, assignee, or their licensees.”
However, the federal government has never exercised those rights in the 40 years since the law was signed. ...
While Becerra has not yet committed to utilizing march-in rights to lower drug prices, in September, his office issued a report flagging march-in rights as a tool at their disposal. The report notes that HHS, the National Institute of Health, and other agencies have been petitioned to use march-in rights and pledges “to give such petitions due consideration.”
Becerra’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
More than 10,000 production and warehouse workers at 14 John Deere plants in Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Colorado and Georgia walked off the job at midnight, in the latest in a wave of industrial unrest in the US. The workers, represented by nine locals with the United Auto Workers (UAW), voted 99% in favor of a strike authorization in September after receiving the initial six-year contract proposal from John Deere.
It is the biggest private sector strike in the US for two years, since the UAW led an action against General Motors. It also comes amid threats of other strikes in the US and widespread labor problems in an economy still recovering form the battering inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic.
On 10 October, workers voted overwhelmingly by 90% to reject the tentative contract agreement offered by John Deere, with a strike deadline set for 11.59pm CT on Wednesday.
David Schmelzer, a quality control inspector at John Deere in Milan, Illinois for 24 years and former chairman of UAW Local 79, said that in 1997 workers took several concessions from John Deere in contract negotiations at the time, which included creating a two-tier system of employees, with workers hired after 1997 receiving fewer benefits. “We sacrificed, and we want that back now,” said Schmelzer. “Workers in this country need to understand that we have a considerable amount of power in this country, if we choose to utilize it, and there’s no reason why we should stand back and let these companies just completely exploit our labor for billions of dollars and fight tooth and nail not to give us anything.”
Following a call by Rep. Cori Bush to investigate the use of tear gas on civilians by law enforcement, the House Oversight Committee on Thursday released a memo showing that the federal government has never determined the unregulated chemical to be safe for use on humans—despite the fact that manufacturers earn millions of dollars per year providing tear gas to police departments across the country.
Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who chair the Oversight Committee's panels on economic and consumer policy and civil rights liberties, respectively, released the memo decrying "a complete void in the regulation of tear gas, a weapon that is banned in war yet commonly used against U.S. citizens."
The memo comes more than a year after the killing of George Floyd by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin sparked nationwide racial justice protests, where tear gas and other violent crowd control methods were frequently deployed by law enforcement agencies.
"Tear gas is not an inconvenience, it is a weapon of war," said Bush (D-Mo.), who led civil rights demonstrations near St. Louis following the police killing of Michael Brown in 2014, in a statement Thursday. "I know what it's like to have tear gas fired at me—my eyes, skin, and lungs burning in the fog of that horrific weapon—and to desperately search for something to relieve the terrible pain."
"For too long, tear gas has been abused by law enforcement," the congresswoman added. ...
According to the two subcommittees' investigation:
- The U.S. has not conducted epidemiological research to determine the safety of tear gas when used on humans;
- Tear gas manufacturers acknowledge that tear gas is dangerous and that "injury and/or damage can be expected"; and
- Despite knowing the safety risks, manufacturers defer to law enforcement agencies regarding the use of tear gas and "some law enforcement associations eschew strict standards for tear gas use."
The subcommittees noted that widespread use of tear gas against protesters in the U.S.—including at one protest in June 2020 in Washington, D.C., where former Attorney General William Barr reportedly directed authorities to remove demonstrators, leading to the use of force—persists despite the United Nations' ban on tear gas in conflict zones.
Raskin and Krishnamoorthi requested information from multiple federal agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Department of Justice regarding efforts to regulate tear gas, studies on the effects of the chemical on human health, and "the feasibility of establishing universal standards for tear gas products."
Each agency responded briefly, confirming they do not "regulate tear gas" and are "not aware of any activities or actions regarding tear gas."
The memo notes that what little research has been done on tear gas was largely conducted around 1950 and only included animals and young men in good health. ...
The investigation also found that three manufacturers of tear gas—Pacem, Combined Systems, and Safariland—generated more than $13 million in revenue between January 2018 and June 2021, selling the product to police departments and corrections facilities.
Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the House select committee investigating the Capitol attack on Thursday announced the panel’s intention to consider a criminal contempt referral against Trump’s former strategist Steve Bannon for defying a subpoena as part of its 6 January inquiry. The vow to initiate contempt of Congress proceedings against Bannon – one of Donald Trump’s top advisers – puts the select committee on the path to enforce the subpoena issued to uncover what the former president knew in advance of plans to mount an insurrection.
Thompson said in a statement that the committee would move to consider prosecuting Bannon for refusing to comply with a subpoena demanding documents and testimony after rejecting his claims that he could not appear for a deposition because of executive privilege. ...
The select committee will meet on Tuesday to decide whether to recommend the full House authorize a criminal referral for Bannon to the justice department, Thompson said, though with the panel’s members united in their fury, the decision is expected to be unanimous. House select committee investigators had ordered Bannon and Kash Patel, a former Trump defense department aide, to testify on Thursday, with additional closed-door interviews with Trump’s former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and his deputy, Dan Scavino, on Friday.
Neither Bannon nor Patel ultimately appeared on Capitol Hill for the first set of scheduled depositions, after Trump instructed his aides to defy the subpoenas on grounds that any discussions that involved him were protected by executive privilege. The select committee temporarily postponed depositions with Patel and Meadows while their lawyers continued to discuss cooperation, according to a source familiar with the matter. Scavino was also granted a reprieve after having his subpoena served late.
Michigan Republicans are quietly moving to replace officials on key elections panels in the state with candidates who have embraced conspiracy theories about the last election, a move that could cause significant chaos in the counting of votes in the 2024 election and beyond. Some of the people being nominated have voiced racist ideas and expressed support for the idea that the 2020 election was stolen. Excellent reporting in the Detroit News this week lays out how this is happening.
This year, Republicans have nominated new people to serve on boards of canvassers – which play an important role in the machinery of elections – in eight of Michigan’s 11 largest counties. Michigan is a key swing state in US presidential elections and Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump there by more than 154,000 votes in 2020. “It’s very unusual,” Chris Thomas, who served as the state’s election director for decades, told me. “Hardcore activists aren’t necessarily the best people to be in a position that requires, frankly, a little bit of neutrality.”
After election day, a four-person board of canvassers in each county, split evenly between Republicans and Democrats, reviews precinct election results and makes sure that there are no abnormalities that need to be investigated. Once they check the results, they certify them, passing them to the state board of canvassers for final certification.
Last year, the usually under-the-radar board of canvassers became a key part of Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the election in Michigan. ...
The moves in Michigan come as people who have embraced lies about the 2020 election have launched campaigns to become the chief election official in several states, a perch from which they could wreak considerable havoc in 2024 and beyond.
Two weeks from today, Darren Woods will face a potential doomsday moment before the US Congress. ... His testimony could mark the beginning of the end of big oil escaping legal and financial responsibility for the climate crisis. Joining Woods, assuming that they all show up without being compelled by subpoenas, will be the heads of three other giant oil companies: Michael Wirth of Chevron, David Lawler of BP and Gretchen Watkins of Shell Oil. The Big Oil 4, let’s call them, will be questioned about what members of Congress call a “long-running, industry-wide campaign to spread disinformation about the role of fossil fuels in causing global warming”.
For the Big Oil 4 and their public relations advisers, the nightmare scenario is that 28 October will mirror the infamous congressional hearing that led to the downfall of big tobacco. On 14 April 1994, the top executives of the seven biggest tobacco companies in the US appeared before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health and the Environment, chaired by Henry Waxman of California. Each executive solemnly testified that, no, they did not think that nicotine is addictive.
CNN and C-Span carried the hearing live, and big tobacco became a national laughingstock – and legal target – overnight. ... Here’s the part that today’s big oil chieftains particularly don’t want to see repeated: five weeks after that hearing, the first lawsuit was filed in what became an avalanche of litigation that resulted in a $206bn judgment against big tobacco and a permanent sullying of its public image. The parallels with big oil today are uncanny. The big tobacco lawsuit was “premised on a simple notion”, said Mike Moore, the attorney general of Mississippi, who initiated the case: “You caused the health crisis – you pay for it” by reimbursing states for the extra costs that smoking imposed on their public health systems. Replace “the health crisis” with “the climate crisis” and you have the very same argument that New York, Massachusetts, Minnesota and dozens of other state and local governments have made in their pending lawsuits against oil companies.
And just as tobacco companies lied for 40 years about the dangers of smoking, so too have the oil companies lied for decades about the dangers of burning fossil fuels. They saw today’s climate crisis coming – their own scientists repeatedly warned top executives about it – and decided, bring it on.
A Scottish climate activist was hailed Thursday for poignantly challenging the CEO of Royal Dutch Shell—a company that's known since at least the 1980s that its products fuel global heating—during a TED event in Edinburgh.
"Son of a gun! A TED Talk that actually amounts to something," tweeted Bill McKibben, co-founder of the climate action group 350.org, after viewing video of Lauren MacDonald, a Green New Deal Rising and #StopCambo campaigner, confronting Shell CEO Ben van Beurden.
MacDonald and van Beurden appeared on a panel along with hedge fund founder Chris James during the TED Countdown Summit, a $10,000 to $50,000-per-ticket four-day event described by organizers as a forum where "speakers share a blueprint for a beautiful net-zero future."
Looking across the stage at van Beurden, MacDonald said, "No matter what he says today, remember, Shell has spent millions covering up the warnings from climate scientists, bribing politicians, and even paying soldiers to kill Nigerian activists fighting against them, all whilst rebranding to make it look as though they care and that they have the intention of changing."
"Disproportionately in the Global South, so many people are already dying due to issues related to the climate crisis, such as pollution, extreme heat, and weather-related disasters," MacDonald continued, telling the CEO that "this is not an abstract issue, and you are directly responsible for those deaths."
"If you're [going to] sit here and say you care about climate action, why are you currently appealing the recent court ruling that Shell must decrease its emissions by 45% by 2030?" she asked, drawing audience applause. "I seriously do not understand what goes on in your mind to sit there and say, 'I'm trying to do better' when you're appealing... being legally [bound] to climate action."
"I hope that you know that we will never forget what you have done and what Shell has done," said MacDonald, adding that "I hope you know that as the climate crisis gets more and more deadly, you will be to blame," before walking off the stage to more applause.
MacDonald then joined climate campaigners under the #StopCambo and #PeopleVsFossilFuels banners rallying outside the summit venue against the U.K. government-backed Cambo oil field development off Scotland's Shetland Islands, and ahead of the United Nations Climate Conference—also known as COP 26—set to begin October 31 in Glasgow.
The group of chemicals called phthalates, also known as plasticizers, may contribute to the early deaths of 91,000 to 107,000 older adults in the US each year, according to a new study. Adults between 55 and 64 with the highest concentrations of phthalates in their urine were more likely to die of any cause, especially heart disease, than adults with lesser exposure, according to the study published on Tuesday in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Pollution.
The study also estimated that this loss of life could cost the US between $40bn and $47bn each year.
“Until now, we have understood that the chemicals connect to heart disease, and heart disease in turn is a leading cause of death, but we had not yet tied the chemicals themselves to death,” the study’s lead author, Dr Leonardo Trasande, said in a release. In the US, three types of phthalates have been restricted or banned in toys, but are less restricted in cosmetics and food packaging materials. Researchers said the study “focuses substantial urgency” in putting further limits on phthalates in food packaging materials and other consumer goods.
Phthalates, a group of chemicals most commonly used to make plastic harder to break, can interfere with the function of hormones, and researchers plan to examine what role the chemical plays in hormone regulation and inflammation in the body.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Lonnie Brooks - Trading Post
Lonnie Brooks - Born With The Blues
Lonnie Brooks & Hubert Sumlin - Two Guitars Shuffle
Lonnie Brooks - Too Little, Too Late
Lonnie Brooks - Jealous Man
Lonnie Brooks - Let's Talk It Over
Lonnie Brooks - Wrong Number
Lonnie Brooks - Voodoo Daddy
Lonnie Brooks, Long John Hunter & Philip Walker- Boogie Rambler
Live show With Lonnie Brooks 1981