The Evening Blues - 10-16-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features jazz composer Duke Ellington. Enjoy!
Duke Ellington - The Mooche
“When you tear out a man's tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you're only telling the world that you fear what he might say.”
-- George R.R. Martin
News and Opinion
On Thursday, Facebook carried out a mass purge of left-wing political pages as part of an ongoing conspiracy by the state and the technology monopolies to censor the internet. Over 800 pages and accounts, with a combined following in the tens of millions, were summarily removed. The banned pages include highly popular postings by groups opposing and publicizing incidents of police violence such as Police the Police, Cop Block and Filming Cops, as well as prominent left-wing news pages such as Anti-Media, Reverb Press, Counter Current News and Resistance.
The removal of these pages is an unconstitutional assault on freedom of speech and expression. Facebook, acting in coordination with the US government, is violating the most fundamental rights of the American population. Facebook’s claim that the pages are being removed for “inauthentic behavior” is a transparent fraud. It is a pretext for political censorship. No less shocking than the brazen actions of Facebook is the response of all of the mainstream political news outlets, which have parroted the company’s absurd lies, citing “experts” who label constitutionally protected speech as “spam.”
Facebook’s actions are the latest and to date the most aggressive moves in a systematic campaign aimed at delegitimizing political opposition in preparation for the forcible suppression of oppositional groups and news outlets. ...
The censorship drive will not stop with the removal of Facebook accounts. PropOrNot, a shadowy organization whose 2016 blacklist, published by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Washington Post, helped launch the censorship campaign, hailed Facebook’s purge of accounts. In so doing, it made clear that this was only the beginning. PropOrNot pointed out that all of the organizations targeted by Facebook still “have websites,” and added, “but one thing at a time.” In other words, after removing targeted publications from search results and shutting down their social media accounts, the next step will be the forcible suppression of the websites themselves.
The forces leading the censorship campaign have been remarkably open about their motivations and aims. The Atlantic Council think tank, one of Facebook’s official “partners,” spelled out the aims of the government’s effort to censor the internet in a document published last month summarizing the proceedings of a US Special Forces conference on “sovereignty.” The document argues that the growth of political opposition in the United States presents an existential threat to the state. This crisis, it warns, can be resolved only by removing the “virus” of political opposition. The most effective way to do this, it explains, is to recruit US technology corporations to play a “central role” in carrying out censorship on behalf of the state.
While most indie media was focused on debating the way people talk about Kanye West and the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, an unprecedented escalation in internet censorship took place which threatens everything we all care about. It received frighteningly little attention. After a massive purge of hundreds of politically oriented pages and personal accounts for “inauthentic behavior”, Facebook rightly received a fair amount of criticism for the nebulous and hotly disputed basis for that action. What received relatively little attention was the far more ominous step which was taken next: within hours of being purged from Facebook, multiple anti-establishment alternative media sites had their accounts completely removed from Twitter as well.
As of this writing I am aware of three large alternative media outlets which were expelled from both platforms at almost the same time: Anti-Media, the Free Thought Project, and Police the Police, all of whom had millions of followers on Facebook. Both the Editor-in-Chief of Anti-Media and its Chief Creative Officer were also banned by Twitter, and are being kept from having any new accounts on that site as well.
“I unfortunately always felt the day would come when alternative media would be scrubbed from major social media sites,” Anti-Media’s Chief Creative Officer S.M. Gibson said in a statement to me. “Because of that I prepared by having backup accounts years ago. The fact that those accounts, as well as 3 accounts from individuals associated with Anti-Media were banned without warning and without any reason offered by either platform makes me believe this purge was certainly orchestrated by someone. Who that is I have no idea, but this attack on information was much more concise and methodical in silencing truth than most realize or is being reported.”
It is now clear that there is either (A) some degree of communication/coordination between Twitter and Facebook about their respective censorship practices, or (B) information being given to both Twitter and Facebook by another party regarding targets for censorship. Either way, it means that there is now some some mechanism in place linking the censorship of dissident voices across multiple platforms. We are beginning to see smaller anti-establishment alternative media outlets cut off from their audiences by the same sort of coordinated cross-platform silencing we first witnessed with Alex Jones in August. ...
Any time you try to talk about how internet censorship threatens our ability to get the jackboot of oligarchy off our necks you’ll always get some guy in your face who’s read one Ayn Rand book and thinks he knows everything, saying things like “Facebook is a private company! It can do whatever it wants!” Is it now? Has not Facebook been inviting US government-funded groups to help regulate its operations, vowing on the Senate floor to do more to facilitate the interests of the US government, deleting accounts at the direction of the US and Israeli governments, and handing the guidance of its censorship behavior over to the Atlantic Council, which receives funding from the US government, the EU, NATO and Gulf states? How “private” is that? Facebook is a deeply government-entrenched corporation, and Facebook censorship is just what government censorship looks like in a corporatist system of government.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai spoke publicly Monday about controversial efforts to launch a censored search app in China — defending the decision by saying that “well over 99 percent of queries” would be served. Pichai appeared at the Wired conference in San Francisco, where he was asked to address the controversy that prompted criticism from within the company, as well as from governments, activists and rights groups.
The Intercept reported in August on a secret Google project called “Dragonfly” in which a censored version of the search app for the Chinese market would automatically blacklist words such as “human rights,” “student protest,” and “Nobel Prize” to placate Beijing. The executive admitted the company was looking into the possibility but said it had taken no decision to launch the product. ...
Pichai’s comments contradict the leaked transcript of a July meeting conducted by Ben Gomes, the company’s search chief, where he said the plan was to launch the app as soon as possible. The CEO did not address a report that the app would link users’ personal searches to their phone numbers.
Ecuador has laid out a stringent new set of house rules for Julian Assange, warning the whistleblower to avoid online comments about political issues – and ordering him to clean his bathroom and take better care of his cat, or risk losing his pet. Assange, who has been living in Ecuador’s UK embassy since June 2012, must obtain approval for all visitors from diplomatic staff three days in advance. He is expressly banned from activities which could be “considered as political or interfering with the internal affairs of other states,” according to the memo seen by the Guardian.
The Ecuadorian government partially lifted restrictions Assange’s internet access at the weekend, but the document stipulates that the WikiLeaks founder will only be allowed to use the embassy wifi for his personal computer and phone. ...
“It’s virtually a prison regime,” Carlos Poveda, Assange’s lawyer in Quito told the Guardian. “This new regime goes against his basic human dignity as an asylee,” he said. Poveda added that as of Monday Assange had not had his internet restored and had not been able to read and understand the memo as it had not been translated from Spanish.
The memo implored Assange and his guests to keep the bathroom clean and stated the diplomatic mission would not pay towards his food, laundry or any other costs related to his stay from 1 December 2018 onwards. Assange must also have quarterly medical check-ups that he must pay for too, it stated. Any failure to comply with the news house rules “could lead to the termination of the diplomatic asylum granted by the Ecuadorian state,” it added.
Efforts to unite the Brazilian left against rightwing presidential frontrunner Jair Bolsonaro have snagged on internal squabbles, making it even harder to close a gap in opinion polls less than two weeks before the runoff election. The latest poll, released by Ibope late on Monday, showed that Bolsonaro had a commanding lead over leftist rival Fernando Haddad, with 59% of valid votes against 41% for Haddad.
The poll, details of which ran in newspaper Estado de S Paulo on Tuesday, showed Haddad with a higher rate of “rejection” among voters ahead of the 28 October runoff, due in part to dislike of his Workers Party (PT) even among fellow leftists. About 47% of people polled said they would never vote for him, compared with 35% rejecting Bolsonaro.
The bad news for Haddad came as efforts to attract the voters of Ciro Gomes, who came third in the first round of voting on 7 October after a center-left campaign on the Democratic Labor party ticket, devolved into a shouting match at a campaign event on Monday night. At a rally in the northeastern state of Ceara, which Gomes won in the first vote, his brother and campaign manager Cid Gomes was called upon to formally endorse Haddad.
But Cid Gomes took the opportunity to call for a mea culpa over sprawling graft schemes orchestrated by leaders of the PT. The party’s founder, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, is doing jail time for a corruption conviction. Videos of the event showed Cid Gomes was met with rowdy boos. “You’re going to lose the election, and it’s your fault,” Cid Gomes shot back. “You morons! Lula is in prison!“
Political Violence Surges in Brazil as Far-Right Strongman Jair Bolsonaro Inches Closer to the Presidency
As Brazil's far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro steams ahead to what seems a likely victory on October 28, a climate of fear is spreading amid mounting reports of violence against non-supporters and journalists — including online intimidation, physical attacks, and even murder. His rival, Workers’ Party candidate Fernando Haddad, trails by 18 points in the latest polls.
In Salvador, the country’s capital of Afro-Brazilian culture, Paulo Sérgio Ferreira Santana was jailed last week for the killing of Moa do Katendê, a master of the Afro-Brazilian martial art capoeira, in a bar, hours after Bolsonaro narrowly missed winning the election in the first round of voting. Eyewitnesses said the pair argued about politics and traded insults before Santana, a Bolsonaro supporter, paid his bill, left, returned with a knife, and stabbed the capoeira master, a Workers’ Party supporter, 12 times in the back.
At a rally last month, Bolsonaro grabbed a camera tripod and pretended to shoot it like a rifle, telling a crowd of enthusiastic supporters, “Let’s shoot the petralhada here,” using a derogatory term for Workers’ Party voters. It was hardly an isolated comment in his decades-long career of praising torture, hate crimes, and political violence. The candidate, however, denied any responsibility for Katendê’s death. “Some guy with one of my shirts commits an excess,” said Bolsonaro. “What do I have to do with it? I lament it.” ... Since September 30, more than 70 politically motivated attacks and threats have been documented across Brazil — at least 50 of which were perpetrated by Bolsonaro supporters and six against them, according to data from the Brasil.io data lab, Agência Pública, and Open Knowledge Brasil. The numbers do not include online threats and harassment.
Brazil is one of the world’s most violent countries, with nearly 64,000 homicides last year, the vast majority of which have gone unsolved. Political murders and violence are common in the country: An average of nine elected officials are killed per year, and 28 candidates were murdered nationwide in the 2016 municipal election cycle — but usually because of land, property, or economic interests. “People didn’t kill each other before because of what another demanded from the world politically. It’s a result of this election,” said Bruno Paes Manso, a researcher at the Center for the Study of Violence at the University of São Paulo, which maps and publishes data on Brazil’s homicides.
Mike Pompeo landed in Riyadh Tuesday for crisis talks over the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi amid reports Saudi authorities were preparing to admit that they killed him. ... The New York Times reported that the regime is preparing to say that a friend of the crown prince, an official within the kingdom’s intelligence services, carried out the killing but not on the orders of the royal family.
First reported by CNN, and confirmed by The Wall Street Journal, CBS and NBC, the Saudi version of events would admit that Khashoggi died within the consulate during an interrogation that went wrong. The admission would say Prince Mohammed had approved the journalist’s interrogation or rendition back to Saudi Arabia but not his murder, which would be framed as a tragic accident.
When asked about the reports Monday night, President Donald Trump — who earlier in the day had floated the theory that “rogue killers” were responsible — said: “I just don't know. I'm going to have to see what they say. Nobody knows if it's an official report. So far it's just the rumor of a report coming out.”
Some areas have been repainted at the Saudi consulate where missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was last seen alive, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has said, as investigators prepared to enter the nearby Saudi consul’s house after the diplomat left the country.
Erdogan told reporters on Tuesday that police had found evidence of toxic materials and signs that some surfaces had been repainted at the consulate where investigators say the missing journalist was killed. “My hope is that we can reach conclusions that will give us a reasonable opinion as soon as possible, because the investigation is looking into many things such as toxic materials and those materials being removed by painting them over,” he said.
Turkish officials continued to leak to news outlets on Tuesday that police found evidence in the nearby consulate building during Monday’s search that proved Khashoggi was killed there. Turkish sources allege the body was then transported to the consul general’s house nearby and disposed of. Of particular interest to the forensics team in the new search is the garden, where it is believed the journalist’s remains could have been buried, and a garage under the house, where cars with diplomatic plates spent several hours after driving from the consulate building on the day he vanished. At least four diplomatic vehicles are included in the investigation.
Mohammad al-Otaibi, the consul general, has not been seen in public since the scandal erupted. Turkish television and semi-official Anadolu news agency said on Tuesday evening that he left Turkey on a commercial flight hours before his residence was expected to be searched.
A blacklist of 21 countries whose so-called “golden passport” schemes threaten international efforts to combat tax evasion has been published by the west’s leading economic thinktank. Three European countries – Malta, Monaco and Cyprus – are among those nations flagged as operating high-risk schemes that sell either residency or citizenship in a report released on Tuesday by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
The Paris-based body has raised the alarm about the fast-expanding $3bn (£2.3bn) citizenship by investment industry, which has turned nationality into a marketable commodity. In exchange for donations to a sovereign trust fund, or investments in property or government bonds, foreign nationals can become citizens of countries in which they have never lived. Other schemes, such as that operated by the UK, offer residency in exchange for sizable investments.
The programme operated by Malta is particularly popular because as a European member state its nationals, including those who buy citizenship, can live and work anywhere in the EU. The country has, since 2014, sold citizenship to more than 700 people, most of them from Russia, the former Soviet bloc, China and the Middle East. But concern is growing among political leaders, law enforcement and intelligence agencies that the schemes are open to abuse by criminals and sanctions-busting business people.
Also on the OECD blacklist are a handful of Caribbean nations that pioneered the modern-day methods for the marketing of citizenship. These include Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, and St Kitts and Nevis, which has sold 16,000 passports since relaunching its programme in 2006. After analysing residence and citizenship schemes operated by 100 countries, the OECD says it is naming those jurisdictions that attract investors by offering low personal tax rates on income from foreign financial assets, while also not requiring an individual to spend a significant amount of time in the country.
'Lives Hang in the Balance': 21 Days Before Midterms, McConnell Admits GOP Still Salivating to Gut Medicare and Social Security
Openly confirming that it has been the GOP's plan all along to ram through deficit-exploding tax cuts for the rich and then gut crucial safety net programs to pay for the difference, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday falsely blamed America's soaring deficit on "entitlements"—the scare word Republicans use in place of Medicare and Social Security—and said these programs must be cut to bring federal spending under control.
"I think it would be safe to say that the single biggest disappointment of my time in Congress has been our failure to address the entitlement issue, and it's a shame, because now the Democrats are promising Medicare for All," McConnell said in an interview with Bloomberg less than 24 hours after Treasury Department figures showed that the federal deficit has reached its highest point in six years. "It's very disturbing, and it's driven by the three big entitlement programs that are very popular: Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid," McConnell added. "There's been a bipartisan reluctance to tackle entitlement changes because of the popularity of those programs. Hopefully at some point here we'll get serious about this. We haven't been yet."
Progressive advocacy groups, analysts, and lawmakers were not at all surprised by McConnell's attempt to shift blame for the soaring budget deficit away from the deeply unpopular tax bill and onto the safety net. As Common Dreams has reported, progressives have been warning since before the $1.5 trillion in tax cuts passed last year that the next step on the Republican agenda is a full-scale attack on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. "This has been their plan since Day 1," People for Bernie declared in response to McConnell's comments. "It's exactly three weeks until the midterm elections and the the Republican Senator Majority Leader is calling to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. We're calling to expand them. Let this be known far and wide."
Nation Warned That Trump's "Horrifying" Medicaid Pick Hired With "Express Purpose to Dismember" Program
Provoking immediate warnings about what is now in store for the most vulnerable people in the United States, President Donald Trump on Monday reportedly tapped Maine's former health commissioner Mary Mayhew—who was instrumental in Republican Gov. Paul LePage's efforts to block Medicaid expansion in the state—to run the program at the federal level.
Critics such as Zak Ringelstein, a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate from Maine, rapidly denounced her appointment as "horrifying." People for Bernie co-founder Winnie Wong warned, "She's coming for Medicaid."
"This is horrible news," responded Maine-based Dr. Cathleen London. "She destroyed Medicaid in Maine now she will destroy it in the whole country." Healthcare policy expert Andy Slavitt—who ran the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) under the Obama administration—declared: "The Medicaid director from the state that refused to implement Medicaid expansion is now apparently to run the Medicaid program nationally under Trump."
Former Maine state Rep. Diane Russell, a Democrat, expressed her alarm in a series of tweets. "Make no mistake, she was hired for her cruelty with the express purpose to dismember Medicaid," Russell charged, referencing a 2017 Portland Press Herald column that detailed the findings of a federal audit that showed gross failures while Mayhew was the state's top health official responsible for administrating MaineCare, the state's version of the program. ...
The ACLU of Maine turned to Twitter on Monday to highlight a blog post from last year that outlined how "Mayhew has staked her career on reducing the number of Mainers who can access MaineCare." The group points out that "under her stewardship, the state has reduced MaineCare's enrollment by 37 percent, taking health insurance away from approximately 80,000 poor Mainers."
A coven of witches will gather in an occult bookstore in Brooklyn, New York, on Saturday to place a hex on the supreme court justice Brett Kavanaugh. Tickets to the event, which cost $10, with half the proceeds going to women’s and LGBT charities, have already sold out. The event is not out of the ordinary for Catland Books, which describes itself as “Brooklyn’s premier metaphysical boutique and event space”. They have previously held ceremonies to hex Donald Trump as well as a “hex your ex” ceremony on Valentine’s Day.
Dakota Bracciale, co-owner of the store, told the Guardian the event will be an important act of protest and community outreach, even if some attendees are skeptical.
“The whole thing is going to be really cathartic, whether you believe it or not. The right has churches but the left is scattershot. The left is where you’re going to find atheists, secularists, humanists, people who follow non-traditional religions. So how are you going to get all of us together in times of trouble? That’s what we’ve been doing.”
The ceremony has become a talking point for some rightwing commentators, who see it as part of a pattern of leftwing attacks on leading Trump allies. On Fox News last Friday, Tucker Carlson discussed the coven’s plans, taking particular umbrage with their idea to donate 25% of proceeds to Planned Parenthood, which he said would “help them continue to fund their human sacrifice rituals”.
Tucker: Planned Parenthood performs "human sacrifice rituals" pic.twitter.com/3tde14wHaI
— Mad Online Peltz (@peltzmadeline) October 13, 2018
Amy Kremer, the co-founder of the Women Vote Trump Pac, brought the event up in a roundtable on MSNBC, describing it as an escalation of attempts to publicly shame Republicans. “It is a scary time right now. Sarah Sanders has been run out of restaurants. I mean, there’s a list of things going on. Now you’ve got witches that are placing a hex on Brett Kavanaugh.” The event’s Facebook page has also been flooded with comments opposing the event, many of them proclaiming it an affront to Christianity. “Kavanaugh is a Christian. True Christians have the protection of our heavenly father against others that desire a demon attack against them,” wrote one commenter.
Worth a look. Here's an excerpt from the intro:
In 2013, the Supreme Court gutted the core of one of the crowning achievements of the civil rights movement: the Voting Rights Act. The 1965 bill, propelled by the historic march of protestors from Montgomery to Selma, Alabama, officially put an end to the literacy tests, poll taxes, and voting restrictions that had disenfranchised millions of minority voters for decades. And it went further than that: it also required areas of the country with a history of using these discriminatory tactics to get federal approval before making any changes to voting.
Shelby County v. Holder
, the court allowed these areas of the country free reign over voting rules once again. For the first time since 1965, local officials could now close polls or change voting laws without the permission of the federal government. In the 5-4 ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts implied that the problems of systemic racism and voter discrimination were part of a bygone era: The Act’s rules, he wrote, were “based on decades-old data and eradicated practices.” At the time, critics feared that local and state governments suddenly freed to pass voting laws without oversight would start to implement sweeping discriminatory policies; others warned of small, localized changes, such as closing polling places in neighborhoods where minorities vote.
Now, an exclusive analysis by VICE News has found that these worries were justified. In the years following the
Shelby decision, jurisdictions once subject to federal supervision shut down, on average, almost 20 percent more polling stations per capita than jurisdictions in the rest of the country. There are now 10 percent more people per polling place in the formerly-supervised areas than in the rest of the country. Furthermore, within 18 counties in 13 states examined at a granular level, many of the closed polls were in neighborhoods with large minority populations. This analysis is the first attempt to look nationally at poll closures since the heart of the Voting Rights Act was removed.
A defamation lawsuit filed by adult film actor Stormy Daniels against Donald Trump has been dismissed by a federal court, with the judge saying the tweet at the heart of the case was protected by free speech laws.
Daniels has said that in 2011, a man approached her in a Las Vegas parking lot and threatened her after she had agreed to talk about her experience with Trump in an interview. She then released a sketch of the man. In the lawsuit, Clifford alleged that a Trump tweet, which said she had fabricated the encounter, had defamed her, saying it made her out to be a liar. ...
In Monday’s decision from S James Otero, a federal judge in the central district of California, it was found that “Mr Trump’s statement constituted ‘rhetorical hyperbole’ that is protected by the first amendment.” He noted “if this court were to prevent Mr Trump from engaging in this type of ‘rhetorical hyperbole’ against a political adversary, it would significantly hamper the office of the president. Any strongly-worded response by a president to another politician or public figure could constitute an action for defamation.” Otero also went on to order Clifford to pay Trump’s legal fees, but has not yet fixed an amount.
Humanity’s ongoing annihilation of wildlife is cutting down the tree of life, including the branch we are sitting on, according to a stark new analysis. More than 300 different mammal species have been eradicated by human activities. The new research calculates the total unique evolutionary history that has been lost as a result at a startling 2.5bn years. Furthermore, even if the destruction of wild areas, poaching and pollution were ended within 50 years and extinction rates fell back to natural levels, it would still take 5-7 million years for the natural world to recover.
Many scientists think a sixth mass extinction of life on Earth has begun, propelled by human destruction of wildlife, and 83% of wild mammals have already gone. The new work puts this in the context of the evolution and extinction of species that occurred for billions of years before modern humans arrived. “We are doing something that will last millions of years beyond us,” said Matt Davis at Aarhus University in Denmark, who led the new research. “It shows the severity of what we are in right now. We’re entering what could be an extinction on the scale of what killed the dinosaurs.
The new research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, did not simply add up the number of lost species, as this fails to capture how unique each species is in evolutionary terms. Instead, the researchers added up the amount of time each lost species had spent evolving since it emerged, a measure called phylogenetic diversity. There are hundreds of species of shrew, for example, but just two species of elephant. Losing elephants would therefore be like chopping a large branch off the tree of life, said Davis, whereas losing a shrew species would be like trimming off a small twig.
From the rise of modern humans to the year 1500,2bn years of evolutionary history was lost due to mammal extinctions, the researchers calculated. Since 1500, another 500m years has been lost. If the current high rate of extinctions continues for 50 years, a further 1.8bn years of phylogenetic diversity will disappear, the scientists found. There are still many mammal species left, but all of these would have to evolve for 5-7m years into the future to get back to the level of diversity present before modern humans arrived, the researchers estimated.
Worth a full read:
As the flat-bottom fishing boat speeds through waterways deep inside Louisiana’s Atchafalaya basin, the largest river swamp in the US, the landscape suddenly shifts from high banks of sediment and oil pipeline markers on either side to an open grove of cypress trees towering above the water. Flocks of white ibis appear, seemingly out of nowhere, to nest and hunt amid the moss-dripped, century-old wetland forest. “This is what the entire basin is supposed to look like,” explained Jody Meche, president of a local crawfishermen alliance and a lifelong resident with a thick Cajun accent.
And it is in peril. Degraded by decades of oil and gas development and lax permit enforcement, the swamp has now emerged as a flashpoint for environmental activists seeking to stop construction of the tail end of the controversial Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL), which was the subject of mass protests in 2016. The 160-mile Bayou Bridge pipeline, as the section of DAPL is known, will cross Native American land and 700 bodies of water, terminating in St James, a tiny African American community in Louisiana’s “Cancer Alley”, where some residents are already so hemmed in by industrial infrastructure that they lack an emergency evacuation route.
In a last-ditch effort, one group of activists is staging an unprecedented and divisive physical protest campaign. They have locked themselves to construction equipment, forced construction stoppages by kayaking up to worksites and dangling from trees on makeshift platforms to delay clearcutting.
The Bayou Bridge pipeline (BBP) provides the final link between fracked oil from the Bakken shale fields of North Dakota and the refineries and export facilities of the Gulf coast. It is the latest addition to 125,000 miles of pipeline that already snake through Louisiana. Environmental advocates contend the pipelines are fueling the state’s coastal land loss crisis by blocking the natural flow of sediment through waterways. This causes the delicate wetlands along the coast to wash away more quickly by rising sea levels and leaves coastal communities more vulnerable to hurricanes.
Many here allege that the problem is greatly exacerbated by weak regulation and enforcement. Pipeline developers, they say, have illegally left behind mounds of dredged sediment called spoil banks – a byproduct of the construction process – that act as artificial dams, creating stagnant pools where crawfish and other wildlife can barely survive. Natural bayous, once rich fishing grounds, have silted up. “Thousands of acres are just lost,” said Meche, who is also a member of Atchafalaya Basinkeeper, a local not-for-profit group founded by fishermen that is working to restore and protect the area from further destruction. “Big oil, they’ve gotten away with it.”
As Judge Considers Letting Monsanto Off the Hook, Jurors Demand Court Respect Their Historic Verdict Holding Company to Account
Learning that a judge may overturn their historic decision to hold the chemical company Monsanto-Bayer accountable for manufacturing cancer-causing weedkillers, several jurors are demanding that their verdict in a case decided in August be upheld.
Gary Kitahata and Robert Howard are among the jurors who unanimously found that Monsanto was liable for $289 million in damages, to be paid to former school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer after spending years using Monsanto's products at his job. In two separate letters written in recent days, Kitahata and Howard appealed to California Superior Court Judge Suzanne Bolanos this week after she announced her consideration of a retrial and indicated she might overturn nearly all of the damages the jury awarded to Johnson.
While Bolanos argued the plaintiff's legal team did not prove Monsanto knew about the dangers of its product, Kitihata told the the San Francisco Chronicle on Monday that the judge "had a chance to raise these questions during trial and even during jury deliberations. I thought it was the jury's role to be the judge of evidence." Kitihata and the other jurors found that Monsanto owed $250 million to Johnson in punitive damages as well as $31 million for shortening his life expectancy. Bolanos said in a public hearing last Wednesday that she may overturn both sums, leaving Johnson with $8 million. The judge is expected to reach a decision by next Monday.
After a six-week trial involving testimony from medical and scientific experts, the jury found that Monsanto had sold glyphosate-based products to Johnson's school district even though it knew the chemical could cause cancer. "You may not have been convinced by the evidence, but we were," Kitahata wrote to Bolanos in his letter. "I urge you to respect and honor our verdict and the six weeks of our lives that we dedicated to this trial." The possibility that the jury's "unanimous verdict could be summarily overturned demeans our system of justice and shakes my confidence in that system," wrote Howard in his own letter.
Glyphosate was classified by the World Health Organization as a "probably human carcinogen" in 2015, the same year Johnson as diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and a year after a previous diagnosis of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Johnson's case was just the first to go to trial out of more 4,000 lawsuits against the company, with plaintiffs across the country arguing Monsanto's products contributed significantly to their cancer diagnoses.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Duke Ellington - Bundle of Blues
Duke Ellington - C Jam Blues
Duke Ellington - Harlem Speaks
Duke Ellington w/Irving Mills - Doin’ The New Low Down
Duke Ellington - Daybreak Express
Duke Ellington - Blues In Orbit
Duke Ellington - Black And Tan Fantasy
Duke Ellington & His Cotton Club Orchestra - Doin' The Voom Voom
Duke Ellington - Take the A Train