The Evening Blues - 10-7-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features rock, blues and soul singer Janis Joplin. Enjoy!
Janis Joplin - Piece Of My Heart
"Corruption is nature's way of restoring our faith in democracy."
-- Peter Ustinov
News and Opinion
Worth a full read:
Fearful of Lula’s Exoneration, His Once-Fanatical Prosecutors Request His Release From Prison. But Lula Refuses.
The same Brazilian prosecutors who for years exhibited a single-minded fixation on jailing former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva are now seeking his release from prison, requesting that a court allow him to serve the remainder of his 11-year sentence for corruption at home. But Lula — who believes the request is motivated by fear that prosecutorial and judicial improprieties in his case, which were revealed by The Intercept, will lead to the nullification of his conviction — is opposing these efforts, insisting that he will not leave prison until he receives full exoneration.
In seeking his release, Lula’s prosecutors are almost certainly not motivated by humanitarian concerns. Quite the contrary: Those prosecutors have often displayed a near-pathological hatred for the two-term former president. Last month, The Intercept, jointly with its reporting partner UOL, published previously secret Telegram messages in which the Operation Car Wash prosecutors responsible for prosecuting Lula cruelly mocked the tragic death of his 7-year-old grandson from meningitis earlier this year, as well as the 2017 death of his wife of 43 years from a stroke at the age of 66. One of the prosecutors who participated publicly apologized, but none of the others have. Far more likely is that the prosecutors are motivated by desperation to salvage their legacy after a series of defeats suffered by their once-untouchable, widely revered Car Wash investigation, ever since The Intercept, on June 9, began publishing reports based on a massive archive of secret chats between the prosecutors and Sergio Moro, the judge who oversaw most of the convictions, including Lula’s, and who now serves as President Jair Bolsonaro’s Minister of Justice and Public Security.
The prosecutors’ cynical gambit, it appears, is that the country’s Supreme Court — which two weeks ago nullified one of Moro’s anti-corruption convictions for the first time on the ground that he violated core rights of defendants — will feel less pressure to nullify Moro’s guilty verdict in Lula’s case if the ex-president is comfortably at home in São Paulo (albeit under house arrest) rather than lingering in a Curitiba prison. But this strategy ran into a massive roadblock when Lula demanded that he not be released from prison unless and until he is fully exonerated. He wants to ensure that nobody — least of all Supreme Court judges who will rule on his appeal — feel relieved of their obligation to decide correctly by telling themselves that there is no need to take such a drastic step as nullifying Lula’s conviction given that he is no longer in jail but at home.
“I won’t trade my dignity for my freedom,” the former president proclaimed in a hand-written letter “to the Brazilian People,” explaining why he would resist efforts to swap his home for his cage as his prison. “I’ve already proven that the accusations against me are false. It is [the Car Wash prosecutors and Sergio Moro], not me, who are now prisoners of the lies they told Brazil and the world.” In response, Deltan Dallagnol, the task force’s nominal chief and a prime subject of The Intercept’s reporting, insisted that Lula has no say in that matter: that if he is ordered to leave prison, he has no power to resist or reject the terms. So weakened is the Car Wash prosecution that, in a surreal spectacle, the prosecutors who worked for years and broke numerous rules to ensure Lula’s imprisonment are now demanding that he leave prison (albeit on their terms), while Lula categorically refuses to do so absent full acquittal of the crimes of which they accused him.
North Korea’s lead negotiator has said that working-level nuclear talks in Sweden between officials from Pyongyang and Washington have broken off, dashing prospects for an end to months of stalemate.
The North’s chief nuclear negotiator, Kim Myong-gil, who spent much of Saturday in Stockholm talks with an American delegation, cast the blame on what he portrayed as US inflexibility, saying the other side’s negotiators would not “give up their old viewpoint and attitude”.
“The negotiations have not fulfilled our expectation and finally broke off,” Kim told reporters outside the North Korean embassy on Saturday night, speaking through an interpreter.
The US state department said those comments did not reflect “the content or spirit” of more than eight hours of talks, and Washington had accepted Sweden’s invitation to return to Stockholm for more discussions with Pyongyang in two weeks.
“The US brought creative ideas and had good discussions with its [North Korea] counterparts,” spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement. ... North Korea’s Kim downplayed the US gestures, saying they had “raised expectations by offering suggestions like a flexible approach, new method and creative solutions, but they have disappointed us greatly and dampened our enthusiasm for negotiation by bringing nothing to the negotiation table”.
Iraqi security forces opened fire on unarmed civilians for the fourth day in a row Friday as protesters poured into the streets once again in defiance of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s declaration of a round-the-clock curfew. The death toll was reported at 65 Friday night, with more expected to be killed in overnight clashes. The real number of dead is undoubtedly far higher. The number of wounded, from live ammunition, rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon, has been reported at over 1,500.
Heavily armed soldiers, members of Iraq’s elite counterterrorism squads and riot police have been deployed in an attempt to prevent demonstrators from marching on central Baghdad’s Tahrir Square and on the Green Zone, the heavily fortified center of the Iraqi government, the US and other Western embassies and the various military contractors hired to prop up the regime. Snipers on rooftops have been deployed to pick off protesters. The government has shut down the internet across Iraq in its bid to suppress the organization of fresh protests. There have also been reports of masked death squads going to the homes of known activists and assassinating them.
Thus far, these repressive measures have proved counterproductive, with every state killing fueling the popular anger against the government. Unrest has gripped the impoverished Shia neighborhoods of Sadr City, where more than a decade ago militias confronted American troops. Crowds there reportedly have set fire to government buildings as well as the offices of Shia-based parties that support the government.
The protests, which have demanded jobs, improved living conditions and an end to corruption, are the largest and most widespread that have broken out in Iraq in the more than 16 years since Washington launched its war to topple the government of Saddam Hussein. Most of those confronting US-trained security forces in the streets are unemployed youth and young workers whose entire lives have been shaped by the criminal US war of aggression, the subsequent eight years of US occupation and the bitter sectarian conflicts instigated by Washington as part of its divide-and-rule strategy. ...
Having spent trillions of dollars and sacrificed the lives of 4,500 troops—along with tens of thousands of wounded—Washington has proved utterly incapable of establishing a stable US puppet regime in Baghdad.
Iraq's Prime Minister has said the government needs to do more to combat corruption as the death toll in four days of deadly protests rose to 93. Thousands have been involved in Iraq's nationwide protests, which are among the largest seen in decades and which were sparked by frustration over alleged government corruption, lack of basic services and growing unemployment.
In a conciliatory speech broadcast on state television early on Friday, Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi called the demonstrators' demands for work opportunities and comprehensive reforms "righteous," adding that the government needs to exert "greater effort" to combat corruption. Abdul-Mahdi said the government would "soon" present a project to offer a basic wage for the poor so that "all Iraqi families can live in dignity."
"Everyone should respect the rule of law by which everyone can live in security and stability," he added.
At least 93 people were killed and 3,978 injured in violent protests across Iraq this week, Ali Akram al-Bayati, a member of the Independent High Commission for Human Rights of Iraq, told CNN.
Whistleblower accuses largest US military shipbuilder of putting ‘American lives at risk’ by falsifying tests on submarine stealth coating
America's largest military shipbuilding company has been accused of falsifying tests and certifications on stealth coatings of its submarines "that put American lives at risk," according to a complaint filed in federal court last month. Huntington Ingalls Industries, which spun-off from Northrop Grumman in 2011, "knowingly and/or recklessly" filed falsified records with the Navy claiming it had correctly applied a coating, called a Special Hull Treatment, to Virginia-class attack submarines which would allow the vessels to elude enemy sonar, the Sept. 26 complaint alleges.
Instead, the complaint said, Huntington Ingalls' Newport News Shipbuilding facility in Virginia took shortcuts that allegedly "plagued" the class of submarines with problems, and then retaliated against the employee who spoke up about the issues.
Huntington Ingalls, and Northrop Grumman, are being sued for damages in excess of $100 million for allegedly misleading the federal government on a defense contract to apply the sound-dampening coating to the submarines. The Navy's Virginia-class attack submarines are manufactured as part of a joint effort by General Dynamics' Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls.
The complaint alleges that Northrop Grumman and Huntington Ingalls Industries violated the federal government's False Claims Act when they "falsified testing and certifications on multi-billion dollar submarine contracts." The complaint goes on to note that the companies "induced the government to pay the defendants in-full for submarines with dangerous defects that put American lives at risk."
A second whistleblower with direct knowledge of an alleged plot by Donald Trump to extort Ukraine into producing dirt on his Democratic 2020 election rival Joe Biden has stepped forward, according to Mark Zaid, a lawyer for the first whistleblower in the case.
Zaid told ABC News on Sunday that he was representing a second whistleblower, described as a member of the intelligence community, in the case that has sparked an impeachment inquiry by the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill. Zaid said he did not know whether his second client was the same “second whistleblower” whose existence was first reported by the New York Times on Saturday.
A colleague of Zaid’s, Andrew Bakaj, confirmed the news Sunday morning on Twitter: “I can confirm that my firm and my team represent multiple whistleblowers in connection to the underlying 12 August disclosure to the Intelligence Community Inspector General. No further comment at this time.”
An account by a second whistleblower reinforcing the original whistleblower complaint, made public two weeks ago, could accelerate the impeachment inquiry against Trump, announced by House speaker Nancy Pelosi on 24 September. The first complaint helped Democrats in Congress focus their inquiry on US and Ukrainian diplomats who helped arrange a phone call between Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelinskiy.
Joe Biden loses his cool when confronted by a reporter asking whether there was ‘conflict of interest’ regarding his son's Ukraine/China business scandal. pic.twitter.com/kW2U0IwztJ
— Giovanni Cavalcanti (@giovannicavett) October 4, 2019
... Let’s start with Hunter Biden. In April 2014, he became a director of Burisma, the largest natural-gas producer in Ukraine. He had no prior experience in the gas industry, nor with Ukrainian regulatory affairs, his ostensible purview at Burisma. He did have one priceless qualification: his unique position as the son of the vice president of the United States, newborn Ukraine’s most crucial ally. Weeks before Biden came on, Ukraine’s government had collapsed amid a popular revolution, giving its gas a newly strategic importance as an alternative to Russia’s, housed in a potentially democratic country. Hunter’s father was comfortably into his second term as vice president—and was a prospective future president himself.
There was already a template, in those days, for how insiders in a gas-rich kleptocracy could exploit such a crisis using Western “advisers” to facilitate and legitimize their plunder—and how those Westerners could profit handsomely from it. A dozen-plus years earlier, amid the collapse of the U.S.S.R. of which Ukraine was a part, a clutch of oligarchs rifled the crown jewels of a vast nation. We know some of their names, in some cases because of the work of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office: Oleg Deripaska, Viktor Vekselberg, Dmitry Rybolovlev, Leonard Blavatnik. That heist also was assisted by U.S. consultants, many of whom had posts at Harvard and at least one of whom was a protégé of future Treasury Secretary Larry Summers.
Burisma’s story is of that stripe. The company had been founded by Mykola Zlochevsky, who, as Yanukovych’s minister of ecology and natural resources, had overseen Ukraine’s fossil-fuel deposits. When Hunter Biden joined Burisma’s board, $23 million of Zlochevsky’s riches were being frozen by the British government in a corruption probe. Zlochevsky fled Ukraine. The younger Biden enlisted his law firm, Boies Schiller Flexner, to provide what The New Yorker describes as “advice on how to improve the company’s corporate governance.” Eventually, the asset freeze on Zlochevsky was lifted. Deripaska defeated U.S. sanctions with similar help from other high-profile Americans. ...
And Hunter Biden was hardly the only prominent American who did well for himself during Ukraine’s transition. Another Burisma director was Cofer Black, George W. Bush’s CIA counterterrorism chief. The Republican operative and future Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort worked for Yanukovych. So did Obama White House Counsel Gregory Craig. The millions he was grossing were paid by an oligarch allied with Yanukovich and routed to Craig’s firm, Skadden Arps, through a confusing series of offshore accounts. ...
Scratch into the bios of many former U.S. officials who were in charge of foreign or security policy in administrations of either party, and you will find “consulting” firms and hedge-fund gigs monetizing their names and connections. ... When allegations of ethical lapses or wrongdoing surface against people on one side of the aisle, they can always claim that someone on the other side has done far worse. But taken together, all of these examples have contributed to a toxic norm. Joe Biden is the man who, as a senator, walked out of a dinner with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Biden was one of the most vocal champions of anticorruption efforts in the Obama administration. So when this same Biden takes his son with him to China aboard Air Force Two, and within days Hunter joins the board of an investment advisory firm with stakes in China, it does not matter what father and son discussed. Joe Biden has enabled this brand of practice, made it bipartisan orthodoxy. And the ethical standard in these cases—people’s basic understanding of right and wrong—becomes whatever federal law allows. Which is a lot.
Mediating peace between Russia and Ukraine was supposed to be a part-time job for Kurt Volker, but he's now at the center of a full-blown scandal — with questions about his conduct that are separate from the alleged pressure campaign that could lead to President Donald Trump's impeachment.
As Trump's special representative for Ukraine negotiations, Volker supported a shift in policy to send lethal weapons to Kyiv, including tank-busting Javelin missiles, described by their manufacturer as "the world's most versatile and lethal one-man-portable, anti-tank, guided munition and surveillance weapon system."
But at the same time Volker was pushing Trump to arm Ukraine, he also held positions with a major lobbying firm, BGR Group, and a think tank, the McCain Institute, that each had financial ties to Raytheon Co., which manufactures the Javelin system and earned millions from Trump's decision. Volker, a career diplomat and former U.S. ambassador to NATO, resigned on Friday, a day after he was referenced in the whistleblower complaint alleging Trump improperly pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the business dealings of former Vice President Joe Biden's son.
The whistleblower complaint has emboldened congressional Democrats to push forward with an impeachment inquiry against Trump. But it has also drawn uncomfortable attention to Volker and the unusual arrangement by which he served as Trump's special envoy — essentially as a volunteer while maintaining other paid jobs, including as executive director of the McCain Institute, a Washington think tank named for the late Republican Sen. John McCain, of Arizona.
Volker has not been accused of violating any conflict-of-interest rules. But his resignation is likely to fuel further investigations beyond his unorthodox role working with Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani in pressing Ukrainian officials on Trump's behalf. Congress is now all but certain to scrutinize his conduct as special envoy, a post to which he was appointed on July 7, 2017, by former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Newly released text messages between State Department officials provide the clearest evidence yet that President Donald Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was not “routine,” and that it was organized specifically to pressure the Ukrainian government to undertake politically motivated investigations. ...
[T]ext messages from Kurt Volker, the State Department’s former special representative for Ukraine negotiations, say that the “most important” priority for Trump’s phone call with Zelensky was getting the Ukrainian leader to commit to an investigation of the Bidens. “Most imp[ortan]t is for Zelensky to say that he will help investigation — and address any personnel issues — if there are any,” Volker texted Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, on July 19, less than a week before the call took place, according to text messages released Thursday night by House investigators.
On July 22, three days before the Trump-Zelensky call, Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani spoke with Andrey Yermak, a top adviser to Zelensky. Later that day, Volker texted that “Rudy is now advocating for a phone call” between Trump and the Ukrainian president. Giuliani’s push for the call suggests that it was in line with his goal of digging up dirt on the Bidens. On the morning of July 25, before the Trump-Zelensky call, Volker texted Yermak, strongly implying that a future White House visit for Zelensky was conditional on the Ukrainian president committing to an investigation of “‘what happened’ in 2016,” an apparent reference to a widely debunked conspiracy theory alleging Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 election. [eh ?!] ...
The texts released by investigators also contain protests from Bill Taylor, the top American diplomat in the U.S. embassy in Kiev. On multiple occasions, Taylor asked Sondland and Volker, both Trump appointees, whether diplomatic channels or military aid was being leveraged to press Ukraine to push politically motivated investigations.
Republican talking points have focused on denying that there was an explicit quid pro quo in Trump’s phone call, even though the White House readout has him saying, “The United States has been very, very good for Ukraine. I wouldn’t say that it’s reciprocal necessarily” and asking for a “favor.” But Taylor’s texts indicate that, as the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, he interpreted Trump’s message as an invitation to trade a politically motivated investigation for U.S. assistance and a White House visit.
During a conference call with House Republicans on Friday, President Donald Trump reportedly blamed Energy Secretary Rick Perry for the July 25 call with Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky that is at the center of Democrats' impeachment inquiry. Citing three anonymous sources who were on the conference call, Axios reported Saturday that "Trump rattled off the same things he has been saying publicly—that his call with Zelensky was 'perfect' and he did nothing wrong."
"But he then threw Perry into the mix and said something to the effect of: 'Not a lot of people know this but, I didn't even want to make the call. The only reason I made the call was because Rick asked me to. Something about an LNG [liquified natural gas] plant,'" Axios reported, citing one source's recollection of the president's remarks.
"Another source on the call," according to Axios, "said Trump added that 'more of this will be coming out in the next few days'—referring to Perry," who is reportedly planning to leave the White House by the end of November.
There is no mention of an LNG plant in the memo of Trump's call with Zelensky that the White House released last month.
Rick Perry, puppet master. Also, no puppet. He made me make the call, which I didn't want to make for obvious reasons. Also the call was fine, it was perfect. This is all made up, a hoax. They made it up. But it was perfect. And Perry made me do it. Is it, um, hot in here? https://t.co/pAz3uKN14M
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) October 5, 2019
This is not the first time Trump has thrown a member of his administration under the bus during the Ukraine scandal. "I think you should ask for Vice President [Mike] Pence's conversation, because he had a couple of conversations also," Trump told reporters last week.
The French president has given Boris Johnson until the end of the week to fundamentally revise his Brexit plan, in a move that increases the chances of the negotiations imploding within days. The UK proposals tabled last week are not regarded in Brussels as being a basis for a deal and Emmanuel Macron emphasised it was up to the UK to think again before an upcoming EU summit.
After declining to meet with the prime minister in person, Macron further insisted during a phone call on Sunday that the talks would only be advanced through Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator.
“Boris Johnson presented his latest proposals,” an official at the Élysée Palace said of the conversation. “The president told him that the negotiations should continue swiftly with Michel Barnier’s team in coming days, in order to evaluate at the end of the week whether a deal is possible that respects European Union principles.” Barnier has already said he does not have a mandate from the EU27 to agree a deal on the terms so far presented by Downing Street.
The prime minister’s chief negotiator, David Frost, has also been repeatedly told there will no last-minute negotiations with leaders at the summit on 17 October. ...
With just a few days remaining for the UK to backtrack on key aspects of its proposals, officials in Brussels described the talks as a “farce”.
Marking the one-year anniversary of the Senate confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, a coalition of women's rights groups led a #ReclaimTheCourt rally in Washington, D.C. Sunday to demand that House Democrats investigate and impeach the right-wing judge as reproductive freedoms are under severe threat.
"Before the court hears any one of the myriad abortion-related cases that are currently making their way through the lower courts, the public deserves to know the truth about whether Kavanaugh lied under oath, whether he committed sexual assault, and whether he really deserves to be on the Supreme Court," the coalition wrote ahead of Sunday's demonstration.
In addition to credible sexual assault allegations by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Kavanaugh has also been accused of sexual misconduct by Yale classmate Deborah Ramirez.
Demand Justice, one of the groups that organized Sunday's protest, warned Sunday that "Kavanaugh could be the deciding vote to gut Roe v. Wade for good."
"We need to hold him accountable," the organization wrote, urging members of Congress to sign on to Rep. Ayanna Pressley's (D-Mass.) impeachment resolution against Kavanaugh.
Immigrants applying for US visas will be denied entry into the country unless they can prove they can afford health care within 30 days of entering or can’t pay for it themselves, according to a proclamation signed by President Trump.
The new rule, which comes into force on 3 November, will be applied to people seeking immigrant visas, not those in the US already. It does not apply to those seeking asylum, refugees or children.
But it would apply to the spouses and parents of US citizens. That could have an impact on families who are trying to bring their parents to the US.
The proclamation said immigrants will be barred from entering the country unless they are to be covered by health insurance within 30 days of entering or have enough financial resources to pay for any medical costs. ...
The White House said in a statement that too many non-citizens were taking advantage of the country’s “generous public health programs”, and that immigrants contribute to the problem of “uncompensated health care costs”.
The standard lines from Democrats about Hunter Biden and his business dealings in China and Ukraine have been consistent: Donald Trump has abused the office of the president by asking foreign leaders to investigate Biden’s son, and there is absolutely no proof that either Joe or Hunter Biden have done anything to break the law. Any questionable dealings by Biden’s son also pale in comparison to ethical breaches on the part of Ivanka, Eric or Donald Trump Jr, who have routinely blurred the lines between the extended Trump Organization – the family’s business empire –and their presence in the White House.
This is all true, and arguably these are the right lines vis-a-vis the long overdue impeachment proceedings. What’s harder to shake is the fact that Hunter Biden’s career is undeniably shady in the way that only the son of a longtime Washington insider could muster, failing upwards into positions of influence and power on the merits of his last name. And that should be considered a huge liability to Joe Biden, for months now considered heir apparent for the Democratic party’s presidential nomination. ...
The gamble of a Biden nomination, then, is a big one. It’s a bet on whether Americans really do want a return to the political establishment when signs here and around the world seem to be pointing in the opposite direction, empowering both far-right strong men and socialists as center-left and center-right parties stumble. Biden’s chances in a general election also hinge on whether he can muster support from enough Obama-loyal, reliable primary voters to counteract a lack of enthusiasm among younger and more progressive segments of the electorate, who won’t back him with nearly the same vim as they would Elizabeth Warren or (especially) Bernie Sanders. Did the mythical white working class voters that Biden is supposed to appeal to really just want to vote for another white guy (as cynical pundits have claimed) or did they too want to drain the swamp? ...
As Fox News and the right swing into full-blown attack mode, the question the party faces now is what they’d rather spend half a year defending in the general election: sweeping policy proposals offering a credible threat to improve people’s lives, or Hunter Biden?
Beto Says He Has "No Fears" About Bernie's Fitness for Office: "There Isn't a More Energized, Energetic Candidate"
Beto O'Rourke told reporters Saturday that he has no concerns about Sen. Bernie Sanders's fitness for the presidency following the Vermont senator's brief hospitalization for a heart attack last week.
"There isn't a more important voice out there on some of the most important issues that this country faces," said O'Rourke, a former Texas congressman and current 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. "There isn't a more energized, energetic candidate and campaigner keeping up a relentless schedule."
"I have no fears about Bernie Sanders, and [it] does not cause me any concern at all," O'Rourke added, referring to Sanders's hospitalization. "And really all I wish for him is a full and speedy recovery, and his ability to get back after it on the campaign trail. Grateful that he's a candidate and grateful to be in this race with him."
David Sirota, Sanders's speechwriter, applauded O'Rourke's remarks, which came as the Sanders campaign is pushing back against an emerging media narrative that the senator was not forthright about his health scare. ...
Responding to criticism of the way the campaign handled Sanders's hospitalization and diagnosis, Mike Casca, senior communications adviser for Sanders, tweeted: "Give me a break. We consistently updated the press and supporters on the senator's condition during his stay through statements and a gaggle with Jane, and we released all the information from his doctors as he was discharged."
'This Is Not What Democracy Looks Like': Outrage as London Police Use Battering Ram to Raid Extinction Rebellion Building
London police on Saturday raided a building Extinction Rebellion activists were using to store supplies ahead of a climate demonstration planned for Monday, a preemptive action environmentalists condemned as an unlawful crackdown on a peaceful protesters.
The Guardian reported that "10 people—seven women and three men—had been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to cause public nuisance."
Video of the raid, which shows police using a battering ram to break into a south London building, quickly went viral Saturday as activists and British lawmakers expressed alarm at the aggressive tactic.
— Damien Gayle (@damiengayle) October 5, 2019
"No petroleum company warehouse has ever had a battering ram used on it by the police," said one Twitter user.
Richard Ecclestone, a former police officer who joined Extinction Rebellion, said in a statement that "these tactics are very questionable and are arguably infringing on our rights to peaceful protest, and indeed our efforts to preserve people's right to life that is currently being jeopardized by the government failing to act on the climate and ecological emergency that they know exists."
A trade group representing meat and poultry giants including Cargill and Smithfield Foods filed suit on Friday to stop a California measure improving animal welfare that was heralded as a "loud and clear" rebuke of factory farming when it was approved earlier this year.
Reuters first reported on the lawsuit, which was filed by the North American Meat Institute.
The industry group is asking the court to halt Proposition 12, which passed in November backed by over 60 percent of voters. Proposition 12 won praise from numerous animal welfare groups, with the ASPCA calling it at the time an "amazing victory for animals in California" and Mercy for Animals declaring it the "strongest animal welfare law for farmed animals in history." The law, as Mercy for Animals previously explained, "outlaws the most extreme forms of animal confinement throughout the Golden State. Once it's implemented, egg-laying hens, baby calves raised for veal, and mother pigs will no longer be confined in cages. Additionally, all eggs, veal, and pork sold in the state will meet this standard."
According to the Meat Institute, however, the recent state law "exposes companies to potential criminal penalties and the threat of civil lawsuits filed by competitors and others" and violates the U.S. Constitution's Commerce Clause. The group's president and CEO, Julie Anna Potts, asserted in a press statement Friday that Proposition 12 "hurts the family on a budget" and "unfairly punishes livestock producers outside of California by forcing them to spend millions more just to access California markets."
The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central Distict of California.
Merging 'Loyalty to the Oil Industry' and 'Grudge Against California,' Trump Opens 725,000 Acres to Fossil Fuel Drilling
The Trump administration on Friday moved to open more than 725,000 acres of California's central coast to potential oil and gas drilling, a decision environmentalists condemned as a disastrous handout to big polluters at a time when urgent action is needed to slash greenhouse gas emissions. The move, announced by the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management (BLM), ends a five-year moratorium on leasing federal land in California to fossil fuel companies.
As Reuters reported, the BLM "has not held a lease sale in California since 2013, when a judge ruled that the agency illegally issued leases without analyzing the environmental impact of drilling called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking."
Clare Lakewood, senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups that sued BLM to stop the lease sales, said the agency's "reckless move" on Friday represents "the toxic convergence of Trump's climate denial, loyalty to the oil industry, and grudge against California."
"Turning over these spectacular wild places to dirty drilling and fracking will sicken Californians, harm endangered species, and fuel climate chaos," said Lakewood. "We'll fight tooth and nail to make sure it doesn't happen."
The San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday that BLM's decision "gives an immediate go-ahead to 14 drilling leases in San Benito, Monterey, and Fresno counties, mostly projects near existing drill sites, projects that have been pursued for years by fossil fuel companies looking to expand."
"But the action also opens the door for new leases in eight other counties, raising the prospect of additional drilling in such spots as the Santa Cruz Mountains, the East Bay hills and eastern Santa Clara County," according to the Chronicle.
When two men discovered a rare and valuable towering bigleaf maple tree in Washington state’s Olympic national forest last year, they allegedly set about trying to steal it. But there was a problem – the tree was home to a bee hive. The men reportedly tried to use a wasp killer to get rid of it. When that didn’t work, one allegedly poured gasoline on it, and lit it on fire. The result, according to a federal indictment unsealed this week, was an August wildfire that raged across the eastern half of the ancient forest, setting 3,300 acres of public land ablaze and costing $4.5m to fight. ...
Justin Andrew Wilke and Shawn Edward Williams have been charged with multiple federal felonies related to timber theft and could face years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines if convicted.
The bigleaf maple’s wood was covered in a distinct pattern, which if harvested is extremely popular for woodworking and potentially worth thousands of dollars. Before the fire, the pair had allegedly spent months illegally harvesting these high-value maple trees and selling the wood, which is used to make furniture and musical instruments. ...
Tree theft has become a problem for the Olympic forest and other national forests across the country, said Susan Garner, the spokesperson for the Olympic national forest. “We just don’t have enough law enforcement officers out there, and many of our roads are remote,” she said. “It’s a problem, I think, probably on every national forest.” Tree theft may be costing the US Forest Service up to $100m each year, according to a High Country News article published in 2017. Western Washington has been one of the areas most impacted.
The indictment states that Wilke and Williams, along with other unnamed individuals, spent the spring and summer on the hunt across the Pacific Northwest forest for maple trees. When they found a good candidate, the small team allegedly used a chainsaw to fell the tree, and later cut it into smaller pieces. With the right permits, most national forests allow visitors to harvest trees for personal use. But Wilke and Williams were allegedly selling the blocks to a lumber mill in a small city in western Washington by presenting its owner with permits saying it had been harvested on private land, according to a news release from the US attorney’s office. By the time they found the maple in early August, they had allegedly sold thousands of dollars’ worth of wood to the mill.
The last of the world’s most massive trees now live on just 73 groves scattered across the Sierras. Most lie within protected national parks such as Sequoia national park, where visitors flock from around the world to marvel at General Sherman, the world’s most massive tree. But not all sequoias are protected within the parks system. Now, in an ambitious bid to secure a future for them, a conservation group has struck an unusual deal to acquire the last, largest privately owned sequoia grove.
The deal is the result of two decades of discussions between the not-for-profit conservation group Save the Redwoods and the Rouch family, which has owned the 530-acre Alder Creek grove since before the second world war. The forest is home to hundreds of sequoias, including the Stagg Tree which – at more than 240ft tall and 100ft around – is the fifth-largest in the world. The Rouches agreed to sell their land for $15m, which the organization hopes to raise by the end of this year. Once they acquire the land, the group plans to work with ecologists to help the forest build resilience against global heating and its catastrophic consequences.
Although sequoias have evolved to withstand temperature changes, extreme heat and fire, drought and destructive wildfires are now proving to be the biggest threats to their survival. Curiously, decades of humans fighting fires has made the problem worse. “Giant sequoias really need wildfire,” explained Kristen Shive, a forest ecologist with Save the Redwoods. Their cones are cued up to open with the heat of a fire, releasing seeds that like to germinate in freshly burned, fertile forest floor.
For millions of years, “sequoias adapted to survive and thrive with regular, low-level fires”, Shive says. With their thick barks and high crowns, most mature giant sequoias are immune to fires that burn though almost everything else around them. “But over the past century, we moved in, and started stopping fires everywhere.” Woody debris began to accumulate on the forest floor, and small trees and saplings began to overcrowd it. “That serves as kindling,” Shive says, feeding fires that burn longer, and hotter than sequoias can bear. Smaller trees serve as “ladders”, allowing the fires to climb up to the sequoia’s crowns and kill them.
Climate change hasn’t helped. Intense heat waves and drawn-out periods of drought have left California’s forests drier, and more prone to wildfires. Droughts also depleted giant sequoias, weakening them and leaving them vulnerable to bark beetles that chomp through their bark and spread a fungus that can kill them. Healthy trees are usually able to fight off a beetle attack – but dehydrated trees are defenseless. “There’s a handful of giant sequoia trees that died in the recent drought,” said Anthony Ambrose, a plant ecologist at the University of California, Berkeley.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Janis Joplin - Maybe
Janis Joplin - Turtle Blues
Janis Joplin - Bobby McGee
Janis Joplin - Move Over
Janis Joplin - Get it while you can
Janis Joplin - Kozmic Blues
Janis Joplin - Down On me
Janis Joplin - Ball and Chain
Janis Joplin - Tell Mama
Janis Joplin - Toronto 28-06-1970
Janis Joplin, Rick Danko, Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, and Marmaduke jamming on a party train in 1970