The Evening Blues - 11-19-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features soul singer and guitarist Syl Johnson. Enjoy!
Syl Johnson - Steppin' Out
"The universe may be tenderly indifferent to our fate, but we shouldn’t be. We are our brothers’ keepers. There is right, and there is wrong. There are consequences to our actions or inactions. Disregard can be an act of violence."
-- John Dufresne
News and Opinion
It was "incalculable" on May 24th.
The loss of 250, 000 Americans as of Nov 18th is indescribable. Unfathomable. And mostly preventable. pic.twitter.com/SVIb41x1WT
— Eric Topol (@EricTopol) November 18, 2020
Back in July scientists predicted there would be 250,000 deaths in the US from Covid-19 by year’s end. That terrible landmark has now been passed, earlier than projected, and amid a storm far more daunting than anyone could have anticipated. A quarter of a million dead Americans. More than 11m confirmed cases. Coronavirus is out of control in America.
It is romping freely across the vast landmass of the US. Infection rates are surging in 44 of the 50 states, as the country enters the cold, dark winter which will force people back indoors and at the mercy of the virus.
All this is happening at a time when the president is so distracted by the electoral coup he is vainly attempting to pull off that he no longer even pretends to care about containing the disease. ...
With the number of infections soaring, the inevitable dance of death that has been performed on a loop in the US through the pandemic has started up once again. The first step is that hospitalizations start to rise – they have increased across the country by almost 48% in the past two weeks, according to the New York Times tracker, and now stand at almost 77,000 patients. Next, hospitals begin to report that they are being overrun and that their ICUs are full to overflowing. When staffing levels become critically stretched, that’s when we’re in the danger zone.
At the end of the dance come the deaths. The level of fatalities has remained mercifully low compared with the April highs, a result of improved medical understanding of the virus, more effective treatments and hospitals that having been through the initial trauma are now better prepared. But with states including Wisconsin, Minnesota, Montana, the Dakotas, Colorado and Georgia all reporting that their hospital systems are entering crisis mode – meaning that they will struggle to provide patients with the intensive care they need – it is only a matter of time before the death rate creeps up too.
As indeed it already is. About 1,500 Americans are currently dying each day from coronavirus-related causes, with the rate rising steadily in 30 states.
As the US death toll from Covid-19 surpassed 250,000 on Wednesday, with a caseload above 11.3m and more than 161,000 new cases added the previous day, an internal White House taskforce report warned of “aggressive, unrelenting, broad community spread across the country, without evidence of improvement but, rather, further deterioration”.
The report, which leaked widely to the media, added: “Current mitigation efforts are inadequate and must be increased.” ...
Speaking anonymously, one White House official told the Associated Press the taskforce had concluded existing efforts to slow the spread “are inadequate and must be increased to flatten the curve” and that Thanksgiving travel and gatherings, around the US holiday next Thursday, could “amplify transmission considerably”.
Krystal and Saagar: Cuomo SNAPS When Held To Account As Leaders Fail In Nationwide Coronavirus Spike
Public schools in New York City will close again on Thursday, officials announced, after the city reached a 3% Covid test positivity rate. ...
Stoking anger among parents hard-pressed to balance working from home with the demands of schooling and childcare, gyms remain open in the city, as does indoor dining at restaurants, both at reduced capacity.
Around 300,000 of 1.1 million pupils in the New York City public schools system have been attending some form of in-person learning since Mayor Bill de Blasio began reopening schools in September, following months of fully remote learning after the city became a global coronavirus hotspot in the early spring.
Positive tests have been increasing in recent weeks but the in-school positivity rate is currently below 0.2%.
More than 900 employees at Mayo Clinic, a top research hospital that is based in Rochester, Minnesota, have contracted Covid-19 in the last two weeks.
At a press briefing on Tuesday, Dr Amy Williams, dean of clinical practice at the hospital, said that the vast majority of staff who were infected – 93% – were not infected at work, according to the St Paul Pioneer Press. Most of those who were infected at work contracted the virus while eating without a mask during their breaks, Williams said.
The hundreds of employees who have contracted the virus over the last two weeks make up over a third of all employees who were infected since the start of the pandemic. The hospital is experiencing a shortage of 1,000 employees at its headquarters in Rochester, according to the Pioneer Press.
“It shows you how easy it is to get Covid-19 in the midwest,” Williams said during a press call. “Our staff are being infected mostly due to community spread, and this impacts our ability to care for patients.”
The prison block in which Julian Assange is being detained under extradition proceedings has been locked down following an outbreak of coronavirus.
Three prisoners are understood to have tested positive for Covid-19 in House Block 1 at Belmarsh prison in south-east London, prompting prison and public health officials to place the building under increased restrictions.
The number of coronavirus cases within the prison estate increased significantly last month, with positive results returned at 45 jails across England and Wales, including 10 prisons that have never reported outbreaks.
Assange’s public relations agency issued a release confirming the prison governor at Belmarsh had written to inmates in House Block 1 to inform them of the outbreak. The letter states that all prisoners and staff are to be swabbed to detect Covid-19 at the prison with results revealed in 24 to 48 hours. Within the block, all exercise has been stopped, showers prohibited and meals are to be provided direct to the prisoner’s cell, the agency said.
Australian special forces were allegedly involved in the murder of 39 Afghan civilians, in some cases executing prisoners to “blood” junior soldiers before inventing cover stories and planting weapons on corpses, a major report has found.
For more than four years, the Maj Gen Justice Paul Brereton has investigated allegations that a small group within the elite Special Air Services and commandos regiments killed and brutalised Afghan civilians, in some cases allegedly slitting throats, gloating about their actions, keeping kill counts, and planting phones and weapons on corpses to justify their actions. ...
The report found:
- Special forces were responsible for dozens of unlawful killings, the vast majority of which involved prisoners, and were deliberately covered up.
- Thirty-nine Afghans were unlawfully killed in 23 incidents, either by special forces or at the instruction of special forces.
- None of the killings took place in the heat of battle, and they all occurred in circumstances which, if accepted by a jury, would constitute the war crime of murder.
- All the victims were either non-combatants or were no longer combatants.
- A total of 25 perpetrators have been identified either as principals or accessories. Some are still serving in the ADF.
In all cases, the report finds it “was or should have been plain that the person killed was a non-combatant”. The vast majority of victims had been captured and were under control, giving them the protection under international law.
If Republican lawmakers continue their refusal to extend Covid-19 relief programs, 12 million workers will lose federal unemployment benefits when funding expires on December 26, according to a study published Wednesday.
"With no end to the pandemic in sight, and a cutoff of nearly all federal unemployment benefits by year's end looming on the horizon, inaction by Congress could mean that millions of American families will enter the New Year with little or no means of support," wrote Andrew Stettner and Elizabeth Pancotti, authors of the new report from the left-leaning Century Foundation (TCF).
As Pancotti, a policy adviser at Employ America, wrote on social media, "12 million jobless workers are about to be catapulted off a cliff the day after Christmas."
Stettner, a senior fellow at TCF, told The Hill: "Absent congressional action to extend CARES Act benefits, December 26 will mark the end of one of the last lifelines available to millions of Americans in desperate need." ...
In addition to those 12 millions workers "suddenly cut off from aid," Stettner and Pancotti estimated that before Christmas, nearly one million people will have run out of the PUA benefit [Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), expanded elegibility for unemployment benefits to gig workers and others typically excluded from benefits.] and another 3.5 million will have used up the PEUC benefit [ Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), provided 100% federal funding for benefits for the long-term unemployed after states exhausted their unemployment insurance funds].
"Unless these programs are extended, only 18 states will provide any type of additional benefits to millions of the long-term unemployed," the report noted.
The looming expiration of unemployment benefits is just one aspect of an "epic year-end abyss" that threatens working households with evictions, student loan bills, and other mounting expenses, just as Covid-19 infections are exploding while President Donald Trump sabotages President-elect Joe Biden's transition efforts.
A handful of billionaires and corporations are enjoying record financial gains—often attained at the expense of worker safety—during the peaking coronavirus pandemic, according to a report published Wednesday by a coalition of advocacy groups.
As over a thousand people in the U.S. alone die each day during the deadliest pandemic in a century, plutocrats and their businesses are thriving like never before, in no small part due to a system rife with profiteering, opportunism, and worker exploitation. So says the report, entitled Billionaire Wealth vs. Community Health: Protecting Essential Workers from Pandemic Profiteers, which focuses on 12 of the most egregious pandemic profiteers—the "Delinquent Dozen"—who include the owners of Walmart and the CEOs of Amazon and Target.
These companies and their owners and executives have benefited from their "monopoly positions," the report states, but their success "hasn't translated into better pay or safer working conditions for the employees showing up to work in a pandemic."
It's not just corporations—"private equity firms have bought up essential businesses in the healthcare, grocery, and pet care industries, only to aggressively cut costs, skimp on worker safety, and load companies up with debt to boost their own profits," the report notes.
Among its key findings:
- As of November 17, the combined wealth of 647 U.S. billionaires increased by almost $960 billion since mid-March, the beginning of the pandemic lockdown.
- Since March, there are 33 new billionaires in the U.S. Driving this exploding inequality are 12 companies whose profits are coming at the expense of workers and communities, including retailers like Walmart, Amazon, Target, and Dollar Tree, and Dollar Store, gig economy companies like Instacart, and food producers like Tyson Foods.
- Also included is the investment giant BlackRock and private equity firms like Leonard Green Partners, Blackstone, Kohlberg, Kravis Roberts & Co., Cerberus Capital, BC Partners, and CVC Capital Partners. These private equity firms own several essential healthcare, grocery, and pet supply companies.
- Ten billionaire owners of "Delinquent Dozen" companies have a combined worth of $433 billion. Since March 18, their combined personal wealth has ballooned by $127.5 billion, a 42% increase. These 10 billionaires are: Jeff Bezos (Amazon); Alice, Rob, and Jim Walton (Walmart); Apoorva Mehta (Instacart); John Tyson (Tyson Foods); Steve Schwarzman (Blackstone); Henry Kravis and George Roberts (KKR); and Steve Feinberg (Cerberus).
A report from The New York Times that said President Trump considered attacking an Iranian nuclear facility raised fears of a possible US strike on Iran before January 20th. An official familiar with the meeting told The Washington Post that while a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear program was off the table, President Trump is ready to respond to attacks in the region that can be tied to Iran. ...
The Post story came after rockets fell inside Baghdad’s Green Zone, where the US embassy is located. No casualties were reported near the US embassy, but the Iraqi Army said rockets landed outside of the Green Zone, killing a child and injuring five civilians. The Post said the rockets were “apparently fired by an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia,” although it is not yet clear who is responsible.
President Trump’s comments suggest if a similar rocket attack kills an American, it means the US would retaliate against Iran. The series of events that led to the assassination of top Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani was sparked by a rocket attack on a US base in Kirkuk, Iraq.
Bad apples on trial:
Prosecutors in the upcoming trial of a former Minneapolis police officer charged with killing George Floyd want to introduce evidence of a 2017 arrest in which they say the officer held his knee on the back of a 14-year-old boy and ignored his pleas that he couldn’t breathe.
Assistant attorney general Matthew Frank, in a memorandum filed in Hennepin county district court, said the body-camera video that captured the boy’s arrest shows that Derek Chauvin uses unreasonable force when dealing with a suspect who does not immediate comply with his orders, the Star Tribune reported.
“As was true with the conduct with George Floyd, Chauvin rapidly escalated his use of force for a relatively minor offense,” Frank wrote in the filing. “Just like with Floyd, Chauvin used an unreasonable amount of force without regard for the need for that level of force or the victim’s well-being.“
Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, argued that the force used in the 2017 arrest was in keeping with department’s then policy on dealing with uncooperative suspects. ...
In the 2017 arrest by Chauvin, the 14-year-old was slow to comply with Chauvin and another officer’s instructions, and within moments, Chauvin grabbed the child by the throat, forced him to the ground and put his knee on the boy’s neck before placing him in a prone position with a knee in his back, prosecutors said. The boy told Chauvin “he could not breathe”, and was also bleeding after the officer had struck him in the head with a flashlight.
And just as he did with Floyd, “Chauvin ignored those pleas and refused to provide medical assistance,” Frank wrote. Hennepin county district judge Peter Cahill has yet to rule on Monday’s memorandum.
'Lindsey Graham Must Resign': Outrage Grows Over GOP Senator's Alleged Assault on Election Integrity
As President Donald Trump on Wednesday continued to call his loss to President-elect Joe Biden the result of a "rigged election" without a shred of evidence to support his mounting claims of voter fraud, demands kept piling up for probes—and even the resignation—of Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, in light of his election interference efforts in Georgia.
Graham, a South Carolina Republican who held onto his key seat in this cycle, has faced an onslaught of criticism this week after Georgia's GOP Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger told the Washington Post that the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman had appeared to suggest finding a way to toss out legally cast ballots in a state narrowly lost by Trump.
The senator has dismissed allegations that he tried to interfere in Georgia's election process as "ridiculous," while admitting he's also been in touch with officials in Arizona and Nevada—which both have been called for Biden—"as a United States senator who is worried about the integrity of the election process nationally, when it comes to vote by mail."
Amid Graham's denials of improper interference and a statewide hand recount in Georgia ordered by Raffensperger ahead of the November 20 certification deadline—which is not expected to alter Biden's projected 306 electoral votes to Trump's 232—civil rights advocates and Democratic lawmakers have demanded that Graham be held accountable for his actions.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Was.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, has repeatedly demanded this week that he resign in the name of accountability and justice.
In a televised interview Tuesday, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) told MSNBC's Ari Melber, "It appears that Lindsey Graham may have crossed the line into illegality as part of an effort to rip away Joe Biden's victory in Georgia, and perhaps this is part of a scheme to try to steal this election in other places."
Sen. Lindsey Graham fired back on Wednesday at Democrats calling on him to resign following reports that he asked election officials in key swing states to intervene in the vote counting process in ways that could help President Trump.
Notably, Graham took aim at two members of the so-called Squad of freshman Democratic women — Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and a second-term House member who is frequently allied with them, Pramila Jayapal of Washington.
I must be doing something right when the most radical liberal politicians and media pundits in America are calling for my resignation! pic.twitter.com/vPvMaWUV8q
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) November 18, 2020
“It’s time for Lindsey Graham to submit his resignation,” Omar tweeted on Wednesday.
“First, Graham and Republicans fought like hell to suppress the vote. Then, Black, brown, and young voters organized and turned out in record numbers to win the state anyway. Now, he's trying to get their legally cast votes thrown out,” Jayapal wrote. “He must resign.”
Tlaib stopped short of calling for Graham to resign, but accused him of attempting “to commit voter fraud.”
The United States’ coral reefs are in fair condition, according to a recent reef condition status report, but vulnerable to decline. Scientists estimate that along the coast of Florida, where degradation is most severe, perhaps as little as 2% of original coral cover remains.
The report, released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (Noaa) and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science last week, assesses reefs along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, from the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico to Guam, Hawaii and American Samoa. It is the first of its kind to do so using standardized monitoring data on a national scale. Analyzing records from 2012 to 2018, researchers identify ocean warming and acidification, coral disease and fishing as ongoing threats to coral reefs, indicating a “dire outlook” for these ecosystems.
Coral reefs, widely considered the most biologically diverse ecosystem in the ocean, help to support over 25% of all marine life. They also provide shoreline protection against hurricanes and tropical storms, and economic benefit through commercial fishing, tourism and recreation. ...
The twin threats of temperature-related bleaching and increased ocean acidification, both caused by climate change, can destroy coral reef ecosystems regardless of their location or proximity to human populations. And along the Florida coast, additional stressors of water pollution, new development, overfishing and disease outbreaks mean that even remaining coral cover is inadequate and unhealthy.
After years of tireless organizing and negotiations, local tribal leaders in the Klamath Basin, the Democratic governors of California and Oregon, and relevant corporate partners on Tuesday announced an agreement that sets the stage for the largest dam demolition project—and most ambitious salmon restoration effort—in U.S. history.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown joined leaders of the Yurok and Karuk Tribes and Berkshire Hathaway-owned PacifiCorp in announcing the Memorandum of Agreement signed by the states, tribes, company, and the Klamath River Renewal Corporation (KRRC), which will carry out the removal process.
"We deeply appreciate the efforts of Govs. Newsom and Brown, the Yurok Tribe, and the leadership of Berkshire Hathaway to forge a path forward on dam removal," Karuk Tribe chair Russell "Buster" Attebery said in a statement. "We are more confident than ever that future generations of Karuk will enjoy the benefits of a healthy Klamath River just as their ancestors did dating back to the beginning of time."
"Most importantly," Attebery added, "this moment is a testament to years of devotion and hard work by the community of activists representing all tribes on the river who have never tired of demanding justice for their communities."
#LandBack: The Yurok tribe have long advocated for the Klamath river to be undammed. The projected removal of four of the river's eight dams will be the largest dam removal project in the history of the US. #TheSalmonWillRun https://t.co/C8aELgB2fS
— Lakota Law Project (@lakotalaw) November 14, 2020
Yurok Tribe chair Joseph James similarly celebrated the deal and thanked everyone involved, while also vowing that his people "will never rest until the dams are out and the river is healed."
"As Yurok tribal people, it is our sacred duty to bring balance to the Klamath River," James explained. "At its heart, dam removal is about healing and restoration for the river, for the salmon, and for our people. We have never wavered from this obligation and we are pleased to see dam removal come closer to reality through this agreement. Reaching this important milestone would not be possible without the many tribal people who have dedicated their lives to restoring the river."
The new memo details implementation of the 2016 Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement that set terms for removing four dams from the river. The signatories ask the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to remove PacifiCorp from the license for the project and add the states and KRRC as co-licensees. In addition to that move, FERC must also sign off on the demolition project, which is slated to start in 2022 with dam removal planned for the following year.
Fresh wildfires in Nevada and California have killed at least one person, injured several firefighters and destroyed dozens of structures. More than 1,000 people in Reno, Nevada, were forced to evacuate on Tuesday when a wind-whipped wildfire roared through a neighborhood.
Another fire about 100 miles (160 km) south and across the border in California also exploded in strong winds Tuesday, killing one person, driving hundreds from their homes and destroying 80 structures in and around a small community, including some houses.
Evacuees in both states began to return home on Wednesday. And while rains overnight helped tamp down the flames in both places, crews in Reno feared a forecast that called for another lashing of strong winds that could revive the fire, which damaged 15 other structures on the edge of the Sierra Nevada foothills. ...
Nevada is experiencing drought, with much of the state in extreme drought, and it’s moved in and out of such dry conditions for years. Numerous studies have linked bigger wildfires in America to climate change from the burning of coal, oil and gas, which has made parts of the US west much drier and more flammable.
Investigators from the state and Reno fire marshal’s office, as well as the utility NV Energy, were trying to find the cause of the fire.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Syl Johnson - Take Me To The River
Syl Johnson - Sorry Bout Dat
Syl Johnson - Don't Do It
Syl Johnson - Take Me Back
Syl Johnson - Stuck in Chicago
Syl Johnson - The Love You Left Behind
Syl Johnson - Is It Because I'm Black
Syl Johnson - Different Strokes
Syl Johnson - Come On, Sock It To Me