The Evening Blues - 12-2-15
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues and r&b singer, songwriter, saxophonist and bandleader, Louis Jordan. Enjoy!
Louis Jordan feature on Nightmusic
"Daniel Ellsberg’s tears made me think about love, about loss, about dreams – and, most of all, about failure. What sort of love is this love that we have for countries? What sort of country is it that will ever live up to our dreams? What sort of dreams were these that have been broken? Isn’t the greatness of great nations directly proportionate to their ability to be ruthless, genocidal? Doesn’t the height of a country’s “success” usually also mark the depths of its moral failure? And what about our failure? Writers, artists, radicals, anti-nationals, mavericks, malcontents – what of the failure of our imaginations? What of our failure to replace the idea of flags and countries with a less lethal Object of Love? Human beings seem unable to live without war, but they are also unable to live without love. So the question is, what shall we love?"
-- Arundhati Roy
News and Opinion
Nearly a year after the release of the summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture, a major human rights group is calling for the immediate prosecution of U.S. government officials responsible for authorizing and carrying out the abuses.
In a detailed report titled “No More Excuses: A Roadmap to Justice for CIA Torture,” Human Rights Watch identifies a legal basis for prosecution of government officials and calls on the U.S. Attorney General’s office to appoint a special prosecutor to conduct criminal investigations into those responsible for post-9/11 torture. The report also calls for the release of the full text of the Senate report, which remains classified.
Among those the report calls on to be criminally investigated for their roles in authorizing torture are some of the leading figures of the George W. Bush administration, including former CIA Director George Tenet, Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice — and Bush himself.
“Nobody should be above the law, and there needs to be credible criminal investigations against both those who authorized and carried out abuses against detainees that amounted to a conspiracy to commit torture,” Laura Pitter, senior national security counsel at Human Rights watch and co-author of the report, told The Intercept on Tuesday. Although the names of many of those who actually tortured detainees remain unknown to the public, they are not unknown to the CIA and Department of Justice, Pitter added. “There’s no reason for the public to be kept in the dark about the worst of these abuses and who committed them. We need to see prosecutions at all levels of the torture program, including those who actually carried out torture.”
Obama administration claims that legal obstacles prevent criminal investigations into torture by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) are unpersuasive, and risk leaving a legacy of torture as a policy option, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Sufficient evidence exists for the attorney general to order criminal investigations of senior United States officials and others involved in the post-September 11 CIA program for torture, conspiracy to torture, and other crimes under US law. ...
The Justice Department says that it had already investigated CIA abuses in 2009 and concluded there was insufficient admissible evidence to bring charges. But that investigation, headed by John Durham, examined only CIA abuses that went beyond “authorized” actions, instead of all CIA torture and ill-treatment. Even then, investigators do not appear to have interviewed any former detainees, undercutting claims that their inquiry was thorough or credible.
One defense frequently heard is that the CIA and senior White House officials relied on legal opinions by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel purporting to find that “enhanced interrogation techniques” were lawful – the so-called Torture Memos. However, the Senate summary provides evidence that CIA officials knew from the outset that those practices would violate anti-torture laws. Other evidence shows that CIA and White House officials went shopping for guarantees against criminal prosecution and when that was refused, helped to craft those same legal opinions authorizing the torture that they would rely upon. ...
Although much of the torture and other abuse took place a decade or more ago, statutes of limitation do not bar several criminal charges. The usual five-year federal statute of limitations is not a bar to the crimes of torture or conspiracy to torture when there was a “foreseeable risk that death or serious bodily injury” may result, as well as for certain sexual abuse charges. In addition, the statute of limitations for the crime of conspiracy may be extended if those responsible conceal a central component of the plot, which was the case with the CIA program, Human Rights Watch said.
Under the United Nations Convention against Torture, which the United States ratified in 1988, governments are required to credibly investigate allegations of torture and to prosecute where warranted. The failure to investigate and prosecute CIA torture increases the danger that some future president will authorize similar illegal interrogation methods in response to an inevitable serious security threat. Several presidential candidates for the 2016 elections have defended the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” and some have said they would use them again if elected.
As a presidential candidate in 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama vowed to roll back President George W. Bush’s controversial interrogation and detention practices. ... Now, several years on, the picture is less rosy. Guantánamo remains open, and provisions in a new military spending bill just signed into law by Obama, the National Defense Authorization Act for 2016 (NDAA), make it harder to close the facility.
More positively for his legacy, the NDAA imposes further restrictions on abusive interrogations and helps fulfil his original campaign promise to stop torture. ...
Obama had already banned the CIA’s torture techniques via executive order in 2009, but — as Sen. Feinstein has pointed out — a future president could easily rescind that order. ... Taking action on the committee’s recommendations, Feinstein and Republican Sen. John McCain sponsored an amendment — supported by Obama — to the NDAA that does a thorough job of plugging the gaps. ...
One issue remains unaddressed, however: the U.S. still follows its own, overly broad interpretation of the United Nations Convention Against Torture, loosening the treaty’s restrictions. Obama’s order allows the CIA to detain prisoners on a “transitory basis”; the new law does not prohibit CIA detention. However, it grants the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) access to all U.S. government detention facilities, preventing the use of top secret black sites like those run by the CIA after 9/11. Faced with greater scrutiny, the agency might be more hesitant to torment prisoners, but the Red Cross cannot disclose its findings to the public, and torture has occurred at Bagram air base and Guantánamo despite ICRC visits. The Pentagon is said to have run a network of clandestine prisons in Afghanistan, where abuse has been alleged despite Red Cross access.
The amendment does not ban extraordinary rendition, in which prisoners are sent abroad to be held and possibly tortured by foreign governments. The Obama administration has never repudiated this practice; it has only vowed to seek assurances from foreign governments that they will not torture prisoners transferred to their custody. Although we have no evidence that suspected enemies have been flown off to countries such as Egypt and tortured under Obama, as they were under Bush and President Bill Clinton, captives have been transferred from U.S. custody in Afghanistan to facilities run by the Afghan security forces where many allege torture took place. More recently, prisoners caught in Iraq with U.S. assistance have reportedly been mistreated. The new law does not regulate such transfers or renditions at all — a glaring omission, given the recent past. ...
One final problem: Laws are futile if they are not enforced. During his time in office, Obama has failed to punish former members of the Bush administration for prisoner abuse, even though Obama admitted that “we tortured some folks.” Not only has the Justice Department declined to prosecute any Bush officials, but it has also repeatedly invoked state-secrets privilege to stop civil litigation brought by torture victims. Without the deterrent provided by possible criminal prosecution, future presidents might feel they can torture with impunity.
A man who has spent 13 years in the US prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, was arrested partly in a case of mistaken identity, US officials conceded on Tuesday.
Officials admitted that Mustafa al-Aziz al-Shamiri, 37, was a low-level Islamist foot soldier and not an al-Qaida courier and trainer as previously thought, during a Guantánamo hearing. ...
A profile published by the Department of Defense maintains he fought in Afghanistan and mixed with members of al-Qaida. But officials concede that they wrongly believed he had a more significant role because he was confused with others who had a similar name. ...
The profile added that fragmentary reporting links al-Shamiri to fighting in Bosnia in 1995, and he told interrogators that he fought in Yemen’s civil war in 1996 and in Afghanistan for the Taliban from 2000 to 2001 – including against the Northern Alliance and US forces – before his capture near Mazar-e-Sharif. He has since been an indefinite detainee, considered too dangerous to release but without adequate evidence to bring to trial. ...
Al-Shamiri has been held as an enemy combatant without charge at Guantánamo since 2002. He is one of 107 prisoners at the controversial base, 48 of whom have been cleared for release. It is not certain when he will learn if he is to become number 49.
Russia warned of retaliatory measures Wednesday after NATO invited the tiny Balkan state of Montenegro to join the military alliance in its bloc’s first expansion since 2009. The move defies previous warnings from Moscow that enlargement of the U.S.-led alliance further into the region would be seen as a provocation. ...
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said inviting Montenegro had nothing to do with Russia. But NATO diplomats have said the decision sends a message to Moscow that it does not have a veto on NATO's eastwards expansion, even if Georgia's membership bid has been complicated by its 2008 war with Russia.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last September that any expansion of NATO was “a mistake, even a provocation.” ... Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday that NATO’s encroachment eastwards would lead to retaliatory measures.
A week after Turkish warplanes shot down a Russian bomber over Syrian airspace, NATO has announced a plan to deploy yet more warplanes and anti-aircraft missiles in southern Turkey, adding to tensions with Russia along the Syria-Turkey border. ...
Yet Turkey doesn’t appear to be at threat from any aircraft at this point, and the move seems designed purely to needle Russia, which has itself been adding to air defenses in northwestern Syria, and has announced its intention to escort bomber along the border to ensure Turkey doesn’t take any more shots at them.
With satellite images as backdrop, Russian official says, 'The senior political leadership of the country—President Erdoğan and his family—are involved in this criminal business.'
Upping the tensions between Ankara and Moscow following the downing of a Russian military jet by Turkey last week that left two Russian pilots dead, the Kremlin on Wednesday claimed it has "proof" that the president of Turkey and his family are directly benefiting from the sale of oil smuggled out of neighboring Syria by the Islamic State.
At a press conference featuring Russia's Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov on Wednesday, Russia pointed the figure directly at Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan and displayed satellite images purporting to show a large caravan of oil tankers making their way from ISIS-controlled territory in Syria lining up at the Turkish border.
"Turkey is the main consumer of the oil stolen from its rightful owners, Syria and Iraq," said Antonov. "According to information we've received, the senior political leadership of the country—President Erdoğan and his family—are involved in this criminal business."
"Maybe I'm being too blunt," he continued, "but one can only entrust control over this thieving business to one's closest associates."
In response to the shooting down of a Russian Su-24 warplane by a Turkish air force jet last Tuesday, Vladimir Putin promised “serious consequences”. Economic sanctions have been imposed and all charter flights between the two countries banned. But the vengeance has been felt most keenly by Russia’s large Turkish community and Turkish visitors to the country. ...
Orhan Gazigil, a spokesman for the Turkish embassy in Moscow, said it had received many calls from Turkish citizens complaining about document checks and other bureaucratic hassles. The embassy itself was pelted with eggs, paint and stones last week, prompting Ankara to make an official complaint. There are about 80,000 Turkish citizens currently living in Russia, Gazigil said. Several Turkish businessmen based in Russia said they did not want to talk about the situation, even anonymously, due to its sensitivity. ...
While both sides have said they do not want to escalate the situation further, the abrasive personal styles of Putin and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are not proving conducive to rapprochement.
Erdoğan tried to speak to Putin by telephone in the hours after the plane was shot down but the Russian president did not take his call. The Turkish leader also asked Putin for a meeting at the climate change summit in Paris on Monday, but was snubbed again. Putin will only speak to Erdoğan when he is ready to apologise, aides have said. This is something Erdoğan has pointedly refused to do.
Putin again accused Turkey of profiting from Islamic State oil sales on Monday and this time went further, saying Russia has evidence that Turkey shot the plane down in order to protect the transit corridors for the oil. For his part, Erdoğan has said he will resign if Russia can provide concrete proof of such links; he also asked on Monday whether Putin would also agree to resign if he could not substantiate the links.
While the diplomatic war continues, the thousands of Turks in Russia fear their lives have irrevocably changed.
David Cameron plans to really ham it up in his coming appearance before parliament.
Facing growing opposition, Cameron is ratcheting up the rhetoric, labeling opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn and other opponents of the war as “a bunch of terrorist sympathizers,” and declaring them “bullies” who are hurting the call to war.
Cameron is planning to stand in the House of Common Wednesday morning and warn them that if they don’t vote for the Syria war, ISIS will launch attacks on the streets of Britain.
Since David Cameron made his case for extending UK bombing to Syria in the House of Commons last week, that case has been coming apart at the seams. No wonder he is trying to hurry the debate through parliament this week.
He knows that opposition to his ill-thought-out rush to war is growing. On planning, strategy, ground troops, diplomacy, the terrorist threat, refugees and civilian casualties, it’s become increasingly clear the prime minister’s proposal simply doesn’t stack up.
That’s why the respected House of Commons foreign affairs select committee – whose critical report on his bombing plans was the focus of the prime minister’s statement – tonight made clear he had not adequately addressed their concerns.
After the despicable and horrific attacks in Paris last month, the issue of whether what Cameron proposes strengthens – or undermines – our own security is crucial. There is no doubt that the so-called Islamic State (Isil) group has imposed a reign of terror on millions in Iraq, Syria and Libya. And there is no doubt that it poses a threat to our own people. The question is now whether extending the UK bombing from Iraq to Syria is likely to reduce, or increase, that threat – and whether it will counter, or spread, the terror campaign Isil is waging in the Middle East.
The prime minister has been unable to explain why extending airstrikes to Syria – which is already being bombed by the US, France, Russia and other powers – will make a significant military impact on a campaign that has so far seen Isil gain territory, such as the cities of Ramadi in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria, as well as lose it. ...
The prime minister said he wanted a consensus behind the military action he wants to take. He has achieved nothing of the kind. After Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, MPs thinking of voting for bombing should bear in mind how terrible those consequences can be. Only a negotiated peace settlement can overcome the Isil threat.
A permanent new US “expeditionary force” will target Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, operating independently of local troops in Iraq and Syria for the first time, defense secretary Ash Carter has revealed, in a significant escalation of the frontline use of American ground troops in the region.
Addressing Congressional leaders who are demanding swifter progress against Isis, Carter said on Tuesday that the troops would be based in Iraq but will have the capability to carry out raids across the border.
“It puts everybody on notice in Syria,” he said. “You don’t know at night who is going to be coming in the window.”
Until now, US ground forces in the region have officially been restricted to a “training and support” mission for the Iraqi army and a handful of one-off special forces raids to free hostages.
Kurdish fighters have told the Guardian that US forces in Iraq have secretly been blurring this line for months by taking an increasingly active role on the frontline, but the creeping ground mission once expressly ruled out by Barack Obama now seems to be spreading to Syria. ...
Carter refused to disclose the size of the new independent expeditionary targeting unit but said it would be larger than Obama’s embedded special forces deployment and would also provide targeting intelligence for air strikes.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s announcement of new deployments of US Special Forces into Iraq, despite coming with some talk of limiting operations inside Iraq to those done “at the invitation of” the Iraqi government, appears to have come without even mentioning it to the Iraqi government beforehand.
Prime Minister Hayder Abadi warned that Iraq, as it has insisted repeatedly before, welcomes air support against ISIS but does not need any foreign ground troops, and warned the US to respect Iraqi sovereignty in the matter.
That’s a relatively modest reaction compared to those of some of the more powerful Shi’ite militias involved in the war against ISIS, who say they intend to shift their fight to directly focus on US ground troops if these new deployments are carried out.
Thank you Hillary Clinton and your idiot crew of "humanitarian" pandoras:
MISURATA, Libya — Iraqi commanders have been arriving from Syria, and the first public beheadings have started. The local radio stations no longer play music but instead extol the greatness of the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
When the Libyan arm of the Islamic State first raised the group’s black flag over the coastal city of Surt almost one year ago, it was just a bunch of local militants trying to look tough.
Today Surt is an actively managed colony of the central Islamic State, crowded with foreign fighters from around the region, according to residents, local militia leaders and hostages recently released from the city’s main prison. ...
— David Mizner (@DavidMizner) November 30, 2015
As the Islamic State has come under growing military and economic pressure in Syria and Iraq, its leaders have looked outward. ...
Libya could present the West with obstacles at least as intractable as those in the Islamic State’s current home base in Syria, Raqqa, amid the bedlam of the civil war. There, the Islamic State is hemmed in by a host of armed groups with international backing and is being hammered by American, Russian, French and Syrian airstrikes.
In Libya, where a NATO bombing campaign helped overthrow Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi four years ago, there is no functional government. Warring factions are far more focused on fighting one another than on taking on the Islamic State, and Libya’s neighbors are all too weak or unstable to lead or even host a military intervention.
It’s the ultimate rule in US national politics: there shall be no legitimate questioning of starting yet another war, even if all of the recent ones are the exact reason we are in our current situation with Isis. All signs increasingly point to the fact that the US is will be dragged into another ground war in the Middle East despite the administration’s insistence that it does not want to get caught up in one.
The Pentagon announced Tuesday a new “expeditionary force” (a propaganda term to avoid saying “ground troops”) that will apparently operate apart from any Iraqi or Syrian rebel allied fighters and be able to conduct cross-border raids in either country.
It’s worth harkening back to the last military intervention – one that has now completely backfired – to question if more US soldiers on the ground in multiple countries will only exacerbate the problem, rather than be part of the solution. No, not the Iraq invasion, even though that it obviously caused destruction on a massive scale and precipitated the rise of Isis. I’m talking about Libya in 2011. ...
The Libyan intervention was the signature foreign policy move of Hillary Clinton’s time as the Obama administration’s secretary of state, where she pushed hard for military action when others were advising against it (and there was a very good argument that the whole war was illegal, given Congress not only did not approve it, but the House actively voted against it). ...
Republicans, despite having their daggers sharpened for Clinton, have studiously ignored the actual elephant in the room: that not only did their own Iraq war pave the way for Isis, but our subsequent conflict in Libya that Clinton championed has created yet another safe haven for the terrorists we are now fighting. As Michael Brendan Dougherty wrote in the Week, besides Rand Paul, “[t]he other Republican candidates cannot bring themselves to question the results of force” – because they can’t help but advocate for for more bombs at every turn.
The tools that governments could use to contain public demonstrations by remote control – firing tear gas from drones, for example – are advancing at a troubling and unregulated rate, says a new report from researchers in the U.K. ...
The report, titled “Tear Gassing By Remote Control”, was commissioned by the Remote Control Project, a branch of the Oxford Research Group, a think tank partly focused on modern warfare and its long-term consequences. ...
“Our research has uncovered a range of companies around the world actively promoting delivery mechanisms to tear gas people by remote control,” the report’s author, Michael Crowley, said in a statement. “This includes devices that can flood prisons with tear gas at the flick of a switch; drones that can drop pepper spray onto the heads of those below; or ground robots that can fire large quantities of [remote control] projectiles at protesting crowds.” ...
Crowley warned that the unchecked progression of unmanned riot suppression technology could lead to abuse by non-state actors including terrorist groups, inappropriate use in warfare or abuse by law enforcement agents, the potential for large-scale human rights abuses, and the proliferation of autonomous weapons systems.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago issued an excellent written ruling on Monday that has broad implications for rights of free speech and political activism in the U.S. The court ruled that Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart violated the First Amendment rights of Backpage.com, an online classified ad site, by pressuring Visa and MasterCard to prohibit payments to the site on the ground that the sheriff dislikes some of the site’s “adult” (i.e. sex) ads, which he believes promote prostitution. Writing for the court, Judge Richard Posner explained that Sheriff Dart previously attempted to prosecute Craigslist for such sex ads and failed, and thus decided to destroy Backpage using a different strategy. ...
Noting the serious harm to an entity from having a public official suffocate its sources of revenue not through prosecution but extra-judicial coercion, the court ordered the sheriff immediately to cease the threatening behavior and to notify Visa and MasterCard of the ruling, explaining that “the loss of First Amendment freedoms, for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury.”
Beyond the positive outcome in this specific case — What kind of person would become sheriff of Chicago and then choose to spend his time worrying about adult sex ads? — the 7th Circuit’s ruling is crucial for protecting free speech rights generally. That’s because corrupt public officials have realized that they can abuse their power to pressure corporations to “suffocate” private actors whom they dislike but who are breaking no laws.
The most notorious, most dangerous case was in late 2010, when Joe Lieberman blatantly abused his power as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee to implicitly threaten and coerce companies like Amazon to terminate website hosting and payment processing services to WikiLeaks, which had just published the Afghanistan and Iraq war logs and diplomatic cables. That quickly led other companies, including Visa, MasterCard, Bank of America and PayPal, to terminate credit card processing for the group, driving them close to bankruptcy. In other words, Joe Lieberman almost completely destroyed a media and political organization group he disliked not through prosecution but with nothing more than thuggish threats to the companies that serviced it.
There was dancing in front of Chicago police headquarters at 35th street and Michigan Avenue on Tuesday evening.
People were celebrating, in part, because Chicago police superintendent Garry McCarthy was fired earlier that day. Mayor Rahm Emanuel – who had spent days expressing confidence in his police chief – stood in a hot briefing room in front of the press corps and announced that McCarthy had become “a distraction”. Emanuel looked like a man undergoing a root canal without anesthesia.
After days of mass protests – including a shutdown of Michigan Avenue on Black Friday that cost retailers up to 50% of their sales – the mayor had apparently decided to cut his losses and throw McCarthy overboard to save himself. ...
Over the past several months, Chicago organizers have won reparations for police torture survivors, protested the existence of a so-called black site at Homan Square, successfully mobilized to have officer Servin fired, pressed for data transparency around stop-and-frisk practices, marched by the thousands for community control of the police, shut down the opening day of the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference and more. All of this took place before the brutal and stomach-turning videotape of Laquan McDonald’s execution was released to the public.
The organizing will continue despite McCarthy’s firing: the Black Youth Project 100 – which has, along with groups such as We Charge Genocide and Black Lives Matter Chicago, been organizing for months – issued a set of demands on Tuesday that will form the basis of their ongoing work.
There’s talk that firing one police superintendent is mostly symbolic and won’t change the culture of policing in Chicago. It is true. The calls for Cook County state’s attorney Anita Alvarez to resign are growing louder, and social media is filled with the hashtag #ResignRahm. Accountability means that if you fail at your job, you should lose it. Resignations are the very least that Chicagoans should expect.
The officer who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Ohio has delivered his first public account of the killing, over a year after the incident occurred, arguing his actions were justified as he was engaged in an “active shooter situation” and believed Tamir was 18 years old. ...
Loehmann fatally shot Tamir, who was black, within two seconds of arriving at a local park on 22 November last year, after a 911 caller reported that there was a juvenile in the area with a weapon that was “probably fake”. The full details of the call were not passed on to the officers, according to other accounts released by the Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty. ...
The officers, who had previously declined to be interviewed by county investigators, provided written testimony that was released by prosecutors after being read to grand jurors on Tuesday. ...
On Tuesday, Rice family lawyers described the prosecutor’s decision to allow the officer’s unsworn statements before the grand jury as “a stunning irregularity”.
“No regular target of a criminal investigation would be afforded this opportunity,” the group said in a statement.
This couldn't happen to a more deserving bunch. One has to wonder if this was an oversight, or if the banking industry is losing some of its juice on the Hill.
Big banks will lose a portion of a multi-billion-dollar government handout they’ve enjoyed for over 100 years, thanks to a compromise highway bill released Tuesday. One estimate pegged the loss to the banks at $8 billion to $9 billion over a 10-year time frame.
The bill, as it emerged from a House-Senate conference committee, pays for roads, bridges and mass transit projects in part by reducing what is currently a 6 percent annual dividend on stock that the big banks buy to become members of the Federal Reserve system.
Fed membership offers many perks, from access to processing payments to cheap borrowing. But the dividend could be the sweetest gift, because banks cannot ever lose money on the stock; they’re even paid out if their regional Fed bank disbands. ...
The banks freaked out, aided by Fed Chair Janet Yellen, who warned of unnamed “unintended consequences”. Through a well-worn lobbying strategy, they managed to get the House of Representatives to remove the dividend cut and replace it with a raid on the Fed’s capital surplus account, which is used to cover losses on the balance sheet. ...
But when the final bill was released Tuesday, the dividend reduction remained in there, albeit with some modifications.
The reduction now applies only to banks with over $10 billion in assets, compared to the $1 billion threshold in the original bill. Instead of cutting the dividend to 1.5 percent, the rate will now match the interest rate of the highest-yield 10-year Treasury note at the point that the dividend is due. For context, the high yield at the last Treasury auction was 2.304 percent.
America’s 20 wealthiest people — a group that could fit in one Gulfstream G650 jet — are now worth $732 billion, which means they have more wealth than the 152 million people who make up the least wealthy 50% of U.S. households, according to a report released Wednesday by the Institute for Policy Studies. What’s more, the “Forbes 400” wealthiest individuals in the U.S. now have a net worth of $2.34 trillion.
A 1% tax on the wealthiest 1% of Americans would raise $2.6 trillion over 10 years, more than the federal government now spends on education and environmental protection combined, the report says, and a 1% tax exclusively on the Forbes 400 would raise $234 billion, which is more than the government spends on both its Head Start program, which provides early childhood education to over 800,000 low-income children, and the Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) program that provides nutrition assistance to over half of all infants born in the U.S.
Lawyers for the House of Representatives have escalated their legal fight to block the first-ever congressional insider trading investigation.
The case revolves around allegations that Brian Sutter, a former senior staff member of the Ways and Means Committee, passed along nonpublic information concerning a Medicare reimbursement rate change to a lobbyist with Greenberg Traurig in April 2013. ...
The information was then disclosed to a consulting firm that shared the tip with it’s financial clients. A number of the hedge funds appeared to use the insider tip to trade on stocks that would be impacted.
The Securities and Exchange Commission opened an investigation and served subpoenas on Sutter and the Ways and Means Committee.
Despite passing a bipartisan law to address the very issue of congressional insider trading — the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, or STOCK Act of 2012 — congressional attorneys have fought the SEC investigation at every turn. First they refused to comply with the subpoenas. Then, when the SEC sued, the House attorneys claimed that the case should not proceed because lawmakers and their staff are constitutionally protected from such inquiries. ...
On November 13, U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe agreed with most of the SEC’s claims and ordered Congress to comply with the subpoena within 10 days. ... Kerry W. Kircher, the House general counsel, requested more time. Then, shortly before Thanksgiving, on November 25, he filed a motion to appeal the subpoena to the 2nd Circuit. Kircher argued that the STOCK Act did not explicitly authorize the SEC to issue subpoenas to Congress, even to investigate inside trading.
The appeal, which could obstruct the investigation or at least delay it for months, is the latest move by Congress to undermine its own ethics law.
Under the radar of corporate media and general public, a "dangerous proposal" is bubbling up in state legislatures throughout the country—one that could trigger "political chaos that would make past upheavals like the Watergate scandal and the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton seem tame by comparison."
So warned the grassroots, pro-democracy group Common Cause on Wednesday, in a new report entitled, The Dangerous Path: Big Money’s Plan to Shred the Constitution (pdf).
The threat comes in the form of a constitutional convention, assembled under Article V of the U.S. Constitution, one of several mechanisms that enables future amendments. Article V requires Congress to call such a gathering once 34 state legislatures submit petitions to do so; new constitutional amendments agreed to at the confab would then be sent back to the states for ratification.
Twenty-seven state legislatures have already passed resolutions calling for a convention under the guise of balancing the federal budget, according to Common Cause. Action in just seven more would force Congress to comply. ...
With pro-corporate, right-wing lobby groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Citizens for Self-Governance—not to mention a number of 2016 Republican presidential hopefuls—pushing for such a convention, those who care about everything from environmental regulation to same-sex marriage to fair taxation have reason to be wary.
A Yale researcher set out to discover how much impact mega-wealthy corporations and individuals have had on the American public’s confusion about climate change.
The answer: Just as much as, if not more than, many have claimed—but, until now, could not measure objectively.
Justin Farrell combined several kinds of statistical, semantic, and network analysis—big data, in other words—to show that over the past two decades, climate contrarians funded by ExxonMobil and the Koch brothers’ family foundations have been the most successful at spreading talking points on uncertainty about climate-change science into the U.S. news media and political discussions.
That messaging has helped fuel the American public’s disbelief about climate change, despite the worldwide scientific consensus that global warming is a pressing and major threat to both humanity and the environment. The study was published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.
In a related study, published last week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Farrell found that Exxon and Koch funding of climate-contrarian entities played a major role in polarizing public discussion of climate change over the past 20 years.
This is worth clicking the link and reading in full:
The world has lost a third of its arable land due to erosion or pollution in the past 40 years, with potentially disastrous consequences as global demand for food soars, scientists have warned.
New research has calculated that nearly 33% of the world’s adequate or high-quality food-producing land has been lost at a rate that far outstrips the pace of natural processes to replace diminished soil.
The University of Sheffield’s Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures, which undertook the study by analysing various pieces of research published over the past decade, said the loss was “catastrophic” and the trend close to being irretrievable without major changes to agricultural practices.
The continual ploughing of fields, combined with heavy use of fertilizers, has degraded soils across the world, the research found, with erosion occurring at a pace of up to 100 times greater than the rate of soil formation. It takes around 500 years for just 2.5cm of topsoil to be created amid unimpeded ecological changes.
“You think of the dust bowl of the 1930s in North America and then you realise we are moving towards that situation if we don’t do something,” said Duncan Cameron, professor of plant and soil biology at the University of Sheffield.
The richest 10% of people produce half of Earth’s climate-harming fossil-fuel emissions, while the poorest half contribute a mere 10%, British charity Oxfam said in a report released Wednesday.
Oxfam published the numbers as negotiators from 195 countries met in Paris to wrangle over a climate rescue pact.
Disputes over how to share responsibility for curbing greenhouse-gas emissions and aiding climate-vulnerable countries are among the thorniest and longest-running issues in the 25-year-old UN climate process.
The report said that an average person among the richest one percent emits 175 times more carbon than his or her counterpart among the bottom 10%.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Louis Jordan - Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens
Louis Jordan - Keep a Knockin (But You Can't Come In)
Louis Jordan - Buzz me Baby
Louis Jordan - Caldonia
Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five - Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby
Louis Jordan - Let The Good Times Roll
Louis Jordan - Choo choo ch'boogie
Louis Jordan - Five Guys Named Moe
Louis Jordan & The Tympany Five - Beans and Cornbread
Louis Jordan - You Gotta Have A Beat
Louis Jordan - Don't Worry 'Bout the Mule
Louis Jordan - Blue Lite Boogie
Louis Jordan - You Dyed Your Hair Chartreuse
Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five - Jumpin' At The Jubilee
Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five - The two little squirrels (Nuts to you)
Louis Jordan - Messy Bessy
Louis Jordan - If You're So Smart, How Come You Ain't Rich?
Louis Jordan - What's The Use Of Getting Sober
Louis Jordan - Saturday Night Fish Fry