The Evening Blues - 2-24-16


Hey! Good Evening!

This evening's music features boogie woogie piano player Meade "Lux" Lewis. Enjoy!

Meade Lux Lewis - Boogie Woogie

"Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule — and both commonly succeed, and are right."

-- H.L. Mencken

News and Opinion

Obama’s Plan to Close Guantánamo Would Establish Indefinite Detention on U.S. Soil

Saying that the prison at Guantánamo Bay “undermines our standing in the world,” President Barack Obama today announced a detailed plan to close the facility, 14 years after it was first inaugurated by President George W. Bush. Among other measures, the plan calls for a number of Guantánamo prisoners to be transferred into permanent custody in the United States. This component of the government’s plan has alarmed many legal experts, who say that it would create a dangerous precedent for indefinite detention without trial in the United States.

“The infamy of Guantánamo has never been its physical location but the legal regime of indefinite detention without charge that underpins it,” said Omar Shakir, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights. “The administration’s proposal contains a number of measures that we have long advocated. But importing indefinite detention to the United States is not a plan to ‘close Guantánamo.’ It’s a plan to move Guantánamo to another ZIP code.” ...

Obama’s plan for closing the prison also preserves the Bush-era practice of trying prisoners under military commissions rather than through civilian courts. Such commissions have been widely criticized as unconstitutional, as well as ineffective at securing convictions.

In a particularly cruel irony, prisoners who were tortured during their detention are unable to obtain due process because the evidence against them was legally tainted by their abuse. The administration’s plan would continue to bar such prisoners from the civilian legal process, something the ACLU described in a statement today as a “mistake” in an otherwise well-intentioned plan to shut the prison.

“While the administration’s plan contains a number of laudable steps, the legal blueprint for detaining these men in the United States sets a dangerous precedent for others a future administration may deem terrorists,” said Shakir. “We have already seen significant due process violations and abuses in the handling of these cases, with people being subjected to torture and imprisonment for years without charge. Creating a legal regime to justify indefinite detention would create grave dangers for future individuals or groups detained in a U.S. context.”

Will Obama's Guantánamo Plan Close the Prison or Just Relocate It to a New ZIP Code?

An excellent article detailing Obama's record of listless efforts to "close" Guantanamo (as opposed to moving it) over the course of his administration. The author, against all evidence appears to give Obama the benefit of the doubt that his true intent was to close Guantanamo in the first place and the events of the past 7 years represent more than an elaborate charade played for the cameras and the legacy historians.

'No one but himself to blame': how Obama's Guantánamo plans fell through

Years of missteps left Obama trapped in a bind of his own creation – and Tuesday’s plea to Congress was no more than an epitaph for his closure efforts

The overwhelming odds against shuttering the Guantánamo Bay detention facility before Barack Obama leaves office have left his allies viewing his latest closure plan as an epitaph for an effort they consider marked by unforced errors. ...

As one of his first acts in January 2009, the president decreed that Guantánamo be closed within a year and set subordinates to work on the details. As Obama spoke of “responsibly” closing the facility, civil libertarians began to perceive a gap between what they meant by closing Guantánamo and what the White House meant.

They wanted the president to announce that he would try the long-held detainees in federal courts, then hold those convicted and release those acquitted or unable to stand trial because torture tainted the evidence against them. They also wanted him to forswear trying those charged in military commissions that the supreme court had junked in a 2008 ruling. Every such group, from the ACLU to Amnesty International to Human Rights Watch, understood the phrase “closing Guantánamo” to mean putting an end to those practices, which they contended had undermined longstanding US commitments to the rule of law and human rights. ...

With the exception of torture, Obama chose to retain every objectionable practice at Guantánamo. While he said he preferred to try detainees in civilian courts, he defended the military commissions, and downplayed his 2006 Senate vote against them, calling them an “appropriate venue for trying detainees for violations of the laws of war”.

Most importantly, Obama conceded a role for indefinite detention – this time in the United States. ...

Interviews over the past seven years with numerous administration officials who worked on detention issues indicate that they did not seriously consider an alternative approach, both because they feared letting dangerous people free and because they feared the political consequences of doing so.

They held with that approach even as civil libertarians warned them, publicly and in closed-door meetings at the White House and Justice Department, that circumscribing their focus from the start would lead them inexorably on to the terrain favored by the plan’s opponents. If the US was going to do the same things somewhere else, what was the point of clearing out Guantánamo?

Kerry: If Ceasefire Fails, Partition of Syria is ‘Plan B’

Speaking to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today, Secretary of State John Kerry suggested the latest push for a ceasefire in Syria could amount to the last chance for one, and suggested that the US would see a partition of the country as “plan B.” ...

Though a de facto partition has existed in Syria for months now, with fighting along the margins, it’s unfathomable that the international community could recognize it as a de jure separation so long as ISIS controls around half of the country, and al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front has its own contiguous statelet in the north.

Though “partition” is meant to suggest a split on government-rebel lines, the reality is the rebels don’t hold enough territory to be a country, and the partition would amount to a recognition of the ISIS caliphate as a state of its own.

Partition of Syria part of ’Plan B’ if ceasefire fails - Kerry

Britain ‘Uneasy’ With Syrian Kurds Being Backed by Russia

After weeks of Turkey pushing for the US and other NATO members to ditch support for the Syrian Kurdish YPG, Britain seems to be heading in that direction, claiming they are “uneasy” with the YPG gaining territory in offensives backed by Russian air support. ...

Turkey was opposing the YPG before all of this, and has only added to its opposition as the YPG gains territory. The US has so far tried to ignore this, but as Turkey gets more shrill about the matter, it seems like they’re getting at least some NATO backing for abandoning the Kurds as too “pro-Russia.”

Back to Iraq: US Military Contractors Return In Droves

The number of private contractors working for the U.S. Defense Department in Iraq grew eight-fold over the past year, a rate that far outpaces the growing number of American troops training and advising Iraqi soldiers battling Islamic State militants.

The sharp increase, disclosed in a recent Pentagon report to Congress, underscores the military’s reliance on civilians even for missions with relatively small troop presence.

As of January, 2,028 contractors were in Iraq, up from just 250 one year earlier, according to the Pentagon’s data. There are roughly 3,700 American troops there now, compared to 2,300 in January 2015.

That number of military contractors represents just a fraction of the contractors employed by the U.S. in Iraq. In addition to the 2,028 Pentagon contractors, another 5,800 are employed by other agencies, including the State Department.

French special forces reportedly among effort against Isis in Libya

French special forces are reportedly among those working against Islamic State in Libya, where the terrorist group has taken back part of the coastal city of Sabratha, which was bombed by US jets on Friday, and decapitated 11 police officers.

Le Monde said special forces units, alongside the DGSE, France’s external security directorate, have been in Libya for several months, and coordinated the November US strike on Derna in which killed the most senior Isis leader in the country, Iraqi Abu Nabil al-Anbari, is believed to have been killed. The Pentagon has confirmed that US forces were deployed there in January.

Libyan sources have reported that a small French detachment has been operating from Benghazi’s Benina airport, assisting pro-Tobruk forces combatting Isis in battles in the city.

At foreign affairs select committee hearings in London this month, UK Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood declined to comment on British special forces operations, but said the RAF is flying missions over the country in preparation for possible attacks on IS. Italy announced on Monday that it would allow armed US drones to strike Libyan targets from bases in Sicily.

Spain political crisis: Socialists announce deal with centrist Ciudadanos

How is it that Obama can pontificate that rethugs "don't believe in science" regarding climate change, but when the preponderance of coders, techies and security experts are all saying that it is impossible to create a backdoor that only law enforcement can have access to, it's subject to debate by clueless bureaucrats? The hypocrisy is strong in this one.

The FBI wants a backdoor only it can use – but wanting it doesn’t make it possible

The FBI’s demand that Apple create a defeat device for decrypting a phone that belonged to a mass murderer has all the ingredients for a disastrous public conversation.

Combine a highly technical debate about information security with an emotionally charged subject matter, then confuse the whole issue with a 24-hour news cycle tick-tock about who did what, when, and you end up bogged down in questions like, “Does it matter if the FBI directed the local cops to try to change the phone’s password, inadvertently creating the lockout?”

The questions raised by this court order are deliberately the wrong ones: questions whose answers don’t get us any closer to a lasting peace in the crypto wars. ...

The first Crypto War was fought in the 1990s when the NSA insisted on a ban on strong crypto in civilian hands, and the US classed the underlying mathematics as munitions.

The Clinton administration lobbied for mandatory backdoors, insisting that it was possible to make a backdoor that only the good guys could walk through – precisely the same argument raised by the Obama administration in 2016 (see also: 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, etc).

The thing about this controversy is that it isn’t one. Independent cryptographers are virtually unanimous in their view that you can’t properly secure a system while simultaneously ensuring that it ships with a pre-broken mode that police can exploit. ...

Cybersecurity isn’t just about protecting your location data and your private emails: it’s about making sure randos aren’t spying on your children through your baby monitor, or driving your car off the road, or killing you where you stand by wirelessly hacking your insulin pump – or stealing entire hospitals.

If you’re not worried about this stuff, you’re not paying close enough attention.

New Court Filing Reveals Apple Faces 12 Other Requests to Break Into Locked iPhones

Apple has objected to or otherwise challenged at least 12 government requests to help extract data from locked iPhones since September, bolstering its argument that its current battle about a terrorist’s phone is not as unique as the Justice Department has maintained.

The other requests are listed in a newly unsealed court brief filed by Apple attorney Marc Zwillinger in response to an order from a magistrate judge in a Brooklyn federal court. That case involves a government request to search an Apple iPhone 5s for evidence about a suspect’s possession or sale of methamphetamine.

Apple has refused to extract data from the phone, even though it could (because the phone was running on an older operating system), arguing in court that it was “being forced to become an agent of law enforcement.” ...

Several of the newly disclosed government requests to Apple are like the one at issue in the Brooklyn case — calling on the company to use its existing capabilities to extract data like contacts, photos and calls from locked iPhones running on operating systems iOS7 and older. But a few requests involve phones with more extensive encryption, which Apple cannot break. To comply in those cases, Apple would presumably be ordered to do something very much like what it’s being asked to do in the San Bernardino case: design new software to let the government circumvent the device’s security protocols and unlock the phone.

NYPD Admits the Battle Over Apple Will Set a Crucial Precedent

In an op-ed for the New York Times today, New York Police Department Commissioner William Bratton and NYPD Intelligence and Counterterrorism Deputy Commissioner James J. Miller admitted that what Apple has been asked to do will drive how the government demands tech companies provide access to secured devices in the future.

“The ramifications of this fight extend beyond San Bernardino,” Bratton and Miller write. The NYPD bosses say that the government’s demand boils down to restoring “a key that was available until 2014.” This is a reference to the change Apple made in 2014, when it upgraded its encryption. ...

“Google, which owns the Android system, now indicates that it will follow Apple’s lead,” Bratton and Miller write. “For those companies, and others like them, there is a sound argument in not wanting, even indirectly, to become an arm of the government. But when you are the two companies whose operating systems handle more than 90 percent of mobile communications worldwide, you should be accountable for more than just sales.”

Apple, Google, and other companies are certainly accountable for more than just sales. But arguing that these companies have a responsibility to perform what amounts to police work—that they should break protections they’ve created for customers at the whim of the government—is absurd.

Here’s the Real Reason Wall Street Bank Stocks Tank When Oil Prices Dive

What knocked the wind out of JPMorgan’s sails yesterday is at the heart of why the banks keep tanking when oil prices swoon. In a nutshell, the market doesn’t think these banks are coming clean about their exposure to oil – whether it’s in loans to beleaguered oil companies or whether it’s derivatives it sold to its corporate clients and hedge funds to make wagers on the declining price of oil. In addition, the market thinks these banks have not taken adequate reserves to cover their potential losses and that they are waiting until the last possible moment in order for executives to boost their own pay and bonuses.

Where would the market get such cynical ideas? This is precisely how many of these banks behaved with the subprime debt crisis in the leadup to the 2008 financial crash.

JPMorgan Chase poured some gasoline on the fire of these suspicions yesterday when it held its annual investor day and announced that it will be beefing up its reserves to cover potential losses in the energy sector to $1.3 billion by the end of this quarter. The bank noted further that if oil stays in the $25 range for over a year, it would have to put aside an additional $1.5 billion. ...

According to a February 12, 2016 article by Christopher Helman at Forbes, other major banks have the following estimated energy sector exposure (loans and commitments): Wells Fargo $42 billion; Citigroup $58 billion; Bank of America $43.8 billion; Morgan Stanley $16 billion.

What no one seems to be talking about is what the derivatives exposure is on the part of the banks to the energy sector. The price action of the bank stocks on down days for oil is sending a crystal clear message that we may be in for a lot of negative surprises in that arena.

Don’t teach “sensitive topics” or anger students, Houston professors are warned after “campus carry” gun law passed

“Be careful discussing sensitive topics,” professors at the University of Houston were warned in a faculty meeting about the new “campus carry” gun policy.

An unofficial forum of professors suggested that teachers may want to “drop certain topics from your curriculum,” and “not ‘go there’ if you sense anger,” the Houston Chronicle reports.

A new Texas law will allow people to carry concealed handguns on university campuses.

Jeffrey Villines, a Ph.D. student in the university’s English department, shared a photo of what he said is a slide from a “recent campus carry dialogue at UH, in response to faculty concerns about dangers from armed students.”

Silicon Valley billionaire demands $30m to restore access to former public beach

Vinod Khosla, the billionaire who runs his own venture capital firm Khosla Ventures and co-founded tech company Sun Microsystems, purchased in 2008 a 53-acre parcel of Martins Beach, which is near Half Moon Bay, about 30 miles south of San Francisco.

This month, Khosla’s attorney wrote to the state saying his client would allow the public access to the beach once again – but only if the government paid him $30m, an amount that public officials say is unreasonably high and not supported by any documentation.

For nearly a century, the beach was a “popular destination for fishing, picnicking, and surfing and other recreational uses”, according to the California state lands commission. The previous owners provided a general store and public restroom and allowed the public to visit the beach, charging a fee for parking.

After purchasing the property, Khosla, who does not live on the property, initially continued to allow public access. But in 2010, he closed the gate and put up signs warning against trespass, prompting multiple lawsuits as well as legislation that required the commission to negotiate with Khosla about restoring public access. ...

The dispute comes as California residents have grown increasingly frustrated with wealthy landowners cutting off access to the state’s beaches. The California coastal commission last year reported that beachgoers were repeatedly complaining about private security guards attempting to kick them off public beaches by asserting that they were trespassing on private property.

the horse race

U.S. judge orders discovery to go forward over Clinton’s private email system

A federal judge on Tuesday ruled that State Department officials and top aides to Hillary Clinton should be questioned under oath about whether they intentionally thwarted federal open records laws by using or allowing the use of a private email server throughout Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of Washington came in a lawsuit over public records brought by Judicial Watch, a conservative legal watchdog group, regarding its May 2013 request for information about the employment arrangement of Huma Abedin, a longtime Clinton aide.

Officials with the State and Justice departments said that they were aware of the order but declined to comment further, citing the ongoing litigation. Discovery orders are not readily appealable. An attorney for Abedin declined to comment.

Sullivan set an April 12 deadline for parties to litigate a detailed investigative plan--subject to court approval--that would reach well beyond the limited and carefully worded explanations of the use of the private server that department and Clinton officials have given.

Sullivan also suggested from the bench that he might at some point order the department to subpoena Clinton and Abedin to return all emails related to Clinton’s private account, not just records their camps previously deemed work-related and returned.

Using Republicans as Shield, Clinton Dodges Again on Wall Street Speeches

Just what exactly did Hillary Clinton tell Wall Street bankers when she thought only they were listening?

When she was first asked the question last month by a journalist during a campaign stop in New Hampshire, Clinton just laughed in response before turning away. Subsequently, during a televised debate, Clinton said she would "look into" it.

But the concern over the content of her paid speeches to Wall Street firms has only grown in recent weeks and on Tuesday night, during a town hall event in South Carolina, Clinton answered the question by saying she would only release transcripts of her remarks if "everybody does it" and argued that she was being treated differently than other presidential candidates. "Why is there one standard for me and not for everybody else?" she asked CNN moderator Chris Cuomo.

"That includes the Republicans," said Clinton, "Because we know they have given a lot of speeches."

Andrea Mitchell Pulls the Mask Off Harry Reid

I've seen this story now in several locations, but I'll give Andrea Mitchell the scoop, pride of place:

The supposedly neutral Harry Reid engineered, or helped engineer, Hillary Clinton's narrow victory in Nevada. Recall that the Clinton victory was made possible by the large turnout in Clark County, and in particular, in the Strip casino caucus sites. That turnout was, in turn, made possible by a combination of two actions — the supposedly neutral Culinary Workers union chief actively encouraging workers to caucus, and casino employers keeping their workers "on the clock" — i.e., making sure they were paid — when they went to the caucus sites.

Both are Harry Reid's doing.

Harry Reid delivers for Hillary Clinton

In the middle of last week, Reid made a phone call, first reported by The New York Times’ Amy Chozick, to D. Taylor, the head of the parent of the Culinary Workers Union local in Las Vegas. Before that call, the union, facing difficult contract negotiations and seeing no advantage in enmeshing itself in a bloody internecine fight, had declared it was more Swiss than Hispanic. With the culinary union not endorsing and unwilling to even engage in the caucuses, employee turnout at six casino sites on the Las Vegas Strip was forecast at a combined 100 or so. That is, insignificant.

Taylor has “been extremely cooperative,” Reid told Chozick. “Probably 100 organizers will be at the caucus sites and in hotels to make sure people know what they’re doing.”

But Reid did not stop there. He also called casino executives, Democratic insiders confirm, with a simple message: “Let your people go.”

That is, he wanted to ensure the workers would be allowed time off from work to caucus. No one said no to Prince Harry.

Despite their common public neutrality, Taylor and Reid surely believe, as do most Democratic power brokers, that a Sanders nomination would be a disaster. Reid knew that Taylor would get his swarms of organizers to turn out mostly Latino workers, who would likely vote for Clinton.

A gamble? Yes. But like going all in with a straight flush.

And it paid off. ...

Clinton won Clark by 10 points, ensuring that Sanders would have to crush her in the north and rurals to win. He did not.

Making slime-monger David "blinded by the right" Brock the messenger of a "play nice" missive is a masterstroke of political satire by the Clinton campaign.

Hillary Clinton Ally David Brock Asks Bernie Sanders to Back Off

A high-profile ally of Hillary Clinton is calling on Sen. Bernie Sanders to “immediately halt all negative campaigning” against the Democratic front-runner.

David Brock, founder of the Correct the Record super PAC, released a letter to Mr. Sanders Tuesday warning him that he could damage Mrs. Clinton’s chances against Republicans if he attacks her character and motivations. ...

Mr. Brock, in an interview, said he grew concerned about Mr. Sanders’s intentions after seeing some of his statements following the Nevada caucuses. Mr. Sanders suggested during a news conference on Monday in Boston that his rival inevitably will be influenced by the millions of dollars in “special interest money” flowing into the main pro-Clinton super PAC, Priorities USA Action.

Black thinkers like Bernie Sanders. They've studied the Clintons' true cost

pike Lee is the latest black public intellectual to endorse Bernie Sanders and to question the sanity of black voters and politicians pledging their allegiance to the Clintons, who have done as much harm to black America as any living political couple. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I am mystified by robust black support for Bill and Hillary Clinton. ...

Bill Clinton governed through playing to white fears by hurting, locking up or even executing black Americans. He left the campaign trail in 1992 to oversee the execution of Ricky Ray Rector, a black man so mentally incapacitated, he reportedly did not eat the dessert from his final meal because he was “saving it for later”. When in office, Bill Clinton ended welfare for poor children and destroyed countless black families through a crime bill even he now admits made mass incarceration worse, while Hillary Clinton would go out and whip up support for this accelerated disenfranchisement and marginalization of black America, even when it meant referring to children as “superpredators”. ...

To me, Sanders is not only appealing because he marched with Martin Luther King Jr or was arrested fighting racism (though I like the idea of a president who has been arrested for social justice). Sanders is most interesting because he offers black Americans a real possibility for change, thanks to his willingness to genuinely critique capitalism. You don’t get to take millions in speaking fees over the years as Hillary Clinton has done – much of it from banks – and get to critique capitalism.

This critique is not without specific implications for black Americans. Malcolm X infamously said: “You can’t have capitalism without racism.” The Clinton machine is the friend of unfettered capitalism, which makes them the friend of racial capitalism, too. Sanders and his dreams of democratic socialism are the enemy of cowboy capitalism – and the racist system in enables.

Days of Revolt: The Solution

Trump's victories aren't mysterious if you understand why people are angry

Anger isn’t something that Beltway pundits recognize, let alone understand because everyone employed in media or in politics in and around Washington DC is pretty well off. ... Anger is pretty easy to miss when it’s something pretty difficult to feel. When you sit at the center of the world and are unlikely to ever lack for the basic materials of self-sufficiency, the idea of blind, gnawing resentment – let alone of feeding that resentment even with irrational aims – is ineluctably beyond your ken.

It’s harder still to understand that there are millions of people in America whose ambitions for a life of steadily improving conditions cratered sometime around nine years ago and have never recovered. If you can hardly imagine that you could follow the Horatio Alger script to the letter and still find yourself sinking in quicksand, you’re never going to understand why someone would be so contemptuous of the pieties of a system that only pays attention to you when doing soft-focus interviews in search of a journalism award or a campaign ad. ...

There’s a great temptation to fume at the emptiness and banality of Trump’s statements and at the absence of traditional policy plans; it’s almost irresistible to seek some grander explanation for his success than that people like him.

But you don’t need some grand overarching political science theory. There are millions of miserable people in America who know exactly who engineered the shattering of their worlds, and Trump isn’t one of those people – and, with the exception of Bernie Sanders, everyone else in the field is running on the basis of their experience being one of those people.

When you are abused and bullied enough, anyone willing to beat up or burn down whomever put you in that position is your friend. Even a bully can be a hero if he targets others bullies – and that is, more or less, what Trump has done since day one. ...

And as long as people can enjoy the elbow-throwing wish-fulfillment of watching him in action, most of the rest doesn’t matter to them – not the bombast, not the war-mongering, not the unfeasibility of even his signature promises and certainly not the consequences if he keeps them. If the system is already so broken that it abandoned you, its preservation is not your concern. Hell, burning it down might be what you want most.

the evening greens

Seas are now rising faster than they have in 2,800 years, scientists say

A group of scientists says it has now reconstructed the history of the planet’s sea levels arcing back over some 3,000 years — leading it to conclude that the rate of increase experienced in the 20th century was “extremely likely” to have been faster than during nearly the entire period.

“We can say with 95 percent probability that the 20th-century rise was faster than any of the previous 27 centuries,” said Bob Kopp, a climate scientist at Rutgers University who led the research with nine colleagues from several U.S. and global universities. Kopp said it’s not that seas rose faster before that – they probably didn’t – but merely that the ability to say as much with the same level of confidence declines.

The study was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Seas rose about 14 centimeters (5.5 inches) from 1900 to 2000, the new study suggests, for a rate of 1.4 millimeters per year. The current rate, according to NASA, is 3.4 millimeters per year, suggesting that sea level rise is still accelerating.

Unsurprisingly, the study blames the anomalous 20th-century rise on global warming — and not just that. It also calculates that, had humans not been warming the planet, there’s very little chance that seas would have risen so much during the century, finding that instead of a 14 centimeter rise, we would have seen somewhere between a 3 centimeter fall and a 7 centimeter rise.

Increased flooding in US coastal cities caused by climate change, study says

Rising sea levels are putting increasing pressure on US coastal cities, with a new analysis showing that human-driven climate change is to blame for three-quarters of the coastal flooding events over the past decade.

The Climate Central research shows that coastal flooding days have more than doubled in the US since the 1980s, the primary drivers of which have been the warming of the atmosphere and oceans. The findings are based on a separate study, released on Monday, that found the Earth’s seas are rising at a pace unseen in the past 2,800 years.

The analysis compares the latest yearly estimates for human-caused global sea level rise with hourly water level records at 27 tide gauges around the US, to see the influence of climate change on nuisance flooding. The world’s oceans are estimated to have risen by an average of six inches compared with the 19th century, spurred by melting land ice and the thermal expansion of seawater.

The results show that flooding events are being severely exacerbated by climate change, primarily in the upping of high tide marks. With even just a small increase in the high tide level, flooding can inundate areas, resulting in roads being cut off or houses and businesses becoming swamped.

Across all the tidal gauges, climate change was responsible for three-quarters of these flooding events over the past decade. The US’s east coast is experiencing sea level increases above the global average, possibly due to a change in the Gulf stream that is causing warmer water to pile up along the Atlantic seaboard.

Seed bank aims to protect world's agricultural inheritance from Syria war

The wild wheat seed had travelled from Aleppo to the Arctic circle in northern Norway. It has now come almost full circle to Lebanon’s Bekaa valley, where an effort is under way to save the world’s agricultural inheritance from the ravages of the Syrian civil war. ...

The return journey from the Arctic to the Middle East was not one the seed had been expected to make. The Svalbard global seed vault, buried in a Norwegian mountain, contains hundreds of thousands of native seeds from around the world, preserved in the event of a doomsday scenario to help humanity rise from the ashes and help feed a broken world.

The war in Syria, beginning in 2011, changed the calculus. Icarda’s Aleppo facility, which held a collection of 150,000 seeds representing the knowledge of generations of farmers in the Fertile Crescent, where agriculture began, is now all but inaccessible to the organisation’s staff so out in Lebanon’s agricultural hinterland a grand project is slowly coming to life to recreate it using samples from the Svalbard vault.

“Go back 10,000 years, all the farmers that worked in this region and on those crops, there are varieties you cannot find anymore in the field,” said Yazbek. “The only place where you can find them is in the seed bank.” The specimens sent from Svalbard were the first ever withdrawals from the bank. ... “What we are losing is the history of these thousands of years represented in crops, and you’re losing your safety net for the future,” said Yazbek. ...

Many of the wild varieties no longer exist, and those seeds that have been saved represent decades and centuries of genetic selection by local farmers that contributed to humanity’s collective knowledge of agriculture.

As Rivers Run Black in Peru, Indigenous Tribes Left Cleaning Big Oil's Disaster

A disastrous spate of oil spills in the Peruvian Amazon have gone from bad to worse in recent days, leaving Indigenous tribes frantically trying to clean up the mess left by the nation's state-owned oil company.

The catastrophic ruptures in Petroperu's Northern Peruvian Pipeline occurred on January 25th and February 3rd and have threatened the water supply of nearly 10,000 indigenous people, says Amazon Watch.

On Monday, Petroperu officials confirmed to Reuters that the oil has poured into two critical Amazon River tributaries that eight Achuar tribes depend on for water. According to the news agency, these two tributaries of the Amazon River, the Chiriaco and Morona rivers, are now filled with 3,000 barrels of oil.

Critics charge that the spills continued to spread and caused far worse damage after the responsible company, Petroperu, failed to act to contain the oil released by the pipeline breakages.

Also of Interest

Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.

Yes We Can Pay for Increasing Social Security Benefits

Hillary Clinton, The Council on Foreign Relations and The Establishment

Michael Hayden’s Pro-Drone Propaganda

More U.S. troops killed by Halliburton than by Iraqis

U.S. Military White Paper Describes Wearing Hijab as “Passive Terrorism”

Regime Change in Ankara? More Likely Than You Think

Meet the Candidates for Congress Running Against the Surveillance State

Black lives don’t matter: why stories of death on the streets rarely get told

FBI fight with Apple is a big farce to get inside your phone

Former Playboy Playmate, Other Finance-Linked Donors, Give Big Bucks to “Sheriff of Wall Street” Eric Schneiderman

Andrea Fraser: the artist turning the Whitney into a prison

Dutch Artists Celebrate George Orwell’s Birthday By Putting Party Hats On Surveillance Cameras

A Little Night Music

Meade Lux Lewis - Low Down Dog

Meade 'Lux' Lewis - Don't Put That Thing in Me

Meade Lux Lewis - Honky Tonk Train Blues

Meade Lux Lewis - Yancey's Pride

Meade Lux Lewis - Whistlin' Blues

Meade "Lux" Lewis- Chicago Flyer

Meade Lux Lewis - Cow Cow Blues

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joe shikspack's picture

there's a major electrical storm rolling through here, so there is some chance of a power outage.

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you are away Smile

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Pluto's Republic's picture

I thought it read:

there's a major electoral storm rolling through here, so there is some chance of a power outage.

Then I thought it made sense and moved on.

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US capitalism has run into same problems that put Germany on the road to war in 1914. For Germany it was a question of ‘organizing’ Europe. For the United States it is a question of ‘organizing’ the world. — Leon Trotsky
joe shikspack's picture

that works for me. Smile

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Big Al's picture

the big picture. It's like going to the doctor for a hangnail when you're coughing up blood. But they have to keep that little red ball bouncing along don't they.

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joe shikspack's picture

yeah, gitmo is only a small portion of the evil that the us does around the globe, but, it's still worth paying attention to. the unfortunate souls who have been dragged into that hell hole need justice.

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Big Al's picture

but plenty do.

My brother has a favorite saying, "Same thing only different". Here's the republican establishment talking about Trump.

I try to tell those attracted by some of the shit he says that in the end he's just another asshole republican billionaire. If they think anything is going to change in their favor if Trump wins they're not only stupid but they're dumb too.

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So many "head, bang, wall" links today.

Just when I think gun nuts can't get any nuttier, they pull off something worse. Wowza !

Vinod Khosla - the Great American "meritocracy" at work. These are the people we are supposed to swoon over.

The hijab article reminds me of a plan t track Tabouli buyers in the past as potential terrorists. IIRC, it became a laughing stock and was shelved.

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investigation with ref to this FT link :

This is big. The judge is annoyed with the foot-dragging and missed deadlines. State is now being told that they may have to turn over all e-mails and that Hillary’s too-many-hat-wearing aide Huma Abedin and even Hillary herself might have to testify. In other words, unless the Clinton side gets cooperative pronto, the judge is pulling out his procedural artillery. Pissing off a judge is not wise and it looks like the Clinton side has done that. (PS I wonder if Obama is back to his 11th dimensional chess form, that he or his top advisors allowed State to play a delaying game that the Clintons pushed for, thinking it would help them, when the Administration knew playing it as hard as the Clintons wanted to play would backfire. We also have the specter of the ongoing FBI leaks, which have helped stoke media interest. On the one hand, there are no doubt conservative agents who are happy to babble to the press about the Clintons. On the other, this Administration has been particularly ruthless about going after leakers, yet we have no sign the Administration has done bupkis to tamp this down).

People in a position to hear from loose lips on her side say Team Clinton is mighty concerned and is trying to figure out the best timing for this to come out, as if the judge will let them exercise control. It’s Clinton Foundation related stuff, natch, and I gather the most polite term that can be applied to what is coming out is “crass”. I don’t see how they can drag this out past November. And that means, in case you have any doubts, no way does she get elected absent a wild card like Trump being shot or caught in bed with an underage girl. You can stick a fork in her candidacy. Please send the memo to Team Dem. To switch metaphors, they put all their bets on a horse which is turning out to be a broken down nag.

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accountability in AMureeka. In the rare case it happens, I doubt the Dem Establishment gives diddly squat about the future of the party. They will rather go down in flames than letting someone like Sanders (a New Dealer more than a socialist IMHO) win. They keep a tight leash unlike the New Labor.

And waiting for popcorn time reg the Repub establishment's reaction towards Trump's mounting wins. I had my 2 mins of happy dance when Jeb Bush dropped out.

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joe shikspack's picture

a while ago i ran across (and i think i posted it here) a story from jason leopold who is behind a lot of the foia action; his lawyer got the judge to demand that all of the emails be released by state prior to the south carolina primary elections based upon the notion that voters had a right to know.

In a major victory for transparency, a federal judge on Thursday ordered the State Department to release former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's emails prior to the Democratic primary and caucus remaining this month.

The order was issued by US District Court Judge Rudolph Contreras in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by VICE News, which forced the release of all 52,455 pages of the Democratic presidential candidate's electronic communications.

The State Department was supposed to produce the final batch of Clinton's emails last month, but a week before the January 29 deadline, government attorneys filed court papers requesting a one-month extension because State Department and intelligence community reviewers failed to scrutinize thousands of Clinton's emails for sensitive and classified information. Moreover, the State Department said the blizzard that hit the east coast impeded their efforts to complete the final production.

That extension would have delayed the release until after several Democratic caucuses and primaries.

VICE News attorney Ryan James countered that if release of the emails were delayed it would cause "grave, incurable harm [to] a substantial portion of the electorate [who would] be forced to vote without the benefit of important information to which it is entitled about the performance of one of the candidates for US president while serving as secretary of State."

At a court hearing in the case Tuesday, Contreras took the State Department to task for missing its January 29 production deadline, saying he agreed that there is a compelling public interest in Clinton's emails. He ordered the State Department to provide "a detailed explanation of why this problem arose, what caused it and why it wasn't noticed until recently" and to also come up with a new production schedule for releasing some of Clinton's emails before the completion of the Democratic primaries. A government attorney representing the State Department had said it would be impossible to complete the task before February 29.

apparently all the foot dragging is looking bad for hillary. one can only assume that what's in the documents looks worse than the foot-dragging does.

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Pluto's Republic's picture

The dispute comes as California residents have grown increasingly frustrated with wealthy landowners cutting off access to the state’s beaches. The California coastal commission last year reported that beachgoers were repeatedly complaining about private security guards attempting to kick them off public beaches by asserting that they were trespassing on private property.

Americans don't deserve to go to the beach until they mobilize and take back their natural resources and public utilitiesand nationalize them, beginning with banking and oil.

Americans can go to the beach after they restore the country's resources to benefit the citizens. Like real democracies do.

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US capitalism has run into same problems that put Germany on the road to war in 1914. For Germany it was a question of ‘organizing’ Europe. For the United States it is a question of ‘organizing’ the world. — Leon Trotsky
joe shikspack's picture

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Big Al's picture

throw them a little red meat to hold them at bay.

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mimi's picture

have nothing to comment and didn't read much. I guess I'll wait and see what happens. I am kind of ok with that.

Have a good evening, all, and don't forget to enjoy life as long as you have it. Smile

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triv33's picture

Kid got pneumonia last week and that left me barely time for the Apple hubbub in the Snowden Group, let alone anything else. But, I have a not surprising in the least story for you tonight:
Journalists Should Stand Up for Whistleblowers

Reporters Without Borders now ranks the United States 49th out of 180 countries in its Press Freedom Index. “That’s a 14-place drop since 2012,” says Delphine Halgand, the group’s U.S. director.

President Obama’s war on whistleblowers is largely to blame, she adds. “The Obama administration has prosecuted a total of eight whistleblowers under the Espionage Act of 1917, which is more than any previous administration combined.”

Obama’s Justice Department has used the 100-year-old law — which was intended to go after World War I-era spies — to convict Sterling and others. This sets a dangerous precedent, intimidates reporters and sources, and cloaks government operations from public scrutiny.

That’s a problem we all need to address. But it’s one news organizations in particular should take very seriously.

Not that anything will change.

Storm coming through my way now.

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I shave my legs with Occam's Razor~

joe shikspack's picture

yep, you're right. sadly, i am not surprised. i'll be glad to see obama go.

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triv33's picture

But, unless we can get a big change, I don't see anything different under the next regime.

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I shave my legs with Occam's Razor~

lotlizard's picture

Trump & Co. repel me less than leaders who label themselves “progressive” but whose actual use of power is reactionary in the extreme.

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mimi's picture

but Trump & Co. isn't harmless at all. You can't underestimate Trump's role as hate inciter. In today's Democracy Now's show Richard Cohen from the SPLC center describes this pretty well in his new yearly report about the tremendous increase of hate groups all over the US (and it leaps over to Europe). This spread is due to internet hate speech flowing freely and consumed addictively. It is very scary. Starting at TC 10:00 of the show.

Here is the link to the SPLC report SPLC's Intelligence Report: Amid Year of Lethal Violence, Extremist Groups Expanded Ranks in 2015. 1000 radical anti-government groups. Hate groups increased to 800. Media role in hate groups and violence amplifies the trend. etc. Online haters have increased by 100 percent since Obama is in office.

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mimi's picture

... and when he will get scared about the demons he called out with his hate speech, he will turn coats, make jokes and say it's all not serious. He is in the end a business man and not a fanatic.

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mimi's picture

and know she would get a lot of support, if ... this country would be a functional democracy ...

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mimi's picture

the Bernie earring and on the left ear the Jill earring, just to be on the safe side and have covered all bases.

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mimi's picture

... who have nothing much to say.

Good night.

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joe shikspack's picture

i suppose there are worse things. Smile

have a great evening!

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mimi's picture

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enhydra lutris's picture

Reddy Kilowatt be with you.

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

lotlizard's picture

For 25 years, Peter Lustig’s TV show Löwenzahn (“dandelion”) entertained German kids while helping them understand stuff (among many other things, humans’ effect on environment and ecology).

Lustig started out as a sound technician. When JFK spoke the words “Ich bin ein Berliner,” it was into a microphone set up by Lustig.

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mimi's picture

...shows you how old I am and how long ago I left Germany. But if he started his career with the words "TV is shit" that's for sure a sign he knew what he was doing. Smile

I have a heart for sound technicians ...

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