The Evening Blues - 2-8-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues singer and drummer Billy Gayles mostly known for his work with Ike Turner's band. Enjoy!
Billy Gayles w/ Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm - Do Right Baby
"We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before."
-- John Perry Barlow
News and Opinion
Once you get past Medhi Hasan's revolting fawning over Hillary's "lost cause," there are some facts worth considering in this article:
Last week, less than 72 hours after the State of the Union speech, in which Trump ramped up his war of words with North Korea, his administration announced that it wanted to make it much easier for the president to start a nuclear holocaust. You might have missed that rather important piece of news. Last Friday, while cable news channels rolled on the Nunes memo, the Pentagon published the latest Nuclear Posture Review, or NPR, which includes two pretty alarming new components.
First, while Barack Obama’s 2010 NPR for the first time ruled out a nuclear attack against non-nuclear weapon states that are in compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty, Trump’s NPR goes in the opposite direction and suggests that the U.S. could employ nuclear weapons in “extreme circumstances” to defend the “vital interests” of the United States and its allies. ... Trump wants to be able to retaliate against a non-nuclear and perhaps even non-military attack on U.S. infrastructure — say, a cyberattack on the power grid? — with a nuclear strike that could kill hundreds of thousands, if not millions. To call such a move disproportionate would be a severe understatement.
Second, the new NPR calls for the development of a new generation of so-called low-yield nuclear weapons. These smaller nukes, the document suggests, would be tactical, not strategic; deployed to the battlefield, rather than dropped on a city. The problem with this argument is that the atomic bombs used against Hiroshima (200,000 dead) and Nagasaki (70,000 dead) could also be considered low-yield nuclear weapons, in terms of their explosive capacity. ...
It would be a worrying development if any president of the United States announced, with little debate or discussion, a plan both to build more tactical nuclear weapons and use them in response to non-nuclear attacks; a nuclear strategy that makes the use of nukes more, not less, likely. But when that president is Donald J. Trump, it should be deemed a national, if not a global, emergency.
Last April, the US military detonated the “mother of all bombs”—a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB), with 18,000 pounds of explosives—over an ISIS tunnel complex in Afghanistan. This being the first use in combat of the giant MOAB, its use in Afghanistan generated widespread press attention. In many of the media commentaries, the GBU-43/B was described as the largest non-nuclear weapon in the US arsenal—as powerful, in fact, as the smallest nuclear weapons developed by the United States. In turns out, however, that the GBU-43/B is eclipsed by an even larger non-nuclear weapon, the 30,000-pound GBU-57 Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP), dubbed by some the “father of all bombs” to distinguish it from the MOAB. Originally designed to destroy underground nuclear facilities in Iran, the GBU-57 is now being readied for use against North Korea.
It is no secret that the Defense Department is preparing for possible preventive attacks on North Korean nuclear and missile facilities, supposedly intended to prevent the Kim Jong-un regime in Pyongyang from developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of delivering nuclear warheads to the continental United States. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster has openly called for strikes of this sort, sometimes described as the “bloody nose” option. But any such scenario faces two major hurdles: First, a US strike could provoke massive retaliation by the North against South Korea and Japan, producing vast numbers of civilian casualties; and second, it could fail to destroy all of the North’s nuclear and missile facilities, most of which are thought to be hidden in deep underground shelters. So far as can be determined, the Pentagon has yet to come up with a viable response to the first of these (though it is continuing to search for one), but, with the GBU-57, it may have come up with a solution to the second.
It is impossible to minimize the risks of a first-strike “preventive” US attack on North Korea. Even if American air and missile attacks succeed in destroying many of North Korea’s long-range missiles, that country would still be capable, in all likelihood, of raining vast numbers of artillery shells and short-range missiles (some possibly armed with chemical weapons) on Seoul, located only a few dozen miles from the North Korean border, and on other heavily populated areas in Japan and South Korea—probably killing tens or hundreds of thousands of people (including many American soldiers and their dependents living there). This prospect has led some senior Pentagon officials—including, reportedly, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis—to caution the White House against ordering a preventive strike. Nevertheless, there are many indications that the Pentagon is putting in place the means to conduct such an attack—and recent enhancements to the GBU-57 bomb are among the most alarming of those. ...
With the Winter Olympics just about to begin, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in desperately striving to arrange peace talks with the North, this is the moment to speak out for de-escalation of the Korean crisis and the commencement of serious talks involving all key parties, including the United States, leading to a reduction in threatening arsenals and behaviors on all sides. Readers should also voice support for two bills currently before Congress, HR 4837, the “No Unconstitutional Strike against North Korea Act,” and its Senate version, S. 2016; both prohibit the president from launching a first strike against North Korea or otherwise engaging US armed forces in hostilities with the North without a declaration of war or explicit statutory authorization by Congress.
The erosion of arms control agreements, deployment of additional weapons and tensions over military exercises have increased the risk of an inadvertent armed clash between Europe and Russia, according to the annual Munich Security Report.
The report, entitled “To the Brink - and Back?”, cited growing pressure on nuclear disarmament treaties like the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) and ongoing security concerns in eastern and central Europe.
NATO insists it does not want a new arms race with Russia, but the current situation could “lead to a further deterioration of the security situation in Europe,” said the report, which will be formally released on Thursday before next week’s Munich Security Conference.
“In this dire state of affairs, miscalculations and misunderstandings could well lead to an inadvertent military clash,” it said. ...
The conflict in Ukraine also posed a huge stumbling block to de-escalation of tensions between Russia and the West, the report said, noting that a U.S. decision to provide lethal arms to Ukraine would probably cement the current stalemate.
U.S. air strikes late Wednesday into early Thursday killed more than 100 fighters aligned with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, American military officials said. The U.S. jets and artillery were called in when Syrian “pro-regime forces” moved tanks and artillery and fired mortars about 5 miles east of the Euphrates River in Khusham, Syria.
The river has long been a dividing line between U.S.-backed forces and Russian- or Iranian-backed fighters of the Assad regime. The build-up of Syrian pro-regime forces took place over the past week and included approximately 500 fighters in a large, formation supported by artillery, tanks, multiple-launch rocket systems and mortars, one official said.
After 20 to 30 artillery and tank rounds landed within 500 yards of U.S. special operations forces advising U.S.-backed forces of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the U.S. strikes began in “self-defense,” the official said.
As Brazil gears up for its annual carnival celebrations, an event in São Paulo has been accused of glorifying crimes from the country’s dictatorship past. Billed as “Brazil’s largest anti-Communist block party”, the carnival event “Dops Basement” is named after the Department of Political and Social Order, a police intelligence agency that tortured dissidents during the 1964-1985 military regime. The online flyer bears the images of the Dops chief Sérgio Paranhos Fleury and the army colonel Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, who were accused of commanding torture and death squads under the dictatorship.
Local prosecutors tried to stop the party, scheduled this weekend, but a judge overruled them, citing freedom of expression. The prosecutors are appealing the decision. “The judge’s decision is an insult to all the families of those that were tortured and killed as well as the whole of the Brazilian population,” said Rose Nogueira, a torture survivor and director of São Paulo’s branch of the No More Torture NGO.
During Brazil’s dictatorship, hundreds of political activists were killed or disappeared. Thousands more were tortured, including the former president Dilma Rousseff, who at the time was a Marxist urban guerrilla. A 2014 report from Brazil’s Truth Commission found that torture was widespread under the military regime, including the use of electric shocks, beatings, crucifixion and sexual abuse. ...
The organizers deny that the event is an apology for torture and say their objective is to “demystify” the military regime. “In Brazil, we only hear the side of the leftwing guerrillas who wanted to turn the country into a communist dictatorship like Cuba or Venezuela. The military saved us,” said Douglas Garcia, an organizer and vice-president of Right Wing São Paulo, a small hardline group that supports a smaller state, harsh treatment of prisoners, increased police violence, harsh anti-immigration policies and the US president, Donald Trump.
Two British Isis militants implicated in brutal acts of torture and execution, have been captured by US-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria, according to the New York Times. The two men, Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, formed part of a group of four fighters nicknamed “the Beatles” due to their British accents and are allegedly responsible for murdering approximately two dozen hostages in Syria.
Kotey, a 34-year-old convert to Islam who grew up in west London, and 29-year-old Elsheikh, whose family fled to the UK from Sudan in the 1990s, were the only remaining members of the group still at large.
The group’s leader, Mohammed Emwazi, nicknamed Jihadi John, was killed in a 2015 airstrike. Emwazi was believed to be the militant responsible for the gruesome beheadings of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, which were captured on film and distributed in Isis propaganda videos.
In the grand ballroom of the Marvin Center at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. on Thursday morning, a committee comprised of 11 U.K. Members of Parliament made Silicon Valley sweat. For hours, executives from major tech companies, including Facebook, Twitter, and Google were lambasted by members of the British Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee over their failure to regulate fake news, disinformation campaigns, and illegal content on their platforms. ...
One exchange, between Labour MP Ian Lucas and Facebook U.K. policy chief Simon Milner, particularly typified the fight taking shape between Silicon Valley and the U.K. government, and offered an across-the-Atlantic parallel to a similar fight in the U.S. over what obligation Facebook has to make sure advertisers on its platform align with election laws.
After Milner admitted Facebook does not do anything to “prevent” foreign buyers from illegally purchasing political ads in the U.K., he defended the company’s inaction by calling “a matter for the person paying for the ad, that they have to ensure that they comply with the law.”
The reasoning drew a sharp response.
“No, it’s a matter for you, because you are not complying with the law either, because you are facilitating an illegal act,” Lucas replied angrily. “See, this is the problem: you have everything, you have all the information, you have all this information. We have none of it. Because you won’t show it to us.”
Israeli police will recommend that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is indicted on corruption charges, according to local media reports Wednesday.
Following a longstanding investigation, police will recommend the Israeli prime minister be indicted on charges including bribery, fraud and breach of trust, for allegedly accepting bribes and gifts from wealthy benefactors.
In a Facebook video Wednesday, the 68-year-old leader shrugged off the reports. He said that while the police would recommend that he be indicted, he predicted that Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit would decline to press charges.
"The State of Israel is a state of law. The law says that the one to determine whether there is evidence against the prime minister is the attorney general and he consults with the state attorney. The state prosecutor recently said in the Knesset that about half of the police's recommendations end with nothing," Netanyahu said.
Although women hold half of all state and federal service jobs, they make 10% less than men in the public sector, according to an analysis of government documents obtained through freedom of information requests by an investigative non-profit.
The analysis by the Contently Foundation, a non-profit for investigative journalism, found that women earn 10% less median income than men in the public sector. The employee earnings records also show that 73% of government workers making $100,000 or more each year are men.
The foundation pooled and analyzed figures from documents provided by all 50 states and most federal agencies, except the Department of Defense and a handful of others that did not provide worker names or demographics.
As with private companies, the pay imbalance was particularly stark in government professions where men dominate, such as law enforcement, engineering and technology. Analysts said that these professions, in general, also offer higher salaries than sectors such as education and healthcare, which employ more women.
Congressional leaders were rushing on Thursday to pass a far-reaching, bipartisan budget deal that would raise federal spending levels for the next two years as lawmakers run up against yet another midnight deadline to avoid a government shutdown. But the deal that leaders have touted as a “significant bipartisan achievement”, faces fresh opposition from staunch Republican conservatives and from Democrats who are frustrated the measure does not address immigration reform. ...
Senate Democrats relented and allowed the government to reopen only after extracting a promise from McConnell that he would allow a debate on legislation to protect the Dreamers, young people whose protections from deportations are set to expire next month. ...
Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, said she would not support the measure without a firm commitment from the speaker, Paul Ryan, to allow an open debate on immigration reform. She said she hoped Ryan would “man up” and make the same pledge McConnell made to Senate Democrats. In a dramatic display of protest, Pelosi spent a record eight hours on Wednesday speaking in an attempt to persuade Republicans to allow a vote on immigration legislation.
Ryan on Thursday said he has committed to bringing immigration legislation to the floor – one the president would certainly sign.
Senate Republican leaders tossed out a provision slated for the bipartisan budget package that would have increased competition in the prescription drug market, according to the leading Democrat in the chamber. The Creating and Restoring Equal Access to Equivalent Samples Act, known as the CREATES Act and co-sponsored by members of both parties, was rumored to be a part of budget negotiations until the final days. It would have given generic drug companies the tools to end a practice whereby brand-name manufacturers unnecessarily delay the ability of rivals to bring their products to market.
According to the office of lead sponsor Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the Congressional Budget Office scores the provision as a $3.8 billion savings over 10 years, because it would increase generic drug production and lower government costs through Medicare and Medicaid. That money could have paid for more than a year of funding for state grants and prevention programs to combat the opioid epidemic, funding that made it into the final agreement. Savings to individual consumers, both inside and outside of federal programs, would have been far higher.
It’s unclear what exactly happened with the bipartisan measure, which appeared primed for inclusion in the spending bill. But Matt House, communications director for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, blamed the opposing party. “Republicans wouldn’t put it in,” he wrote in an email. Other Senate staffers indicated that drug company executives have been pouring into Washington on private jets over the past week to push for blocking the CREATES Act from the budget agreement.
John Perry Barlow, “visionary” internet pioneer, press freedom advocate and Grateful Dead lyricist, has died aged 70.
Barlow was named as a Guardian “Open 20” fighter for internet freedom in 2012 because of his work to establish the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which defends online liberties. The organisation announced Barlow died in his sleep on Wednesday morning.
She said: “It is no exaggeration to say that major parts of the internet we all know and love today exist and thrive because of Barlow’s vision and leadership. He always saw the internet as a fundamental place of freedom, where voices long silenced can find an audience and people can connect with others regardless of physical distance.” ...
In addition to his work with the EFF, Barlow co-founded the Freedom of the Press Foundation in 2012, which works to support public interest journalism. He sat on the board of directors, along with whistleblower Edward Snowden and investigative reporter Glenn Greenwald.
Livestock raised for food in the US are dosed with five times as much antibiotic medicine as farm animals in the UK, new data has shown, raising questions about rules on meat imports under post-Brexit trade deals. The difference in rates of dosage rises to at least nine times as much in the case of cattle raised for beef, and may be as high as 16 times the rate of dosage per cow in the UK. There is currently a ban on imports of American beef throughout Europe, owing mainly to the free use of growth hormones in the US.
Higher use of antibiotics, particularly those that are critical for human health – the medicines “of last resort”, which the World Health Organisation wants banned from use in animals – is associated with rising resistance to the drugs and the rapid evolution of “superbugs” that can kill or cause serious illness.
The contrast between rates of dosage in the US and the UK throws a new light on negotiations on Brexit, under which politicians are seeking to negotiate trade deals for the UK independently of the EU. Agriculture and food are key areas, particularly in trading with the US, which as part of any deal may insist on opening up the UK markets to imports that would be banned under EU rules.
When negotiating outside the EU for a new trade deal, the UK will come under severe pressure to allow such imports. Over the summer, a row broke out over the potential for imports of US chlorinated chicken – bleaching chicken, according to experts in the UK, is a dangerous practice because it can serve to disguise poor hygiene practices in the food chain. But Ted McKinney, US under-secretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs, told an audience of British farmers last month he was “sick and tired” of hearing British concerns about chlorinated chicken and US food standards, providing further indication that the US government is likely to strike a hard deal on agricultural products as part of any trade agreement.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Billy Gayles w/ Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm - Night Howler
Billy Gayles w/ Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm - No Coming Back
Billy Gayles w/ Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm - I'm Tore Up
Billy Gales - Dreaming Of You
Billy Gayles w/ Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm - Just One More Time
Billy Gales & Ike Turner's Kings Of Rhythm - Let's Call It A Day
Billy Gayles w/ Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm - Sad As A Man Can Be
Billy Gayles With Ike Turner's Rhythm Rockers - If I Never Had Known You
Billy Gales - I'm Hurting
Billy Gayles - Take Your Fine Frame Home
Billy Gayles w/ Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm - Do Right Baby