The Evening Blues - 3-22-21
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features swamp blues guitarist Silas Hogan. Enjoy!
Silas Hogan - Dark Clouds Rollin'
"The major western democracies are moving towards corporatism. Democracy has become a business plan, with a bottom line for every human activity, every dream, every decency, every hope. The main parliamentary parties are now devoted to the same economic policies - socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor - and the same foreign policy of servility to endless war. This is not democracy. It is to politics what McDonalds is to food."
-- John Pilger
News and Opinion
The Taliban warned Washington on Friday against defying a May 1 deadline for the withdrawal of American and NATO troops from Afghanistan, promising a “reaction,” which could mean increased attacks by the insurgent group. The Taliban issued their warning at a press conference in Moscow, the day after meeting with senior Afghan government negotiators and international observers to try to jumpstart a stalled peace process to end Afghanistan’s decades of war.
President Joe Biden’s administration says it is reviewing an agreement the Taliban signed with the Trump administration. Biden told ABC in an interview Wednesday that the May 1 deadline “could happen, but it is tough,” adding that if the deadline is extended it won’t be by “a lot longer.”
“They should go,” Suhail Shaheen, a member of the Taliban negotiation team, told reporters, warning that staying beyond May 1 would breach the deal. “After that, it will be a kind of violation of the agreement. That violation would not be from our side. . . Their violation will have a reaction.”
He did not elaborate on what form the “reaction” would take, but in keeping with the agreement they signed in February 2020, the Taliban have not attacked U.S. or NATO forces, even as unclaimed bombings and targeted killings have spiked in recent months.
He also reaffirmed that the Taliban were firm on their demand for an Islamic government. Shaheen didn’t elaborate on what an Islamic government would look like or whether it would mean a return to their repressive rules that denied girls education, barred women from working, and imposed harsh punishments. Shaheen did not say whether the Taliban would accept elections, but he emphasized that the government of President Ashraf Ghani would not fit their definition of an Islamic government.
The Biden administration used its first top-level meeting with Chinese officials, held in Alaska, to dramatically raise the stakes in the escalating US conflict and confrontation with Beijing. Far from seeking to ease the dangerous tensions fuelled by the Trump administration’s provocations and economic warfare against China, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan doubled down on Trump’s aggressive, anti-China demagogy. In an extraordinary breach with diplomatic protocol, during normally formal opening remarks before the media, Blinken bluntly warned that China had to abide by the “rules-based international order” or face “a far more violent and unstable world.” In reality, US imperialism established the so-called post-World War II order, in which it sets the rules, and is prepared to use all means, including war, to prevent China from challenging its global hegemony.
Sullivan rubbed salt into the wound by highlighting the Biden administration’s strengthening of military alliances and strategic partnerships, in particular the holding of the first-ever leaders’ summit of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, involving the US, Japan, India and Australia. Ever since the Quad was first mooted over a decade ago, it has been clearly aimed at consolidating an alliance to encircle China and prepare for war. Like Blinken, Sullivan laid out an agenda for the talks that focused exclusively on US “concerns” with China—“from economic and military coercion to assaults on basic values.” Accusations of Chinese coercion stand reality on its head, given that the Biden administration has reversed none of Trump’s trade war measures against China and has continued US naval provocations close to the Chinese mainland in the South and East China Seas.
Just before the meeting, Blinken piled more US sanctions on 24 Chinese and Hong Kong officials over changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system that were rubberstamped at China’s annual National People’s Congress this month. Washington has seized on the Chinese regime’s autocratic methods in Hong Kong, as well as Xinjiang and Tibet, not out of any concern for democratic rights but as a means of vilifying Beijing, and potentially weakening and fracturing China. With staggering cynicism, the US has for decades routinely exploited “human rights” as the pretext for regime-change operations and wars.
The deliberately provocative remarks from US officials, designed to poison rather than mend relations, led to bitter exchanges with the Chinese representatives—Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Yang Jiechi, China’s top foreign policy official—in front of the media. ... Faced with an increasingly aggressive United States, first under Obama then Trump, Beijing has on the one hand sought to build up its military and develop its own alliances, while offering economic concessions in a bid to ease tensions with Washington. The remarks of Yang and Wang in Alaska indicate that Beijing has concluded that compromise is just as unlikely under Biden as Trump, underscoring the escalating dangers of war. ...
The most ominous warning of the imminence of war was given by the head of the US Indo-Pacific command, Admiral Philip Davidson. In congressional testimony this month, he called for a doubling of the Pentagon’s budget for the region and predicted that the US could face war with China over Taiwan within five years. He also alluded to plans for the stationing of intermediate-range nuclear ballistic missiles close to the Chinese mainland, which were confirmed when Japan’s Nikkei news service published extracts from the Pentagon’s Pacific Deterrence Initiative.
The Kremlin said Friday that President Vladimir Putin’s offer to speak by phone with U.S. President Joe Biden was intended to prevent bilateral ties from completely falling apart over the American’s remark that the Russian leader was a killer. Putin made it clear that “it makes sense to have a talk to maintain Russia-U.S. relations instead of trading barbs,” and he wanted to make it public to help defuse tensions over Biden’s “very bad remarks,” said his spokesman, Dmitry Peskov.
Asked by reporters Friday if he’ll take Putin up on his offer to have a call, Biden said, “I’m sure we’ll talk at some point.” ...
Peskov said Putin’s offer to make the call public was intended to prevent Biden’s statement from inflicting irreparable damage to the already-frayed ties. “Since Biden’s words were quite unprecedented, unprecedented formats can’t be excluded,” Peskov said. “President Putin proposed to discuss the situation openly because it would be interesting for the people of both countries.”
Peskov said the Kremlin hasn’t heard back from the White House on the offer of a call, adding that it wasn’t going to repeat the proposal. “The request has been made,” he said in a conference call with reporters. “The lack of response would mean a refusal to have a conversation.”
Lloyd Austin, the US secretary of defense, made a surprise visit to Afghanistan on Sunday, meeting President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul. In Washington, a senior Senate Democrat called for Joe Biden to bring US troops home. The current deadline to do so, 1 May, was agreed between the Trump administration and the Taliban last year.
“We ought to consider a debate under the constitution for authorisation of the use of military force,” Dick Durbin said.
Biden said in an ABC News interview this week it would be “tough” for the US to meet the deadline. But he also said that if the deadline is extended, it will not be by a “lot longer”.
In a statement, the Afghan presidential palace said Austin and Ghani discussed the peace process and rising violence. The Taliban and the Afghan government have blamed each other, and the Islamic State, for a wave of bombings and assassinations. ...
In a letter to Ghani earlier this month, US secretary of state Antony Blinken said it was urgent to make peace and all options remained on the table. He also warned that it was likely the Taliban would make swift territorial gains if US and Nato troops withdrew. The US spends $4bn a year to sustain Afghanistan’s forces.
Israel is due to hold its fourth round of elections on Tuesday, although the result could simply extend a two-year-long political stalemate and possibly lead to a dreaded fifth vote. Multiple failed attempts to form stable governments after largely inconclusive previous elections have left the country in a protracted crisis. Once the results come in on Wednesday morning, Israel is expected to enter days or weeks of intense political negotiations.
The prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, the country’s longest-serving leader, has led a two-pronged campaign, playing up recent diplomatic breakthroughs with previously unfriendly Arab governments as well as a world-beating domestic vaccination campaign. ...
His nationalist rightwing Likud party remains ahead in the polls, predicted to take possibly 30 seats in the 120-seat parliament, the Knesset, at least 10 more than the opposition. Still, the deeply divisive politician has not secured enough pledges from smaller parties to join him, which would be essential to form a majority coalition government, as is customary in Israel’s political system.
Key politicians from the past three elections remain contenders, although they have switched allegiances and formed new parties during a tumultuous deadlock. ... Israel’s left-leaning parties have largely been sidelined, meaning whoever leads the next government is expected to continue to take a hard line on the continuing occupation over Palestinians.
With the U.S. death toll from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic topping 541,000, the nation's two largest teachers unions responded cautiously on Friday to new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revising its recommendation for physical distancing between K-12 students in classrooms—who are all wearing face masks—down from six feet to just three feet, based on recent research.
"While we hope the CDC is right and these new studies convince the community that the most enduring safety standard of this pandemic—the six-foot rule—can be jettisoned if we all wear masks," said American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president Randi Weingarten. "We will reserve judgment until we review them, especially as they apply in districts with high community spread and older buildings with ventilation challenges."
National Education Association (NEA) president Becky Pringle said that "for the sake of public trust and clarity, we urge the CDC to provide far more detail about the rationale for the change from six feet to three feet for students in classrooms, clearly and publicly account for differences in types of school environments, new virus variants, differences in mitigation compliance, and how study participants were tested for the virus."
"We are concerned that the CDC has changed one of the basic rules for how to ensure school safety without demonstrating certainty that the change is justified by the science and can be implemented in a manner that does not detract from the larger long-term needs of students," Pringle explained.
"This is being driven by space concerns, not safety concerns. And when that happens, we have to see what it means."
— AFT (@AFTunion) March 19, 2021
The CDC now says that U.S. elementary school students should be at least three feet apart while in classrooms, as should middle and high schools students, except in areas of elevated community transmission, where the six-foot recommendation still applies for older students "if cohorting is not possible."
The agency further suggests maintaining the greater distance in common areas like lobbies and auditoriums, between teachers and staff at all times, when masks cannot be worn, and "during activities when increased exhalation occurs, such as singing, shouting, band, or sports and exercise."
Many schools across the country have operated with hybrid or fully remote instruction since the pandemic was declared last year. On the campaign trail and since taking office, President Joe Biden has made clear that alongside the rapid distribution of vaccines, a return to in-person learning for K-12 students is among his top priorities.
Weingarten and Pringle pointed out that their unions have continuously called for providing schools with the resources necessary to safely return to classrooms.
"Kids need to be in school, and the AFT has advocated consistently for safely reopening in-person learning since last April, but we are concerned this change has been driven by a lack of physical space rather than the hard science on aerosol exposure and transmission," Weingarten said of the three-foot recommendation. ...
The CDC's updated recommendations for schools also included clarifications on ventilation and the role of community transmission levels in decision-making, the removal of a recommendation for physical barriers, and additional guidance on interventions when clusters occur. The changes came amid efforts to rapidly inoculate people nationwide with one of the three approved vaccines.
Earlier this month, as some states were declining to prioritize teachers for vaccines, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services directed (pdf) all coronavirus vaccination providers to "make available and administer, as one of the currently eligible groups, Covid-19 vaccine to those who work in pre-primary, primary, and secondary schools, as well as Head Start and Early Head Start programs (including teachers, staff, and bus drivers), and those who work as or for licensed child care providers, including center-based and family care providers."
A government watchdog group on Friday demanded that Congress exercise its oversight powers to determine whether the Biden administration used surplus coronavirus vaccines as a bargaining tool to pressure the Mexican government to crack down more harshly on rising U.S.-bound migration.
Jeff Hauser, executive director of the Revolving Door Project, said in a statement that he is "concerned about the possibility that President Biden may have bartered millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to achieve his anti-migration goals."
"The Biden administration should not be in the business of trading Mexican lives for those of other Central and South Americans, for whom migration to the U.S. is often life-saving," said Hauser.
On Thursday, the Biden White House announced a plan to send 2.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine to Mexico, an agreement that came amid reports that the U.S. president has been urging his Mexican counterpart behind the scenes to do more to stem the number of migrants arriving at the border between the neighboring countries. The AstraZeneca shot has not yet been approved for use in the U.S.
At around the same time the Biden administration made public its intention to grant Mexico's request for surplus vaccine doses—which the U.S. had previously denied other nations seeking access to the stockpile—the Mexican government said Thursday that it would tighten restrictions on travel through its southern border with Guatemala and its northern border with the United States. The timing immediately prompted questions about a potential quid pro quo.
Unnamed U.S. and Mexican officials insisted to news outlets that the newly announced migration crackdown did not come in exchange for the vaccine doses. "It's not a quid pro quo. It's a parallel negotiation," an anonymous senior Mexican diplomat told the Washington Post.
But White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki's roundabout answer to a reporter's direct question Thursday about whether there was any quid pro quo involved in the talks with Mexico raised eyebrows.
"There have been expectations set outside of—unrelated—to any vaccine doses or request for them that [Mexico] would be partners in dealing with the crisis on the border," Psaki said during a press briefing on Thursday. "And there have been requests, unrelated... for doses of these vaccines. Every relationship has multiple layers of conversations that are happening at the same time."
Asked whether the U.S. is using its vaccine stockpile to "effect diplomacy," Psaki responded: "I'm actually trying to convey that with every country, there's rarely just one issue you're discussing with any country at one time. Right? Certainly that's not the case with Mexico; it's not the case with any country around the world."
On Tuesday evening, New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone, the chairman of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, found Pramila Jayapal on the House floor and casually shared with her news of what is arguably the most consequential development in the legislative history of the push for Medicare for All.
Jayapal represents the Seattle area and is chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. She had scheduled the unveiling of her Medicare for All bill for the following morning, and had spent the past few months rounding up co-sponsors for it. Momentum is everything on Capitol Hill, and backers of the bill needed to show a substantial amount of support to keep it going. When Pallone saw her, he told her not just that he would be co-sponsoring Medicare for All, but that he would be holding a hearing on it this term.
That night, news of his sponsorship ricocheted privately through the world of activists and organizers who’ve spent years working on the legislation in the wilderness. Jayapal would come to the virtual podium the next day with 113 co-sponsors — that was six more than she had the last time around, even though there were many fewer Democrats in the Caucus this time. It’s still, though, more than 100 votes short of what you need for a majority to pass it.
By some estimates, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans manage to avoid paying about a quarter trillion dollars of owed taxes every single year. Now, new government data show that audits of the super-rich and large corporations have hit a new low, leaving billions of dollars of uncollected taxes at precisely a moment when lawmakers say new revenue is needed to fund infrastructure and climate investments.
In response, two progressive Democratic lawmakers have authored legislation cracking down on tax evasion.
The new Internal Revenue Service figures compiled by Syracuse University researchers show that in the last eight years, there has been a 72-percent drop in the number of audits of those making more than $1 million. In all, 98 percent of those making more than $1 million did not face an audit last year. Similarly, there has also been a 55-percent drop in the number of audits of America’s largest corporations. In 2012, almost all corporate giants were audited. In 2020, however, almost two thirds of those corporations were not subjected to audits.
Amid this decline in scrutiny of the rich, a letter to the Biden administration from 88 progressive groups pointed out: “Since 2011, audit rates for millionaires, who are disproportionately white, have dropped more than twice as much as for taxpayers claiming the (Earned Income Tax Credit), who are disproportionately people of color. Audit coverage is now the heaviest in many low-income majority-Black counties.” ...
Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) — both Congressional Progressive Caucus members — have recently introduced separate bills that would boost the IRS’s enforcement budget and audit rates.
Organizers and workers are making the final push in the first Amazon warehouse union election in the US in Bessemer, Alabama which, if successful, would mark one of the biggest labor victories in the US over the past several decades.
The fight over forming a union at the hugely profitable tech and retail giant has triggered immense political interest and pushed labor rights on to America’s front pages, especially during the coronavirus pandemic when warehouse workers for online retail have become an essential workforce.
Workers’ ballots must reach the National Labor Relations Board regional office in Alabama by 29 March to be counted. A majority of the ballots cast determine the outcome of the election, with around 5,800 employees eligible to vote.
The union effort has received several high profile endorsements, including a video released by President Joe Biden asserting his support for workers’ right to organize unions, endorsements from several members of Congress, including Senator Bernie Sanders and Republican Senator Marco Rubio, other labor unions such as the NFL Players Association, the MLB Players Association, support from Black Lives Matter and several local organizations.
A group of more than 50 House Democrats on Thursday called on President Joe Biden to immediately terminate all six sitting members of the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors, which the lawmakers accused of being "complicit" in Postmaster General Louis DeJoy's months-long assault on the mail service.
"Under the tenure of this BOG, the Postal Service was blatantly misused by President Trump in an unsuccessful gambit to influence a presidential election, the Postal Service is currently failing to meet its own service standards with historically low rates of on-time delivery, and conflicts of interest appear to be a requirement for service," reads the letter (pdf) led by Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), and Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.).
"Because of their lax oversight, many families struggling through the pandemic still await delivery of their stimulus checks, credit card statements, or event holiday cards," the letter continues. "The nonpartisan Postal Service Office of Inspector General found that the BOG allowed their hand-picked PMG to implement significant operational changes in the milieu of the election and the pandemic without conducting any research into the impacts and ramifications of these changes."
Signed by 53 House Democrats, the letter comes days after Biden formally submitted to the Senate his nominees to fill the three existing vacancies on the postal board, which has the authority to remove and replace the postmaster general. If the president's nominees are confirmed by the Senate, the board could have the votes needed to oust DeJoy, who was a Republican megadonor before taking charge at USPS last June.
While the House lawmakers applauded Biden's nominees as well-qualified, they urged the president to go further by replacing the entire postal board with officials of the same "caliber."
At present, the board consists of two Democrats and four Republicans, all of whom were appointed by former President Donald Trump. Though Biden does not have the authority to remove DeJoy under federal law, the president can fire postal governors "for cause."
With DeJoy preparing to implement another round of operational changes that are expected to further slow mail delivery and hike costs for consumers and businesses, the Democratic lawmakers wrote Thursday that "it is time to remove all governors and start over with a board vested with the expertise and acumen this nation needs in its Postal Service leadership."
"The board has remained silent in the face of catastrophic and unacceptable failures at a moment when the American people are relying on the Postal Service the most," they added.
Democracy Now: “We Are Here Because You Are There” - Viet Thanh Nguyen on How U.S. Foreign Policy Creates Refugees
The Biden administration is facing mounting pressure over a surge of unaccompanied migrant children crossing into the US, with the numbers seeking asylum at a 20-year high that is placing federal facilities and shelters under immense strain. The homeland security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, took to the political talk show circuit on Sunday to press the administration’s case that it is doing all it can. He continued to refer to the problem as a “challenge” not a “crisis”, attempting to put blame squarely on the previous incumbent of the White House, Donald Trump.
“It is taking time and it is difficult because the entire system was dismantled by the prior administration,” Mayorkas told CNN’s State of the Union. “There was a system in place that was torn down by the Trump administration.” On ABC’s This Week, Mayorkas highlighted the tougher aspects of Joe Biden’s border policy, stressing that the administration was still expelling families and single adults under a regulation known as Title 42. He insisted largely Central American migrants arriving in increasing numbers were being given a clear message: “Do not come. The border is closed. The border is secure.”
Tom Cotton, a senator from Arkansas and ardent Trump loyalist, lambasted the secretary’s position as “nonsense” In an interview with Fox News Sunday, Cotton characterized the Biden administration’s stance as “basically saying the United States will not secure the border, and that’s a big welcome sign to migrants from across the world [saying] the border is wide open”.
He went on to make lurid allegations, backed up with no evidence, that the focus on unaccompanied children at the border was allowing criminals smuggling fentanyl and other drugs as well as people on “terrorist watch lists” to slip into the US undetected.
Donald Trump will soon use “his own platform” to return to social media, an adviser said on Sunday, months after the former president was banned from Twitter for inciting the US Capitol riot. Trump has chafed in relative silence at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida since losing his Twitter account and the protections and powers of office. Recently he has released short statements which many have likened to his tweets of old.
Speculation has been rife that Trump might seek to create his own TV network in an attempt to prise viewers from Fox News, which was first to call the crucial state of Arizona for Joe Biden on election night, to Trump’s considerable anger.
But on Sunday adviser Jason Miller said social media was the immediate target. “The president’s been off of social media for a while,” he told Fox News Media Buzz host Howard Kurtz, “[but] his press releases, his statements have actually been getting almost more play than he ever did on Twitter before.” Miller said he had been told by a reporter the statements were “much more elegant” and “more presidential” than Trump’s tweets, but added: “I do think that we’re going to see President Trump returning to social media in probably about two or three months here with his own platform.
“And this is something that I think will be the hottest ticket in social media, it’s going to completely redefine the game, and everybody is going to be waiting and watching to see what exactly President Trump does. But it will be his own platform.”
The neo-fascist Proud Boys deployed a large contingent in Washington on 6 January, the day of the US Capitol attack, with more than 60 “participating in” an encrypted messaging channel called “Boots on the Ground”, a federal indictment says. The indictment, which includes conspiracy charges against four men described as leaders of the far-right group, presents fresh evidence of how officials believe members planned and carried out a coordinated attempt to stop Congress certifying Joe Biden’s electoral victory over Donald Trump.
At least 19 leaders, members or associates of the Proud Boys have been charged in federal court with offenses related to the 6 January riot, which resulted in five deaths. More than 300 people have been charged in total. ...
The indictment unsealed on Friday also suggests that the Proud Boys, whom Trump told to “stand back and stand by” during a presidential debate last year, were discussing what they would do after he left the White House. “We need to start planning and we are starting planning for a Biden presidency,” one alleged leader wrote after the Capitol invasion, according to the indictment.
Claiming Democrats want to expand voting rights to “illegal aliens” and “child molesters”, the Texas senator Ted Cruz warned that if Republicans do not block the For the People Act, major legislation now before the Senate, they will be out of power for years. Cruz also said there was no room for compromise, according to the Associated Press, which cited a recording of a call hosted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, or Alec, a rightwing group which writes and pushes conservative legislation at the state level.
Democrats say the bill passed by the US House, also known as HR1, is the only way they can counter voter-suppression legislation under consideration in many Republican-held states, aimed at reducing the voting power of groups, many of them minorities, that traditionally back Democrats.
Increasingly, senior Democrats advocate reforming or abolishing the filibuster, which creates a 60-vote threshold for legislation in the Senate and gives Republicans an automatic block in a chamber split 50-50, as a way to pass HR1. “There’s no way under the sun that in 2021 that we are going to allow the filibuster to be used to deny voting rights,” the House majority whip, Jim Clyburn, told the Guardian this month. “That just ain’t gonna happen. That would be catastrophic.”
HR1 does contain protections for the voting rights of former felons. It does not propose extending the franchise to undocumented migrants, though the Biden administration has proposed to move some such groups closer to US citizenship. HR1 also contains campaign finance reform, measures to protect voting by mail and to limit partisan gerrymandering and new ethical rules for holders of federal office.
Fake news on social media about climate change and biodiversity loss is having a worrying impact in the battle to halt the growing environmental threats to the planet, a group of scientists and analysts have warned.
In a report published by the Royal Swedish Academy of Science, they say measures needed to create a healthier, more resilient planet – by reducing fossil fuel emissions, overfishing and other threats – will be hard to enforce if they continue to suffer targeted attacks in social media. The international cooperation that is needed to halt global heating and species loss could otherwise be jeopardised, they say.
“Social media reports have created a toxic environment where it’s now very difficult to distinguish facts from fiction,” said one author, Owen Gaffney, of the Stockholm Resilience Centre. “One of the biggest challenges now facing humanity is our inability to tell fact from fiction. This is undermining democracies, which in turn is limiting our ability to make long-term decisions needed to save the planet.”
This view was supported by the report’s lead author, Professor Carl Folke, director of Sweden’s Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics. “Improvements are occurring – we are getting a lot of promises from big nations about tackling environmental threats – but the media still causes polarisation of views and that is not helpful. We need to tackle that.”
Canada’s main opposition Conservative party members have voted down a proposal to recognize the climate crisis as real, in a blow to their new leader’s efforts to embrace environmentally friendly policies before a likely federal election this year. The rejected motion included the willingness to act against climate risks and to make highly polluting businesses take more responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
On Friday, the Conservative leader, Erin O’Toole, urged party members to rally around an ambitious climate agenda, in order to avoid a defeat at the hands of Liberals. ... He did not want Conservative candidates to be branded as “climate change deniers”, he said.
On Saturday, Conservative delegates rejected the policy shift by 54% to 46%.
Climate change was a polarizing issue in the last election campaign. While Justin Trudeau stresses that the environment is a priority, Canada has failed to meet any of its climate pledges amid resistance from politicians who say the targets threaten the oil industry.
After a six-year halt, Colombia plans to restart the toxic aerial spraying of glyphosate on coca crops as early as next month—drawing "most welcome" support from U.S. President Joe Biden and sharp criticism from 150 regional experts who wrote to Biden, "your administration is implicitly endorsing former President Trump’s damaging legacy in Colombia."
On March 2nd, the Biden administration welcomed Colombia’s decision to restart its aerial coca eradication program in Biden's first annual 2021 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report: "The government of Colombia has committed to re-starting its aerial coca eradication program, which would be a most welcome development."
Colombia halted the controversial spraying program in 2015. In 2018, Colombia’s then-new President Ivan Duque vowed to resume the program but has yet to restart the aerial spraying
The country faced increasing pressure from the United States to restart the program. “You’re going to have to spray,” former US President Donald Trump told Duque at the White House during a March 2, 2020 meeting.
So much is wrong about the war on drugs. Aerial spraying of coca crops is one of those policies that cause human and environmental harm while also being inefficient. Hoping the Biden-Harris administration will listen to the evidence and change course https://t.co/9ZTvNOvMA1
— Ana Arjona (@anamarjona) March 12, 2021
Aerial fumigation had been a central component of Plan Colombia, the 2005 multi-billion dollar U.S. program to finance the Colombian government war on coca cultivation and their war on FARC, which was Colombia's largest rebel group before being disbanded in 2017.
But in 2015, the Colombian Supreme Court ruled that the spraying must end if the spraying of glyphosate was creating health problems. Also, in 2015, the World Health Organization found that glyphosate—also known as "Roundup"—was harmful to the environment and health, potentially causing cancer.
In 2014, ending aerial fumigation was central to peace negotiations with FARC, with the Colombian government agreeing with FARC negotiators that it would transition away from aerial spraying. The Colombian government was also facing significant pressure from the rural poor, who were organizing national protests against aerial fumigation and other forms of forced eradication. “National level protests blocking access roads and inhibiting movement were a major hindrance to manual eradication’s ability to operate in major coca-growing regions, and also bedeviled aerial eradication operations,” the US State Department reported in 2014.
VICE News is reporting:
More than 150 experts on drugs, security, and environmental policy in the region have written an open letter to Biden, saying Duque’s spraying campaign is “misguided” and Biden’s decision “could not have come at a worse time.”
“The recently announced decision sends an unfortunate message to the Colombian people that your administration is not committed to abandoning the ineffective and damaging war on drugs internationally, even as your administration takes bold steps to mitigate its multiple impacts on Black, Indigenous, and people of color in the United States,” says the letter, spearheaded by the Center for Studies on Security and Drugs at the Bogotá-based Los Andes University.
“By backing fumigation, your administration is implicitly endorsing former President Trump’s damaging legacy in Colombia,” the letter says. “It was your predecessor who, shortly after taking office, intensified demands on our country to resume spraying with glyphosate, which has been shown to pose significant health and environmental risks to affected populations.”
The experts point to how aerial spraying with glyphosate can cause serious health problems, such as cancer, miscarriages, and respiratory illness, and environmental destruction—biodiversity loss, soil damage, and contamination of water sources.
The aerial fumigation program using glyphosate in Colombia continued throughout the US presidencies of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Silas Hogan - Just Give Me A Chance
Silas Hogan - Born In Texas
Silas Hogan - So Long Blues
Silas Hogan - Tell Me Baby
Silas Hogan - Hairy Leg Woman
Silas Hogan - Hoo Doo Blues
Silas Hogan - Everybody Needs Somebody
Silas Hogan - You're too late baby
Silas Hogan - Trouble At Home Blues
Silas Hogan - Just Give Me a Chance
Silas Hogan - I'm gonna quit you pretty baby