The Evening Blues - 3-26-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features soul and r&b singer, songwriter and associate of James Brown Bobby Byrd. Enjoy!
Bobby Byrd - I Know You Got Soul
"If there is no sufficient reason for war, the war party will make war on one pretext, then invent another."
-- Robert M. La Follette, Sr.
News and Opinion
Russia's involvement in the Venezuelan crisis has American officials crying foul as U.S. plans for regime change in the Latin American country are now facing further complications. U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Palladino, in a statement related to a conversation Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, said that the U.S. "will not stand idly by as Russia exacerbates tensions in Venezuela" after between 99 and 100 Russian troops and one defense official arrived in the Latin American country Saturday, complicating efforts by the U.S. to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro's government.
More Russian soldiers unload in #Venezuela to help prop up Pres. #Maduro. The Ilyushin IL-62M is used to carry military personnel and frequently flies troops from #Russia to Syria -- indeed it stopped in #Syria on its way from Russia to #Caracas. pic.twitter.com/YfU2SnZacJ
— Prof. Steve Hanke (@steve_hanke) March 24, 2019
The military personnel are in Venezuela "to take part in consultations with country's officials on defense industry cooperation," according to the Russian news agency Sputnik. Noting that the visit was related to contracts that were signed two years ago, a Russian defense official told Sputnik there was "nothing mysterious" about the visit.
By putting its troops on the ground in Venezuela, Russia is sending a clear message to Washington that the Latin American country is under the Kremlin's protection. President Donald Trump's administration has continually ratcheted up tensions with Venezuela for Trump's term in office. The Russian move may stymie, or at least slow, U.S. efforts to change the Venezuelan government, but proponents of war and military action are still pushing forward with their plans.
Russian military officials arrived in Venezuela this weekend. Today my bill, the Russia-Venezuelan Threat Mitigation Act, goes to the House floor, requiring a State Department threat assessment of Russian influence in Venezuela. https://t.co/XWD3k5Z4TS
— Rep. Wasserman Schultz (@RepDWStweets) March 25, 2019
One of 10 intruders who entered North Korea’s embassy in Madrid by force on 22 February contacted the FBI days afterwards to offer the agency stolen data, Spain’s high court has said. ...
In an official document based on the investigation, the high court said on Tuesday that one member of the group, a Mexican citizen resident in the US, had contacted the FBI on 27 February in order to pass on information regarding the incident at the embassy, including audiovisual recordings. ...
The group checked the embassy for arms before leaving the premises, at which point they separated into four groups and headed for Portugal. The Mexican flew from Lisbon to New York.
In September 2017, Aileen Black wrote an email to her colleagues at Google. Black, who led sales to the U.S. government, worried that details of the company’s work to help the military guide lethal drones would become public through the Freedom of Information Act. “We will call tomorrow to reinforce the need to keep Google under the radar,” Black wrote. According to a Pentagon memo signed last year, however, no one at Google needed worry: All 5,000 pages of documents about Google’s work on the drone effort, known as Project Maven, are barred from public disclosure, because they constitute “critical infrastructure security information.”
One government transparency advocate said the memo is part of a recent wave of federal decisions that keep sensitive documents secret on that same basis — thus allowing agencies to quickly deny document requests.
It’s been a full year since the first reports of Google’s work on Project Maven, and the public still knows precious little beyond the basic gist of the story: that Maven would use artificial intelligence to help pick out drone targets faster and more easily, and that Google backed out of its Maven contract amid staff outcry. (Maven is now linked to defense startup Anduril Industries.) Black’s email was obtained and partially published by The Intercept last year.
Was Google’s work for the Pentagon really not intended to be used for lethal purposes, as the company later claimed ? What exactly were Project Maven’s “38 classes of objects that represent the kinds of things the [Pentagon] needs to detect,” as cited by the Defense Department in a news release? And how accurate is Project Maven? In other words, what is its rate of false positives? Neither the Pentagon nor Google is known for its dedication to institutional transparency, and so it’s not surprising that these questions remain open. Luckily, there’s a federal law designed to force the government to divulge information in the public interest, even when a given agency would rather keep its secrets. The Freedom of Information Act is a vital tool for journalism, watchdog groups, academics, and anyone else hoping to bring news to the public about what its government is doing in its name. But the government says Project Maven is immune.
hat tip detroitmechworks:
French President Emmanuel Macron said in a newspaper interview Monday he hoped a 73-year-old yellow vest protester who suffered serious head injuries after being charged by police in Nice gains “wisdom” over the incident.
Anti-globalization activist Genevieve Legay remained hospitalized after riot police carrying shields suddenly pushed toward people defying a protest ban Saturday.
An Associated Press reporter saw Legay, who was waving a rainbow flag marked “Peace” and holding a yellow vest, fall to the pavement as blood spilled from her head.
In an interview published in Nice Matin on Monday, Macron suggested Legay didn’t behave “responsibly,” saying that “fragile” people shouldn’t attend “places that are defined as prohibited.”
“I wish her a speedy recovery, and perhaps a form of wisdom,” he added.
Emmanuel Macron has been accused of patronising a 73-year-old gilets jaunes (yellow vests) protester who sustained a fractured skull after riot police charged demonstrators in an off-limits area of Nice. Geneviève Legay was taken to hospital with serious head injuries on Saturday. Jean-Michel Prêtre, the Nice public prosecutor, said an investigation had been opened but it appeared Legay had hit her head on a concrete bollard as police tried to clear protesters.
Macron, who was in Nice on Monday along with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, who is visiting France, told the Nice-Matin newspaper he wished Legay a “speedy recovery”, but simultaneously criticised her. “When one is fragile and risks being shoved, one does not go to places that are declared off-limits and one does not put oneself in that kind of situation,” he said. ...
The remarks brought a swift riposte from the Legay family lawyer, Arié Alimi, who said: “I don’t find it very reasonable to criticise a person who is in a hospital bed, in a serious condition, or to consider that the elderly cannot express their convictions on the streets.” The Legay family plans to file an official complaint against police for “wilful violence in a group with arms by those in a position of public authority over vulnerable persons”. Alimi said the complaint aimed to establish whether his client was in the off-limits zone when “she was assaulted” and to “establish if the [police] charge was necessary and proportionate”. ...
The hard-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, of the France Insoumise (France Unbowed) party, tweeted: “Mr Macron, our Geneviève of Nice doesn’t need your lessons in wisdom. You should have a lot to learn from her.” Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, of the rightwing France Debout (Stand up France) party, attacked Macron’s “arrogance”, which he said was “profoundly inhumane”.
“Real wisdom, Mr Macron, is to listen to our elders and those who are weak so that they don’t need to be taking to the streets to express their distress,” Dupont-Aignan said.
Pfffttt!!! John Brennan, the contemptible asshole that used to run the CIA is now trying to save a shred of his dignity with yet another set of lies. He should never be quoted or appear in the media again as anything other than a cautionary tale or a humorous anecdote.
Former CIA Director John Brennan said Monday that he "suspected there was more than there actually was" in regard to collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election.
"I don't know if I received bad information, but I think I suspected there was more than there actually was," he said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Monday about the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller's probe.
"I am relieved that it's been determined there was not a criminal conspiracy with the Russian government over our election," Brennan added. "I think that is good news for the country." ...
Brennan previously asserted that the Trump campaign did collude with Russia, writing in a New York Times op-ed last year that President Trump's claims of "no collusion" were "hogwash."
The Mueller report’s categorical statement that Donald Trump and his campaign did not collude with Russia ends one of the most shameful periods in modern American journalism, one that rivals the mindless cheerleading for the Iraq War by most of the press. It further erodes and may prove fatal to the credibility of a press that has steadfastly rendered most of the country invisible and functions as little more than an array of gossiping courtiers to the elites. ...
The charge that Russia stole the election, that Vladimir Putin has secret “pee tapes” of Trump cavorting in a Moscow hotel with prostitutes or that Trump has been a longtime “Kremlin agent,” repeated by reporters whose work I admired in the past, is demagoguery as pernicious as the vile taunts and racist tropes that come out of the White House. The press endlessly repeated such allegations while ignoring the expanding social inequality and suffering of a country where half the population lives in poverty, as well as the collapse of our democratic institutions. These facts, not Russian manipulation, saw enraged American voters elect a demagogue who at least belittles the elites, including those in the press, who sold them out. The charge that Trump was a tool of Russia is entertaining. It attracts billions in advertising dollars. It allows the press to posture as a moral crusader. But over the past three years this obsession blotted out most of the real crimes committed by this administration and the reality most Americans endure.
The more the big news outlets try to spin this report, arguing that they need to see the full report rather than the attorney general’s summary, or that Jared Kushner sought to use the communications systems of Russian diplomats, the more credibility they will lose. And they do not have much credibility left. The lurid details of the president’s alleged sexual relations with a porn star and a Playboy bunny, and of “Russiagate,” have replaced journalism. These stories have nothing to do with the lives of most Americans. This descent into the inane and the tawdry gives immunity to Trump. In attacking the press he attacks an institution most Americans loath. And with good reason. The press, unwittingly, enhances a president it seeks to destroy. And its decline, accelerated by its collaboration with liberal Democratic elites who scapegoat Russia to avoid confronting their responsibility for trashing the country in the service of corporate oligarchs, will get worse. Little the press says about Trump will now be believed. ...
It is not only Trump who has obliterated the line between fact and fiction. It is the press. It hyped and reported allegations it never investigated or confirmed. And by doing this, repeating failures of the kind that appeared in its coverage of the invasion of Iraq, it has committed suicide. A nation that lacks a functioning press becomes a tyranny.
MPs have inflicted a fresh humiliating defeat on Theresa May, voting to seize control of the parliamentary timetable to allow backbenchers to hold a series of votes on alternatives to her Brexit deal. An amendment tabled by former Tory minister Oliver Letwin passed, by 329 votes to 302 on Monday night, as MPs expressed their exasperation at the government’s failure to set out a fresh approach.
The prime minister had earlier declined to say whether she would abide by the outcome of a process of “indicative votes”.
The government issued a punchy statement after the amendment passed, warning that it “upends the balance between our democratic institutions and sets a dangerous, unpredictable precedent for the future”. Three ministers resigned from government in order to back the Letwin amendment: the foreign affairs minister, Alistair Burt, the health minister Steve Brine and the business minister Richard Harrington. A total of 29 Tory MPs rebelled to vote for the amendment.
Harrington, who has been outspoken in his warnings about the risk of a no-deal Brexit in recent weeks, accused the government of “playing roulette with the lives and livelihoods of the vast majority of people in this country” in his resignation letter. The amendment was drawn up by a cross-party group – led by Letwin and Labour’s Hilary Benn – and gives MPs a series of votes on the alternatives to May’s deal, such as a softer Brexit or revoking article 50. ...
Corbyn told the prime minister: “The government’s approach to Brexit has now become a national embarrassment. Every step of the way along this process the government has refused to reach out, refused to listen and refused to find a consensus that can represent the views of the whole of the country, not just her own party.”
To Defeat the Far-Right and the 'Inane Establishment,' Progressives Launch 'Citizen Takeover of the EU'
A diverse coalition of progressive activists, academics, and politicians gathered in Brussels Monday to present a humane alternative to both the failing European political establishment and the xenophobic right. Featured speakers at the "Citizen Takeover of the EU" gathering included former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, actress and political activist Pamela Anderson, Croatian philosopher Srećko Horvat, and human rights lawyer Laura Alvarez, wife of U.K. Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn.
The Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25)—which organized the event—said the goal was to present a long-term vision for a democratic European Union that can defeat both the "xenophobic, anti-European, forces gaining ground" and the "inane establishment."
"Europeans are losing their faith in the possibility of European solutions to European problems. At the same time as faith in the EU is waning, we see a rise of misanthropy, xenophobia, and toxic nationalism," DiEM25 said in a statement. "If this development is not stopped, we fear a return to the 1930s."
"That is why we have come together despite our diverse political traditions—Green, radical left, liberal—in order to repair the EU," the statement continued. "The EU needs to become a realm of shared prosperity, peace, and solidarity for all Europeans. We must act quickly, before the EU disintegrates."
The group of candidates—titled the European Spring—will run on "A New Deal for Europe," a far-reaching agenda of progressive reforms including: a Green New Deal to confront the climate crisis, a ban on tax havens within the EU, and a "Constitutional Assembly that will draft Europe's first democratic constitution."
Israeli forces and Hamas exchanged rocket fire on Monday night amid fears of a new conflict in Gaza. Israeli forces carried out strikes against what they called “Hamas terror targets” across the Gaza Strip, after an earlier rocket attack that destroyed a family home and wounded seven people in a neighbourhood north of Tel Aviv. The army also said it was reinforcing troops along the Gaza border and calling up reserves.
The targets of the Israeli raids on Gaza included the office of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and a five-storey building in central Gaza City it said was a Hamas interior security office. Militants in Gaza then fired at least 10 rockets towards the southern Israeli town of Sderot, but no Israeli casualties were reported as a result of that attack.
At 10pm on Monday, Hamas announced that a cease-fire had been brokered by Egyptian mediators. But shortly after, renewed rocket fire could be heard in Gaza, setting off air-raid sirens in southern Israel. Hamas’s leadership went into hiding after the first rocket attack, anticipating the Israeli response. The Gaza health ministry said five people were wounded by the airstrikes. ...
The clashes come at the height of a tight election before the Israeli vote on 9 April. Hamas is also under intense political pressure, with Gaza’s economy squeezed by an Israeli and Egyptian embargo, and sanctions imposed by the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank. Hamas and Israel have fought three conflicts in the past decade, and battled in dozens of minor flare-ups since the last one in 2014. With little to show for any previous violence, neither side has expressed interest in full-fledged war.
However, the Monday morning missile strike obliterated the home of a British-Israeli family and comes during a period of heightened tension in Israel and the Palestinian territories. With a general election two weeks away, Netanyahu is under pressure from political opponents to hit back hard against militants, even as he has been counselled by military advisers of the futility of a fresh conflict.
Right-Wing Donor Adam Milstein Has Spent Millions of Dollars to Stifle the BDS Movement and Attack Critics of Israeli Policy
Adam Milstein, a real estate millionaire and prolific donor to right-wing, pro-Israel causes, had a busy few days on Twitter this month. In one tweet, he accused Rep. Ilhan Omar of being a “terrorist.” In another, he questioned Omar’s and Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s loyalty to the United States. He also accused Tlaib and Omar, the first two Muslim-American women elected to Congress, of having links to the Muslim Brotherhood, indulging a tired trope popular among anti-Muslim bigots. The backlash was swift, particularly in light of Milstein’s backing of the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, whose annual conference kicked off on Sunday. In response to those Twitter posts, an AIPAC spokesperson told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that Milstein “is not a representative of AIPAC and his views are not ours.” Meanwhile, Milstein pulled out of a panel he was scheduled to moderate at the conference, saying he did not want to be a distraction.
Milstein sits on AIPAC’s national council, and through his family foundation, has donated generously to the American Israel Education Foundation, AIPAC’s nonprofit arm. His support for AIPAC is just one part of his portfolio of pro-Israel philanthropy, which has in recent years bankrolled efforts to shut down American support for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, or BDS. ... For Milstein, the way forward was to get ugly with BDS supporters, humiliate them, and tar them as racists. With his millions of dollars, he has put that strategy into action.
The philanthropist belongs to a community of right-wing, pro-Israel donors who have taken to funding aggressive tactics in recent years, targeting college students and pushing legislation that would stifle free speech. Alarmed by the growth of a Palestinian rights movement that has methodically built coalitions with communities of color on college campuses and made inroads into Congress, these donors are going after young people with a zeal reminiscent of dirty political opposition research campaigns. ... Milstein, whose net worth was valued at $147 million in 2009, according to court records, has also funded groups that have pushed controversial state laws that crack down on BDS supporters by prohibiting contracts from going to companies and individuals that boycott Israel. ...
From 2004 to 2016 (the last year that records are available online), the Milstein Family Foundation, which Adam and his wife Gila run, gave at least $4.4 million to groups in the United States and Israel that work to solidify the U.S.-Israel alliance and harshly attack critics of Israeli policy, according to an Intercept review of foundation tax records. AIPAC is the primary beneficiary of the Milstein family’s political giving. The Milstein Family Foundation donated nearly $1.9 million to the American Israel Education Foundation over that 12-year period. ... Milstein also funds groups that accuse student activists of ties to terrorists, monitor student supporters of Palestinian rights, plaster students’ names on shadowy websites, and file legal challenges that pose a threat to activist work. ...
Milstein has also given to politicians, particularly to hawkish Democrats and Republicans who advocate for Israel in Congress. Since 2011, he has donated $8,700 to Brad Sherman, a California Democrat who earlier this year called on UCLA to bar SJP [Students for Justice in Palestine] from hosting its national conference on campus, and since 2015, has given $7,400 to Juan Vargas, another California Democrat who recently said that questioning the U.S.-Israel relationship is “unacceptable.” He has also donated to Sens. Kamala Harris ($500), Kirsten Gillibrand ($1,000), Ted Cruz ($10,800), Chuck Schumer ($2,700), Ron Wyden ($3,000), Jeanne Shaheen ($2,000), Brian Schatz ($1,000) and Robert Menendez ($1,900).
Rep. Steny Hoyer, the number two Democrat in the House, came under fire from progressives Sunday night after he used his address at AIPAC's policy conference to attack left-wing members of his caucus and throw his full support behind a resolution condemning the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement.
"I stand with Israel, proudly and unapologetically," said the Democrat from Maryland, whose remarks were immediately interpreted as a thinly veiled attack on Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). "So, when someone accuses American supporters of Israel of dual loyalty, I say: Accuse me. I am part of a large, bipartisan coalition in Congress supporting Israel. I tell Israel's detractors: Accuse us."
"There are 62 freshman Democrats. Not three," Hoyer added, in an apparent swipe at Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and Omar.
"Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is at AIPAC throwing his own colleague, Ilhan Omar, under the bus. Shameful," tweeted Shaun King, a columnist with The Intercept. "And in one fell swoop, to fawning applause, he basically confirms @IlhanMN was right all along."
Hoyer and the old guard in the Democratic Party leadership stand with AIPAC while attacking emerging leaders like @RashidaTlaib, @AOC, & @IlhanMN for fighting for a progressive and humane foreign policy.
But as 2020 Democrats skip AIPAC, Hoyer & the old guard have already lost. https://t.co/ynjBZdapxE
— Waleed Shahid (@_waleedshahid) March 25, 2019
Hoyer was the first of several Democratic leaders scheduled to speak at AIPAC's annual conference this week, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Under pressure from a diverse coalition of progressive advocacy groups, a number of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates vowed to skip AIPAC's event.
Canada has granted asylum to a woman who helped Edward Snowden hide in Hong Kong after his leaks exposed US global surveillance programs, a refugee rights association said on Monday. Vanessa Rodel and her seven-year-old daughter Keana were scheduled to arrive in Toronto later on Monday on a flight from Hong Kong, the non-profit organization For the Refugees said.
Rodel was among a group of people who sheltered Snowden, a former CIA employee and US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor, putting him up in her apartment in 2013 while he was in Hong Kong on the run from US authorities. ...
Five other people who helped Snowden have also requested asylum but remain in Hong Kong awaiting a response, according to the daily National Post.
The European Union (EU) will not require its member countries to ban Huawei from their wireless networks, spurning U.S. warnings that the Chinese telecom poses an intelligence threat, according to Reuters.
Citing four unnamed sources familiar with the decision, the outlet reported that Andrus Ansip, the European Commission’s digital chief, will present his recommendation next week.
The proposal will reportedly advise member states to adopt the EU’s cybersecurity guidelines to coordinate and share information on their wireless networks. ...
The U.S. has pushed its allies to reject Huawei, arguing that it has close ties to the Chinese government that could give Beijing the ability to use the company’s hardware to spy on other countries.
The Justice Department launched a fresh attack Monday on the Affordable Care Act, siding with a district judge in Texas who ruled last year that the entirety of the 2010 healthcare law should be thrown out.
Judge Reed C. O’Connor struck down the ACA, better known as Obamacare, in December last year after Trump’s tax cuts invalidated the ACA’s penalty for not having health insurance. That case is currently before a federal appeals court. "The Department of Justice has determined that the district court's comprehensive opinion came to the correct conclusion and will support it on appeal," a spokesperson for the Justice Department said Monday.
If the appeals court sides with the Trump administration, millions could lose their healthcare coverage, as well as the benefits provided by Medicare expansion. The decision to push for a full repeal of the ACA is a departure for the DoJ, now run by Attorney General William Barr. Under Barr’s predecessor, AG Jeff Sessions, the department wanted only to cut protections for pre-existing conditions. Now, the entirety of the law is once again being threatened.
The Pentagon said Monday it was diverting $1 billion in funds toward construction of Donald Trump’s long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The funds are the first to be allocated under Trump’s national emergency declaration, which bypassed Congress earlier this year to secure cash for construction of the president’s central 2016 campaign promise.
The money should construct about 60 miles of 18-foot fencing, as well as improve infrastructure such as roads and lighting. The fencing will be erected in El Paso, Texas, and Yuma, Arizona.
Mexico’s president Andrés Manuel López Obrador has written to Spanish King Felipe VI and Pope Francis urging them to apologize for the “abuses” of colonialism and the conquest.
In a video filmed at the ruins of the indigenous city of Comalcalco, in southern Mexico, the anti-establishment leftist called on Spain and the Vatican to recognize the rights violations committed during the conquest of Mexico, which began 500 years ago, and the colonial period that followed.
Estamos en Comalcalco, vamos a Centla a conmemorar 500 años de la batalla de los españoles contra la resistencia de los mayas-chontales. pic.twitter.com/glYO0eAMtX
— Andrés Manuel (@lopezobrador_) March 25, 2019
“There were massacres and oppression. The so-called conquest was waged with the sword and the cross. They built their churches on top of the (indigenous) temples,” he said.
A diplomatic row has broken out between Mexico and Spain after the Mexican president wrote to King Felipe VI demanding he apologise for crimes committed against Mexico’s indigenous people during the conquest 500 years ago. ... The remarks came two months after the Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, made an official visit to Mexico; his government reacted angrily to López Obrador’s letter.
“The Spanish government profoundly regrets the publication of the Mexican president’s letter to his majesty the king on 1 March and completely reject its content,” a government statement read. “The arrival of the Spanish on Mexican soil 500 years ago cannot be judged in the light of contemporary considerations. Our closely related peoples have always known how to view our shared history without anger and from a shared perspective, as free peoples with a common heritage and an extraordinary future.”
Reaction in Spain split across political lines. Albert Rivera, the leader of the centre-right Citizens party, said the letter “was an intolerable offence to the Spanish people”, while Ione Belarra, from the leftwing Podemos party, said López Obrador “has every right to ask the king to apologise for the abuses of la conquista”. ...
In 2021, there are plans to mark the 500th anniversary of the fall of Tenochtitlán and 200 years since Mexico gained its independence from Spain. López Obrador says there must first be reconciliation before these events can be commemorated. Spain has shown little contrition about its colonial past. Last November, Pablo Casado, the leader of the rightwing Popular party, commented that: “We didn’t colonise, what we did was to make Spain larger.”
Six hours after the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced that it was blacklisting firms that work with primary challengers, I met with a potential client who was considering a Democratic primary. The client told me that two consultants dropped out that morning — and now the candidate may not run at all.
The timing of the DCCC’s blacklist is not remotely coincidental. In the first quarter of an off-year, many potential candidates decide whether to jump into a race. If campaign staff dries up before day one, a once-daunting campaign can feel impossible.
This is precisely what the DCCC wants. The committee is hoping that these young women will stop contemplating challenges against Democratic incumbents. We can’t allow the DCCC to succeed and block these brave challengers. ...
Representatives who are effectively serving their communities should have nothing to fear from a primary challenge. On the other hand, throwing up ridiculous roadblocks and consulting bans is more telling than ever. The old guard of the Democratic Party is petrified — because their record is flimsy, their vision outdated, and their bank accounts filled with corporate donations. This fear is the clearest signal we have that it’s time for a new generation of Democratic leaders. Bring on the primaries.
Flooding has inundated the Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, leading to a serious crisis for its Native American population—and a slow government response that, critics say, exposes the racial imbalance in American disaster relief. "This is a state of emergency right now," said Pine Ridge resident Henry Red Cloud. Rapidly melting snow from a recent blizzard is soaking the reservation and already damaged water lines, cutting the community off from safe drinking water. Roads are mostly impassable mud pits.
Pine Ridge, according to The New York Times, is "in a state of shock and triage."
Officials with the Oglala Sioux Tribe, which administers the reservation, say they lack the training, manpower and equipment needed to deal with such a large-scale crisis. And there's a pervasive sense on Pine Ridge, a place of long-strained relations with the state and federal governments, that help has been woefully slow to arrive, and that few people beyond the reservation know or care much about its plight.
Help is on the way from the federal government, though it's moving at a glacial pace. The distinction between the pace of recovery at Pine Ridge and other areas of the Midwest affected by the disaster was noted by a number of observers. "Unlike in Nebraska, where the National Guard rescued 111 people, including some by helicopter and boat," the Times reported, "outside help for Pine Ridge was conspicuously scarce at first."
Roads are washed out and flooded, so most aid is being trucked in by boat and horse. The National Guard arrived on scene over the weekend to assist the Red Shirt, Pine Ridge, Porcupine, Evergreen, and Wounded Knee communities on the reservation. Observers noted that the reservation's issues are longstanding and that the flooding will only exacerbate the problems.
Environmental group 350.org cited NoiseCat's reporting and warned that Pine Ridge was only the beginning of how climate change will hit different communities. "We're seeing the differential impact of climate change unfold before our eyes in real time," the organization said on Twitter.
An interesting article, worth a full read. Here's a taste to get you started:
Four hours east of Los Angeles, in a drought-stricken area of a drought-afflicted state, is a small town called Blythe where alfalfa is king. More than half of the town’s 94,000 acres are bushy blue-green fields growing the crop. Massive industrial storehouses line the southern end of town, packed with thousands upon thousands of stacks of alfalfa bales ready to be fed to dairy cows – but not cows in California’s Central Valley or Montana’s rangelands.
Instead, the alfalfa will be fed to cows in Saudi Arabia.
The storehouses belong to Fondomonte Farms, a subsidiary of the Saudi Arabia-based company Almarai – one of the largest food production companies in the world. The company sells milk, powdered milk and packaged items such as croissants, strudels and cupcakes in supermarkets and corner stores throughout the Middle East and North Africa, and in specialty grocers throughout the US.
Each month, Fondomonte Farms loads the alfalfa on to hulking metal shipping containers destined to arrive 24 days later at a massive port stationed on the Red Sea, just outside King Abdullah City in Saudi Arabia.
With the Saudi Arabian landscape there being mostly desert and alfalfa being a water-intensive crop, growing it there has always been expensive and draining on scarce water resources, to the point that the Saudi government finally outlawed the practice in 2016. In the wake of the ban, Almarai decided to purchase land wherever it is cheap and has favorable water conditions to produce enough feed for its 93,000 cows. In 2012, they acquired 30,000 acres of land in Argentina, and in 2014, they bought their first swath of land in Arizona. Then, in 2015, they bought 1,700 acres in Blythe – a vast, loamy, agricultural metropolis abutting the Colorado river, where everything but the alfalfa seems cast in the hue of sand. Four years later, the company owns 15,000 acres – 16% of the entire irrigated valley.
But what business does a foreign company have drawing precious resources from a US desert to offset a lack of resources halfway around the globe? What Fondomonte Farms is doing is merely a chapter in the long story of water management in the west, one that pierces the veil on the inanities of the global supply chain – how easy it is to move a commodity like alfalfa, or for that matter lettuce or clementines or iPhones, across more than 13,000 miles of land and sea, how much we rely on these crisscrossing supply lines, and at what cost to our own natural resources.
Investors should strongly consider permanently ditching a delayed and over budget pipeline that would carry fracked gas across three Southeastern states, according to a new report from a pair of climate groups. "The risks and growing costs of this major methane gas pipeline project look increasingly unwise to ratepayers, regulators, and investors alike," warns the investor briefing (pdf).
The Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) would carry fracked gas 600 miles from Appalachian Basin in West Virginia through Virginia to North Carolina. Dominion Energy, Duke Energy, and Southern Company make up Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC, the company formed to construct and run the pipeline. ...
"While news about the project's challenges has mostly focused on the Forest Service permit and Appalachian Trail crossing, this report shows that the project's problems do not stop there," explained coauthor Lorne Stockman, a senior research analyst at Oil Change International. As the report outlines, the ACP is two years behind schedule and an estimated $2 billion over budget, and faces a "triple threat":
- extensive legal and regulatory challenges that are delaying construction and raising costs, which may lead to cancellation;
- fundamental challenges to its financial viability in the face of lack of growth in domestic demand for methane gas and increased affordability of renewable energy options; and
- an unprecedented citizen initiative positioned to ensure strict compliance with environmental laws and regulations, even in remote locations, if construction proceeds.
"The ACP is facing an onslaught of legal challenges and losses," the report states. "Seven federal permits have been stayed, suspended, or vacated; in fact, all construction on the pipeline is currently stopped. When—or if—construction will start up again is unknown."
Construction has been halted largely due to a series of lawsuits filed by environmental and Indigenous groups. The cases, many of which are ongoing, challenge permits and certificates from various agencies, including the Forest Service, National Park Service, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Detailing ACP's financial viability, the briefing points out that, "according to Dominion, the construction halt costs up to $20 million per week," and just last month, Moody's Investors Service said that "Dominion's execution risk with its Atlantic Coast Pipeline is credit negative." The report also acknowledges hesitance among state utility regulators to pass on costs to ratepayers.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Bobby Byrd - Looby Doo
James Brown & Bobby Byrd - You've Got to Change Your Mind
Bobby Byrd - The Way I Feel
Bobby Byrd - I'm Just A Nobody
Bobby Byrd - Never Get Enough
Bobby Byrd - Hot Pants ( I'm Coming )
Bobby Bird - I'll Lose My Mind
Bobby Byrd - If you don't work you can't eat
Bobby Byrd - Try It Again
Bobby Byrd - Signed, Sealed & Delivered
Bobby Byrd - I Need Help (I Can't Do It Alone) Part 1 & 2
Bobby Byrd's Grooving Soul Express - Leverkusener Jazztage 1995