The Evening Blues - 3-26-21
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues harmonica player Billy Boy Arnold. Enjoy!
Billy Boy Arnold - I Wish You Would
"Turn off your televisions. Ignore the Newt-Mitt-Rick- Barack reality show. It is as relevant to your life as the gossip on “Jersey Shore.” The real debate, the debate raised by the Occupy movement about inequality, corporate malfeasance, the destruction of the ecosystem, and the security and surveillance state, is the only debate that matters."
-- Chris Hedges
News and Opinion
Worth a full read.
One of the most enduring, indestructible toxic chemicals known to man – Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF), which is a PFAS “forever chemical” – is being secretly incinerated next to disadvantaged communities in the United States. The people behind this crackpot operation? It’s none other than the US military. As new data published by Bennington College this week documents, the US military ordered the clandestine burning of over 20m pounds of AFFF and AFFF waste between 2016-2020. That’s despite the fact that there is no evidence that incineration actually destroys these synthetic chemicals. In fact, there is good reason to believe that burning AFFF simply emits these toxins into the air and onto nearby communities, farms, and waterways. The Pentagon is effectively conducting a toxic experiment and has enrolled the health of millions of Americans as unwitting test subjects.
AFFF was invented and popularized by the US Armed Forces. Introduced during the Vietnam War to combat petroleum fires on naval ships and air strips, AFFF was the whizz kid of chemical engineering that forged a synthetic molecular bond stronger than anything known in nature. Once manufactured, this carbon-fluorine bond is virtually indestructible. Refusing to become fuel, this herculean bond overpowers and tames even the most incendiary infernos.
Almost from the moment they started using AFFF, the military amassed worrisome evidence about the environmental persistence of synthetic carbon-fluorine compounds, their affinity for living things, and their impact on human health. As the US Armed Forces became the largest consumer of AFFF in the world, troubling questions about what happens after the fire were brushed aside. US military bases at home and abroad encouraged the promiscuous spraying of AFFF in routine drills while firefighters were told it was as safe as soap. ... As we now know, exposure to trace amounts of these “forever chemicals” is strongly linked to a host of cancers, developmental disorders, immune dysfunction, and infertility. Exposure has also been linked to aggravated Covid-19 infections and weakened vaccine efficacy.
From Portsmouth, New Hampshire to Colorado Springs, Colorado, the last decade has witnessed communities near military bases waking up to a nightmare of PFAS contamination in their water, their soil and their blood. ... In its initial survey of military bases in December 2016, the Armed Forces identified 393 sites of AFFF contamination in the United States, including 126 sites where PFAS compounds infiltrated public drinking water. (The Department of Defense has active remediation plans at a small fraction of those sites.) In 2019, DOD admitted those numbers were “under-counted.” The Environmental Working Group’s popular map of PFAS contamination puts the current number of polluted military sites at 704, a number that continues to rise.
US President Joe Biden pledged to prevent China from becoming the world’s “leading” and “wealthiest” country by continuing to close ranks with allies and boosting America’s investment in technology.
Casting America’s competition with Beijing as the most important front in a generational struggle between democracy and autocracy, Biden reiterated a plan to convene a democracy summit and more than double the amount of investment in science and technology as a percentage of GDP.
“I see stiff competition with China,” Biden said in his first press conference as president. “China has an overall goal, and I don’t criticise them for the goal, but they have an overall goal to become the leading country in the world, the wealthiest country in the world and the most powerful country in the world. That’s not going to happen on my watch, because United States is going to continue to grow and expand.”
The Saudi official who is alleged to have twice issued threats against the independent UN investigator Agnès Callamard is the head of the kingdom’s human rights commission, and formerly served as an aide to the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.
Awwad al-Awwad is alleged by a person familiar with the matter to have twice threatened to “take care of” Callamard at a January 2020 meeting with senior human rights officials in Geneva.
The Guardian first reported news of the threats earlier this week following an interview with Callamard in which she recalled being alerted to the threats by her UN colleagues. On Wednesday, the office of the UN high commissioner for human rights (OHCHR) confirmed Callamard’s account.
“We confirm that the details in the Guardian story about the threat aimed at Agnès Callamard are accurate. After the threat was made, OHCHR informed Ms Callamard herself about it, as well as UN security and the president of the Human Rights Council, who in turn informed the relevant authorities,” said Rupert Colville, the spokesperson for the UN high commissioner for human rights.
Much more detail at the link if you haven't been following this.
Craig Murray, an ex-British ambassador and blogger, was found in contempt of court by a tribunal in Scotland on Thursday for articles he had written that the court says helped identify accusers of former First Minister Alex Salmond of sexual abuse. Murray faces up to two years in jail as well as a fine. The sentencing is set for May 7. ...
The judgement against Murray was leaked to the Scottish newspaper, The National, on Monday. On the same day Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was cleared by a cross-party inquiry of lying to Parliament about the Salmond affair. The inquiry looked into whether SNP officials, including possibly Sturgeon, conspired to arrange anonymous civil servants to level the sexual assault and attempted rape charges against Sturgeon’s political rival Salmond.
The World Darkens a Little More: I May Have to Spend Some Time as a Political Prisoner - I suspect I should say as little as possible in the next few days. With apologies to The National, I have copied their story out from behind their firewall. https://t.co/y98TotFlIJ
— Craig Murray (@CraigMurrayOrg) March 22, 2021
The defense is considering an appeal.
President Joe Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki worked for an Israeli firm accused of involvement in surveillance of Palestinians under Israeli military occupation.
Psaki’s public financial disclosures show that she earned at least $5,000 as a “crisis communications consultant” for AnyVision. ...
In 2019, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that AnyVision’s facial recognition technology was being secretly used by Israel’s occupation army “to monitor West Bank Palestinians at checkpoints on the way into Israel – while using a network of cameras deep inside the West Bank.”
AnyVision’s president, Amir Kain, was former head of the Israeli defense ministry’s security department, and one of its advisers, Tamir Pardo, is a former head of the Mossad spying and assassination agency, according to Haaretz.
In other words, AnyVision was reportedly an integral part of what Israel’s leading human rights group B’Tselem recently described as an “apartheid regime” established to perpetuate “the supremacy of one group – Jews – over another – Palestinians.”
Trump Holdovers Accused of 'Sabotaging' Effort to Get Checks to 30 Million Social Security Recipients
House Democrats and progressive activists are accusing the leadership of the Social Security Administration—currently headed by Trump holdover Andrew Saul—of slow-walking the Biden administration's effort to distribute direct coronavirus relief payments to tens of millions of seniors and people with disabilities.
In a letter (pdf) to Saul on Wednesday, Democratic members of the House Ways and Means Committee raised alarm on behalf of "the nearly 30 million Social Security and Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries who are still awaiting their economic impact payments (EIPs)"—checks approved under the recently passed American Rescue Plan.
"We understand that these beneficiaries are waiting because the Social Security Administration (SSA) has not sent the necessary payment files to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)," the lawmakers wrote. "We are aware that the IRS asked SSA to start sending payment files two weeks before the American Rescue Plan became law on March 11, 2021. As of today, SSA still has not provided the IRS with the payment files that are needed to issue EIPs to these struggling Americans."
The House Democrats' letter came in the wake of news reports detailing the financial stress the delay has caused for seniors across the country as they struggle to cover basic expenses during the ongoing public health and economic crises.
"I'm having to put off everything—utility bills, cable. I had to be late on rent," 65-year-old Florida resident Mark Stevens told CBS News. "People in my situation are feeling lied to."
In the previous two rounds of payments approved during the Trump administration, the IRS used information already on file with the SSA to distribute payments to Social Security recipients, many of whom aren't required to submit tax returns. But SSA's unexplained delay in getting updated payment information to the IRS has held up the process of sending out the money, prompting confusion and anger.
Alex Lawson, executive director of advocacy group Social Security Works, said in a statement Thursday that Saul and deputy SSA commissioner David Black are "sabotaging the Biden administration by delaying relief checks."
A full month ago, the IRS asked the Social Security Administration for the necessary data to send Covid relief checks to Social Security beneficiaries," said Lawson. "Commissioner Andrew Saul and Deputy David Black have failed to supply the data. As a result, nearly 30 million seniors and people with disabilities—who are among those hit hardest by Covid—still haven't received their relief checks. They are counting on these checks for basic necessities like food and medication."
"President Biden can't stand for this any longer," Lawson added. "He must protect Social Security beneficiaries by firing Saul and Black immediately."
An SSA spokesperson told HuffPost that the agency intends to send the information to the IRS on Thursday. "A Democratic aide said that once Social Security sends the file to the IRS, it will still be more than a week before people will receive the checks," HuffPost reported.
In his first press conference as president, Joe Biden announced he had doubled his administration’s vaccination goal to 200m shots during his first 100 days as president. Biden’s decision to make the announcement at the beginning of his press conference represented a clear attempt to at least insulate one piece of news his administration hoped would not fall through the cracks at a briefing where a host of contentious issues were expected – particularly on immigration and the filibuster.
On immigration, Biden stressed that the situation at the southern border was not a crisis. The president recently appointed vice-president Kamala Harris as the point-person to try to tackle problems there. ...
Biden was also asked multiple times about his position on the filibuster. He agreed with the critique of Democratic senators that it is a relic of the Jim Crow era of American history designed to defend slavery. But rather than offering full-throated endorsement of ending the filibuster, he instead argued that there should only be a “talking filibuster”, where a senator could block legislation as long as they kept talking on the floor of the chamber.
In their first appearance before Congress since Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, the chief executives of Facebook, Google and Twitter were asked by U.S. lawmakers whether their platforms bore some responsibility for the riot: “yes or no?” ... Only Twitter Inc CEO Jack Dorsey replied “yes” to the question, but said the “broader ecosystem” had to be taken into account. Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Google parent Alphabet Inc, said the company always feels a sense of responsibility but it was a complex question.
Facebook Inc’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg said his company was responsible for building “effective systems”. He also said that the rioters and former President Donald Trump should be held accountable.
Lawmakers widely slammed the platforms’ approach to false or dangerous content. The three companies have taken steps to curb misinformation but researchers have shown it is still widely present on the platforms. ...
“Your business model itself has become the problem and the time for self-regulation is over. It’s time we legislate to hold you accountable,” said Democratic Representative Frank Pallone, chair of the Energy and Commerce committee.
Some lawmakers are calling for Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields online platforms from liability over user content, to be scrapped or rejigged. There are several pieces of legislation from Democrats to reform Section 230 that are doing the rounds in Congress, though progress has been slow. Several Republican lawmakers have also been pushing separately to scrap the law entirely.
Evanston, Illinois to Pay Reparations to Black Families Harmed by Decades of Racist Housing Policies
Los Angeles officials have moved to evict a large homeless encampment from a major city park, sending police in riot gear to face off with unhoused residents and protesters supporting them. Late Wednesday night, hundreds of demonstrators gathered at Echo Park Lake, a public park in central LA, to denounce the planned expulsion of hundreds of people who have been camping out there.
The park has become a major battleground in the city’s worsening housing and homelessness crisis during the pandemic. A growing number of homeless residents have have sought refuge at the park over the last year, with more than 170 tents and makeshift structures set up as of this month.
Some residents who live in the neighborhood, which has rapidly gentrified, have increasingly complained to city officials and police, arguing that the encampment was unsafe and should be shut down. City leaders announced last fall that they would be closing the park for repairs in the new year, and that they would offer transitional housing to residents of the park. But as rumors have circulated that closure was imminent in recent weeks, they have repeatedly refused to provide details of when the encampments would be swept and what would happen to residents who refused to leave.
Supporters of the encampment have argued that temporary hotel rooms don’t provide a long-term solution and that some don’t want to leave the park, because they end up back on the streets with nowhere to go. Unhoused organizers have said that residents have built a safe community there that the city should not dismantle.
By Wednesday evening, hundreds of LAPD officers wearing helmets and holding batons had showed up to the park, leading to skirmishes between activists and police.
A few short months after his reign as a national media darling, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo now finds himself at the center of a swirl of investigations. The scandals revolve around his administration’s efforts to conceal the death toll resulting from a decision to send coronavirus-infected older adults back to nursing homes and a growing number of accusations that the governor’s cultivated atmosphere of bullying and performative dominance included his own sexual harassment and assault of women who worked for him.
As inquiries by the State Assembly, New York’s attorney general, and the U.S. Justice Department get underway, investigators are likely to encounter the same obstacle that complicated previous investigations into Cuomo’s inner circle: a scrupulously observed protocol of information security. This modus operandi has allowed the governor to wheedle, threaten, cajole, and otherwise operate the levers of power while leaving hardly any public record of his involvement.
For more than a decade, Cuomo has adhered to the maxim of his predecessor, Eliot Spitzer, who counseled: “Never write when you can talk. Never talk when you can nod. And never put anything in an email.” So it is that well into the 21st century, Cuomo claims not to be comfortable with email, instead receiving information and relaying instructions through his lieutenants or, when necessary, by telephone. Cuomo is neither the first nor the only powerful politician to rely on such infosec to thwart attempts at accountability, but he has made an art form out of it. ...
Previous investigations into corruption in the Cuomo administration have reached all the way up to his inner circle, but publicly available records of those investigations show no indication that prosecutors ever found electronic records linked to the governor himself. Prosecutors never charged Cuomo with directing the corrupt activities of his top aides, some of whom were sentenced to years in federal prison.
The current investigations are different from those that came before. The nursing home scandal concerns not just ordinary corruption but the attempted cover-up of thousands of deaths. And the sheer number — eight as of the publication of this story — of people accusing Cuomo of personally sexual harassing or assaulting them makes that scandal markedly different from those that the governor has skated by in the past. The accumulation of scandals has also meant the collapse of a key pillar of Cuomo’s infosec regime: It always relied on fear to keep people who were privy to the conversations — but never emails — from talking, but with each new public allegation, more witnesses seem emboldened to come forward.
Georgia lawmakers on Thursday gave final approval to legislation to impose sweeping new restrictions on voting access in the state that make it harder to vote by mail and give the state legislature more power over elections.
The measure was signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp, a Republican, on Thursday evening. “Significant reforms to our state elections were needed. There’s no doubt there were many alarming issues with how the election was handled, and those problems, understandably, led to a crisis of confidence,” Kemp said during prepared remarks shortly after signing the bill.
It requires voters to submit ID information with both an absentee ballot request and the ballot itself. It limits the use of absentee ballot drop boxes, allows for unlimited challenges to a voter’s qualifications, cuts the runoff election period from nine to four weeks, and significantly shortens the amount of time voters have to request an absentee ballot.
The legislation also empowers the state legislature, currently dominated by Republicans, to appoint a majority of members on the five-person state election board. That provision would strip Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, a Republican who stood up to Trump after the election, from his current role as chairman of the board. The bill creates a mechanism for the board to strip local election boards of their power.
Gloria Butler, a Democratic state senator, said the bill would make it harder to vote, especially for poor and disabled people. “We are witnessing a massive and unabashed assault on voting rights unlike anything we’ve seen since the Jim Crow era,” she said just before the bill passed.
The number of American bald eagles has more than quadrupled since 2009, according to a recent report by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
The species, once on the brink of extinction, has grown to 316,700 birds and 71,400 nesting pairs in the 2019 breeding season. US officials say the “strong return” of American bald eagles is a reminder of the importance of federal conservation efforts and protections, such as banning the pesticide DDT.
Deb Haaland told the Associated Press that the growth of the species “is also a moment to reflect on the importance of the Endangered Species Act, a vital tool in the efforts to protect America’s wildlife”. ...
Haaland also said her department plans to review actions taken by the Trump administration “to undermine key provisions” of the Endangered Species Act, which was created in 1973, 10 years after populations of American bald eagles had dwindled to just 417 known nesting pairs.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Billy Boy Arnold - Love Me Baby
Billy Boy Arnold - Low Down Blues
Billy Boy Arnold - Sweet Miss Bea
Billy Boy Arnold - I Ain't Got You
Billy Boy Arnold - Don't Stay Out All Night
Billy Boy Arnold - Every Day, Every Night
Billy Boy Arnold - Evaleena
Billy Boy - Rockin' Itis
Billy Boy Arnold - 99 Lbs
Billy Boy Arnold - Move On Down The Road