The Evening Blues - 3-7-16
Hey! Good Evening!
Barbecue Bob - Mississippi Heavy Water Blues
"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."
-- Albert Einstein
News and Opinion
It’s bad enough that Obama entrenched the illiberal powers of George W Bush. Think what would happen if a man who has praised torture gets hold of them
Civil liberties advocates have been warning of a scenario like this for more than six years. The extraordinary national security powers George W Bush pioneered and Obama shamefully entrenched could now fall into the hands of someone many people consider a madman. Someone whose opinion changes with the wind – or the sound of the crowd – and whose entire candidacy is based around personal vendettas.
Trump’s abhorrent daily pronouncements about what he would do as president come at such a rate that we have become numb to them. We’ve lost count of the amount of times he’s claimed he’ll bring back waterboarding, or some forms of torture that are “so much worse” (something that would constitute a war crime). Or that he’ll not only kill terrorists, but members of their families as well – another war crime. (After some backlash for these statements, Trump claimed on Friday that he would still “obey the law”.)
Trump’s list of enemies could make former president Richard Nixon, who saw no problem in using the NSA to spy on American dissidents and his political opponents, look tame in comparison. ... And then there’s war: the Obama administration has done more damage than Bush did to the constitutional principle that Congress should be the only governmental body that can declare it. The US is currently waging war in multiple countries – Syria, Iraq and Libya – using a law written 15 years ago meant for Afghanistan, to go after a terrorist organization that did not exist at the time. When President Trump decides to invade the first Middle Eastern country that looks at him the wrong way, to “take their oil”, it will be that much harder to stop him because of the precedent the current administration has set. One shudders at the thought of what he could do with the CIA drone program. ...
One of the major criticisms of Obama’s “look forward, not backward” policy in regards to Bush’s torture program was that by not prosecuting those involved, he essentially took what was clearly illegal conduct and turned it into a policy dispute. So right now, Obama is free to ban torture as he sees fit, but since the risk of being prosecuted has essentially been taken off the table, the next president could just as easily reverse that. And, of course, Trump has promised to.
Many Democrats abandoned their opposition to these dangerous policies once Obama took the oath of office in 2009. They would therefore be partially responsible for any havoc Trump wreaks if he were to become president.
Republican frontrunner says laws must be reworked because they ‘are not working’: ‘We talk about waterboarding like it’s the worst thing in the world’
Donald Trump has reiterated his determination that the US should stop “playing by the rules” in its fight against Islamic State militants.
“We’re talking about waterboarding like it’s the worst thing in the world,” he said in an interview broadcast on Sunday, adding: “I think we have to increase the laws because the laws are not working.” ...
This week, a group of leading Republican figures on national security said they would not follow orders from a President Trump who followed policies he has advocated on the campaign trail, such as waterboarding and the targeting of the families of terror suspects, that contravened international law.
Trump subsequently rowed back on the issue, saying in a statement: “I will not order a military officer to disobey the law. It is clear that as president I will be bound by laws just like all Americans and I will meet those responsibilities.”
On the campaign trail in Kansas and Florida on Saturday, though, he changed his position again, saying he would “have those laws broadened.”
The Maryland Court of Special Appeals on Wednesday upheld a historic decision by a state trial court that the warrantless use of cell-site simulators, or Stingrays, violates the Fourth Amendment. ...
Stingrays mimic cellphone towers, tricking nearby phones into connecting and revealing users’ locations. Stingrays sweep up data on every phone nearby — collecting information on dozens or potentially hundreds of people. ...
The trial court had suppressed evidence obtained by the warrantless use of a Stingray — the first time any court in the nation had done so. ...
After the trial court threw out the Stingray evidence, the Maryland attorney general alarmed civil liberties groups by arguing that anyone who keeps their phone turned “on” is consenting to being tracked by police. The full ruling, which has not yet been issued, will presumably reject that argument. ...
The ruling has the potential to set a strong precedent about warrantless location tracking. “Police should now be on notice,” said Nate Wessler, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. “Accurately explain your surveillance activities to a judge and get a warrant, or risk your evidence being thrown out.”
The United Nations human rights chief on Friday warned that the U.S. government risks opening a "Pandora's Box" if it successfully forces Apple to unlock an iPhone belonging to one of the suspected San Bernardino shooters.
"Encryption and anonymity are needed as enablers of both freedom of expression and opinion, and the right to privacy," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said in a statement. "It is neither fanciful nor an exaggeration to say that, without encryption tools, lives may be endangered. In the worst cases, a government’s ability to break into its citizens’ phones may lead to the persecution of individuals who are simply exercising their fundamental human rights."
"In order to address a security-related issue related to encryption in one case, the authorities risk unlocking a Pandora’s Box that could have extremely damaging implications for the human rights of many millions of people, including their physical and financial security," he said.
Rebels fighting to overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Assad have clashed with Kurdish paramilitaries in Aleppo, in some of Syria’s most intense fighting since a truce brokered by international powers came into effect late last month.
Despite the weekend fighting, talks aimed at reaching a political deal to end the five-year conflict appear set to resume, with a top official for the umbrella opposition group saying it would likely send a delegation to Geneva. ...
The latest clashes are part of a broader power struggle across Syria’s north in a multilayered war – the Kurdish YPG has sought to take advantage of the chaos to broaden the area under its control, wresting territory from the opposition near the Turkish border, which critics fear is intended for an autonomous Kurdish statelet.
Ankara, which supports the rebels, has looked on with alarm at the YPG’s advance, as it is fighting its own insurgency in Kurdish areas in the south-east and views the Syrian Kurdish paramilitaries as another wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK), with which it is fighting.
A spokesman and close aide of the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, accused the YPG of providing targeting data that has allowed the Russian air force to bomb the rebels, a claim that is likely to further strain relations with the US, which has strongly backed the YPG, to Turkey’s consternation.
Ibrahim Kalın, Erdoğan’s spokesman, said Turkey might consider airstrikes on the YPG forces in the vicinity of Azaz, a strategic border town that provides the rebels with a lifeline to Turkey.
New reports from the Kurdish media in Syria suggest the US is expanding its operations inside northeast Syria, and is now working on two separate air bases inside territory controlled by the Kurdish YPG.
A US project to expand the Rmelian Airfield was initially reported back in January, and the new report suggested that the Rmelian project is almost finished. The second project is at an as-yet-undisclosed site near the Kurdish city of Kobani.
US Central Command issued a statement “denying” that the US had any direct control over any airfields in Syria, though they did not actually deny that the projects themselves were ongoing.
In five months, Russia was able to turn the tables in Syria and implement a ceasefire. It took Russia less than half a year to accomplish what the United States and its allies couldn't achieve in five years. Putin's decision to get involved in Syria was a gamble -- but an incredibly successful one. Don't believe us? Just ask NATO:
The Russian task force in Syria has demonstrated remarkable efficiency and professionalism, according to a German magazine citing confidential NATO analysis.
The limited Russian contingent operating in Syria is outperforming the more widespread groupings of the US-led anti-Islamic State coalition, according to Germany’s FOCUS media outlet who came by the classified NATO document, which was prepared by the alliance’s military experts.
European leaders will declare the migration route through the Balkans closed today at an emergency summit in Brussels, and will call on Turkey to do more to stop people making the treacherous journey from its shores to Greece.
The European Union (EU) will back up its call with a pledge of billions of euros in financial assistance to Turkey and more help for Greece, where tens of thousands of migrants and refugees will be stranded following the formal closure of the northern route out of the country. More than 30,000 migrants are already bottled up there at the moment and about 2,000 more arrive daily. ...
Amnesty International said Europe was shirking its responsibilities by attempting to use Turkey as a border guard. "Using Turkey as a 'safe third country' is absurd," said Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia. "Many refugees still live in terrible conditions, some have been deported back to Syria and security forces have even shot at Syrians trying to cross the border."
So far this year, 135,000 migrants have reached Europe illegally, 126,000 via Turkey, and more than 400 have died, many on the so-called eastern Mediterranean route from Turkey to Greece, the International Organization for Migration has said.
Macedonian authorities have created peculiar new restrictions for the thousands of refugees trying to cross the border from Greece by only granting entry to those from cities they consider to be at war, according to Greek officials. The rules mean that Syrians from Aleppo are welcome, but refugees from Damascus are not.
Two Greek officials gave this information to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity. The AP said it was able to confirm the information with the UN refugee agency.
Macedonia is a landlocked country north of Greece, sandwiched between Bulgaria on its east and Albania on the west. As a result, Idomeni, the Greek town bordering Macedonia, has become a popular gateway into the Balkans for refugees trying to continue on to Western Europe.
The new restrictions on the border provide a possible explanation for why Macedonia's intake of refugees has slowed to a trickle over the last two weeks. Around 14,000 refugees from cities deemed insufficiently war-torn by Macedonian authorities are now stranded in Idomeni.
Nothing about Sunday morning was business as usual for the editors and reporters at Zaman, Turkey's largest daily newspaper, who navigated to work through crowds of angry protesters and rows of heavily-armed police in riot gear outside their offices in Istanbul.
The newspaper and the media company that owns it were seized on Friday by the Turkish government, and the publication, which has a circulation of nearly 1 million, had a conspicuously pro-government slant in its Sunday edition. A picture of President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan was splashed across the front page with a headline that touted "historic excitement" about the completion of a new bridge project.
The government takeover of Zaman and the ensuing clashes between police and protesters, which made international headlines, received only a brief summary and was dwarfed by the large pictures of Erdogan. The takeover, widely condemned as yet another blow to press freedom in Turkey, was described in the Sunday edition as being part of "an independent judicial process" that had nothing to do with politics.
Thousands of activists from across the UK took to the streets of London on Sunday to protest against the ongoing conflict between the Turkish military and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Turkey's southeast.
The first large-scale national demonstration in solidarity with the Kurdish people held in the UK, the march was attended by both Kurds and non-Kurds, UK trade unions, as well as human rights activist Peter Tatchell, and British Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, and other public figures. ...
Since August 2015, the Turkish government has imposed 58 open-ended and round-the-clock curfews on 19 districts in seven cities in the country's southeast. In recent months, there has been a spike in violence in the predominantly Kurdish areas of Sur, Silopi, and Cizre, where the Turkish military has used tanks and heavy artillery to pound urban residential areas suspected of harboring PKK militants. As of January 2016, there have reportedly been 198 civilian casualties. In February 2016, Selahattin Demirtas, the co-chair of Turkey's leftist HDP party, characterized an incident where up to 60 civilians were reportedly killed while sheltering in a basement in Cizre as "mass murder."
Oh my, where have we seen this story before? I'm shocked, shocked I tell you to find that intentional mischaracterization of intelligence is going on in here!
The Sunday Telegraph interviewed a number of experts on Libya this weekend, with many warning that the Western plans to launch a war against ISIS in Libya are based largely on “faulty intelligence” from US officials.
“The estimates of the number of jihadists is grossly exaggerated,” noted Atlantic Council’s Libya expert Karim Mezran, referencing recent US intelligence assessments which have claimed between 5,000 and 6,500 ISIS fighters in Libya. ...
Privately US officials say they too are skeptical of the assessment’s large number. At the same time, the US has been eager to expand the ISIS war, and Libya is a convenient place to do that, so for many policymakers, the assessment fits the narrative, and whether the assessment is true or not is very much beside the point.
North Korea has denounced the annual military drills between the United States and South Korea that are scheduled to begin on Monday, and warned that its military could "beat up the US mainland at any time." ...
Pyongyang regularly protests the drills, which they say are rehearsals for an impending war. North Korean state media has recently stepped up its threats amid a period of increased tension on the Korean peninsula. ...
"We have cutting-edge attack methods to beat up the U.S. mainland at anytime and from anywhere," the KRT news reader said. "Also we have diligently developed and deployed Juche (self-reliant) weapons in the era of the Workers' Party of Korea, which enables us to fire strong artilleries."
"If a war breaks out on the Korean peninsula, the US will be held accountable for igniting the war by mobilizing their massive strategic means and war hardware here, regardless of who mounted a preemptive attack," the newsreader said.
A report from inside the system that Rethugs use to create crazy supporters:
“You’ve got to start shutting down the mosques that are … practicing sedition,” warned British politician Paul Weston during a session at this week’s Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. “You’ve got to stop them speaking in Urdu. You’ve got to put spies in there to see what they’re saying.”
CPAC is a mainstream, Republican-allied political conference, and this year’s featured guests included House Speaker Paul Ryan and GOP presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
But the conference also included a number of speakers who fed attendees tales of Muslims conquering Europe, infiltrating our schools, and ending Western civilization as we know it.
It began with a plenary session featuring Iowa Republican congressman Steve King, along with leading Islamophobes Jim Hanson and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
King warned of “radical Islamists in this country” entering the country illegally. He rattled off a list of Muslim-majority countries, claiming that we have “59,000 people from countries other than Mexico … illegally coming to this country. … They’re coming here to do harm.”
[Lots more reporting of the crazy at the link. - js]
A group of journalists and activists is suing the New York Police Department for civil rights violations over its use of military-grade sound cannons known as Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs) during protests against police brutality in 2014.
The lawsuit, filed late Thursday against the city and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, charges that police used the LRADs to force the dispersal of peaceful demonstrators who had gathered in midtown Manhattan on December 4, 2014 to protest the non-indictment of NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in the chokehold death of Eric Garner.
LRADs are capable of emitting shrill, pulsating blasts at decibel levels that are dangerous to human hearing. Plaintiffs Anika Edrei, Shay Horse, James Craven, Keegan Stephan, and Michael Nusbaum say they experienced hearing damage, nausea, migraines, and other injuries after two NYPD officers deployed an LRAD at close range to crowds on the night of the protest.
The "gratuitous and unlawful" use of the devices caused the plaintiffs to "endure physical and other injuries, including deprivation of their rights to free speech, assembly, expression, and to gather and disseminate information freely, as well as their free press rights," the lawsuit states. Moreover, the department failed to properly train or supervise officers in LRAD operation, it continues.
The Bank of International Settlements warns that trouble has been brewing ‘a long time’ but central bank options are dwindling
In its latest quarterly report, watched closely by investors, the BIS – which is known as the central bank of central banks – also warned that investors were concerned governments around the world were running out of policy options.
BIS chief Claudio Borio said the “uneasy calm” of previous months had given way to turbulence and a “gathering storm”. ...
In what he termed the second phase of turbulence in the last quarter, Borio said markets were plagued by fears about the health of global banks and the Bank of Japan’s shock decision to impose negative policy rates.
Persistently weak oil prices drove turbulence throughout the quarter, he said.
He argued that debt also offered a “hint” on the continuing weakness of oil prices as “highly indebted oil-producing firms come under pressure to keep the spigots open to meet their [debt] service burdens.”
A combination of debt, joblessness, globalisation, demographics and rising house prices is depressing the incomes and prospects of millions of young people across the developed world, resulting in unprecedented inequality between generations.
A Guardian investigation into the prospects of millennials – those born between 1980 and the mid-90s, and often otherwise known as Generation Y – has found they are increasingly being cut out of the wealth generated in western societies.
Where 30 years ago young adults used to earn more than national averages, now in many countries they have slumped to earning as much as 20% below their average compatriot. Pensioners by comparison have seen income soar. ...
It is likely to be the first time in industrialised history, save for periods of war or natural disaster, that the incomes of young adults have fallen so far when compared with the rest of society.
Experts are warning that this unfair settlement will have grave implications for everything from social cohesion to family formation. ...
Using exclusive data from the largest database of international incomes in the world, at LIS (Luxembourg Income Study): Cross-National Data Center, the investigation into the situation in Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the US has also established that:
- Prosperity has plummeted for young adults in the rich world.
- In the US, under-30s are now poorer than retired people.
- In the UK, pensioner disposable income has grown prodigiously – three times as fast as the income of young people.
- Millennials have suffered real terms losses in wages in the US, Italy, France, Spain, Germany and Canada and in some countries this was underway even before the 2008 financial crisis.
As the fight against McDonald's expands its global front, federal prosecutors in Brazil have opened a probe into the fast food giant and its main operator in Latin America, Arcos Dorados, for alleged violations of tax, labor, and franchise laws.
The investigation comes in response to a petition from Brazil's General Workers' Union (UGT), which asked the country's Public Prosecution Service to open a civil inquiry into allegations of tax dodging, unfair competition, and labor infringements. The complaint alleged McDonald's has organized its business in Brazil in a way that allows it to avoid taxes, skirt compliance with local franchise laws, and engage in anti-competitive behavior that disadvantages competitors and consumers alike.
Furthermore, the New York Times reports, the inquiry will look into whether Arcos Dorados "paid bribes to government officials in return for favors from Brazil’s tax collection regulator."
The news comes on the heels of an "unprecedented" hearing last summer, during which workers from five continents, elected officials, and international labor leaders gathered in Brasília to testify before the Brazilian Federal Senate on how McDonald's is "driving a global race to the bottom."
It was considered big news last week that House members Maxine Waters of the Financial Services Committee and Al Green of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations have requested that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) launch an investigation of “regulatory capture” on Wall Street.
That news broke on Friday, one day after Senator Elizabeth Warren grilled the head of a Wall Street self-regulatory agency in a Senate hearing on a new study showing that stockbrokers with serial records of misconduct are allowed to remain in the industry. Warren also cited another recent study showing that even when investors prevail in arbitrations against bad brokers, they may never get paid. According to the study, over $60 million in fines owed to investors have not been paid since 2013.
The individual that Senator Warren was grilling is Richard Ketchum, head of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), a self-regulatory body financed by Wall Street that oversees brokerage firms and has a division that runs a private justice system known as mandatory arbitration that hears all claims against bad brokers. FINRA was previously known as the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) but its reputation became so damaged as a self-regulator that it changed its name to FINRA. (Like that was really going to help.)
What the public doesn’t know is that for over 30 years, the GAO has been investigating these identical problems on Wall Street and making recommendations for cleaning up the mess. After 30 years, it should be abundantly clear that reading GAO reports and shaking one’s head isn’t getting the job done. Serious, radical reform of Wall Street is necessary and that means eliminating crony regulators and the entire self-regulatory system.
Congress has known for decades that self-regulation doesn’t work. And installing Wall Street’s former lawyers or Wall Street executives at the SEC doesn’t work either. Tolerating the systemic conflicts of interest at the New York Fed, the sole regulator of Wall Street bank holding companies, has been catastrophic to the U.S. economy. Congress fully understands what’s causing regulatory capture; it just doesn’t have the guts to do anything about it but kick the can down the road to the GAO.
As far as electing another U.S. President whose campaign has been financed by Wall Street and expecting a different outcome, let’s hope and pray most Americans are smarter than that.
Shortly after they took the stage, the Associated Press announced that Sanders had won the Democratic caucuses in Maine, his eighth victory in the 2016 presidential primary race. In a statement, the leftwing Vermont senator thanked Maine’s voters and claimed momentum heading into Tuesday’s primaries in Michigan and Mississippi.
Onstage he and the former secretary of state had one of their sharpest exchanges yet when they were asked by a member of the audience about trade and job creation, an issue Sanders had been attacking Clinton over in the lead-up to the debate.
“Secretary Clinton supported virtually every one of the disastrous trade agreements written by corporate America,” Sanders said.
“He voted against the money that ended up saving the auto industry,” Clinton replied. “I think that is a pretty big difference.”
“If you are talking about the Wall Street bailout, where some of your friends destroyed this economy … ” Sanders began.
“You know…” Clinton interjected, before Sanders cut her off: “Excuse me, I’m talking,” he said, dismissing her with his hand.
Sanders repeatedly attacked Clinton’s past support for international trade agreements, an issue he is attempting to use against her in Michigan in order to win blue-collar votes in the rust-belt industrial state. ...
Just before the debate, Sanders earned the endorsement of former Michigan Senator Don Riegle, a native of Flint. During an impromptu press conference, Riegle said the Clintons’ support for the Nafta trade agreement “destroyed the Flint I loved”.
When asked on CNN's "State of the Union" how he will appeal to black voters, the Vermont senator said his campaign is seeing "not just a racial divide, but a generational divide."
"We are doing better and better with younger people, whether they're black, Latino or white," he said. ...
"And what we have done, based on yesterday at this point, we have now won seven primaries and caucuses all across this country, all with double-digit victories," he said.
He added that if the turnout is high in Maine on Sunday, he thinks he has a good chance of winning there.
[Update: Sanders won Maine with a yuuuge double-digit margin - js]
Record-breaking turnout fueled a dramatic day of voting and an emphatic victory for Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton in the Maine caucus on Sunday, topping a weekend where the senator bested the former secretary of state in three out of four contests nationwide.
With more than 90 percent of precincts reporting, the Maine Democratic Party results showed that Sanders claimed 64 percent of the vote to Clinton's 36 percent. On Saturday, as Common Dreams reported, Sanders also won in Nebraska and Kansas. In the four total contests over the weekend, Clinton's sole victory came in Louisiana.
In a statement late on Sunday, Sanders thanked voters in Maine where he said the large margin of victory shows he can be competitive nationwide. "With another double-digit victory, we have now won by wide margins in states from New England to the Rocky Mountains and from the Midwest to the Great Plains," declared Sanders. "This weekend alone we won in Maine, Kansas and Nebraska. The pundits might not like it but the people are making history. We now have the momentum to go all the way to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia."
According to local reporting from across the state, it appears—in addition to the obvious support for his political message—that record turnout was the driving factor for Sanders' win. In a tweet, the Maine Democratic Party said the number of voters on Sunday was unprecedented in state history. "More Maine Democrats caucused today than ever before," said the message.
Bernie Sanders's insurgent presidential campaign has opened up a debate about how social change happens in our society. The official version of how progress is won -- currently voiced by mainstream pundits and members of a spooked Democratic Party establishment -- goes something like this: politics is a tricky business, gains coming through the work of pragmatic insiders who know how to maneuver within the system. In order to get things done, you have to play the game, be realistic, and accept the established limits of debate in Washington, D.C.
A recent article in the Atlantic summed up this perspective with the tagline, "At this polarized moment, it's incremental change or nothing." This view, however, leaves out a critical driver of social transformation. It fails to account for what might be the most important engine of progress: grassroots movements by citizens demanding change.
Social change is seldom either as incremental or predictable as many insiders suggest. Every once in a while, an outburst of resistance seems to break open a world of possibility, creating unforeseen opportunities for transformation. Indeed, according to that leading theorist of disruptive power, Frances Fox Piven, the “great moments of equalizing reform in American political history” -- securing labor rights, expanding the vote, or creating a social safety net -- have been directly related to surges of widespread defiance.
Unlike elected officials who preoccupy themselves with policies considered practical and attainable within the political climate of the moment, social movements change the political weather. They turn issues and demands considered both unrealistic and politically inconvenient into matters that can no longer be ignored; they succeed, that is, by championing the impractical.
Such movements, of course, face immense barriers, but that shouldn’t stop us from acknowledging their importance and highlighting the key role played by moments of mass defiance in shaping our world. Outbreaks of hope and determined impracticality provide an important rebuttal to the politics of accommodation, to the idea that the minor tweaking of the status quo is the best we can expect in our lifetimes.
There were many disagreements during Thursday night’s GOP presidential debate in Detroit, but frontrunners Donald Trump and Ted Cruz agreed on one thing: Money buys influence in politics.
Cruz challenged Trump for making campaign contributions to Democrats. Trump responded by saying that he has “supported Democrats, and I’ve supported Republicans. And as a businessman, I owed that to my company, to my family, to my workers, to everybody to get along.” ...
Cruz allowed that making campaign contributions as a way of buying influence was understandable. ... Cruz instead accused Trump of making the contributions as an expression of his political support — which, of course, is the only historically acceptable reason to give money to campaigns:
That’s not what Donald Trump did. Donald Trump supported Jimmy Carter over Ronald Reagan. Donald supported John Kerry over George W. Bush. If you don’t like Obamacare, Donald Trump funded Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi taking over Congress to pass Obamacare.
Trump objected that his contributions were not political in nature, but purely transactional.
A critical part of Trump University’s sales pitch to prospective students was the claim that Donald Trump personally selected the program’s instructors — a claim repeated over and over in the company’s marketing literature. Trump University’s direct mail advertising included letters with Trump’s signature on them that claimed that Trump University students would receive guidance from Trump’s “handpicked instructors and mentors.” ...
But in a brief filed yesterday in a class-action lawsuit, attorneys representing thousands of former students revealed that in a video recorded deposition, Trump “confessed under oath that he did not handpick a single TU live events instructor.” Trump further “acknowledged that other instructors’ presentations showed they lied to students about their connections to him.”
Not only did Trump have nothing to do with selecting instructors, “he personally did nothing to confirm their purported qualifications” and “could not identify a single live events instructor or mentor by name or pick one out of a photo lineup,” according to the brief. (For his part, Trump claimed that the reason he never personally interviewed even his top instructors was that he had heard that the school was doing well, and thus deemed it unnecessary.)
Many of the “handpicked” instructors have testified that they have never met Trump. In the depositions, Trump was unable to even affirm whether his instructors had ever bought or sold real estate before.
During Sunday's Democratic presidential debate in Flint, Michigan, where environmental issues are especially critical as residents grapple with a water contamination crisis, moderators asked the candidates where they stand on the controversial gas extraction method that involves injecting chemicals and water deep underground.
Clinton answered, "I don’t support it when any locality or any state is against it, number one. I don’t support it when the release of methane or contamination of water is present. I don’t support it, number three, unless we can require that anybody who fracks has to tell us exactly what chemicals they are using. By the time we get through all of my conditions, I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place."
Sanders countered, "My answer is a lot shorter. No, I do not support fracking."
As the audience applauded, Sanders added, "This is a crisis we've got to deal with now."
Original post, March 1, 2016: Our planet’s preliminary February temperature data are in, and it’s now abundantly clear: Global warming is going into overdrive.
There are dozens of global temperature datasets, and usually I (and my climate journalist colleagues) wait until the official ones are released about the middle of the following month to announce a record-warm month at the global level. But this month’s data is so extraordinary that there’s no need to wait: February obliterated the all-time global temperature record set just last month.
Using unofficial data and adjusting for different base-line temperatures, it appears that February 2016 was likely somewhere between 1.15 and 1.4 degrees warmer than the long-term average, and about 0.2 degrees above last month—good enough for the most above-average month ever measured. (Since the globe had already warmed by about +0.45 degrees above pre-industrial levels during the 1981-2010 base-line meteorologists commonly use, that amount has been added to the data released today.) ...
Update, March 3, 2016: Since this post was originally published, the heat wave has continued. As of Thursday morning, it appears that average temperatures across the Northern Hemisphere have breached the 2 degrees Celsius above “normal” mark for the first time in recorded history, and likely the first time since human civilization began thousands of years ago.* That mark has long been held (somewhat arbitrarily) as the point above which climate change may begin to become "dangerous" to humanity. It's now arrived—though very briefly—much more quickly than anticipated. This is a milestone moment for our species.
Gov. Rick Snyder has hired two outside attorneys in connection with the Flint drinking water crisis, including a criminal defense attorney retained to serve as "investigatory counsel," a Snyder spokesman confirmed Thursday.
Eugene Driker, a civil defense attorney, and Brian Lennon, a criminal defense attorney, were each awarded a contract worth $249,000 through Dec. 31, after which those contracts can be extended, Snyder spokesman Ari Adler told the Free Press. ...
Adler said the work of an investigatory counsel includes searching and processing e-mails and other records. That included work that was required for Snyder's release of thousands of e-mails related to the Flint drinking water crisis over the weekend, he said.
"We do not believe there will be a need for criminal defense, because the governor and his administration have not committed any crimes," Adler said. But a firm like Warner Norcross & Judd, where Lennon is a partner, "has the ability to assist with quickly reviewing a massive amount of documents."
The office of Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is representing the governor and other state defendants in a raft of lawsuits that have been filed related to the lead contamination of Flint's drinking water and a possible link between Flint's drinking water and outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease in the Flint area that killed nine people. Driker and Lennon would provide legal assistance in addition to what is being provided by the AG.
"We retain outside counsel ... to complement what the Attorney General's Office is doing," he said.
In the midst of the Flint water crisis and recently heightened concerns about an underground plume of dioxane contaminating drinking water supplies in the Ann Arbor area — both situations in which it's abundantly clear the government could have done more to protect people — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is looking to change the culture of the state's bureaucracy.
"Clearly what is happening in Flint and what is happening in Ann Arbor is bringing to the forefront the importance of water quality for everyone," Ari Adler, Snyder's director of communications, told The Ann Arbor News on Friday. ...
Adler said the governor is concerned about the plume of dioxane that continues to spread through the groundwater in Ann Arbor and Scio Township, where a family with three young children was alarmed this week to find out they've been drinking dioxane-poisoned well water for the last two and a half years while government officials knew about it and never reached out to inform them of the risks. ...
The Ann Arbor News reported this week that residents and businesses in Scio Township have had dioxane in their drinking water wells at concentrations as high as 54 parts per billion, but no action was taken by the state to remedy the situation because it was below the state's longstanding standard of 85 ppb.
The DEQ, under Snyder's administration, was required by law to revise the state's standards by December 2013 to reflect the latest scientific findings. But after years of repeated delays and missed deadlines, that still hasn't happened.
The DEQ acknowledged this week the standards revisions didn't move forward three years ago as required because they didn't have consensus among stakeholders, including the polluters, who couldn't agree on things like whether the exposure assumptions for toxic chemicals should take into account children.
North Harford Maple is a family business owned by Cathy Holleran that produces maple sap and syrup utilizing their sugarbush. ...
The Constitution Pipeline is a project of Williams Pipeline Companies and Cabot Oil & Gas to be used to transport shale gas obtained through the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The right of way would be at least 100 feet wide, with additional intermittent 50 foot wide workspaces and access roads.
According to Kelly Finan on her Facebook wall, “In 2015, the Constitution Pipeline company used eminent domain to seize my best friend’s family maple stand for their natural gas pipeline in New Milford, PA. The family has not been compensated for their land. In New York, the permitting for the pipeline has not been completed, so the family argued that cutting trees on their property was preemptive. When the family politely denied tree crews access to their property last month, the company took the family to federal court in an attempt to have them fined and put in federal prison for violating the eminent domain court order. Today the company arrived on the property with assault rifle-bearing federal marshals. They cut down the trees.”
“If the American flag stands for anything,” Rich Garella said on Finan’s Facebook page, “it stands for the rights that are enshrined in the Constitution. These pipeline companies are misusing eminent domain and the courts are on the side of the companies. They are taking land, scarring our countryside and destroying livelihoods for the sake not of public use, but of private profit and nothing more.”
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Texas Alexander - Easy Rider Blues
Barbecue Bob - Motherless Chile Blues
Barbecue Bob - Yo Yo Blues
Texas Alexander - Range in My Kitchen
Barbecue Bob - Chocolate to the Bone
Texas Alexander - The House Of The Rising Sun
Texas Alexander & 'Little Hat' Jones - Ninety-Eight Degree Blues