The Evening Blues - 4-17-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features soul singer Joe Simon. Enjoy!
Joe Simon - Raise Your Hand
"We know that dictators are quick to choose aggression, while free nations strive to resolve differences in peace."
-- George W. Bush
News and Opinion
British, West German and French intelligence agencies sought advice from South America’s bloody 1970s dictatorships on how to combat leftwing “subversion”, according to a newly declassified CIA document. The European intelligence services wanted to learn about “Operation Condor”, a secret programme in which the dictatorships of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador conspired to kidnap and assassinate members of leftwing guerrilla groups in each other’s territories.
Exactly how many people died as a result is unknown, but the conspiracy led to the deaths of at least 100 people in Argentina. And according to the CIA document dated 7 April 1978, European spies were keen to find out how it worked. “Representatives of West German, French and British intelligence services had visited the Condor organization secretariat in Buenos Aires during the month of September 1977 in order to discuss methods for establishment of an anti-subversion organization similar to Condor,” states the document.
“The terrorist/subversive threat had reached such dangerous levels in Europe that they believed it best if they pooled their intelligence resources in a cooperative organization such as Condor,” the Europeans told the Condor secretariat in Buenos Aires, according to the CIA document. ... The document forms part of an astounding 47,000 pages of secret US files relating to Argentina’s bloody 1976-83 dictatorship which were released on Friday.
Consisting mostly of CIA and FBI files, the previously unseen documents throw a sharp light on the dark operations of Argentina’s seven-year military regime and the gruesome methods it employed to annihilate thousands of mostly young people.
ICC Makes “Dangerous Decision” to Drop Probe into U.S. War Crimes in Afghanistan After U.S. Pressure
It’s just as you suspected; the information age has changed the general attention span. A recently published study from researchers at the Technical University of Denmark suggests the collective global attention span is narrowing due to the amount of information that is presented to the public. Released on Monday in the scientific journal Nature Communications, the study shows people now have more things to focus on – but often focus on things for short periods of time. ...
In a press release from the Technical University of Denmark, Professor Sune Lehmann, who worked on the study, said: “It seems that the allocated attention time in our collective minds has a certain size but the cultural items competing for that attention have become more densely packed.”
“Content is increasing in volume, which exhausts our attention and our urge for ‘newness’ causes us to collectively switch between topics more regularly,” said Philipp Lorenz-Spreen of Max Planck Institute for Human Development that also participated in the study. The findings mostly correlate to the greater public, not the individuals who are seeing and creating the consumed media, like journalists who must compete in the accelerated news cycle.
Assange, jailed last week after being forcibly removed from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, was awarded the 2019 GUE/NGL Award for Journalists, Whistleblowers & Defenders of the Right to Information.
It is sponsored by European parliamentarians after being established in 2018 in honour of assassinated Maltese journalist Daphne Galizia.
The award is given to individuals "uncovering the truth and exposing it to the public" and to honour "individuals or groups who have been intimidated and/or persecuted for uncovering the truth and exposing it to the public".
Nobel Peace prize winner Mairead Maguire collected the award on the Australian's behalf at an event in the European parliament in Strasbourg.
Jimmy Carter Took Call About China From Concerned Donald Trump: 'China Has Not Wasted a Single Penny on War'
Former President Jimmy Carter told a church congregation this weekend that he had spoken with President Donald Trump about China on Saturday, and said the commander in chief was worried that Beijing had outpaced its global rivals. ... Carter, 94, said Trump was worried that “China is getting ahead of us,” and suggested the president was right to be concerned.
He told the congregation that Trump feared China's growing economic strength. Economic modeling indicated that China would overtake the U.S. as the world’s strongest economy by 2030, and many experts have said that we were already living in what has been dubbed the “Chinese Century.” Carter said he did not “really fear that time, but it bothers President Trump and I don’t know why. I’m not criticizing him this morning,” he added, to laughs from fellow churchgoers.
Carter—who normalized diplomatic relations between Washington and Beijing in 1979—suggested that China’s breakneck growth had been facilitated by sensible investment and buoyed by peace. “Since 1979, do you know how many times China has been at war with anybody?” Carter asked. “None. And we have stayed at war.” The U.S., he noted, has only enjoyed 16 years of peace in its 242-year history, making the country “the most warlike nation in the history of the world,” Carter said. This is, he said, because of America’s tendency to force other nations to “adopt our American principles.”
In China, meanwhile, the economic benefits of peace were clear to the eye. “How many miles of high-speed railroad do we have in this country?” he asked. While China has some 18,000 miles of high-speed rail, the U.S. has “wasted, I think, $3 trillion” on military spending. “It’s more than you can imagine. China has not wasted a single penny on war, and that’s why they’re ahead of us. In almost every way.”
Iran’s parliament has overwhelmingly approved a bill labelling US forces in the Middle East as terrorist, a day after Washington’s terrorism label for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard formally took effect.
The defence minister, Gen Amir Hatami, introduced the bill on Tuesday authorising the government to act firmly in response to “terrorist actions” by US forces. It demands authorities use “legal, political and diplomatic” measures to neutralise the American move, without elaborating.
Donald Trump and the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, announced last week that the US had designated the guards as a foreign terrorist organization, marking the first time Washington has formally named a branch of the armed forces of a foreign government as a terrorist group.
The US move aims at “thwarting Iran’s influence” and shows that America’s longstanding sanctions against Iran have become ineffective, Hatami told lawmakers. During the debate, some hardline lawmakers had demanded listing the entire US army and security forces as terrorist.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday vetoed a resolution passed by Congress to end U.S. military assistance in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.
The veto — the second in Trump’s presidency — was expected, and Congress lacks the votes to override it. But passing the never-before-used war powers resolution was viewed as a milestone for lawmakers, who have shown a renewed willingness to assert their war-making authority after letting it atrophy for decades under presidents from both parties.
“This resolution is an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities, endangering the lives of American citizens and brave service members, both today and in the future,” Trump wrote in explaining his veto.
Congress has grown uneasy with Trump’s close relationship with Saudi Arabia as he tries to further isolate Iran, a regional rival. ...
The president also said that the measure would harm bilateral relations and interferes with his constitutional power as commander in chief.
Material stolen by intruders from the North Korean Embassy in Madrid in February has been returned by Spanish authorities to Pyongyang's mission without a review of the contents, a Spanish judicial source said on Tuesday.
Investigators said the intruders, self-professed members of a group seeking the overthrow of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, removed computers and hard drives from the embassy before fleeing to the United States, where they handed the material to the FBI.
The Spanish judicial source said the FBI returned the material two weeks ago to the Spanish court investigating the raid. The court did not review the material before turning it over to the North Korean Embassy, in keeping with standard practice to protect diplomatic information, the source said.
Another source, familiar with the U.S. government involvement in the case, confirmed the FBI had returned the material to Spanish authorities. It was not known how the material was handled while in the United States.
Jeremy Corbyn has said Brexit talks with the government are stalling because of a Tory desire for post-withdrawal deregulation, including as part of a US trade deal. Corbyn said Labour had been putting forward a robust case for a customs union during the talks over the past week but suggested he feared the two sides would not find common ground. ...
Meetings are scheduled this week between ministers and shadow ministers on environmental protections, security and workers’ rights, which Corbyn described as “quite interesting, quite long technical discussions, particularly on environment regulations”. However, there will be no discussion before Easter on the big issues of a customs union or a confirmatory referendum.
Corbyn underlined again that an agreement could only be reached if Theresa May was prepared to accept Labour’s central demand for a common external tariff policy with the EU. “The government doesn’t appear to be shifting the red lines because they’ve got a big pressure in the Tory party that actually wants to turn this country into a deregulated, low-tax society which will do a deal with Trump. I don’t want to do that,” he said.
Huawei bosses have accused the US government of being “ignorant of technology” and belittling national security concerns with unsubstantiated claims the company is an arm of the Chinese state and its mobile network can be used to spy on western governments.
John Suffolk, Huawei’s chief security officer and the UK government’s former chief IT adviser, said US politicians had not produced any evidence to back up claims that Huawei’s forthcoming 5G mobile technology could be hacked by Chinese spies to eavesdrop on sensitive phone calls – or even kill targets by crashing driverless cars.
Suffolk, who was one of the highest-paid British civil servants before he left for Huawei in 2011, said America’s allegations were motivated by politics and “certainly not security” concerns. “[America] can’t keep saying [Huawei] has got some dodgy technology. [Edward] Snowden revealed all kind of things going on with American technology,” he said. “No one has revealed anything that we do [is bad].
Peter Zhou, the Huawei executive in charge of rolling out 5G, which could be up to 100 times faster than 4G, said he American politicians and officials were “ignorant of technology” and he often had to “explain it to them like I do to my kids”.
'The Greed of UnitedHealth Is Killing Americans': Progressives Hit Back as Insurance CEO Bashes Medicare for All
The CEO of America's largest private insurance company faced a flood of pushback from progressives Tuesday after he launched a misleading attack on Medicare for All. UnitedHealth Group CEO David Wichmann said during a call with investors that Medicare for All would "destabilize the nation's health system"—a common talking point that has been deployed by the right-wing media, Republicans, and establishment Democrats.
"And the inherent cost burden would surely have a severe impact on the economy and jobs—all without fundamentally increasing access to care," Wichmann said.
Under the Medicare for All plans introduced in both the House and Senate, every American would be guaranteed comprehensive health coverage. Two studies released over the past year—including one from a Koch-funded think tank—showed single-payer would result in trillions of dollars in savings compared to the current for-profit system.
"As usual, an insurance company CEO has got it backward—Medicare for All stabilizes healthcare for people, as Senator [Bernie] Sanders said last night on Fox News, and disrupts the failed business model of the insurance industry," Michael Lighty, founding fellow of the Sanders Institute, told Common Dreams. "So yes, we will end the insurance company denials of care, eliminate premiums, deductibles, and co-pays, no longer allow our taxes to subsidize their profits," Lighty said. "We will 'destabilize' UnitedHealth's ability to enrich themselves at the expense of our healthcare."
Whether the UnitedHealth CEO likes it or not, we will no longer tolerate a system allowing him to make $83.2 million while Americans go bankrupt when they get sick. The greed of UnitedHealth is killing Americans. Together, we will end it. #MedicareForAll https://t.co/opuu0WAtHa
— Warren Gunnels (@GunnelsWarren) April 16, 2019
The Trump administration has opened the door to a seismic overhaul of immigration and asylum procedure that could lead to the indefinite detention of thousands of asylum seekers who cross the border illegally. The US attorney general, William Barr, on Tuesday issued guidance overruling a precedent set by George W Bush’s justice department in 2005, which enshrined asylum seekers’ right to bond, irrespective of how they entered the country.
Barr stated in his updated guidance that the 2005 decision was “wrongly decided” and he would move to block immigration judges from offering people who have crossed the border illegally and have established a reasonable claim of torture or persecution the chance of release as their cases are decided in immigration court. With the immigration court backlog at an all time high – there are close to 900,000 pending cases – asylum seekers are waiting over 1,000 days on average for their cases to be processed, meaning Barr’s decision could lead to the indefinite detention of thousands of people.
Immigration enforcement is currently holding a record number of people, over 50,000, in detention as part of the Trump administration’s broad crackdown on migrants. Barr’s decision is likely to significantly add to that number as the Department of Homeland Security [DHS] prepares erect new tent detention facilities close to the border.
President Trump has no regrets about tweeting a 9/11 video that Rep. Ilhan Omar says caused a spike in threats against her life. During a visit to Minnesota, Omar’s home state, Trump told a local reporter why he tweeted a video Friday that interspersed a single sentence Omar said — ”some people did something” — with footage from the terrorist attacks.
“She’s been very disrespectful to this country,” Trump said of Omar. “She’s been very disrespectful, frankly, to Israel. She is somebody that doesn’t really understand, I think, life, real life.”
REPORTER: Congresswoman Omar says your video led to direct threats on her life. Any second thoughts?
TRUMP: "No, not at all." pic.twitter.com/wiSNptg0F3
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 16, 2019
A white Detroit woman being sued by a black man in a high-profile case for repeatedly fabricating charges against him to police has hired an attorney who previously represented white supremacist leaders like Richard Spencer. ... Deborah Nash is now being represented by Kyle Bristow, a self-proclaimed alt-right attorney who in 2018 brought legal challenges against universities that denied Spencer permission to speak on campus.
Nash is a defendant in the lawsuit because she and two other white women accused Marc Peeples, a black urban farmer, of brandishing a gun, participating in a drive-by shooting targeting one of their homes, and being a convicted pedophile. The final accusation led to Peeple’s arrest, though none of the accusations were true.
A judge tossed that criminal case in October, calling it “ridiculous” and “disgusting” while admonishing police and prosecution for moving forward with it.
Peeples is asking the court to award $300,000 in damages. He and his attorney, Robert Burton-Harris, allege that the three women “knowingly fabricated all of [their] allegations” and “acted intentionally and concertedly to cause Marc economic harm and emotional distress”. Their behavior was “extreme, malicious, wanton, and outrageous”, the complaint says.
Sen. Bernie Sanders' 2020 presidential campaign is rapidly gaining momentum early in the primary fight, and corporate Democrats are reportedly starting to get nervous. The New York Times reported Tuesday that political operative David Brock has discussed launching "an anti-Sanders campaign" with other Democratic strategists and "believes it should commence 'sooner rather than later.'"
"[T]he Bernie question comes up in every fundraising meeting I do," Brock said.
In a fundraising letter sent shortly after the Times article was published, Sanders' campaign manager Faiz Shakir said the corporate forces working to stop the Vermont senator from becoming the Democratic nominee "don't just hate Bernie Sanders."
"They hate everything our political revolution embodies," wrote Shakir. "They hate Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, breaking up big banks, free public college for all."
Brock, a former Republican "media hitman," is just one of many prominent Democratic operatives and deep-pocketed donors who are "agonizing" over the possibility of the Vermont senator becoming the Democratic presidential nominee, according to the Times. Steven Rattner, a Wall Street financer who served as head of Obama's Auto Task Force, told the Times that Sanders is discussed "endlessly" among his circle of wealthy Democratic benefactors. ...
The Times added:
The matter of What To Do About Bernie and the larger imperative of party unity has, for example, hovered over a series of previously undisclosed Democratic dinners in New York and Washington organized by the longtime party financier Bernard Schwartz. The gatherings have included scores from the moderate or center-left wing of the party, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi; Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader; former Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia; Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., himself a presidential candidate; and the president of the Center for American Progress (CAP), Neera Tanden.
The Times' reporting comes just days after Sanders sent a scathing letter (pdf) to CAP denouncing the organization for playing a "destructive role" in the effort to defeat Trump in 2020. ...
In response to the Times' reporting on Tuesday, Splinter's Libby Watson pointed out that a significant component of Sanders' popularity among progressives lies in the fact that he is despised by the corporate donor class and the Democratic establishment.
— libby watson (@libbycwatson) April 16, 2019
Why does the New York Times take rich liberals at their word that their concern with Bernie Sanders is that he would lose to Trump, rather than the obvious, glaring fact that his election would run counter to their interests? The New York Times (4/16/19) profiled a network of “wealthy liberal donors” who, shockingly, are not fans of Bernie Sanders, who according to the same report has rejected their big-bundler funding and instead opted for small donations. (The Times reported the same day that 84 percent of Sanders’ donations are less than $200; by contrast, only 37 percent of Kamala Harris’ donations are.)
That a network of multi-millionaire and billionaire donors would dislike a candidate who not only rejects their funding, but is actively trying to tax them at rates not seen since 1960, would surely be enough reason to explain why these wealthy elites would want to “stop” his nomination. But not to the credulous New York Times, which takes at face value rich donors’ claim to oppose Sanders because they believe he simply can’t defeat Trump:
Mainstream Democrats are increasingly worried that their effort to defeat President Trump in 2020 could be complicated by Mr. Sanders….
“Some in the party still harbor anger over the 2016 race, when he ran against Hillary Clinton, and his ongoing resistance to becoming a Democrat. But his critics are chiefly motivated by a fear that nominating an avowed socialist would all but ensure Mr. Trump a second term.”
For the wealthy, ideology simply doesn’t exist. No, they’re just Very Concerned about fielding the Best Candidate.
Because it would be unseemly to suggest a group of super-rich hedge fund managers, Hollywood producers and CEOs would dislike a candidate who has made a career out of promising to expropriate the bulk of their wealth, we get a faux pragmatism argument. But polls show Sanders defeating Trump with numbers comparable to any other declared candidate—a fact the New York Times never bothers to mention, letting the idea go unchallenged that “socialist” (!!) Sanders is an electoral liability. The simpler, less altruistic motive is simply never entertained.
Throughout the article, the Times’ Jonathan Martin bizarrely used “mainstream Democrats” and “Democrats” to refer to what is little more than a clique of wealthy donors. ... But why would “Democrats” want to “stop Mr. Sanders”? Sanders has a 78 percent favorability rating among Democrats and leads every poll among declared candidates. Martin is, of course, not talking about “Democrats” or “mainstream Democrats”; he’s talking about rich donors. But because it would be vulgar to mention their obvious class interests, they morph into simply “Democrats” without explanation.
A new study about the record-breaking rain that Hurricane Maria dropped on Puerto Rico in 2017 offers more evidence that the climate crisis is making extreme weather events more common and destructive. The report, recently published in the American Geophysical Union's journal Geophysical Research Letters, focuses on data from the 129 major storms that impacted the U.S. territory between 1956 and 2016.
"What we found was that Maria's magnitude of peak precipitation is much more likely in the climate of 2017 when it happened versus the beginning of the record," lead author David Keellings, a geographer at the University of Alabama, said in a statement Tuesday.
Specifically, a storm like Maria—which caused unprecedented flooding and landslides that severely damaged the island's electrical, water, and communications infrastructure—was nearly five times more likely two years ago than it was in the middle of the last century, according to the study. Maria produced more rain than any other regional storm in the six decades studied.
“What we found was that Maria’s magnitude of peak precipitation is much more likely in the climate of 2017 when it happened versus the beginning of the record in 1950.”
— Am Geophysical Union (@theAGU) April 16, 2019
Previous research tied Hurricane Harvey's intense rains—which hit the Houston area in 2017—to human-caused global warming, but this study was the first to examine rainfall in Puerto Rico. Those findings build on scientists' broader warnings in recent years about the future of extreme weather. As Keellings put it, "Due to anthropogenic climate change it is now much more likely that we get these hurricanes that drop huge amounts of precipitation."
The pioneering golden eagle took to the skies above Yellowstone national park in the fall and flew north, to areas where humans were hunting game. A few months later it returned to the park and was found on the ground, dead. Scientists performing a necropsy on the creature, the first to be tagged with a radio transmitter in the park, made an unhappy discovery: it had been poisoned by lead. They are now raising concerns over whether US national parks are as safe for wildlife as they seem.
“This bird had a substantial amount of lead put into its system in a very quick way,” said Todd Katzner, a research wildlife biologist with the US Geological Survey. “You don’t get that from breathing lead. It ingested something.”
The bird probably ingested lead ammunition fragments from big game carcasses. Lead bullets have been a source of controversy in the US hunting community for years. Conservationists argue for the use of alternatives such as copper bullets. Shooting sports advocates say non-lead ammunition is costly and that lead has been used for hundreds of years.
The topic has also become a flash point in national politics. In early 2017, the day before former president Barack Obama left office, his administration signed an order phasing out the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle on most federal lands managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The ban was overturned less than two months later by the former interior secretary Ryan Zinke.
It is the third time an eagle trapped for research in the northern Yellowstone region has died of lead poisoning in the last eight years.
A trove of data showing when the Atlantic began choking with plastic has been uncovered in the handwritten logbooks of a little-known but doggedly persistent plankton study dating back to the middle of the last century. From fishing twine found in the ocean in the 50s, then a first carrier bag in 1965, it reflects how the marine refuse problem grew from small, largely ignored incidents to become a matter of global concern.
The unique dataset, published in Nature Communications, is based on records from the continuous plankton recorder, a torpedo-shaped marine sampling device that has been towed across more than 6.5m nautical miles of ocean over the past 60 years. ...
The start of the problem was so slow it was barely noticed. The log shows strands of fishing twine found off the east coast of Iceland in 1957, then a carrier bag in waters to the north-west of Ireland eight years later. The paper states this was a couple of years before the first reports of turtles and seabirds becoming ensnared in plastic. Over the following decades the problem grew steadily. In the 50s, 60s and 70s, fewer than 1% of tows were disrupted by entanglements with synthetic materials. By the 90s it was almost 2%, and in the first decade of this century the increase “was of an order of magnitude”, according to the paper. The figure is now hovering somewhere between 3% and 4%.
Almost half of the interruptions are caused by discarded nets, lines and other fishing equipment. Other plastic objects account for the rest. The paper said this highlighted the dangers to sea life because the sampling device was towed by ferries and container ships at a depth of about 7 metres, where many fish and marine mammals can be found. The number of entanglements was particularly high in the southern North Sea, but the authors said the problem was evident across a very wide range of ocean.
“We’re trying to do something that’s a huge, complicated thing even though it sounds so simple,” Dr Joanne Chorysays. “Plants evolved to suck up CO2 and they’re really good at it. And they concentrate it, which no machine can do, and they make it into useful materials, like sugar. They suck up all the CO2, they fix it, then it goes back up into the atmosphere.” She is now working to design plants capable of storing even more carbon dioxide in their roots. Her Ideal Plant project uses gene editing – via traditional horticulture and Crispr – to do so. On a large scale, this could suck enough carbon out of the atmosphere to slow down climate change. ...
This concept basically splices the genes of regular crops and everyday plants like beans, corn and cotton, with a new compound that makes them absorb more carbon. Their roots then transfer it to the soil to keep it there. ... Developing these Ideal Plants is step one in the Harnessing Plants Initiative, which amplifies root systems and production of suberin – which is essentially cork, or the rind on your cantaloupe, the magic key to plants holding more of that carbon – before transferring these genetic traits to row and cover crops. Given the right resources, and funding, prototypes of each crop are expected to be ready in the next five years. ...
Chory says these new plants will have deeper and stronger root systems that will also stop erosion, another byproduct of warming temperatures, which will make soil more healthy and boost production. When normal plants die, they release large amounts of CO2 back into the air; when Ideal Plants die, significantly less CO2 will be re-released due to more carbon being stored in deeper roots and soil for longer periods, and suberin’s natural ability as a carbon polymer to resist short-term decomposition. The first two meters of the Earth’s soil holds over three times the amount of carbon as the atmosphere, and can hold even more.
BREAKING: #Maine #GreenNewDeal is FIRST in nation to be endorsed by state AFL-CIO, @MaineAFLCIO. Coalition of labor, farmers, students, teachers, small business owners, and legislators came together today to roll it out.
— Chloe Maxmin (@chloemaxmin) April 16, 2019
The teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg has chided EU leaders for holding three emergency summits on Brexit and none on the threat posed by climate change.
In a clarion call to Europe’s political leaders ahead of European parliament elections in May, the founder of the school strike movement said if politicians were serious about tackling climate change they would not spend all their time “talking about taxes or Brexit”. ...
While climate change is sometimes discussed at the EU’s regular summits, the issue has never dominated because Brexit, migration or the eurozone crisis have monopolised the attention of Europe’s top leaders.
Greta’s 10-minute speech was interrupted by frequent applause and ended with a 30-second standing ovation.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Joe Simon - Traveling Man
Joe Simon - Drowning In the Sea of Love
Joe Simon - A Teenager's Prayers & Long Hot Summer
Joe Simon - When I'm Gone
Joe Simon - Trouble In My Home
Joe Simon - Pool Of Bad Luck
Joe Simon - Nine Pound Steel
Joe Simon - Farther On Down the Road
Joe Simon - Power of Love
Joe Simon - The Chokin' Kind