The Evening Blues - 4-7-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features San Francisco folk blues musician Jesse Fuller. Enjoy!
Jesse Fuller - Take This Hammer
"The most successful war seldom pays for its losses."
-- Thomas Jefferson
News and Opinion
The coronavirus pandemic now ravaging the United States should lead every American to a series of important questions: What are the real threats that I face? What has my government been prioritizing in terms of my — and the nation’s — security? And where has all my tax money been going? Considering these questions, it’s hard not to conclude that the American government’s national security priorities have been so askew of reality that they left the country dramatically unprepared for an acute threat to millions of its people.
The last few weeks have revealed a spectacle of a federal government apparently incapable of doing what is required to stop the spread of a pandemic on American soil. Not only has testing capacity lagged far behind much smaller and less wealthy countries like Taiwan and South Korea, but shortages of critical health infrastructure will likely mean the excess deaths of potentially hundreds of thousands of Americans in the foreseeable future. Governors of large states have been publicly begging the federal government for ventilators, masks, and other basic tools to deal with the outbreak. There is little sign that the capacity even exists at present to respond to these requests. ...
The parlous state of America’s critical infrastructure has not gone unnoticed by the rest of the world amid this crisis. Even though the pandemic originated in China, the Chinese Communist Party later exhibited a reasonable ability to get the outbreak under control domestically and is now attempting to position itself as an exporter of global goods: shipping masks and doctors across Europe and Asia. While the Trump administration visibly struggles to muster an appropriate response at home, it has also been undercutting the efforts of other countries to handle the crisis. It has done so by diverting critical resources away from allies like France while attempting to exacerbate the global pandemic through economic sanctions against enemies like Iran, despite the pleading of its allies to change course.
The net result of all this might be a United States that has bled its institutions to the point of anemia in pursuit of ideological crusades abroad, only to find itself unable to compete with major rivals on the things that matter most.
Worth a full read:
If you’re watching the TV or reading newspapers – and who isn’t – you’re probably feeling scared, either for yourself or for your loved ones. All you can think about is the coronavirus. Nothing else really seems that important by comparison. And all you can hope for is the moment when the lockdowns are over and life returns to normal. But that’s not objectively the “real world” either. Terrible as the coronavirus is, and as right as anyone is to be afraid of the threat it poses, those “agents of authority” are again directing and controlling our gaze, though at least this time those in authority include doctors and scientists. And they are guiding our attention in ways that serve their interests – for good or bad. Endless tallies of infections and deaths, rocketing graphs, stories of young people, along with the elderly, battling for survival serve a purpose: to make sure we stick to the lockdown, that we maintain social distancing, that we don’t get complacent and spread the disease.
Here our interests – survival, preventing hospitals from being overwhelmed – coincide with those of the establishment, the “agents of authority.” We want to live and prosper, and they need to maintain order, to demonstrate their competence, to prevent dissatisfaction bubbling up into anger or open revolt.
Our current fear is an enemy to our developing and maintaining a critical perspective. The more we are frightened by graphs, by deaths, the more we are likely to submit to whatever we are told will keep us safe. Under cover of the public’s fear, and of justified concerns about the state of the economy and future employment, countries like the U.S. are transferring huge sums of public money to the biggest corporations. Politicians controlled by big business and media owned by big business are pushing through this corporate robbery without scrutiny – and for reasons that should be self-explanatory. They know our attention is too overwhelmed by the virus for us to assess intentionally mystifying arguments about the supposed economic benefits, about yet more illusory trickle-down.
There are many other dramatic changes being introduced, almost too many and too rapidly for us to follow them properly. Bans on movement. Intensified surveillance. Censorship. The transfer of draconian powers to the police, and preparations for the deployment of soldierson streets. Detention without trial. Martial law. Measures that might have terrified us when Trump was our main worry, or Brexit, or Russia, may now seem a price worth paying for a “return to normality”.
Paradoxically, a craving for the old-normal may mean we are prepared to submit to a new-normal that could permanently deny us any chance of returning to the old-normal. ...
Strange as this may sound right now, in the midst of our fear and suffering, the pandemic is not really the big picture either. Our attention is consumed by the virus, but it is, in a truly awful sense, a distraction too. The virus is one small warning – one among many – that we have been living out of sync with the natural world we share with other life. Our need to control and dominate, our need to acquire, our need for security, our need to conquer death – they have crowded out all else. We have followed those who promised quick, easy solutions, those who refused to compromise, those who conveyed authority, those who spread fear, those who hated. If only we could redirect our gaze, if we could seize back control of our attention for a moment, we might understand that we are being plagued not just by a virus but by our fear, our hate, our hunger, our selfishness. The evidence is there in the fires, the floods and the disease, in the insects that have disappeared, in the polluted seas, in the stripping of the planet’s ancient lungs, its forests, in the melting ice-caps. The big picture is hiding in plain sight, no longer obscured by issues like Russia and Brexit but now only by the most microscopic germ, marking the thin boundary between life and death.
Six U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortresses that deployed to Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean earlier this year flew marathon sorties to drop bombs in Afghanistan, more than 2,500 miles away. The Pentagon had sent the bombers to remote air base ostensibly to have them in position to respond to potential Iranian aggression in the Middle East, while also keeping them safely out of the range of Iran's ballistic missiles.
The deployment formally ended on Mar. 31, according to the Air Force, though it is unclear if all of the bombers have actually departed Diego Garcia.
China has demanded an explanation from Brazil after the far-right government’s education minister linked the coronavirus pandemic to Beijing’s “plan for world domination”, in a tweet imitating a Chinese accent. In the latest incident to strain ties between the two nations, minister Abraham Weintraub insinuated China was behind the global health crisis.
“Geopolitically, who will come out stronger from this global crisis?” he wrote on Twitter Saturday. “Who in Brazil is allied with this infallible plan for world domination?” In the original Portuguese, his tweet substituted the letter “r” with capital “L” - “BLazil” instead of “Brazil,” for example - in a style commonly used to mock a Chinese accent.
China’s embassy in Brazil condemned Weintraub’s “absurd and despicable” tweet, calling it “highly racist”. “The Chinese government expects an official explanation from Brazil,” tweeted ambassador Yang Wanming.
The row comes as Brazil, like many countries, is hoping to source more medical equipment from China to deal with Covid-19. Weintraub said in an interview he stood by his tweet and called on China to do more to help fight the pandemic. “If they [China] sell us 1,000 ventilators, I’ll get down on my knees in front of the embassy, apologise and say I was an idiot,” he told Radio Bandeirantes.
BARBADOS is seeking answers after the US seized a consignment of ventilators destined for the country in its battle to fight the global coronavirus pandemic, prompting accusations of “modern piracy.”
The Caribbean country’s Health Minister Jeffrey Bostic confirmed that the shipment had been barred from export by Washington for unknown reasons.
“They were seized in the United States. Paid for, but seized, so we are trying to see exactly what is going to transpire there,” he said on Sunday. ...
The US has been accused of bullying and “modern piracy” in the global scramble for much-needed medical equipment, in particular ventilators.
Prior to its seizure of the Barbados-bound ventilators, Washington was reported to have diverted a shipment of masks intended for the German police and to be using its economic muscle to outbid other countries in the global market for protective gear. Berlin authorities said last week that 200,000 N95 masks had been diverted to the US as the shipment was between planes in Thailand.
Millions of Americans risk losing running water if they fall behind with bill payments in coming months, as mass layoffs triggered by the coronavirus pandemic force families to make impossible tradeoffs on paying household expenses.
Around two-fifths of the country rely on water utilities which have not suspended the policy of shutoffs for non-payment, despite public health warnings that good hygiene – specifically frequent hand washing – is crucial to preventing spread of the highly contagious virus, according to data analysed by Food and Water Watch (FWW) and the Guardian. ...
Despite the evolving economic and health crises, less than 60% of the population have so far been protected from water shutoffs. And just 11% of these utilities have explicitly pledged to reconnect households currently without running water due to unpaid bills. “As unemployment reaches record highs, millions of Americans are going to have to choose between paying for food, rent and bills… water is not something people should have to tradeoff,” said Mary Grant, director of water at FWW.
There is no national database tracking shutoffs or the number of US households left without running water. But in 2016, one in every 20 households were disconnected by public water departments, leaving an estimated 15 million Americans without running water.
'Dry-Rotted' Supplies and 'Severe' Shortages: HHS Inspector General Report Offers Grim Look at US Coronavirus Response
The inspector general for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services warned in a report Monday that hospitals across the country are facing "severe" shortages of both staff and vital supplies like ventilators and masks—an alarming sign that America's medical facilities are ill-equipped to cope with the coming peak of the coronavirus pandemic.
The report (pdf), based on interviews with more than 300 hospital administrators from 46 states, finds that "the most commonly reported challenges centered on hospitals' efforts to confirm cases of COVID-19, to keep healthcare staff safe, and to provide needed services to patients requiring hospital care for a wide array of medical reasons, including COVID-19."
"Hospitals reported that severe shortages of testing supplies and extended waits for test results limited hospitals' ability to monitor the health of patients and staff," the document continues. "Hospitals reported that they were unable to keep up with COVID-19 testing demands because they lacked complete kits and/or the individual components and supplies needed to complete tests."
While the objective of the report was not to analyze HHS' response to the coronavirus crisis, its 41 pages contain several anecdotes that serve as damning indictments of the federal government's lack of pandemic readiness.
One hospital told the HHS inspector general that it received two federal shipments of personal protective equipment (PPE) containing supplies that expired a decade ago. "The shipment contained construction masks that looked different than traditional masks and did not contain a true N95 seal," the report states.
Other facilities, in interviews conducted between March 23-27, reported similarly deficient shipments from the Trump administration and state governments:
Some hospitals noted that at the time of our interview they had not received supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile, or that the supplies that they had received were not sufficient in quantity or quality.
One health system reported that it received 1,000 masks from the federal and state governments, but it had been expecting a larger resupply. Further, 500 of the masks were for children and therefore unusable for the health system's adult staff.
One hospital reported receiving a shipment of 2,300 N95 masks from a state strategic reserve, but the masks were not usable because the elastic bands had dry-rotted.
Ann Maxwell, HHS assistant inspector general, told NBC News that she was "taken aback" by the horror stories she heard in interviews with hospital administrators.
"It is unprecedented," said Maxwell. "I think one moment that stands out for me is when I was talking to a hospital administrator and he told me that he had staff in the hospital out trying to procure masks and gloves from auto part shops, from home supply stores, from beauty salons, from art supply stores."
The report came as medical professionals are warning that the worst of the coronavirus crisis in the U.S. is yet to come. In a Fox News interview Sunday morning, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said this week "is going to be the hardest and saddest week of most Americans' lives, quite frankly." ...
Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at HHS, said on ABC's "Good Morning America" Monday that the coming week could be "peak week" for some states in the U.S. as the coronavirus continues to spread, stretching hospitals beyond capacity and fueling concerns of an economic collapse more devastating than the Great Depression.
"For parts of the country, particularly New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Detroit, this week is going to be the peak week," said Giroir. "It's going to be the peak hospitalization, peak ICU week and, unfortunately, peak death week."
"But that doesn't mean we're over this week," Giroir added. "There are other parts of the country that will peak a little bit later, like New Orleans. So we have to be very, very serious about what's happening this week, next week, the following weeks—do the physical distancing, wear the masks, that's how we're going to defeat this virus."
'How Many More Nurses Have to Die?': Coalition of Nurses Unions Demand Life-Saving Supplies in Battle With Coronavirus
A coalition of nurses' unions on Monday demanded their members be protected in the fight against the coronavirus outbreak threatening to overwhelm the U.S. healthcare system, describing a dysfunctional approach to the pandemic that is putting frontline healthcare workers' lives in danger.
"What nurses see is every hospital operating in haphazard fashion," said Rose Roach, executive director of the Minnesota Nurses Association, in a statement. "No hospital is using the same protocols. No hospital is maintaining the same procedures. They operate differently, day to day, and even shift to shift."
The coronavirus, or COVID-19, global pandemic has already hit the U.S. healthcare system with a fury—exposing insufficient levels of personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers—and the peak of hospitalizations around the nation is not expected for another week or more.
"Instead of answering the demands nurses have been making for months to their employers and elected officials to ensure safe workplaces to protect themselves, their patients, and the public, hospitals have instead sent nurses to the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic with bandanas, scarves, and trash bags as protection," said Bonnie Castillo, executive director of National Nurses United (NNU).
Joining a nationwide wave of employee-led direct action during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, gig workers at the Target-owned grocery delivery service Shipt plan to walk off the job Tuesday and not return until the company provides them with two weeks of paid sick leave, hazard pay, and personal protective equipment.
"On Tuesday, April 7th, Shipt workers will walk off until our demands are met," the group of Shipt workers that organized the walkout wrote in a Medium post Monday. "We call on customers, in a showing of solidarity, to boycott Shipt on Friday, April 10th."
The group described their current pay as "insultingly low" particularly given the nature of the job, which requires workers—who are technically classified as independent contractors—to shop for groceries and deliver them to the homes of customers at a time when the federal government has urged people to stay home as much as possible to slow the spread of COVID-19.
"We are exposing ourselves to great risk so others don't have to," the workers wrote. "During these uncertain times, Shipt must not put profits before people. It is unconscionable for Shipt to continue to ignore the concerns of its shoppers. Target is the 8th largest retailer in the country. They can afford to protect us and our customers during this pandemic."
The Hill reported last week that Shipt drastically cut pay for orders that are canceled by customers. After workers voiced outrage at the move and said they were receiving as little as $0.29 on orders that previously netted as much as $20, Shipt vowed to pay at least $5 per canceled order—a sum Shipt workers slammed as inadequate.
"We are undervalued even as we are the most key part of the business," said one Shipt worker who plans to participate in Tuesday's protest. "We deserve higher pay and hazard pay."
In their Medium post, Shipt workers wrote that they have been "sounding the alarm for weeks" and "imploring" the company to provide basic protections like face masks and gloves.
'Smash-and-Grab Economics': Trump White House Weighing Tax Cut for Rich Investors as Workers and Small Businesses Struggle
As desperate workers, the unemployed, and small businesses struggle to obtain benefits authorized under the multi-trillion-dollar coronavirus stimulus package President Donald Trump signed into law late last month, the White House is reportedly considering an additional slate of aid measures that critics say would disproportionately favor the wealthy while providing little relief for those most in need.
The Washington Post, citing two anonymous officials familiar with White House discussions, reported late Sunday that the Trump administration is weighing "a payroll-tax cut, a capital-gains tax cut, creating 50-year Treasury bonds to lock in low interest rates, and a waiver that would clear businesses of liability from employees who contract the coronavirus on the job."
Trump is also considering an infrastructure package, according to the Post, but the idea faces internal opposition from top advisers.
Slashing the capital gains tax, a move that would overwhelmingly reward rich investors, has long been an obsession of the Trump White House and congressional Republicans. Last year, as Common Dreams reported, Trump floated the idea of bypassing Congress to index capital gains to inflation, but never acted amid warnings that such a unilateral change would be illegal.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimated in a 2018 analysis that 86% of the benefits of indexing capital gains to inflation would flow to the top 1%.
Capital gains tax cut. No detail. But (see above) they seem to like recycling bad ideas.
So take their last bad cap gains tax idea as an e.g. of the shape of distribution you can expect from a tax cut geared to people with cap gains. I.e., regressive.https://t.co/VZfWf4t0Mv pic.twitter.com/hy6q9VVuEI
— Chye-Ching Huang (@dashching) April 5, 2020
"A capital gains tax cut would be smash-and-grab economics with no value to the economic and medical calamity facing us," tweeted HuffPost senior reporter Zach Carter. ...
White House deliberations over a fresh coronavirus aid package comes as the mammoth legislation Trump signed late last month is failing to get much-needed relief into the hands of people and small businesses, vindicating progressives' warnings that the package amounted to little more than a massive bailout for big corporations replete with goodies for the well-off.
On Friday, the Trump administration launched the $350 billion small business relief program authorized under the $4.5 trillion stimulus package. But the rollout was disastrous as small businesses struggled to apply for loans and some of the biggest banks in the country sat out the process entirely as the Treasury Department failed to provide adequate guidance.
"The estimate is there are 30 million small businesses out there," wrote David Dayen, executive editor of The American Prospect. "About 4.5% of all of them will have a chance to get relief. Half of small businesses haven't paid rent in April, which if I'm doing the math correctly is more than 4.5%. And millions of them will have no federal help, no customers, and really no hope."
Workers and the unemployed, meanwhile, have yet to receive the one-time $1,200 cash payments and expanded unemployment benefits to which they are now entitled under law.
As the Post reported late Sunday, "the law's provision to boost unemployment benefits has become tangled in dated and overwhelmed state bureaucracies, as an unprecedented avalanche of jobless Americans seeks aid."
The U.S. officially labeled a white supremacist group a terrorist organization for the first time ever.
The designation fell on the Russian Imperial Movement, a group based in St. Petersburg believed to be responsible for training neo-Nazi groups in Western Europe, including two men accused of bombing of a cafe and attempting to bomb of a refugee camp in Sweden, according to U.S. officials.
“These designations are unprecedented,” State Department counterterrorism coordinator Nathan Sales said in a briefing on Monday. “This is the first time the United States has ever designated white supremacist terrorists, illustrating how seriously this administration takes the threat. We are taking actions no previous administration has taken to counter this threat.”
Most of the groups designated as terrorists by the U.S. are Islamic fundamentalist groups or separatists who engage in violence. But national security and extremism experts have for years, and with increasing urgency, sounded the alarm about the threat of white nationalist terror. The designation freezes any assets the group might have in the U.S. and makes transactions with Americans illegal.
The Wisconsin supreme court ordered the state to move ahead with in-person voting on Tuesday, hours after Governor Tony Evers called it off, capping weeks of chaos and criticism as the state scrambled to try and hold an election amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Evers, a Democrat, had delayed in-person voting in the state until 9 June and ordered the legislature into a special session on Tuesday to consider a new date for in-person voting. But in a 4-2 ruling, the state supreme court accepted a request from the Wisconsin legislature to allow voting to proceed. The legislature argued Evers lacked the authority to move the election.
Evers had resisted calls to move the election for weeks, saying he did not have the authority to unilaterally call off the election. On Friday he had called on Republicans who control the state legislature to delay in-person voting and move to an all-mail election. Republicans swiftly rejected that request.
Wisconsin’s Tuesday election is being closely watched as a major test of whether a state can successfully hold an election in the coronavirus era. The state faced such a shortage of poll workers that jurisdictions throughout the state were planning to severely limit in-person voting.
Wisconsin residents are currently under an order to stay at home.
There’s little the Washington Post won’t do to stop Bernie Sanders, including endanger American lives. That was made clear with the March 17 Democratic primaries, which were held amid a rapidly worsening pandemic, and with enthusiastic support from the Post. Seeing its chance to thwart Sanders’ second bid for the presidency, the Post risked voters’ health by staying silent about the dangers of in-person voting, even encouraging it.
With Sanders’ opponent for the Democratic nomination, former Vice President Joe Biden, surging, postponing the March 17 elections likely would have hurt Biden’s chances at ending the unpredictable primary race, in which momentum has swung wildly. To “get an insurmountable delegate lead,” the Post reported (3/16/20), “Biden needs primaries held sooner rather than later, and he needs his supporters to feel comfortable voting.”
The Post was eager to help, even if it meant ignoring the paper’s own stark daily warnings about the coronavirus.
On March 17, voters in Florida, Illinois and Arizona headed to polling places, where social distancing can be difficult if not impossible. Despite its own stark warnings about the virus, the Washington Post kept quiet about the dangers of voting, even as the skyrocketing number of cases led health professionals and others to call on the states to postpone their primaries. ...
Once Biden secured crucial victories over Sanders on March 17, the Washington Post suddenly became alarmed by the danger of in-person voting amid a pandemic. “Americans should not have to choose between their personal health and that of the country’s democracy,” read a Post editorial (3/18/20) published the day after the vote.
That same day, postponing primaries suddenly became “laudable,” while not doing so would be “risking American lives,” wrote Post columnist Henry Olsen (3/18/20). Only the day before, a Post headline on a Jennifer Rubin column (3/17/20) had called postponement a “terrible precedent.” ...
With Biden’s primary victories secured, the Washington Post’s newfound concern for voting amid a pandemic pivoted in a surprising direction. Suddenly, it was Sanders who was responsible for putting voters’ health at risk. “In the midst of this chaos, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) would do public health…a big favor by acknowledging reality and leaving the race now,” so as to “free voters from making an impossible choice between casting their ballots and safeguarding their health,” wrote Post columnist David Byler (3/17/20).
By staying in the race, Sanders “forces Democratic voters in a country in the midst of a health pandemic to trudge to the polls (or forgo voting),” wrote Post columnist Jennifer Rubin (3/19/20). Elsewhere, Rubin called on Sanders—the “self-absorbed crank” (3/25/20)—to “behave like an adult” and drop out, or prepare to “draw anger for…compelling millions of people to leave their homes” (3/17/20). But, as Katie Halper (FAIR.org, 3/28/20) noted:
Our primaries are not just for candidates running for president, but for thousands of people running for Congress, mayor, governor and countless other local offices. In other words, these primaries are going to occur independently of the presidential race.
In addition to jeopardizing the country’s health, the Washington Post accused Sanders of another sinister deed. This “78-year-old man who knows this is his last chance for the White House” is trying to “seize” advantage of the coronavirus crisis. That’s according to the Post’s Henry Olsen (3/26/20), whose column is headlined, “The Coronavirus Is Hurting Millions of People. But There’s One Person Who Could Benefit.” Olsen was echoing a Post story from four days earlier (3/22/20)—which also featured a picture of Sanders at the top—headlined, “Liberals Seize on Pandemic Response to Revive Campaign Proposals.”
Sanders is the first Jewish candidate with a plausible chance of being president. Portraying him as profiting off of a virus comes uncomfortably close to antisemitic tropes, something the Post has struggled with in its past coverage of Sanders (FAIR.org, 1/28/20). (Several other news outlets also associated Sanders with the coronavirus—Washington Post, 2/28/20; Glenn Greenwald tweet, 2/29/20.)
The principal way that Sanders has sought to “seize” on the pandemic is by highlighting the need for Medicare for All, which would provide healthcare to all US residents, bringing the country in line with all other wealthy nations. For this, Sanders is subjected to Post attacks, while his rival—who, like the Post, opposes Medicare for All—receives decidedly different treatment. A recent Post headline (3/13/20) read, “Why Joe Biden Is the Antidote to This Virus.”
[Much more at the link. -js]
The government’s top Great Barrier Reef scientist says a third mass bleaching event in five years is a clear signal the marine wonder is “calling for urgent help” on climate change. One quarter of the Great Barrier Reef suffered severe bleaching this summer in the most widespread outbreak ever witnessed, according to analysis of aerial surveys of more than 1,000 individual reefs released on Tuesday. ...
Prof Terry Hughes, director of the Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, surveyed 1,036 reefs from a plane over nine days in late March. The marine park authority also had an observer on the flights. Hughes has released maps showing severe levels of bleaching occurred in 2020 in all three sections of the reef – northern, central and southern – the first time this has happened since mass bleaching was first seen in 1998.
Some 25% of the reefs were severely bleached – meaning that more than 60% of the corals on each reef had bleached. Hughes said previous observations had shown that bleaching at that extent leads to “high levels of mortality” of corals.
The Great Barrier Reef has experienced five mass bleaching events – 1998, 2002, 2016, 2017 and 2020 – all caused by rising ocean temperatures driven by global heating. Hughes said there probably would not be the same level of coral death in the north and central regions in 2020 as in previous years, but this was partly because previous bleaching outbreaks had killed off the less heat-tolerant species.
With Economy 'Overlord' Mnuchin Controlling Bailout Funds, Green Group Demands to Know What 'Climate-Killing Companies' Are Seeking Government Cash
Are fossil fuel companies asking the Trump administration for a bailout amid the coronavirus pandemic? The Center for Biological Diversity is demanding to know.
The environmental advocacy group on Monday filed a Freedom of Information Act request to get the answer, asking the Treasury Department which fossil fuel companies, if any, have asked for a share of the $450 billion pot included for "distressed industries" as part of the economic aid package —the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act—signed into law last month.
The group's request (pdf) includes a non-exhaustive list of companies that may have asked for those funds, including energy giants Baker Hughes, BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Phillips 66.
Transparency around who's looking for the funds, to be overseen by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, is especially important, said the Center, given a signing statement issued by President Donald Trump just after approving the economic relief bill. Trump indicated in that statement his administration's intention to disregard the bill's mandate for oversight of how Mnuchin allocates the funds.
"The public has every right to know which climate-killing companies are asking the Trump administration for a bailout," said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center. "Mnuchin is now the overlord of the U.S. economy and can pick winners and losers as he sees fit, even if it destroys our climate."
"That's terrifying," he added.
Even before the coronavirus led to worldwide economic fallout, the fossil fuel industry was already taking American taxpayer dollars to "destroy the world." The U.S. props up the fossil fuel industry with at least $20 billion a year in federal subsides.
"If the fossil fuel industry can't survive without billions in federal assistance, the public has a right to know that fact," added Hartl.
"This money would be far better spent building a green economy based on renewable energy," he said. "These documents will show once and for all that the fossil fuel industry is nothing but the biggest recipient of corporate socialism in the history of the world."
Climate advocates' fears appear to have been justified.
At the meeting, Trump said he had the industry's back.
"We'll work this out and we'll get our energy business back," the president said at the meeting. "It's a very vital business."
"We've got to make sure that we preserve and even make greater our energy industry," Trump added.
Food safety advocates warned Monday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's newly implemented rules for pig slaughter are setting the stage for a potential public health disaster—including the possibility of another infectious disease that could come from animals.
At issue is the New Swine Inspection System (NSIS), which the USDA finalized in October. Touted by the federal agency as a "modernization" effort, the regulation sparked immediate fears and lawsuits by watchdog groups over its elimination of kill speed limits and weakening of the inspection system.
As NBC News previously reported:
The new rule will let factory workers, rather than USDA inspectors, remove unsuitable carcasses and trim defects in plants that opt into the new inspection system. USDA inspectors will still examine the carcasses, but they will be stationed farther down the line.
The USDA claims the new system will still "ensure food safety," but its critics have new evidence to say otherwise.
A new analysis from Food & Water Watch released Monday and included in a lawsuit against the USDA says that in plants where the new system has been implemented, "federal government veterinarians were precluded and prevented from adequately inspecting animals and carcasses that had signs of diseases, recent treatment, and other abnormal food-safety and public health-related conditions that would render an animal or its meat not fit for human consumption."
"Self-regulation when it comes to animal movement, slaughter, and meat inspection is bad news. This data shows just how bad it really is," said Zach Corrigan, senior staff attorney with Food & Water Watch.
The U.S, being the epicenter of the global coronavirus outbreak that has claimed tens of thousands of lives worldwide only serves to underscore the need to move away from the new regulation, Corrigan said.
"While people across the country are fighting against a dangerous pandemic believed to have come first from animals, USDA is eliminating necessary safeguards against the spread of infectious diseases from swine," added Corrigan. "USDA is endangering public health. They should shut down NSIS immediately."
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Jesse Fuller - Beat It On Down The Line
Jesse Fuller - Cincinnati Blues
Jesse Fuller - Fingerbuster
Jesse Fuller - The Monkey And the Engineer
Jesse Fuller - Hesitation Blues
Jesse Fuller - Leavin Memphis, Frisco Bound
Jesse Fuller - Hump In My Back
Jesse Fuller - Stagolee
Jesse Fuller - San Francisco Bay Blues