The Evening Blues - 5-10-18
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This evening's music features blues harmonica player and singer Harmonica Slim. Enjoy!
Harmonica Slim - Hard Times
“How much longer is the world willing to endure this spectacle of wanton cruelty?”
-- Bertrand Russell
News and Opinion
In July of last year neoconservative death cultist John Bolton, now the National Security Advisor of the United States, gave a speech at the Grand Gathering of Iranians for Free Iran in which he openly called for regime change in Tehran. ... He concluded his speech with the following statement:
“There is a viable opposition to the rule of the ayatollahs, and that opposition is centered in this room today. I had said for over 10 years since coming to these events, that the declared policy of the United States of America should be the overthrow of the mullahs’ regime in Tehran. The behavior and the objectives of the regime are not going to change, and therefore the only solution is to change the regime itself. And that’s why, before 2019, we here will celebrate in Tehran!”
These Grand Gatherings of Iranians events are actually put on by the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, also known as the Mojahedin-e Khalq or MEK, a group of a few thousand members who vocally oppose the Iranian government. The MEK is widely considered a cult, using very cult-like methods of indoctrination including exerting control over the personal and sex lives of its members and forcing them to go through weekly “ideological cleansings”. Previously listed as a terrorist organization by the US government because it has killed Americans and has an extensive history of committing acts of terrorism, in 2012 the MEK was taken off the State Department’s terrorist list by Secretary of State and virulent Iran hawk Hillary Clinton.
The MEK reportedly has weirdly deep pockets which have enabled it to spend millions of dollars rehabilitating its image in recent years, and to pay out sizable fees for panelists and speeches by experts willing to advocate in favor of its regime change agenda. Rudy Giuliani, currently one of President Trump’s attorneys, led a “regime change” chant at another MEK event in March.
So the US president has just authorized aggressive sanctions against Iran after a highly dishonest speech to the American people, and now there’s an extremely well-funded extremist group all set and groomed to become the “viable opposition” to the government of that country with the blessings of the CIA and the president’s bloodthirsty National Security Advisor. Sound familiar? Maybe sorta kinda exactly the same as what we’ve seen in the buildups to staged coups on Syria, Libya and Ukraine?
sraeli fighter jets struck dozens of Iranian targets in Syria overnight, Israeli officials said, following soon after what the Israeli military described as an unsuccessful Iranian rocket attack against its forces in the Golan Heights. ...
In the aftermath of the president’s decision, the rhetoric between the two sides has heightened sharply. And while Israel and Iran have been conducting a shadow war in Syria for months under the cover of the civil war there, the conflict has now burst into the open.
Though Israel has hit Iranian forces in Syria with a number of deadly airstrikes, Tehran has been restrained in hitting back, until now. The rocket attack against Israel appeared to be in response to Israeli strikes on southern Syria on Wednesday. ... While appearing to almost goad the Iranians to strike, Israel had warned Tehran that it would respond to any attack. Israel also broadcast warnings to Syria, saying that allowing Iranian entrenchment in its territory put Mr. Assad’s government at risk.
Even NYT admits towards end of the article that Israel initiated the exchange of fire:
"The barrage came after an apparent Israeli missile strike against a village in the Syrian Golan Heights late Wednesday."
So why isn't this the lead or headline???https://t.co/P0Nw9AqkXz
— Trita Parsi (@tparsi) May 10, 2018
it's awesome Israel can unilaterally bomb countries for years and get super indignant when they bomb back https://t.co/wbwLDVcAbX
— Adam H. Johnson (@adamjohnsonNYC) May 10, 2018
Arch-enemies Iran and Israel have appeared to edge closer to all-out war after Israel’s military said its positions in the Golan Heights were hit with a barrage of Iranian rockets, prompting it to respond with extensive strikes targeting Tehran’s forces across Syria. The attack, if confirmed, would mark the first time Iran has fired rockets in a direct strike on Israeli forces, dramatically ratcheting up what has for years been a conflict fought through proxies.
Several but not all of the Iranian rockets were intercepted by Israeli defences, an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesman, Lt Col Jonathan Conricus, told reporters. ... “The IDF views this Iranian attack very severely,” Conricus said. “This event is not over.”
In the early hours of Thursday morning, the IDF’s Arabic-language Twitter account said its military was “moving” against Iranian targets in Syria and warned Damascus not to intervene. The Syrian capital was shaken with explosions as jets flew overheard before dawn, with residents posting videos online of what appeared to be air defence missiles running bright streaks through the night sky and reporting loud sounds that rocked their buildings.
Syrian state media said its anti-air batteries were responding to a “new wave of Israeli missiles and is dropping them one by one”. However, it added, missiles struck radar, air defence positions and ammunition warehouses. Explosives fired from Israel also hit southern Syria’s Quneitra province, adjacent to the Golan Heights, it said. There were no reported casualties. ...
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz quoted an unidentified security official as saying Israel’s attacks inside Syria were the most extensive since the two nations signed a disengagement agreement after the October war of 1973.
Re Israel's increasing number of attacks in Syria, I see the following explanations:
1. Netanyahu believes Iran cant currently respond forcefully lest it risks pushing EU out of the #IranDeal.
Hence, this is a relatively cost-freetime for Netanyahu to kill Iranians in Syria
— Trita Parsi (@tparsi) May 9, 2018
2. Netanyahu has gotten the green light from Trump and Bolton to provoke an Iranian response that will be used as a pretext for a wider war.
Hence, the Israeli strikes in Syria are meant to trigger a larger war.
— Trita Parsi (@tparsi) May 9, 2018
Day After Ditching International Deal, Trump Threatens 'Very Severe Consequence' If Iran Restarts Nuclear Program
Less than 24 hours after ditching the international agreement that guaranteed Iran would not develop nuclear weapons, President Donald Trump on Wednesday threatened Iran with a "very severe consequence" if it attempts to pursue a nuke, which it has repeatedly vowed not to do whether the accord remains intact or not.
"Iran will find out, they're gonna find out," Trump said during a Cabinet meeting when asked what he would do if Iran "restarts" its nuclear program. "I don't think they should do that. I would advise Iran not to start their nuclear program. If they do, there will be very severe consequence."
The European Union is scrambling to arrange a crisis meeting with Iran after Donald Trump pulled out of the nuclear agreement, as the Iranian president Hassan Rouhani said Europe had a “very limited opportunity” to save the deal. A day after the US president broke with the landmark 2015 agreement and warned he would seek to hit European businesses that continued to trade with Tehran, the EU vowed to take steps to immunise firms from any US sanctions.
Foreign ministers aim to reassure Tehran that the nuclear deal is salvageable at a meeting currently slated for Monday in London which they are expecting their Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif to attend. In a phone call on Wednesday between Emmanuel Macron and Rouhani, the French president stressed his willingness “to continue enforcing the Iran nuclear agreement in all respects”, the Elysée said in a statement. The statement added that Macron had “underlined the importance that Iran do the same”.
The Iranian Students’ News Agency quoted Rouhani as telling Macron: “Under the current conditions, Europe has a very limited opportunity to preserve the nuclear deal, and must, as quickly as possible, clarify its position and specify and announce its intentions with regard to its obligations.” EU ministers hope to put forward a credible package to soothe Iranian fears about the effect of Trump’s decision on EU-Iranian trade.
The ministers recognise that Iran will only stay inside the deal if they are confident that the promised economic benefits can survive an American sanctions assault. But they were keen to stress that Trump’s move had not necessarily dealt the agreement a fatal blow.
Britain, Germany and France urged the United States not to take steps that would make life harder for other countries that still want to stick to the Iran nuclear deal that U.S. President Donald Trump spurned on Tuesday. ... “We urge the U.S. to ensure that the structures of the JCPOA (deal) can remain intact and to avoid taking action which obstructs its full implementation by all other parties to the deal,” the leaders of Britain, Germany and France said in a joint statement provided by Prime Minister Theresa May’s office. ...
The United States’ ambassador to Germany told German businesses to stop trading with Iran, and a German business association said it feared that European companies that traded with Iran would risk U.S. fines. Britain, in updated advice to exporters late on Tuesday, said it “continues to fully support expanding our trade relationship with Iran and encourages UK businesses to take advantage of the commercial opportunities that arise”. But it warned British businesses and their staff to seek legal advice on how they might be affected by U.S. sanctions.
The Confederation of British Industry said U.S. sanctions “could significantly impact UK businesses operating in Iran”.
Richard Grenell, the new U.S. ambassador to Germany, formally took up his post in Berlin on Tuesday and immediately got to work as Donald Trump’s representative by offending the German people with a tweet.
As @realDonaldTrump said, US sanctions will target critical sectors of Iran’s economy. German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately.
— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) May 8, 2018
Grenell’s inaugural Twitter address to his hosts, a stern command to German companies doing business in Iran to obey the American president’s decision to sabotage the nuclear arms control agreement that opened the way for Western investment, or face U.S. sanctions, did not go over well. As Germany’s leading financial daily, Handelsblatt, reported, the tweet drew thousands of comments, “many of them from angry Germans basically telling the ambassador, a longtime critic of the Iran deal, to butt out.” ...
Grenell’s comments sparked anger across the political spectrum. Fabio De Masi of Die Linke, a far-left opposition party, called on the German foreign ministry to make it clear to Grenell that his threats on behalf of “the arsonist in the White House” were inappropriate. Germany’s finance minister, Olaf Scholz, reportedly pledged on Wednesday to protect German businesses working with Iran from potential U.S. sanctions.
In response to the wave of criticism generated by his tweet, Grenell suggested that he was just following orders and had used “the exact language sent out from the White House.” It was notable, however, that America’s ambassadors to the two other European signatories to the Iran deal, Britain and France, issued no such warnings to companies in those nations.
French government ministers reacted with anger and defiance on Wednesday to US president's Donald Trump's decision to pull his country out of the nuclear deal with Iran. ... "We will meet with my British and German colleagues on Monday, and also with representatives of Iran, to consider the entire situation," French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told RTL radio. Le Drian insisted the Iran nuclear deal was "not dead".
"There is a US withdrawal from the agreement, but the agreement exists," the minister said. French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said separately on France Culture radio that the decision was "an error" not just for international security but from an economic point of view. It was "not acceptable" for the US to be the "economic policeman of the planet", he said. ...
Le Maire pointed out that the withdrawal gives European firms doing business in Iran the "very short time of six months" to wind up investments -- or risk US sanctions. "In two years, France has tripled its trade surplus with Iran," he said. Le Maire said this would lead to "consequences" for major French companies, such as Total, Sanofi, Renault and Peugeot.
Donald Trump bombed Syria for allegedly using chemical weapons last month and he has now officially pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement with Iran. But Syria officially has no chemical weapons and Iran has no nuclear ones. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) verified Syria to be chemical free, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has verified Iran’s consistent and continued compliance with the JCPOA. To the best of anyone’s knowledge, Syria has no chemicals and Iran has no nukes: that’s what verification means. ...
So what does North Korea understand from this? The North Koreans could learn two things. The first is to be wary of signing deals with America. Both Syria and Iran gave up their programs only to have Trump and America ignore verification of their compliance in favor of biased sources and turn on them: in Syria with bombs and in Iran with pulling out of the JCPOA. How can North Korea confidently agree to give up its only deterrence against American aggression with no assurance that the U.S. will honor a agreement?
The second lesson North Korea could draw from Iran is that, though you may not be able to trust that you can profit from signing an agreement, you can profit by holding off on signing it. In the book,Losing an Enemy, Trita Parsi argued that the difference between sanctions and nuclear escalation is that the former is finite and the latter is not. North Korea knows, as Iran did before, that America will eventually run out of things to sanction. But North Korea will not run out of uranium to enrich or missiles to test. North Korea can outlast the United States unless the United States is really prepared to go to war.
Trumps bombing of Syria and pulling out of the JCPOA with Iran can only reinforce North Korean anxiety that they can’t trust Trump and the U.S. to honor any nuclear disarmament agreement, much as the world needs it.
Reporter: Do you deserve the Nobel Prize?
Pres. Trump: "Everyone thinks so, but I would never say it ... The prize I want is victory for the world – not for even here – I want victory for the world. Because that's what we're talking about, so that's the only prize I want." pic.twitter.com/NepP4DY3rw
— NBC News (@NBCNews) May 9, 2018
The West-Russia relations have reached a new low since the Cold War amid the spy poisoning scandal in the UK, allegations of Russian meddling in elections, and fresh U.S. sanctions on Russia. Yet European countries continue to buy increased amounts of Russian gas, and Russia’s state-held gas giant Gazprom is boosting production and exports, and is obtaining approvals in individual countries for its Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline that has divided the EU over fears of a tightening Russian grip on gas supplies.
In recent months and weeks, Gazprom has taken advantage of high demand in Europe and of decreased gas supplies to Europe from Russia’s competitors, Maxim Rubchenko writes for Russian news agency RIA Novosti. Russia—which already supplies around one-third of Europe’s gas—boosted deliveries in the winter, one of the coldest winters in Europe in the past decade, and continues to ship higher volumes even after the winter, as gas importing countries replenish gas storage supplies that had been drained amid the cold snaps.
Alexander Medvedev, Deputy Chairman of Gazprom’s Management Committee, said at the end of April that the Russian company was currently shipping as much gas to Europe as it typically does in winter months, and expects demand this summer to be close to winter levels. ...
While Gazprom is boosting supplies to Europe even after the winter, it has received permits from Germany to build the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and a first permit for the project in Finland. Gazprom has also completed the deepwater pipelay for Line 1 of the TurkStream offshore gas pipeline planned to connect Russia to Turkey across the Black Sea. Meanwhile, Gazprom’s seven-year-old dispute with the EU on antitrust issues may soon be coming to an end. According to Bloomberg sources, the EU could announce as early as in May a settlement with the Russian company under which Gazprom could agree to binding pledges to allay antitrust concerns, which could put an end to the antitrust investigation that started in 2011.
In addition to Sanders and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), ten Senate Democrats and two Republicans—Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.)—have said they oppose Haspel because of her role in the CIA's Bush-era torture program. The ten Democratic senators who have said they will vote against Haspel are: Martin Heinrich (N.M.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Bob Casey (Penn.), Kamala Harris (Calif.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.).
As of this writing, thirty-six Democrats have yet to say whether they will oppose Haspel, and one—Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)—has said he will vote yes.
While some have suggested they are leaning toward opposing, here are the Democrats who have yet to say definitively that they will vote "no":
Sen. Claire McCaskill (Mo.) Sen. Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) Sen. Bob Menendez (N.J.) Sen. Joe Donnelly (Ind.) Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.) Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.) Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.) Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.) Sen. Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) Sen. Bill Nelson (Fla.) Sen. Tom Carper (Del.) Sen. Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) Sen. Ben Cardin (Md.) Sen. Sherrod Brown (Ohio) Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) Sen. Tom Udall (N.M.) Sen. Chris Murphy (Conn.) Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.) Sen. Mark Warner (Va.) Sen. Jeff Merkley (Ore.) Sen. Michael Bennet (Colo.) Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) Sen. Tina Smith (Minn.) Sen. Chris Coons (Del.) Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) Sen. Tammy Baldwin (Wis.) Sen. Doug Jones (Ala.) Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.) Sen. Maggie Hassan (N.H.) Sen. Chris Van Hollen (Md.) Sen. Gary Peters (Mich.) Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.) Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.) Sen. Maria Cantwell (Wash.)
Following the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Wednesday, Esquire's Charles Pierce noted that Haspel and the chorus of ex-intelligence officials loudly backing her nomination put on display "one basic message" about the U.S. as a nation. "The United States is a country that tortures people," Pierce writes. "It is also a country that arranges for other countries to torture people."
Instead of facing a judge to defend herself against prosecution for violating U.S. law prohibiting torture, 33-year CIA veteran Gina Haspel on Wednesday faced the Senate Intelligence Committee in a hearing to confirm her as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. ... But this perfectly typical middle class American personally supervised a black site in Thailand where terrorism suspects were waterboarded. It remains unclear whether she had a direct role in the torture. The CIA said she arrived at the black site after the waterboarding of senior al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah had taken place. Some CIA officials disputed that to The New York Times. The newspaper also reported last year that Haspel ran the CIA Thai prison in 2002 when another suspect, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, was waterboarded. ...
Haspel tried to wiggle out of relentless questioning about whether she thought torture was immoral, let alone illegal. Completely ignoring U.S. ratification of the Convention Against Torture, Haspel clung to the new Army Field Manual, which contains a loophole in an annex added after 9/11 that justifies cruel punishment, but not specifically torture. ...
Because she wasn’t giving any straight answers, Ray McGovern, a CIA veteran of 27 years and frequent contributor to Consortium News, stood up in the hearing room and began asking his own questions. Capitol police were immediately ordered by the chairman, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), to physically remove McGovern from the room. As he continued turning towards the committee to shout his questions, four officers hauled him out. They ominously accused him of resisting arrest. Once they got him into the hallway, rather than letting him go his way, four policemen wrestled him to the ground, re-injuring his dislocated right shoulder, as they attempted to cuff him.
After spending the night in jail, McGovern was to be arraigned on Thursday morning. He did not respond to a voice message left on his mobile phone. McGovern was one of several people arrested before and during the hearing for speaking out. The spectacle of citizens of this country, and in Ray’s case a veteran CIA officer, having to resort to disrupting a travesty of a hearing to put an alleged torturer in charge of the most powerful spy agency in the world is a disturbing indicator of how far we have come.
The deadly Niger operation that killed four American soldiers last October was not legally authorized and the service members involved had not been trained to execute it, Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia said Wednesday after a classified briefing on the matter. He added: “People will be held accountable.” ...
Kaine learned of the new details in what he called an "explosive" briefing that took place Tuesday between members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, U.S. Africa Command Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, Maj. Gen. Roger Cloutier, and two assistant secretaries in the Department of Defense. "After the hearing yesterday we had huddled. We are going to figure out a way that the story will be told and that people will be held accountable," Kaine said.
The Virginia Democrat wasn’t the only lawmaker to speak out about the operation, the new details of which Kaine said left the assembled senators “somewhat shocked.” And their concern wasn't a partisan issue either — lawmakers on both sides of the aisle voiced consternation about what they had learned.
US border authorities cannot search the cellphones of travelers without having some reason to believe a particular traveler has committed a crime, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday. The 4th US circuit court of appeals in Richmond ruled in the case of a Turkish national who was arrested at Dulles International Airport after agents found firearm parts in his luggage.
A lower court judge refused to suppress evidence obtained from a warrantless search of Hamza Kolsuz’s phone. The 4th circuit upheld that ruling and found that a forensic search of electronic devices requires “individualized suspicion” of wrongdoing. The court said agents had that suspicion because Kolsuz had made two previous attempts to smuggle weapons parts out of the US.
The fourth amendment requires law enforcement to obtain warrants based on probable cause. But courts have made an exception for searches at airports and US ports of entry, finding that the government can conduct warrantless border searches to protect national security, prevent transnational crime and enforce immigration and customs laws.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had urged the 4th circuit to find that the government should be required to obtain a warrant or at least a determination of probable cause that evidence of a crime is contained on electronic devices before agents can search them at airports. The 4th circuit said it did not have to reach the question of whether probable cause or a warrant is required. Reasonable suspicion is a lower legal standard.
It’s a case of sleeping while black. Police repeatedly asked a black Yale University student to prove she did, in fact, attend the university after a white student called the cops on her for napping in the common room of her dorm. Although Yale University leadership called the incident “deeply troubling” in an email to students the next day, the white student said she had “every right” to contact law enforcement.
Lolade Siyonbola, a 34-year-old black graduate student, posted two videos of her encounter with the other student and police on Facebook; their total number of views exceeds one million. She did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The first video shows Siyonbola briefly interacting in the hallway with the white student who called the police on her on Tuesday. “I have every right to call the police,” the student tells Siyonbola. “You cannot sleep in that room.” The student, standing in the doorway to her dorm, is photographing Siyonbola during their entire conversation.
Siyonbola started another video once the two police officers arrived and questioned her. “I was sleeping in the common room, and she comes in, and turns the lights on, and was like, ‘Why are you sleeping here? You’re not supposed to be sleeping there. I’m calling the police,’” Siyonbola tells the officers. In that video, police repeatedly ask her to prove she’s a Yale student and show her ID. She opens her apartment to show she has keys, but they ask her again for ID. “I deserve to be here. I pay tuition just like everyone else,” Siyonbola tells them. “I’m not going to justify my existence here.”
Police officers later realized that her name was spelled incorrectly in the student database, which led to their confusion about her status as a student.
West Virginia teachers walked their nine-day protest to the polling place yesterday, where almost 90 percent of teachers’ union–endorsed candidates went on to win their primaries. The West Virginia Education Association endorsed 115 candidates for the U.S. Senate, U.S. House and the state’s House of Delegates and Senate. Of those 115, 99 won their primaries.
"I hope that that energy [from the teachers’ walkout] carries into the elections and the people that were those holdouts feel the backlash," Carmen Soltesz, a social studies teacher from Williamson Middle School, told West Virginia Public Radio.
West Virginia’s teachers sparked a nationwide teachers movement after they walked out of their schools for nine days in February, demanding better working conditions. The state Legislature eventually gave them a 5 percent pay raise. And the teachers remembered the state delegates and senators who supported them, and those who didn’t, when they voted in the primary Tuesday.
Readers of USA Today, one of the largest-circulation newspapers in the United States, opened a recent issue to see an unusual joint op-ed column from Michael Bloomberg and Randi Weingarten. ... What do this leading representative of the US plutocracy and a woman whose organization claims to represent hundreds of thousands of teachers have in common? ... [O]ver Bloomberg’s first two terms in office, Weingarten was responsible for negotiating the contracts covering 80,000 New York City teachers.
But why have Bloomberg and Weingarten chosen this moment for their essay, and to whom is it addressed? They explain, in part, in their very first paragraph: “Never before has there been so much labor unrest in America’s public schools. Teachers, understandably angry about low pay and harmful cuts in education resources, have organized statewide walkouts in West Virginia, Kentucky and Oklahoma. …” Though they feign sympathy for the teachers, Bloomberg and Weingarten are in fact alarmed by this development. As their whole column makes clear, they would like to see the militant struggles brought to an end. They are worried that the rank-and-file actions initiated independently of both the AFT and the National Education Association (NEA) may get out of the control of the unions, which have so far—in West Virginia, Oklahoma and most recently Arizona—managed to betray the courageous and determined teachers.
The op-ed piece is addressed, not to teachers or any other section of workers, but to the political representatives of the ruling class, in which Bloomberg in particular occupies a prominent place. The concluding sentence of their very first paragraph suggests that a few bones must be tossed to the teachers before matters get out of hand. “This time of tension and frustration,” they write, “is also a moment of tremendous opportunity—to increase teachers’ pay, acknowledge the importance of their work, strengthen accountability, ensure adequate education resources, and, most importantly, achieve the outcomes we need and want for all our kids.”
They claim to be advancing the interests of both teachers and students, but what they are jointly advancing is a policy to contain the current struggles. With this goal in mind, they point to New York as a model for educators all over the country. ... Weingarten, both in New York City from 1999 to 2008 and nationally as head of the AFT since then, has helped to promote the testing regime that teachers justifiably detest. This has meant “teaching to the test,” developed in New York under Bloomberg and his schools chancellor Joel Klein, and promoted by both George Bush’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation and Obama’s Race To The Top (RTTP). Under Bloomberg, more than 160 so-called “failing schools” were closed on the basis of poor test results. The city opened 654 new schools in their place. ...
Weingarten and the organization she heads have proclaimed their opposition to charters. This has not prevented them from establishing their own charter school in New York City, and the union “represents” low-paid and exploited teachers in 20 New York City charters. The UFT received funds from the foundation of another billionaire charter school advocate, Bill Gates, as part of the promotion of Obama’s RTTP. The strategy of the union is to seek to “manage” the expansion of charters in order to defend the dues base and privileges of the union apparatus, rather than opposing these privatization efforts. Allied with the corporate-controlled Democratic Party (Weingarten is a leading member of the Democratic National Committee), the AFT rejects out of hand eliminating the appeal of charters by fighting for a massive infusion of resources into the public schools, from pre-kindergarten through post-secondary education.
The generic congressional ballot has continued to tighten, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS, with the Democrats' edge over Republicans within the poll's margin of sampling error for the first time this cycle.
About six months out from Election Day, 47% of registered voters say they back the Democratic candidate in their district, 44% back the Republican. Voters also are divided almost evenly over whether the country would be better off with the Democrats in control of Congress (31%) or with the GOP in charge (30%). A sizable 34% -- including nearly half of independent voters (48%) -- say it doesn't matter which party controls Congress.
The Democrats' advantage in the generic ballot dipped from 16 points in February to six points in March to just three points now.
California is set to require solar panels on new homes and low-rise apartment buildings starting in 2020, the first such mandate in the country and the state’s latest step to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
“Adoption of these standards represents a quantum leap in statewide building standards,” said Robert Raymer, technical director for the California Building Industry Association. “You can bet every other of the 49 states will be watching closely to see what happens.”
Raymer spoke before the California energy commission approved the requirement on Wednesday, alongside new regulations to improve ventilation and indoor air quality. The commission estimates solar panels would boost construction costs for a single-family home by roughly $10,000. But consumers would get that money and more back in energy savings, according to the commission.
California has positioned itself as the nationwide leader on clean energy, pushing for more electric vehicles on the roads and fewer emissions from residential and commercial buildings. ...
The move still needs backing from the state’s building standards commission. The state updates its building codes, including energy efficiency standards, every three years.
Cities in the United States are increasingly seeing concrete in place of greenery as urban areas lose an estimated 36m trees annually, according to a study from the Forest Service. Tree cover in urban areas has declined at a rate of around 175,000 acres per year, while impervious cover – such as roads and buildings – has increased significantly across the country. An estimated 40% of new impervious surfaces were in areas where trees used to grow, the study found.
The total loss of tree cover reached 1% across cities and surrounding areas in the five years between 2009-2014. As four-fifths of Americans live in urban areas, it has serious environmental, social and economic ramifications, warned researchers. ... Urban forests moderate climate and reduce carbon emissions, improving the quality of air and water. Properly placed around buildings, trees can save energy by reducing the need for air conditioning by 30% and for heating by up to 50%. They also mitigate rainfall runoff, offering vital barriers in flood-prone cities. The estimated loss of these benefits – including carbon storage, pollution reduction, altered energy use in buildings – is valued at $96m (£71m) per year.
Urban trees also have social advantages, such as improving people’s mental and physical health. “Trees in urban areas help ward off pollution, providing a long list of benefits for people and the planet,” said Rolf Skar, forest campaign director for Greenpeace USA. “This news proves once again that we need to prioritise adding more green spaces to our cities.”
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Harmonica Slim - Drop Anchor
Harmonica Slim - You Better Believe It
Harmonica Slim - Do What You Want To Do
Harmonica Slim - My Girl Won't Quit Me
Harmonica Slim - I'll Take Love
Harmonica Slim - Budda
Harmonica Slim - Lonely Hours
Harmonica Slim - Going Back Home
Harmonica Slim - Mary Helen
Harmonica Slim - Thought I Didn't Love You
Harmonica Slim - Darling I love you
Harmonica Slim - Tin Pan Alley, Thats All Right