The Evening Blues - 5-13-21
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features r&b singer Mary Ann Fisher. Enjoy!
Ray Charles feat. Mary Ann Fisher - What kind of man are you
"Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves."
-- Matthew 7:15
News and Opinion
Glenn Greenwald, worth a click and a full read:
There are three interrelated political factions that wield actual power to change blind U.S. support for Israel: the U.S. Congress, the Democratic Party, and the Biden Administration. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who claims to oppose this U.S. posture toward Israel, has significant influence in and responsibility for each: she is a member of Congress, one of the party's most popular elected officials, and was a vocal supporter of the Biden campaign in the general election and is now a key surrogate for his administration. ...
So when AOC decided on Monday to finally use her massive platform to condemn specific political figures expressing this pro-Israel mentality, which of those powerful targets did she choose? None. Her brave outspoken moral stand was reserved for someone who has never held elected office and has zero power over U.S. policy toward Israel: New York City Democratic Mayoral Candidate Andrew Yang. As Democratic politicians in New York City have done for decades, Yang (just as his top rival, the African-American former police officer and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, did) issued a standard pro-Israel statement, one very similar to the statements from countless Democratic officials across the country:
I'm standing with the people of Israel who are coming under bombardment attacks, and condemn the Hamas terrorists. The people of NYC will always stand with our brothers and sisters in Israel who face down terrorism and persevere.
— Andrew Yang (@AndrewYang) May 10, 2021
(Responding to criticisms, Yang posted a new statement on Tuesday that, among other things, acknowledge the criticisms even from his own supporters for failing to acknowledge Palestinian suffering, saying: “I mourn for every Palestinian life taken before its time.")
AOC said nothing about the State Department's ongoing defense of Israel. She condemned none of her powerful colleagues in Congress who did the same. She refused to call on the Biden administration explicitly to change its policies or denounce Biden's fanaticism on this issue. Her only previous utterance was a mealy-mouthed, barely cogent tweet in which she randomly threw the Israel/Gaza conflict into a laundry list along with “paramilitary violence in Colombia” and “the detention of children on our own border and the militarization of US police departments” to say: “the United States must seriously assess its role in state violence and condition aid.”
Utterly shameful for Yang to try to show up to an Eid event after sending out a chest-thumping statement of support for a strike killing 9 children, especially after his silence as Al-Aqsa was attacked.
But then to try that in Astoria? During Ramadan?! They will let you know. https://t.co/r721mHyfri
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 11, 2021
Wow, she told him! But on the same day that AOC so courageously attacked Andrew Yang, there was another person, one with far greater power than he, who issued a statement virtually identical to the one Yang issued. Her name is Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House whose re-election to that position AOC supported, with whom AOC posed on the cover of Rolling Stone, and who AOC affectionately and obsequiously calls "Mama Bear.” Among other powers Pelosi possesses that Yang does not, Pelosi could whip support within the Democratic House caucus for the bill from Rep. Betty McCollum (DFL-MN), quietly co-sponsored by AOC, to condition Israeli aid on a cessation of settlement expansions and human rights abuses in the Palestinian territories it occupies, or Pelosi could bring that bill to the floor for a vote. Yet AOC, over the course of more than 12,000 tweets to her almost 14 million followers, has never once used her massive megaphone to even mention that bill let alone advocate for it or agitate for a vote on it.
“The Scene Is Horrific”: Gazans Trapped as Israel Escalates Bombing, Killing Dozens in the Territory
When Israeli troops stormed the Aqsa mosque compound last week during Ramadan prayers, much of the world vicariously experienced the raid as it took place. Raw video footage of soldiers storming through screaming crowds — with stun grenades exploding as congregants ran for safety — was transmitted globally at the speed of information. The provocative attack on a site considered holy to billions of people triggered an almost immediate reaction, not just among international media and online, but at the diplomatic level as well. Within a day of the incident, U.S. lawmakers, European states, and even Arab governments that have good relations with Israel were publicly condemning the assault and demanding de-escalation. These actors were themselves reacting to the pressure coming, or expected, from their own populations, much of whom had livestreamed the events or seen clips of the social media videos.
Rather than reading relatively controlled textual accounts in the morning paper the next day, ordinary people the world over witnessed the violent scenes blow-by-blow. Images distributed on social media of several attempts by Israel to evict Palestinians from their homes in the historic Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem had kicked off the tensions earlier in the week. On Monday, videos of Israeli throngs at holy sites cheering the chaos while singing far-right anthems flew around the internet. Now, footage of violence in mixed Arab-Jewish cities across Israel is spreading, along with the aftermaths of Israeli air strikes in Gaza. The emotional impact of literally viewing these scenes as they happen cannot be underestimated.
“Due to technology, ordinary Palestinians now have the ability to broadcast their stories without the filter of a media that is highly biased against them,” said Yousef Munayyer, nonresident senior fellow at the Arab Center Washington DC, a nonpartisan research institute. “We are seeing this on many different platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok, where Palestinians of the younger generation are sharing their voices and experiences with as many people as possible.” ...
The political impact of this change has already helped reshape politics across the world and has become a critical variable during armed conflicts. The pure strength of weaponry was for so long alone as the prime determinant in conflicts, but now extraordinarily powerful states also have to worry about teenagers with 200-gram microcomputers — as Israel is seeing today. “I think we have been seeing the importance of this for a number of years now,” said Munayyer. “The state of Israel, and states in general, now have a much harder time using traditional tools to control the narrative of events.”
Israel will not stop its military operation in Gaza until “complete quiet” has been achieved, the country’s defence minister has said, as airstrikes and rocket fire continued throughout Wednesday.
As the death toll from the most serious conflict between Israel and the Palestinians for nine years mounted, international leaders called for restraint amid fears of a full-scale war. At the same time of the exchange of bombs and rockets between Israel and Gaza, there has been an upsurge in ethnically motivated attacks in mixed neighbourhoods inside Israel by both Jewish and Arab mobs.
Joe Biden spoke to the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying: “My expectation and hope is that this will be closing down sooner than later”, but he added Israel had the right to defend itself against incoming rockets. Russia called for an urgent meeting of the “quartet” of mediating powers: the US, Russia, UN and the EU, a call supported by the UN secretary general, António Guterres.
The Israeli military said it had killed four senior Hamas commanders and a dozen more Hamas operatives in a series of strikes. It said it had undertaken a “complex and first-of-its-kind operation” jointly with the Shin Bet security service. The dead included Bassem Issa, the Gaza City Brigade commander, the head of the cyber-command and the head of Hamas’s production network, said a security agency statement.
“We eliminated senior Hamas commanders and this is just the beginning,” Netanyahu said. “We will inflict blows on them that they couldn’t even dream of.” The Israeli military would use “increasing force”, he added. The killings are likely to harden Hamas’s resolve to continue its rocket assaults on Israel.
Joe Biden came into office thinking he could put the Israel-Palestine issue on the back burner to focus on other, bigger, issues. That is not working out well. The upsurge in violence has caught the new administration on the back foot, under-staffed and without a clearly defined approach.
There is not even a nominee for the post of US ambassador to Israel. The US blocked a UN security council statement on the situation on Wednesday, arguing it would further inflame tensions – the sort of excuse for which the US has lambasted other world powers in the past, accusing them of protecting client states. Washington has been playing for time, hoping the situation can be contained, but trying to duck the traditional US mediating role is no longer looking like a viable option.
The approach thus far has been described as “hands-off”, but Khaled Elgindy, senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, argues that implies a neutrality that is lacking in reality. “They are heavily involved. They are just not involved in the part that has to do with conflict mitigation,” Elgindy said, pointing to the $3.8bn annual US support for the Israeli military, and the blocking move at the security council.
“So they are not hands off. They are quite hands on, but not in the ways that are needed to make things better, because that would require putting pressure on Israel and that is anathema to this administration.”
As airstrikes and rocket fire continued across Israel and Gaza, towns with mixed Jewish and Arab populations have been struck by some of the worst communal violence that Israel has seen in years. Late on Wednesday a mob of far-right Israelis dragged a man they thought was an Arab from his car and beat him until he lay on the ground motionless and bloodied.
Footage of the attack in Bat Yam, a Tel Aviv suburb, was broadcast live on television but police and emergency services did not arrive on the scene until 15 minutes later, while the victim lay motionless on his back in the middle of the street. Those in the crowd justified the attack by saying the man was an Arab who had tried to ram the far-right nationalists, but the footage showed a motorist trying to avoid the demonstration.
“The victim of the lynching is seriously injured but stable,” Tel Aviv’s Ichilov hospital said in a statement.
Elsewhere in Bat Yam, a group of black-clad Israelis smashed the windows of an Arab-owned ice-cream shop and ultranationalists could be seen chanting: “Death to Arabs!” on live television during a standoff with border police.
Gaza rescue crews at dawn on Thursday recovered the bodies of a Palestinians couple from under the rubble of a house, which Israeli forces targeted last night in Sheikh Zayed City in the town of Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip.
The two Palestinians have been identified as: Abd al-Rahim Muhammad al-Madhoun, and his wife Hajar Ali al-Madhoun, according to Wafa news agency.
The two fatalities raise the death toll of the continuous Israeli onslaught on the Gaza Strip for the fourth consecutive day to 69 Palestinians, including 17 children, 7 women, and 388 wounded, some of them in critical condition.
A Pentagon working group established in the wake of the January 6 Capitol riot to root out domestic extremists has circulated a list of prospective partners that includes representatives of a conservative Christian group and an anti-Muslim extremism group, according to an internal Defense Department document obtained exclusively by The Intercept. In several cases, these potential partners were themselves involved in the misidentification of Muslims as terrorists.
On April 9, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced the establishment of the Countering Extremism Working Group, which would “receive information from both internal and external Subject Matter Experts,” who would serve as consultants. The document shows that those experts could include representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union, anti-hate groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League, as well as the conservative First Liberty Institute and the anti-Muslim Middle East Media Research Institute. ...
The Middle East Media Research Institute has been described as “the Islamophobia network’s go-to place for selective translations of Islamist rhetoric abroad,” according to a report by the Center for American Progress. (One of the report’s authors, Lee Fang, is now a reporter at The Intercept.) MEMRI was founded in 1997 by Yigal Carmon, formerly a high-ranking intelligence officer for the Israeli military, who served as a counter-terrorism adviser to Israeli prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Yitzhak Shamir. MEMRI came to prominence after the September 11 attacks by publishing English language translations from Arab media and disseminating them among major Western media outlets. But according to critics, MEMRI cherry-picked quotes to exaggerate the threat posed by Islamic radicalism. As the Center for American Progress report notes, Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik cited MEMRI over a dozen times in his manifesto. ...
While it is unclear which of the individuals or groups mentioned in the Pentagon document will end up consulting, there are signs that some already have been doing so. Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League, thanked the Army War College for inviting him to speak on extremism in tweets posted yesterday.
US consumer prices soared in April as post-lockdown demand and shortages drove up the cost of a wide range of goods, from used cars and home furnishings to airline tickets.
The news triggered a further slide in markets unsettled this week by the threat of rising prices, which could force central banks to abandon zero0-interest rate policies that have helped stoke share prices. The Dow Jones index fell 1.3% in early trading and the tech-heavy Nasdaq lost 2.5%.
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) climbed 4.2% during the month from a year earlier, the labor department said, the biggest 12-month increase since September 2008, the height of the financial crisis. The figure was significantly higher than economists had predicted. ...
The Biden administration’s economic stimulus package has pumped money into the economy just as it reopens from coronavirus lockdown measures. Fresh demand for goods and services has also outpaced supply, which is still recovering from the lockdowns at the start of the pandemic, leading to shortages for a broad range of goods from lumber and steel to ketchup.
Used car and truck prices in particular have surged as a global shortage of microchips has dampened production of new vehicles. The price of a used car rose 10% over the month and topped $25,000 for the first time, about $2,800 higher than in April last year, according to the research firm JD Power.
California’s governor has proposed a $12bn plan to tackle its homelessness crisis, calling the situation in America’s most populous state “unacceptable”. Buoyed by a large budget surplus and swimming in federal pandemic recovery money, Gavin Newsom’s proposal includes $8.75bn over two years to create an estimated 46,000 housing units, expanding on a program he launched last year to convert motels and other properties into housing. Nearly half the money would go toward housing in places where people with mental health and other behavioral issues can get services onsite.
Newsom, who faces a recall election this year, also proposed spending $3.5bn on rental subsidies, new housing and shelter with the aim of ending family homelessness within five years. The effort would help families with minors avoid losing their homes in the first place or help them get sheltered without spending days, weeks or months on a waitlist.
The nation’s most populous state has an estimated 161,000 people experiencing homelessness, more than any other state. Advocates say they can’t house people quickly enough with a shortage of units and high rents. ...
Advocates cheered the governor’s proposal. But they voiced concerns about California’s decades-old resistance to building new homes: politics, long-term funding issues, neighborhood opposition and political jockeying. “If we couple it with actually taking steps to close our affordable housing gap, it could be good,“ said Dr Margot Kushel, director of the Center for Vulnerable Populations at the University of California, San Francisco. “The people who are homeless right now do need a response today, and not five years from now.”
Humanity’s enormous emissions of greenhouse gases are shrinking the stratosphere, a new study has revealed. The thickness of the atmospheric layer has contracted by 400 metres since the 1980s, the researchers found, and will thin by about another kilometre by 2080 without major cuts in emissions. The changes have the potential to affect satellite operations, the GPS navigation system and radio communications.
The discovery is the latest to show the profound impact of humans on the planet. In April, scientists showed that the climate crisis had shifted the Earth’s axis as the massive melting of glaciers redistributes weight around the globe.
The stratosphere extends from about 20km to 60km above the Earth’s surface. Below is the troposphere, in which humans live, and here carbon dioxide heats and expands the air. This pushes up the lower boundary of the stratosphere. But, in addition, when CO2 enters the stratosphere it actually cools the air, causing it to contract.
The shrinking stratosphere is a stark signal of the climate emergency and the planetary-scale influence that humanity now exerts, according to Juan Añel, at the University of Vigo, Ourense in Spain and part of the research team. “It is shocking,” he said. “This proves we are messing with the atmosphere up to 60 kilometres.”
Scientists already knew the troposphere was growing in height as carbon emissions rose and had hypothesised that the stratosphere was shrinking. But the new study is the first to demonstrate this and shows it has been contracting around the globe since at least the 1980s, when satellite data was first gathered.
Chemical giants DuPont and Daikin knew the dangers of a PFAS compound widely used in food packaging since 2010, but hid them from the public and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), company studies obtained by the Guardian reveal.
The chemicals, called 6:2 FTOH, are now linked to a range of serious health issues, and Americans are still being exposed to them in greaseproof pizza boxes, carryout containers, fast-food wrappers, and paperboard packaging. The companies initially told the FDA that the compounds were safer and less likely to accumulate in humans than older types of PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals” and submitted internal studies to support that claim.
But Daikin withheld a 2009 study that indicated toxicity to lab rats’ livers and kidneys, while DuPont in 2012 did not alert the FDA or public to new internal data that indicated that the chemical stays in animals’ bodies for much longer than initially thought.
Science from industry, the FDA and independent researchers now links 6:2 FTOH to kidney disease, liver damage, cancer, neurological damage, developmental problems and autoimmune disorders, while researchers also found higher mortality rates among young animals and mothers exposed to the chemicals.
Had the FDA seen the data, it is unlikely that it would have approved 6:2 FTOH, said Maricel Maffini, an independent researcher who studies PFAS in food packaging. And though Daikin may have broken the law, it and DuPont, which has previously been caught hiding studies that suggest toxicity in PFAS, are not facing any repercussions.
Colonial Pipeline was set to restart operations on Wednesday evening, after a cyber-attack forced the company to shut down the nation’s largest fuel pipeline for nearly a week, the US energy secretary, Jennifer Granholm, said. “We just got off the phone with Colonial Pipeline CEO. They are restarting pipeline operations today at – 5pm,” Granholm wrote in a post on Twitter.
The announcement came as fuel shortages were still taking hold in parts of the US as panicked drivers fill up their tanks in response to last week’s ransomware attack upon the key gasoline artery for the east coast.
The FBI confirmed on Monday that the ransomware group responsible for the compromise of the pipeline network that supplies petrochemicals to the north-eastern US is DarkSide, an experienced collective of cybercriminals which has hacked scores of companies in the US and Europe. Colonial has not so far paid any ransom, according to a report in the Washington Post on Wednesday afternoon.
The shortages are most acute in the US south-east, with one in five gas stations in Atlanta reported to be out of fuel on Tuesday evening. About one in 10 gas stations in North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia have run dry of fuel, according to GasBuddy, an app that tracks fuel prices and demand.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Mary Ann Fisher - Put Your Shoes On
Mary Ann Fisher - Wild As You Can Be
Mary Ann Fisher - Forever More
Mary Ann Fisher - Give
Mary Ann Fisher - I Can't Take It
Mary Ann Fisher - Yes, I Love You
Mary Ann Fisher - Its a Mans World
Mary Ann Fisher - I Keep Comin' Back For More
Ray Charles - Mary Ann