The Evening Blues - 5-14-21
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features soul singers Sam and Dave. Enjoy!
Sam and Dave - Hold On, I'm Coming
"What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour. This is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary."
-- Hillel, Talmud, Shabbath 31a
News and Opinion
Israel’s military has said “ground troops” have begun attacking the Gaza Strip and residents reported a massive bombardment, amid fears of an incursion into the blockaded territory.
“[Israel Defense Forces] air and ground troops are currently attacking in the Gaza Strip,” the military said in a statement just after midnight local time, without providing further details.
Shortly after the military announcement, in an apparent reference to the operation, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, tweeted: “The last word was not said and this operation will continue as long as necessary.”
It was not immediately clear what was the extent of the operation – whether it was a limited raid into the blockaded territory or part of a wider offensive. Israeli military affairs reporters suggested it was not a ground invasion, but artillery and tank fire from the frontier.
However, it was clear the Israeli attack was a significant escalation in the worst bout of fighting in years. Residents in Gaza City more than 1km from the frontier said their apartment blocks were shaking.
From our colleague on the ground in Gaza: "My children are completely panicked. It feels like more than 200 bombs are going off at once. The houses are shaking. Building are collapsing on people. The sound of their screams is terrifying."
— Henriette Chacar هنريت شقر (@HenrietteChacar) May 13, 2021
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz threatened that "Gaza will burn" as Israel's military reportedly readied plans Thursday for a possible ground invasion of the occupied Palestinian territory, a major escalation that human rights advocates warned would lead to more destruction and civilian deaths.
In remarks dubbed as a message to the people of Gaza, Gantz—who served as chief of general staff for the IDF during Israel's deadly 2014 invasion of the Gaza Strip—claimed that "Hamas leaders bear responsibility for your being hunkered down in your homes" amid Israeli airstrikes.
"If citizens of Israel have to sleep in shelters" due to Hamas rocket attacks, Gantz said late Wednesday, "then Gaza will burn."
Observers viewed Gantz's remarks as a direct threat to inflict mass civilian casualties on one of the most densely populated areas in the world, a territory considered by many to be an "open-air prison" crowded with around two million people.
Ali Abunimah, co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, tweeted that Gantz's remarks "should be entered directly as evidence of war crimes to the International Criminal Court."
"Gantz said 'Gaza will burn,'" Abunimah continued. "It's direct evidence of premeditation to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity. No one can say 'I didn't know.' Anyone who aids, abets, or justifies this criminal regime has blood on their hands."
Michael Brooks on "Israel/Palestine is a complex issue" pic.twitter.com/aEPNOhrOWj
— pass the PRO act (@workerism) May 12, 2021
The headlines speak mainly of “clashes”, “conflict”, and “casualties on both sides”. The politicians recite bromides about Israel’s “right to defend itself”– a right that Palestinians seemingly do not have. The US government calls for “all parties to deescalate”, with no acknowledgment that it is US funds – $3.8bn a year – that, in part, make Israel’s bombardment of Gaza possible. This is the familiar American routine when Israel goes to war.
Yet before Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rockets came to dominate the news, what happened over the last week in Jerusalem was perhaps the most substantial Palestinian mass uprising in the city since 2017 – when Palestinian demonstrations led Israeli police to abandon their attempt to install metal detectors at the entrance to the Al Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem. Then, as now, it was an uprising centered in Jerusalem but about much more. And though US public attention has been diverted, the Jerusalem uprising is still ongoing. That is important not to forget.
It was not a coincidence that the uprising began in Jerusalem. Occupied East Jerusalem exemplifies in miniature the Israeli government’s endeavor to secure “maximum territory, minimum Arabs”, as David Ben-Gurion saw the goals of the Zionist movement. Israel has pursued this goal in East Jerusalem – which it occupied in 1967 and formally annexed in 1980 – by making it nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain permits to build homes, leaving thousands of people vulnerable to displacement and their homes slated for demolition. East Jerusalemites, who are not citizens of Israel but legal residents, face stringent residency requirements that make their legal status precarious. The Israeli government has also empowered Jewish settlers to seize properties inside Palestinian neighborhoods such as Silwan, Abu Dis, a-Tur, and Sheikh Jarrah – part of an explicit strategy to “Judaize” the eastern part of the city.
Israeli officials are increasingly bold about telegraphing these goals to the global public. “This is a Jewish country,” said Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, British-born deputy mayor of Jerusalem, to the New York Times, “[o]f course there are laws that some people may consider as favoring Jews – it’s a Jewish state.” But if Israeli officials are open about the discriminatory logic at Zionism’s core, most US politicians continue to deny it. ...
If there is any reason for hope, it is that public opinion in the US seems to be swinging, belatedly, in support of Palestinian rights. For the time being, such a position is hardly represented in the halls of US power. Only a handful of Democratic members of Congress have issued statements condemning Israel’s attempts to displace the Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah. But US politicians, and Democrats in particular, will not be able to ignore the calls to halt US military assistance to Israel forever. Of course, the US halting such support to Israel cannot alone end Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem or the siege on Gaza. It is, however, a place to start.
The images of the compound of al-Aqsa mosque – Islam’s third holiest site – engulfed in flames during the final nights of Ramadan were widely circulated on social media. The days-long violence in Jerusalem and now Gaza over the contested neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah sparked international condemnation, notably by a growing cluster of US progressive lawmakers who spoke out against Israeli military , accusing it of using excessive force to try and displace Palestinians from their homes.
UN human rights officials also urged Israel to stop evicting Palestinians from their homes and abide by international humanitarian law which states East Jerusalem remains part of Palestinian territory.
Palestinian activists reacting on social media say this public denunciation of Israel is a seismic shift from previous language used by American politicians surrounding conflict in the region. “It’s really different this time and honestly I think it’s in large part because of social media,” Amani al-Khatahtbeh, a Palestinian American author and founder of online magazine Muslim Girl, said.
“Especially with young people becoming more vocal, our new generation is really not OK with injustice being swept under the rug or covered up. It’s impossible now to hide all of the abuses taking place. That’s terrifying to the old guard that has invested so much in the status quo. We’re decentralizing and democratizing that.”
Joe Biden has been criticised by groups within his own party after he made a statement who saying he believes in “Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself”; the statement from the White House failed to address the violence against Palestinians. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took direct issue with Biden’s position, saying: “Blanket statements like these with little context or acknowledgement of what precipitated this cycle of violence – namely, the expulsions of Palestinians and attacks on al-Aqsa – dehumanize Palestinians and imply the US will look the other way at human rights violations. It’s wrong.”
.@SecBlinken: When will the US condemn racist violence against Palestinians? Is it your policy to support settlers stealing Palestinian homes & burning their lands? Billions of U.S. taxpayer $ support the racist Netanyahu government & the apartheid state they enforce every year.
— Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (@RepRashida) May 5, 2021
When the Trump administration announced last July it was loosening decades-old restrictions on military drone exports, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee came out swinging. Progressive Democrats pounced and introduced legislation to reverse the decision. The new policy, they correctly warned, opened the door for sales to authoritarian countries like the United Arab Emirates that Democratic and Republican administrations alike had denied since the Reagan era.
“As we explore the repercussions of today’s announcement on our broader foreign policy goals and our national security interests,” Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said of the Trump administration’s July 24 announcement, “this reckless decision once again makes it more likely that we will export some of our most deadly weaponry to human rights abusers across the world. This is yet another reckless move by an Administration fixated with eliminating the international cooperation that has made the United States and other countries safer for decades.”
Menendez was the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the time and had to defer the panel’s agenda to Chair Jim Risch, a Republican from Idaho, who applauded the White House’s decision. From Risch’s view, increased sales under the policy change would hamper the growing prowess of China, whose courtship of traditional U.S. military customers cheated American manufacturers out of lucrative business deals.
Now in a real position to influence policy as chair of the committee, thanks to two runoff elections in Georgia that few analysts expected would both result in Democratic victories, Menendez has been silent on the issue — even after news emerged in March that President Joe Biden wants to preserve his predecessor’s radical policy change.
Human rights activists in Brazil have warned that the country’s authorities are targeting indigenous leaders after police launched investigations into two prominent critics of the government of Jair Bolsonaro.
Sônia Guajajara, the head of Brazil’s largest indigenous organization, the Association of Indigenous Peoples (Apib), and Almir Suruí had been put under investigation last month over social media campaigns raising awareness of the threat that Covid-19 poses to Brazil’s indigenous population.
Both cases were closed this week after federal judges ruled that there were no grounds for the investigations and described the situation as an “illegal embarrassment”.
But Natalie Unterstell, the founder of the Política por Inteiro thinktank, said the episode exposed how the government is fostering violence against indigenous populations. “Speeches by the president and his ministers are constantly attacking indigenous peoples,” Unterstell said. “This sets an environment of violence. We need antidotes against it.”
Guajajara described the investigation launched against her as “an attempt at intimidation and to avoid revealing the [government’s] inaction [in response the pandemic.]”
EU citizens are being sent to immigration removal centres and held in airport detention rooms as the UK government’s “hostile environment” policy falls on them after Brexit, according to campaigners and travellers interviewed by the Guardian.
Europeans with job interviews are among those being denied entry and locked up. They have spoken of being subjected to the traumatic and humiliating experience of expulsion, despite Home Office rules that explicitly allow non-visa holders to attend interviews.
Confusion about whether EU citizens can explore the UK job market and then go home with an offer in order to apply for a work visa has added to the growing number of detentions. In other cases, visitors are clearly breaking rules, such as those now barring EU citizens from taking up unpaid internships.
At least a dozen European citizens – mostly young women – were detained and expelled at Gatwick airport alone over 48 hours last week, two female Spanish detainees told the Guardian. Some were sent two hours’ drive away to Yarl’s Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire, where a Covid scare meant they were confined to their rooms.
Other countries whose citizens have been held at a UK airport or detention centre include Italy, France, Bulgaria and Greece. It is understood one French man was held at Edinburgh airport for 48 hours recently, while the Bulgarian ambassador to the UK confirmed a number of his nationals had been held at immigration removal centres.
Campaigners have hailed a victory for Glaswegian solidarity and told the Home Office “you messed with the wrong city” as two men detained by UK Immigration Enforcement were released back into their community after a day of protest.
Police Scotland intervened to free the men after a tense day-long standoff between immigration officials and hundreds of local residents, who surrounded their van in a residential street on the southside of Glasgow to stop the detention of the men during Eid al-Fitr.
Staff from Immigration Enforcement are believed to have swooped on a property in Pollokshields early on Thursday morning and detained people. By mid-morning, a crowd of about 200 protesters surrounded the vehicle, preventing it from driving away, and chanting “these are our neighbours, let them go”, with one protester lying under the van to prevent it driving off.
“I’m just overwhelmed by Glasgow’s solidarity for refugees and asylum seekers,” said Roza Salih, shouting to be heard over the jubilant shouts of “refugees are welcome here”. She added: “This is a victory for the community.”
As cheering protesters escorted the men to the local mosque, Pinar Aksu, of Maryhill Integration Network said: “They messed with the wrong city. “This is a revolution of people coming together in solidarity for those who others have turned away from,” she said. Aksu described how hundreds more supporters had arrived at the scene as the afternoon progressed. “This is just the start. When there is another dawn raid in Glasgow, the same thing will happen.”
Attorneys for the family of Andrew Brown Jr. said Tuesday additional footage from the Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office showed Brown was “ambushed” by deputies. They described the encounter as a “massacre” and said the video is evidence that merits criminal charges against the deputies. Officials showed the family and their attorneys six videos that totaled about 20 minutes, including dashboard footage and video from deputies’ body cameras. At a news conference, Brown’s family said it was clear he had never posed a threat to the officers that killed him. ...
Brown, a 42-year-old black man, was fatally shot April 21 in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, when Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputies sought to serve Brown an arrest warrant related to felony drug charges. Attorneys said Brown was in his own driveway, using a cellphone in his parked car, when officers dismounted from the back of a pickup truck and circled him.
District Attorney Andrew Womble initially claimed officers fired at Brown’s vehicle because he attempted to hit officers with his vehicle, and that officers attempted to provide Brown medical care after the shooting. Womble said the car “made contact” with officers at least two times before shots were fired. However, Brown family attorney Chance Lynch said the video showed that deputies first opened fire on Brown, prompting him to attempt to drive away. Lynch said Brown’s car was riddled with bullet holes after the shooting. Deputies found no weapons on Brown after the shooting. ...
“You could see that he was not a threat. There was a shot fired. When the shot was fired, he put the car in reverse, putting several feet, if not yards, away from the police who were there. He turned his wheel to the left, to turn it away from the law enforcement officers,” he said. “At no point did we ever see any police officers behind his vehicle. At no point did we ever see Mr. Brown make contact with law enforcement.”
Brown was then seen accelerating across his yard when deputies began shooting at him again. At some point, a bullet struck Brown in the back of his head and his vehicle went down a ditch and crashed into a tree. Officers then pulled Brown from the car and laid him face-first on the ground.
The trial of three former Minneapolis police officers charged with aiding and abetting the murder of George Floyd will be pushed back to March 2022, a judge ruled Thursday. Thomas Lane, J Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao were scheduled to face trial on 23 August on charges they aided and abetted both murder and manslaughter when they assisted a more experienced officer, Derek Chauvin, in restraining Floyd face-down on the street last May, with Chauvin kneeling on his neck.
Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter last month. All four officers also face federal civil rights charges that allege they violated Floyd’s constitutional rights during his 25 May arrest. Chauvin is to be sentenced on 25 June, following his conviction on the state charges. There is no date yet for when the federal cases will come to trial.
Judge Peter Cahill said he had changed the date so the federal case can go forward first. He also said he felt the need to put some distance between the three officers’ trial and Chauvin’s due to all the publicity around the case.
The news that the trial was being pushed back came during a Thursday hearing on pretrial motions.
Philadelphia on Thursday marks the city’s first official day of remembrance for the 1985 bombing of a Black liberation group in which 11 people, including five children, were killed and an entire African American neighborhood burned to ashes.
The commemoration of the city’s aerial bombing of the Move organization is being billed as a day of “reflection, observation and recommitment to the principle that all people are created equal”. It follows last year’s formal apology by Philadelphia city council for having committed one of the worst atrocities in America’s long history of racial violence. ...
No Philadelphia official ever faced criminal consequences for the atrocity. The only person held criminally liable was Ramona Africa, one of only two Move members who managed to escape the attack – she was charged with riot and conspiracy, and served seven years in prison.
Jamie Gauthier, who represents the Osage Avenue area on the city council and who was instrumental in initiating Thursday’s day of remembrance, told the Guardian that the event would be a chance to reflect on the ways that Black people in Philadelphia and across the US have suffered at the hands of the state.
The public outcry over the handling of human remains retrieved from the ashes of the deadly 1985 bombing of a Black liberation organization in Philadelphia dramatically escalated on Thursday, with the revelation that the bones of an undisclosed number of Move victims were incinerated and dumped by the city without the knowledge or permission of living relatives.
In a bombshell disclosure, the mayor of Philadelphia, Jim Kenney, announced that he had fired the city’s health commissioner, Thomas Farley. The mayor said that Farley had told him earlier this week that several years ago he had become aware that remains of victims of the Move bombing – in which 11 people died – were still in the possession of the city’s medical examiner’s office.
It is understood that the health commissioner became aware of the bones’ existence in 2017. Instead of attempting to identify them and return them to the families of the deceased, Farley said “he made a decision to cremate and dispose of them”, the mayor said in a statement.
Kenney said he had asked the health commissioner to resign. “This action lacked empathy for the victims, their family, and the deep pain that the Move bombing has brought to our city for nearly four decades.” The city’s medical examiner, Sam Gulino, was also placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.
In a bitter twist of history, the disclosure of the exceptionally cavalier manner in which Philadelphia dealt with the human remains of its own citizens fell on the 36th anniversary of the police bombing. As the mayor put it in his statement: “Today marks 36 years since 11 Black Philadelphians – including children – were killed by their own government.” The bombing, on 13 May 1985, amounted to one of the worst atrocities in America’s long history of state-inflicted racial violence.
A top official at one of America’s most influential conservative groups bragged about playing a key role in crafting voting restrictions across the country, according to leaked video published by Documented, a watchdog group, and Mother Jones on Thursday.
Jessica Anderson, the executive director of Heritage Action for America, an advocacy group affiliated with the powerful Heritage Foundation, told donors in April that the group had both written statutes and provided support for lawmakers doing so. “In some cases, we actually draft them for them,” she said, according to Mother Jones. “Or we have a sentinel on our behalf give them the model legislation so it has that grassroots, from-the-bottom-up type of vibe.”
The comments shed light on the effort behind the scenes to shape new voting restrictions across the country. At least 361 bills have been introduced in the US since the November election, according to an analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice.
Anderson touted Heritage Action’s influence in several closely-watched states – Georgia, Arizona, Florida, and Iowa – all states that have implemented new voting restrictions in the wake of the 2020 election. In Iowa, which passed legislation that curtails the early voting period and makes it easier to remove people from the voter rolls. The group plans to spend $24m over the next two years.
“Iowa is the first state that we got to work in, and we did it quickly and we did it quietly,” she said. “We helped draft the bills. We made sure activists were calling the state legislators, getting support, showing up at their public hearings, giving testimony … little fanfare. Honestly, nobody even noticed. My team looked at each other and we’re like, ‘It can’t be that easy.’”
A new study that checked American women’s breast milk for PFAS contamination detected the toxic chemical in all 50 samples tested, and at levels nearly 2,000 times higher than the level some public health advocates advise is safe for drinking water.
The findings “are cause for concern” and highlight a potential threat to newborns’ health, the study’s authors say.
“The study shows that PFAS contamination of breast milk is likely universal in the US, and that these harmful chemicals are contaminating what should be nature’s perfect food,” said Erika Schreder, a co-author and science director with Toxic Free Future, a Seattle-based non-profit that pushes industry to find alternatives to the chemicals.
PFAS, or per and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a class of about 9,000 compounds that are used to make products like food packaging, clothing and carpeting water and stain resistant. They are called “forever chemicals” because they do not naturally break down and have been found to accumulate in humans.
They are linked to cancer, birth defects, liver disease, thyroid disease, plummeting sperm counts and a range of other serious health problems. The peer-reviewed study, published on Thursday in the Environmental Science and Technology journal, found PFAS at levels in milk ranging from 50 parts per trillion (ppt) to more than 1,850ppt.
EPA Data Kept Secret Under Trump Shows Climate Crisis Becoming 'More Evident, Stronger, and Extreme'
During its four years in power, the oil-friendly Trump administration kept the Environmental Protection Agency's Climate Change Indicators page completely frozen, suppressing an updated assessment of how the planetary emergency is affecting the United States and other parts of the world.
But on Wednesday, the Biden EPA relaunched the page with new data showing that U.S. cities are experiencing more frequent and intense heat waves, ocean and lake temperatures are climbing, sea levels on U.S. coasts are rising, and wildfire season is peaking earlier.
Those and other alarming trends detailed on the revamped page—which emphasizes that many of the changes "are linked to the rising levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, caused by human activities"—constitute further evidence of the "urgency for action on the climate crisis," EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.
"With this long overdue update," Regan added, "we now have additional data and a new set of indicators that show climate change has become even more evident, stronger, and extreme—as has the imperative that we take meaningful action."
In addition to bringing up to date the page's previously existing categories, the EPA added new sections detailing how rising global temperatures have reduced the surface area of glaciers in Glacier National Park, Montana; shortened the duration of ice cover in the Great Lakes; and lowered permafrost temperatures in Alaska.
"There is no small town, big city, or rural community that is unaffected by the climate crisis," Regan told the New York Times on Wednesday. "Americans are seeing and feeling the impacts up close, with increasing regularity."
As the Washington Post reported Wednesday, the Trump administration "delayed an update to the EPA's peer-reviewed report on climate change indicators, first published in 2010."
"As a result, the report offers a snapshot of the extent to which the science around climate change grew more detailed and robust during [former President Donald] Trump's term, even as his administration at times tried to stifle those findings," the Post noted. "The Trump administration did not take down the climate indicators page, leaving it up with outdated information."
During his White House tenure, Trump repeatedly questioned the findings of government climate scientists, attempted to bury research on the climate emergency's impact, and weakened regulations aimed at reducing planet-warming emissions.
Kristina Dahl, a senior climate scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said that while the Biden administration's decision to revive the EPA assessment is welcome, "it's a bare minimum that this kind of data should be updated regularly and available to the public."
"We have a very long, uphill road ahead of us for actually enacting policies that will make change," Dahl told the Times.
Nicole and Aaron Bradley’s diversified livestock farm is a far cry from the industrial pig operations that dominate the landscape in North Carolina, the second biggest pork-producing state in the US. Instead of confining thousands of animals and managing their millions of litres of waste in lagoons that release methane, a potent greenhouse gas (GHG), the Bradleys raise 200 pigs at a time on pasture and in wooded areas, where the animals’ manure is integrated into the ground naturally as fertiliser. Similarly, they move their 40 grass-fed cattle using a “mob” grazing system that maximises soil health, with laying hens following behind.
“One of the biggest things we focus on is biodiversity of plants and wildlife. We’re trying to create and steward ecosystems,” says Aaron. Research shows that systems that integrate managed grazing, permanent soil cover and added biodiversity can take carbon out of the atmosphere and increase a farm’s ability to confront weather extremes.
You might imagine that Colfax Creek Farm, North Carolina, would be first on the list to benefit from agricultural carbon markets, touted by politicians and the Biden administration as a way to help the US reduce emissions while boosting farmers’ incomes. However, some farmers and climate activists say smaller diversified farms using regenerative practices will not benefit financially. Carbon markets could also lock in monoculture crop systems and industrial-scale animal operations that degrade the environment and make it harder for smaller farms to compete.
“If farms are small or have more diverse operations that bring in other benefits around biodiversity and water, but not narrowly only about carbon, they’re closed out,” says Ben Lilliston, director of rural strategies and climate change at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), which has published a report on carbon markets. “It’s yet another market that tilts the playing field against [these] operations.”
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Sam & Dave - I Thank You
Sam And Dave - Soothe Me
Sam And Dave - Wrap It Up
Sam And Dave - A Place Nobody Can Find
Sam & Dave - If You Got The Loving (I Got The Time)
Sam & Dave - I Take What I Want
Sam & Dave - Said I Wasn't Gonna Tell Nobody
Sam & Dave - The Good Runs The Bad Away
Sam & Dave - Soul Sister Brown Sugar
Sam And Dave - Lotta Lovin'
Sam & Dave - You Got Me Hummin'
Sam & Dave - Goodnight Baby