The Evening Blues - 5-31-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues singer Koko Taylor. Enjoy!
Koko Taylor - You Can Have My Husband
“We as a society are being forced to subsidize our own destruction.”
-- Carroll Muffett
News and Opinion
Heh, this good news will likely not be received as such by the war-mongering bastards that run the military and its attendent industrial profiteers.
The head of the international watchdog that monitors signs of nuclear testing has said there is no evidence to support a US allegation that Russia has conducted low-yield tests in violation of an international ban.
Lassina Zerbo, the executive secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO), said the agency had already investigated the claim made on Wednesday by the head of the US Defense Intelligence Agency, Lt Gen Robert Ashley, that Russia had “probably” violated the moratorium on tests of any yield.
In a public appearance in Washington, Ashley did not give details, and in response to follow-up questions, he said only that Russia had the “capability” to carry out such tests. The US has long voiced suspicions that Russia could be carrying out low-yield testing at a remote Arctic island base, Novaya Zemlya.
Zerbo said the agency had conducted a test of its global network of sensors on Wednesday to estimate what size of nuclear blast it would be able to detect at Novaya Zemlya. The test found that its monitoring system would have picked up a blast of 3.1 on the Richter scale, which would be roughly equivalent, in that area, to a nuclear detonation of 100 tons – tiny in comparison to the yield of most nuclear warheads, which are normally measured in thousands of tons. The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were 15 and 20 kilotons, respectively.
“If now we talk about a hundred tons that is detectable in that zone, it means that we’re going pretty low,” Zerbo told the Guardian in a telephone interview from Seoul. “If you go that low, what value added does it bring to a country with nuclear weapons? That’s a question that one should ask. And that could lead to a clear answer immediately.
When the UN Security Council met last week to discuss the deaths and devastation caused to civilians in ongoing military conflicts and civil wars, the killings in Yemen and the air attacks on hospitals, schools, mosques, and market places — whether deliberate or otherwise — were singled out as the worst ever. The death and destruction were caused by weapons provided by some of the permanent members of the Security Council, including the U.S., France and U.K.
The day after that meeting — in defiance of U.S. congressional opposition to arms sales to some of the warring Middle Eastern nations — the Trump administration said it would sell $8.1 billion in American arms to Jordan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia under an “emergency notification.” All three countries are part of a Saudi-led coalition unleashing attacks on Yemen in order to battle Houthi insurgents who U.S. officials claim are trained and armed by Iran. ...
Stephen Zunes, professor of politics at the University of San Francisco with a specialty in Middle Eastern studies, told IPS this sale is not about deterring Iranian aggression and it is certainly not an emergency. “It’s about the profits of American arms manufacturers at the expense of countless Yemeni lives.” Zunes continued, “This is but the most extreme manifestation, however, of a longstanding bipartisan policy of transferring deadly and sophisticated armaments to the family dictatorships in the Middle East.” Zunes, who also serves as a senior policy analyst for the Foreign Policy in Focus project of the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies, said it was ironic that a nation that emerged in revolution against monarchy, would be the world’s No. 1 arms supplier of absolute monarchies today.
Lawmakers may try to block the sale, The Hill reported May 29. ...
Last week, the London-based Amnesty International ridiculed the U.S. argument that some of the weapons supplied to the Saudi-led coalition were “precision-guided” to avoid civilian casualties. “The great military powers cynically boast about ‘precision’ warfare and ‘surgical’ strikes that distinguish between fighters and civilians. But the reality on the ground is that civilians are routinely targeted where they live, work, study, worship and seek medical care,” Amnesty’s statement said. “Parties to armed conflict unlawfully kill, maim and forcibly displace millions of civilians while world leaders shirk their responsibility and turn their backs on war crimes and immense suffering.”
Calling Treatment of Julian Assange 'Psychological Torture,' UN Expert Demands End to US Extradition Attempt
After visiting Julian Assange in the London prison where he is serving a 50-week sentence for skipping bail, a United Nations expert warned Friday that the WikiLeaks founder is showing "all symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture" and demanded an end to U.S. extradition attempts.
In a statement, Nils Meltzer—the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture—issued a scathing rebuke of the U.S., the United Kingdom, Ecuador, and Sweden for their treatment of Assange, who was reportedly too ill to appear via video at a scheduled extradition hearing on Thursday.
Meltzer, who was accompanied on his visit by two medical experts, said Assange was experiencing "physical ailments" as well as "extreme stress, chronic anxiety, and intense psychological trauma" in part due to the Trump administration's efforts to extradite and prosecute him for exposing U.S. war crimes and other state secrets.
"In 20 years of work with victims of war, violence, and political persecution, I have never seen a group of democratic states ganging up to deliberately isolate, demonize, and abuse a single individual for such a long time and with so little regard for human dignity and the rule of law," said Meltzer. "The collective persecution of Julian Assange must end here and now!"
If Assange is extradited to the U.S., Meltzer warned, he "would be exposed to a real risk of serious violations of his human rights, including his freedom of expression, his right to a fair trial, and the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment."
Worth a full read:
On the eighth of April, shortly before London police forcibly carried WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange out of the Ecuadorian embassy, a doctor named Sondra S Crosby wrote a letter to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights requesting that the office look into Assange’s case. Today, following a scorching rebuke of multiple governments by UN Special Rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer, mass media outlets around the world are reporting that Julian Assange has been found to be the victim of brutal psychological torture. ...
Melzer condemned attempts to extradite Assange to the US under the Espionage Act, as well as what he called “a relentless and unrestrained campaign of public mobbing, intimidation and defamation against Mr. Assange, not only in the United States, but also in the United Kingdom, Sweden and, more recently, Ecuador.” According to the expert, this included an endless stream of humiliating, debasing and threatening statements in the press and on social media, but also by senior political figures, and even by judicial magistrates involved in proceedings against Assange,” the OHCHR statement reads. ...
It is hugely significant that a UN expert has included the massive anti-Assange smear campaign in his assessment of psychological abuse. For far too long this devastating psychological weapon of the powerful has gone fully normalized and unacknowledged for the damage and suffering it causes, and now an authoritative voice has pointed it out and called it into public consciousness for the depraved manipulation that it is. It’s a very interesting development to see western governments and their media stenographers condemned in this way for their participation in such savagery.
Responses to Melzer’s findings have been explosive. Virtually every major media outlet in the English-speaking world has been carrying headlines about this story, from the New York Times to the Washington Post to Fox News to CNN to the Guardian to the BBC to the Herald Sun.
An attempt to regain control of the narrative by the accused governments, therefore, was of course quick to follow.
This is wrong. Assange chose to hide in the embassy and was always free to leave and face justice. The UN Special Rapporteur should allow British courts to make their judgements without his interference or inflammatory accusations. https://t.co/s0UtMN5pU0
— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) May 31, 2019
Hunt, who’d just returned from hanging out with the Trump administration’s warmongering psychopath John Bolton, received a direct response from Melzer himself.
With all due respect, Sir: Mr Assange was about as „free to leave“ as a someone sitting on a rubberboat in a sharkpool. As detailed in my formal letter to you, so far, UK courts have not shown the impartiality and objectivity required by the rule of law.
— Nils Melzer (@NilsMelzer) May 31, 2019
... Julian Assange decided to stand his ground and trade blows toe-to-toe with the most powerful empire in the history of human civilization, he forced them to expose themselves. He forced the oppression machine to reveal its true face, by coordinating across national borders to drag him bodily out of the embassy, locking him in a cage, waging a war upon the free press with outrageous espionage charges, and finally being found guilty of torturing a journalist for publishing factual documents about the powerful. We have all that information now. It can’t be unseen. Because Assange chose to fight, we now have that evidence and we can use it to help wake people up to the true face behind the smiling mask of “liberal democracy” we’ve all been told to believe in since grade school. Even while imprisoned, sick, and barely even able to speak, Julian Assange is still exposing these bastards for what they are.
“Netanyahu is not only fighting for his political life, but he’s also fighting to stay out of court, out of jail.”
A visibly angry Benjamin Netanyahu dissolved Israel’s parliament on Wednesday night, an unprecedented move experts say could be the beginning of the end for the long-serving prime minister, both politically and personally. ...
Israel now faces new elections in September, but with corruption charges pending and chances of passing legislation to limit his exposure to prosecution all but evaporated, there’s more than Netanyahu’s political future on the line. “Netanyahu is not only fighting for his political life, but he’s also fighting to stay out of court, out of jail,” Yossi Mekelberg, a professor of international relations at Regent’s University, London, told VICE News. ...
“Netanyahu's embrace of the religious far right and the secular far right has proved to be a double-edged sword,” Fawaz Gerges, a professor of international relations at the London School of Economics, told VICE News. “Yes, it has allowed him to remain at the helm longer than any other prime minister, but it could also bring about the beginning of the end of Netanyahu.”
Netanyahu is facing three damning corruption indictments related to bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
In a surprise announcement that could compromise a major trade deal, Donald Trump announced Thursday that he is slapping a 5% tariff on all Mexican imports to pressure the country to do more to crack down on the surge of Central American migrants trying to cross the border. He said the percentage would gradually increase “until the Illegal Immigration problem is remedied”.
Trump made the announcement by tweet after telling reporters earlier Thursday that he was planning “a major statement” that would be his “biggest” so far on the border. ... Trump has accused the Mexican government of failing to do enough to crack down on the surge of Central American migrants who have been flowing to the US in search of asylum from countries including El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
The announcement comes as the administration has been pushing for passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement that would update the North American Free Trade Agreement. The White House said Trump would be using the International Emergency Economic Powers Act to implement the tariff. “If the illegal migration crisis is alleviated through effective actions taken by Mexico, to be determined in our sole discretion and judgment, the Tariffs will be removed,” the White House said in a statement.
But if Trump is not satisfied, the 5% figure will increase to 10% on 1 July, to 15% on 1 August, to 20% on 1 September and to 25% on 1 October. “Tariffs will permanently remain at the 25 percent level unless and until Mexico substantially stops the illegal inflow of aliens coming through its territory,” the statement read.
Trump's New "Fundamentally Cruel" Policy Would Effectively Bar Central American Refugees From Seeking Asylum
Immigrant and human rights advocates responded with alarm Thursday to a report that the Trump administration "is considering sweeping restrictions on asylum that would effectively block Central American migrants from entering the U.S.," condemning the proposed policy as both inhumane and unconstitutional.
"This latest policy is a disgusting example of the lengths the Trump administration will go to deny people protection," Charanya Krishnaswami of Amnesty International USA said in a statement. "To effectively close the border to Central Americans and the vast majority of people seeking asylum not only violates human rights obligations, but is also fundamentally cruel."
According to Politico:
A draft proposal circulating among Trump's Homeland Security advisers would prohibit migrants from seeking asylum if they have transited through a country other than their own before coming to the U.S., according to a [Department of Homeland Security] official and an outside advocate familiar with the plan. If executed, it would deny asylum to thousands of migrants waiting just south of the border, many of whom have trekked a perilous journey through Mexico.
...While Trump aides believe they can make the changes through an administrative rule, they are also seeking a legislative fix that would be far less vulnerable to a court challenge. Similar language is expected to be included in Trump's new immigration bill that would boost security at the southern border and push the nation to admit more high-skilled, well-educated immigrants, rather than immigrants who enter the U.S. based on family ties, according to two people familiar with the proposal.
"It's unbelievably extreme to try to inhibit anyone who comes through another country in their quest for asylum," Kerri Talbot, the federal advocacy director for the group Immigration Hub, told Politico. "It basically means it would block all Central Americans from coming to the U.S."
Donald Trump has defended his decision to impose new tariffs on Mexico as stock markets worldwide were rattled by fears of an escalation in trade tensions. “Mexico has taken advantage of the United States for decades,” Trump tweeted. “Because of the Dems, our Immigration Laws are BAD. Mexico makes a FORTUNE from the U.S., have for decades, they can easily fix this problem. Time for them to finally do what must be done!” ...
The Trump administration’s decision led to a sell-off in stock markets around the world. In the US the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 315 points, or 1.3%, in early trading. In London the FTSE 100 dropped close to 1% and all the European markets were down.
Mexico is the US’s largest trading partner. Last year it sent about $346.5bn of goods such as avocados, tomatoes, clothes and cars across the border. A 5% tariff would amount to a tax increase of more than $17bn that will largely be passed on to US consumers.
The Business Roundtable, one of Washington’s most influential lobby groups, called the decision a grave error. ... “Unilateral tariffs on all Mexican imports will not solve the urgent problems of securing our border and fixing our broken immigration system. We urge the administration to engage constructively with our neighbors and allies to resolve trade, migration and security issues in ways that will benefit Americans, not cause economic damage.”
Edward Snowden: With Technology, Institutions Have Made 'Most Effective Means of Social Control in the History of Our Species'
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden said Thursday that people in systems of power have exploited the human desire to connect in order to create systems of mass surveillance. Snowden appeared at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia via livestream from Moscow to give a keynote address for the Canadian university's Open Dialogue Series.
Right now, he said, humanity is in a sort of "atomic moment" in the field of computer science. "We're in the midst of the greatest redistribution of power since the Industrial Revolution, and this is happening because technology has provided a new capability," Snowden said. "It's related to influence that reaches everyone in every place," he said. "It has no regard for borders. Its reach is unlimited, if you will, but its safeguards are not." Without such defenses, technology is able to affect human behavior.
Institutions can "monitor and record private activities of people on a scale that's broad enough that we can say it's close to all-powerful," said Snowden. They do this through "new platforms and algorithms," through which "they're able to shift our behavior. In some cases they're able to predict our decisions—and also nudge them—to different outcomes. And they do this by exploiting the human need for belonging."
"We don't sign up for this," he added, dismissing the notion that people know exactly what they are getting into with social media platforms like Facebook. "How many of you who have a Facebook account actually read the terms of service?" Snowden asked. "Everything has hundreds and hundreds of pages of legal jargon that we're not qualified to read and assess—and yet they're considered to be binding upon us."
"And now," he added, "these institutions, which are both commercial and governmental, have built upon that and... have structuralized that and entrenched it to where it has become now the most effective means of social control in the history of our species."
"Maybe you've heard about it," Snowden said. "This is mass surveillance."
Tenants in a New York City apartment complex are fighting their landlord’s effort to install a facial recognition system to access parts of the buildings, calling it an affront to their privacy rights. The row, which the tenants believe could become an important test case, comes as concern about the spread of facial recognition systems has grown across the US and globally, with law enforcement agencies increasingly relying on the tool. ...
At Atlantic Plaza Towers in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, the landlord, Nelson Management Group, is moving to install a new system to control entry into the buildings. It would use facial recognition to open the front door for recognized tenants rather than traditional keys or electronic key fobs. More than 130 tenants have, however, filed a formal complaint with the state seeking to block the application. “We do not want to be tagged like animals,” said Icemae Downes, who has lived at Atlantic Plaza Towers since it opened 51 years ago. “We are not animals. We should be able to freely come in and out of our development without you tracking every movement.” ...
“There’s cameras at every inch of this place,” said Tranae Moran, 27. “It’s endless. They have every piece of data we own. With that equipment, they will have every piece of information that is associated with us, and that’s not necessary.” She is afraid that the biometric information collected for the new system would be abused. “I’m afraid of it being shared with third-party agencies. I’m afraid of it being shared with the police. I’m afraid of it being shared with anyone – advertising companies, just everyone. It’s just very sensitive information that I feel our landlord should not have,” she said.
Already, tenants say that security camera footage is carefully monitored. Residents who walk their dogs in the wrong place or enter the building with a box that looks like it contains a forbidden appliance say they might get an image of the alleged transgression slid under their doors, with a warning notice or a fine. So the residents fighting the application suspect the proposal has less to do with improving their own security, and more with attracting new tenants to the buildings in an area of Brooklyn primed for gentrification. “He doesn’t want Spanish. He doesn’t want black. He wants white people to come into the neighborhood,” Moran said.
A popular women’s health and fertility app sows doubt about birth control, features claims from medical advisers who are not licensed to practice in the US, and is funded and led by anti-abortion, anti-gay Catholic campaigners, a Guardian investigation has found. The Femm app, which collects personal information about sex and menstruation from users, has been downloaded more than 400,000 times since its launch in 2015, according to developers. It has users in the US, the EU, Africa and Latin America, its operating company claims.
Two of the app’s medical advisers are not licensed to practice in the US and are also closely tied to a Catholic university in Santiago, Chile, where access to abortion remains severely restricted. Femm receives much of its income from private donors including the Chiaroscuro Foundation, a charity backed almost exclusively by Sean Fieler, a wealthy Catholic hedge-funder based in New York.
Fieler’s foundation has long supported organizations – and politicians such as the vice-president, Mike Pence – that oppose birth control and abortion. Fieler has criticized Republicans for failing to outlaw abortion, calling their reticence “the tyranny of moderation” in a recent editorial. ...
The Femm app does not readily disclose the philosophy of its funders or leaders, and markets itself as a way to “avoid or achieve pregnancy”. Other fertility apps have been criticized for monetizing intimate data, sharing data with third parties and lack of privacy protections. Femm has not been accused of such behaviour, but appears to be the first ideologically aligned fertility app.
The Femm app’s literature sows doubt about the safety and efficacy of hormonal birth control, asserting that it may be deleterious to a woman’s health and that a safer, “natural” way for women to avoid pregnancy is to learn their cycles.
New Hampshire lawmakers just defied their own governor and voted to abolish capital punishment. The state Senate passed a bill Thursday afternoon to override Republican Gov. Chris Sununu’s previous veto on abolishing the death penalty. Lawmakers secured 16 votes in favor of the bill — exactly the number they needed to go around the governor. Under the new law, people found guilty of capital murder offenses will now face life in prison without the possibility of parole.
But it wasn’t easy for New Hampshire to get to this point. The state had long struggled to pass a bill banning the death penalty. When legislators finally did so narrowly last year, Sununu vetoed it and said the bill was a detriment to law enforcement in the state. In September, the state Senate was just two votes shy of the 16 votes needed to override that veto. Death penalty opponents in the state Senate only ginned up enough support to withstand a gubenetorial veto in April. ...
The Granite State is the 21st state in the nation to strike down the death penalty, and the bill passed Thursday ensures all of New England is without capital punishment.
Worth a read:
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee’s office has been secretly assisting Volkswagen’s efforts to defeat the United Auto Workers organizing drive in Chattanooga, according to emails obtained through the state’s public records law. At least three of Lee’s policy staffers exchanged emails shortly after UAW’s April 9 petition to represent Volkswagen’s hourly workers at the German company’s sole U.S. car manufacturing plant. One of Lee’s policy analysts reached out to a former chief of staff to retired Sen. Bob Corker, who was involved in the effort to bust the UAW’s first attempt to organize Volkswagen workers five years ago.
The emails also show a senior Volkswagen executive requesting to brief the governor’s office on the union drive. The company also helped plan a visit by Lee, a Republican, to the Chattanooga plant on April 29 — the date the UAW had asked the National Labor Relations Board to schedule a union election, the emails reveal. The Republican-dominated board threw out the petition on May 22 due to a technicality; the UAW immediately refiled a petition, and the board has scheduled an election for June 12, 13, and 14.
The governor implied to Volkswagen workers that Tennessee government officials have been successful in luring companies like Volkswagen to the state because of the lack of unions, according to a leaked recording obtained by Labor Notes. He also leaned heavily on his experience as the president of the Lee Company — the non-union mechanical, facilities, and home services business founded by his grandfather. “My experience is that when I have a direct relationship with you, the worker, and you’re working for me, that’s when the environment works the best,” Lee said. The comment was met with a raucous mixture of clapping and boos.
The governor’s actions are part of a multiyear trend of Southern politicians providing support to the union-busting campaigns of large manufacturers. Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant’s statement that workers should vote for the UAW if they want to lose their jobs and “end manufacturing as we know it” in the state received wide circulation in the week leading up to the UAW’s failed election at Nissan in 2017. Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley was described as “Boeing’s best union buster” by Bloomberg for her role in discouraging workers from joining the Machinists union; she was even featured in an anti-union radio ad paid for by Boeing. Both Nissan and Boeing remain non-union.
“What we are seeing is that right-wing politicians are using the power of the state in instrumental ways to advance broader corporate interests,” said Nelson Lichtenstein, labor history professor at University of California, Santa Barbara. “Companies working hand-in-glove with conservative politicians to defeat unions is becoming the new normal in the South.”
A dead GOP strategist’s hard drive just provided new rationale for adding a citizenship question on the 2020 Census: that it’s good for white people. The Trump administration is in the middle of trying to convince the Supreme Court that asking people about their citizenship status isn’t racially motivated, as critics allege, but rather a way for the government to better enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Notorious Republican redistricting strategist Thomas Hofeller helped write the Department of Justice memo that made that argument.
But Hofeller died last year, and in a strange twist of fate, his daughter found files on his computer that suggest another reason for adding the question, according to court documents uncovered by the New York Times. A 2015 study Hofeller conducted found that Republicans could use the new data to redraw voting districts based not on population but on the number of voting-age citizens.
That “would be advantageous to Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites” and “would clearly be a disadvantage for the Democrats,” Hofeller wrote in his study, according to the court documents. The idea was that safely blue districts would lose population, and Republicans could push for those districts to expand by tacking on blue precincts from neighboring red districts. That, per Hofeller’s study, would make the adjacent red districts safer for Republicans.
Worth a full read, there are more good points than can be fairly extracted.
Last week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., introduced a plan to “green” the U.S. military. After cataloguing some of the threats to our “readiness” posed by climate change—including floods and hurricanes compromising Air Force bases—the proposal quickly pivots to the “thousands of people [forced] to migrate from their homes,” conflating the fates of the most vulnerable people on Earth with that of the world’s largest military.
It goes on like this, arguing that by reducing its carbon emissions, the U.S. military can help “fight climate change.” The plan rightly acknowledges that America’s armed forces use a downright obscene amount of energy. (According to Common Dreams, “The Pentagon’s carbon footprint is 70 percent of total U.S. emissions … [using] more oil than 175 smaller countries combined.”) And after pitching the need to develop technologies capable of curbing this usage, Warren calls on the Pentagon to “produce an annual report evaluating the climate vulnerability of every U.S. military base at home and abroad.” This is her plan to eliminate its carbon emissions, to “harden the U.S. military against the threat posed by climate change.”
Although her plan’s introduction does shine a light on one of the most under-discussed causes of global warming, it neglects to acknowledge that U.S. foreign policy, past and present, is predicated on securing land and natural resources—namely oil—and that the need to do so will only intensify as the planet continues to deteriorate. These are resources that must stay in the ground to avoid exacerbating a climate emergency that is already wreaking havoc throughout the world. While Warren believes “accomplishing the mission depends on our ability to continue operations in the face of floods, drought [and] wildfires,” perhaps our “mission” must ultimately end—or at the very least be severely constrained.
Whatever its merits, Warren’s proposal ultimately fails to confront American imperialism’s foundational belief that the military exists to benefit the United States domestically. What’s more, those who live under the boot of the U.S. empire have been stripped of the self-determination and resources necessary to combat climate change themselves. The Massachusetts senator’s record has been far from progressive when it comes to issues of foreign policy and military spending, so perhaps it’s unsurprising that she has taken this tack.
Highlighting the chasm between two of the top 2020 presidential contenders when it comes to commitment to bold climate action, a scorecard released by Greenpeace Thursday placed Sen. Bernie Sanders at the front of the list of leading Democratic White House hopefuls and ranked former Vice President Joe Biden dead last.
"Sen. Sanders has championed bold climate action for years," Greenpeace noted in its assessment of the Vermont senator's record and current platform, which earned him a B+ grade.
"In Congress, Sen. Sanders co-sponsored the '100 by 50 Act' and 'Keep It In the Ground Act' to cut off federal support for coal, oil, and gas while ushering in 100 percent clean energy by 2050," said Greenpeace, which ranked candidates on the basis of their support for the Green New Deal, commitment to rejecting fossil fuel cash, and other metrics. "Sen. Sanders co-sponsored the Green New Deal resolution and has pledged to halt new federal fossil fuel projects if elected—but has yet to call for a full, managed phase-out of the fossil fuel industry," Greenpeace said. "He also has yet to put forth a detailed plan to tackle the climate crisis. Keep it comin', Sen. Sanders!"
Biden, by contrast, has neither backed the Green New Deal resolution nor taken the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge, a vow to reject "any contributions over $200 from the PACs, lobbyists, or executives of fossil fuel companies." Greenpeace said that while Biden—who received a D- grade—"introduced the first-ever climate bill in Congress back in 1987, he has yet to release a plan that tackles the climate crisis if elected in 2020."
According to a Reuters report earlier this month, Biden's 2020 campaign is crafting a "middle ground" approach to the climate crisis that would reject progressive demands for transformative action while leaving the door open to so-called "fossil fuel options."
"Biden has not endorsed the Green New Deal, nor committed to phase out fossil fuels," said Greenpeace. "All candidates must pledge to make bold climate action a Day One priority in office. What will Biden do?"
Emissions from fossil fuels and volcanoes can explain nearly all of the changes in Earth’s surface temperatures over the past 140 years, a new study has found. The research refutes the popular climate denial myth that recent global warming is merely a result of natural cycles.
Those arguments have always suffered a key physical flaw, namely that cycles are cyclical. For example, El Niño events, which temporarily raise global surface temperatures by bringing warm water up to the shallow ocean layer, are offset by La Niña events, which have the opposite effect. While a given decade might have more El Niño or La Niña events, resulting in a short-term surface warming or cooling, over the long term their effects cancel out.
However, climate scientists have had a difficult time explaining exactly what caused a warming event in the early 20th century, between about 1910 and 1945. The average of the climate model runs incorporated in the last IPCC report only accounted for about half of the measured global surface warming trend during that period, and a study published last year suggested the other half could be due to natural cycles. ...
The new study, published in the Journal of Climate, tackles the discrepancy in part by addressing an issue with ocean temperature data during the second world war, when measurements were more often made from warmer engine room intakes than from buckets lowered over the side of ships. This has resulted in a bias, inflating estimated surface temperatures in the early-to-mid 1940s. The new study removed this bias by focusing on temperatures along continental and island coastlines. ...
The authors then compared the improved global surface temperature data to climate model runs incorporating influences from human greenhouse gas and aerosol pollution, volcanic eruptions, and changes in solar activity. Overall they were able to explain more than 90% of the temperature variation over the 140-year record. ... These findings are important because they improve global surface temperature estimates, explain the causes of the early-20th century warming, and reaffirm that as the IPCC concluded in 2013, humans are responsible for all of the rapid global heating since 1950.
Let's Be Clear, Says Mexico Environment Minister, 'Parasitic and Predatory Neoliberalism' to Blame for Climate Crisis
In a scathing rebuke to the elite capitalists and politicians who largely control the global economic and energy systems, Mexico's newly-appointed environment secretary on Wednesday pointed a stern finger at the "parasitic and predatory neoliberals" for being the key culprits behind the planetary climate crisis.
As the Mexico News Daily reports, the public comments by Secretary Víctor Manuel Toledo Manzur were his first since his appointment by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador earlier this week and seen as a direct challenge to previous Mexican governments which sacrificed the nation's environment to the interests of industry.
According to the News Daily, Toledo vowed "to 'take back' the Environment and Natural Resources Secretariat (Semarnat), which he said had been controlled by 'merchants from the automotive sector,' and involve citizens in policy making. He also vowed to put ecological and human concerns above the demands of capitalism and industrial powerbrokers.
"We can defend life, or we can continue destroying it in the name of the market, technology, progress, development, economic growth, etc.," he said.
In addition to a ban on fracking, Toledo said there was an urgent need to find replacement sources for all fossil fuels and also issued warnings about the use of genetically-modified crops.
Not a new concept, proponents of bold climate action and experts on the geopolitics of global warming have long noted that the rise of neoliberalism as the dominant political force in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere correlates in troubling ways with the rise in greenhouse gas emissions.
The Philippines doesn’t want to recycle your low-grade plastic scrap anymore. Neither does China. Vietnam’s not thrilled about taking it either. Earlier this week, Malaysia became the latest country to join the burgeoning trend: Governments across Southeast Asia are refusing to be dumping grounds for scrap that claims to be recyclable — but largely isn’t. Malaysia will send some 3,000 metric tons of plastic scrap back to where it came from, places like the U.S., Canada, Spain, and Saudi Arabia. “Malaysia will not be the dumping ground of the world,” environment minister Yeo Bee Yin said.
The Philippines made a similar decision last week. The country’s strongman president, Rodrigo Duterte, went so far as to threaten to sever diplomatic ties and dump plastic in Canadian waters if Canada refused to take back 69 shipping containers of plastic scrap that had been sent to the Philippines illegally between 2013 and 2014.
The issue is largely with the plastics industry itself. Eager to make their materials seem recyclable and fend off bans on plastic products, industry groups have spent millions over 30 years to market and lobby for their products. The variety of plastic products — like lids, takeout containers, and straws — also makes scrap difficult to sort for companies trying to compete in a market that doesn’t exist anymore.
All in all, only 9 percent of the world’s plastic scrap gets recycled. ...
“I think that it's time that we all stop kidding ourselves,” said Martin Bourque, the executive director of the Ecology Center, which pioneered curbside recycling in Berkeley, California, back in 1973. “We're collecting this stuff in the blue bin so we can all feel good about recycling, and then we sort it out and half of it is still going to the landfill. At what point do you say, ‘You know what, it's not recyclable’?”
The Philippines has made good on a threat by President Rodrigo Duterte and put 69 containers of what its officials called illegally transported garbage on a ship that is heading to Canada. The nation is one of two in south-east Asia that have protested being treated like dumpsites by wealthier countries.
Administrator Wilma Eisma of Subic Bay freeport said the tonnes of garbage were loaded overnight on the container ship M/V Bavaria, which left on a 20-day journey to the Canadian port city of Vancouver. She said the move ended a “sordid chapter in our history”. The Bavaria would stop at a Taiwanese port before heading to Canada, she said.
Environmental activists, including those from Greenpeace and EcoWaste Coalition, welcomed the Bavaria’s arrival at Subic Bay, and on Thursday sailed on board a small outrigger with a streamer reading, “Philippines: not a garbage dumping ground!” ...
Duterte had threatened to forcibly ship back the trash, which officials said was transported to the Philippines in 103 containers in 2013 to 2014, and falsely declared as recyclable plastic scraps. Several containers of the rubbish had been disposed off, including in a landfill, leaving 69 containers of electrical and household waste, including used diapers, rotting in two Philippine ports. The Philippine government recalled its ambassador and consuls in Canada over Ottawa’s failure to comply with a 15 May deadline to take back the waste.
As the global climate crisis intensifies, it’s clearer than ever that gas is NOT a climate solution. Our latest report, released today, unpacks and debunks the myth that gas can form a bridge to a safe climate.
— Oil Change International (@PriceofOil) May 30, 2019
'They've been killing us for too long': Louisiana residents march in coalition against 'death alley'
Demonstrators in Louisiana stepped off on a five-day march on Thursday, demanding environmental justice for a region besieged by toxic pollution from chemical plants. The protest began just a few hundred feet from a factory in Reserve, Louisiana, that presents the greatest risk of cancer to the surrounding community of any in the nation, according to government data.
Standing outside an elementary school barely beyond the facility’s fence line, activist and resident Robert Taylor demanded the plant be shut down. “We are demanding not only the saving of our children at this school, we are demanding the salvation of this entire area,” said Taylor, director of a local citizens group, which has been organizing around lowering the plant’s emissions since 2016. He continued: “Up and down this river they are poisoning our communities with impunity. We have implored [the factory] to get down to at least what the EPA says is a safe level. They have refused to do that and based on that, they need to shut down.”
Taylor was joined by dozens who assembled on a sweltering May day in southern Louisiana calling themselves the “coalition against death alley”. The groups also included protesters from environmental groups in New Orleans and St James parish, where activists are fighting attempts from the Taiwanese plastics giant Formosa to site a new facility that would potentially be the world’s largest. “St James is full,” one protester’s sign read.
The group’s demands include that all healthcare costs incurred by local residents related to toxic pollution be covered, banning industrial emissions within five miles of public areas, and the end to favorable tax exemptions for industry in the state. The march is scheduled to go from Reserve to the state capitol in Baton Rouge over a five-day span.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Koko Taylor - Love Me To Death
Koko Taylor - I Love A Lover Like You
Koko Taylor - Got What It Takes
Koko Taylor - Tease Your Man
Koko Taylor - Yes, It's Good For You
Koko Taylor - Bad Case of Loving You
Koko Taylor - Let The Juke Joint Jump
Koko Taylor - Twenty-Nine Ways
Koko Taylor's Blues Machine - Live at Ohne Filter (1988)