The Evening Blues - 5-4-21
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Detroit blues harmonica player Aaron "Little Sonny" Willis. Enjoy!
Little Sonny - Goin' Down Slow
“Look at us. We build giant highways and murderously fast cars for killing each other and committing suicide. Instead of bomb shelters we construct gigantic frail glass buildings all over Manhattan at Ground Zero, a thousand feet high, open to the sky, life a woman undressing before an intruder and provoking him to rape her. We ring Russia's borders with missile-launching pads, and then scream that she's threatening us. In all history there's never been a more lurid mass example of the sadist-masochist expression of the thanatos instinct than the present conduct of the United States. The Nazis by comparison were Eagle Scouts.”
-- Herman Wouk
News and Opinion
On World Press Freedom Day, US Report Reveals 'Startling Extent of Police Violence Against Journalists'
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press on Monday released its fourth annual report about conditions that members of the U.S. media faced while on the job last year—and revealed "the startling extent of police violence against journalists during a year of protest."
The new report (pdf), published on World Press Freedom Day, analyzes data from the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker. Launched in 2017, the tracker is led by the Freedom of the Press Foundation and Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) along with other organizations including Reporters Without Borders and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
"The importance of the tracker and its role documenting press freedoms in the U.S. came into sharp focus in 2020—only the fourth year of its existence—when the country faced a wave of protests, and journalists covering those protests were arrested and attacked in record numbers," the report says.
438 physical attacks
110 cases of damaged equipment
— IWMF (@IWMF) May 3, 2021
While noting that "protests have long been one of the most dangerous places for journalists to report the news," the report highlights some startling figures:
Ignited by the May 25 murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, protests for racial justice and against police brutality erupted across the country, marking a tumultuous moment for press freedom in the U.S. As journalists reported on these historic demonstrations (collectively referred to as Black Lives Matter protests by the tracker), they faced a record number of attacks (400) and arrests (129)—more than 11 and 15 times the number reported for 2019, respectively. The press freedom incidents that occurred during these protests, which included damaged equipment, represented the vast majority—at least 82% (517)—of the total number of incidents documented by the Tracker in 2020 (625).
While private individuals assaulted many journalists, law enforcement was responsible for 80% of these attacks. In cities across the country—from Portland to Miami, Minneapolis to Los Angeles—police officers shot journalists with various forms of projectiles, like rubber-coated bullets, which can be lethal at close range. They caused serious injuries to reporters, permanently blinding one of them. Police also sprayed tear gas, fired pepper balls, and used their batons and fists. Officers often ignored journalists' press credentials and flouted news media exemptions to local curfew ordinances. Police also detained reporters during mass arrests—and, in at least one case, even handcuffed a TV news journalist as he reported live, on-air.
In another case, the report says, a Buffalo officer reportedly told a freelance photojournalist, "F*ck your First Amendment," as police pointed guns at his head.
"2020 marked the third consecutive year that the number of subpoenas reported to the tracker increased, renewing concerns that journalists may be facing these legal threats more frequently," according to the report. It also notes that "although 2020 saw a drop in prior restraint cases, three lawsuits over the summer involved unsuccessful efforts to block the publication of books about former President Donald Trump."
Other key findings include:
- Despite Covid-19, many courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, live-streamed proceedings, but federal, state, and local officials excluded journalists from press briefings in apparent retaliation for their coverage;
- Trump set a new record for anti-press tweets, while state legislators repeated his attacks, and the Department of Homeland Security compiled "intelligence reports" about journalists; and
- In 2020, federal officials again excluded specific news outlets or reporters from press events in apparent retaliation for their coverage, in violation of the First Amendment.
"The proceedings against Julian #Assange jeopardize journalism that is crucial to democracy" says Amnesty International, ACLU, Reporters Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, EFF, CPJ and all major press and human rights organisations #WPFD2021 https://t.co/AOgMWJUMOy
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) May 3, 2021
“America won’t back away from our commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms,” reads a Wednesday tweet from the presidential Twitter account. “No responsible American president can remain silent when basic human rights are violated.”
The tweet, an excerpt from the US president’s prepared congressional address, was retweeted on Saturday by Secretary of State Tony Blinken with the caption, “We will always defend human rights at home and abroad.”
Like all US secretaries of state, Blinken’s public statements overwhelmingly focus on the claim that other nations abuse human rights, and that it is America’s duty to defend those rights. Which is very silly, considering the fact that the US government is the single worst human rights abuser on planet Earth.
And it’s not even close.
There is no other government that is circling the planet with hundreds of military bases and working to destroy any nation which disobeys it via invasion, proxy wars, blockades, economic warfare, staged coups, and covert operations. There is no other government on earth whose violence has killed millions of people and displaced tens of millions just since the turn of this century. There is no other government waging nonstop wars around the world and dropping scores of bombs per day on human beings in foreign nations in order to perpetuate its iron-fisted domination of our planet.
And it just says so much about who is controlling the dominant narratives in our society that these actions are not considered human rights violations. Clearly we should all have a human right to not be murdered by explosives dropped from the sky, and we in nations where this does not commonly occur would be very upset if it suddenly began happening to us. Clearly it is an abuse of human rights to deliberately starve children to death because you don’t approve of the people who run things in their part of the world. Clearly it is an abuse of human rights to turn a nation to rubble and chaos for profit and geostrategic control.
Not a day goes by when the US government is not doing these things, both directly and through its imperial member states. Yet the US secretary of state spends all day tweeting that other governments are guilty of human rights violations. Because, as far as power is concerned, narrative control is everything.
If mass murder is not an abuse of human rights, then “human rights” is a meaningless concept. But even if bombing campaigns and other acts of military butchery do not transgress your personal definition of human rights, the US still does not care about human rights.
As journalist Mark Ames recently flagged, a few years ago the imperial narrative managers were very keen on informing us that Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte was a despotic human rights abuser, but we haven’t been hearing much about what an evil brute he is of late.
So what happened? Did Duterte cease promoting the extrajudicial killings of drug users and spontaneously transform into a cuddly wuddly human rights advocate?
Of course not.
What happened, as Ames points out, is that Duterte ceased publicly toying with the notion of pivoting from Washington to Beijing as he had been doing since taking office, shifting to a hard line against China in support of Manila’s longtime imperial overlord.
We saw the change in coverage because Washington and its imperial spinmeisters only care about human rights abuses insofar as they can be exploited against the few remaining nations like China that have insisted on their own sovereignty instead of allowing themselves to be converted into member states of the US-centralized empire. We know this not only from naked eye observations of the empire’s behavior from year to year, but also because they have blatantly said so.
As I never tire of reminding readers, a leaked 2017 State Department memo spelled out in plain English how the US only cares about human rights when they can be weaponized against its enemies, and has a standing policy of ignoring them when they are committed by its allies/vassal states.
In December 2017 Politico published an internal memo that had been sent the previous May to then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson by virulent neocon Brian Hook. The memo provided useful insight into what it looks like when a toxic swamp monster orients a political neophyte to the inner mechanics of the empire, explaining the way “human rights” are really just a tool to be cynically leveraged to advance the goal of planetary hegemony. It reads like an old veteran explaining the backstory to the new guy in the pilot episode of a new TV series.
“In the case of US allies such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the Philippines, the Administration is fully justified in emphasizing good relations for a variety of important reasons, including counter-terrorism, and in honestly facing up to the difficult tradeoffs with regard to human rights,” Hook explained in the memo.
“One useful guideline for a realistic and successful foreign policy is that allies should be treated differently — and better — than adversaries,” Hook wrote. “We do not look to bolster America’s adversaries overseas; we look to pressure, compete with, and outmaneuver them. For this reason, we should consider human rights as an important issue in regard to US relations with China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran. And this is not only because of moral concern for practices inside those countries. It is also because pressing those regimes on human rights is one way to impose costs, apply counter-pressure, and regain the initiative from them strategically.”
In Imperialist Brain Worms World, “human rights” is nothing other than a propaganda weapon to be used for building antagonistic international coalitions, manufacturing consent for invasions and regime change ops, and spinning the dominant narrative in support of starvation sanctions and world-threatening cold war escalations. It’s just mass-scale concern trolling of the most destructive and malignant sort imaginable.
Americans and the Taliban are discussing the possibility of ending the withdrawal process by the beginning of July, sources familiar with the matter said.
The Taliban will return to the talks, will attend the Turkey conference and will reduce violence if there is an agreement on the matter, the sources said.
The US began its withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan this week, and, based on President Joe Biden’s decision, the process was to be completed by Sept. 11. According to the Doha agreement, the US was expected to complete the withdrawal by May 1.
The Taliban considers the postponement of the withdrawal date a violation of the Doha agreement.
“The US has set a deadline for itself and it is possible that the Taliban will not agree to it and then a deadline in the middle will be agreed upon,” said former Taliban commander Sayed Akbar Agha.
Less than a week after Human Rights Watch published a scathing report accusing the Israeli government of the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution for its treatment of Palestinians, a leading U.S. legal advocacy group on Monday submitted a memorandum to the Biden administration outlining the legal basis for reversing Trump-era pro-Israel policies that violate human rights and international law.
The memo (pdf), authored by the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) International Committee's Palestine Subcommittee, notes that after four years of "bullish and detrimental" U.S. policy on Palestine and Israel under the Trump administration, "the health, human rights, and humanitarian situation for Palestinians—both in Palestine and in the refugee camps of surrounding countries—is dire."
"From withdrawing vital funding from humanitarian organizations that provide basic needs to Palestinian refugees and moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, to targeting human rights advocates in the United States, the Trump administration enacted a number of policies that have harmed both Palestinians and U.S. citizens, and continue to do so today," the memo states.
"Further, in enacting the aforementioned policies, the Trump administration ignored many of the international commitments that the United States is charged to abide by, including core principles of international law," it continues. "The Biden administration must not only correct course; it needs to go beyond Obama-era policies to affirm and demonstrate its commitment to civil and human rights and international law, both at home and abroad."
The US Food and Drug Administration is preparing to authorize the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine for adolescents aged between 12 and 15 years by early next week, the New York Times reported on Monday, citing federal officials familiar with the agency’s plans.
An approval is highly anticipated after the drugmakers said in March that the vaccine had been found to be safe, effective and produced robust antibody responses in 12- to 15-year-olds in a clinical trial.
Responding to a Reuters request for comment, the FDA said its review of expanding the vaccine’s emergency use authorization was continuing, but it did not provide further details.
The vaccine has already been cleared in the United States for people aged 16 and above.
US pharmacy chains CVS and Walgreens are responsible for the vast majority of wasted vaccine doses, which total more than 180,000 reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), according to a story from Kaiser Health News. As of late March, the CDC recorded 182,874 tossed doses. CVS and Walgreens combined wasted 128,500 doses – CVS wasted about half and Walgreens 21%.
CVS and Walgreens, which have outlets across the US, were tasked by the federal government to help distribute vaccines to residents and staff of long-term care facilities in the weeks after the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were approved for emergency use by the FDA. CVS told Kaiser Health News that “nearly all” of its reported wasted vaccines came from that time. Both companies were initially criticized for the slow administration of the vaccines at these facilities.
Reasons for wasted doses included broken supplies, storage errors, and leftover doses that expired. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines both have a limited shelf life: a vial of Pfizer’s vaccine, which contains multiple doses, must be used within six hours, while Moderna’s must be used in 11 hours. This means no-show appointments can affect distribution. Both vaccines also require extremely cold storage, and many of the wasted doses were due to freezer malfunctions or doses being left at room temperature for too long.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection purchased technology that vacuums up reams of personal information stored inside cars, according to a federal contract reviewed by The Intercept, illustrating the serious risks in connecting your vehicle and your smartphone. The contract, shared with The Intercept by Latinx advocacy organization Mijente, shows that CBP paid Swedish data extraction firm MSAB $456,073 for a bundle of hardware including five iVe “vehicle forensics kits” manufactured by Berla, an American company. A related document indicates that CBP believed the kit would be “critical in CBP investigations as it can provide evidence [not only] regarding the vehicle’s use, but also information obtained through mobile devices paired with the infotainment system.” The document went on to say that iVe was the only tool available for purchase that could tap into such systems.
According to statements by Berla’s own founder, part of the draw of vacuuming data out of cars is that so many drivers are oblivious to the fact that their cars are generating so much data in the first place, often including extremely sensitive information inadvertently synced from smartphones.
Indeed, MSAB marketing materials promise cops access to a vast array of sensitive personal information quietly stored in the infotainment consoles and various other computers used by modern vehicles — a tapestry of personal details akin to what CBP might get when cracking into one’s personal phone. MSAB claims that this data can include “Recent destinations, favorite locations, call logs, contact lists, SMS messages, emails, pictures, videos, social media feeds, and the navigation history of everywhere the vehicle has been.” MSAB even touts the ability to retrieve deleted data, divine “future plan[s],” and “Identify known associates and establish communication patterns between them.”
The kit, MSAB says, also has the ability to discover specific events that most car owners are probably unaware are even recorded, like “when and where a vehicle’s lights are turned on, and which doors are opened and closed at specific locations” as well as “gear shifts, odometer reads, ignition cycles, speed logs, and more.” This car-based surveillance, in other words, goes many miles beyond the car itself. iVe is compatible with over two dozen makes of vehicle and is rapidly expanding its acquisition and decoding capabilities, according to MSAB.
Civil liberties watchdogs said the CBP contract raises concerns that these sorts of extraction tools will be used more broadly to circumvent constitutional protections against unreasonable searches. “The scale at which CBP can leverage a contract like this one is staggering,” said Mohammad Tajsar, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.
Don’t be fooled by Joe Biden. He knows his infrastructure and education bills have as much chance at becoming law as the $15-dollar minimum wage or the $2,000 stimulus checks he promised us as a candidate. He knows his American Jobs Plan will never create “millions of good paying jobs – jobs Americans can raise their families on” any more than NAFTA, which he supported, would, as was also promised, create millions of good paying jobs. His mantra of “buy American” is worthless. He knows the vast majority of our consumer electronics, apparel, furniture and industrial supplies are made in China by workers who earn an average of one or two dollars an hour and lack unions and basic labor rights. He knows his call to lower deductibles and prescription drug costs in the Affordable Care Act will never be permitted by the corporations that profit from health care. He knows the corporate donors that fund the Democratic Party will ensure their lobbyists will continue to write the laws that guarantee they pay little or no taxes. He knows the corporate subsidies and tax incentives he proposes as a solution to the climate crisis will do nothing to halt oil and gas fracking, shut down coal-fired plants or halt the construction of new pipelines for gas-fired power plants. His promises of reform have no more weight than those peddled by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, who Biden slavishly served and who also promised social equality while betraying working men and women.
Biden is the epitome of the empty, amoral creature produced by our system of legalized bribery. His long political career in Congress was defined by representing the interests of big business, especially the credit card companies based in Delaware. He was nicknamed Senator Credit Card. He has always glibly told the public what it wants to hear and then sold them out. He was a prominent promoter and architect of a generation of federal “tough on crime” laws that helped militarize the nation’s police and more than doubled the population of the world’s largest prison system with harsh mandatory sentencing guidelines and laws that put people in prison for life for nonviolent drug crimes, even as his son struggled with addiction. He was a principal author of the Patriot Act, which began the stripping away of our most basic civil liberties. And there has never been a weapons system, or a war, he did not support.
Nothing substantial will change under Biden, despite the hyperventilating about him being the next FDR. Biden’s request for $715 billion for the Defense Department in fiscal year 2022, a $11.3 billion (1.6 percent) increase over 2021, will support the disastrous military provocations with China and Russia he embraces, the endless wars in the Middle East and the bloated defense industry. Wholesale government surveillance will not be curbed. Julian Assange will remain a target. The industries that were shipped overseas and the well-paying unionized jobs will not return. The grinding machinery of predatory capitalism, and the sadism that defines it, will poison the society as mercilessly under Biden as it did when Donald Trump was conducting his Twitter presidency.
Sadism now defines nearly every cultural, social and political experience in the United States. It is expressed in the greed of an oligarchic elite that has seen its wealth increase during the pandemic by $1.1 trillion while the country has suffered the sharpest rise in its poverty rate in more than 50 years. It is expressed in extra-judicial killings by police in cities such as Minneapolis. It is expressed in our complicity in Israel’s wholesale killing of unarmed Palestinians, the humanitarian crisis engendered by the war in Yemen and our reigns of terror in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. It is expressed in the torture in our prisons and black sites. It is expressed in the separation of children from their undocumented parents, where they are held as if they were dogs in a kennel. ...
We will not extract ourselves from predatory capitalism and its culture of sadism with meager government handouts. We will not extract ourselves because Biden’s slick speech writers and public relations specialists, who use polls and focus groups to feed back to us what we want to hear, can make us feel the administration is on our side. There is no good will in the Biden White House, the Congress, the courts, the media – which has become an echo chamber of the privileged classes – or corporate boardrooms. They are the enemy.
Joe Biden has formally raised the US cap on refugee admissions to 62,500 this year, weeks after facing bipartisan blowback for his delay in replacing the record-low ceiling set by Donald Trump.
Refugee resettlement agencies have waited for Biden to quadruple the number of refugees allowed into the United States this year since 12 February, when a presidential proposal was submitted to Congress saying he planned to do so.
But the presidential determination went unsigned until Monday. Biden said he first needed to expand the narrow eligibility criteria put in place by Trump that had kept out most refugees. He did that last month in an emergency determination, which also stated that Trump’s cap of up to 15,000 refugees this year “remains justified by humanitarian concerns and is otherwise in the national interest”.
That brought sharp pushback for not at least taking the symbolic step of authorizing more refugees to enter the US this year, and within hours the White House made a quick course correction. The administration vowed to increase the historically low cap by 15 May – but probably not all the way to the 62,500 Biden had previously outlined.
In the end, Biden returned to that figure.
Joe Biden said it is time for corporations and the richest Americans to “start paying their fair share” of taxes as he hit the road on Monday in a concerted effort to promote his administration’s huge new infrastructure and welfare spending plans totaling about $4tn.
Speaking at a community college in Norfolk, Virginia, on Monday afternoon, the US president made the case for increasing taxes on the wealthiest in the US in order to help fund his ambitious $1.8tn American Families Plan and $2tn infrastructure plan.
The packages would provide funds for childcare and free universal pre-school education facilities, as well as massive programs to rebuild America’s crumbling transport systems and public-sector housing in ways that also contributes to government action on the climate crisis.
“I think it’s about time we started giving tax breaks and tax benefits to working-class families and middle-class families, instead of just the very wealthy,” Biden said, while speaking in Portsmouth, Virginia.
Discussing the excessive profits wealthy corporations have made in the past year, Biden said he’s not “anti-corporate”, but “it’s about time they started paying their fair share”.
Thousands of miles from the US capital, a group of progressive protesters recently marched to the office of their senator, Republican Lisa Murkowski, to demand that she support statehood for Washington DC. The protest was notable because of its setting of Anchorage, Alaska, and similar demonstrations have recently been popping up all across America. Progressives from Arizona to New York have taken pictures with 51-star flags to show their support for making DC the first new state to join the union since Hawaii in 1959.
Previously dismissed by its critics as a regional issue, DC statehood has gained national prominence in recent years, and that increased attention has now translated into legislative action. Late last month, the House passed a DC statehood bill with a record number of co-sponsors, and Joe Biden has offered a full-throated endorsement of the proposal.
This momentum has given activists hope that now – with Democrats controlling the White House and both chambers of Congress – DC statehood may finally become a reality. However, numerous challenges remain in the evenly divided Senate, and Republicans are determined to keep just 50 stars on the American flag.
For statehood advocates, this moment feels like an opportunity to correct a 200-year-old injustice. The District’s population of 700,000 is more than that of Wyoming and Vermont, and DC residents pay more in federal taxes than their counterparts in 22 states, yet they do not have congressional representation. Perhaps even more infuriating for statehood supporters is the fact that DC laws are subject to congressional review, meaning lawmakers from around the country have an effective veto on local proposals.
The issue of race is also front and center, given that DC’s citizens are predominantly people of color and their full rights as Americans are being curtailed mostly by Republicans in the Senate, who skew heavily white. DC residents themselves largely support statehood. In 2016, the District held a referendum on the issue, and 86% of voters backed statehood.
A new consumer watchdog report out Monday shows that prosecutions of corporate lawbreakers fell to a 25-year low during former President Donald Trump's final year in office, a finding that spurred calls for the Biden administration to make a priority of ending impunity for big business.
Titled Corporate Criminals Above the Law (pdf), Public Citizen's analysis draws on federal sentencing data to show that just 94 corporations either pleaded or were found guilty of criminal activity in 2020—the lowest level since the U.S. Sentencing Commission began releasing business prosecution statistics in 1996. In 2000, by contrast, 296 corporations pleaded or were found guilty of violating the law.
At the same time as enforcement continued to decline in 2020, the report notes, deferred prosecution agreements and nonprosecution agreements spiked to 45 during Trump's last year, letting corporations such as Bayer's Monsanto, Chipotle, and JPMorgan Chase off the hook for wrongdoing ranging from improper storage of hazardous pesticide waste to violations of food safety laws.
Such "corporate leniency" agreements now represent nearly a third of all resolutions to federal cases against corporations accused committing crimes, Public Citizen found.
"Trump's DOJ is infamous for pursuing a cruel 'tough on crime' approach to immigrants and low-level offenders," Rick Claypool, a Public Citizen research director and author of the report, said in a statement. "It also should be infamous for letting corporate criminals off the hook. President Biden's DOJ should ramp up enforcement to show that corporate criminals are not above the law."
To ensure corporations are held accountable for illegal behavior that endangers workers, customers, and the environment, Public Citizen recommends that the Biden administration take a number of policy steps, including:
- Rescinding a Trump-era policy that "reduces corporate penalties by limiting how much a single corporate violation can trigger penalties from multiple enforcement agencies";
- Ending the longstanding practice of negotiating leniency agreements with lawbreaking corporations;
- Prohibiting businesses that plead or are found guilty from receiving contracts from the federal government; and
- Breaking up criminal companies that are supposedly "too big to jail."
Robert Weissman, the president of Public Citizen, said in a statement that "if corporations know they can commit crimes and—if caught—be required to do little more than promise not to violate the law in the future, it is a virtual certainty they will break the law regularly and routinely."
"If we want corporations to follow the law, then it's past time to do away with deferred and non-prosecution agreements," Weissman added. "Declining corporate prosecutions and increasing corporate leniency agreements can be directly attributed to the soft-on-corporate-crime policies of the Trump administration. President Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland should swiftly rescind this destructive trend."
On 20 May 2019, the freshly elected Chicago mayor, Lori Lightfoot, delivered her inauguration speech to a jubilant audience. It was imbued with promises of fundamental change – tailored care for blighted neighborhoods, solutions to government corruption and endemic violent crime, an ambitious agenda for tackling deep-rooted faults in the city. ...
She pledged to reform the Chicago police department, promising to “continue the hard but essential work of forging partnerships between police officers and the community premised on mutual respect, accountability and a recognition that the destinies of police and community are inextricably intertwined”. Police reform seemed like a perfect task for Lightfoot given one of her prior roles of leading the city’s special taskforce on police accountability and reform. ...
But sweeping change awaits. Almost two years into office, Lightfoot is under fire, accused of back-pedaling on accountability and reform while botching some high-profile cases involving police killing or misconduct. There’s outrage over Chicago police earlier this month killing 13-year-old Adam Toledo after a chase that ended with the boy being shot dead after stopping and putting his hands up as ordered by the pursuing officer.
Elizabeth Toledo, Adam’s mother, had not been notified about his death until two days after the shooting, leaving her to think her son was missing. Lightfoot choked up while admitting “we failed Adam”. He was one in a growing record of police killing children across America, with victims disproportionately being Black and Hispanic youth. But the Mapping Police Violence project found that between 2013 and 2021, Chicago police killed more under-18s than any other local law enforcement agency in the country – at least 12.
And Lightfoot last December bungled the fallout from an incident that had happened before her mayorship, where Anjanette Young’s home was raided by police who had the wrong address, guns drawn, and she was handcuffed while naked. The mayor admitted she knew about the raid in 2019, contradicting previous claims otherwise, and the city also attempted to block the video release of the raid, Lightfoot later calling the attempt a “mistake”.
Activists called for Lightfoot’s resignation in both instances, and all amid a surge in shootings within city communities. Progress on police reform is close to fruitless, leaving activists, many city council members, or aldermen, and Chicagoans distrustful.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has moved to restrict the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), extremely powerful planet-heating gases found in refrigerators and air conditioning units that are the target of an international push for phasing out.
In the first move by Joe Biden’s administration to directly cut a greenhouse gas, the EPA has proposed a rule to drastically reduce the production and import of HFCs in the US by 85% over the next 15 years. The step is a significant one as Biden seeks to cut total US emissions in half by the end of the decade.
It’s estimated that if the world phased out HFCs the planet would avoid 0.5C in heating by the end of the century – a huge figure in the context of global climate goals that seek to avoid what would be a disastrous 1.5C rise in the Earth’s average temperature. ...
HFCs were widely installed in air conditioning units, heat pumps and refrigeration as a replacement for chlorofluorocarbons (or CFCs), which were found to be depleting the Earth’s ozone layer. But HFCs have the drawback of being a potent greenhouse gas, thousands of times more powerful at trapping heat than carbon dioxide and a significant driver of dangerous global heating.
Industry has developed more climate-friendly alternatives to HFCs and a number of large companies such as Walmart and Whole Foods have pledged to phase out the use of the chemicals in their operations.
Five eco-advocacy groups sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Monday for allegedly violating federal law by issuing a nationwide fossil fuel pipeline permit without adequate analysis of its environmental impacts.
The lawsuit (pdf)—filed in a federal district court in Montana by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), Sierra Club, Montana Environmental Information Center, Friends of the Earth, and Waterkeeper Alliance Inc.—accuses the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) of violating the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act by reissuing Nationwide Permit 12 (NWP 12) "without adequately assessing its significant direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental effects."
NWPs are only meant to be issued when the permitted activity will have minimal adverse environmental impacts. They require no public notice and, according to CBD, "in many cases projects covered by them may be constructed without any notification to, or further review by, the corps."
NWP 12—which provides a streamlined process to permit oil and gas pipelines to cross rivers, streams, and wetlands—was reissued in the final days of the Trump administration. CBD said in a statement announcing the lawsuit that in doing so, USACE "failed to analyze the environmental impacts of pipelines, including from oil spills and the destruction of tens of thousands of acres of waterways relied on by people and endangered wildlife."
According to CBD:
The 2021 iteration of Nationwide Permit 12 will allow thousands of discharges of dredged or fill material into the nation's waters and wetlands from oil and gas pipeline construction. The corps estimates that Permit 12 will be used 8,110 times per year, or an estimated 40,550 times over its expected five-year duration, resulting in impacts to approximately 3,075 acres of U.S. waters. These activities—which are approved with little or no environmental review—threaten iconic species like critically endangered sturgeon and whooping cranes, Florida manatees, and hundreds of kinds of migratory birds that need wetlands to survive.
The Biden administration allowed the reissuance of NWP 12 to proceed, even as President Joe Biden signed his day one "Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis," which included rescinding the federal permit for the construction of the highly controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
"While the Biden administration has called for a review of the nationwide permits... it allowed the new iteration of Nationwide Permit 12 to become effective before any changes could be made to ensure that communities, wildlife, and waterways are protected," CBD said.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it does not believe a judge should order the Dakota Access oil pipeline shut while environmental review continues, according to court filings on Monday. ...
A U.S. district judge for the District of Columbia threw out a permit last year for DAPL to cross under the Dakotas' Lake Oahe, a drinking-water source for Native American tribes, and ordered a review of the pipeline.
The Army Corps said on Monday that it expected to complete an environmental review of the 570,000-barrel-per-day DAPL out of North Dakota by March 2022, when it will consider whether to issue a new permit for the line.
That judge is now considering whether to grant a request by Native tribes to require that the line cease flows and be emptied while the assessment is carried out.
The Corps, under the direction of President Joe Biden, said at a hearing last month it had no immediate plans to force a DAPL closure. "The Corps is not aware of information that would cause it to evaluate the injunction factors differently than in its previous filing," it said in Monday's filing.
Dry, hot weather and strong winds have triggered a “red flag” fire warning for parts of northern California, the first time the National Weather Service has issued such a warning for the region in the month of May since 2014.
Temperatures in northern California and the Bay Area are expected to peak 15F above average on Monday and Tuesday, with 20- to 35mph wind gusts expected in some parts, prompting the NWS to warn of dangerous fire conditions in the Sacramento region. The red flag warning is expected to expire after 11am Tuesday.
Peak fire season in California usually runs from the summer through autumn. But strong winds and exceptionally warm weather this spring have created critical fire conditions in a drought-desiccated landscape that has been primed to burn.
The conditions have stoked small grass fires across parts of northern California in recent days. And in southern California, the state’s fire agency, Cal Fire, has been working to contain a 5,100-acre wildfire near San Diego. About 500 residents and many farm animals in the backcountry were evacuated. Responders have also contained smaller fires in the San Joaquin Valley, in the state’s north-central region.
The climate crisis has intensified droughts throughout the region in recent years, and bone-dry soil and vegetation have helped kindle more intense, destructive wildfires.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Little Sonny - Back Down Yonder
Little Sonny - Memphis B-K
Little Sonny - You Made Me Strong
Little Sonny - Sonny's Fever
Little Sonny - Do It Right Now
Little Sonny - Eli's Pork Chop
Little Sonny - You Can Be Replaced
Little Sonny - Tomorrow's Blues Today
Little Sonny - Don't Ask Me No Questions
Little Sonny - Wade In The Water