The Evening Blues - 5-7-21


The day's news roundup + tonight's musical feature: Tower of Power

Hey! Good Evening!

This evening's music features soul band Tower of Power. Enjoy!

Tower of Power: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert

"Have the media brainwashed you into believing that Biden is different from Trump yet? They’re sure as hell trying.

They need you to believe Biden is a big change from Trump because that would mean the electoral system can be used to advance real change so there’s no need to rise up and seize the means of production and eat the rich and launch your landlord into the sea with a giant slingshot."

-- Caitlin Johnstone

News and Opinion

As pandemic continues and nearly 500,000 file for unemployment, US states seek to blackmail workers back on the job

As part of the bipartisan assault by the ruling class to blackmail workers back into accepting low-paying, dangerous work in crowded factories and dangerous face-to-face service, retail and hospitality industries, moves are being made to eliminate any COVID-19-related health, safety and social assistance, including extended weekly unemployment payments. The latest attacks on the health and well-being of the working class come even as the coronavirus continues to spread throughout the country, with nearly 5,000 reported deaths in the last week alone and over 590,000 since February 2020, a figure which has been shown to be a vast undercount.

According to the US Department of Labor (DOL), nearly 500,000 Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week, which is double the pre-pandemic average. Despite the DOL reporting over 16 million claims filed across all unemployment programs, and an increase in continuing state claims, states such as Montana are moving to eliminate CARES Act created programs, such as the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) programs, in order to force workers into competing for part-time and low-paying work. ...

In announcing on Tuesday that Montana would no longer participate in the federal programs, consigning some 25,000 Montanans currently receiving unemployment benefits to destitution, Republican Governor Greg Gianforte claimed, “Montana is open for business again,” while blaming “a labor shortage” on “the vast expansion of federal unemployment benefits ... now doing more harm than good.” In a move that is sure to be replicated by Republican and Democratic-run states across the country, Gianforte announced that effective June 27, unemployed workers who had exhausted their state benefits but were claiming benefits through PEUC or PUA would no longer be eligible for said benefits. The state will also end the miserly Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation $300 weekly payments, which is already half of the previous $600 payments that were in effect through July of last year.

Previous to Gianforte’s announcement, eligible jobless workers in Montana, if they were able to navigate the unemployment bureaucracy, could possibly receive between $151 and $510 per week from the state program, meaning that the federal boost raised the weekly pay to between $451 and $810. This is equivalent to yearly wages of between $23,452 and $42,120—in other words, enough to maintain a worker with a family in poverty.

Gianforte gives voice to the parasitic demands of Wall Street speculators and capitalist owners who, unburdened with having to work and risk their health and wellbeing in crowded kitchens, dilapidated factories and run-down schools, are ready to move on from the pandemic and resume the exploitation of the working class in order to make real the artificial inflation of the stock market through the extraction of surplus value from the working class.

May the Flying Spaghetti Monster reach out his noodly appendage and bless Medea Benjamin:

Peace Activist Interrupts General Dynamics Shareholder Meeting to Blast the Business of War

Anti-war activism met corporate gaslighting Wednesday as General Dynamics CEO Phebe Novakovic refused to acknowledge the deadly consequences of her firm's arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other nations after CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin interrupted a company shareholder meeting.

Benjamin attended the annual meeting in Reston, Virginia and calmly confronted Novakovic about her company's weapons sales to countries including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt. She specifically mentioned a March 25, 2016 Saudi-led airstrike that hit a crowded marketplace in the Yemeni village of Mastaba, killing scores of civilians. 

"How is it morally responsible to be engaged in a war in Yemen where now as a result of that war, every 75 seconds a child dies from war and hunger?" Benjamin asked. "My heart goes out to the children of Yemen and I was wondering if you think about them as well, because while they are dying, people in this company are making profits off of them."

Novakovic replied by accusing Benjamin of spreading "potentially libelous and incorrect information" that is "born from a lack of knowledge."

"I think that's one of the things we should talk about, because the internet is full of misinformation, including the incident you cited at the marketplace," the CEO said. "I am going to presume that you don't know the facts, and we are perfectly willing to share them with you."

The facts, as determined by Human Rights Watch and reported by the New York Times and others, are that a General Dynamics MK-84 2,000-pound bomb was dropped on the Mastaba market, and that 97 civilians—25 of them children—were identified as victims. Another 10 bodies were burned beyond recognition.

Benjamin pressed Novakovic on General Dynamics' sales to Saudi Arabia: "The Saudi regime is evil, and you provide them with weapons. Is there anything moral about supplying Saudi Arabia with weapons?"

Novakovic retorted that "we can define and we can debate who is evil and who is not but we do support the policy of the U.S. and I happen to believe… the policy of the U.S. is just and fair."

There is virtually universal agreement among rights advocates that Saudi Arabia is ruled by one of the world's most repressive regimes, and that the country's human rights record is among the world's worst.

Benjamin also took aim at what many peace activists call the inherently immoral nature of the military-industrial complex, including the revolving door between the Pentagon and the private sector, as she faced a General Dynamics board whose members include former Defense Secretary James Mattis.

"If you have a model where you need global conflict, where you need wars in order to make money, I think there's something fundamentally wrong with the company and you ought to have some more moral reflection about how you earn your billions of dollars," Benjamin asserted.

Novakovic replied that "our role is to support the U.S. military and U.S. national security policy and the preservation of peace and liberty."

"I believe that and I believe that passionately," she said. "We hope for peace, we pray for peace, we work for peace."

General Dynamics was founded in 1952. The United States has been at war or engaged in military occupation or other foreign interventions nearly every single year (pdf) since then, while selling or giving hundreds of billions of dollars worth of weaponry and other equipment to dozens of countries. 

As the United States continues to spend more on its military than the next 10 countries combined—$778 billion in 2020—executives at arms companies continue to enjoy stupendous salaries and bonuses. Benjamin took Novakovic to task for "personally making $21 million a year through a business model that thrives on conflict, death, and destruction."

"The worst thing for your company would be if peace breaks out in the Middle East," Benjamin said, a possible reference to Raytheon Technologies CEO Greg Hayes' recent reassurance to investors that the Biden administration's temporary hold on the sale of nearly half a billion dollars' worth of bombs to Saudi Arabia wouldn't threaten profits.

"Look," said Hayes, "peace is not going to break out in the Middle East anytime soon. I think it remains an area where we'll continue to see solid growth."

HILLARY Emerges To BASH Biden For Afghan Withdrawal

‘Moment of truth’: talks on salvaging Iran nuclear deal to resume

High-stakes talks to salvage the Iran nuclear deal with potentially profound implications for the Middle East will resume on Friday, in what the French foreign minister has called a “moment of truth” for relations between the west and Tehran.

The fourth round of talks have the capacity not just to reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation in Iran, but propel Saudi Arabia and Iran towards softening a rivalry that has darkened and destabilised the region’s politics for a decade.

But all sides admit the Vienna talks are finely balanced and could end without an agreement, partly due to domestic political pressures on both sets of negotiators. A deadline of sorts is looming since an ad hoc agreement struck between Iran and the UN nuclear inspectors ends on 21 May, and if it is not renewed the UN will have little effective access to Iran nuclear sites. The UK foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, has said the talks must wrap up by the start of June.

Intercept's Pro-War Propaganda Exposed By Real Journalists

$152 Trillion. That's How Much Wealthy Countries 'Drained' From the Global South Since 1960

Capitalist powers have drained $152 trillion from the Global South since 1960, according to new peer-reviewed research quantifying the reproduction of inequality on the world scale.

In an Al Jazeera essay written Thursday, three social scientists—Jason Hickel, an economic anthropologist at the University of London; Dylan Sullivan, a graduate student in political economy at the University of Sydney; and Huzaifa Zoomkawala, an independent scholar based in Pakistan—explained how they arrived at the $152 trillion figure, a finding they first documented in a recent paper on "plunder in the post-colonial era" published in the journal New Political Economy.

According to the trio, the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Japan, South Korea, and the rich economies of Europe appropriate $2.2 trillion worth of resources and labor—embodied in raw materials as well as high-tech commodities like smartphones, laptops, and cars that are increasingly manufactured abroad—per year from developing countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

"That amount of money would be enough to end extreme poverty, globally, 15 times over," wrote Hickel, Sullivan, and Zoomkawala. "Over the whole period from 1960 to today, the drain totaled $62 trillion in real terms. If this value had been retained by the South and contributed to Southern growth, tracking with the South's growth rates over this period, it would be worth $152 trillion today."

"Imperial powers finally withdrew most of their flags and armies from the South in the mid-20th century," the scholars noted, so what explains the persistence of these patterns of exploitation and extraction since then?

"Over the following decades, economists and historians associated with 'dependency theory' argued that the underlying patterns of colonial appropriation remained in place and continued to define the global economy," wrote Hickel, Sullivan, and Zoomkawala. "Imperialism never ended, they argued—it just changed form. They were right."

The authors pointed to other recent research demonstrating how global economic inequality is reproduced through unequal exchange. As the net importers of materials, energy, land, and labor embodied in the international flow of commodities, high-income nations gain a trade surplus, while lower-income nations face trade deficits.

As Hickel, Sullivan, and Zoomkawala explained:

This flow of net appropriation occurs because prices are systematically lower in the South than in the North. For instance, wages paid to Southern workers are on average one-fifth the level of Northern wages. This means that for every unit of embodied labor and resources that the South imports from the North, they have to export many more units to pay for it.

Economists Samir Amin and Arghiri Emmanuel described this as a 'hidden transfer of value' from the South, which sustains high levels of income and consumption in the North. The drain takes place subtly and almost invisibly, without the overt violence of colonial occupation and therefore without provoking protest and moral outrage.

The trio found that "the drain increased dramatically during the 1980s and 1990s, as neoliberal structural adjustment programs were imposed across the Global South."

According to the researchers, the appropriation of wealth from impoverished nations has become so significant that, for the past couple of decades, it has "outstripped the rate of economic growth" in the Global North.

In the Global South, meanwhile, "the losses outstrip foreign aid transfers by a wide margin. For every dollar of aid the South receives, they lose $14 in drain through unequal exchange alone, not counting other kinds of losses like illicit financial outflows and profit repatriation," the authors noted.

"The discourse of aid obscures a darker reality of plunder," wrote Hickel, Sullivan, and Zoomkawala. "Poor countries are developing rich countries, not the other way around."

UK voters flock to PM Johnson's party as Labour loses northeast stronghold

Keir Starmer braces for challenging weekend as polls close across UK

Keir Starmer thanked Labour activists for calling as many as 1.7 million voters in recent weeks, as his team braced themselves for a challenging weekend after polls closed in the UK’s first major elections to be held during the pandemic.

Party sources were downbeat about their prospects of holding Hartlepool in a crucial byelection, with activists reporting low turnout in Labour-voting areas. “It’s going to be a very, very difficult night,” said one party strategist, adding that Starmer would “take it on the chin” if the seat is lost for the first time in half a century. ...

Every voter in Great Britain had the opportunity to cast their ballot on Thursday. In Scotland, all 129 seats in the Holyrood parliament are up for grabs, while Wales is also electing a new parliament. In England, there are 143 councils and 13 local mayoralties in play.

Some elections – including the London mayoralty, which Labour’s Sadiq Khan is hoping to hold – were postponed from May 2020, when the country was in lockdown because of the Covid pandemic.

Downing Street will be closely watching the results of the critical Scottish election, with the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon hoping to win a ringing endorsement of her plan to hold a fresh referendum on independence.

U.S. tags Germany who enters the ring as the new designated villain.

US-Germany rift as Berlin opposes plan to ditch Covid vaccine patents

The US and Germany are at odds on the issue of waivers for patents on Covid-19 vaccines, as Berlin argued that a waiver would not increase production and would inhibit future private sector research.

The disagreement is the first major rift between the two economic powers since Joe Biden took office, and threatens to deadlock discussions at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and sour relations within the G7 group of major industrialised democracies.

Any WTO decision on a waiver would have to be by consensus, so Germany opposition is a major obstacle to intellectual property rights on vaccines being suspended.

Blue States OUTPACE Red In Vaccinations, Setting Stage For Disaster

New York AG Reveals Telecom Giants Funded 'Secret Campaign' to Flood FCC With Fake Net Neutrality Comments

The New York Attorney General's Office released a report Thursday showing that major U.S. telecom companies pumped millions of dollars into a "secret campaign" that flooded the FCC with millions of fake comments in an attempt to influence the agency's 2017 repeal of net neutrality protections.

The product of a multi-year investigation, the new report (pdf) details an industry-backed effort to create the appearance of "widespread grassroots support" for then-FCC chair Ajit Pai's broadly unpopular repeal of net neutrality rules.

"In 2017, the nation's largest broadband companies funded a secret campaign to generate millions of comments to the FCC. Many of these comments provided 'cover' for the FCC's repeal of net neutrality rules," the investigation found. "To help generate these comments, the broadband industry engaged commercial lead generators that used prizes—like gift cards and sweepstakes entries—to lure consumers to their websites and join the campaign."

"However, nearly every lead generator that was hired to enroll consumers in the campaign, instead, simply fabricated consumers' responses," the report states, noting that 8.5 million fake comments in favor of net neutrality repeal were generated by the effort.

The report declines to directly name the companies that funded the project, but it does disclose that the $4.2 million campaign was run through Broadband for America (BFA), a nonprofit organization whose members include AT&T, CenturyLink, Charter, and Comcast.

"The New York Attorney General's Office has exposed a massive fraud financed by the nation's biggest phone and cable companies to drown out authentic public support for net neutrality," said Craig Aaron, co-CEO of advocacy group Free Press. "This investigation shows how low the industry will stoop to undermine even the most basic and benign safeguards."

"The Biden FCC has the opportunity and responsibility to restore net neutrality and the authority the agency needs to regulate the nation's biggest cable and phone companies," Aaron added.

While the investigation did not uncover evidence that BFA had direct knowledge of the lead generators' outright fabrication of comments, the report states that "several significant red flags appeared shortly after the campaign started, and continued for months yet still remained unheeded."

"Shortly after BFA began to submit comments to the FCC, in early May 2017, reports began to appear in the press of individuals who stated on the record that comments using their names and addresses had been submitted without their consent," the report notes. "BFA and its lobbying firm were aware of these accounts, discussing and linking to them in emails."

In a statement, New York AG Letitia James said that "instead of actually looking for real responses from the American people, marketing companies are luring vulnerable individuals to their websites with freebies, co-opting their identities, and fabricating responses that giant corporations are then using to influence the polices and laws that govern our lives."

"Today, we are taking action to root out this fraud and the impersonation that has been corrupting the process for far too long," James continued. "From net neutrality rules to laws affecting criminal justice reform, healthcare, and more, these fake comments have simply been generated to influence too many government policies, which is why we are cracking down on this illegal and deceptive behavior."

Intercept Spying On Regular People Instead Of The Powerful

Opposing PRO Act, Uber and Other Gig Companies Spend Over $1 Million Lobbying Congress

Even as President Joe Biden called for Congress during his joint address last week to pass labor reform legislation, a slate of gig companies has spent over $1 million lobbying Congress to influence the PRO Act and other related issues in 2021 alone, according to newly released lobbying disclosures. Ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft and delivery apps DoorDash and Instacart spent at least $1,190,000 on 32 lobbyists to persuade members of Congress on the PRO Act, first quarter disclosure reports show. The bill, which the House of Representatives passed in early March, would allow many gig workers to unionize and make it harder for companies to union-bust, among other changes.

Uber alone spent $540,000 in the first quarter of 2021 lobbying on “issues related to the future of work and the on-demand economy, possible anti-competitive activities that could limit consumers access to app-based technologies,” the PRO Act, and other related labor issues. Lyft spent $430,000, DoorDash $120,000, and Instacart $100,000 on lobbying on the PRO Act and other issues, according to disclosures.

The PRO Act would make the most pivotal changes to labor law since the 1970s. In addition to giving many gig workers the right to unionize, it would grant employees whistleblower protections and prohibit companies from retaliating against participants in strikes and other union-related activities. A 2019 report from Gallup commissioned by Intuit estimated that 17 percent of U.S. adults engaged in self-employment. ...

These reforms threaten the profits of gig companies, which rely on a large and fluid group of independent contractors. At this point, said Catherine Fisk, a labor law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, workers at gig companies aren’t entitled to rights that employees qualify for under other federal and state laws, such as unemployment insurance, worker’s compensation, or employer health benefits. “There are a whole slew of rights that independent contractors don’t have, and the PRO Act wouldn’t change any of those. But the one right that the PRO Act would change is whether independent contractors have the right to form a union and bargain collectively,” she said. “And it wouldn’t give every independent contractor the right to unionize, but it would give many independent contractors who aren’t really independent the right to unionize.”

David Sirota: Inside FIGHT OVER Higher Wages At Denny's

‘We need help’: sewage crisis hits majority-Black town in New York

Sewage problems are nothing new in Mount Vernon, New York, a majority-Black city of 68,000 that’s only a half-hour train ride from Grand Central station in Manhattan. Officials in Mount Vernon told the Guardian that sewage and wastewater infrastructure is collapsing all over town. The city is an extreme example of ailing wastewater networks across the country crumbling faster than cities can afford to maintain them – and communities of color may bear an outsized share of the burden.

In the worst-hit homes [...] sludge floods out of toilets with little warning. Sewer water bubbles up from clogged manholes on some streets. Storm drains spill raw waste into the Hutchinson and Bronx rivers, which frame the city’s east and west. Officials estimate that 1,000 households could be at risk of floods or unable to flush their toilets, though the exact number is not yet known and might be larger. Mount Vernon’s population is 65% Black, making it an outlier in the highly segregated, majority-white Westchester county. Frustrated residents said that whiter towns near Mount Vernon have sewage infrastructure that works just fine. ...

For years, experts have sounded the alarm about the country’s failing infrastructure. Wastewater networks across America received a D+ grade, and New York state alone faces a $34.1bn funding gap for wastewater, according to the most recent annual assessment by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

The Guardian is investigating sanitation shortfalls across the US as part of a year-long environmental justice reporting project. In February, we published a story about Centreville, Illinois, a low-income, nearly all-Black town near St Louis where failing wastewater infrastructure floods homes with raw sewage. Residents in both Mount Vernon and Centreville have dealt with these failures for years without significant action from local authorities, and both cities now face staggering repair needs that far outstrip what they can afford. Yet Mount Vernon has over 13 times the population of Centreville. ...

Mount Vernon has the highest tax rate in Westchester county, yet residents are baffled at where their money has been going all this time. Wayne Fletcher, 48, lives just off the troubled 3rd Street corridor and pays $18,400 in yearly property taxes for his two-family home. ... Fletcher, who grew up in Jamaica and works for AT&T as a network engineer, said that on the worst days, he and his family skipped showers and drank less water to avoid using the toilet. “I’m paying for a lifestyle I’m not living,” said Fletcher. “In all my years in Jamaica, I never saw something like this. Never.”

Richard Wright’s Novel About Racist Police Violence Was Rejected in 1941; It Has Just Been Published

4 ex-cops indicted on US civil rights charges in Floyd death

A federal grand jury has indicted the four former Minneapolis police officers involved in George Floyd’s arrest and death, accusing them of willfully violating the Black man’s constitutional rights as he was restrained face-down on the pavement and gasping for air.

A three-count indictment unsealed Friday names Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao. Chauvin, convicted last month on state charges of murder and manslaughter, is charged with violating Floyd’s right to be free from unreasonable seizure and unreasonable force by a police officer. Thao and Kueng are also charged with violating Floyd’s right to be free from unreasonable seizure, accused of not intervening to stop Chauvin as he knelt on Floyd’s neck. All four officers are charged for their failure to provide Floyd with medical care. ...

Chauvin was also charged in a second indictment, stemming from the use of force and neck restraint of a 14-year-old boy in 2017.

The indictment in Floyd’s death was handed down about a week after federal prosecutors brought hate crimes charges in the death of Ahmaud Arbery, as the Justice Department shifts its priorities to focus more on civil rights issues, criminal justice overhauls and policing policies.

Lane, Thao and Kueng made their initial court appearances Friday via videoconference in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis. Chauvin has not yet made his initial appearance. He is in state custody as he awaits sentencing on the state charges. The other three former officers face a state trial in August, and they remain free on bond.

4 ex-cops indicted on US civil rights charges in Floyd death

the horse race

Florida governor signs new restrictive bill in ‘blatant attack on right to vote’

The Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, has signed a bill imposing new limits on voting by mail and using ballot drop boxes, the latest Republican-backed voting restrictions to become law in a US election battleground state.

The White House swiftly criticized the law, saying Florida was “moving in the wrong direction”.

The new law restricts the use of absentee ballot drop boxes to the early voting period, adds new identification requirements for requesting such ballots, and requires voters to reapply for absentee ballots in each new general election cycle. Previously, Florida voters only had to apply once every two election cycles. The law also gives partisan election observers more power to raise objections and requires people offering voters assistance to stay at least 150ft (45 meters) away from polling places, an increase from the previous 100ft radius.

Minutes after DeSantis signed the law, the League of Women Voters of Florida and two other civil rights groups sued Florida’s 67 counties to try to block the new restrictions. They are represented by Marc Elias, a Democratic lawyer who also sued Georgia over voting limits the state passed in March.

The Florida branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Disability Rights Florida and the good government group Common Cause also sued the state on Thursday, arguing the limits would disproportionately hurt Black, Latino and disabled voters.


Arizona Republicans hunt for bamboo-laced China ballots in 2020 ‘audit’ effort

Arizona Republicans are examining whether there is bamboo fiber in ballots that were used in the 2020 election, an activist assisting with the ongoing audit of the ballots told reporters this week. The latest claim underscores how rightwing conspiracy theories continue to fuel doubt about the results of the results.

“There’s accusation that 40,000 ballots were flown in to Arizona and it was stuffed into the box and it came from the south-east part of the world, Asia, and what they’re doing is to find out whether there’s bamboo in the paper,” John Brakey, a longtime election audit advocate, told reporters. ...

The search for bamboo fibers illustrates how the latest GOP audit of all 2.1m ballots cast in Maricopa county, home to a majority of Arizona voters, is elevating absurd claims about the 2020 election. After election day, rightwing activists falsely claimed that China had imported ballots to tip the election for Biden and that those ballots could be identified because there was bamboo in the paper. Earlier, workers were using UV lights to examine ballots; while the purpose of doing so was never clear, there was a conspiracy theory after the election that Trump had watermarked ballots (the UV examinations have stopped).

the evening greens

Inspector General Rebukes EPA for Failing to Protect Communities From Carcinogenic Air Pollution

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Inspector General issued a report today taking the agency to task for its failure to protect communities from chloroprene and ethylene oxide. Both chemicals are carcinogenic air pollutants and pose particular risks to people living near plants that emit them.

“There are potentially unacceptable risks from chloroprene and ethylene oxide emissions in some areas of the country,” according to the report, which notes that over 464,000 people living in more than 100 census tracts have a risk of cancer from air pollution greater than 100 in 1 million due to chloroprene and ethylene oxide. The Intercept tallied these toxic hotspots in a 2019 investigation and in 2017 began calling attention to chloroprene pollution in St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana, which has the highest risk of cancer from air pollution in the U.S., according to the most recent National Air Toxics Assessment.

The report from the agency’s watchdog pointed to the EPA’s failure to update its technology reviews for four different categories of facilities that release these carcinogens, including commercial sterilizers and synthetic organic chemical manufacturing plants, which were both due to be reviewed by 2014.

As The Intercept reported in March, one of these synthetic organic chemical manufacturing plants, in Port Neches, Texas, emits so much ethylene oxide that it has increased the cancer risk in an area that stretches for more than 1,000 square miles. While the EPA did the modeling that showed the elevated cancer risk, it did not alert the people living there to the dangers they faced. In April, the EPA inspector general issued another report tracing some of the agency’s failures to protect communities from ethylene oxide pollution to a Trump appointee named Bill Wehrum, a former lobbyist for chemical and oil companies who ran the agency’s Office of Air and Radiation until 2019.

Today’s report also criticizes the EPA for failing to incorporate the agency’s own science into its risk and technology reviews. A division of the EPA known as IRIS evaluated chloroprene in 2010 and ethylene oxide in 2016, finding both chemicals to be far more dangerous than previously thought. But the EPA did not update the regulations that would stop industrial facilities from emitting dangerous levels of the pollutants.

Giant sturgeon caught in Detroit River may be 100 years old

The US Fish and Wildlife Service received quite a big surprise last week, when they caught a giant fish, estimated to be more than 100 years old, in the Detroit River.

The 240lb lake sturgeon was caught by a three-person crew on 22 April, just south of Detroit near Grosse Ile. The agency described the huge fish, which measured almost 7ft long, as “a real life river monster”.

The large aquatic creature was caught using frozen round goby, small, soft-bodied fish that serve as tasty snacks for sturgeon, as bait, on a long line reaching deep into the Detroit River. It took about six minutes for the crew of fishing biologists to get the large fish into their boat, using a net. The agency said it quickly released the fish back into the river after it was weighed and measured.

While the typical lifespan is 55 years for a male sturgeon and 70 to 100 years for females, according to the Michigan department of natural resources, the gargantuan Detroit River sturgeon, a female, is believed to have lived even longer. “Based on its girth and size, it is assumed to be a female and that she has been roaming our waters over 100 years,” said the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Giant sequoia found still smoldering after 2020 California wildfire

Scientists have discovered a giant sequoia still smoldering in California’s Sequoia national forest, months after wildfires tore through the region last August.

The tree was found, charred but still standing, by researchers in the lower part of the national forest this week. While turning down a sharp switchback on the trail, a member of Sequoia’s fire ecology and research team spotted a plume of smoke in the ravine below. Using a long camera lens, the team tracked the smoke to a single giant sequoia, standing in the burn area from last year’s Castle fire. The enormous tree, which has probably stood for hundreds if not thousands of years, looked like a chimney spouting smoke in the middle of the blackened forest. ...

Mike Theune, fire information officer for Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks, said it was not wholly unusual for some patches of ember to remain burning months after a fire dies down. The inside of a tree, like the interior of a wood-burning stove, can provide an oxygen-rich shelter for a fire to survive. However, the fact that a Sequoia is still giving off smoke after an entire winter of rain and snow could be testament to California’s exceptionally dry winter: after precious little snowfall over the last two winters, most of the state is entering extreme drought conditions.

“The vegetation – the fuels – are dry,” Theune said. “They don’t have the high moisture content that [could prevent fire].” Elsewhere in the state, experts have warned that the unprecedented dryness of California’s diverse flora could lead to an early and devastating fire season this year. “The fact areas are still smoldering and smoking from the 2020 Castle fire demonstrates how dry the park is,” Leif Mathiesen, the assistant fire management officer for Sequoia and Kings Canyon, said in a statement. “With the low amount of snowfall and rain this year, there may be additional discoveries as spring transitions into summer.”

Also of Interest

Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.

Milley: US Considering Training Afghan Forces in Other Countries

SecDef Austin Says Pentagon Contractors Will Leave Afghanistan

Afghanistan - Taliban Capture Baghlan

How to spot the difference between a real climate policy and greenwashing guff

How melting glaciers have accelerated a shift in Earth’s axis

Rejecting Bayer Appeal, Top EU Court Upholds Ban on Bee-Killing Pesticides

Seychelles, World’s Most Vaccinated Country, Hit by Covid Surge….Including Among the Vaccinated

‘Cry No Tears for These Death Profiteers’: Pharma Stocks Plunge as Biden Backs Vaccine Patent Waiver

EU accuses UK as France seeks to ‘rapidly defuse’ Jersey fishing row

Longtime Bloomberg Ally Bets on Andrew Yang for New York

Rising: Are We Facing Eviction CRISIS When Moratorium Expires?

Krystal Ball: People LOVE Biden's Spending Programs As GOP Attacks FAIL

A Little Night Music

Tower Of Power - Soul With A Capital "S"

Tower Of Power - Squib Cakes

Tower of Power - Only so much oil in the ground

Tower Of Power - Soul Vaccination

Tower of Power - Don't Change Horses (In The Middle Of A Stream)

Tower Of Power - I Still Be Diggin' on James Brown

Santana w/ Tower Of Power

Tower of Power - The Oakland Stroke, You Ought to be Having Fun, What is Hip

Tower of Power - Estival Jazz Lugano 2010 Live Full

19 users have voted.


You Ain't Heard nothing yet.......

BBC TV, 25 hours into the Second most important elections in the UK---comparable to our Midterms----is not carrying Election Results live on TV. Except for an occasional propaganda opinion item.

They have been happy to tell you that the Tories are beating Labour in Britain.

For Scotland they are hinting Bad Things for SNP and Scottish Independence. The actual news is that the SNP + Green Party will absolutely win a decisive ruling majority in Scotland and a Scottish Referendum is not inevitable, but very, very likely. Which is why the BBC may or may not give us a live report until 21:00 their time which is 9:00 PM in NYC, and get this, 2:00 AM in the UK.

At this moment SNP has picked up 3 seats from the Tories and Labour. There are 129 seats and SNP + Greens are sure to meet that challenge.

Good evening Joe. That was the first item I noticed on your excellent list tonight.

The other one is as egregious in its own way. The implication that Yang is a Bloomberg adherent or beneficiary in any degree is refuted by the Facts. Bloomberg et al are Against Yang 100%.

Bloomberg, Cuomo, all the Big $$$ , Charter Schools, the Madison Square Garden owner, riled because Yang has the audacity to expect Madison Square Garden to give up its tax-free status, along with the Real Estate Interests, on and on and on are massing to support Eric Adams. Who is a former (R) Law and Order proponent of austerity and punishment. Revenge is his modus operandi as a Police Captain for NYPD. There is a great quote which I will locate and post h which tells you all you need to know about Adams.
The final sentence, "Organizations and movements that agitate for Change under a Mayor Adams, can only get so far against someone who understands intimately, how to wield power and punish enemies."

The increasingly confused and nutty Progressives are now joining together, not understanding that Yang supports 90% of their positions and Adams none. I would not expect them to vote for Andrew Yang but Adams should appear no place on their ballots not #1, or 2 or 3 or 4 or 5. Dianne Morales is an actual Progressive so fine support her, and Maya Wiley plays sort of a Progressive on TV.

Unless there is breaking GOOD news late, I am gone for a bit.

12 users have voted.



4 users have voted.
joe shikspack's picture


yep, i did a quick google and aside from a tory upset, there's not much election news yet.

they're keeping a stiff upper lip, i guess.

i think that the article about yang hiring a former bloomberg campaign manager/lobbyist firm is a little more nuanced than you make out and doesn't really suggest that bloomberg is behind yang at all. rather it focuses on the connections between the lobbying firm (tusk strategies) and yang.

With Chris Coffey, Tusk’s deputy and head of the firm’s New York office, as Yang’s co-campaign manager (and the other co-campaign manager, press secretary, policy director, and two senior advisers all employed by Tusk Strategies, Tusk has a direct line to the current front-runner for New York City mayor. And in fact, as Jeff Coltin of City & State recently reported, Tusk Strategies actively recruited Yang to run as soon as he dropped out of the presidential race in February 2020.


7 users have voted.

@joe shikspack The irony is that Bloomberg's interests conflict with Yang's efforts.

3 users have voted.


enhydra lutris's picture

With the immortal, flawless an beyond criticism Queen HER attacking the Democratic Party's chosen and hence anointed leader Joe B things must be getting out of hand over at Markos' place. Should she not be disparaged for trying to undermine the party like that? Should not her echo chamber be silenced? Bwahahahaha.

Meanwhile I see you are featuring Oaktown's finest and, for no doubt perfectly good reasons have omitted one of my faves, which I must accordingly insert here:

So now they publish Richard Wright's novel, 61 years after his death and 80 years after he wrote it. And, of course, when I think about it, I'm not even surprised. After all, I read Langston Hughes long ago --

“We Negro writers, just by being black, have been on the blacklist all our lives. Censorship for us begins at the color line.”

be wll and have a good one. Have a wonderful weekend too.

10 users have voted.

That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

joe shikspack's picture

@enhydra lutris

heh, well, queen her is only defending the u.s.' goddess-given right to kill, maim and dismember black and brown people in vast numbers against "the new guy's" sudden onslaught of peacemaking. surely the people of orange will be in queen her's corner!

thanks for the tune and have a wonderful weekend!

6 users have voted.
Pricknick's picture

There would seem to be a lot of bored killers with itchy trigger fingers in the U.S.

Wildlife advocacy groups are sounding the alarm about a new "extermination" law in Idaho, signed this week by GOP Gov. Brad Little, that will allow hunters and private contractors to kill up to 90% of the state's gray wolf population—about 1,350 animals.

Many humans have an insatiable desire to kill something that may compete with their plans. Others just want to kill something.
We don't deserve inter-planetary exploration.

Huge thanks for The Tower of Power!
They had totally slipped my mind.

11 users have voted.

Regardless of the path in life I chose, I realize it's always forward, never straight.

if they want to get rid of cold blooded killers of the innocent.

6 users have voted.

I've seen lots of changes. What doesn't change is people. Same old hairless apes.

joe shikspack's picture


We don't deserve inter-planetary exploration.

well, certainly not yet. we haven't finished killing off everything here. you can't go out until you finish cleaning up your room. /s

have a great weekend!

10 users have voted.

As usual a lot to go through tonight. Medea Bejamin is one centered and powerful person. Hats off to her and what she is doing! She needs some more assistance fro, the general public.

Spent some time with sister-in-law trying to explain how the news is skewed against the workers and that $15 an hour is not a great deal of money. Think some of this did come across to her instead of getting rid of the unemployment relief the news stations are broadcasting.

I have finally made it back to my place outside of Austin and all the traffic. It is nice to be here where the traffic is slow or not at all in front of my place and the view of the river is still here.

Hope you have a good weekend of weather! The weather reports here say little or no rain so lots I can get done outside and inside. Have a good weekend all.

As usual, thanks for giving me many article to go back to and investigate further!

11 users have voted.

Life is what you make it, so make it something worthwhile.

This ain't no dress rehearsal!

As a GS-12 in the 1970's and was riding high. Today I would spit at that pay.
Gasoline was under $0.40 A BurgerKing Whopper was 35 cents. Coffee was a dime. My new Chevrolet Caprice convertible was $4,000 I bought a new five bedroom Raised Ranch on a half acre near Dulles Airport for $47,990 property tax was $300
$15 an hour is low today. more like $1.50 in the 1970's.

9 users have voted.

I've seen lots of changes. What doesn't change is people. Same old hairless apes.

@joe shikspack @The Voice In the Wilderness Absolutely correct! Look back through old notes from that time period and exactly what you are saying. My sister in law is coming from today and she needs to understand what $15 really means to a person today. We were in the same happy place as you I that time period!

7 users have voted.

Life is what you make it, so make it something worthwhile.

This ain't no dress rehearsal!

So, like most engineers (according to an old IEEE study) my real income peaked in 1973!
"Honey, do you want to buy a new car? Um, yeah, let's buy a new car." With no more thought than that. My mom was looking for a car to replace her beater. I sold her my five year old Mercury convertible for Blue book wholesale price. mom loved that yellow convertible with the high compression 390 V-8. yeah, Mom had a lead foot too.

She had a speeding ticket in that car. She brought my five year old daughter to court. Little girl cried and implored the judge "Please don't put my Grandma in jail!" Judge said "There there little girl, we're not going to put her in jail" and let her off with a warning. About ten years ago my daughter admitted, yeah, grandma had coached her.

4 users have voted.

I've seen lots of changes. What doesn't change is people. Same old hairless apes.

joe shikspack's picture


if i had religion, i'd nominate medea for sainthood.

it's supposed to be chilly and rainy here until tuesday, but it's okay - the plants are loving it. just about everything is starting to bloom. our irises started blooming this week and they are looking healthy and happy after being divided in their new patch up front in the side garden.

have a great weekend watching the river go by and not having to listen to traffic!

8 users have voted.
Azazello's picture

The "means of production" are in frickin' China.
Happy Friday all ...
Here's a pretty good Jimmy Dore segment:

One of my favorite album covers:

10 users have voted.

It didn't have to be this way.

joe shikspack's picture


good to see jimmy covering the fact that our coast guard's instruments have failed and they are lost and can't seem to find their way back to american waters.

have a great weekend!

8 users have voted.
dystopian's picture

Hey Joe, GREAT horns! They were an amazing horn section. Cool stuff. Funny about the Condors. Back in the 60's when there were about 60 wild ones left my folks led Audubon field trips to Mt. Pinos every year, a couple hours up I-5 north of L.A. Sometimes we would have a dozen flying around the mountaintop, often very close. I made a trip to see them one last time in the early 80's right before they caught the last 5 just in case... They were all tagged and tracked then. Great to see them doing OK now. I am sure if these people would place a sealion or cow carcass down the road a piece they would lose them real quick.

I have seen a few of the named monster Sequoia's smoldering myself a few times over the years I used to spend time in that part of the Sierras. Need binocs to see the tops of the trees!

Hope all is well! Have a good one, and thanks for the sounds!

6 users have voted.

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.
both - Albert Einstein

joe shikspack's picture


yep, top is about as good as a horn section gets.

i'm delighted to see the condors making a comeback. i saw one once when i was a kid and was just amazed at the size of it. with any luck, i'll be able to travel west again and see some again, assuming covid settles down and california doesn't burn down before i can get there.

have a great weekend!

6 users have voted.
mimi's picture

She failed imo to manage the corona crisis appropriately. I can't understand why she goes against Biden's proposal on the issue of waivers for patents on Covid-19. I had the feeling that Biden proposed that with good intentions to facilitate the distribution of vaccines worldwide to support poor countries abilities to get access to vaccines and get vaccinated.

Man, this is one confusing mess. Haven't really time to follow it more closely

Thank you for your excellent list of news articles. I nominate you as first male saint, the way I agree on nominating Medea Benjamin first angel and saint for bravery. I wished we had a person like it in Germany.

I hope the condors don't descend on your house and that you catch an even larger fish in the Chesapeake Bay than the 100 year old sturgeon found in the Detroit River. Heh, Maryland Terrapins, you are the first. /s

Have a good weekend and get some rest. Many thanks for what you do.

6 users have voted.
joe shikspack's picture


i guess that the pharmaceutical/chemical industry in germany is just as politically powerful as it is here in the u.s. and politicians are heavily bribed or threatened and won't go against them.

it may also be that biden decided to propose the waivers because he knew that it would never get past the proposal stage at the who.

heh, i think that my house is safe from condors, being about 3000 miles from the nearest one, though we do have some pretty large, well-fed vultures around here. i'm sure that you saw plenty of them when you were living in washington d.c. - both those with and without wings. Smile

i wouldn't expect to find anything like the 100+ year old sturgeon in the bay. the chesapeake has been heavily, ruthlessly commercially fished for over a century.

have a great weekend, mimi!

5 users have voted.
mimi's picture

@joe shikspack
to be your student. I remember only the vultures without wings. And I had no idea that the Condors would avoid your roof, because they are too far away...

I have faith in the fish to survive even the worst commercial fishing practices. If I believe in anything than it would be that nature wins over evil, destructive humans. Seems to be a strange faith I have in nature these days, but you know stranger things have happened, so there are a little bit less strange thoughts in my head, once in a awhile. Smile

Thanks for your response.

3 users have voted.
joe shikspack's picture


glad to help. the condor now mostly lives in california, but also parts of arizona and utah.

here's the wikipedia article.

2 users have voted.
mimi's picture

@joe shikspack
from the German perspective so to speak.
The Growing Debate over the Suspension of Vaccine Patents

I go in my garden now. Have a happy weekend. You know what I don't understand? How often ask me the intertubeians, if I agree and if I am happy. I tell them over and over again, how agreeable I am and how happy as well, but they don't stop asking, these bozos. And I thought they are IT and intelligent. Sigh, another disappointment. /s

3 users have voted.

for we tourists to see a condor.
We didn't.
I turned and left the trail, went to the park bar and grill, drank some really good beer while everyone walked back to say they didn't see a condor. Or anything else.
But then, I have been to a national park in Costa Rica to see wild life,exotic birds, a world famous tourist destination, and the only "live" thing the group of tourists saw was ants. And people zip lining overhead.
jakkalbessie, it's true! And I went on boat to see stuff and things, and I saw thumbnail sized bats on the trunk of a tree. Absolutely nothing else!
I have had great luck seeing the Big Five on safari, as well as hippos, and cheetas.
I got beers from the guides for being the spotter.

4 users have voted.