The Evening Blues - 6-10-21
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features zydeco accordian player Boozoo Chavis. Enjoy!
Boozoo Chavis - Paper in My Shoe
"It is wrong always, everywhere, and for everyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence."
-- William James
News and Opinion
The Associated Press has not seen any evidence that the Palestinian movement Hamas used the building which housed its offices in Gaza before it was bombed by Israel last month.
AP issued a statement on Tuesday after Gilad Erdan, the Israeli envoy to the US and UN, visited the news agency's New York headquarters and posted photos on Twitter with the company's president Gary Pruitt.
Erdan said the meeting was meant to "explain to top executives that the building housing their Gaza operation was being used by Hamas terrorists trying to jam the Iron Dome," Israel's missile defence system.
But Lauren Easton, an AP spokesperson, said the Israeli government did not present proof to back the assertion.
"Israeli authorities maintain that the building housing our bureau was destroyed because of a Hamas presence that posed an urgent threat. We have yet to receive evidence to support these claims," Eaton told Middle East Eye in an email. "AP continues to call for the full release of any evidence the Israelis have so that the facts are public."
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday that "hundreds" of US sanctions will remain on Iran even if the United States rejoins a nuclear accord. President Joe Biden's administration has been engaged in indirect talks with Iran about reversing former president Donald Trump's exit from the 2015 nuclear accord, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
"I would anticipate that, even in the event of a return to compliance with the JCPOA, hundreds of sanctions remain in place, including sanctions imposed by the Trump administration," Blinken told a Senate hearing. "If they are not inconsistent with the JCPOA, they will remain unless and until Iran's behavior changes," he said.
The discussions in Vienna, brokered by European diplomats, have been locked in dispute on which sanctions to lift. But Iran has insisted on a removal of all sanctions -- while the Biden administration has insisted that some will remain if they were imposed over other concerns, including human rights and Iran's support for extremist movements.
The Senate passed sweeping legislation aimed at combating China's competitiveness on Tuesday, after Democrats agreed to punt the bill into June in the face of GOP slow-walking.
The 68-32 vote hands a victory to Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who made the bill a top priority and was able to get it past several last-minute snags in a weeks-long debate that appeared ready to derail it multiple times.
The measure now goes to the House, where it faces uncertain prospects, as lawmakers there have offered their own measure. There’s talk of trying to drop part of it into an eventual infrastructure package.
The U.K. government has authorized the sale of £2.6-billion worth of military and civilian equipment with potential military use to China in the past three years, government figures show. Last year saw a tripling in exports to China of “dual use” items defined as “civilian goods with a military purpose.” Some £1.6-billion worth were authorised in 2020, compared to £526-million in 2019.
The increase coincided with the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020. The exports have been approved while China is identified by the British government as “an increasing risk to U.K. interests” and “the biggest state-based threat to the U.K.’s economic security.” Most British exports were for “dual use” equipment but £53-million worth classified purely as “military” went to China over the three years 2018-20, including components for combat aircraft and military support aircraft.
Other items licensed for use by China included military communications equipment and technology for air defense systems. The U.K. has banned the sale of “lethal” military equipment to China since the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. However, the British exports are likely to benefit China’s air force, which British ministers claim is a growing military threat.
Defence Minister Jeremy Quin said in March that “the likes of Russia and China have studied our strengths in the air and begun developing the capabilities to not only counter but surpass us.” Britain is also aiding China’s naval capacity. Ministers approved two export licences in 2019 for components for combat naval vessels that were identified as being for “end use by the [military] Navy.” ...
In addition to supporting the navy and air force, hundreds of licences have been approved by U.K. ministers for the sale of “information security equipment” and “imaging cameras” to China. ... Sam Walton, the chief executive of the Free Tibet campaign, said: “The Chinese government will use this military equipment to continue its repression in Tibet, to steal Tibetan homes and erase Tibetan culture. Selling such equipment is not how to stand up for human rights.” He added: “We have seen fine words from this government condemning the repression in Tibet, the Uyghur genocide and the destruction on democracy in Hong Kong. But their actions once again show their words to be worthless. Britain cannot condemn China’s jackboot whilst heeling that same boot.”
For more than a year, it has been consecrated media fact that former President Donald Trump and his White House, on June 1 of last year, directed the U.S. Park Police to use tear gas against peaceful Lafayette Park protesters, all to enable a Trump photo-op in front of St. John's Church. That this happened was never presented as a possibility or likelihood but as indisputable truth. And it provoked weeks of unmitigated media outrage, presented as one of the most egregious assaults on the democratic order in decades. ...
There were some denials of this narrative at the time, largely confined to right-wing media. ABC News mocked “hosts on Fox News, one of the president's preferred news media outlets, [who] have spent the days since the controversial photo op shifting defenses to fit the president's narrative.” Meanwhile, The Federalist's Mollie Hemingway — in an article retweeted by Trump as a "must read” — cited sources to assert that the entire media narrative was false because force was to clear the Park not to enable Trump's photo op but rather “because [protesters] had climbed on top of a structure in Lafayette Park that had been burned the prior night” and the Park Police decided to build a barrier to protect it. ...
All of this came crashing down on their heads on Wednesday afternoon. The independent Inspector General of the Interior Department, Mark Lee Greenblatt, issued his office's findings after a long investigation into “the actions of the U.S. Park Police (USPP) to disperse protesters in and around Lafayette Park in Washington, DC, on June 1, 2020.” Greenblatt has been around Washington for a long time, occupying numerous key positions in the Obama administration, including investigative counsel at the Department of Justice's Office of Inspector General and Assistant Inspector General for Investigations at Obama's Commerce Department. ...
The IG's conclusion could not be clearer: the media narrative was false from start to finish. Namely, he said, “the evidence did not support a finding that the [U.S. Park Police] cleared the park on June 1, 2020, so that then President Trump could enter the park.” Instead — exactly as Hemingway's widely-mocked-by-liberal-outlets article reported — “the evidence we reviewed showed that the USPP cleared the park to allow a contractor to safely install anti-scale fencing in response to destruction of Federal property and injury to officers that occurred on May 30 and May 31.” Crucially, “the evidence established that relevant USPP officials had made those decisions and had begun implementing the operational plan several hours before they knew of a potential Presidential visit to the park, which occurred later that day."
The detailed IG report elaborated on the timeline even more extensively. It was “on the morning of June 1” when “the Secret Service procured anti-scale fencing to establish a more secure perimeter around Lafayette Park that was to be delivered and installed that same day.” The agencies had “determined that it was necessary to clear protesters from the area in and around the park to enable the contractor’s employees to safely install the fence.” Indeed, “we found that by approximately 10 a.m. on June 1, the USPP had already begun developing a plan to clear protesters from the area to enable the contractor to safely install the anti-scale fence” — many hours before Trump decided to go. The clearing of the Park, said the IG Report, had nothing to do with Trump or his intended visit to the Church; in fact, those responsible for doing this did not have any knowledge of Trump's intentions.
Beyond that, planning for that operation began at least two days before Trump decided to visit the church. “The fencing contractor told us and emails we reviewed confirmed that on May 30, the assistant division chief of the Secret Service's Procurement Division discussed with the contractor how quickly the contractor could deliver anti-scale fencing to Lafayette Park,” the Report found. Plans for the fence were finalized at least the day prior to Trump's walk: “the fencing contractor's project manager told us that she learned on May 31 that the Secret Service had contacted the fencing contractor about an anti-scale fence.” And while Attorney General William Barr did visit the Park shortly before Trump's walk and saw what he viewed as unruly protesters, causing him to ask Park Police commanders whether they would still be there when Trump arrived, the order to clear the Park had been given well before that and was unrelated to Trump or to Barr: there is “no evidence that the Attorney General’s visit to Lafayette Park at 6:10 p.m. caused the USPP to alter its plans to clear the park.”
Talks between the EU and the UK over Northern Ireland appear on the brink of collapse as London indicated it was still considering unilateral action to keep unhindered supplies flowing from Great Britain into the region.
The European commission vice-president, Maros Sefcovic, said patience was “wearing very, very thin” and described the relationship with the UK as “at a crossroads”.
Amid fears that the escalating crisis over Northern Ireland would develop into a trade war, David Frost, the Brexit minister, said there had been “no breakthroughs” over the Brexit checks but no “breakdowns” after a two-hour meeting with Sefcovic in London.
Late on Wednesday, Boris Johnson insisted that there was no crisis. ... Johnson’s optimism could face a challenge at the G7 meeting on Thursday, however, when Joe Biden will warn him and the EU not to “imperil” the Northern Ireland peace process.
Biden to Buy 500 Million Vaccine Doses for Other Countries, But Billions More Needed to End Pandemic
The US has reached an agreement with Pfizer to buy 500m doses of their coronavirus vaccine to distribute to nearly 100 countries around the world, as the centrepiece of Joe Biden’s initiative to help vaccinate the world against Covid-19, according to US reports.
Under to the scheme, which Biden is expected to announce in the UK on Thursday, the US would pay for the vaccines at cost price. The first 200m doses would be distributed this year, and the remaining 300m in the first half of next year. According to reports, the vaccines will be donated through Covax, the global initiative to help developing countries face the pandemic, and would go to 92 lower-income countries and the African Union.
The New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal cited multiple unnamed sources familiar with the plan.
The global vaccine initiative is part of Biden’s broader strategy of restoring America’s global influence and soft power, which he believed has been eroded by Donald Trump’s four years in office and the increasingly assertive foreign policies of China and Russia.
A Nobel prize-winning US biologist, who has been widely quoted describing a “smoking gun” to support the thesis that Covid-19 was genetically modified and escaped from a Wuhan lab, has said he overstated the case. David Baltimore, a distinguished biology professor, had become one of the most prominent figures cited by proponents of the so-called lab leak theory.
Originally quoted in an article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in May, and widely requoted since, Baltimore had appeared to suggest that a specific feature in Covid-19’s genome, known as the furin cleavage site, was the “smoking gun” to the theory the virus had been contained inside a laboratory and then escaped via a leak. “These features make a powerful challenge to the idea of a natural origin for Sars2,” he said at the time.
In recent days, however, Baltimore has told a fellow researcher, the scientific journal Nature and the LA Times that – while he had been quoted accurately in the bulletin – he should not have used the phrase “smoking gun” and was uncertain what the feature proved regarding the origins of the virus – natural or otherwise. In an email exchange with the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore conceded he had overstated the case and that he had an open mind on the matter. ...
“I believe that the question of whether the sequence was put in naturally or by molecular manipulation is very hard to determine but I wouldn’t rule out either origin.”
Given his considerable reputation, Baltimore’s dramatic “smoking gun” quote in early May had driven a lot of the recent resurgence of interest in the Wuhan lab leak theory in tandem with renewed reporting of unverified intelligence claims that three staff at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were hospitalised in November 2019 with symptoms consistent either with Covid-19 or seasonal flu.
Joe Biden’s plans to overhaul the international tax system face mounting opposition from his Republican opposition who have called the proposals “crazy” and are threatening to block the historic deal’s passage in the US. The treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, has led the Biden administration’s attempts to broker a global agreement on how companies are taxed, which comes amid a wider push to reshape corporate taxation in the US.
Those efforts were rewarded over the weekend when the G7 group of wealthy nations backed a global minimum rate of at least 15% and agreed that countries should be able to tax some of the profits made by big companies based on the revenue they generate in that country, rather than where they are based for tax purposes.
But as Biden heads to London for the G7 summit, the US-led plan faces stiff opposition in Washington, where senior Republicans are lining up to kill the deal. The former Trump administration economic adviser Kevin Hassett told Yahoo Finance on Tuesday it “isn’t going to happen”.
With the 100-seat Senate evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, Biden will struggle to pass any changes to international tax treaties with bipartisan support and may be forced to try to pass a bill with only Democratic votes.
Top Democrats are preparing to make the case to impose new limits on the filibuster, in a move that could bring to a head six months of smoldering tensions over an expected Republican blockade of Joe Biden’s legislative agenda. The Senate had its first filibuster of this Congress last week, when Republicans used the tactical rule to block a bipartisan House-passed measure to create a 9/11-style commission to investigate the Capitol attack perpetrated a pro-Trump mob.
Even as a majority of senators voted in favor of the commission, the bill’s defeat at the hands of Republicans deploying the filibuster underscored the ease with which legislation can be blocked under current Senate rules that require a 60-vote margin in the 100-strong chamber.
Republicans at the same time last week delayed a bipartisan measure aimed at improving American competitiveness with China, also proving to Democrats that the party was more interested in denying legislative wins to Biden than advancing bills that they helped write. Now, in an attempt to demonstrate Republicans have all but turned the filibuster into a weapon to wage bad-faith politics, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer is embarking on a strategy to force votes on some of Biden’s most high-profile measures. ...
But with Biden’s ambitious political agenda imperiled by expected Republican filibusters, Schumer has reached the point where he believes the only way to pass bills offered by Democrats is to escalate the fight, according to a source familiar with his thinking.
As thousands of people gathered outside Canada’s second-largest mosque in London, Ontario, Reina Persaud was watching her niece and other children chalking brightly-coloured hearts all over the road. The “pathway of hearts” was a tribute to the Afzaals, a local Muslim family, who every evening would take a walk around the neighbourhood, greeting neighbours and friends – and who were killed on Sunday in what police have described as a premeditated attack motivated by Islamophobia.
Members of three generations of the family died when a 20-year old man ploughed his pickup truck into them: Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, their daughter Yumna Afzaal, 15, Salman’s mother, Talat Afzaal, 74. The couple’s son, Fayez, nine, remains in the hospital.
On Tuesday night, crowds of mourners – including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the leaders of all of Canada’s political parties – attended the vigil to honour the victims and protest against hate.
Persaud, daughter of a Chinese-Filipino mother and an Indian father, said she was there because she had experienced racism in London all her life and so had all her patients – two of whom were crying in her office earlier in the day. “I’m scared for them,” she said. “I’m scared because they can’t be who they want to be out of fear.” ...
“Stories like this shatter people’s utopian image of what Canada is,” said Javeed Sukhera, a psychiatrist and chair of the London police board. “Denialism of racism in Canada is pathological. But how many more people have to die before politicians do something?”
The New York Senate voted Tuesday to confirm Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s nominee, Madeline Singas, giving the Nassau County district attorney a spot on the Court of Appeals and entrenching the bench’s conservative stronghold. Singas, a prosecutor who opposed bail reform and declined to prosecute police officers who viciously beat a Black man, will now serve a 14-year term as one of seven judges on New York’s highest court. Singas joins six other justices — including Judge Anthony Cannataro, whom the Senate also confirmed Tuesday — who have all been nominated by Cuomo. In addition to a potential impeachment trial against Cuomo over sexual assault allegations and underreported Covid-19 nursing home deaths, Singas will now have the power to adjudicate some of the most vital criminal justice reform cases in a state with an incarceration rate four times that of Canada and where Black and Latino residents are disproportionately put behind bars.
Some progressives have seen Cuomo’s decision to nominate Singas as a calculated political choice. Along with the Senate, the Court of Appeals would rule in Cuomo’s impeachment trial if the state legislature votes to impeach him, and Singas appears to have a connection to the governor. Singas has called the chief judge of the Court of Appeals, Janet DiFiore, a “friend” and “mentor.” DiFiore, meanwhile, has been an ally to Cuomo for years: The governor appointed DiFiore to two gubernatorial positions before nominating her as chief judge and requested in February that Attorney General Letitia James work with DiFiore to find a lawyer to investigate Cuomo’s sexual assault allegations. (James declined.)
Andrew Cuomo’s office strongly denied the claims that Cuomo nominated Singas for his own political gain. “She came from a list from a judicial screening committee that found her qualified and the merits of her qualifications were vetted and ultimately approved by the state senate,” spokesperson Rich Azzopardi said in an email to The Intercept. “That’s the process and if you want to print dumb conspiracies from ill informed members of the advocacy industrial complex that’s up to you.”
Singas has a history of fighting progressive criminal justice reforms as Nassau County DA, most notably when she led the charge against the state’s 2019 bail and discovery reform laws, some of the most progressive in the country. The sweeping legislation, which went into effect in 2020, eliminated cash bail for most nonviolent offenses and allowed defense attorneys to access and review the prosecution’s evidence without having to submit a written request. The reforms aimed to level the playing field for defense attorneys and for defendants unable to afford to pay bail.
A $9bn oil pipeline that became a symbol of the rising political clout of climate advocates and a flashpoint in US-Canada relations was officially canceled on Wednesday. Keystone XL, which was proposed in 2008 to bring oil from Canada’s western tar sands to US refiners, was halted by owner TC Energy after Joe Biden this year revoked a key permit needed for a US stretch of the 1,200-mile project.
North American oil pipelines, including Dakota Access and Enbridge Line 3, have faced steady opposition from environmental groups, which are concerned about spills and want to slow any expansion of oil production. ...
The Keystone XL pipeline was expected to carry 830,000 barrels per day of Alberta oil sands crude to Nebraska, but the project was delayed for the past 12 years due to opposition from US landowners, Native American tribes and environmentalists.
Congressional progressives are talking big again. Set your watches, a cave is coming.
'No Climate, No Deal': Progressives in Congress Warn Biden Against Cutting Green Energy From Infrastructure Package
Progressive members of Congress on Wednesday signaled they would be willing to withhold their votes from any infrastructure package that skimps on climate action after one of President Joe Biden's top advisers suggested that key green energy proposals could be excluded from an eventual bill.
"An infrastructure package that goes light on climate and clean energy should not count on every Democratic vote," Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a Green New Deal supporter, tweeted in response to National Climate Adviser Gina McCarthy's suggestion Tuesday that climate policies proposed in Biden's original American Jobs Plan — such as a clean electricity standard — could be left on the cutting room floor as the president seeks a compromise deal with a bipartisan group of senators.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the lead House sponsor of the Green New Deal resolution, echoed Heinrich, declaring, "[Republican Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell and the Koch brothers are not worth setting the planet on fire for."
"I know some Dems may disagree with me," Ocasio-Cortez added in an apparent jab at Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a member of the bipartisan group that Biden turned to after cutting off infrastructure negotiations with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) on Tuesday.
As CNBC reported earlier this week, a dark money group backed by billionaire oil mogul Charles Koch is lobbying Manchin to oppose much of the Democratic agenda, including a sweeping bill to protect and expand voting rights.
"President Biden and Senate Dems should take a step back and ask themselves if playing patty-cake with GOP senators is really worth the dismantling of people's voting rights, setting the planet on fire, allowing massive corporations and the wealthy to not pay their fair share of taxes, etc.," said Ocasio-Cortez, who has backed progressive calls for $10 trillion in infrastructure and climate spending over the next decade.
With such slim congressional majorities, Democrats can't afford many defections if they hope to pass an infrastructure and climate package amid unanimous Republican opposition. In the Senate, they can't lose a single vote.
"No climate, no deal," Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) tweeted Wednesday.
Despite the GOP's repeated failure to propose a viable alternative to Biden's American Jobs Plan, the president plans to continue his push for a bipartisan deal by negotiating with a group of 20 senators led by Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and Manchin.
The bipartisan group is reportedly working on a $900 billion infrastructure framework, less than half of the roughly $2.2 trillion in spending Biden called for in his opening offer. It's unclear how much of the funding under the bipartisan framework would go toward electrical vehicle development, the retrofitting of homes and commercial buildings, clean energy investments, and other priorities Biden included in his initial package.
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), a member of the bipartisan group, told reporters Wednesday that the 20 senators do not intend to include tax hikes on corporations or the rich in their proposal—a likely non-starter for progressives and the White House. Romney confirmed that Republicans would not accept tax increases as part of any infrastructure deal.
Biden's decision to shift his attention to the bipartisan group came days after dozens of activists with the youth-led Sunrise Movement rallied at the White House—and at one point blockaded the entrance—to demonstrate their opposition to any watered-down infrastructure deal with the GOP.
After new data showed that atmospheric carbon dioxide reached its highest level in over four million years during the month of May, Sunrise executive director Varshini Prakash warned in a statement Tuesday that "Biden will either pass a historic infrastructure package with climate at its core, or he will have to look us in the eyes and tell us why he failed to do everything possible to stop the climate crisis while he had the power to do so."
"Anything less than a robust jobs and climate package is a death sentence for our generation," said Prakash. "Whether it's Capito or Romney, it should come as no surprise that the GOP wants to strip climate from the infrastructure package because he is literally working with a party of climate deniers. We can't wait for them to come around to the science on this and we will continue to fight until he delivers on the climate mandate he promised us."
Firefighters in Arizona worked through the night battling the Telegraph fire, a wildfire that started east of Phoenix on Friday and has burned more than 80,800 acres (33,000 hectares). Officials said on Wednesday the fire was 21% contained, but straddled two counties, had forced thousands of evacuations in rural towns, and closed almost every major highway out of the area.
The fire – now the 10th largest in state history – is believed to be human-caused, but the flames have been fueled by dry, windy conditions and temperatures reaching into the 90s and 100s. ...
“Even our own fire equipment is starting fires,” said Dean McAlister, a fire information officer, during his Tuesday night briefing. “The blades and the tracks of the [heavy equipment] sparking against the fuels have actually created some fires along the fire line.” He cautioned residents to avoid the area for safety reasons and to ensure additional vehicles would not accidentally add new flare-ups.
Colorado has its first litter of gray wolf pups since the 1940s, state wildlife officials said on Wednesday. A state biologist and district wildlife manager both spotted the litter of at least three wolf pups over the weekend with their parents, two adult wolves known to live in the state. Most wolf litters have four to six pups, so there could be more.
The discovery comes after Colorado voters narrowly approved a ballot measure last year that requires the state to reintroduce the animal on public lands in the western part of the state by the end of 2023.
Gray wolves lost their federal protected status as an endangered species earlier this year. But they remain protected at the state level, and hunting the animals in Colorado is illegal. Penalties for violations include fines, jail time and a loss of hunting license privileges. ...
Gray wolves were hunted, trapped and poisoned into extermination in Colorado in the 1940s.
Officials last year confirmed the presence of a small pack of wolves in north-western Colorado after a number of sightings since 2019. The animals were believed to have come down from Wyoming’s Yellowstone national park.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Boozoo Chavis - Dog Hill
Boozoo Chavis - Crying Waltz
Boozoo Chavis - Susy-Q
Boozoo Chavis - Driftin' Blues
Boozoo Chavis - What You Gonna Do
Boozoo Chavis - Keep Your Dress Tail Down
Boozoo Chavis - Motor Dude Special
Boozoo Chavis - Boozoo's Breakdown
Boozoo Chavis - Went to New Orleans
Boozoo Chavis - Dance All Night