The Evening Blues - 6-15-21
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features soul singer Gene Burks. Enjoy!
Gene Burks - Monkey Man
"While I cannot take the time to name all the men in the State Department who have been named as members of the Communist Party and members of a spy ring, I have here in my hand a list of 205."
-- Sen. Joseph McCarthy
News and Opinion
No matter what happens at Wednesday's summit between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin in Geneva, a grim reality is that Democratic Party leaders have already hobbled its potential to move the world away from the worsening dangers of nuclear war. After nearly five years of straining to depict Donald Trump as some kind of Russian agent—a depiction that squandered vast quantities of messaging without electoral benefits—most Democrats in Congress are now locked into a modern Cold War mentality that endangers human survival.
In the new light of atomic weaponry, Albert Einstein warned against "the outmoded concept of narrow nationalisms." But the concept is flourishing as both parties strive to outdo each other in vilifying Russia as a locus of evil. Rather than coming to terms with the imperative for détente between the two countries that brandish more than 90 percent of the world's nuclear warheads, the Democratic leadership at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue has been heightening the bilateral tensions that increase the chances of thermonuclear holocaust.
President Biden has excelled at gratuitous and dangerous rhetoric about Russia. As this spring began, he declared on national television that President Putin is "a killer"—and boasted that he told the Russian leader that he has "no soul" while visiting the Kremlin in 2011. It was a repeat of a boast that Biden could not resist publicly making while he was vice president in 2014 and again while out of office in 2017. Such bombast conveys a distinct lack of interest in genuine diplomacy needed to avert nuclear war.
Meanwhile, what about self-described progressives who see themselves as a counterweight to the Democratic Party establishment? For the most part, they remained silent if not actively portraying Russia as a mortal enemy of the United States. Even renowned antiwar voices in Congress were not immune to party-driven jingoism.
Never mind that the structurally malign forces of corporate America—and the numerous right-wing billionaires heavily invested in ongoing assaults on democracy—appreciated the focus on Russia instead of on their own oligarchic power. And never mind that, throughout the Trump years, the protracted anti-Russia frenzy was often a diversion away from attention to the numerous specific threats to electoral democracy in the United States.
Two years ago, when the Voting Rights Alliance drew up a list of "61 Forms of Voter Suppression," not one of those forms had anything to do with Russia.
Capacities to educate, agitate and organize against the profuse forms of voter suppression were hampered by the likes of MSNBC star Rachel Maddow, whose extreme fixation on Russian evils would have been merely farcical if not so damaging. Year after year, she virtually ignored a wide range of catastrophic U.S. government policies while largely devoting her widely watched program to stoking hostility toward Russia. Maddow became a favorite of many progressives who viewed her show as a fount of wisdom.
Progressives—who are supposed to oppose the kind of "narrow nationalisms" that Einstein warned against at the dawn of the nuclear age—mostly steered clear of challenging the anti-Russia orthodoxy that emerged as an ostensible way of resisting the horrific Trump presidency. Routinely, many accepted and internalized the scapegoating of Russia that was standard fare of mainstream media outlets—which did little to shed light on how threats to democracy in the United States were overwhelmingly homegrown, rooted in corporate power.
Now, on the verge of the Biden-Putin summit, U.S. media outlets are overflowing with calls to confront Russia as well as China, pounding on themes sure to delight investors in Pentagon contracting firms. Leading Democrats and Republicans are in step with reporters and pundits beating Cold War drums. How much closer do they want the Doomsday Clock to get to midnight before they call off their zeal to excite narrow nationalisms?
It scarcely seems to matter to anti-Russia zealots, whether "progressive" or not, that the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists began this year with an ominous warning: "By our estimation, the potential for the world to stumble into nuclear war—an ever-present danger over the last 75 years—increased in 2020. An extremely dangerous global failure to address existential threats—what we called 'the new abnormal' in 2019—tightened its grip in the nuclear realm in the past year, increasing the likelihood of catastrophe."
Far from the maddening crowd of reckless cold warriors, the American Committee for U.S.-Russia Accord released an open letter last week that made basic sense for the future of humanity: "The dangerous and in many ways unprecedented deterioration in relations between the United States and the Russian Federation must come to an end if we are to leave a safer world for future generations. . . . We believe that the time has come to resurrect diplomacy, restore and maintain a dialogue on nuclear risks that's insulated from our political differences like we did during the Cold War. Without communication, this increases the likelihood of escalation to nuclear use in a moment of crisis."
It's a sad irony that such clarity and wisdom can scarcely be found among prominent Democrats in Congress, or among many of the groups that do great progressive work when focused on domestic issues. The recent fear-mongering over Russia has been a factor in refusals to embrace the anti-militarist message of Martin Luther King's final year.
In the United States, the political context of the Biden-Putin summit should have included widespread progressive support for genuine diplomacy with Russia. Instead, overall, progressives went along with Democratic Party leaders and corporate liberal media as they fueled the momentum toward a nuclear doomsday.
Nato leaders have declared China presents a security risk at their annual summit in Brussels, the first time the traditionally Russia-focused military alliance has asserted it needs to respond to Beijing’s growing power.
The final communique, signed off by leaders of the 30-member alliance at the urging of the new US administration, said China’s “stated ambitions and assertive behaviour present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order”.
After the summit, Joe Biden said that the US had a “sacred commitment” to come to the defence of its Nato allies in an effort to soothe residual nervousness in the wake of Donald Trump’s hostility. Biden said that his fellow leaders at the summit knew most Americans were committed to democracy and that the US was a “decent, honourable nation”.
On the question of potential Ukrainian membership of Nato, Biden said the Russian occupation of Crimea would not be an impediment, but that Ukraine still had work to do on corruption before it could join a membership action plan. “It depends on whether they meet the criteria. The fact is, they still have to clean up corruption,” Biden said.
On the fifth anniversary of the PULSE nightclub massacre in Orlando, numerous senators, politicians and activist groups commemorated that tragic event by propagating an absolute falsehood: namely, that the shooter, Omar Mateen, was motivated by anti-LGBT animus. The evidence is definitive and conclusive that this is false — Mateen, like so many others who committed similar acts of violence, was motivated by rage over President Obama's bombing campaigns in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, and chose PULSE at random without even knowing it was a gay club — yet this media-consecrated lie continues to fester.
On Saturday, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) falsely described the massacre as an "unspeakable act of hate toward the LGBTQ+ community.” Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) went even further, claiming “the LGBTQ+ community was targeted and killed—all because they dared to live their lives.” Her fellow Illinois Democrat, Sen. Dick Durbin, claimed forty-nine lives were lost due to “anti-LGBTQ hate” (he forgot the +). These false claims were compiled by the gay socialist activist Matt Thomas, who correctly objected: “the shooter literally picked PULSE at random from Google after security was too tight at the mall he went to first,” adding that while LGBT groups “are hopeless of course,” too much money and power is at stake for them to give up this self-serving fiction. But he asked, “Shouldn’t the bar be a little higher for senators?”
In the immediate aftermath of that horrific crime, it may have been reasonable for the public to speculate that Mateen, given his professed support for ISIS, chose PULSE because it was a gay club. That belief also neatly played into a liberal political agenda of highlighting anti-LGBT hate crimes, and also comported with the dual stereotypes of the gay-hating Muslim and the closeted gay man who harbors self-hatred that ends up directed at other gay people. This storyline was instantly consecrated when politicians and LGBT groups quickly seized on this claim and ratified it as unquestionably true. Rather than acknowledging that it was anger over his relentless bombing raids in the Muslim world, President Obama immediately declared that anti-LGBT hatred was the real cause. ...
Liberal propagandists who pose as journalists treated this storyline as definitively proven. The massacre was “undeniably a homophobic hate crime,” Jeet Heer wrote in The New Republic. “Let’s say it plainly: This was a mass slaying aimed at LGBT people,” Tim Teeman wrote in The Daily Beast. In USA Today, James S. Robbins speculated that Mateen was likely “trying to reconcile his inner feelings with his strongly homophobic Muslim culture.” In the days following the killing spree, one writer in USA Today, Steph Solis, even accused those of questioning this narrative of propagating bigotry and exhibiting cruel indifference to gay suffering: “Those who insist the shooting was solely an Islamic terror attack try to erase the LGBT community from the narrative, causing only more pain by invalidating their experiences in this ordeal.” ...
Lying about what happened dishonors Mateen's victims. It harms the cause of LGBT equality, which does not need lies and fabrications to be a just movement. It obscures how often U.S. violence in the Muslim world causes "blowback” — to use the CIA's term — by motivating others to bring violence to the U.S. as retaliation and deterrence for violence against innocent Muslims. ... No matter how noble the intent, journalism — and activism — becomes corrupted if it knowingly supports falsehoods. That the PULSE massacre was an act of anti-LGBT hatred is a fiction. Unless you are a neocon, there is no such thing as a "noble lie.” It is way past time for politicians and activist groups to stop disseminating this one.
At some point before the summer of 2018, an arms deal from the U.S. to Saudi Arabia was sealed and delivered. A 227kg laser-guided bomb made by Lockheed Martin, one of many thousands, was part of that sale. On Aug 9, 2018, one of those Lockheed Martin bombs was dropped on a school bus full of Yemeni children. They were on their way to a field trip when their lives came to a sudden end. Amidst shock and grief, their loved ones would learn that Lockheed Martin was responsible for creating the bomb that murdered their children.
What they might not know is that the United States government (the president and the State Department) approved the sale of the bomb that killed their children, in the process enriching Lockheed Martin, which makes millions in profits from arms sales every year. While Lockheed Martin profited from the death of 40 Yemeni children that day, top United States weapons companies continue to sell weapons to repressive regimes around the world, killing countless more people in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and more. And in many cases, the United States public has no idea this is being done in our name to benefit the largest private companies in the world. ...
Arms sales are confusing. Every once in a while, a news story will break about a certain weapons sale from the United States to some other country across the globe that is worth millions, or even billions of dollars. And as Americans, we virtually have no say in where the bombs that say “MADE IN THE USA” go. By the time we hear about a sale, the export licenses are already approved and Boeing factories are churning out weapons we’ve never even heard of. ...
According to our own law, the United States should not be sending weapons to countries like Israel and Saudi Arabia (among others). Technically, doing so goes against the Foreign Assistance Act, which is one of the main laws governing weapons sales. Section 502B of the Foreign Assistance Act says that weapons sold by the United States cannot be used for human rights violations. When Saudi Arabia dropped that Lockheed Martin bomb on those Yemeni kids, no argument could be made for “legitimate self defense.”
When the primary target of Saudi airstrikes in Yemen are weddings, funerals, schools, and residential neighborhoods in Sanaa, the United States has no legitimate justification for their use of U.S. manufactured weapons. When Israel uses Boeing joint direct attack munitions to level residential buildings and international media sites, they are not doing so out of “legitimate self defense.” In this day and age where videos of U.S. allies committing war crimes are readily available on Twitter or Instagram, no one can claim that they don’t know what U.S.-made weapons are used for around the world.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s ousting closes one of the “worst periods” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but the new government headed by a settler advocate, Naftali Bennett, is just as bad as the last, the Palestinian prime minister has said.
“We do not see this new government as any less bad than the previous one, and we condemn the announcements of the new prime minister Naftali Bennett in support of Israeli settlements,” Mohammad Shtayyeh said, referring to hundreds of thousands of Jewish Israelis who have taken land in the occupied West Bank.
“The new government has no future if it does not take into consideration the future of the Palestinian people and their legitimate rights,” Shtayyeh added.
A far-right former settler leader, Bennett addressed his newly sworn-in cabinet late on Sunday night, saying the country was “at the outset of new days”. The new prime minister has ruled out a Palestinian state and wants Israel to maintain ultimate control over all the lands it occupies. He has previously called for Israel to be more forceful in its attacks on Gaza.
Bennett was once Netanyahu’s chief of staff and a member of his Likud party, but they have become fierce rivals. On Monday, Bennett and Netanyahu held a 30-minute meeting to formally transfer power. However, they skipped the photo op and public well-wishes of previous handovers.
Qatar has called on Israel to open its nuclear facilities to inspection by the world’s top nuclear watchdog.
Sultan bin Salmeen Al Mansouri, Qatar’s top diplomatic representative in Vienna, said that Israel’s actions during its recent offensive on the Gaza Strip should cast questions on whether the country can be trusted with nuclear weapons.
Israel is widely believed to be a nuclear power despite officials not confirming the claims.
"The State of Qatar stressed the importance of Israel cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regarding its nuclear capabilities, and to open its atomic reactors to inspectors," read a statement by the Qatari foreign ministry on Saturday.
"[The Gaza war] raised fundamental questions about whether Israel behaves as a responsible state and uses its weapons in accordance with the rules of international law, and if there are guarantees that Israel will not use its weapons in an irresponsible way in the future, including the terrifying possibility of using nuclear weapons.”
Reality Winner, the most prominent and harshly punished whistleblower of the Trump era, has been released to a halfway house after serving most of her five-year sentence for leaking a classified document on Russia’s effort to hack the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Court filings make clear that Winner had wanted to make Americans aware that the government had concluded that Russia secretly tried to gain access to U.S. voting systems in 2016, contrary to what the Trump administration said in 2017. Winner was a contractor for the National Security Agency when she disclosed the document, which was published by The Intercept in June 2017. The NSA document described phishing attempts by Russian military intelligence against local U.S. election officials — and was the most convincing evidence to emerge of the Russian effort.
Winner was prosecuted under the Espionage Act, even though election officials in the U.S. indicated that it was her action, rather than warnings from their own government, that had made them aware they were targets of Russian hackers. While the Obama administration had used the draconian Espionage Act against a record number of leakers, none received a sentence as long as Winner’s, who pled guilty rather than face what could have been an even longer sentence if she had gone to trial.
A senior official in the national security division of the Department of Justice is reportedly set to leave his post, amid uproar over the seizure of records from top Democrats and reporters as part of an investigation into leaks of classified information during the Trump administration.
According to the New York Times, one of the outlets whose reporters’ records were accessed, the departure of John Demers, assistant attorney general of the national security division, had been in the works for months. But news of his exit came amid intensified scrutiny of the department because of the records seizures under the leaks investigation, which started under Donald Trump.
The attorney general, Merrick Garland, was due to meet senior executives from the New York Times, Washington Post and CNN on Monday afternoon. In a statement, Garland said: “As I stated during my confirmation hearing, political or other improper considerations must play no role in any investigative or prosecutorial decisions. There are important questions that must be resolved in connection with an effort by the department to obtain records related to members of Congress and congressional staff.
“I have accordingly directed that the matter be referred to the inspector general and have full confidence that he will conduct a thorough and independent investigation. If at any time as the investigation proceeds action related to the matter in question is warranted, I will not hesitate to move swiftly.”
Food banks in many states across the US are bracing for a surge in demand for food aid due to Republican governors ending federal extended unemployment benefits early in a move that will hit millions of American families. Several states across the US have started to voluntarily end federal extended unemployment benefits, as Republican governors in at least 25 states have announced intentions to do so.
Missouri, Alaska, Iowa and Mississippi were the first states to cancel federal unemployment aid on 12 June, with the rest of the states following suit through 10 July, several weeks before federal benefits guaranteed by the American Rescue Plan are scheduled to expire on 6 September. The cuts will end or reduce benefits for about 3.9 million unemployed workers.
Food insecurity among Americans surged during the coronavirus pandemic and has remained significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels. According to US Census Bureau data, more than 19.3 million adults said in late May their households didn’t get enough food to eat sometimes in often in the previous seven days, compared to 8.5 million adults who didn’t get enough to eat at some point through all of 2019.
“We are still distributing about a million to a million and a half more meals each month than we did pre-Covid,” said Teresa Schryver, advocacy manager for the St Louis Area Food Bank in Bridgeton, Missouri, which provides services for residents in Missouri and nearby Illinois. “We might see a spike again in July and August as we’re losing the unemployment benefits here in Missouri, so we might be doing 2m meals again for a couple of months.”
The food bank also expects a surge in requests for help in applying for Snap benefits – often known as food stamps – as the unemployment benefits expire. According to Schryver, as the public health crisis in the US over coronavirus is settling down due to a high level of vaccinations, the economic and other tied crises are likely to take much longer for people to recover from.
In response to a legal challenge from a group of landlords and real estate companies, attorneys generals in nearly two dozen states are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's life-saving moratorium on residential evictions for nonpayment of rent during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The national eviction moratorium, first implemented last September, is set to expire on June 30. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said that discussions are ongoing as to whether the agency will extend its partial ban on evictions.
Earlier this month, property owners led by the Alabama Association of Realtors asked the Supreme Court to vacate the CDC's eviction ban.
"The landlord groups said U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich's May 5 decision nullifying the moratorium should take effect immediately," Reuters reported Friday. "Despite ruling in favor of the landlords, Friedrich agreed to place her decision on hold to allow President Joe Biden's administration to appeal."
According to the news outlet, the landlords pushing for an end to the moratorium argued that the CDC overreached its authority in imposing the restrictions on evictions—a move the agency made to curb the spread of Covid-19, which has caused almost 600,000 deaths in the U.S. so far.
Meanwhile, research has shown that measures to reduce displacement amid the coronavirus crisis prevented thousands of additional deaths, suggesting that the federal eviction ban has been an effective intervention to safeguard public health—wholly consistent with the agency's mission.
In their amicus brief (pdf) to the Supreme Court, the AGs—from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and D.C.—explained their opposition to the landlords' request for an invalidation of the CDC's tenant protections.
Ending the nationwide eviction moratorium "could force millions of vulnerable individuals from their homes into the streets, crowded shelters, or into contact with family and friends within or across state lines," they wrote in the court filing.
While "the nation has made fragile progress toward containing the coronavirus through social distancing policies and vaccination," the AGs noted, just over half of the population has been inoculated. Moreover, a new analysis from Princeton University's Eviction Lab shows that vaccination rates are lower in zip codes with higher rates of eviction filings.
The pandemic continues to kill nearly 350 people in the U.S. every day, on average, and economic hardship is also far from over, especially with GOP-led states slashing unemployment benefits prematurely.
"Mass evictions are damaging and destabilizing events in the best of times," the AGs added. "An unprecedented wave of mass evictions—amid the embryonic stages of the post-pandemic recovery—would be catastrophic."
According to the latest analysis of the Census Bureau's Household Pulse Survey by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), 10.4 million U.S. adults, or 14% of the nation's renters, are still behind on rent, with renters of color and renters with children affected disproportionately.
Although the CDC's ban prohibited landlords from evicting tenants who satisfied certain requirements, it did nothing to prevent missed payments from piling up amid a devastating economic crisis; across the country, renters are still on the hook for billions of dollars in back rent.
Through two coronavirus relief packages (pdf) passed in December and March, Congress appropriated $46.5 billion in emergency rental assistance (ERA), an unprecedented amount of financial support for tenants, especially when compared with the $1.5 billion allocated to renters during the Great Recession.
That funding provided by the Treasury Department would help tenants pay off the housing debt they have accrued over the past 15 months, but dozens of state and local governments are distributing ERA at such a glacial pace that most people in need won't receive aid before June 30.
On top of the fact that some ERA programs weren't launched until a few weeks ago, part of the problem, as The Intercept reported last week, is that many cities and states have established difficult application processes that require a substantial amount of "onerous documentation."
According to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), less than half of the nation's ERA programs—192 of 404—allow tenants to self-attest that they qualify for assistance.
"Requiring tenants to provide proof that they qualify—that they have experienced coronavirus-related hardship, that their income is low enough, and that they are at risk of housing instability—is slowing everything down," The Intercept noted.
Diane Yentel, president of the NLIHC, highlighted just how little states have provided to tenants with less than three weeks to go before the national eviction moratorium is set to expire.
"Texas has likely done the best with its money so far—and they've only spent 25%," Yentel tweeted. "Many states have spent less than 3-5%: Arizona, Connecticut, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, California, and more. Wyoming has spent less than 0.1%!"
While some in the real estate industry have urged Biden to maintain the June 30 expiration date because, they argue, that will incentivize states to expedite the distribution of ERA, Emily Benfer, a lawyer and advocate for housing and health justice, emphasized that "lifting the ban doesn't change how fast rental assistance applications are processed or checks delivered to landlords."
"It only speeds up eviction," she added.
A woman is dead and three others injured after a car was driven into a crowd of anti-police brutality protesters in Minneapolis on Sunday night, Minneapolis police confirmed on Twitter. The driver was arrested and is in police custody after being treated at an area hospital, according to police. The police have not confirmed a motive for the attack.
Around 11.39pm on Sunday, the car rammed into a crowd of demonstrators who had gathered in uptown Minneapolis to protest against the police shooting death of Winston Boogie Smith Jr, a 32-year-old Black man and father of three who was killed by US marshals on 3 June.
Following the crash, several people intervened, pulling the suspect from the car and restraining him until police arrested him. Police noted that based on a preliminary investigation, alcohol or drug use by the driver may have contributed to the incident. “I’ve never seen anything that horrendous,” said Zachery James, 28, who was at the scene, to the New York Times.
The Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, said on Monday it was “highly unlikely” he would allow Joe Biden to fill a supreme court vacancy arising in 2024, the year of the next presidential election, if Republicans regained control of the chamber.
“I think it’s highly unlikely – in fact, no, I don’t think either party, if it were different from the president, would confirm a supreme court nominee in the middle of an election,” McConnell told Hugh Hewitt, a conservative radio host.
McConnell blocked Barack Obama from filling a vacancy in 2016, denying Merrick Garland, now attorney general, even a hearing after he was nominated to fill the seat vacated by the death of Antonin Scalia.
McConnell said that was because no new justice should be seated in an election year – a position he reversed with alacrity in 2020, on the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg two months before polling day. ...
Rick Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine, said: “Exactly as I wrote last week. McConnell will NOT fill a Breyer seat if he’s majority leader, even if he has to wait two years with the seat open.” Jeet Heer, a columnist for the Nation, wrote: “Can someone send this to USA supreme court justice Stephen Breyer. Thanks!”
Late on the night of 24 April, the wife of Georgia’s top election official got a chilling text message: “You and your family will be killed very slowly.” A week earlier, Tricia Raffensperger, wife of the Georgia secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, had received another anonymous text: “We plan for the death of you and your family every day.” That followed a 5 April text warning. A family member, the texter told her, was “going to have a very unfortunate incident”.
Those messages, which have not been previously reported, are examples of the continuing barrage of threats and intimidation against election officials and their families months after Donald Trump’s November election defeat.
While reports of threats against Georgia officials emerged in the heated weeks after the voting, Reuters interviews with more than a dozen election workers and top officials – and a review of disturbing texts, voicemails and emails that they and their families received – reveal the previously hidden breadth and severity of the menacing tactics.
Trump’s relentless false claims that the vote was “rigged” against him sparked a campaign to terrorize election officials nationwide, from senior officials such as Raffensperger to the lowest-level local election workers. The intimidation has been particularly severe in Georgia, where Raffensperger and other Republican election officials refuted Trump’s stolen-election claims.
The ongoing harassment could have far-reaching implications for future elections by making the already difficult task of recruiting staff and poll workers much harder, election officials say.
Monday brought fresh outrage among climate campaigners after the G7 Summit ended without a commitment to ending coal extraction in some of the world's richest countries.
Five of the seven delegations—all but the U.S. and Japan—supported phasing out coal by 2040, but as Politico reported, the Biden administration forced the group to steer clear of language in its final statement that would point to the end of coal.
"The long arm of Joe Manchin reaches across the Atlantic," tweeted Politico editor Blake Hounsell.
The long arm of Joe Manchin reaches across the Atlantic https://t.co/5B2hTwrJpR
— Blake News (@blakehounshell) June 13, 2021
The G7's final communiqué committed only to accelerating "the transition away from unabated coal capacity," with no end date, in an apparent bid to appease Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia—the nation's second largest coal producer—as President Joe Biden pushes the Senate to approve his infrastructure package. ...
The International Energy Agency (IEA) said recently that global coal use must be cut in half during this decade in order to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius and reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The G7 said in its final statement that it supports those goals—without backing the steps needed to achieve them due to the Biden administration's and Japan's refusal.
The Atacama salt flat is a majestic, high-altitude expanse of gradations of white and grey, peppered with red lagoons and ringed by towering volcanoes. ... Underneath the Atacama salt flat lies most of the world’s lithium reserves; Chile currently supplies almost a quarter of the global market. But extracting lithium from this unique landscape comes at a grave environmental and social cost.
In the mining installations, which occupy more than 78 sq km (30 sq miles) and are operated by multinationals SQM and Albemarle, brine is pumped to the surface and arrayed in evaporation ponds resulting in a lithium-rich concentrate; viewed from above, the pools are shades of chartreuse. The entire process uses enormous quantities of water in an already parched environment. As a result, freshwater is less accessible to the 18 indigenous Atacameño communities that live on the flat’s perimeter, and the habitats of species such as Andean flamingoes have been disrupted. This situation is exacerbated by climate breakdown-induced drought and the effects of extracting and processing copper, of which Chile is the world’s top producer. Compounding these environmental harms, the Chilean state has not always enforced indigenous people’s right to prior consent.
These facts raise an uncomfortable question that reverberates around the world: does fighting the climate crisis mean sacrificing communities and ecosystems? The supply chains that produce green technologies begin in extractive frontiers like the Atacama desert. And we are on the verge of a global boom in mining linked to the energy transition. A recent report published by the International Energy Agency states that meeting the Paris greement’s climate targets would send demand skyrocketing for the “critical minerals” used to produce clean energy technologies. The figures are particularly dramatic for the raw materials used to manufacture electric vehicles: by 2040, the IEA forecasts that demand for lithium will have increased 42 times relative to 2020 levels.
These resources have become a new flashpoint for geopolitical tensions. In the US and Europe, policymakers increasingly talk about a “race” to secure the minerals linked to energy transition and shore up domestic supplies; the idea of a “new cold war” with China is frequently invoked. As a result, northern Portugal and Nevada are slated for new lithium projects. Across the global lithium frontier, from Chile to the western United States and Portugal, environmental activists, indigenous communities and residents concerned about the threats to agricultural livelihoods are protesting over what they see as the greenwashing of destructive mining.
Indeed, natural resource sectors, which include extractive activities like mining, are responsible for 90% of biodiversity loss and more than half of carbon emissions. One report estimates that the mining sector produces 100bn tons of waste every year. Extraction and processing are typically water- and energy-intensive, and contaminate waterways and soil. Alongside these dramatic changes to the natural environment, mining is linked to human rights abuses, respiratory ailments, dispossession of indigenous territory and labour exploitation. Once the minerals are wrested from the ground, mining companies tend to accumulate profits and leave behind poverty and contamination. These profits only multiply along the vast supply chains that produce electric vehicles and solar panels. Access to these technologies is highly unequal, and the communities who suffer the harms of extraction are frequently denied its benefits.
Native American, climate, and environmental activists on Monday renewed calls for the Biden administration to fulfill its stated commitment to climate action and Indigenous rights and stop Enbridge's Line 3 tar sands pipeline after a Minnesota appellate court upheld a state agency's approval of the highly controversial project.
A three-judge panel of the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 Monday to affirm the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission's (PUC) decision that the Line 3 replacement and expansion is "necessary."
Pipeline foes, led by Indigenous tribes and environmental groups, argued that the PUC failed to demonstrate the demand for the tar sands oil—the world's dirtiest fuel—that the $9 billion Line 3 project would transport nearly 1,100 miles from Alberta, Canada to the port of Superior, Wisconsin, traversing tribal lands without consent and crossing hundreds of wetlands and bodies of water along the way.
Writing for the majority, Judge Lucinda Jesson—who acknowledged that "there was no option without environmental consequences" or "without impacts on the rights of Indigenous peoples"—argued that "the challenge" is "to alleviate those harms to the extent possible."
"While reasonable minds may differ on the central question of need for replacement Line 3, substantial evidence supports the commission's decision to issue a certificate of need," she wrote.
The lone dissenting judge, Peter Reyes, noted that the PUC "committed legal errors and acted arbitrarily or capriciously by granting [Enbridge] a certificate of need that is unsupported by substantial evidence."
"The PUC approved a new pipeline that benefits Canadian oil producers but traverses 340 miles of Minnesota land, which among other negative consequences will affect hunting, fishing, and other rights of [the] Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians and White Earth Band of Ojibwe, with no benefit to Minnesota," Reyes wrote.
"Such a decision cannot stand," he concluded. "Enbridge needs Minnesota for its new pipeline. But Enbridge has not shown that Minnesota needs the pipeline."
Indigenous water protector Dawn Goodwin, a leader of the anti-Line 3 RISE Coalition, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, "I guess I didn't have any hope in our court—I wanted to, but I did not. The good thing is that one of those judges gave a powerful dissent."
Winona LaDuke, co-founder and executive director of the Indigenous-led group Honor the Earth, said in a statement that, "We are sorely disappointed in this decision that allows the state of Minnesota under Gov. [Tim] Walz to continue to shove a pipeline through Ojibwe lands and waters at a time of escalating climate crisis."
"One immediate result is that hundreds of more arrests of water protectors will occur because of this," she said, a reference to the hundreds of activists arrested during two days of #StopLine3 protests last week. On Monday, Indigenous and environmental activists reported more arrests of water protectors on Anishinaabe treaty land in Minnesota.
Collin Rees, a senior campaigner at the advocacy group Oil Change International, called Monday's court decision "a clear example of our legal system failing communities and our climate."
"As Judge Peter Reyes noted in his dissent, Enbridge has repeatedly failed to support its arguments that this pipeline is needed," Rees said in a statement. "This incorrect decision means President [Joe] Biden and [White House Climate Adviser] Gina McCarthy must act immediately to stop Line 3's construction and revoke [former President Donald] Trump's fraudulent permits."
"Line 3 would emit the equivalent of 50 new coal-fired power plants," Rees continued. "It's a colossal disaster for the climate and for communities. Every day President Biden refuses to stop the Line 3 pipeline is a slap in the face to environmental justice communities and a renewed breaking of his promises on climate and Indigenous rights. Climate leadership means ending the fossil fuel era and stopping Line 3."
Dangerously hot temperatures across the US south-west will continue to climb this week, reaching higher than 120F (49C) in some areas, exacerbating the region’s already-dire drought conditions and increasing the risk of new fire ignitions.
Extreme heat will be felt across much of Utah, along with southern and central California, Nevada and Arizona.
More than 48 million people across the west are now under heat advisory watches or warnings from the National Weather Service, which is predicting that statewide records will be broken in Nevada and Arizona, along with hundreds of new daily record-high temperatures set in cities in the coming days.
“This type of heat is unusual for the month of June,” said Julie Malingowski, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service (NWS), adding that most heatwaves that have historically affected the western US occurred in July and August. The triple-digit heat is expected to extend from Tuesday through Saturday in some areas, with little reprieve overnight, and the NWS Climate Prediction Center anticipates that temperatures will continue to be higher than normal through the summer.
Fire weather in parts of the West will be more active the next two days. Critically dry and windy conditions are expected in parts of the Great Basin. Elevated fire weather will occur with sundowner winds in southern California. Dry thunderstorms are possible in the Southwest. pic.twitter.com/2yDhsyqaWm
— NWS Storm Prediction Center (@NWSSPC) June 14, 2021
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Gene Burks - You Got It
Gene Burks - Shirley Jean
Gene Burks - Can't Stand Your Fooling Around
Gene Burks - You Don't Love Me
Gene Burks - Take My Hand
And some bonus artists:
The D.C. Playboys - You Were All I Needed
Theola Kilgore - Chain Gang The Sound of My Man
Billy Washington - I Wanna Come In
Billy Washington - Later For Romance
Van McCoy - It Ain't No Big Thing