The Evening Blues - 6-21-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues and boogie woogie piano player Dave Alexander aka "Omar Shariff." Enjoy!
Omar Shariff - Blue Tumbleweed
“Before mass leaders seize the power to fit reality to their lies, their propaganda is marked by its extreme contempt for facts as such, for in their opinion fact depends entirely on the power of man who can fabricate it.”
-- Hannah Arendt
News and Opinion
Trump's big "concession" is that he will create family concentration camps for the indefinite detention of migrants.
He signed an executive order that kept the zero-tolerance policy in place — but added, "It is also the policy of this Administration to maintain family unity, including by detaining alien families together where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources." It did provide an exception for when authorities believe keeping the family together would be harmful for the child.
The request asks, specifically, for permission from the courts "to detain alien families together throughout the pendency of criminal proceedings for improper entry or any removal or other immigration proceedings." Trump also calls for branches of his administration to make facilities available for detaining families with children — and calls on the Defense Department, to build new facilities "if necessary."
The Obama administration practiced family detention, until the court order prohibited it. ... The Obama administration established family detention centers that kept families together while their cases were processed. Trump's executive order appears to effectively revive this policy.
The Obama-era centers were sharply criticized for keeping children detained even if they were still with their parents. A court ruled that those detention centers violated the Flores agreement and that families should be released together.
President Trump caved to enormous political pressure on Wednesday and signed an executive order meant to end the separation of families at the border by detaining parents and children together for an indefinite period. ... But ending the practice of separating families still faces legal and practical obstacles. A federal judge could refuse to give the Trump administration the authority it wants to hold families in custody for more than 20 days, which is the current limit because of a 1997 court order.
“There will not be a grandfathering of existing cases,” said Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for the Administration for Children and Families, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services. Mr. Wolfe said the decision about the children was made by the White House. But later Wednesday evening, Brian Marriott, the senior director of communications for the agency, said that Mr. Wolfe had “misspoke” and insisted that “it is still very early and we are awaiting further guidance on the matter.” Mr. Marriott said that “reunification is always the goal” and that the agency “is working toward that” for the children separated from their families because of Mr. Trump’s policy.
His statement left open the possibility, though, that the children could be connected with other family members or “appropriate” sponsors living in the United States, not necessarily the parent they were separated from at the border. ...
Justice Department officials said the legal authority to end family separation relies on a request they will make in the coming days to Judge Dolly M. Gee of the Federal District Court in Los Angeles, the daughter of immigrants from China who was appointed by President Barack Obama. She oversees a 1997 consent decree, known as the Flores settlement, which prohibits immigration authorities from keeping children in detention, even if they are with their parents, for more than 20 days. ...
“It’s on Judge Gee,” said Gene Hamilton, the counselor to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “Are we going to be able to detain alien families together or are we not?” Mr. Hamilton said the judge’s previous rulings prohibiting extended detentions of families has “put this executive branch into an untenable position.” He said that the president’s order is a stopgap measure that could be fixed permanently if Congress passes legislation to overhaul the immigration system.
President Donald Trump’s zero tolerance policy is creating a zombie army of children forcibly injected with medications that make them dizzy, listless, obese and even incapacitated, according to legal filings that show immigrant children in U.S. custody subdued with powerful psychiatric drugs.
Children held at Shiloh Treatment Center, a government contractor south of Houston that houses immigrant minors, described being held down and injected, according to the federal court filings. The lawsuit alleges that children were told they would not be released or see their parents unless they took medication and that they only were receiving vitamins. Parents and the children themselves told attorneys the drugs rendered them unable to walk, afraid of people and wanting to sleep constantly, according to affidavits filed April 23 in U.S. District Court in California. ...
An investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting found that nearly half of the $3.4 billion paid to those companies in the last four years went to homes with serious allegations of mistreating children. In nearly all cases reviewed by Reveal, the federal government continued contracts with the companies after serious allegations were raised.
At Reveal’s request, forensic psychiatrist Mark. J. Mills assessed materials from 420 pages of children’s medical records and statements filed in California federal court this April. “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist here; it looks like they’re trying to control agitation and aggressive behavior with antipsychotic drugs,” said Mills, who practices in the Washington, D.C., area and was an expert witness for a lawsuit that in 2008 stopped the federal government from forcibly administering antipsychotic drugs to deportees. ...
The records were filed in connection with an ongoing class-action status lawsuit alleging poor treatment of immigrant children in U.S. custody. An attorney representing the children said youth separated from their parents often become depressed, angry, anxious and, sometimes, unruly and that, in turn, encourages prescription of inappropriate medication.
Lawsuit Claims Detained Migrant Children Have Been Forcibly Injected With Powerful Psychiatric Drugs
Abu Ghraib for Eighth-Graders': Allegations of Immigrant Children Being Tortured at Virginia Detention Facility
— Kelly Weill (@KELLYWEILL) June 21, 2018
"Whenever they used to restrain me and put me in the chair, they would handcuff me," recounted one Honduran immigrant who was sent to the facility when he was 15-years-old. "Strapped me down all the way, from your feet all the way to your chest, you couldn't really move... They have total control over you. They also put a bag over your head. It has little holes; you can see through it. But you feel suffocated with the bag on."
A child-development specialist who worked inside the facility told the AP that she saw children with broken bones and bruises that they said were caused by abuse from guards. It is unclear whether any of the children alleging rampant abuse at the facility were detained as a result of the Trump administration's so-called "zero tolerance" policy.
Responding to the AP's reporting in a tweet on Thursday, Freedom of the Press Foundation executive director Trevor Timm wrote simply, "This is outright torture."
According to the AP, many of the immigrant children detained at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center—which is located in Staunton, Virginia—were arrested after federal immigration officials accused them of being gang members.
"But a top manager at the Shenandoah center said during a recent congressional hearing that the children did not appear to be gang members and were suffering from mental health issues resulting from trauma that happened in their home countries—problems the detention facility is ill-equipped to treat," AP reported.
Mike Pompeo has great timing.
The U.S. secretary of state released a statement Wednesday morning to celebrate the U.S.’s treatment of refugees and migrants on World Refugee Day — alongside the Trump administration detaining undocumented children, including babies and toddlers, after forcibly separating them from their parents when they come to the border often fleeing violence and poverty in their home country. ...
“Through active humanitarian diplomacy, humanitarian assistance, and tireless efforts to end conflicts and achieve durable solutions for persecuted people around the world, we will continue to help the world’s most vulnerable refugees, reflecting the deeply held values of the American people,” according to Pompeo’s statement.
The secretary's sentiment has unsurprisingly triggered ire and outrage.
On June 16, just as the Trump administration’s separations of children from their families at the border hit the national consciousness, a San Francisco couple launched what they thought would be a modest fundraiser. Their goal: to raise $1,500, the minimum to cover the bond for a migrant detained at the border. Just like U.S. citizens, migrants can post bail and walk out of custody until their hearing — they just rarely have the cash on hand to do so.
Four days later, the fundraiser that aimed to get a single migrant out of jail has ballooned into the largest single fundraiser in Facebook’s history, according to a spokesperson for the social media company. As of Wednesday morning, the fundraiser launched by Charlotte and David Willner had raised nearly $10 million for RAICES, a group that aims to provide legal representation to undocumented immigrants at the border. Over 230,000 people have donated, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg. And the donations are still pouring in. ...
“We've been occasionally crying around the office all day when we check the fundraising totals,” RAICES posted to Facebook. “This is such a profound rejection of the cruel policies of this administration.” When released on bond, migrants can try to get their children back from government custody and live in the U.S. until their hearing, which can be months later. ...
RAICES was struggling to make ends meet before the fundraiser came through. The Trump administration cut government funds to support legal representation for migrants, funding that RAICES relied on. But thanks to the donations, RAICES will be able to keep up its work of providing low-cost legal representation to immigrants and refugees in Texas.
The assault on Hodeidah, which has spilled into residential areas raising concerns for civilians there, aims at ending a stalemate following the Saudi-led intervention in 2015 to roll back the Houthis who had swept across the country and seized the capital Sanaa. The fighting has already cut off water supplies, stoking fears of a cholera epidemic. “The liberation of Hodeidah is the beginning to ending the war,” wrote UAE state minister for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash on Twitter.
The coalition had launched its assault a week ago, promising a swift victory to spare the city’s remaining residents and to keep the port open. The United Nations has called on the Houthis to depart Hodeidah.
The rebels, whom the coalition accuses of having used the port to smuggle in Iranian made ballistic missiles launched against Saudi Arabia, have vowed to fight to death. “Because Hodeidah is a matter of life or death, the free people have chosen to die with dignity defending it,” wrote Houthi official Hasan Zeid on Twitter. “There is no going back on this decision: there won’t be a city fit for living left or for holding celebrations when either side wins.”
The rebels' leader Abdel Malik al-Houthi denied in a speech that Iranian missiles had come through the Red Sea port and threatened that the coalition's coastal campaign "will be a bog in which the forces of invasion and aggression will perish."
America has the best allies. Really terriffic. All Americans should be proud.
The 15 officers who arrived at the prison in southern Yemen hid their faces behind headdresses, but their accents were clearly foreign — from the United Arab Emirates. They lined up the detainees and ordered them to undress and lie down. The officers then searched the anal cavity of each prisoner, claiming that they were looking for contraband cellphones.
The men screamed and wept. Those who resisted were threatened by barking dogs and beaten until they bled.
Hundreds of detainees suffered similar sexual abuse during the event on March 10 at Beir Ahmed prison in the southern city of Aden, according to seven witnesses interviewed by The Associated Press. Descriptions of the mass abuse offer a window into a world of rampant sexual torture and impunity in UAE-controlled prisons in Yemen.
The UAE is a key U.S. ally whose secret prisons and widespread torture were exposed by an AP investigation last June. The AP has since identified at least five prisons where security forces use sexual torture to brutalize and break inmates. ...
Emiratis have swept up hundreds of Yemeni men into a network of at least 18 hidden prisons on suspicion of being al-Qaida or Islamic State militants. The prisoners are held without charges or trials.
The AP first asked the Pentagon about grave rights abuses committed by the UAE one year ago. But despite well-documented reports of torture reported by the AP, human rights groups and even the United Nations, Marine Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a Pentagon spokesman, said the U.S. has seen no evidence of detainee abuse in Yemen. Still, he called the allegations “disturbing” and said, “The United States take all allegations of abuse seriously, although we have no substantiating information at this time.”
Opinion polls in the United States and the United Kingdom have found that a majority of the public in both countries has a remarkably consistent belief that only about 10,000 Iraqis were killed as a result of the U.S.-British invasion of Iraq in 2003. Estimates of deaths in Iraq actually range from 150,000 to 1.2 million. Part of the reason for the seriously misguided public perception may come from a serious belief in guided weapons, according to what the government tells people about “precision” bombing. But one must ask how so many people can be killed if these weapons are so “precise,” for instance in one of “the most precise air campaigns in military history,” as a Pentagon spokesman characterized the total destruction last year of Raqqa in Syria. The dreadful paradox of “precision weapons” is that the more the media and the public are wrongly persuaded of the near-magical qualities of these weapons, the easier it is for U.S. military and civilian leaders to justify using them to destroy entire villages, towns and cities in country after country: Fallujah, Ramadi and Mosul in Iraq; Sangin and Musa Qala in Afghanistan; Sirte in Libya; Kobane and Raqqa in Syria. ...
The U.S. and its allies ruthlessly carpet-bombed Iraq, reducing it from what a UN report later called “a rather highly urbanized and mechanized society” to “a pre-industrial age nation.” But the Western media enthusiastically swallowed Pentagon briefings and broadcast round-the-clock bomb-sight footage of a handful of successful “precision” strikes as if they were representative of the entire campaign. Later reports revealed that only seven percent of the 88,500 tons of bombs and missiles devastating Iraq were “precision” weapons.
... The consequences of U.S. air wars are hidden in plain sight, in endless photos and videos. The Pentagon and the corporate media may suppress the evidence, but the mass death and destruction of American aerial bombardment are only too real to the millions of people who have lived through it.
The U.S. Has Conducted 550 Drone Strikes in Libya Since 2011 — More Than in Somalia, Yemen, or Pakistan
The United States has conducted approximately 550 drone strikes in Libya since 2011, more than in Somalia, Yemen, or Pakistan, according to interviews and an analysis of open-source data by The Intercept. The Intercept’s reporting indicates that Libya has been among the most heavily targeted nations in terms of American remotely piloted aircraft and radically revises the number of drone strikes carried out under the Obama administration, doubling some estimates.
During a four-month span in 2016, for example, there were approximately 300 drone strikes in Libya, according to U.S. officials. That’s seven times more than the 42 confirmed U.S. RPA attacks carried out in Somalia, Yemen, and Pakistan combined for all of 2016, according to data compiled by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a London-based nonprofit news organization. The Libya attacks have continued under the Trump administration, with the latest U.S. drone strike occurring last week about 50 miles southeast of the town of Bani Walid.
Tracking drone strikes can be confusing, so much so that even the U.S. military has difficulty accurately tallying them. ... Changes in how strikes are defined and counted, a refusal to provide information on the aircraft used and where they originate from, and new Trump administration policies limiting disclosures of attacks have made already opaque operations even more secretive and difficult to track.
“President Obama left a legacy of expansive claims of war authority without congressional authorization in multiple parts of the world, with lethal strike and civilian casualty counts largely shrouded in secrecy until the end of his administration,” said Hina Shamsi of the ACLU. “That legacy is now in the hands of President Trump, who is using it to the detriment of our system of checks and balances, the transparency needed for democratic accountability, and meaningful recognition of harm to civilians.”
The US defence secretary, James Mattis, has said he is unaware of any steps taken by North Korea towards dismantling its nuclear weapons programme since the Singapore summit and does not expect any in the immediate future. Mattis was speaking to reporters amid confusion over the diplomatic follow-up to last week’s summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un.
Immediately after the meeting Trump claimed that North Korea had begun the destruction of a missile engine testing site or would begin as soon as Kim returned from the summit. In return Trump ordered the suspension of military exercises with South Korea, a longstanding demand of the Pyongyang regime. This week the Pentagon confirmed that planning for the next scheduled exercises in August had halted.
However, asked on Wednesday if he could “put his finger on” any steps North Korea had taken to dismantle its nuclear weapons programme, Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon: “No, I’m not aware of that.” He added: “The detailed negotiations have not begun. I wouldn’t expect that at this point.”
After the Singapore meeting Trump said that his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and national security adviser, John Bolton, would take part in follow-up meetings with North Korean officials this week to “go into the details” of the denuclearisation agreement the president believed he had struck with Kim. ...
That engagement has not, so far, occurred. The state department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Tuesday that although the US had been in touch with Pyongyang there was nothing to announce on Pompeo’s travel plans.
Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israel’s prime minister, has been charged with fraud and breach of trust for allegedly using public funds to pay for restaurant meals to be delivered to the couple’s official residence. The long-anticipated charges were announced by Israel’s justice ministry on Thursday. Benjamin Netanyahu is also under investigation.
According to the indictment, Sara Netanyahu spent tens of thousands of dollars on meals from expensive restaurants between 2010 and 2013 in alleged violation of rules barring the residence from ordering in meals during periods when there was a cook on its staff. Prosecutors claim that Sara Netanyahu conspired with a senior official at the residence to hide the fact that the meals were not eligible for reimbursement.
The indictment said she acted to “fraudulently obtain state funding for various expenses for the accused and her family that were not supposed to be financed in this manner”. She is accused of directing staff at the residence, including a former housekeeper, Meni Naftali – who later sued the Netanyahu family and the Israeli state for damages over his treatment by Sara Netanyahu – and another employee, to hide the fact that cooks were employed in the residence “so that this won’t be found out by the treasury and the office manager”. If convicted, she could face a maximum sentence of five years behind bars, though this is unlikely. ...
Benjamin Netanyahu has called the allegations against his wife absurd and unfounded. The Israeli prime minister is himself embroiled in a series of corruption investigations but has protested his innocence and vowed to remain in power, saying he is the victim of a witch-hunt.
In what critics are calling an "insane" proposal by the Trump administration "to make it easier to screw the poor," the White House is reportedly considering sweeping changes to the organization of the federal government, which could be announced as early as Thursday.
- merging the Labor and Education Departments;
- collapsing all social safety net programs "into a new megadepartment" that would replace the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and redefine benefit programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); and
- in "an attempt to strangle" the $3 billion Community Development Block Grant Program, relocating it from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to the Department of Commerce.
The looming welfare reorganization, first reported by Politico earlier this month, has been slammed "as a way to institute cuts and conservative policies such as work requirements on more programs," Rewire explained last week. ...
Citing draft documents and unnamed sources, the newspapers report that this "closely guarded" proposal has been crafted by Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney—who is also acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)—but "the blueprint for the plan was a 2017 list of reorganization recommendations produced by the conservative Heritage Foundation."
As the Times explains: "Mulvaney's proposal is, in part, a back-to-the-future bureaucratic move. From 1953 to 1979, the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare housed most of the nation's social welfare and economic support programs."
"The changes would require approval from Congress, but it isn't clear that lawmakers have the appetite to undertake a far-reaching reorganization, especially at this point in the political calendar," the Journal notes. "Lawmakers ha ve shown reluctance to embrace such plans in the past, and Congress has limited time for major legislation before the November midterm elections."
The supreme court ruled on Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales tax from customers, overturning an pre-internet ruling that had allowed many internet businesses to avoid paying the duties. The 5-4 ruling Thursday is a win for states, who said they were losing out on billions of dollars annually under two decades-old supreme court decisions that impacted online sales tax collection.
The high court ruled Thursday to overturn those decisions. They had resulted in some companies not collecting sales tax on every online purchase. The cases the court overturned said that if a business was shipping a product to a state where it didn’t have a physical presence, such as a warehouse or office, the business didn’t have to collect the state’s sales tax.
Customers were generally supposed to pay the tax to the state themselves if they don’t get charged it, but the vast majority didn’t.
“Welcome to our village, wee one,” is how Jacinda Ardern announced the birth of her daughter to New Zealand, and the world. The prime minister posted a photograph of her and partner Clarke Gayford cuddling their first child on her Facebook page late on Thursday afternoon (NZ time). ...
Ardern, 37, becomes only the second world leader to give birth while in office, the first being Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto in 1990 – with whom, coincidentally, Ardern’s daughter shares a birthday.
News of the birth was met with a flurry of excitement in New Zealand, the culmination of a nationwide “#babywatch” that began with the announcement of Ardern’s pregnancy in January and reached its peak on Sunday, which had been her due date.
Morgan Godfrey, a political commentator and writer, remarked on Ardern’s typically down-to-earth approach despite being under the global spotlight during the pregnancy.
“Jacinda Ardern arrived at hospital in her own car, with Clarke driving. No crown limo or special ambulance. Her baby was delivered in a public hospital alongside everyone else’s. No private hospital. No extra special attention. New Zealand, remain your understated self.” He added: “Three cheers for the public health system, too.”
David Inouye is an accidental climate scientist. More than 40 years ago, the University of Maryland biologist started studying when wildflowers, birds, bees and butterflies first appeared each spring on this mountain. These days, plants and animals are arriving at Rocky Mountain Biological Lab a week or two earlier than they were 30 years ago. The robins that used to arrive in early April now show up in mid-March. Marmots end their winter slumber ever earlier.
“If the climate weren’t changing, we wouldn’t see these kind of changes happen,” Inouye said while standing on a bed of wildflowers that are popping up on the first day of May as marmots snoop around nearby.
It’s been 30 years since much of the world learned that global warming had arrived. On June 23, 1988, NASA scientist James Hansen testified before Congress, explaining that heat-trapping gases spewed by the burning of fossil fuels were pushing temperatures higher. But it turns out climate isn’t the only thing that’s changing: Nature itself is, too. That’s the picture painted by interviews with more than 50 scientists and an Associated Press analysis of data on plants, animals, pollen, ice, sea level and more.
You don’t need a thermometer or a rain gauge to notice climate change, and you don’t need to be a scientist to see it. Evidence is in the blueberry bushes in Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Pond, the dwindling population of polar bears of the Arctic and the dying corals worldwide. Scientists have documented 28,800 cases of plants and animals “responding consistently to temperature changes,” a 2008 study in the journal Nature said. “Nature is extremely sensitive to temperature and nature is reacting to the warmer temperatures,” said Boston University biologist Richard Primack. “The dramatic change is happening right in front of us.”
On Monday, Oklahoma became the first state to be granted a permit from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to dispose of its own coal ash, The Associated Press reported. The move displaces the federal government as the body responsible for coal ash disposal in EPA head Scott Pruitt's home state. Coal ash is the residue left over from burning coal for power that often contaminates groundwater. It is a change that industry has lobbied for and environmental groups have opposed.
States have demonstrated that "they don't care about the health and safety of communities near coal ash dumps," Earthjustice attorney Lisa Evans told The Associated Press. About 100 million tons of coal ash is produced by U.S. plants every year, often left in disposal ponds that leak into groundwater, contaminating it with pollutants like arsenic and radium. Tests ordered by the EPA this spring of groundwater around plants in various states found elevated pollution levels, according to The Associated Press. Despite this, "industry has asked for leniency, less stringency. That's the direction they're going," Evans said.
According to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, switching coal ash oversight to states was part of an "action plan" proposed by coal industry executive Robert Murray this spring to Pruitt and other officials in the Trump administration.
BREAKING: Trump has eliminated the bipartisan National Ocean Policy--a blow to restoring the healthy & productivity of America’s oceans & Great Lakes. Coastal states and economies will bear the cost, & guess who gains? Oil and gas. #ProtectOurCoast pic.twitter.com/kNrdU9mhQc
— AlaskaWild (@alaskawild) June 20, 2018
The new executive order revokes the 2010 National Ocean Policy put in place following the Deepwater Horizon disaster and which, as Earthjustice notes, "was built on decades of science, public input, and bipartisan recommendations."
Trump's new order calls for "promot[ing] ocean industries" and establishes the interagency Ocean Policy Committee. The White House states that the committee "will focus on growing the ocean economy," and says the president "is rolling back excessive bureaucracy created by the previous administration." More to the point, as The Hill reports, "The order encourages more drilling and other industrial uses of the oceans and Great Lakes."
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Omar Sharriff (aka Dave Alexander Elam) - Love Is Just For Fools
Omar Shariff - The Raven
Omar Shariff - Highway 59
Omar Shariff - Cold, Cold Feeling
Omar Shariff - The Rattler
Omar Sharriff (aka Dave Alexander Elam) - St. James Infirmary
L.C "Good Rockin" Robinson & Omar Sharriff - She Got It From The Start
Omar Shariff - San Francisco Can Be Such A Lonely Town
Omar Sharriff (aka Dave Alexander Elam) - The Hoodoo Man
Omar Sharriff - Blues In the Night
Omar Sharriff - Fingers of Fire