The Evening Blues - 6-30-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features r&b singer Ann Cole. Enjoy!
Ann Cole - Are You Satisfied?
“Kakimi chertyami oni viigrali holodnuyu voinu?"
This translates roughly to: "How the hell did these people win the Cold War?”
-- Dave Barry
News and Opinion
The White House briefed Republican lawmakers on Monday on an intelligence assessment that Russian operatives had offered a bounty for attacks on coalition forces in Afghanistan, a day after Donald Trump said his intelligence advisers “did not find this info credible”.
In an unusual step, Democratic lawmakers were not included in the initial briefing, which was conducted by the national security adviser, the director of national intelligence and the White House chief of staff.
Later on Monday a new planwas revealed and Congressman Steny Hoyer, the No 2 Democrat in the House, said a number of leading Democrats would be briefed at the White House on Tuesday at 8am. ...
The national security council spokesman, John Ullyot, told the Washington Post that “the veracity of the underlying allegations continue to be evaluated,” while the CIA, state department and defense department all declined comment.
Iran has issued an arrest warrant for Donald Trump and 35 others over the killing of top general Qassem Suleimani and has asked Interpol for help, a Tehran prosecutor, Ali Alqasimehr, has said. The US killed Suleimani with a drone strike in Iraq on 3 January after it accused him of masterminding attacks by Iranian-aligned militias on American forces across the Middle East. ...
The US special envoy on Iran, Brian Hook, dismissed the warrant as a propaganda stunt that “nobody takes seriously”.
Interpol said it would not comply with the Iranian request, which was likely to be seen in the context of the growing tensions between Tehran and Washington over the future of the UN embargo on conventional arms sales to Iran. The embargo is due to expire in September unless the security council votes against. ...
Although the killing of Suleimani brought the US and Iran to the brink of armed conflict after Iran retaliated by firing missiles at US targets in Iraq several days later, the US is unrepentant about the attack.
The Airline Industry Blocked Disclosure of Trade Data, Helping Conceal the Airlift of N95 Masks From the U.S. to China
In the first months of the Covid-19 outbreak — when U.S. hospitals faced a critical shortage of protective gear and exposed front-line medical workers to needless risk — hundreds of tons of medical face masks were loaded onto planes at U.S. airports and flown to China and other destinations for foreign buyers. While the masks were shipped abroad, the U.S. government failed to address the growing crisis, leaving states to scramble to obtain medical gear as third-party distributors hiked prices and began selling what turned out to be defective masks. While the Trump administration moved slowly to secure needed supplies, some in the Commerce Department even encouraged the export of masks as the disease spread.
The full scale and scope of what happened — including the types of masks shipped, prices, and the destinations for the shipments — are still shrouded in mystery. That’s because detailed disclosures of the airlifts are hidden from public view by the federal government. U.S. Customs and Border Protection only allows public disclosure of detailed cargo data for shipments sent and received by sea, not by air. And almost every crate of face masks destined for foreign markets went by air freight, concealing the full picture of the flow of masks from public view. The reason for the opaque trade rules? Little-known political maneuvering by the airline industry and its lobbyists on Capitol Hill, which slipped a provision designed to override disclosure requirements into a 1996 law on tariffs.
“Thanks to lobbying from the airline industry, U.S. air freight data isn’t public. In times of crisis, key supplies are almost universally shipped via air freight,” said William George, an analyst with ImportGenius, an import-export business intelligence firm.
Many controversial shipments, such as tear gas or overseas weapons sales, are made by air freight. The global arms trade escapes transparency, in part, because of gaps in disclosure.
Consumer advocates reacted with disgust Monday to an announcement by Gilead Sciences that it will charge U.S. hospitals around $3,120 per privately insured patient for a treatment course of remdesivir, a drug which has proven modestly effective at speeding Covid-19 recovery times.
Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen's Access to Medicines Program, called Gilead's pricing—which works out to around $520 per dose for non-government buyers like hospitals—"an offensive display of hubris and disregard for the public" and slammed the Trump administration for failing to ensure that the price of a drug developed with substantial taxpayer support is affordable for all.
Maybarduk pointed to Institute for Clinical and Economic Review research showing Gilead could still make a profit by pricing remdesivir at $310 per course.
"Gilead has priced at several thousand dollars a drug that should be in the public domain. For $1 per day, remdesivir can be manufactured at scale with a reasonable profit," Maybarduk said in a statement. "Gilead did not make remdesivir alone. Public funding was indispensable at each stage, and government scientists led the early drug discovery team. Allowing Gilead to set the terms during a pandemic represents a colossal failure of leadership by the Trump administration."
Public Citizen estimated in a May report that U.S. taxpayers contributed at least $70.5 million to the development of remdesivir.
Shortly after Gilead's announcement, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department said it reached an agreement with the pharmaceutical giant to purchase more than 500,000 treatment courses of remdesivir for American hospitals.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the United States is "the only developed country where Gilead will charge two prices"—one for government buyers ($390 per dose) and one for non-government buyers like hospitals ($520 per dose). The typical remdesivir treatment course consists of around six doses.
'Not Even Close to Being Over': WHO Chief Says Despite Some Progress, 'Pandemic Is Actually Speeding Up'
The head of the World Health Organization warned on Monday that the coronavirus pandemic which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and devastated the world's economy is far from over—just a day before the six-month mark of when China first alerted the United Nations agency about a cluster of pneumonia cases with an unknown cause.
"The six-month anniversary of the outbreak coincides with reaching 10 million cases and 500,000 deaths," WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a press briefing. "Six months ago, none of us could have imagined how our world—and our lives—would be thrown into turmoil by this new virus."
After detailing the WHO's efforts since December 2019 to help contain the virus, identify effective treatments, and develop a vaccine, Tedros explained that "some countries are now experiencing a resurgence of cases as they start to re-open their economies and societies."
"Most people remain susceptible. The virus still has a lot of room to move," the WHO chief continued. "We all want this to be over. We all want to get on with our lives. But the hard reality is: this is not even close to being over. Although many countries have made some progress, globally the pandemic is actually speeding up."
"This is a time for renewing our commitment to empowering communities, suppressing transmission, saving lives, accelerating research, and political and moral leadership," he added, summarizing top priorities for governments amid global efforts to develop a vaccine. "But it's also a time for all countries to renew their commitment to universal health coverage as the cornerstone of social and economic development—and to building the safer, fairer, greener, more inclusive world we all want."
Mike Ryan, head of the WHO's emergencies program, said during the briefing that while there has been progress on finding a vaccine to prevent infection, those efforts aren't guaranteed to succeed, Reuters reported. Ryan urged countries to continue testing, isolating people with confirmed cases, and tracking their contacts. He specifically recognized the "comprehensive, sustained strategy" of Germany, Japan, and South Korea to combat the pandemic.
After every single Republican on the coronavirus subcommittee turned up to a Friday meeting without wearing a mask, the Democratic chair has threatened to stop them from speaking at future meetings if they fail to do so again.
Not wearing a mask in a confined space such as a committee hearing room violates rules written by Congress’s attending physician, if attendees intend to be in the space for more than 15 minutes.
Representative Jim Clyburn who chairs the coronavirus subcommittee meetings released a letter on Monday morning, expressing his “profound disappointment” at this rule being flouted at a time when the “United States reached the highest number of new coronavirus cases on record, and after the disease has already killed more people in the United States than in any other nation on Earth”.
Clyburn said he reminded attendees in person of that requirement and that posters outside the committee room also flagged the issue. The refusal to wear face coverings has raged across America. The president himself refuses to wear a mask. Meanwhile, a small number of Americans have objected to official guidance on wearing face coverings in enclosed spaces, arguing that it impinges on their constitutional freedoms. According to the Poynter institute, there is no constitutional right that allows people not to wear a mask. ...
Clyburn, in his role as chair of the committee, has to formally acknowledge a member before they can speak or participate in the meeting. In his letter, he has threatened not to recognize any members of the committee who try to speak without wearing a mask in the meeting.
Most visitors from the US are set to remain banned from entering the European Union because of the country’s rising infection rate in a move that risks antagonising Donald Trump.
In an attempt to save the European tourism season, a list of 15 countries from where people should be allowed into the EU from 1 July has been agreed by representatives of the 27 member states.
Travellers from China will be among those permitted entry if Beijing reciprocates despite doubts over the accuracy of the information coming out of the country.
The other countries from where the EU agrees travel should be permitted into the bloc are Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia and Uruguay.
Visitors from the US, Russia, Brazil and India, where infection rates remain high, are set to remain excluded despite the initial arguments of some EU governments which would like to have offered further help in keeping the tourism industry afloat.
Urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to "forego political expediency and incrementalism" in favor of a bold solution to the healthcare crisis exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, 116 delegates elected to represent California at the Democratic National Convention issued an open letter Sunday demanding an up-or-down floor vote on the Medicare for All Act before the November election. ...
"Our privatized, employer-based health coverage model is an international embarrassment," reads the letter, which was also signed by 14 delegate alternates. "It economically crushes working families for the private profits of a few elites. Under this unjust system, people are going without care because they can't open up their wallets."
"The time is now to recognize healthcare as a human right," the letter continues. "The time is now to #PassTheDamnBill."
Pelosi has steadfastly refused to allow a vote on Rep. Pramila Jayapal's (D-Wash.) Medicare for All Act despite its popularity in California, across the nation, and in the House of Representatives, where a majority of members have signed on as co-sponsors.
For weeks, President Donald Trump and top advisers like Attorney General William Barr have sought to blame antifa for sporadic violence and rioting during the ongoing Black Lives Matters protests. With little evidence, Trump even threatened to label antifa, an amorphous left-wing movement opposed to fascism, as a domestic terrorist organization.
But the president’s strategy of pinning blame on antifa in quick, broad brushstrokes is undercut not only by constitutional hurdles and conflicting evidence on the ground, but also by a sobering report from his own intelligence officials that calls for an entirely revamped approach to domestic extremism. The analysis from the National Counterterrorism Center, which has not been previously reported, offers an unusually self-critical view of the gaps and weaknesses in combating homegrown terror threats, and it suggests that the focus needs to be on individual actors who break the law, rather than groups.
The report raises troubling questions about the government’s ability to head off a major attack from extremists at home. In stark terms, it depicts a system ill-equipped to deal with the rising threat of domestic extremists because of splintered approaches by different agencies. The report warned bluntly that “there is no whole-of-government [domestic terrorism] threat picture.” Federal officials cannot even agree on what to call violent extremists inside the United States, their efforts are “rarely integrated,” and combating the “potent” threat is not a top priority in some agencies, said the report, which grew out of a high-level summit of government officials and outside experts last fall. ...
Some officials at the conference argued for trying to expand current laws to carve out a new criminal statute specific to domestic terrorism, bringing more legal powers with it. But Heidi Beirich, a longtime specialist on domestic extremism, argued at the meeting that while federal officials should be focusing more resources on violent white supremacists, new domestic terror laws are unnecessary and could trample on civil liberties. “When you increase the powers of federal agencies, it can boomerang back and hit activists and marginalized groups, and it doesn’t hit the intended target,” Beirich, who recently co-founded an advocacy group called the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, said in an interview.
#OccupyCityHall: Mayor’s “Tone Deaf” Pledge to Move $1B from NYPD Budget Fails to Satisfy Protesters
A bipartisan group of senators introduced a proposal on Monday to limit the transfer of military-grade equipment to local law enforcement agencies, a practice that has come under increased scrutiny amid protests against police brutality sparked by George Floyd's death last month.
Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) are offering the measure as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, a mammoth defense policy bill currently being debated by the Senate.
“There is a growing bipartisan consensus that giving local law enforcement military equipment such as bayonets, grenade launchers, armor-piercing bullets, and tear gas is immoral and does nothing to keep people safe,” Schatz said in a statement.
The bipartisan proposal would place limits on the Pentagon’s 1033 Program, which allows the Defense Department to pass on excess equipment to local agencies, by prohibiting the transfer of equipment including tear gas, armor-piercing firearms and ammunition, bayonets, grenade launchers and grenades, combat tracked vehicles, and drones, according to a release from Schatz’s office.
Police dressed in riot gear used pepper spray to disperse a largely peaceful gathering of thousands of protestors in Aurora, Colorado, who had come together over the weekend to demand justice for Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old who went into a coma and died after being placed in a chokehold by officers last year.
Saturday’s events began in City Center Park as local musicians played violins at a vigil that had been planned to pay respects to McClain, who studied the instrument for much of his life and had played to soothe stray cats.
By late evening, however, police began warning demonstrators that they had to leave the “illegal gathering” or they would use pepper spray to disperse the crowds, according to the Denver Post.
— Jessie B (@jessiedesigngal) June 28, 2020
As police advanced, demonstrators locked arms to form a human chain around the violinists, protecting them from officers. In videos captured by bystanders and posted on social media, the sound of strings is heard before it is drowned out by screaming demonstrators and demands from police that protesters disperse.
Protesters chanted phrases such as: “Why are you in riot gear? I don’t see no riot here!”
A Detroit police officer drove an SUV through a crowd of protesters Sunday night, after multiple demonstrators jumped onto the car. The vehicle quickly sped up even with people on the hood, as others screamed and tried to catch up with the car. No one was seriously injured, but the incident is reportedly under investigation.
It happened in the southwestern part of the city, when police reportedly attempted to stop protesters marching against police brutality from occupying the city’s Patton Park, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Detroit Police Department drove into 10-12 protesters including myself. Multiple people are going to the hospital. #NoJusticeNoPeace #detroitpolice #GeorgeFloyd #BreonnaTayor #PoliceBrutality pic.twitter.com/etj3a6ejzN
— Activist Ethan Ketner (@DJEazyTwist) June 29, 2020
A 24-year-old protester named Jae Bass told the Free Press that the police vehicles in the roadblock began moving as the march made its way through a roadblock, and that he tried to stand in front of the SUV before it hit other protesters. As the chaotic scene unfolded, the SUV accelerated even as a few people were on the hood, and slid off.
"In response to that, he just floored it," Bass told the Free Press. "He went super fast. Me and a couple of other organizers that were with me just went flinging off. We went flying off. He ran over a couple people's arms, feet. He ran over her phone. I think I was the last person on the car. I was just holding onto the car. I could feel him speeding up and then he did one of these and he flinged me off the car."
A Minnesota judge on Monday warned that he was likely to move the trials of four police officers charged in George Floyd’s killing out of Minneapolis if public officials and attorneys do not stop talking publicly about the case. Judge Peter Cahill stopped short of issuing a gag order on attorneys, but he said one is likely if public statements continue.
The Hennepin county judge added that such a situation would also make him likely to grant a change-of-venue motion if one is filed. ...
It was the second pre-trial hearing for the officers, who were fired after Floyd’s 25 May death, then charged. Derek Chauvin, 44, is charged with second-degree murder and other counts, and was filmed by a bystander kneeling on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, as members of the public and Floyd himself pleaded with him. Thomas Lane, 37, J Alex Kueng, 26, and Tou Thao, 34, are charged with aiding and abetting Chauvin.
Minneapolis’s mayor, Jacob Frey, had called for the officers to be charged after the death and the city police chief Medaria Arradondo said Floyd’s death was “murder”. Cahill on Monday asked assistant attorney general Matthew Frank to use his influence to keep public officials silent, warning that if they continued to discuss the case publicly, then to ensure a fair trial he would probably “have to pull [trials] out of Hennepin county and they need to be aware of that”. Frank replied that the attorneys have no control over public officials.
NAACP’s Derrick Johnson on Mississippi’s State Flag, Trump’s White Power Tweet & Boycotting Facebook
Approximately 13,400 employees of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services woke to find out they will be furloughed beginning in August, a move that will effectively bring the U.S. immigration system grinding to a halt.
In the early hours of Monday morning, USCIS employees received emails telling them the furloughs would begin on August 3 and last for at least 30 days, with the potential to last three months or longer, according to sources within USCIS. Employees were told last week that around 73% of the agency’s entire staff would be put out of work temporarily.
USCIS confirmed the furloughs in a statement to VICE News. “Though we continue to have productive conversations with Congress, we want employees who may be furloughed to have sufficient time to prepare,” a spokesperson said. “Further, we are legally required to provide employees with advance written notice at least 30 calendar days prior to the effective date of an expected furlough.”
USCIS has nearly 20,000 employees total.
Unlike most other federal agencies, a significant amount of the USCIS’s $14.8 billion operating budget — nearly 97%, according to congressional testimony from 2019 — comes from immigration fees. The reasoning given to employees for the furlough was declining revenues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis.
The ongoing economic crisis sparked by the coronavirus pandemic will leave over 17 million workers without a job to return to once the outbreak is over, according to a new analysis from the Economic Policy Institute's Heidi Shierholz, who also predicts without sustained and continued federal action 10 million or more jobs could be lost in the next year.
"Of the 32.5 million workers who are either officially unemployed or otherwise out of work because of the virus, only 14.8 million workers (or 45.6%) can reasonably expect to be called back to a prior job, which means 17.6 million (or 54.4%) cannot," Shierholz writes.
Even if that number holds, Bloomberg's Noah Smith tweeted, it's s best-case scenario that would keep the economy at Great Recession levels of unemployment.
The institute's senior economist and director of policy, Shierholz has been tracking the real unemployment numbers since the beginning of the crisis as the pandemic has decimated the labor market. More sunny than expected unemployment news in May gave the wrong impression about the ongoing catastrophe, she explains in her analysis Monday.
"Some are saying that because rehiring took place in May and the unemployment rate improved, perhaps more aid from Congress isn't needed because workers will just return to their old jobs," writes Shierholz. "This logic could not be more misguided."
In addition to the jobs that are lost and not returning, Shierholz warns that without continued—and increased—federal intervention in the economy, another more than 10 million jobs will disappear through next year.
Eleven U.S. mayors are now joining together to say that struggling Americans should receive regular cash payments — no strings attached — in the midst of a global pandemic that threatens to worsen the country’s already staggering income inequality. A new coalition of majority-Black officials, dubbed “Mayors for a Guaranteed Income,” has committed to exploring guaranteed income initiatives and advocating for them nationwide.
While it’s unclear through a website unveiled Monday what programs in individual cities might look like — or when they’d come to fruition — the mayors say that guaranteed income could help address racial and gender equity, according to the coalition’s website. Founded by Stockton, California, Mayor Michael Tubbs, who has already piloted one such program, the group also includes leaders in Atlanta, Newark, Columbia, Compton, St. Paul, Jackson, Shreveport, Tacoma, Oakland, and Los Angeles.
“We are living in uncertain times with even greater widening economic disparity as a result of COVID-19,” Tubbs said in a press release. “As mayors, our problems may look different from town to town, but we are united in our duty to ensure the economic security of our residents, and it is unacceptable that people who are working two and three jobs can’t afford basic necessities.”
Progressive Challenger Kreibich Slams Right-Wing Democrat Gottheimer for "Trump Values" Voting Record
With just over a week to go before the New Jersey Democratic primary, Dr. Arati Kreibich released a digital ad on Monday slamming her opponent in the state's 5th Congressional District, conservative Rep. Josh Gottheimer, for repeatedly espousing "Trump values" and voting with Republicans.
Gottheimer, who has served in Congress since 2017, voted with President Donald Trump nearly 77% of the time, the ad states, supporting legislation to give legal rights to a pregnancy and to officially declare support for ICE and its targeting of undocumented immigrants.
The ad refers to Gottheimer as the president's "favorite Democrat" and shows a clip of the congressman appearing with Trump at the White House, before highlighting his pro-Trump votes.
.@RepJoshG has sided with the GOP on the border wall, deregulating big banks, and opposing protections for kids in cages.
These aren't "Jersey Values," they're Trump Values.
In eight days, we can replace him with a bold progressive. RT to help us spread our message & win. pic.twitter.com/YYizIo5JaL
— Dr. Arati Kreibich for Congress (@Arati4Congress) June 29, 2020
Gottheimer also supported a rollback of regulations put in place by the Dodd-Frank Act and voted not to restrict the president from taking military action against Iran without congressional approval.
The digital ad was released the same day Kreibich debated Gottheimer on WRNJ, a local radio station.
Kreibich accused Gottheimer in the debate of prioritizing Covid-19 relief which has "been disproportionately bailing out corporations rather than bailing out working families in [the 5th district]," and later criticized her opponent for not supporting a universal healthcare plan and accepting corporate PAC money. ...
Kreibich has been endorsed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), the Sunrise Movement, and a number of other progressive groups.
Well, this ought to be interesting:
House Democrats will unveil an aggressive climate crisis “action plan” on Tuesday to nearly eliminate US emissions by 2050, according to summary documents reviewed by the Guardian. The net-zero emissions goal is what United Nations leaders and the scientific community say the world must achieve to avoid the worst of rising temperatures, and it’s what the Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, says he would pursue if he were to win the White House in November.
The Democrats’ proposal, referred to in a two-page summary as a “congressional action plan” and a “roadmap”, calls for interim targets to assess progress and make sure fossil fuel pollution is declining, particularly in communities of color that have suffered environmental injustices.
The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, will announce the plan, compiled by the House select committee on the climate crisis that is chaired by the Florida congresswoman Kathy Castor, at an event in front of the US Capitol on Tuesday morning. The more than 538-page report will include hundreds of policy recommendations focused on 12 key pillars, according to a separate outline.
Modeling on a subset of those recommendations by the firm energy innovation showed they would cut net US greenhouse gas emissions by 37% below 2010 levels in 2030, and 88% below 2010 levels in 2050, according to the report outline. The remaining 12% of emissions cuts would have to come from hard-to-decarbonize sectors, including heavy-duty truck transportation, industry and agriculture. ...
However, the plan has no chance of passing a Republican-controlled Senate, and would be a difficult sell even for some Democrats if their party took back that chamber and won the White House from Donald Trump.
Alaskan beavers are carving out a growing web of channels, dams and ponds in the frozen Arctic tundra of northwestern Alaska, helping to turn it into a soggy sponge that intensifies global warming.
On the Baldwin Peninsula, near Kotzebue, for example, the big rodents have been so busy that they're hastening the regional thawing of the permafrost, raising new concerns about how fast those organic frozen soils will melt and release long-trapped greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, said scientists who are studying the beavers' activity.
The number of new beaver dams and lakes continues to grow exponentially, suggesting that "beavers are a greater influence than climate on surface water extent," said University of Alaska, Fairbanks scientist Ken Tape, a co-author of a new beaver and permafrost study published today in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
The research is based on images from commercial satellites that show landscape changes in greater detail than just a few years ago, as well as older images that show larger-scale changes. The precise measurements enabled the researchers to quantify how beavers are reshaping the landscape. ...
The bigger and deeper the pools made by the beavers, the warmer the water. The larger pools hold heat longer, which delays refreezing in autumn. Tape said Arctic vegetation, permafrost, hydrology and wildlife are all linked. Even against the backdrop of other recent Arctic global warming extremes, like raging wildfires, record heat waves and dwindling glaciers and sea ice, the impact of beavers stands out, he said. "It's not gradual change," he said. "It's like hitting the landscape with a hammer."
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Ann Cole - Got My Mojo Working
Ann Cole - Each Day
Ann Cole - I'm Waiting For You
Ann Cole - Darling, Don't Hurt Me
Ann Cole - Don't Stop the Wedding
Ann Cole - You're Mine
Ann Cole - Easy Easy Baby
Ann Cole - I´ve Got Nothing Working Now
Ann Cole - I´ve Got A Little Boy
Ann Cole - That's Enough