The Evening Blues - 6-8-18
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features odds and ends that I ran across while putting together other features. Enjoy!
Little Hudson - I'm Looking For A Woman
"The Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to bare the secrets of government and inform the people."
-- Hugo Black
News and Opinion
Federal prosecutors said on Thursday that James A Wolfe, 58, had been arrested and indicted on three counts of false statements. Wolfe and Watkins were in “a personal relationship” that began in 2013 when Watkins was a news service intern in Washington, DC, according to charging documents. Wolfe was a longtime intelligence panel staffer and served as director of security for the committee, a position that gave him access to classified information. ...
Wolfe was accused of using his personal cellphone, his congressional email account and the encrypted apps Signal and WhatsApp to communicate sensitive information to reporters. Following the delivery by an unnamed executive branch agency of a classified document to the Senate committee on 17 March 2017, the government alleges, Wolfe exchanged 82 text messages with Watkins “and that evening engaged in a 28-minute phone call” with her. About two weeks later, Watkins, then working for Buzzfeed, published a bombshell article reporting that former Trump adviser Carter Page had met with a Russian spy in 2013.
If you are wondering why so little is heard these days of accusations that Russia hacked into the U.S. election in 2016, it could be because those charges could not withstand close scrutiny. It could also be because special counsel Robert Mueller appears to have never bothered to investigate what was once the central alleged crime in Russia-gate as no one associated with WikiLeaks has ever been questioned by his team.
Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity — including two “alumni” who were former National Security Agency technical directors — have long since concluded that Julian Assange did not acquire what he called the “emails related to Hillary Clinton” via a “hack” by the Russians or anyone else. They found, rather, that he got them from someone with physical access to Democratic National Committee computers who copied the material onto an external storage device — probably a thumb drive. In December 2016 VIPS explained this in some detail in an open Memorandum to President Barack Obama.
On January 18, 2017 President Obama admitted that the “conclusions” of U.S. intelligence regarding how the alleged Russian hacking got to WikiLeaks were “inconclusive.” Even the vapid FBI/CIA/NSA “Intelligence Community Assessment of Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections” of January 6, 2017, which tried to blame Russian President Vladimir Putin for election interference, contained no direct evidence of Russian involvement. That did not prevent the “handpicked” authors of that poor excuse for intelligence analysis from expressing “high confidence” that Russian intelligence “relayed material it acquired from the Democratic National Committee … to WikiLeaks.” Handpicked analysts, of course, say what they are handpicked to say.
Never mind. The FBI/CIA/NSA “assessment” became bible truth for partisans like Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, who was among the first off the blocks to blame Russia for interfering to help Trump. It simply could not have been that Hillary Clinton was quite capable of snatching defeat out of victory all by herself. No, it had to have been the Russians. Five days into the Trump presidency, I had a chance to challenge Schiff personally on the gaping disconnect between the Russians and WikiLeaks. Schiff still “can’t share the evidence” with me … or with anyone else, because it does not exist.
The International Committee of the Red Cross is removing 71 of its international staff from Yemen, citing a series of incidents and threats by groups trying to turn the organisation into a pawn in the three-year civil war.
The ICRC, which has had a presence in Yemen since 1962, warned the enforced departures would cripple its humanitarian activities, such as surgical services, visits to detainees, clean water initiatives and food assistance.
“Our current activities have been blocked, threatened and directly targeted in recent weeks, and we see a vigorous attempt to instrumentalise our organisation as a pawn in the conflict,” the director of operations, Dominik Stillhart, said. “The ICRC holds all parties responsible for the security of its staff.” ...
The ICRC said it could only continue its operations in Yemen if it had the full agreement of all parties to the conflict. An ICRC employee, a Lebanese national, was killed on 21 April when an unknown gunman opened fire on the man’s car in the south-western city of Taiz.
Israeli Military Pushes Misleading Video in Attempt to Smear Slain Palestinian Medic Razan al-Najjar
Israel's army released a deceptively edited video on Thursday, hoping to tarnish the image of Razan al-Najjar, a Palestinian paramedic killed by Israeli fire in Gaza last week. According to witness testimony, al-Najjar, who was 21, was gunned down last Friday after she and other medics, walking with their hands up and wearing white vests, approached the perimeter that confines Palestinians to Gaza in order to treat a wounded protester.
The fatal shooting of the young woman, who had spoken eloquently about her lifesaving role to a New York Times video journalist and on Lebanese television, has been a public relations disaster for Israel. Killing al-Najjar, who clearly posed no threat to its soldiers, made it difficult for Israel’s army to argue that its snipers targeted only “rioters” in Gaza and did not fire indiscriminately at peaceful protesters, journalists, and medics.
In response to an international outcry over her death, the Israel Defense Forces said earlier this week that al-Najjar had been killed accidentally by a soldier aiming at someone else. Then, on Thursday, the army’s social media unit began a coordinated smear campaign against her, by falsely suggesting in a video that she had been engaged in rioting and had attended the protests to shield militants disguised as protesters.
As evidence of “rioting,” the military offered just 10 seconds of video, underpinned by music suitable for a horror movie, which showed a woman who was dressed like al-Najjar tossing away a tear gas canister fired at protesters by Israeli forces. If the woman was al-Najjar, the video only showed her participating in a ritual familiar to protesters around the world — tossing tear gas fired at them as far away as possible. The video also shows that she hurled the canister only a short distance, and it landed nowhere near any Israeli soldiers.
The second part of the video that supposedly excuses the killing of al-Najjar is half a sentence clipped from an interview she gave to the Lebanese broadcaster Al Mayadeen News, in which she had called her role as a protest medic being “a human shield to protect and save the injured on the front lines.” An Israeli military editor cut that sentence in half to make it seems as if al-Najjar had been caught admitting that she was only present to provide cover to militants.
Russian President Vladimir Putin slipped secretly into Syria last December to tell Russian soldiers they’d soon be “going home victorious.” On Thursday, he said they’d be staying put indefinitely. “They will stay there for as long as it is in Russia's interest for them to do so,” Putin declared during his most recent marathon televised Q&A session in Moscow. ...
“We are not building long-term facilities there and if needed we could fairly quickly withdraw our troops without material losses,” he said. “But for the moment, we need them there. They are carrying out important tasks, including providing security for Russia in the region, and helping our interests in the economic sphere.”
Putin’s latest remarks represent an acknowledgement of reality rather than a policy shift, said Anna Borshchevskaya, an analyst focusing on Russian foreign policy in the Middle East at the Washington Institute for Near East Studies. Russia’s intentions to stay in Syria for the long haul have been readily apparent to close observers, she said, as the country seeks to enhance its role throughout the Middle East even while Putin downplays the potential costs of the long-running Syrian military intervention to his constituents at home.
Donald Trump travels to the G-7 meeting in Quebec Friday seemingly at war with more than half leaders in the group made up of the world’s most advanced industrial economies. French President Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were the target of Trump’s Twitter ire Friday, the U.S. president barking at two of America's oldest allies over trade.
Having considered pulling out of the summit entirely, according to reports, Trump instead decided to go into the meeting wildly flailing. “Please tell Prime Minister Trudeau and President Macron that they are charging the U.S. massive tariffs and create non-monetary barriers,” Trump tweeted. “The EU trade surplus with the U.S. is $151 Billion, and Canada keeps our farmers and others out. Look forward to seeing them tomorrow.”
Trump was responding to an earlier Macron tweet that said: “The American President may not mind being isolated, but neither do we mind signing a 6 country agreement if need be. Because these 6 countries represent values, they represent an economic market which has the weight of history behind it and which is now a true international force.” ...
Trump reportedly told aides he didn’t want to go to the summit, predicting that nothing substantive would come from the talks. When he was told nonattendance would look like a retreat, Trump decided to go, although he will leave before the sessions on climate change and the environment to prepare for next week’s meeting in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — an event Trump considers of far more consequence.
For all of Europe's bluster, and increasingly vocal "resistance" to Trump unique approach to international politics, especially when it comes to Iran when Brussels swore it would defy the US president and continue business as usual with Tehran, it took Europe about a month to fold, and as Reuters reports European refiners are now unofficially winding down oil purchases from Iran, closing the door on a fifth of the OPEC member’s crude exports.
And since the only true leverage that Iran had vis-a-vis Europe was its deeply discounted crude oil, the shuttering of crude purchases from the Islamic republic will suddenly make European governments especially ambivalent whether to continue fighting Trump in hopes of salvaging the Iranian nuclear, when there is only downside left. ...
All this is happening as Europe continues to pretend it is fighting Trump, if only for naive public consumption, and on Wednesday, the EU again urged the Trump administration to exempt European companies from sanctions on Iran. ...
The big question is whether China, which has been making aggressive inroads into Chinese commerce in recent years, which recently launched a new train landline to Iran, and whose state-owned oil giant, CNPC - the world's third largest oil and gas company by revenue behind Saudi Aramco and the National Iranian Oil Company - is now set to take over the role held by Total in a huge gas project in Iran, will step up its Iranian oil imports and offset the loss of Iranian oil exports to Europe, India and Japan, and if so, just how will the Trump administration react.
The International Monetary Fund has stepped in to shore up the Argentinian economy with a $50bn (£37bn) loan agreement. Argentina requested assistance from the international lender of last resort on 8 May after the peso weakened sharply in an investor exodus from emerging markets.
As part of the deal, which is subject to IMF board approval, the government pledged to accelerate plans to reduce the fiscal deficit – the gap between government spending and revenue – even as authorities now foresee lower growth and higher inflation in the coming years.
The deal marks a turning point for Argentina, which for years shunned the IMF after a devastating economic crisis in 2001-02 that many Argentinians blamed on IMF-imposed austerity measures. The president Mauricio Macri’s decision to turn to the lender has triggered national protests.
Chicago police officers detained and handcuffed a 10-year-old black boy who was playing in his grandparents' front yard because they thought he matched the description of someone they were attempting to track down.
Cell phone footage tweeted out Friday that has been viewed over 700,000 times, shows officers handcuffing a young boy, identified by NBC News affiliate Chicago 5 as Michael Thomas Jr., while questioning him about a gun. Chicago police say the officers didn’t do anything wrong. ...
Michael’s grandmother can be heard saying in the video that her grandson didn’t have any weapons, and was crying and terrified as the authorities questioned him. “You can see that he doesn’t have any weapons on him,” she said in the footage. “I raised up my grandbaby’s shirt. He don’t have anything on him. Take those handcuffs off of him.”
It took 15 minutes before the boy's handcuffs were removed.
“I want answers,” Michael’s mother, Starr Ramsey, told Chicago 5. “You can look at him and tell he no teenager. Ten years old, you get handcuffed? You scarred him for life.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study released last week, 25 states have recorded increases of more than 30% since the late 1990s.
The study found that suicide rates rose in men and women and across all age and ethnic groups, propelled by mental illness, substance use, financial hardship and relationship problems. Nationwide, the study said, the suicide rate rose by nearly 30% over the same 17-year period, 1999 to 2016.
Rates of increase varied. Delaware recorded a 5.9% increase compared with 57.6% in North Dakota. Only Nevada did not record a rise. ... The report showed a fourfold difference in state suicide rates, ranging from 6.9 per 100,000 residents per year in Washington DC to 29.2 in Montana. In 2016, nearly 45,000 Americans aged 10 and older died by suicide.
A Trump supporter was thrown out of a NYC bar for wearing a MAGA hat. He later sued and lost the case after a judge ruled the bar was allowed to throw out Trump supporters (@AP) pic.twitter.com/b2BEoTR1vx
— Joel Franco (@OfficialJoelF) April 26, 2018
According to the New York Post, Philadelphian Greg Piatek was booted from The Happiest Hour in January of 2017, just after Donald Trump's inauguration, because he was wearing a red MAGA cap.
So the 31-year-old sued the place, claiming the incident "offended his sense of being American," according to the lawsuit. But according to The Happiest Hour's lawyer, Elizabeth Conway, political beliefs are not protected from discrimination by law - only religious beliefs are. ... Piatek's attorney, Paul Liggieri counterpointed, "The purpose of the hat is that he wore it because he was visiting the 9/11 Memorial. He was paying tribute to the victims of 9/11. The Make America Great Again hat was part of his spiritual belief."
After an hourlong investigation into Piatek's alleged "spiritual program," the judge decided that there was nothing "outrageous" about the Trump supporter's removal from the bar.
Mick Mulvaney, acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, fired the agency’s 25-member advisory board Wednesday, days after some of its members criticized his leadership of the watchdog agency.
The CFPB said it will revamp the Consumer Advisory Board, known as the CAB, in the fall with all new members.
The panel has traditionally played an influential role in advising the CFPB’s leadership on new regulations and policies. But some members, who include prominent consumer advocates, academics and industry executives, began to complain that Mulvaney was ignoring them and making unwise decisions about the agency’s future. ...
“Mick Mulvaney has no intention of putting consumers above financial firms that cheat them. This is what happens when you put someone in charge of an agency they think shouldn’t exist,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who helped conceive of the bureau, said in a statement.
Despite Medicare for All Support 'Spreading Like Wildfire,' Pelosi Shrugs, Says Dems Will 'Evaluate'... If They Win
Despite mounting evidence that support for Medicare for All is "spreading like wildfire" and has become a winning issue for Democratic candidates, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi is drawing ire from progressives following a press conference on Thursday where she told reporters that she is open only to "evaluating" the idea if the party wins control of Congress in the mid-terms.
Translation: My pharmaceutical and health insurance donors hate the idea of Medicare for All,but just vote me back in and, honest, we’ll “look” at it
The biggest recruiting tool the GOP has: Nancy Pelosi. Right or wrong, that’s a fact. If she cared about the country she’d retire https://t.co/6syadflw2I
— John Rocco Calabrese (@jroccocal) June 7, 2018
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Pelosi has taken more than $200,000 in donations from the health sector in the 2017-2018 election cycle.
Far from being a fringe issue, Medicare for All now has the support of 51 percent of Americans polled by the Washington Post and Kaiser Family Foundation.
The superintendent of Yellowstone national park says he has been forced out of his job by the Trump administration over his wildlife advocacy. “It’s a hell of a way to be treated at the end of four decades spent trying to do my best for the park service and places like Yellowstone, but that’s how these guys are,” said Dan Wenk, referring to the US interior department. “Throughout my career, I’ve not encountered anything like this, ever.”
On Monday, Wenk, 66, was notified by the interior department that he must take a reassignment to the park service’s Capital Region in Washington DC, a collection of monuments including the White House and the Lincoln Memorial, within 60 days or resign. An interior department spokesperson, Heather Swift, said: “The department does not discuss personnel matters.” A former park service national director, Jon Jarvis, said the maneuver was intended to send a chilling message and make an example out of Wenk. ...
The purpose, argued Jarvis, was to undermine a deeply engrained culture of conservation as it pertains to big wildland parks, mostly in the US west and Alaska. Preservation clashed with Zinke’s desire to dramatically ramp up industrial development and monetization of natural resources on public land, he added. ...
Wenk had been outspoken in his desire to create more space for wild bison to roam outside the park into Montana, a position opposed by the influential cattle industry, which represents a core of Zinke’s constituency. Wenk also raised questions about proposed sport hunting of grizzly bears that are a delight to wildlife watchers in Yellowstone but might get shot when they cross the park boundary. That, too, alienated political conservatives who have hostility toward both bears and wolves.
A recent inspector general investigation into nearly three dozen proposed transfers of senior level resource managers in the park service, including Wenk, concluded there was no clear justification and the moves could appear to be motivated by punitive reasons or to force leaders whose ideology was not in line with the Trump administration into retirement.
In the parched Peruvian province of Ica, where a state of water emergency has been in effect since 2005, an unlikely business is booming: the cultivation of asparagus for export. The flourishing green stalks in the middle of the desert raised the suspicions of Fabiola Torres, a journalist and a member of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
She suspected big Peruvian agriculture companies were violating the province’s rules for water usage and earning millions of dollars exporting Peru’s prized asparagus by depleting scarce water supplies for local families and smaller farmers. But when she traveled to Ica, some two hundred miles south of Lima at the edge of the Atacama desert, she found the agribusiness properties were walled off, and no one was willing to talk.
“It was a hostile zone,” said Torres, the editor of the investigative website Ojo Publico, which has partnered with ICIJ on its Paradise Papers and Panama Papers investigations. “The only ones there are the agro-exporters and their security guards.” So Torres decided on a novel approach: she launched a drone.
Soaring a hundred meters above the desert, remotely piloted by Ojo Publico reporters, the drone gathered footage that quickly confirmed Torres’ suspicions. It showed the companies’ properties dotted with illegal wells that were extracting subterranean water from beneath the desert, sometimes camouflaged beneath green mats. The images provided a striking illustration of a similar finding by Peru’s National Water Authority, which reported last year that 314 of 474 wells in Ica province were unlicensed.
Instead of confronting the companies, Peruvian authorities granted licenses after the fact to many illegally drilled wells, Ojo Publico found. The result was a system that allowed agricultural companies to deplete underground water supplies with impunity as Ica struggled with drought. In Peru and Colombia the reporters came to the same startling conclusion: big companies were able to appropriate water supplies because the state was giving a green light to their conduct.
Ankle deep in water, 83-year-old Jim Maturen unreeled his fishing line and watched it plunge into Michigan’s Chippewa Creek. Attached to the end was a thermometer. When the water’s temperature appeared on the display, retired surveyor John McLane scribbled down the reading on a piece of paper. The two men then moved on to another section of stream, then to five other spots along the Chippewa and another creek, the Twin. Later that month, they went back with a yardstick to measure the creeks’ depths. They were low. Too low for trout.
With their simple study, McLane and Maturen, a citizen scientist who worked in law enforcement for 31 years, wanted to show that trout can’t survive in these waterways. According to Maturen and a number of others who live close by, the beverage behemoth Nestlé is to blame. The company has been depleting the creeks’ groundwater sources for its Ice Mountain bottled water. In Osceola Township, where Maturen conducted his tests, there isn’t a mountain—icy or otherwise—in sight, but Nestlé has been drawing hundreds of gallons from the ground for its Ice Mountain brand every minute for more than 15 years. Recently the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) approved Nestlé’s request to increase that withdrawal from 250 to 400 gallons per minute.
“The good lord only made so many trout streams,” Maturen says. As a lifelong fisherman and conservationist, he knows what a trout stream looks like―and the current Chippewa and Twin aren’t it. According to DEQ records, trout swam in both of these creeks 18 years ago. Last summer, Maturen and McLane saw no fish at all. They’re not the only ones concerned. After Nestlé asked the state to increase its allowance from the pump in 2016, public meetings drew hundreds—more than 600 by Maturen’s count—from not only the township but also Detroit and Flint, Michigan. DEQ also received more than 80,000 comments opposing Nestlé’s request and just 75 in favor. Yet after months of review and what DEQ Director C. Heidi Grether called “the most extensive analysis of any water withdrawal in Michigan history,” the state approved Nestlé’s permit in April.
Donald Trump Called Asbestos Poisoning a Mob-Led Conspiracy, Now His EPA Won’t Evaluate Asbestos Already in Homes
The Environmental Protection Agency will not consider the health risks and impacts of asbestos already in the environment when evaluating the dangers associated with the chemical compound, Scott Pruitt, the agency's head, quietly announced last week. That means asbestos used in tiles, piping and adhesives throughout homes and businesses in the United States will remain largely unchecked and unaccounted for. Nearly 15,000 Americans die each year from asbestos-related diseases, but President Donald Trump has called the substance "100 percent safe, once applied."
In his 1997 book, The Art of the Comeback, Trump argued that the association of the chemical with health risks was part of a mob-created conspiracy. “I believe that the movement against asbestos was led by the mob, because it was often mob-related companies that would do the asbestos removal. Great pressure was put on politicians, and as usual, the politicians relented,” he wrote.
The Trump EPA's decision came in response to new amendments made to the Toxic Substances Control Act in 2016. The additions to the bill mandate that the EPA perform safety reviews of certain chemicals, require testing and public notice of safety info for said chemicals and allow the EPA to ban certain uses of asbestos (previously, the EPA did not have the authority to do so).
The EPA announced last Friday that it would evaluate and require approval for new uses of asbestos but would not evaluate the health risks of asbestos already in the environment. “The end result will be a seriously inadequate risk evaluation that fails to address major contributors to the heavy and growing toll of asbestos mortality and disease in the United States,” said Linda Reinstein, president of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization in a statement.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Henry Smith - Good Rocking Mama
Buddy Jones - She's Sellin' What She Used to Give Away
Sleepy La Beef - All The Time
Lazy Bill Lucas - She Got Me Walkin'
Curtis Gordon - Sittin' On Top Of The World
Bobby Hall & The Kings - I Love You Baby
Jo Jo Williams - All Pretty Wimmens
Little Marie Allen - Humdinger
Little Willy (Willie) Foster - Four Day Jump
L C Williams - Boogie All The Time
Crown Prince Waterford - Strange Woman's Boogie
Alonzo Scales - My Baby Likes To Shuffle
Big Charles Green - Rocking On The Moon Tonight
Big Duke - Baby Beat It
Little Mummy - Oh Baby Please
Daddy Cleanhead - Something's Goin' On In My Room
Dorothy Ellis - Drill Daddy Drill
Oscar Wills - Flatfoot Sam
Bumps Myers and his Frantic Five - I'm Clappin' and Shoutin'