The Evening Blues - 7-13-17
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues harmonica player James Cotton. Enjoy!
James Cotton with Luther Tucker - Playboy after dark 1968/69
“There's nothing like a jolly good disaster to get people to start doing something."
-- Prince Charles
News and Opinion
It is hard to imagine that along with the catastrophe that has been inflicted on Syria for the past six years, another calamity is unfolding in Yemen of damning proportions while the whole world looks on with indifference. What is happening in Yemen is not merely a violent conflict between combating forces for power, but the willful subjugation of millions of innocent civilians to starvation, disease and ruin that transcends the human capacity to descend even below the lowest pit of darkness, from which there is no exit.
Seven million people face starvation, and 19 out of 28 million of Yemen’s population are in desperate need of humanitarian aid. Both the Saudis and the Houthis are restricting food and medicine supplies from reaching starving children; many of them are cholera-ridden, on the verge of joining the thousands who have already died from starvation and disease. More than 10,000 have been killed, and nearly 40,000 injured. UNICEF reports nearly 300,000 cholera cases, and a joint statement from UNICEF and the World Health Organization declares the infection is spreading at a rate of 5,000 new cases per day.
The Associated Press documented at least 18 clandestine lockups across southern Yemen run by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) or Yemini forces, where torture of unimaginable cruelty is routine. The torture of prisoners is reducing them to less than an animal ready for the slaughter. One example of such extreme torture is the “grill,” in which the prisoner is tied to a spit like a roast and spun in a circle of fire. Another method of slow death is where detainees are crammed in shipping containers and guards light a fire underneath to fill it with smoke, slowly suffocating detainees. Prisoners are blindfolded and shackled in place in a box too small to stand in for most of their detention. Constant beating by steel wires is common, which often results in the death of the detainee. As Dostoyevsky said: “People talk sometimes of bestial cruelty, but that’s a great injustice and insult to the beasts; a beast can never be so cruel as a man, so artistically cruel.” The US has been aware for some time of allegations of torture, but professes that there have not been such abuses.
Moreover, the blockade of imports of food, medicine, and fuel, which Yemen is completely dependent on, is making the situation dire beyond comprehension. If humanitarian aid is not provided immediately, millions of children will starve to death, even though the international community is cognizant of this ominous situation.
The International Committee of the Red Cross warned on Monday that the cholera epidemic in Yemen was spiralling out of control, reaching a milestone of over 300,000 suspected cases. More than 1,600 people have died. Children account for nearly half of all suspected cholera cases in the country, according to the UN’s children agency. Sana’a-based Taha Yaseen, from the Mwatana Organisation for Human Rights, said obstacles that stand in the way of controlling and containing cholera today in Yemen, include, but are not limited to, the ongoing war.
“During [the war] almost all health facilities and healthcare services reached a point of thorough collapse and thus are unable to respond to the increasing need to address fatal diseases and civilian victims. Many hospitals [have] shut down and many others were hit either by air or ground strikes, occupied by militias or used as military barracks,” he said. “Most [people] cannot afford even the transportation from their countryside areas or displacements communities to the nearest medical centres to treat them for cholera,” he added.
MSF’s Roger Gutiérrez, who has just returned from a seven-month service in Abs, said the wards in the hospital there, the only public hospital in the area, were “bursting at the seams … what’s happening in Abs sums up the current state of Yemen”. ... “When a plane flies overhead, many patients and staff feel that fear, that vulnerability. For seconds, everything stops,” he said, according to a testimony provided by MSF. “You see mothers disconnecting their children’s feeding tubes so they can run out of the hospital’s nutrition ward.”
Britain and America are above the law. Our complicity in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen proves it.
This week, the High Court in London ruled that British arms sales to Saudi Arabia are lawful, dismissing a judicial review filed by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), which had demanded that weapons exports be halted over humanitarian concerns. CAAT are appealing the ruling, and no wonder – it was ultimately decided on the basis of largely secret evidence supplied by the UK government, heard in closed court. This is not open justice: it is evidence of how the Whitehall foreign policy establishment abuse "national security" as a carte blanche to protect themselves from legal accountability.
The same thing is happening across the pond. According to a former senior war crimes advisor to the US State Department, US arms sales to Saudi Arabia are “prohibited” under US laws due to “credible allegations” of illegal actions during the kingdom’s bombing campaign in Yemen. The analysis is set out in a compelling white paper published in May by Professor Michael Newton, who teaches the International Law Practice Lab at Vanderbilt University Law School. The American Bar Association sent Newton's paper to the US Senate saying that "questions had arisen" concerning whether the sales were "consistent with US statuatory obligations".
Unfortunately, despite the robustness of the legal argument, it did not prevent the US Senate from narrowly backing the sale of $500m worth in precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia in mid-June.
If our domestic laws have no power to prevent our governments from becoming complicit in Saudi state terror in Yemen, this does not make those arms sales legitimate. It means, simply, that our laws are not fit for purpose - that the rule of law has become a farce, a figleaf to enable the US and Britain to outsource illegal wars to their Gulf proxies.
The Gaza Strip's only operating power plant was turned off late Wednesday due to a severe shortage of fuel, leaving the coastal enclave in a complete blackout, local officials said. ...
The Gaza Strip, with more than two million people, has been suffering from an energy crisis since mid-April due to a dispute over taxes between the Islamist Hamas movement, which rules the enclave, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Gaza has been under a tight Israeli blockade since Hamas' violent takeover of the coastal enclave a decade ago and residents have been subjected to persistent blackouts.
Mosul families complain overuse of airstrikes killed thousands as they count their dead in wake of Isis defeat
“There were very few Daesh [Isis fighters] in our neighbourhood, but they dropped a lot of bombs on them,” says Qais, 47, a resident of the al-Jadida district of Mosul. “We reckon that the airstrikes here killed between 600 and 1,000 people.” He shows pictures on his phone of a house that had stood beside his own before it was hit by a bomb or missile that had reduced it to a heap of smashed-up bricks. “There were no Daesh in the house,” says Qais. But there were seven members of the Abu Imad family living there, of whom five were killed along with two passers-by.
People in west Mosul say that the intensity of the bombardment from the air was out of all proportion to the number of Isis fighters on the ground. Saad Amr, a volunteer medic, worked in both east and west Mosul during the nine-month siege. He says that “the airstrikes on east Mosul were fewer but more accurate, while on the west there were far more of them, but they were haphazard.”
Nobody knows how many civilians died in Mosul because many of the bodies are still buried under the rubble in 47 degrees [117 degrees Fahrenheit - js] heat. Asked to estimate how many people had been killed in his home district of al-Thawra, Saad Amr said: “we don’t know because houses were often full of an unknown number of displaced people from other parts of the city.” ...
Even where bombs hit their targets, they were often more likely to kill civilians than Isis fighters. For example, Amnesty International says that “on 17 March 2017 a US airstrike on the Mosul al-Jadida neighbourhood killed at least 105 civilians in order to neutralise two Isis snipers. Regardless of whether – as the US Department of Defense has maintained — secondary explosions occurred, it should have been clear to those responsible that the risk posed to civilians by using a 500lb bomb was clearly excessive in relation to anticipated military advantage.” This is the only such incident Mosul to be investigated by the US military, although the US say they always take precautions to reduce civilian casualties.
The US general leading the multinational coalition fighting the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria expects the militant group to begin relying on irregular tactics after its defeat in Mosul, Iraq. Briefing reporters via satellite link from Baghdad at the Pentagon today, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend said IS has primarily fought coalition troops by taking and holding ground in armed combat, with the assistance of improvised explosive devices and suicide bombers. ...
“I think that what we'll see is, as [IS] comes under greater and greater pressure, they will devolve into a more insurgent-like method of operation,” Townsend said in response to a question from Al-Monitor. “They'll try to hide with the population. Their cells will get smaller. Instead of companies and platoons, they'll go to squads and cells, much smaller elements hiding in the population. They'll disperse. They'll be smaller. They'll be more covert.” ...
Yet Townsend denied that the potential shift in military tactics would lead the United States to embark on counterinsurgency campaigns such as those in Iraq in 2006-2007 and in Afghanistan that required higher troop levels to secure wider swaths of territory and build political institutions. The Pentagon has said that many American troops that are deployed to the region are there primarily to train and equip fledgling Iraqi and Syrian units.
United States military advisers are operating inside the city of Raqqa, the Islamic State group's last major bastion in Syria, a US official said Wednesday.
The troops, many of them special operations forces, are working in an "advise, assist and accompany" role to support local fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces as they battle IS, said Colonel Ryan Dillon, a military spokesman. The troops are not in a direct combat role but are calling in air strikes and are working closer to the fight than did US forces supporting the Iraqi military in Mosul.
"They are much more exposed to enemy contact than those in Iraq," Dillon said. He said the numbers of US forces in Raqqa were "not hundreds" and that they had been working closely with SDF fighters since operations to encircle Raqqa began.
The British government has announced that it would not publish in full its report on the sources of "funding of extremism" in Britain, prompting opposition charges it was trying to protect its ally Saudi Arabia. British Home Secretary Amber Rudd said on Wednesday that though some "extremist organisations" were receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars, she had decided against publishing the review in full. "This is because of the volume of personal information it contains and for national security reasons," she said in a written statement to parliament. ...
MP Caroline Lucas, coleader of the Green Party who has been pressing the government to release the full report, said the statement from Rudd was unacceptable. "The statement gives absolutely no clue as to which countries foreign funding for extremism originates from - leaving the government open to further allegations of refusing to expose the role of Saudi Arabian money in terrorism in the UK," she said.
On July 5, a report by the Henry Jackson Society think-tank said Saudis are the leading backers of "extremism" in the UK. "While entities from across the Gulf and Iran have been guilty of advancing extremism, those in Saudi Arabia are undoubtedly at the top of the list," Tom Wilson, a fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, said in the report. According to the report, Saudi Arabia operates several large charities that fund education involved with their ideologies worldwide, including in Britain, spending at least $87bn on the programmes over the past 50 years.
The US president, Donald Trump, has begun a visit to Paris, greeted with military fanfare as the French leader, Emmanuel Macron, showed him Napoleon’s tomb before they began talks on Syria and counter-terrorism. ...
In hosting Trump for 24 hours, Macron’s strategy is to set up a kind of of persuasive bridge-building. When the two leaders first met in May, the French president publicly asserted his superiority by crunching Trump’s knuckles and later rebuked him for for pulling the US out of the Paris climate accord, but the tone has now shifted. Observing the US president’s increasing isolation on the western stage, Macron has sensed an opportunity to reach out. Christophe Castaner, a government minister and spokesman, described it as “offering a hand” to bring Trump “back into the circle”. French diplomats said Macron had been concerned about Trump feeling backed into a corner.
The French leader has seen a potential opportunity to sway US thinking and elevate the role of France – a nuclear power and permanent member of the UN security council – in global affairs, in particular on Syria and the Middle East. France is the second biggest contributor to the US-led coalition in Syria and French officials had expressed concerns about what vision the US had there beyond taking the military fight to Islamic State.
An Elysée official said: “Where we have differences, we talk about them very clearly – such as on climate – but there are issues like counter-terrorism where we are on the same line and need close cooperation and common action.”
A new, innovative public campaign aimed at securing the removal of Brazilian President Michel Temer was launched on Monday night with a new website, at 342agora.org.br, designed to enable public pressure on Congress. The site is called “342 Now” — referring to the number of votes needed in the lower House to proceed with an investigation and ultimate removal of Temer — and its complex design allows users to send messages to every Congress member not only by email but also through their platforms on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and wherever else they may be found online.
Up until now, polls have shown that Temer is universally reviled: He reached a record-low 7 percent approval rating in the last Datafolha poll. From the moment he took power upon the impeachment of the country’s elected president, Dilma Rousseff, Temer has been embroiled in serious corruption scandals. But even for Brazil’s permissive political culture, his latest embarrassment has made his presidency unsustainable: the release of audio tapes that capture him approving bribes last March to silence a key witness in the country’s sweeping corruption investigation. Media outlets and even his fellow party members have openly spoken of his impeachment, or resignation, as a fait accompli.
Temer himself has now been formally charged with accepting bribes, making him the first sitting president in Brazil’s history to be a criminal defendant while in office. And he has no friends left in the country other than (a) the Brazilian oligarchs who installed him to impose unpopular austerity measures and (b) the deeply corrupt politicians in Brasília facing their own criminal investigations, who believe that keeping him in power will protect them from their own day of reckoning. Beyond those two (admittedly powerful) groups, the whole country has abandoned Temer.
But Brazilians — exhausted by endless corruption scandals and contemptuous of the entire political class — have not yet taken to the streets to demand his removal. This new site is principally designed to provide anti-Temer voters, who constitute virtually the entire political spectrum, to apply serious pressure to members of Congress, who will vote shortly on Temer’s fate and will see that their political futures are in jeopardy if they stand behind him.
Google has spent millions funding academic research in the US and Europe to try to influence public opinion and policymakers, a watchdog has claimed. Over the last decade, Google has funded research papers that appear to support the technology company’s business interests and defend against regulatory challenges such as antitrust and anti-piracy, the US-based Campaign for Accountability (CfA) said in a report.
“Google uses its immense wealth and power to attempt to influence policymakers at every level,” said Daniel Stevens, CfA executive director. “At a minimum, regulators should be aware that the allegedly independent legal and academic work on which they rely has been brought to them by Google.” In its Google Academics Inc report, the CfA identified 329 research papers published between 2005 and 2017 on public policy that the company had funded. Such studies have been authored by academics and economists from some of the world’s leading institutions including Oxford, Edinburgh, Stanford, Harvard, MIT and the Berlin School of Economics.
Academics were directly funded by Google in more than half of the cases and in the rest of the cases funded indirectly by groups or institutions supported by Google, the CfA said. Authors, who were paid between $5,000 and $400,000 (£3,900-£310,000) by Google, did not disclose the source of their funding in 66% of all cases, and in 26% of those cases directly funded by Google, according to the report.
Some fella named Sam dropped me a note through the admin contact form, saying that he thought my readers would love to see the interactive webpage that he created for the USS Zumwalt - "the most technologically advanced surface ship in the world." The one that keeps breaking down, may not be seaworthy due to the shape of its hull, and its ammunition at $800,000 a round is too expensive for the Navy to use.
Well, if you readers think you want to take a gander at it, click the link above.
What are the parallels between the defeat of the Occupy Wall Street movement and the unexpected political ascension of Donald Trump? Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer sees at least one common underlying factor: the failure of establishment Democrats.
The Trump administration is backing away from its extraordinary attempt to gather voters’ personal information, following a barrage of legal challenges, an outcry from state officials, and a rash of voter registration cancellations by people concerned about their privacy.
Voting rights groups have filed at least six lawsuits in response to a letter sent out on 28 June by Kris Kobach, vice-chair of the presidential advisory commission on election integrity, asking state officials to provide names of the country’s 150 million voters. In addition, the letter sought voters’ addresses, social security numbers, voting histories, party affiliation, criminal histories, military status, and more. ...
Not one state – not even Kansas, where Kobach is secretary of state and in charge of elections – has agreed to comply fully with the request. Many have cited privacy concerns and other legal restraints. Only three states, Colorado, Missouri and Tennessee, have indicated any enthusiasm about complying. Many more have responded with fury, including Mississippi, whose Republican secretary of state memorably told Kobach to “go jump in the Gulf of Mexico”. ...
According to the lawsuits filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (Epic), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and others, Kobach’s request sidestepped clear legal requirements on privacy protection – the issue that prompted the White House to hold off on its deadline. ... Voting rights activists are hoping that the legal and political pressure will induce the White House to drop the data-gathering exercise altogether.
In a radio interview set to air Thursday, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT)—currently the nation's the most popular elected lawmaker—alluded to a potential 2020 presidential run.
Sanders told the host of "Make It Plain with Mark Thompson" that while it's too early to make a definitive statement about whether he'll run, he is "not taking it off the table."
As an iceberg the size of Delaware broke away from an ice shelf in Antarctica Wednesday, scientists released findings that up to 668 U.S. communities could face chronic flooding from rising sea levels by the end of the century. More than 90 U.S. communities are already grappling with "chronic inundation" from sea level rise caused by climate change—meaning they have crossed the threshold for when "flooding becomes unmanageable for people's daily lives," disrupting "people's routines, livelihoods, homes, and communities."
When Rising Seas Hit Home, the new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists, found that number could nearly double, to 170, over the next two decades.
Coastal sections of Lousiana and Maryland account for the majority of the communties that are currently experiencing heavy flooding, but UCS researchers predict these unmanageable floods will reach the Jersey Shore and Florida's Gulf Coast by mid-century. By 2100, they calculate 40 to 60 percent of all oceanfront communities on the East and Gulf Coasts, and a growing number of West Coast communities, will be inundated with chronic flooding. At-risk regions include major cities like Boston, Savannah, Fort Lauderdale, Newark, and four of New York City's five boroughs.
"We hope this analysis provides a wake-up call to coastal communities—and us as a nation—so we can see this coming and have time to prepare," said Erika Spanger-Siegfried, a UCS senior analyst and co-author of the report, the first study of its kind to examine potential flood risks for the entire coastline of the lower 48 states.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
James Cotton - The Creeper
James Cotton - Easy Lovin'
James Cotton - Sad Sad Day
James Cotton - Diggin` My Potatoes
James Cotton Blues Band - She Moves Me
The James Cotton Band - The Creeper Creeps Again
James Cotton - Hungry Country Girl
Billy Branch, James Cotton, Magic Slim - When the Levee Breaks Pt. 1
James Cotton - West Helena Blues
James Cotton - Blow Wind Blow