The Evening Blues - 7-15-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features boogie woogie piano player Rufus "Speckled Red" Perryman. Enjoy!
Speckled Red - Oh Red
“Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose -- and you allow him to make war at pleasure. . . . If, today, he should choose to say he thinks it necessary to invade Canada to prevent the British from invading us, how could you stop him? You may say to him, 'I see no probability of the British invading us'; but he will say to you, 'Be silent; I see it, if you don't.”
-- Abraham Lincoln
News and Opinion
The House of Representatives on Friday overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan amendment barring President Donald Trump from launching an unauthorized war with Iran, a move progressives applauded as a necessary step toward pulling the U.S. back from the brink of another catastrophic Middle East conflict.
"This is the only way to stop Trump from starting another costly war," tweeted Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), who sponsored the amendment alongside Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.). "Constitutional rights aren't optional," added Khanna, "and endless war isn't inevitable."
The final vote on the amendment, which will be added to the House's National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), was 251-170. ...
The House vote comes just weeks after the Republican-controlled Senate narrowly defeated an amendment that would have barred Trump from attacking Iran without congressional approval. As The Intercept reported at the time, 50 senators voted for the amendment and 40 voted against it, "but due to parliamentary maneuvering by Senate leadership, it needed 60 votes to pass."
The House and Senate are headed for a fight over the annual defense policy bill after the House loaded its version with progressive priorities to get it through the chamber on Friday. Senate Republicans say the House amendments are non-starters for them in bicameral negotiations over the final product. It's unclear how hard Democrats will fight to keep the provisions, with Democratic House Armed Services Committee leaders saying the most important goal is to get a bill to the president's desk. ...
The House passed its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in party-line 220-197 vote. With every Republican voting against the bill, which the White House has threatened to veto, Democrats needed progressive backing to pass it. ...
The House approved amendments to block emergency arms sales to Saudi Arabia, end U.S. military support to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, repeal the 2002 authorization for the use of military force, give federal employees 12 weeks of paid family leave, prohibit military parades for political purposes and ban Pentagon funds from being used at Trump-owned properties. The underlying bill also included several Democratic priorities, including provisions preventing President Trump from using Pentagon funds for a border wall, blocking the deployment of a low-yield nuclear warhead and preventing new transfers to the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt sought to ease tensions with Iran on Saturday, saying a tanker held by Gibraltar would be released if Tehran guaranteed it was not heading to Syria. ...
“I reassured [Iranian FM Javad Zarif] our concern was destination not origin of the oil on Grace One,” a tanker seized off the coast of the tiny British territory of Gibraltar on July 4, Hunt tweeted.
An Iranian statement confirmed the conversation and said Hunt underlined Iran’s “right to export oil.” It added that Tehran hoped that an investigation in Gibraltar into the seized ship “would lead quickly to the release of the Iranian tanker.” ...
An Iranian statement confirmed the conversation and said Hunt underlined Iran’s “right to export oil.” It added that Tehran hoped that an investigation in Gibraltar into the seized ship “would lead quickly to the release of the Iranian tanker.”
Turkey has just called Donald Trump's bluff by going ahead with the purchase of Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missiles. The outrage in Washington is volcanic. Trump is vowing to rain fire and brimstone sanctions down on the disobedient Turks. ... The Great White Father in Washington is not happy. The Trump administration brought heavy pressure on Turkey not to buy the S-400, threatening to cancel Turkey's order for 100 of the new, stealthy F-35's. Few thought the Turks would defy the US on this issue, but they failed to understand the depths of Turkey's anger at the US.
Most Turks believe that the US engineered the failed 2016 coup against the democratic government in Ankara working through a shadowy religious organization run by the spiritual-political leader, Fethullah Gulen, who lives in exile in the United States. Turkey's elected president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had been too independent-minded for Washington, clashing over US policy to Syria and the Gulf. He had also incurred the wrath of America's Israel lobby for demanding justice for the Palestinians.
Turkey is now under economic attack by Washington. President Trump is threatening sanctions (read economic warfare) against Turkey, an old, loyal US ally. ... What will Trump do? Cancel sale to Turkey of the F-35 and other military equipment or spare parts. Threaten to oust Turkey from NATO. Get Israel and Greece to menace Turkey. ... If the US reacts with even more anger, Turkey could threaten to withdraw from NATO and kick the US out of its highly strategic air base in southeast Turkey at Incirlik. It's worth recalling that Turkey provided NATO's second largest army after the US. Someone has to remind the deeply unknowing Trump that NATO without Turkey will be declawed. Equally important, that a Turkey unconstrained by NATO membership, will seek sources of oil which it lacks and desperately needs, and new alliances.
A civil war is raging in Libya. Since April, the capital, Tripoli, has been under siege by militias led by General Khalifa Haftar. To date, this offensive marks the high point of tensions between the two groups vying for leadership: Haftar and his militias in the east of the country, and the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj in northwestern Libya.
In early July, the Tajoura refugee camp, located east of Tripoli, got caught up between the front lines. According to the UN, 53 people were killed in two air raids targeting the camp; some 130 were injured. ... The UN Security Council condemned the airstrikes in the strongest terms and intended to emphasize the point with an official statement. That was when the US delegation put its foot down, without providing a specific reason. Such a condemnation from the UN could have been seen as a criticism of Haftar's approach — and President Donald Trump publicly pledged support for Haftar in April.
In a phone call between Trump and Haftar on April 15, the US president "recognized Field Marshal Haftar's significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya's oil resources," according to a White House statement published several days later. "The two discussed a shared vision for Libya's transition to a stable, democratic political system." ... Just several days prior to the phone call, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had criticized Haftar's Tripoli offensive in the strongest terms. Trump's friendly phone call has signaled the opposite, namely that Haftar has "been given a green light by the United States to continue. And that's disastrous," Jeffrey Feltman told DW. The US diplomat was UN undersecretary for political affairs from 2012 to 2018 and US assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs from 2009 to 2012.
"You've seen the US try to have it both ways: To not look as though they're backing a brutal military assault on Tripoli, while also not backing away from Haftar," Feltman told DW. "Appearing to back Haftar's move on Tripoli is a mistake that undermines any hope for a successful political process."
Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s former president, will make an unprecedented appearance before a judicial inquiry for a five-day grilling this week over corruption allegations relating to his years in power. Zuma has been accused of presiding over an immense system of corruption and patronage that drained billions from the exchequer and damaged the reputation of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) beyond repair.
But there are fears that the veteran politician will use the hearings as a platform to attack his successor, Cyril Ramaphosa, who ousted Zuma last year, aggravating the bitter struggle between factions of the divided party. Although Ramaphosa led the ANC to a convincing electoral victory in May, the 66-year-old tycoon and former labour activist has so far been unable to assert his authority over the party, and observers say he is looking increasingly weak. ...
A quarter of a century after the end of the apartheid system, South Africa remains one of the most unequal societies in the world, with soaring unemployment, a flagging economy and high levels of violent crime. Last week ministers announced that troops would be deployed in poor neighbourhoods close to the western city of Cape Town following a spate of gang murders. Earlier this year the country endured rolling electricity cuts.
The inquiry, led by Raymond Zondo, a senior judge, is mandated to probe allegations of “state capture” in South Africa during Zuma’s nine-year rule. It was set up following an ombudsman’s report that uncovered apparent evidence of improper contact between three wealthy businessmen brothers – the Guptas – and senior officials in Zuma’s administration. ... The inquiry has heard a series of further serious allegations from witnesses in recent months, describing systematic bribery of officials by businesses seeking favours.
But the hearing could give Zuma, 77, a platform from which to rally supporters, or even attack his successor. Ramaphosa, who served as Zuma’s deputy president, told the Guardian last year that he was prepared to appear before the inquiry in order to account for his actions during what he described as a “very dark period of our recent history”. “The question has been raised: ‘You were there, you were deputy president, and many of these things were happening under your nose. Did you know?’,” Ramaphosa said in an interview. “In time I guess I am going to be required to appear before the [inquiry] to answer certain things … So I will be going to give an account myself of what I knew, what I didn’t know and all that.” He has never been accused of any personal wrongdoing.
This is a story?
Italian prosecutors opened an investigation into possible international corruption Thursday after the publication of a secret recording that suggests a close aide of Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini discussed illegally funneling Russian oil money to the far-right League party. The secret recording, released by Buzzfeed, adds hard evidence to an account, published in a book earlier this year, of the meeting in October 2018 between Russian officials and Salvini’s longtime aide Gianluca Savoini.
The meeting, at Moscow’s salubrious five-star Metropol Hotel, saw Savoini discuss a deal: Russia would sell 3 million tonnes of diesel to an Italian oil company, from which money could be diverted to plug a hole in the League party's accounts. The deal would covertly channel tens of millions of dollars of Russian oil money to the League party, the recording suggests.
On Thursday, Milan's Chief Prosecutor Francesco Greco said: “We are carrying out investigations to understand if there are crimes or not,” according to Italian news agency Ansa. Italian law prohibits political parties from accepting foreign funding.
While Salvini was in Moscow at the time the meeting took place, there is no evidence he was in attendance. There is also no evidence that the transaction took place.
One of the biggest Twitter accounts dedicated to circulating information and advocacy for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, @Unity4J, has been completely removed from the site. The operators of the account report that they have been given no reason for its removal by Twitter staff, and have received no response to their appeals. Any Assange supporter active on Twitter will be familiar with the Unity4J account, which originated to help boost the wildly successful Unity4J online vigils in which well-known Assange defenders would appear to speak out against his persecution. As of this writing, the account has been gone for a day and a half.
“About 8:45am CST on Thursday July 11, one of our Unity4J Twitter team members went to retweet on the account and noticed that the account was no longer accessible,” reports pro-Assange activist Christy Dopf, one of the operators of the account. “When each of us also attempted to access the account we all received the same message ‘Account Suspended’. Twitter did not send us a reason or violation for the suspension. So an appeal was submitted. We did receive correspondence that Twitter got our request and the case is currently open. Unfortunately we do not have a timeline on how long this could take.” ...
This account’s deletion is just the latest in a long string of apparently biased actions against WikiLeaks and Assange by the immensely influential social media platform. That bias was made abundantly clear with Twitter’s ridiculous refusal to verify Assange while he was posting from his own account despite his undeniably being a significant public figure, and despite the fact that Twitter was well aware that the account was authentic. The platform has been receiving consistent complaints among Assange supporters of using shadow bans to marginalize their voices, as well as unfair posting locks and restrictions.
“It seems that Assange supporters have been targeted for suspension over the last few days and weeks, including the suspension of individuals (Yon Solitary, Monique Jolie) as well as accounts like Unity4J,” Unity4J co-founder Elizabeth Lea Vos told me today. “All of these suspensions are unacceptable, but I find the Unity4J suspension especially egregious because it was an amplifier of events across the board, not only actions run by Unity4J. It never broke the twitter rules and it was an activist account supporting a journalist who’s been silenced or ‘disappeared,’ so this suspension is an extension of that suppression. Assange asked us to become his voice, and platforms like Twitter appear to be actively working against the possibility of that effort.” ...
In a corporatist system of government, in which there is no meaningful separation of corporate power and state power, corporate censorship is state censorship. With giant Silicon Valley corporations aligning themselves with shady state-funded propagandistic think tanks like the Atlantic Council, being admonished on the Senate floor that they must help quash political rebellion, and being targeted for narrative control influence by the US military, there’s vanishingly little difference between what’s happening more and more to political speech with these tech giants and what happens in overtly totalitarian governments. The only difference is the stories people choose to tell themselves about it.
Who needs dystopian movies or novels anymore?
It is the size of a small suitcase and can be placed discreetly in the back of a car. When the device is powered up, it begins secretly monitoring hundreds of cellphones in the vicinity, recording people’s private conversations and vacuuming up their text messages. The device is one of several spy tools manufactured by a Chinese company called Semptian, which has supplied the equipment to authoritarian governments in the Middle East and North Africa, according to two sources with knowledge of the company’s operations.
As The Intercept first reported on Thursday, since 2015, Semptian has been using American technology to help build more powerful surveillance and censorship equipment, which it sells to governments under the guise of a front company called iNext. Semptian is collaborating with IBM and leading U.S. chip manufacturer Xilinx to advance a breed of microprocessors that enable computers to analyze vast amounts of data more quickly. The Chinese firm is a member of an American organization called the OpenPower Foundation, which was founded by Google and IBM executives with the aim of trying to “drive innovation.” ...
But the company’s reach extends far beyond China. In recent years, it has been marketing its technologies globally. After receiving tips from confidential sources about Semptian’s role in mass surveillance, a reporter contacted the company using an assumed name and posing as a potential customer. In emails, a Semptian representative confirmed that the company had provided its surveillance tools to security agencies in the Middle East and North Africa — and said it had fitted a mass surveillance system in an unnamed country, creating a digital dragnet across its entire population.
The mass surveillance system, named Aegis, is designed to monitor phone and internet use. It can “store and analyze unlimited data” and “show the connections of everyone,” according to documents provided by the company. “We have installed Aegis in other countries [than China] and covered the whole country,” stated Semptian’s Zhu Wenying in an April email. He declined to provide names of the countries where the equipment has been installed, saying it was “highly sensitive, we are under very strict [nondisclosure agreement].”
Similar equipment has been used for years by Western intelligence agencies and police. However, thanks in part to companies like Semptian, the technology is increasingly finding its way into the hands of security forces in undemocratic countries where dissidents are jailed, tortured, and in some cases executed. ... Asked whether there were any countries it would refuse to deal with in the Middle East and North Africa, Zhu wrote that Iran and Syria were the only two places that were off limits. The company was apparently willing to work with other countries in the region — such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Sudan, and Egypt — where governments routinely abuse human rights, cracking down on freedom of speech and peaceful protest.
An Oklahoma district court just became the first in the nation to uphold a ban on the most common method of performing second-trimester abortions. On Friday, Oklahoma County District Judge Cindy Truong upheld from the bench a bill dubbed “Oklahoma Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act,” which outlaws dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortions. This procedure is typically used in abortions performed after 13 weeks of pregnancy, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. ...
Under Supreme Court precedent, states are not allowed to place what’s called an “undue burden” on women who want abortions before a fetus is viable, which is generally thought to happen at 24 weeks of pregnancy.
“We cannot overstate the harm this decision will have on women in Oklahoma,” said Julie Rikelman, litigation director at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “This law bans care that women need and doctors recommend and is part of a national strategy by anti-abortion politicians to push abortion care out of reach by passing hundreds of laws that limit access.”
The ban in Oklahoma is not currently in effect, and will not be at least until Truong issues a written opinion. At that point, the Center for Reproductive Rights can appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Oklahoma.
Trump/Pelosi 2020 is off to a fantastic start.
President Donald Trump came to the defense of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday as the California Democrat faces a sustained barrage of criticism for her shepherding through Congress of a bill that gave the White House $4.6 billion to continue the war on immigrants. The conflict between Pelosi, a California Democrat, and "The Squad," as Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) are known, began in late June after the Speaker pushed a huge immigration spending bill through the House. ...
After criticism from Ocasio-Cortez and others became public, Pelosi gave an interview with New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, published on July 6, in which Pelosi dismissed The Squad as only having "their public whatever and their Twitter world." The ensuing back and forth culminated in a midweek meeting on July 10 in which, as Common Dreams reported, the Speaker admonished members of the caucus—and Ocasio-Cortez in particular—to "not tweet" or publicly air grievances but rather to come to Pelosi. ...
Set against the backdrop of Sunday's ICE raids that are specifically targeting families and the ongoing flow of images from border detention camps in the media, the intraparty fight is exposing the deep rift between more cautious party leadership and the outspoken new members. That's where Trump stepped in. The president—who seemed to be enjoying placing himself in the middle of an internecine squabble between his political enemies—expressed his support for Pelosi and decried her critics.
"So interesting to see 'Progressive' Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run," Trump tweeted.
"Why don't they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came," the president continued. "Then come back and show us how it is done."
"These places need your help badly, you can't leave fast enough," said Trump. "I'm sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!" ...
Critics of both Pelosi and Trump were quick to tie the two together.
"Before anybody flips out too much at this tweet, consider that Pelosi advanced this football in her interview with Maureen Dowd," said Macleans editor Andray Domise. "All Trump is doing is carrying it across the finish line."
In response to the president's bombast, Pelosi rejected Trump's support, saying on Twitter that his rhetoric "reaffirms his plan to 'Make America Great Again' has always been about making America white again." However, Pelosi added, she'd not necessarily be opposed to working together on immigration moving forward.
In the face of international condemnation – and a trickle of disapproval from his own party – Donald Trump has returned to the offensive against four Democrats he targeted with racial invective on Sunday.
Speaking to reporters at the White House on Monday, Trump said: “‘If you’re not happy here, then you can leave.”
Earlier, the president accused the congresswomen of “spewing” “racist hatred” – precisely the offence of which he has been widely accused. The president wrote: “When will the Radical Left Congresswomen apologize to our Country, the people of Israel and even to the Office of the President, for the foul language they have used, and the terrible things they have said. So many people are angry at them [and] their horrible [and] disgusting actions!” He added: “If Democrats want to unite around the foul language [and] racist hatred spewed from the mouths and actions of these very unpopular [and] unrepresentative Congresswomen, it will be interesting to see how it plays out.”
The tweets reflected others Trump sent on Sunday amid the storm created by his initial demand that the unnamed congresswomen should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime[-]infested places from which they came”. ...
At the White House, Trump was asked if he thought his tweets were racist. “Not at all,” he said, adding: “If somebody has a problem with our country, if someone doesn’t want to be in our country, they should leave.” Asked if it concerned him that many thought his tweets racist, he said: “It doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me.” ...
Trump sent his Sunday tweets before and after playing golf. On Monday he was back at the centre of American power.
When I call the president a racist, this is what I'm talking about
We must stand together for justice and dignity towards all. https://t.co/lweeJk7NoF
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) July 14, 2019
If you’re in Tennessee, we’d like to wish you a very unhappy Nathan Bedford Forrest Day.
The governor of the state is required by a decades-old state law to issue a proclamation to honor the Confederate general and early Ku Klux Klan leader every year on his birthday, July 13. So the new governor, Republican Bill Lee, issued this year's proclamation in advance of the Saturday “special observance,” without complaint or any condemnation of Forrest’s dark past. Lee could push to change the law and free himself of the requirement to celebrate a Klan leader, but he didn't indicate he would. ...
Indeed, the 1921 law requires proclamations for six such special observances a year, including two others related to the Confederacy. Tennessee also declares Jan. 19 Robert E. Lee Day, a tribute to the commander of the Confederate army. June 3, the president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis’s birthday, is declared Confederate Decorations Day. Until 1969, each of those days was a legal state holiday. ...
Tennessee, however, isn’t the only state to honor Confederates. Florida, in 2018, finally announced that Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee’s birthdays would no longer be state holidays. Davis’s birthday is technically on the books, but state employees don’t get the day off, there was an effort to get rid of the holidays in Kentucky back in 2017, after the violence in Charlottesville, but the bill didn’t pass. In Alabama, both men’s birthdays are still official state holidays.
When news broke that thousands of current and former Border Patrol agents were members of a secret Facebook group filled with racist, vulgar, and sexist content, Carla Provost, chief of the agency, was quick to respond. “These posts are completely inappropriate and contrary to the honor and integrity I see — and expect — from our agents day in and day out,” Provost said in a statement. “Any employees found to have violated our standards of conduct will be held accountable.”
For Provost, a veteran of the Border Patrol who was named head of the agency in August 2018, the group’s existence and content should have come as no surprise. Three months after her appointment to chief, Provost herself had posted in the group, then known as “I’m 10-15,” now archived as “America First X 2.” Provost’s comment was innocuous — a friendly clapback against a group member who questioned her rise to the top of the Border Patrol — but her participation in the group, which she has since left, raises serious questions. ...
Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, sent a letter to the DHS Inspector General’s office last week specifically requesting that investigators examine whether Provost and Acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan knew about or had previously addressed the problem of government personnel posting “violent, racist, misogynistic comments and pictures” in the “I’m 10-15” group. “This is why I have requested a full investigation into this matter,” Thompson said in a statement to The Intercept, after being informed of Provost’s participation in the group. “We need to know who in CBP leadership knew about these deplorable groups, when did they find out, and what action they took, if anything.”
ProPublica was first to report the existence of the secret Border Patrol group on July 1, revealing that members used the page to joke about migrant deaths and share sexually violent and threatening posts about several Democratic lawmakers, including, in particular, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, D-N.Y. Politico followed up by reporting that senior officials in the Border Patrol, as well as CBP public affairs officials, had known about the group for years and used it as an “intelligence” stream to monitor the sentiment of the workforce. The Intercept then reported that the public revelations sparked an internal purging of the Facebook group’s content, but not before we archived hundreds of posts shared over multiple weeks.
CBP’s press office disputed reporting that it had monitored the group.
Long-feared ICE raids began quietly over the weekend as the agency moved slowly to lead off what's expected to be several days of actions targeting families as part of President Donald Trump's war on immigrants. Plans for the raids were made public on July 11. Reporting from The New York Times revealed the scope of the planned raids—targeting 10 cities and thousands of families—and President Donald Trump, in a tweet, confirmed the operation.
In the days leading up to the weekend, as Common Dreams reported Saturday, politicians, celebrities, and activists used their platforms to promote a "know your rights" campaign for potential victims of the raids.
The raids began in New York City on Saturday morning, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio, with unsuccessful attempts in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Sunset Park and Harlem in Manhattan. The city is not cooperating with the operation. In a tweet, de Blasio told his constituents that the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs and other advocates were going door to door to distribute resources.
News from other cities targeted by ICE, such as Atlanta, Miami, Los Angeles, and others—New Orleans operations were postponed due to Tropical Storm Barry—on the raids has been muted. But whether or not the raids end up netting all the targets may be beside the point, as Saru Jayaraman, president and co-founder of Restaurant Opportunity Center United, told the Washington Post:
It's both the specificity (10 cities) and the randomness (no one knows where agents will show up) that cause anxiety among workers, she added. Employees will just leave their workplaces rather than wait on ICE agents to possibly appear, and their departures can sometimes leave restaurants in the lurch.
The waiting is the hardest part, said Americans for Immigrant Justice Director of Family Defense Adonia Simpson.
Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden Condemn Israeli Occupation, as Young American Jews Urge Democrats to Press Israel
Young American Jews from the IfNotNow movement, who want to end their community’s support for the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory, succeeded on Friday in getting two more Democratic presidential candidates, Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden, to denounce Israel’s military rule over millions of disenfranchised Palestinians.
Activists from the group have been trailing Democratic candidates as they campaign in New Hampshire, and urging them to say, on camera, that they would work to end the occupation, if elected. Both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren expressed their support for the group’s position at recent events, triggering outrage from far-right Republicans and unease from establishment Democrats who are reluctant to criticize even the increasingly far-right Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Buttigieg was pressed on the issue by Erin Sandler, 29, at a campaign event in Laconia, New Hampshire. “All my life, politicians have talked about a two-state solution for Israel, but don’t address the ongoing military occupation,” Sandler said to Buttigieg. “Yes or no, are you willing to condemn the occupation?”
“The occupation has to end,” Buttigieg replied, to applause.
“The Occupation has to end” — @PeteButtigieg
An important step for both Mayor Pete & the Democratic party. It’s clear that this is the baseline position for 2020 candidates on Israel: acknowledge Israel’s military Occupation as the reality on the ground and call for it to end. pic.twitter.com/h8hqs8dOtn
— IfNotNow (@IfNotNowOrg) July 12, 2019
IfNotNow welcomed Buttigieg’s remarks, while noting that it was a departure from more conservative positions he has taken in the past, and said that its members still need to hear how he, and other candidates, “will use American leverage to pressure Israel to end the Occupation.” ...
Exasperation with the status quo was even more clearly stated on Saturday when Sarah Kate, another IfNotNow member, pressed Biden to acknowledge his own part in permitting the growth of the Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, and the annexed East Jerusalem and Golan Heights, during his years in the White House and Senate.
Yesterday our member, Sarah Kate, pressed @JoeBiden on the specifics of how he‘ll pressure Israel to end the occupation. She asked 3 times. The more she pressed the more Biden retreated into AIPAC’s anti-Palestinian & false talking points. pic.twitter.com/GdURA3r1FF
— IfNotNow (@IfNotNowOrg) July 14, 2019
“Yes, but,” Biden began, “you also gotta pressure the Palestinians, to stop the hate, to stop calling for violence.” He then shifted directly into Mark Mellman’s suggested pro-Israel talking points, by changing the subject to the Palestinian leadership’s failure to accept the supposedly generous terms dictated to them by Bill Clinton and Ehud Barak at Camp David in 2000.
Another presidential candidate, Cory Booker, refused to even use the word “occupation” when asked by an IfNotNow activist in New Hampshire on Saturday if he thinks Israel’s military rule of millions of disenfranchised Palestinians “is a human rights crisis.”
Yesterday, we asked @CoryBooker “Do you believe the Occupation is a human rights crisis for Palestinians?” He got visibly frustrated.
He admits: “If that's your issue I would understand if you want to support somebody else”
— IfNotNow (@IfNotNowOrg) July 14, 2019
Sanders Accuses Biden of Parroting Pharma and Insurance Industry Script With Attacks on Medicare for All
Sen. Bernie Sanders on Sunday accused 2020 Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden of parroting insurance and pharmaceutical industry talking points after the former vice president raised alarm about the supposedly high price tag of Medicare for All and suggested the transition to a single-payer system would leave people with gaps in health coverage.
Campaigning in New Hampshire on Saturday, Biden said he wants to expand the Affordable Care Act and add a public option, claiming such incremental steps wouldn't "cost $3 trillion, and it can be done quickly."
"I don't know why we'd get rid of what in fact is working and move to something totally new," Biden said. "And so, there are differences."
Medicare for All advocates—including Sanders, the lead sponsor of the Medicare for All Act of 2019 in the Senate—argue that the ACA is not working, pointing to the tens of millions of Americans who are uninsured or under-insured. In an interview with the New York Times on Sunday, Sanders called Biden's attack on Medicare for All "totally absurd."
"Obviously what Biden was doing is what the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industries, Republicans, do: ignoring the fact that people will save money on their healthcare because they will no longer have to pay premiums or out-of-pocket expenses," said the Vermont senator. "They will no longer have high deductibles and high co-payments."
"The charge that he's making," Sanders added, "is exactly what the Republicans are saying." ...
In a CNN interview published online Monday, Biden—who came under fire in April for attending a fundraiser hosted by a health insurance CEO just hours after launching his 2020 presidential bid—said it would be a "sin" to attempt to replace the ACA with Medicare for All.
Excerpt from pool report on otherwise unremarkable Biden remarks at a Manhattan fundraiser tonight.
I am unpersuaded that there are a lot of Democratic voters right now thrilling to the “agility” of venture capitalists but pic.twitter.com/EjcmYLUnW4
— Niall Stanage (@NiallStanage) July 12, 2019
Since 2013, the Asian longhorned tick has popped up in at least 11 U.S. states, mostly in the Northeast. Previously limited to Asia, Australia, New Zealand and some Pacific Islands, it likely found several ports of entry to North America, hitching a ride on animals or humans. Its ability to clone itself without a mate made colonizing new locations that much easier. While the longhorned tick is still feeling out its range in North America, other established tick species are expanding theirs as the climate changes and the planet warms—with consequences for humans, pets and the livestock industry.
Several tick species have spread to new areas of the country, some carrying diseases that can pose serious health risks to humans, including Lyme disease, which can affect the joints, heart and nervous system, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, a treatable but potentially fatal disease that causes fever and muscle pain.
An aggressive tick called the lone star, which has been creeping north and west from its original habitat, can transmit an illness similar to Lyme disease, as well as pass along a sugar molecule that can make humans develop severe allergies to red meat. While the total number of tick-related illnesses is difficult to gauge since so many go unreported, the trend is clear. The number of cases of reported tick-borne diseases has been on the rise in the U.S., doubling from 2004 to 2016, and reached a record high in 2017, the latest annual data reported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Higher temperature associated with climate change is one key factor affecting where, and how fast, ticks colonize new places, the National Climate and Health Assessment says.
The longhorned tick is already suspected of killing cattle on farms in three separate Virginia counties by infecting them with Theileria orientalis, a parasite that causes fever, anemia, jaundice, and other symptoms in animals. In a study published last week about the infections, researchers warned that the tick could put the Virginia cattle industry at risk. Once an animal becomes infected, there is no treatment or cure. Scientists warn that the longhorned tick could proliferate quickly, and since females can reproduce without a mate, ordinary ways of controlling pest population, like sterilizing males, won't work. A single tick can populate a new location.
Public health and environmental advocates celebrated a victory Friday as the U.S. House approved an amendment in the annual defense spending bill that would designate a class of "forever chemicals" as "hazardous substances" under the federal Superfund law. The amendment was one of several provisions targeting toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances—collectively called PFAS—that the Democratic-controlled House passed this week as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020.
Activists, scientists, and Democratic lawmakers have long raised alarm about PFAS contamination in the drinking water of up to 110 million Americans and demanded national regulations. Some studies have tied the chemicals to low infant birth weights, immune system issues, various types of cancer, and thyroid problems. ... If approved by the Senate, the designation under the Superfund law—officially called the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CLERCLA)—would empower the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to force those responsible for the pollution to pursue or pay for cleaning up contaminated sites.
As the Environmental Working Group (EWG) detailed in a statement Friday, the package of amendments approved by the House also would:
- Quickly phase out military use of PFAS in firefighting foam;
- End the use of PFAS in military food packaging;
- Expand water quality monitoring for PFAS;
- Ensure proper incineration of military PFAS wastes;
- Accelerate PFAS cleanups at Defense Department facilities;
- Provide an additional $5 million for anstudy;
- Require the Government Accountability Office to study Defense Department cleanup efforts; and
- Create an online health database for military members.
Additionally, the provisions would limit the discharge of industrial PFAS into drinking water; enable the Defense Department to provide clean water to farmers near contaminated military installations; fund the cleanup of water near military sites as well as blood tests for military firefighters; bar the use of firefighting foams with PFAS in military training exercises; and grant the National Guard access to funding.
A mixed bag:
Activists and officials in northern Russia have warned of a “gold rush” for mammoth ivory as prospectors dig up tusks and other woolly mammoth remains that can net a small fortune on the rapacious Chinese market. Melting permafrost from global heating has made it easier for locals to retrieve the remains of woolly mammoths, which have been extinct for thousands of years, and sell them on to China, where the ivory is fashioned into jewellery, trinkets, knives, and other decorations.
Woolly mammoth ivory preserved in the permafrost in Russia’s Yakutia region make up 80% of Russia’s trade in a largely unregulated market worth as much as £40m each year, according to Russian officials. “The process of harvesting mammoth remains needs to be regulated,” said Vladimir Prokopyev, a regional official in Yakutia who has warned about the dangers that the business poses for locals. Local officials have warned that large business interests or an outright ban on harvesting mammoth remains could disenfranchise locals, who should have the right to collect a limited amount of tusks and live off the proceeds.
Prospectors can spend the bright summer months in a hunt for tusks using simple digging tools or water pumps to excavate prizes that can lead to fantastic riches, but also cause environmental harm. Amid growing competition for the tusks, local firms are now reportedly using divers to search riverbeds in remote areas that can be reached only by motorboat. ...
Mammoth ivory has been promoted in China as an ethical alternative to tusks poached from African elephants. Prokopyev has estimated that Yakutia’s unearthed reserves of mammoth fossils amount to 500,000 tonnes. Russian media have reported that while 70 tonnes were unearthed in 2017, more than 100 tonnes were excavated in 2018.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Speckled Red - The Right String, But The Wrong Yo Yo
Speckled Red - You Got To Fix It
Speckled Red Trio - St Louis Stomp
Speckled Red - Cow Cow Blues
Speckled Red - Early In the Morning
Speckled Red - Wilkins Street Stomp
Speckled Red - Blues Hurt My Tongue To Talk
Speckled Red - Welfare Blues
Speckled Red - Lonesome Mind Blues
Speckled Red - Speckled Red's Blues
Speckled Red - You ain't no good