The Evening Blues - 7-19-21
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues singer and drummer Billy Gayles. Enjoy!
Billy Gayles - Sad As A Man Can Be
“Expecting to fix privacy problem by passing few laws will not work as the cancer is much deeper than this in our surveillance society.”
-- Arzak Khan
News and Opinion
Human rights activists, journalists and lawyers across the world have been targeted by authoritarian governments using hacking software sold by the Israeli surveillance company NSO Group, according to an investigation into a massive data leak. The investigation by the Guardian and 16 other media organisations suggests widespread and continuing abuse of NSO’s hacking spyware, Pegasus, which the company insists is only intended for use against criminals and terrorists.
Pegasus is a malware that infects iPhones and Android devices to enable operators of the tool to extract messages, photos and emails, record calls and secretly activate microphones. The leak contains a list of more than 50,000 phone numbers that, it is believed, have been identified as those of people of interest by clients of NSO since 2016.
Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based nonprofit media organisation, and Amnesty International initially had access to the leaked list and shared access with media partners as part of the Pegasus project, a reporting consortium. The presence of a phone number in the data does not reveal whether a device was infected with Pegasus or subject to an attempted hack. However, the consortium believes the data is indicative of the potential targets NSO’s government clients identified in advance of possible surveillance attempts.
Forensics analysis of a small number of phones whose numbers appeared on the leaked list also showed more than half had traces of the Pegasus spyware. The Guardian and its media partners will be revealing the identities of people whose number appeared on the list in the coming days. They include hundreds of business executives, religious figures, academics, NGO employees, union officials and government officials, including cabinet ministers, presidents and prime ministers. ...
The disclosures begin on Sunday, with the revelation that the numbers of more than 180 journalists are listed in the data, including reporters, editors and executives at the Financial Times, CNN, the New York Times, France 24, the Economist, Associated Press and Reuters.
Much more detail at the link:
The editor of the Financial Times is one of more than 180 editors, investigative reporters and other journalists around the world who were selected as possible candidates for surveillance by government clients of the surveillance firm NSO Group, the Guardian can reveal. Roula Khalaf, who became the first female editor in the newspaper’s history last year, was selected as a potential target throughout 2018.
Her number is included in a leaked list of mobile phone numbers selected for possible surveillance by clients of NSO, an Israeli firm that manufactures spyware and sells it to governments. ... NSO has long insisted that the governments to whom it licenses Pegasus are contractually bound to only use the powerful spying tool to fight “serious crime and terrorism”.
Analysis of the leaked data suggests that Khalaf’s phone was selected as a possible target by the United Arab Emirates (UAE). At the time, Khalaf was a deputy editor at the FT. ...
Reporters whose numbers appear in the data range from local freelancers, such as the Mexican journalist Cecilio Pineda Birto, who was murdered by attackers armed with guns one month after his phone was selected, through to prize-winning investigative reporters, editors and executives at leading media organisations. ...
Among the journalists confirmed by analysis to have been hacked by Pegasus were Siddharth Varadarajan and Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, a co-founder and a reporter at the Indian news website the Wire. Thakurta was hacked in 2018 while he was working on an investigation into how the Hindu nationalist government of Narendra Modi was using Facebook to systematically spread disinformation among Indian people online.
Joe Biden’s administration renewed its assault on social media companies spreading Covid-19 misinformation on Sunday, as new infections continued to surge across the entire US.
Vivek Murthy, the US surgeon general who has accused companies including Facebook of “poisoning information” about coronavirus vaccines, said they were not doing enough to check the online proliferation of false claims. “The reality is that misinformation is still spreading like wildfire in our country aided and abetted by technology platforms,” he said on Fox News Sunday.
“I’m worried about what is to come because we are seeing increasing cases among the unvaccinated in particular. It’s so important people have the information they need about the vaccine … it is our fastest, most effective way out of this pandemic.”
New cases of Covid-19 in the US, fueled by the highly transmissible Delta variant, have surged by 70% in a week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Friday, to more than 26,300 a day. Cases were rising in 48 states and stagnant in the other two, the CDC said. Four states, California, Florida, Missouri and Texas, were responsible for 46% of the new cases, with one in five coming in Florida.
Murthy’s comments on Sunday came after a spat between the government and Facebook, sparked by Biden’s statement last week that the company was “killing people” by failing to curb the spread of misinformation over vaccines. Meanwhile, prominent Republican politicians and rightwing TV personalities have been publicly skeptical about vaccinations, leading to a reluctance among their supporters to receive them.
The elephant in the room with the ongoing controversy about the Biden administration’s push for more internet censorship is the fact that both the US government and the Silicon Valley tech companies who are being pushed to censor are acutely aware that those companies can be brought to their knees by antitrust cases and other regulation if they don’t censor people’s voices in accordance with the government’s wishes.
After Press Secretary Jen Psaki admitted on Thursday that the administration has given Facebook a list of accounts to ban for spreading “misinformation” about the Covid vaccine, she has now doubled down saying that people who circulate such materials online should be banned from not just one but all social media platforms.
“You shouldn’t be banned from one platform and not others for providing misinformation out there,” Psaki told the press on Friday.
When asked by the press for his thoughts on companies like Facebook, President Biden said the failure of those platforms to adequately censor posts about the vaccine makes them guilty of “killing people”.
When confronted about the extremely serious implications of a US presidential administration telling social media platforms who to censor, Psaki said the administration wasn’t censoring people but merely raising the issue with the tech companies.
“We don’t take anything down,” said Psaki. “We don’t block anything. Facebook and any private-sector company makes decisions about what information should be on their platform. Our point is that there is information that is leading to people not taking the vaccine, and people are dying as a result. And we have a responsibility, as a public health matter, to raise that issue.”
Psaki is not technically lying, but she isn’t telling the truth either. While it’s true that the Biden administration is not directly blocking or taking down social media posts, it is also making social media companies a Godfather-style offer they can’t refuse.
For years the US government has been making it abundantly clear to the giants of Silicon Valley that if they do not greatly escalate censorship of undesirable content per Washington’s instructions, there will be consequences.
In 2017 Senator Dianne Feinstein threatened social media platforms that, because of alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election, they need to start utilizing more censorship or else face consequences, saying, “You created these platforms, and they are being misused. And you have to be the ones to do something about it—or we will.”
In 2019 Louisiana Representative Cedric Richmond issued a similar threat, saying social media platforms had “better” start regulating what he considers harmful content on their own, or the government will take matters into its own hands.
“They better go do it because what they don’t want is for us to do it, because we’re not going to get it right,” Richmond said. “We’re going to make it swift, we’re going to make it strong and we’re going to hold them very accountable.”
“We have the First Amendment, and we’re very reluctant to pass speech laws,” House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerrold Nadler told The Washington Post in 2019. “But there’s a problem, and we have to deal with it.”
“Let’s see what happens by just pressuring them first,” Nadler added. “I’m reluctant to have regulation of speech. It usually goes too far. I don’t know we have to get there yet.”
As Glenn Greenwald noted on Twitter following the latest admissions from the Biden administration, executives from these tech companies are being regularly hauled before congress and “threatened with legislative and regulatory retaliation” if they don’t conduct censorship in alignment with the will of the US government. We saw this in 2017 when representatives from top internet platforms were brought before congress and told they needed to adopt a “mission statement” expressing their commitment “to prevent the fomenting of discord,” and we continue to see it through 2021.
The reasons change, but the agenda remains the same. Sometimes it’s foreign election meddling, sometimes it’s the Capitol riot, sometimes it’s domestic extremism and white supremacy, sometimes it’s misinformation about a virus and vaccines, but for every reason given the instruction is the same: censor online communications in accordance with the wishes of the US government. Or else.
These threats have been explicitly made, but really they did not need to be. Everyone involved in this dance is acutely aware that the US government has the ability to make things much harder and far less lucrative for these Silicon Valley tech companies. This could mean actions ranging from fines and minor regulations all the way up to the revocation of Section 230 protections or full-scale antitrust cases which can go as far as breaking up online platforms in the same way the government broke up AT&T and Standard Oil.
The stage is already set for massive antitrust measures to be implemented, with the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust finding last year that corporations like Facebook and Google are guilty of monopolistic practices, and some less severe antitrust cases are already underway.
So now we’ve got worldwide online speech being herded onto a few monopolistic platforms, and the government forcing those platforms with increasing brazenness to censor that speech in alignment with its dictates under threat of total destruction. The effect being, of course, US government control of a vast swathe of public speech, not just within the US but around the world. Which means an ungodly amount of narrative control, the ultimate prize for anyone who understands real power.
The primary factor in determining what will happen in our world is not control of capital, nor control of government, nor control of resources, nor control of weapons, but control of narrative. All the others follow from narrative control. Control the narrative and you control where the weapons will go, where the capital will go, where the resources will go, what the government will do. Real power begins with narrative control. Understand this and you’ll understand why governments, plutocrats and media behave the way they do.
So while antitrust laws ostensibly exist to protect the citizenry from corporate power, here they are being leveraged to ensure the union of corporate power and state power. The carrot is billions of dollars, and the stick is the threat of painful government intervention.
Obviously the US government would prefer to simply have monopolistic corporations voluntarily censoring content in accordance with government interests, but for them the only thing worse than having no monopolistic companies serving the empire would be having monopolistic companies which refuse to serve the empire. So the threat being issued here is, “Censor the way we tell you to censor, or your company will be broken down and replaced with one that will.”
And that’s exactly what could easily happen. Facebook, Google/Youtube or Twitter could easily be regulated into dysfunction or broken up into smaller companies, and then some other more government-aligned corporation could be allowed to take their place. Silicon Valley billionaires are hardly known for being the most principled people in existence to begin with, so that threat is all it would take to ensure they conduct themselves in alignment with the will of the empire.
This is just one of the many, many types of glue that keeps power structures aligned with one another’s interests within the US-centralized empire. If you want to be a billionaire and control massive amounts of wealth, you have to collaborate with existing power structures. Otherwise you won’t be allowed in, and if you are in you’ll be kicked right out.
It’s always easier to move with power than against it. That’s why ambitious journalists promote the imperial narrative, it’s why new money plutocrats always wind up aligning with establishment interests, and it’s why so many other nations align with the US.
In theory, markets and government checks and balances are supposed to keep the big players competing against each other to our benefit. In practice, the big players always wind up collaborating against us for their own benefit.
Worth a full read:
One little-noted name in filings from extradition hearings in the U.K. keeps popping up as a key figure in the U.S. government’s case: a federal prosecutor named Gordon Kromberg. ... In all, the January court documents from Assange’s extradition case mention Kromberg over 40 times to help make the legal argument for extraditing Assange. Many of his statements go to the heart of the Espionage Act case against the WikiLeaks publisher. ...
Kromberg, an assistant United States attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, may be unknown to foreign and even many American observers. In U.S. legal circles, though, he has been a highly controversial figure for over two decades, dogged by accusations of bias and politicization in his prosecutions. For years, civil rights activists and lawyers tried to draw attention to allegations of Kromberg’s abusive practices. Rather than being pushed into obscurity by these efforts, today he is serving as a key figure in one of the most important civil liberties cases in the world. ...
In the years after the 2001 September 11 terrorist attacks, Gordon Kromberg became the government’s point man on notorious terrorism cases involving allegations of torture and malicious prosecution. In the past, opposing counsels and civil rights groups accused him of engaging in racist behavior and using unethical tactics in pursuit of convictions. Legal experts said that the inclusion of a notoriously politicized and aggressive prosecutor on a high-profile extradition case like Assange’s is a sign of how strongly the government is motivated to extradite the WikiLeaks publisher and bring Espionage Act charges at all costs.
“A common factor in Kromberg’s career has been a willingness to take very provocative positions on behalf of the government and stay the course with them,” said Wadie Said, a professor of law at the University of South Carolina and author of “Crimes of Terror: The Legal and Political Implications of Federal Terrorism Prosecutions.” “He has also shown great willingness to take on highly political cases and to be a lightning rod himself for attention; he often makes himself part of the story with his own actions and statements.” Said added, “From my perspective, some of the things that Kromberg has said in the past and the positions that he has taken are quite tendentious and even vindictive in terms of his mindset toward the person that he is targeting.” ...
In 2008, Kromberg was the subject of a Washington Post profile covering his conduct in the prosecution of Sami Al-Arian, a Palestinian academic in the U.S. who faced terrorism charges after 9/11. The government’s relentless pursuit of Al-Arian came to be viewed by many legal observers as an example of malicious prosecution, with Kromberg’s role coming in for particular scrutiny. ... The 2008 profile of Kromberg’s role cited one legal expert who referred to Kromberg as a “loose cannon.” Stephen Gillers, a legal ethics expert at New York University Law School, told the Washington Post, “If I were the Justice Department, I wouldn’t want him on the front lines of these highly visible, highly contentious prosecutions.”
Despite his checkered track record, Kromberg has continued to hold a high position in the Justice Department. In addition to his current role in the Assange extradition, he has also continued to prosecute high-profile terrorism cases.
More than a quarter of the ex-Colombian soldiers currently suspected in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse received U.S. military training, The Intercept confirmed Friday, with some of the alleged attackers participating in programs as recently as 2015 that ranged from vehicle maintenance and professional development to counterterrorism and drug war operations. Courses were held in both Colombia and the United States.
The Pentagon and the State Department are currently reviewing internal records to determine precisely how many of the alleged assassins were trained by the U.S. “To date, State and DoD have identified seven individuals among a possible 25 alleged to have been involved by Haitian authorities, that previously participated in past U.S. military training and education programs, while previously serving in the Colombian military,” a U.S. government official confirmed in an email to The Intercept. “Individuals had been approved for a variety of training activities held both in Colombia and the United States between 2001-2015.” ...
From 2000, when the United States first launched the massive, multibillion drug war aid program known as Plan Colombia, to 2018, the U.S. administered more than 107,640 trainings of Colombian security personnel, noted Adam Isacson, director of the Defense Oversight program at the Washington Office on Latin America, a figure that far surpasses any other military collaboration the U.S. maintains in the region. “Nothing comes close to 107,000 over the last 20 years,” Isacson told The Intercept. “Nothing.”
Eighteen former Colombian soldiers are currently being held in Haiti in connection with Moïse’s assassination, including some who previously served in elite Colombian special operations units. New details on their involvement in the assassination continue to break by the day. On Wednesday, the Colombian news magazine Semana reported that one of the former soldiers confessed that the mercenary team was responsible for the assassination and that the killing was orchestrated by an inner circle of seven mercenaries within the larger group. The magazine reported that investigators had also recovered surveillance footage of the attack.
South African authorities fear a new wave of attacks aimed at undermining the economy, investment and the rule of law as networks loyal to former president Jacob Zuma seek to force his return to power. Investigators believe the unrest last week, which killed more than 200 and caused massive damage across a swath of the country, was deliberately provoked as part of a broader strategy by political opponents to force president Cyril Ramaphosa to pardon Zuma or even step down.
The worst violence since the end of the apartheid regime 27 years ago has injured many people beyond the 200 people dead and caused massive economic damage. Hundreds of shops have been looted, factories destroyed, warehouses razed, clinics vandalised and ports disabled. ...
On Friday, Ramaphosa, in his third televised speech in six days, said it was clear the unrest had been an attempt to provoke an insurrection. “The constitutional order of our country is under threat. These actions are intended to cripple the economy, cause social instability and severely weaken – or even dislodge – the democratic state,” said the president, who ousted Zuma in 2018. “Those responsible for organising this campaign of violence have not yet been apprehended and their networks have not yet been dismantled … We must therefore remain vigilant.”
Officials now fears that networks loyal to Zuma will attempt further sabotage operations to destabilise the government, and possibly attempt to provoke security forces into opening fire on civilians, thus undermining the legitimacy of Ramaphosa’s government.
Democrats have heralded Medicare expansion as a major component of the $3.5 trillion package agreed to on Tuesday night, but that provision is only now being written by Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore. By vowing to take hold of the process, Wyden is in effect discarding several years worth of legislative work in the House of Representatives. Wyden on Wednesday told reporters he believed he had House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s blessing for the rewrite of H.R. 3, House Democrats’ signature bill to allow Medicare to negotiate directly with drug companies and use the savings to expand Medicare to cover hearing, vision, and dental insurance. On June 22, Wyden released a set of “principles” to guide negotiations over the Senate’s version of the legislation.
Committee chairs typically release sets of principles ahead of negotiations, which can often go on for several months or years. Wyden has just a matter of weeks as Democrats hope to have the details of the $3.5 trillion package finalized by August or September. “The last couple of weeks have, in my view, been very positive,” Wyden told The Intercept. “For example, after I laid out principles, I talked to a number of moderate senators, they really liked the provisions that promote breakthroughs and innovations in biotechs. They volunteered — a couple of them said, we read the principles, we went right to that section. And then, and I didn’t know about it ahead of time, the speaker apparently at a presser a couple of days ago, said, ‘I like the principles Senator Wyden laid out.’ So what that’s been is an indication that now as we go to writing the details of the program — and we will write the details, it is the job of the Senate Finance Committee — we’re starting with some pretty good signals.”
House Democrats, meanwhile, are concerned not just at the prospect of a full rewrite, but also worried Wyden will narrow what the House has already agreed to, allowing pharmaceutical industry lobbyists another opportunity to water down H.R. 3. Asked about those concerns by The Intercept, he demurred. “I’m not going to get into the details,” he said. “I will tell you that the speaker’s comments last week were very welcomed, particularly by me, because it was an indication that the coalition that I’m spending a lot of time to build — shuttling back and forth between the progressives and the moderates — has some life.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., a member of the Senate Finance Committee, hasn’t yet spoken to Wyden about his intentions for the bill, but he said, “I’m sure there will be elements of the House version but I don’t know that it will be exclusively a mirror of it.”
After 140 Years, Native Youth Lead Return of 10 Children’s Remains from Carlisle Indian School in PA
Spectators cheered Saturday as a stone statue of a Confederate general was hoisted by a crane and removed from a pedestal where it stood for 99 years in front of a city hall in south Louisiana.
The removal came a day after United Daughters of the Confederacy signed a settlement agreeing to move the statue of Gen Alfred Mouton or let the city do so. A trial had been scheduled for 26 July.
“The Confederacy has surrendered,” attorney Jerome Moroux told the Advocate. Moroux represented the city and 16 city residents who wanted the statue gone. ...
Mouton, whose full name was Jean-Jacques-Alfred-Alexandre Mouton, was a slave owner and son of a former Louisiana governor. He died leading a cavalry charge in the civil war battle of Mansfield.
The largest donor to the super PAC backing centrist Democratic candidate Shontel Brown in Ohio’s 11th Congressional District special election is an oil and gas executive who belongs to a billionaire family. ... Stacy Schusterman, heir and chair of Samson Energy, a fossil fuel company that owns at least 11 oil and gas wells in Wyoming, donated $1.55 million to Democratic Majority for Israel in 2019 and 2020, a super PAC that has in turn spent over $660,000 on ads supporting Brown and attacking her Democratic primary opponent Nina Turner, according to an Intercept review of federal campaign finance records. Schusterman is the super PAC’s largest individual donor.
Schusterman’s fortune comes from a much larger oil and gas business. Her father, Charles Schusterman, founded Samson Investment in 1971 in Tulsa, and the family owned it for 40 years until they sold it to the private equity megafirm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts for $7.2 billion in 2011, earning the family a huge windfall. Charles died in 2000; his wife (and Stacy’s mother) Lynn is worth $3.4 billion. After the sale, Stacy Schusterman started the much smaller Samson Energy from her father’s fortune, investing in oil wells in Louisiana, Texas, and Wyoming. The wells Samson Energy has drilled in Wyoming have been a source of controversy as they are very close to residential areas in Cheyenne, the state’s largest city. ...
She’s also been an avid supporter of DMFI super PAC.The super PAC, which formally endorsed Brown in February, has spent millions going after other progressive candidates in previous elections. The group spent $1.4 million attacking Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2020 presidential primary and an additional $1.5 million during that election cycle to support moderate Democrat Rep. Eliot Engel and attack his progressive challenger Jamaal Bowman. (Bowman went on to win that election.) Schusterman donated $250,000 to DMFI as the group was aggressively spending against Bowman, and $1 million in December 2019 — right before they launched aggressive attack ads against Sanders; her donations were not publicly available until after the primary. Schusterman donated an additional $300,000 to DMFI on December 18, 2020.
While Democratic Majority for Israel describes itself as working to “maintain and strengthen support for Israel among Democratic leaders including presidential and congressional candidates,” much of the group’s ad spending has not focused on a candidate’s support for Israel and has instead launched various attacks on candidates perceived to be more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.
Arizona county election officials have identified fewer than 200 cases of potential voter fraud out of more than 3m ballots cast in last year’s presidential election, undercutting Donald Trump’s claims of a stolen election as his allies continue a disputed ballot review in the state’s most populous county.
The 182 cases identified by the Associated Press represent instances where problems were clear enough that officials referred them for further review. So far, only four cases have led to charges, including those identified in a separate state investigation. No one has been convicted. No vote was counted twice.
More cases could emerge but the numbers illustrate the implausibility of Trump’s claims that fraud and irregularities cost him the state. In final, certified and audited results, Joe Biden won 10,400 more votes in Arizona than Trump out of 3.4m cast.
The AP findings align with previous studies showing voter fraud is rare. Numerous safeguards are built into the system to prevent and detect it. Of the four Arizona cases that have resulted in criminal charges, two involved Democratic voters and two Republicans.
The AP tallied the potential cases after submitting public record requests to all Arizona counties. Eleven out of 15 reported no potential cases. The majority of cases identified involve people casting a ballot for a relative who died or people who tried to cast two ballots.
Greenwald. Worth a full read:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is the sixth-richest member of Congress, according to the most recent financial disclosure statements filed in 2019. As the California Democrat has risen through party ranks and obtained more and more political power, her personal wealth has risen right along with it. Pelosi “has seen her wealth increase to nearly $115 million from $41 million in 2004,” reports the transparency non-profit group Open Secrets. Even by the standards of wealth that define that legislative body — "more than half of those in Congress are millionaires” — the wealth and lifestyle of the long-time liberal politician and most powerful lawmaker in Washington are lavish.
And ever since ascending to the top spot in the House, Pelosi and her husband, Paul, keep getting richer and richer. Much of their added wealth is due to extremely lucrative and "lucky” decisions about when to buy and sell stocks and options in the very industries and companies over which Pelosi, as House Speaker, exercises enormous and direct influence.
The sector in which the Pelosis most frequently buy and sell stocks is, by far, the Silicon Valley tech industry. Close to 75% of the Pelosis’ stock trading over the last two years has been in Big Tech: more than $33 million worth of trading. That has happened as major legislation is pending before the House, controlled by the Committees Pelosi oversees, which could radically reshape the industry and laws that govern the very companies in which she and her husband most aggressively trade.
To underscore the towering conflict of interest at the heart of Speaker Pelosi's self-enrichment, consider the company in which the Pelosis traded most often: Apple. Buying and selling in that one company accounted for 17.7% of the Pelosis’ overall trading volume. And yet, during this same period, Pelosi held at least one private conversation with Apple CEO Tim Cook about the state of Apple and possible effects on the company from various pending bills to reform Silicon Valley.
On June 22, The New York Times reported on “a forceful and wide-ranging pushback by the tech industry since the [antitrust reform] proposals were announced this month.” ... But one of the most important steps taken against these bills was a personal call placed by Apple's CEO directly to Pelosi. ... Sources who refused to be identified tried to convince the Times’ reporters that "Ms. Pelosi pushed back on Mr. Cook’s concerns about the bills.” But in doing so, they confirmed the rather crucial fact that Pelosi was having personal, private conversations with the CEO of a company in which she and her husband were heavily invested and off of which they were making millions of dollars in personal wealth. And Pelosi, according to the report, asked Cook what changes were needed to avoid harming Apple and other Silicon Valley giants. Can even the hardest-core Democratic partisan loyalist justify this blatant conflict of interest and self-dealing?
Water protectors fighting against Enbridge's Line 3 tar sands pipeline in Minnesota filed suit Friday to stop a police blockade of a camp they use for Indigenous-led organizing, decolonization, and treaty rights trainings as well as religious activities.
The plaintiffs, including Indigenous leaders Tara Houska and Winona LaDuke, are taking legal action in response to the Hubbard County Sheriff Office's ongoing blockade of the private property, which police unexpectedly began late last month. The complaint names the county, Sheriff Corwin "Cory" Aukes, and Mark Lohmeier, the local land commissioner, as defendants.
"The Hubbard County Sheriff has attempted to illegally construct a de facto open-air prison to trap Indigenous environmental protectors and allies on their own property and to prevent others from joining in decolonization and treaty rights trainings and organizing against Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline," said attorney Mara Verheyden-Hilliard in a statement.
Verheyden-Hilliard is legal counsel and director of the Center for Protest Law and Litigation, a project of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund. The center and EarthRights International are representing the plaintiffs, who are seeking relief related to a relevant easement, the blockade notice, and citations issued by officers blocking the driveway to the Namewag Camp.
Police in Minnesota are no longer content to violate treaty law; they've moved on to violating property law as well.
— Collin Rees #DefundThePolice (@collinrees) June 28, 2021
"This is an overtly political military-style blockade and checkpoint system being deployed with funding from the Enbridge corporation using the power of the state against its environmental opponents," said Verheyden-Hilliard, referencing that law enforcement agencies in several Minnesota counties have been reimbursed for policing costs related to the pipeline protests.
The arrangement, which the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission mandated when approving the Canadian company's Line 3 proposal in 2018, has outraged activists on the ground.
"You have a foreign company funding the police in northern Minnesota and incentivizing the repression of citizens," LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth, told the Star Tribune in April. "They basically have taken your police force and turned it into their security force."
Houska, founder of the Giniw Collective, lives at the camp. She detailed some of the experiences she and others have endured while trying to come and go in recent weeks.
"Hubbard County showing up at a private Indigenous home with a riot line was obscene. They arrested 12 people, violently in some cases," she said Friday. "Being thrown into the dirt of our driveway and cuffed is a gross abuse of power that sets a dangerous precedent for all private landowners."
"At one point, there were almost 50 squad cars on the dirt road in front of our home, sheriffs in the woods, sheriffs pushing forward in our driveway—I prepared myself to go into our sweat lodge, next to our gardens, and be dragged out that way," Houska continued. "Nobody should ever have to do that."
"Shame on Hubbard County, shame on Minnesota, and shame on public servants who have clearly forgotten who their duty is owed to—Enbridge is a foreign corporation sucking Minnesota's rivers dry, violating Anishinaabe treaty rights, and colluding financially with Minnesota's police force," she added. "What part of any of that is in the public interest?"
Sen. Joe Manchin on Wednesday night expressed concerns about the climate action proposed in the Democratic Party's $3.5 trillion reconciliation package. What the conservative Democrat didn't mention is that he profits—to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars annually—from selling coal to power plants in his home state of West Virginia.
Moments after President Joe Biden met with Senate Democrats to discuss the party's newly unveiled framework for infrastructure and social welfare spending, Manchin told CNN that he is "very, very disturbed" by the inclusion of climate provisions that he believes would spell the end for dirty energy extraction in the U.S.
Progressives "have the climate portion in here, and I'm concerned about that," said Manchin. "Because if they're eliminating fossils, and I'm finding out there's a lot of language in places they're eliminating fossils, which is very, very disturbing, because if you're sticking your head in the sand, and saying that fossil [fuel] has to be eliminated in America, and they want to get rid of it, and thinking that's going to clean up the global climate, it won't clean it up [at] all. If anything, it would be worse."
In response, investigative reporter Alex Kotch, who characterized Manchin's comments as "Fox News-level climate change denial," accused the lawmaker of "lying to us about climate change to protect his annual profits and the wealth of his family."
That was a reference to recent reporting in Sludge, which revealed that:
Manchin earns hundreds of thousands of dollars each year through coal sales to power plants that supply Edison Electric Institute member companies. His family company, Enersystems, is a contractor of American Bituminous Power Partners (AmBit), a coal power plant located near Grant Town, W.V. that provides energy to Monogahela Power Company, according to documents from the West Virginia Public Services Commission (PSC). Also known as Mon Power, the electric company is a subsidiary of energy giant FirstEnergy and an EEI member.
Manchin founded the coal brokerage Enersystems in 1988 and helped run the company, handing control to his son Joseph upon being elected West Virginia secretary of state in 2000 and reportedly moving his holdings into a blind trust between 2005 and 2010. In Manchin’s most recent financial disclosure, covering the fiscal year 2020, he reports that his non-public shares of Enersystems, a “contract services and material provider for utility plants,” are worth between $1 million and $5 million, and sent him an income of $492,000. His total income from the company since joining the Senate is more than $4.5 million.
While Manchin on Wednesday compared moving rapidly toward an energy system based entirely on renewables to "sticking your head in the sand" and even made the baseless claim that doing so could make global warming "worse," the International Energy Agency warned in May that averting the most catastrophic effects of the climate emergency depends on keeping fossil fuels in the ground and shutting down the world's existing oil, gas, and coal operations as quickly as possible.
The West Virginia Democrat is currently spearheading a bipartisan energy bill that would prevent the U.S. from doing its fair share to limit the rise in the average global temperature to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels. According to progressive critics, the Manchin-led Energy Infrastructure Act proposes spending 70 times more on dirty than clean energy and diverts attention from the need to immediately slash heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions by promoting unproven carbon capture and storage technologies.
Given its razor-thin Senate majority, the Democratic caucus must convince Manchin and other conservative Democrats to back the reconciliation bill if it has any chance of passing with a simple-majority vote, a task likely to prove difficult.
In a recently leaked video, an ExxonMobil lobbyist identified Manchin and other so-called "moderates" as key to the fossil fuel corporation's strategy of undermining legislative efforts to reduce carbon pollution.
As the leaked Exxon exposé made clear, Manchin isn't the only federal lawmaker who poses a threat to decarbonization. According to Sludge, "Members of Congress had $93 million invested in fossil fuel industry stocks as of December 2019."
Piles of dead fish, dolphins, turtles and manatees are rotting on the shorelines of coastal Florida in a soup of reddish brown ocean water after a devastating so-called “red tide” algal bloom struck sea life in the region. The city council in St Petersburg, Florida, called for a state of emergency last week saying that crews need help getting the dead sea creatures cleaned up from the beaches. In the Pinellas county area, more than 800 tons of dead fish and sea life have washed ashore – and the smell is already hitting the cities.
Red tides do happen in the area, but this year’s incident is so serious that it is causing some experts to wonder if a pollution accident at a former fertilizer plant called Piney Point could be a reason it is so bad. In March, a dam at a reservoir at the defunct plant that stored phosphate wastewater began to fail, prompting temporary evacuations of nearby residents on 1 April. Two days later, Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, issued a state of emergency. The plant released 215m gallons of contaminated water into Tampa Bay in an effort to prevent the reservoir’s collapse.
The current algal bloom can be traced back to December 2020, when it began to travel north up the coast into the Tampa Bay area. Tropical storm Elsa also caused strong winds, which may be pushing fish to pile up on shores in much larger and stinkier quantities.
Even though the bloom already existed before the spill, the extra nutrients from the Piney Point spill created a cascading situation that rapidly became worse and boosted the algal bloom. Robert Weisberg, a professor at the University of South Florida, told local news stations he believed Piney Point discharges could be fueling that same bloom and making matters worse. “I don’t think it would’ve taken off to the levels that we’re seeing without Piney Point,” Weisberg explained.
The largest wildfire in the US torched more dry forest landscape in Oregon on Sunday, one of dozens of major blazes burning across the west as critically dangerous fire weather loomed in the coming days. The destructive Bootleg Fire just north of the California border grew to more than 476 sq miles (1,210 sq km), an area about the size of Los Angeles. It is one of at least 70 large wildfires are burning across the US west and nearby states.
Erratic winds fed the Bootleg Fire, creating dangerous conditions for firefighters, said Sarah Gracey, a spokeswoman for the firefighting operation. “We’re still facing a lot of weather issues,” she said Sunday. “The winds have been ... hampering our efforts most of the time.” Authorities expanded evacuations that now affect some 2,000 residents of a largely rural area of lakes and wildlife refuges. The blaze, which is 22% contained, has burned at least 67 homes and 100 outbuildings while threatening thousands more.
At the other end of the state, a fire in the mountains of north-east Oregon grew to more than 17 sq miles (44 sq km) by Saturday night. The Elbow Creek Fire that started Thursday has prompted evacuations in several small, remote communities around the Grande Ronde River about 30 miles (50 km) south-east of Walla Walla, Washington.
In California, a growing wildfire south of Lake Tahoe jumped a highway, prompting more evacuation orders and the cancellation of an extreme bike ride through the Sierra Nevada on Saturday. The Tamarack Fire, which was sparked by lightning on July 4, had charred nearly 29 sq miles of dry brush and timber as of Sunday morning. The blaze was threatening Markleeville, a small town close to the California-Nevada state line. It has destroyed at least two structures, authorities said.
Smoke and heat from a huge wildfire in south-eastern Oregon are creating giant “fire clouds” over the blaze – dangerous columns of smoke and ash that can reach up to six miles (10km) in the sky and are visible from more than 100 miles (160km) away. Authorities have put these clouds at the top of the list of the extreme fire behavior they are seeing amid the Bootleg fire, the largest wildfire burning in the US. The inferno grew on Friday to about 377 sq miles (976 sq km), an area larger than New York City, and was raging through a part of the American west that is enduring a historic drought. ...
Pyrocumulus clouds – literally translated as “fire clouds” – look like giant, dirty-colored thunderheads that sit atop a vast column of smoke coming up from a wildfire. Often the top of the smoke column flattens out to take the shape of an anvil. In Oregon, fire authorities say the clouds are forming between 3pm and 5pm each day as the sun penetrates the smoke layer and heats the ground below, creating an updraft of hot air. Crews are seeing the biggest and most dangerous clouds over a section of wilderness made up mostly of dead trees, which burn instantly and with a lot of heat.
For four days in a row, the Bootleg fire has generated multiple fire clouds that rise nearly six miles into the atmosphere and are “easily visible from 100 to 120 air miles away”, authorities said on Friday. The conditions that create the clouds were expected to worsen over the weekend. When a pyrocumulus cloud forms over a fire, meteorologists begin to watch carefully for its big brother, the pyrocumulonimbus cloud. Nasa has called the latter the “fire-breathing dragon of clouds” because it is so hot and big that it creates its own weather.
In a worst-case scenario, fire crews on the ground could see one of the monster clouds spawn a “fire tornado”, generate its own dry lightning and create dangerous hot winds below. The clouds can also send particulate matter from the smoke column up to 10 miles above Earth’s surface.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Billy Gayles - I'm Tore Up
Billy Gayles - I'm Hurting
Billy Gayles - Comin' Back
Billy Gayles - Do Right Baby
Billy Gayles - If I Never Had Known You
Billy Gayles - A Woman Just Won't Do
Billy Gayles - Dreaming Of You
Billy Gales - Night Howler
Billy Gayles - What Can It Be
Billy Gayles - Just One More Time