The Evening Blues - 7-22-19
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues guitarist Jimmy Dawkins. Enjoy!
Jimmy Dawkins - Rumping 'N' Stomping
“Negotiations with Iran, especially, will not be easy under any circumstances, but I suspect that they might be somewhat less difficult if the nuclear-weapon states could show that their requests are part of a broader effort to lead the world, including themselves, toward nuclear disarmament. Preventing further proliferation is essential, but it is not a recipe for success to preach to the rest of the world to stay away from the very weapons that nuclear states claim are indispensable to their own security.”
-- Hans Blix
News and Opinion
The United States is struggling to win its allies’ support for an initiative to heighten surveillance of vital Middle East oil shipping lanes because of fears it will increase tension with Iran, six sources familiar with the matter said. ...
“The Americans want to create an ‘alliance of the willing’ who confront future attacks,” a Western diplomat said. “Nobody wants to be on that confrontational course and part of a U.S. push against Iran.”
France, which has a naval base in the United Arab Emirates, does not plan to escort ships and views the U.S. plan as counterproductive to easing tensions because Tehran would see it as anti-Iran, a French official said. The British security source said it was not viable to escort every commercial vessel, a view shared by several other countries.
A senior Western official based in Beijing said there was “no way” China would join a maritime coalition. A South Korean official said Washington had yet to make any official request. A decision by Japan to join such an initiative would be likely to inflame a divide in Japanese public opinion over sending troops abroad.
UK foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, is under intense pressure to join US-led plans for an international maritime protection force in the Gulf as signs grow that Iran is preparing for a long standoff over the British-flagged tanker it has detained.
As Tehran signalled it would refuse to release the Steno Impero until the UK released an Iranian-flagged ship seized off the coast of Gibraltar a fortnight ago, the British government faced accusations it had failed to sufficiently guard its shipping in the Gulf.
Adding to the tensions, the defence minister, Tobias Ellwood, said cuts had left the Royal Navy too small to manage Britain’s interests around the globe. ...
Iranian officials were explicit that the capture on Friday was in retaliation for the capture of Grace 1. The speaker of Iran’s parliament, Ali Larijani, said the British “stole and got a response” from the Revolutionary Guards.
Britain privately admits it worked in conjunction with the US in the capture of Grace 1 but says it had independent intelligence that the ship contained oil bound for Syria, in violation of EU sanctions. It says the ship could not have been stopped had it not entered Gibraltarian waters.
With the United Kingdom and Iran in the midst of a tense and dangerous standoff after the tit-for-tat seizure of oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, international observers are warning that the British government has fallen into a trap set by hawkish U.S. national security adviser John Bolton that could lead to a devastating military conflict.
After British commandos earlier this month swarmed and detained Iran's Grace 1 oil supertanker in waters east of Gibraltar, Bolton applauded the move as "excellent news" and said "America and our allies will continue to prevent regimes in Tehran and Damascus from profiting off this illicit trade."
Simon Tisdall, foreign affairs editor and commentator for The Guardian, wrote over the weekend that "Bolton's delighted reaction suggested the seizure was a surprise. But accumulating evidence suggests the opposite is true, and that Bolton's national security team was directly involved in manufacturing the Gibraltar incident," wrote Tisdall. "The suspicion is that Conservative politicians, distracted by picking a new prime minister, jockeying for power, and preoccupied with Brexit, stumbled into an American trap."
Shortly after British forces seized Grace 1, Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said the U.K.'s capture of the tanker was carried out under orders from the United States. Tisdall pointed to a story last week by Spanish newspaper El Pais, which reported that the Iranian tanker "had been under surveillance by U.S. satellites since April." ...
The U.K.'s seizure of Grace 1—denounced by the Iranian government as an act of "maritime piracy"—led Iran to counter on Friday by capturing a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, ratcheting up tensions in the Persian Gulf and prompting the British government to warn of "serious consequences" if the tanker was not released.
The perilous standoff, Tisdall argued, is precisely the outcome Bolton was seeking.
"The Bolton gambit succeeded," Tisdall wrote. "Despite its misgivings, Britain has been co-opted on to the front line of Washington's confrontation with Iran. The process of polarization, on both sides, is accelerating. The nuclear deal is closer to total collapse. And by threatening Iran with 'serious consequences,' without knowing what that may entail, Britain blindly dances to the beat of Bolton's war drums."
The release Sunday of an audio recording has shed new light on the seizure of a British-flagged tanker at the hands of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as tensions flare in the strategic Strait of Hormuz.
The audio released by maritime security risk firm Dryad Global shows that a British frigate was too far away from the targeted tanker to keep it from being diverted into an Iranian port despite U.K. efforts to keep it from being boarded.
On the recording, a stern-voiced British naval officer insists that the U.K.-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero must be allowed to sail through the Strait of Hormuz even as Iranian paramilitary forces demand — successfully — that the vessel change course.
The audio shows how Britain’s once mighty Royal Navy was unable to prevent the ship’s seizure, which has been condemned by Britain and its European allies as they continue to call for a reduction of tensions in the vital waterway.
Thursday’s reports of the US intending to send “up to 500” ground troops to Saudi Arabia was confirmed by the Saudi state media. Saudi King Salman has signed off on the plan, saying he believes it would “boost regional security and stability.” ...
So long as it is couched as a move against Iran, Saudi officials are all for it. Yet historically, letting ground troops from non-Muslim countries base in the Muslim holy land has been a big problem for Saudi Arabia, inflaming Islamist groups.
The US military on Sunday accused a Venezuelan fighter aircraft of “aggressively” shadowing a US Navy EP-3 Aries II plane over international airspace, a fresh sign of growing hostility between the two countries. The encounter occurred on Friday, the day the Trump administration announced it was imposing sanctions on four top officials in Venezuela’s military counterintelligence agency.
In a statement issued Sunday, the US military said it had determined the “Russian-made fighter aggressively shadowed the EP-3 at an unsafe distance in international airspace for a prolonged period of time, endangering the safety of the crew and jeopardizing the EP-3 mission”. The two planes did not collide and no one was hurt.
In a statement published by Venezuela’s government, the South American country’s armed forces said they rejected “the incursion of a US reconnaissance and intelligence aircraft” in the flight area surrounding Maiquetia airport, which serves the capital, Caracas.
The US aircraft was detected in Venezuelan airspace on Friday morning and did not report its presence to local authorities, the statement said, adding that it posed a risk to other planes in the area. At 11.33am local time two Venezuelan fighter jets intercepted the aircraft and it was escorted out of Venezuela’s airspace, the statement said.
Puerto Rico’s embattled governor Ricardo Rosselló has announced that he will resign as president of the ruling New Progressive party and will not contest next year’s gubernatorial election, but has stopped short of resigning as governor of the US territory.
The announcement, made via Facebook live, follows 10 days of mass protests over a text message scandal that prompted senior members of his own party and representatives in Washington to withdraw their support.
“A large portion of the population is unhappy and I recognize it,” Rosselló said during the announcement. “I’ve heard you ... Today I have the responsibility to direct my strengths to try to find alternatives so that with God we may be able to move forward.” “The priority must be the people of Puerto Rico, therefore all my time must be destined to fulfil all the responsibilities I hold as governor,” he added. ...
His insistence on staying on as governor until 2020 is not likely to satisfy protesters, who have demanded his resignation since early last week. More protesters had assembled outside the residence on Sunday as Rosselló delivered his address. Protesters had given the governor until Sunday evening to resign. A general strike and large demonstrations were planned for Monday and sources speaking to the Guardian said it was likely that the marches would still go ahead.
Four Chicago cops were fired Thursday night over accusations that they helped cover up the murder of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager, nearly five years ago, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Jason Van Dyke, the officer who shot and killed the 17-year-old, infamously argued he feared for his life, since McDonald was carrying a small knife when officers found him high on PCP late one night in October 2014. But dashcam footage revealed more than a year after McDonald’s death showed Van Dyke shot the teen as he appeared to walk away from officers. He then shot McDonald several times after the teen fell to the ground and lay dying.
For years, officers Richard Viramontes, Janet Mondragon, Stephen Franko, and Daphne Sebastian have been accused of lying to protect Van Dyke, who’s now serving a nearly seven-year prison sentence for murder, or getting in the way of justice. But only now did the Chicago Police Board vote to fire them. They had been on desk duty since 2016. ...
Other officers who allegedly aided in the cover-up — former cop Joseph Walsh, suspended officer Thomas Gaffney, and former detective David March — were acquitted of conspiracy and obstruction charges in January after a Cook County judge ruled the dashcam footage alone didn’t prove a cover-up occurred.
Worth a full read:
Donald Trump has a rich, varied history of racism, bigotry, and discrimination going back to at least 1973, when the Justice Department filed a racial bias suit against him for mistreating Black applicants and tenants all over New York. At the time, it was one of the largest lawsuits of its kind. That was 46 years ago. Since then, the list of offenses has piled up. In a better time, his racist behavior would have prevented him from ever being elected, but here we are. He’s president and now he’s openly carrying that bigotry right into the Oval Office. Not only do I think he is violating his oath of office — I think his open, flagrant bigotry is an impeachable offense. ...
To tell four sitting congresswomen of color that they should “go back” to where they came from is so overtly bigoted that an almost identical phrase is listed on Trump’s own government website for the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:
Ethnic slurs and other verbal or physical conduct because of nationality are illegal if they are severe or pervasive and create an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment, interfere with work performance, or negatively affect job opportunities. Examples of potentially unlawful conduct include insults, taunting, or ethnic epithets, such as making fun of a person’s foreign accent or comments like, ‘Go back to where you came from,’ whether made by supervisors or by co-workers.
Can an explicitly biased person “faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States?” Can an overtly racist person “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution?” I emphatically say, hell no. An explicitly racist person cannot “preserve, protect, and defend” the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Both of those clauses were authored to protect groups of people who would otherwise be marginalized. ...
Can a person who is explicitly, overtly racist treat everyone equally under the law? I feel dumb even asking such a question. Now if you let them tell it, they’ll tell you “yes” a hundred times. But you can’t let a racist be the judge of whether or not their racism negatively fuels and shapes the way they think and make decisions. It’s the very reason why overtly racist people are fired from every single type of place of employment. If you are an overtly racist person, Walmart will fire you from bagging groceries. Uber will fire you from driving cars. Amazon will fire you from packing boxes. McDonalds will fire you from making burgers. Because you are a liability, and you can no longer be trusted.
The president of the United States should be held to a higher standard than an entry-level employee at any Fortune 5000 company in this country. Right now, he isn’t.
The furore over Donald Trump’s racist slurs against four Democratic congresswomen intensified on Sunday, as the president resumed attacking them and posting far-right material online. Trump claimed in a tweet that he did not believe representatives Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib were “capable of loving our country”.
The allegation, made without evidence, was the latest in a series of grave attacks Trump has directed at the four ethnic-minority congresswomen, who hail from the left of the Democratic party and have been sharply critical of his presidency. ...
On Sunday, Elijah Cummings, a Democrat from Maryland, said statements made by Trump and his supporters reminded him of abuse he received as a black child in the 1960s, at the height of the struggle for civil rights. “I heard the same kind of chant, ‘Go home, you don’t belong here.’ And they called us the N-word over and over and over again,” Cummings told ABC’s This Week. He said some of his constituents were scared of the president.
Trump and his aides say he is targeting the congresswomen purely because of their criticism of contemporary America. The Democrats’ defenders note that Trump, the author of a book titled Crippled America, repeatedly assailed the US under Barack Obama and campaigned for the White House on a promise to “make America great again”.
A Louisiana police officer last week said in a Facebook post that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a "vile idiot" who should be shot.
A screenshot of the post by veteran Gretna police officer Charlie Rispoli was taken by The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate. In it, Rispoli shares a blog post that falsely claims the New York Democrat said "We pay soldiers too much."
"This vile idiot needs a round," reads Rispoli's remarks above Ocasio-Cortez's image. "And I don't mean the kind she used to serve," he adds, referring to her prior career as a bartender.
Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson said the post was "disturbing" but did not believe Rispoli, who has been with the department since 2005, intended it as a genuine threat, The Times-Picayune reported. "I will tell you this: This will not go unchecked," Lawson said, according to the newspaper. "I’m not going to take this lightly and this will be dealt with on our end. It’s not something we want someone that’s affiliated with our department to make these types of statements. That’s not going to happen." ...
In May, Ocasio-Cortez said she was regularly getting "hateful messages" and a "flood of death threats." She said there was a connection between the threats and the reporting about her on conservative news media outlets and also blamed Fox News.
The Los Angeles police department has revealed in court that it infiltrated an activist group planning anti-Trump protests, in the latest case of US law enforcement spying on leftwing organizers. A confidential informant working with the LAPD secretly recorded multiple meetings of a group called Refuse Fascism in 2017, according to newly disclosed police documents. The LAPD transcripts, first reported by the Los Angeles Times and reviewed by the Guardian, were submitted in a criminal case against activists who blocked a California freeway during an anti-Trump demonstration. ...
Miguel Antonio, one of the activists who was monitored and recorded by the informant, and then subsequently charged with misdemeanors for shutting down the freeway, told the Guardian on Friday that he would not let the surveillance stop him from organizing. “We’re not scared. We’re not going to back down in the face of repression,” the 28-year-old said, adding that this kind of spying was meant to discourage activists. “You’re in a church, and you’re meeting about organizing a peaceful protest, and you’re running the risk of being charged with conspiracy or these petty crimes.”
The LA case is one of several across the country of law enforcement aggressively targeting anti-Trump and anti-fascist groups with monitoring and criminal trials. In Sacramento, police worked with neo-Nazis to pursue cases against leftwing activists, including seeking charges against anti-fascist protesters who were stabbed at a white supremacist rally. In Berkeley, police collaborated with a violent pro-Trump demonstrator to prosecute a leftwing group last year, and there have been similar controversies in Washington DC, Oregon and other states. ...
LAPD did not conduct a similar spying operation on far-right groups while it targeted Refuse Fascism, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has led the public charge for a universal $15 minimum wage, but some of his presidential campaign employees are complaining privately that they’re not being paid much. Field organizers for Bernie’s campaign say they work 60 hours per week and make a salary of $36,000 annually, according to ongoing wage negotiations reported by the Washington Post Thursday. That’s an average of $13 per hour.
The Post obtained copies of letters between Sanders staff and Bernie’s campaign manager Faiz Shakir outlining the employees’ demands. Field organizers — who were the first of any major presidential candidate to unionize — are reportedly preparing to send Shakir a letter that refers to their salary as “poverty wages.”
“Given our campaign’s commitment to fighting for a living wage of at least $15.00 an hour, we believe it is only fair that the campaign would carry through this commitment to its own field team,” the letter reads, according to the Post.
Field organizers have traditionally earned low salaries, with average wages at around $37,000 annually, Glassdoor estimates show. Sanders campaign staff have requested a salary of $46,800 for field organizers and $62,400 for regional field directors. Shakir reportedly suggested raising organizers’ pay to $42,000, but the union rejected that offer and argued that it would force employees to pay more in health care costs. The campaign currently pays all healthcare premiums for salaried employees making $36,000 or less.
A new Gallup poll showed that Bernie Sanders is the most favorably viewed contender for the Democratic presidential ticket.
Gallup released the results of the poll on Friday. It was conducted July 1-12, after first round of Democratic debates, and measured 10 Democratic White House hopefuls.
Sanders led the pack, with 72 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters viewing him favorably. Former Vice President Joe Biden followed at 69 percent. Rounding off the top half of the pack were Sen. Elizabeth Warren at 59 percent, Sen. Kamala Harris at 54 percent, and Sen. Cory Booker at 44 percent.
A climate change victim in Iceland is set to be memorialized with a monument that underscores the urgent crisis. The victim is the former Okjökull glacier in Borgarfjörður, which scientists say is the nation's first glacier lost to the climate crisis. Its plight was also the subject of the 2018 documentary "Not Ok" produced by Rice University anthropologists Cymene Howe and Dominic Boyer.
Earther first reported on the plaque on Saturday.
The memorial monument will be installed during a Aug. 18 "un-glacier tour" and is entitled, "A letter to the future." It was authored by Icelandic writer Andri Snaer Magnason. "Ok is the first Icelandic glacier to lose it status as a glacier," the text of the plaque reads. "In the next 200 years all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path."
"This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done," it says. "Only you know if we did it."
The bottom of the plaque reads "August 2019, 415ppm CO2." Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels hit that threshold—for the first time ever in human history—in May.
President Donald Trump's EPA is provoking criticism once again, this time over a new "no surprises" policy stopping unannounced visits to power, chemical, and waste facilities.
The Trump @EPA is just chucking aside any flimsy pretense that they care about upholding environmental laws, enforcing against big polluters, or protecting Americans.
— John Walke (@jwalkenrdc) July 18, 2019
Watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) publicized the development in a press statement on Thursday. It cites a memo, dated July 11, 2019, to regional administrators from Susan Bodine, EPA's Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. Her office, according to the EPA site, "goes after pollution problems that impact American communities through vigorous civil and criminal enforcement. Our enforcement activities target the most serious water, air, and chemical hazards. "
Bodine's memo says "EPA aims to enhance its partnerships with its state, local, and tribal co-regulators by more effectively carrying out our shared responsibilities under environmental laws." The "no surprises" approach, it continues, is "the foundation of joint work planning and will minimize the misunderstandings that can be caused by the lack of regular, bilateral communication." ...
"Taking the element of surprise away from inspections decreases their effectiveness, for obvious reasons," stated PEER executive director Tim Whitehouse, a former EPA enforcement attorney. "I fear that EPA's 'no surprises' posture masks a 'see no evil' approach to corporate polluters."
Babies Born Near Oil and Gas Wells Are Up to 70% More Likely to Have Congenital Heart Defects, New Study Shows
Proximity to oil and gas sites makes pregnant mothers up to 70 percent more likely to give birth to a baby with congenital heart defects, according to a new study.
Led by Dr. Lisa McKenzie at the University of Colorado, researchers found that the chemicals released from oil and gas wells can have serious and potentially fatal effects on babies born to mothers who live within a mile of an active well site—as about 17 million Americans do.
The researchers studied more than 3,000 newborns who were born in Colorado between 2005 and 2011. The state is home to about 60,000 fracking sites, according to the grassroots group Colorado Rising. In areas with the highest intensity of oil and gas extraction activity, mothers were 40 to 70 percent more likely to give birth to babies with congenital heart defects (CHDs).
Mothers living near more intense oil and gas development activity have a 40-70% higher chance of having children with congenital heart defects (CHDs)."#keepitintheground,https://t.co/Rg5N7TALhH pic.twitter.com/QiKm7JAuJA
— WildEarth Guardians' Climate and Energy Program (@ClimateWest) July 19, 2019
The study was more precise than previous reports about the link between oil and gas extraction and CHDs. The researchers studied families in which the pregnant mother lived near an active oil or gas well up to the second month of pregnancy, when fetal cardiac development takes place.
They also estimated the level of intensity of the oil and gas activity, determined exactly how close the pregnant mothers lived to the well sites, and ensured there were no other significant air pollution sources which could skew their results.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Jimmy Dawkins - We Got to Go
Jimmy Dawkins - Come Back Baby
Jimmy Dawkins And Big Voice Odom - Don't Ever Leave Me
Jimmy Dawkins - Tuff Girl
Jimmy Dawkins - Tell Me Baby
Jimmy Dawkins - Lonely Guitar Man
Jimmy Dawkins - Everybody's Jumping
Jimmy and Hip - Mother-In-Law Blues
Jimmy Dawkins - Wess Cide Rock