The Evening Blues - 7-22-21
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues singer Arnold "Gatemouth" Moore. Enjoy!
Gatemouth Moore - Everybody has their turn
"Hahaha why no I cannot pay you a fair wage you lowly Amazon worker, I need that money for a five billion-dollar carnival ride!"
-- Caitlin Johnstone
News and Opinion
Andrew Cockburn, worth a full read:
The departure of American troops from Afghanistan is being lamented (or hailed — see the Chinese press, passim) as a defeat. But this is a shortsighted attitude, at least from the point of view of the US military and the multitude of interested parties who feed at its trough. For them, the whole adventure has been a thumping success, as measured in the trillions of taxpayer dollars that have flowed through their budgets and profits over the two decades in which they successfully maintained the operation. The truth of this was forcefully brought home to me once by a friend of mine who, as a mid-level staffer, attended a conclave of senior generals discussing Donald Trump’s Afghan mini-surge back in 2018. As he related the conversation, they were unanimous that the move would make absolutely no difference to the war, ‘but,’ they happily agreed, ‘it will do us good at budget time’.
Years before, Col. John Boyd, the former Air Force fighter pilot who famously conceived and expounded a comprehensive theory of human conflict, had pointed out that there was no contradiction between the military’s professed mission and its seeming indifference to combat success. ‘People say the Pentagon does not have a strategy,’ he said. ‘They are wrong. The Pentagon does have a strategy. It is: “Don’t interrupt the money flow, add to it.”’ I was reminded of this eternal truth by an announcement buried amid the blizzard of Afghan withdrawal news in July: as part of our ongoing largesse to the Afghan people, it said, we were sending the Afghan air force 37 UH-60 helicopters. Few readers, not including the reporters copying out the Pentagon press release, would have appreciated the rich irony of the news, a reminder of the war’s real, squalid history, so tragic for so many Afghans, so profitable for some Americans.
A new UH-60 costs some $12 million, so this parting gift amounts to around $450 million, a not inconsiderable addition to the $3.3 billion already budgeted for support of Afghan security forces over the next year, though a mere drop in the bucket compared to the overall $2.26 trillion tab for our two-decade campaign. It was without doubt entirely welcome to the Lockheed Martin Corporation, owners of the helicopters’ manufacturer, Sikorsky. The aircraft will join 53 UH-60s already dispatched to the Hindu Kush in recent years. Few of these can still fly, because Afghan mechanics were known to be entirely incapable of maintaining the complex machines, the job being left to highly paid (by us) American contractors. On the other hand the Afghans had been well able to look after the helicopters they had previously flown — the Russian MI-17, a simple, rugged machine on which local pilots and mechanics had decades of experience. It also had the benefit of being able to operate in the higher parts of the mountainous country, which the UH-60, deficient in altitude, is quite unable to do. For some years, the US Army had sensibly purchased overhauled Russian helicopters at a cost of (at most) $4.5 million apiece to pass on to the Afghans, but the deal went awry when the army colonel running the program, Norbert Vergez, entered into corrupt dealings with sinister elements in Russia to jack up the price. Vergez pleaded guilty to a ‘conflict of interest’ and received a light sentence, and the army seized the opportunity to transfer the contract to Sikorsky/Lockheed. The Afghans were consequently forced to exchange a useful weapon for one that has proved effectively useless. (It should never be said, however, that US forces, even as they stole away in the middle of the night from their huge base at Bagram, casually abandoned costly equipment to whoever might need it. Thus, although they indeed left hundreds of trucks behind, they were careful to take the keys with them.) ...
Long ago, A. Ernest Fitzgerald, an Air Force cost management official fired in 1969 on the direct orders of President Richard Nixon for revealing a multibillion cost overrun on an air force contract, explained that the basic business of the US defense industry was not selling weapons, but ‘selling costs’. Since their profits were guaranteed as a percentage of the cost, the more the programs for which they were contracted went up in price, the greater their profit. In essence, despite much touted ‘acquisition reforms’ little has changed, except that the sums involved have gotten larger and the corruption more egregious.
A 2018 investigation by Mandy Smithberger of the Washington watchdog group Project on Government Oversight, for example, found that from 2008 to 2018 at least 380 high-ranking department officials and military officers became lobbyists, board members, executives, or consultants for defense contractors within two years of taking off their uniforms. James Mattis, to take one prominent example, retired as a four-star Marine general, ascended to the board of leading defense contractor General Dynamics where he served for three years, taking home $900,000 in compensation, then spent two years as Trump’s defense secretary, after which he returned to the General Dynamics board. Lloyd Austin, the current secretary of defense, garnered as much as $1.7 million worth of stock as a director of Raytheon, the nation’s second-largest defense contractor, in the four years between retiring from the army and assuming his current august post, along with other lucrative positions in the defense business.
Every time the US military withdraws from the field of martial combat, commentators opine that the occasion might be marked by a respite from gargantuan defense budgets. A glance at the historical record confirms that such hopes are misplaced. From Korea onwards, falloffs in spending have lasted little longer than the parades for returning troops.
Iran’s Supreme National Security Council has rejected a draft agreement negotiated indirectly with the U.S. over the past three months in Vienna, a government spokesman said Thursday. However, another spokesman later denied that there was any "agreement" to reject in the first place.
Either way, the statements seem to indicate that incoming president Ebrahim Raisi will seek to renegotiate the understandings reached in Vienna to seek a better deal for Iran. They also confirm that no deal on Iran's nuclear program will be reached before Raisi, a hardliner, takes office next month.
The U.S. military has conducted an airstrike in Somalia against al-Shabaab, a terrorist group linked to Al Qaeda, the Pentagon announced on Tuesday. Tuesday’s action marked the first time since President Joe Biden took office that the U.S. military has launched an airstrike in Somalia.
“The Department of Defense can confirm that in coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. Africa Command forces conducted one airstrike against al-Shabaab in the vicinity of Galkayo, Somalia, today,” Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia King said. “There were no U.S. forces accompanying Somali forces during this operation. U.S. forces were conducting a remote advise and assist mission in support of designated Somali partner forces.”
King would not say which country U.S. troops were in at the time but she confirmed they were not operating inside Somalia during the airstrike.
Israel’s government is reportedly setting up a task force to manage the fallout from Pegasus project revelations about the use of spying tools sold to authoritarian governments by the Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group.
A team including representatives from the defence ministry, ministry of justice, foreign ministry, military intelligence and the Mossad, the national intelligence agency, is poised to conduct an investigation into whether “policy changes” are needed regarding sensitive cyber exports, several Israeli media outlets reported on Tuesday night, quoting unnamed officials.
The reports come as diplomatic pressure mounts on Israel over concerns the government has enabled abuses by repressive states around the world by granting NSO export licences for the spyware.
There are also questions about whether Israeli intelligence agencies have been able to access information gathered by NSO’s clients – which both Israel and the surveillance company strongly deny.
Officials’ fears also appear to be centred around how the Pegasus project disclosures will affect other Israeli companies and the future of Israel’s cutting-edge cyberweapons industry. “This is a very significant event … We are trying to understand its full significance,” an unnamed official told Maariv News.
Ice cream wars ramp up:
I urged them to act against @benandjerrys decision to not sell its products in the eastern part of Jerusalem and Judea & Samaria. We will make clear to Ben & Jerry’s that its antisemitic decision will have consequences. 2/2
— Ambassador Gilad Erdan גלעד ארדן (@giladerdan1) July 20, 2021
#Benandjerrys has now decided they know more about Jerusalem than the Israelis. If Ben & Jerry’s wants to have a meltdown & boycott Israel, OK is ready to respond. Oklahoma has an anti-boycott of Israel law in place
— Sen. James Lankford (@SenatorLankford) July 21, 2021
Australian kosher authority delists Ben & Jerry's ice cream over anti-Israel policy https://t.co/19j6mRX5Ik
— Michael Dickson (@michaeldickson) July 21, 2021
The July 11 parliamentary elections in Bulgaria highlighted the deep political crisis in the eastern European Union state. Slavi Trifonov’s protest party ITN (“There Is Such a People”), which emerged victorious, is supported by fewer than one in 10 eligible voters. This result exemplifies the political situation in Eastern Europe, where the majority of the population harbors deep mistrust of the entire political elite.
Overall voter turnout was only 42 percent. Even in the capital Sofia, not even half of those eligible to vote went to the polls. In the Kardzhali region turnout was only 28 percent. With 24.1 percent of the ballots, the ITN achieved a razor-thin lead over the right-wing conservative GERB of former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, which received 23.5 percent of the vote. ...
This was the second parliamentary election this year. Already in April, voter turnout reached a historic low of 47.5 percent. At that time, Borisov’s GERB came in first by a narrow margin. However, the deeply discredited party was unable to find a coalition partner. The former coalition partner of GERB failed to retain representation in parliament, and other potential partner parties refused to cooperate.
The results of the new elections are a slap in the face for Bulgaria’s entire political establishment. Borisov, who had ruled almost continuously for nine years, is hated by a large part of the population, as had already become apparent after the 2017 election. ... But like the other parties, Trifonov’s ITN is in no way an alternative to GERB. The 54-year-old Trifonov has been known in Bulgaria for decades as a singer and entertainer. He only recently founded the ITN, in February 2020.
Similar to a number of other prominent and wealthy individuals in other countries, Trifonov has been able to capitalize on anger toward the established parties. Despite touting his hostility toward the “elite,” he is well connected with the country’s political and economic bigwigs. ... ITN’s election program consists of little more than vague statements against corruption and for greater prosperity. In foreign policy, Trifonov stands for a continuation of the pro-European course and strives for rapid entry into the euro zone, a policy attended by massive social attacks against the population in recent years.
While Senate Republicans' move Wednesday to block debate on unfinished bipartisan infrastructure legislation was widely expected across the political spectrum, some progressive campaigners and lawmakers responded with calls for Democrats to focus on what they can achieve without the GOP.
"We've been saying for months that these bipartisan negotiations are a waste of time," said Lauren Maunus, advocacy director for the Sunrise Movement, in a statement after the vote. "Republicans made it clear from the start that they're not interested in working with Democrats."
The youth-led climate advocacy group has not only expressed doubt about the effectiveness of bipartisanship in the current U.S. political system, it has also criticized plans put forth by President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats as inadequate—instead calling for at least a $10 trillion investment in infrastructure, jobs, and care policies over the next decade.
"We are up against the climate crisis, which has been killing hundreds of people this summer, and can't afford to postpone action any longer," Maunus said. "Democrats must stop dragging their feet and use their power to deliver for the American people."
Senate Republicans on Wednesday united in opposition to moving forward with a bill that is still being negotiated. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)—who said ahead of the procedural vote that he remains committed to passing both a bipartisan deal and a reconciliation package—changed his vote to "no" so that he can bring the vote up again.
Key Republicans insist their "no" is only temporary. "We're a no today because we're not ready," said Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), the lead GOP negotiator, according to Politico. "We're saying we do want to take up this bill as soon as we are, and we think that'll be Monday."
CNBC reports that the message was echoed in a joint statement from a bipartisan group of 22 senators working on the infrastructure deal.
"We have made significant progress and are close to a final agreement," the group said. "We will continue working hard to ensure we get this critical legislation right—and are optimistic that we will finalize, and be prepared to advance, this historic bipartisan proposal to strengthen America's infrastructure and create good-paying jobs in the coming days."
"We appreciate our colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and the administration, working with us to get this done for the American people," the senators added.
Maunus, meanwhile, pointed out that back in May, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that "100% of my focus is on stopping this new administration." ...
Schumer, for his part, said ahead of the failed procedural vote that "I have every intention of passing both major infrastructure packages—the bipartisan infrastructure framework and a budget resolution with reconciliation instructions—before we leave for the August recess."
Hundreds of Uber and Lyft drivers have joined other app-based workers across the US for a day-long strike to protest against poor working conditions and demand the right to organize.
The workers are calling for better wages and congressional support of the Pro Act, a bill that would provide protections for workers who attempt to unionize, including members of the gig economy. The bill has stalled indefinitely after passing in the US House in March.
“App-based workers are fed up with exploitation from big tech companies,” said Eve Aruguete a driver from Oakland and member of organizing group Rideshare Drivers United. “Misclassification is like concrete, keeping us underground. The Pro Act is the jackhammer that will break that concrete apart, allowing app-based workers to organize.”
The strike began at midnight on Wednesday with workers in California, Boston, Las Vegas, Denver and Austin refusing to take orders. Rallies took place across several cities.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham on Wednesday said he would be willing to vote to raise the federal debt ceiling in exchange for a policy that could result in cuts to Social Security and Medicare, a proposed trade-off that progressive advocacy groups implored Democrats to reject.
With members of Congress staring down an August deadline to increase the debt limit—the amount of money the federal government is legally permitted to borrow to meet its financial obligations—Graham (R-S.C.) told Bloomberg that he could bring himself to vote yes on a debt ceiling hike if Democrats agree to legislation establishing commissions tasked with crafting Social Security and Medicare "reforms."
But Social Security Works, a progressive advocacy organization, was quick to warn that Graham's offer is a thinly veiled trap.
"Lindsey Graham and his fellow Republicans will stop at nothing to cut the American people's earned Social Security and Medicare benefits," Alex Lawson, executive director of Social Security Works, said in a statement. "Graham has now telegraphed his party's intention to demand a commission to cut Social Security and Medicare as the price for raising the debt ceiling."
The idea of setting up commissions to study and propose changes to Social Security and Medicare is hardly new. Last year, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and other Republican senators attempted unsuccessfully to include such a policy in a coronavirus relief package.
Social Security Works and other groups warned at the time that the proposal was nothing more than "a plot to gut Social Security behind closed doors."
Graham's offer came as Senate Democrats are contemplating what to do about the looming debt ceiling showdown amid indications that Republicans are planning to unify against any increase. If lawmakers fail to raise the debt ceiling, the U.S. government could eventually default on its payments.
In 2019, Congress agreed to suspend the debt limit through the end of July of this year; a majority of Senate Republicans, including Graham, voted in favor of doing so. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told Punchbowl News on Tuesday that he "can't imagine a single Republican in this environment that we're in now—this free-for-all for taxes and spending—to vote to raise the debt limit." ...
To overcome unified Republican opposition, Senate Democrats could attempt to raise the debt ceiling unilaterally through the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process. Lawson urged Democrats to take that route, arguing it would be "political malpractice" not to.
In what appears to be the first but undoubtedly will not be the last legal ruling on COVID-19 vaccine requirements, U.S. District Court Judge for the Northern District of Indiana Damon R. Leichty ruled on Sunday that Indiana University may mandate students submit proof of vaccination before returning to campus this autumn.
Eight undergraduate and graduate students had sought to block the university’s requirement, alleging that it unconstitutionally infringed on their bodily integrity and autonomy, as well as their medical privacy.
According to the New York Times, A federal judge upholds Indiana University’s vaccination requirement for students:
… [Judge Leichty] said that while he recognized the students’ interest in refusing unwarranted medical treatment, such a right must be weighed against the state’s greater interest.
“The Fourteenth Amendment permits Indiana University to pursue a reasonable and due process of vaccination in the legitimate interest of public health for its students, faculty and staff,” his ruling said, also noting that the university had made exceptions for students who object.
Leichty outlined noted several options other than vaccination open to students, according to the BBC US judge upholds Indiana University vaccine requirement.
A federal judge on Tuesday blocked a law passed in Arkansas that would ban nearly all abortions. The law, which was set to take effect on Friday, had been approved by Arkansas’s Republican-led legislature and signed by the state’s Republican governor, Asa Hutchinson. However, US district judge Kristine Baker issued a preliminary injunction, temporarily halting the law in its tracks, in a win for pro-choice supporters, while a lawsuit against its constitutionality proceeds.
The law would ban clinical providers from carrying out abortions “except to save the life of a pregnant woman in a medical emergency”. It also does not provide exceptions for pregnancies occurring through incest or rape or involving fetal anomalies. ... Baker criticized the law as “categorically unconstitutional” since it would ban abortions before the fetus is considered viable.
Hutchinson, who signed the bill into law in March, said: “I signed it because it is a direct challenge to Roe v Wade,” referring to the US supreme court’s landmark precedent that established a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, in 1973.
The Guardian has identified an Alaska assistant attorney general as a supporter of the Mormon-derived extremist group the Deseret nationalists who has posted a series of racist, antisemitic and homophobic messages on social media. The Guardian’s investigation has triggered a review in the Alaska department of law, where the lawyer works.
Matthias Cicotte, whose job means he works as the chief corrections counsel for Alaska’s attorney general, has acted for the department of law in a number of civil rights cases. But evidence from his Twitter output allowed Cicotte to be identified by anti-fascist researchers, whose evidence was confirmed and augmented by a Guardian investigation.
After the department was presented with the information last week, Alaska’s deputy attorney general, Cori Mills, wrote in a statement shared with the Guardian: “The department of law takes the allegations raised here seriously, and we uphold the dignity and respect of all individuals and ask that all of our employees do the same.”
Online, Cicotte, under the moniker J Reuben Clark and the Twitter handle @JReubenCIark, has expressed extreme positions on race, criminal justice and religion. Since-deleted tweets archived by anti-fascists reveal that he advocated various extreme positions including the summary imprisonment of Black Lives Matter protesters; vigilante violence against leftwing groups; and a punishment of execution for acts including performing gender reassignment surgery.
The JReubenCIark account was also one of the earliest and most prominent accounts to promote Deseret nationalism on Twitter using hashtags like #DeseretNationalism and #DezNat. Deseret nationalists or DezNats are a loose association of rightwing Mormons. Previously they have been noted for harassing perceived enemies online, such as progressive Mormons, LGBTQ Mormons, former Mormons and political progressives.
The New York Police Department has been training its officers to break a long-standing law that bars police from snooping in the sealed arrest records of millions of innocent people, according to court papers filed in a lawsuit last week. The news comes in a class-action lawsuit concerning the police department’s practice of flouting a state law designed to protect people from discrimination, harassment, and further legal consequences over old arrests that didn’t result in a conviction. The Bronx Defenders, a public defense organization, brought the legal action against New York City and the NYPD.
Defense lawyers in New York say they regularly find NYPD printouts of their clients’ old sealed arrests in prosecutors’ paperwork, and police sources often leak the sealed arrest histories of people killed by police and political enemies to the media. The leak of Eric Garner’s sealed arrest history after he was killed by police in 2014, for example, is now the subject of a judicial inquiry.
The flouting of the records law results in the perpetuation of a racist regime of harassment in which bad arrests lead to more bad arrests, a “garbage-in, garbage-out” cycle, said Niji Jain, a lawyer with the Bronx Defenders’ impact litigation practice and one of the attorneys on the case. “In poor communities of color, people are overpoliced, and bad arrests happen for low-level things that ultimately aren’t proven or that DAs don’t want to prosecute,” Jain said. “If someone has arrests like that, and the NYPD is continuing to target, surveil, and harass that person on the basis of all of those bad arrests from before, that’s not helping any sort of public interest. It’s just re-victimizing that person.”
Despite the law, the NYPD still uses sealed arrests to conduct investigations and make cases, the lawyers say, and even uses photographs from sealed arrests in virtual line-ups to identify suspects. In a motion filed last week, the public defense lawyers included redacted quotes from a training document they said shows that the police department goes so far as to teach its own officers to access sealed arrest records. The NYPD and the city have mounted a legal fight to keep most of the document secret, away from the public eye.
The chair of Donald Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee was arrested on Tuesday on charges alleging he conspired to influence Trump’s foreign policy positions to benefit the United Arab Emirates and commit crimes striking at what prosecutors described as “the very heart of our democracy”.
Tom Barrack, 74, of Santa Monica, California, was among three men charged in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, with conspiring to act as an unregistered foreign agent as they tried to influence foreign policy while Trump was running in 2016 and later while he was president.
Besides conspiracy, Barrack was charged with obstruction of justice and making multiple false statements during a June 2019 interview with federal agents. Also charged in a seven-count indictment were Matthew Grimes, 27, of Aspen, Colorado, and Rashid al Malik, 43, of the United Arab Emirates.
“The defendants repeatedly capitalized on Barrack’s friendships and access to a candidate who was eventually elected president, high-ranking campaign and government officials, and the American media to advance the policy goals of a foreign government without disclosing their true allegiances, acting assistant attorney general Mark Lesko said in a release.
Prosecutors said Barrack not only agreed to promote UAE foreign policy interests through his unique access and influence, but also provided UAE government officials with sensitive information about developments within the Trump administration – including how senior US officials felt about the Qatari blockade conducted by the UAE and other Middle Eastern countries.
Sen. Bernie Sanders will travel to Ohio at the end of the month to headline a rally for House candidate Nina Turner just days ahead of the August 3 Democratic primary, her campaign announced Wednesday, two weeks into the early voting period.
Sanders (I-Vt.) will deliver a keynote speech at a get-out-the-vote rally for Turner on July 31 at Cleveland's Agora Theatre and Ballroom. After the rally, there will be a march to the polls.
Turner is one of several Democrats running to represent Ohio's 11th Congressional District, a seat that Marcia Fudge left to serve as secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Turner was previously a member of the Cleveland City Council and Ohio state Senate.
The candidate has a well-established relationship with Sanders; she supported both of his runs for president and even served as a national co-chair for his 2020 campaign. Sanders quickly backed Turner when she announced her bid for the House seat in December.
Sanders, in a tweet endorsing Turner, said that "she deeply cares for working families and she has the heart to be an effective, unwavering fighter for them in Congress."
In a Wednesday statement announcing Sanders' upcoming trip, Turner painted him as a role model.
"Sen. Sanders sparked a movement that shifted what is possible in American politics," she said. "I am proud to be joined by Sen. Sanders in my hometown of Cleveland. He has shown that one can be a principled partner to the president in moving forward an agenda that centers the poor, working poor, and the barely middle class."
Though there are a dozen other candidates on the ballot, Turner's main opponent in the race is Shontel Brown, who chairs the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party and has won the support of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as well as Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the majority whip.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that with this election, "the voters of Ohio's 11th District will render that judgment and with it, some indication of the direction the Democratic Party is heading: toward the defiant and progressive approach Ms. Turner embodies or the reserved mold of its leaders in Washington, shaped more by the establishment than the ferment stirring its grassroots."
Turner believes in Medicare for All and housing as a human right. She is running on calls for economic and environmental justice, expanding public education, reimagining public safety, and Covid-19 recovery policies that include raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, providing families and businesses with recurring relief, creating nationwide personal protective equipment (PPE) workplace safety standards, and continuing a federal moratorium on evictions.
Sanders told the Times that Turner "would be a real asset for the House," adding that "she is a very, very strong progressive, and I hope very much she is going to win."
Much more at the link:
In October 2015, then-Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder finally announced that Flint’s water was contaminated with dangerous lead levels. ... The public announcement raised as many questions as it answered and kick-started a yearslong investigation into how the decision that delivered the toxic water to Flint had been made in the first place, how many people were sickened and killed as a result, and when senior government officials first learned of the deadly consequences.
Along the way, however, investigators who were part of a three-year Flint water investigation beginning in 2016 kept drilling dry holes. Dr. Eden Wells became Michigan’s chief medical executive in May 2015. By then, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services had been aware for at least seven months of a significant increase in the deadly waterborne Legionnaires’ disease throughout Flint. But when investigators obtained access to Wells’s phone, they discovered something unusual. “For Dr. Wells’ phone the earliest message is from November 12, 2015,” then-Flint special prosecutor Todd Flood wrote in a subpoena petition obtained by The Intercept. During the key period that investigators were probing, no messages were found. ...
Other searches turned up similar results. The phone of Tim Becker, MDHHS’s chief deputy director, had no messages on it prior to April 14, 2016, two months before he left his role with MDHHS. Becker testified to having first asked questions about Flint’s Legionella outbreak in January 2015. Patricia McKane, an epidemiologist with MDHHS who testified that she was pressured to lie by Wells about elevated blood-lead levels in Flint’s children, was found to have only had four text messages on her phone from 2015 and seven total messages. Fellow MDHHS epidemiologist Sarah Lyon-Callo, director of the state Bureau of Epidemiology and Population Health, who Wells copied in an email responding to accusations by a Wayne State University professor that she was trying to conceal the link between the Flint River switch and the Legionella outbreak, had no messages prior to June 2016. ...
The lack of phone messages from top MDHHS officials was a major red flag to investigators and an obvious impediment to those investigating who knew what and when. Investigators also discovered that phone data belonging to a key official close to Snyder was completely erased shortly before the Flint criminal investigation was launched. Sara Wurfel, Snyder’s press secretary during the water crisis in 2014 through fall 2015, told Flood her phone was “wiped” when she left her job at the end of November 2015, after a civil suit was filed against the Snyder administration and a month before the launch of the Flint water criminal investigation.
The question of what Snyder knew and when, and what role he and his administration played in stymying investigations into the cause and cover-up of the outbreak, is of increasing importance as the former governor now faces trial in connection with his handling of Flint’s water crisis.
New York City air quality was among the worst in the world as cities across the eastern US were shrouded in smoke from wildfires raging several thousand miles away on the country’s west coast.
State officials in New York advised vulnerable people, such as those with asthma and heart disease, to avoid strenuous outdoor activity as air pollution soared to eclipse Lima in Peru and Kolkata in India to be ranked as the worst in the world on Tuesday.
Smoke from more than 80 major wildfires burning in the US west has caused hazy skies and plunging air quality in eastern American and Canadian cities including Philadelphia, Washington DC, Pittsburgh and Toronto, as well as New York, causing fiery sunrises and even bathing the moon in an unusual red tinge on Tuesday night.
On Wednesday morning, the air quality index surged to 157 in Manhattan, well above the threshold of 100 where health is considered to be threatened. Vulnerable people include pregnant women and the elderly, although even healthy people outside these groups can experience breathing difficulty, throat irritation and runny eyes when exposed to air this bad.
At least 155 people remain missing a week after record rainfall caused devastating floods in western Germany, as the president of the country’s disaster relief organisation said she “did not expect” rescuers to find any more survivors. “We are currently still searching for missed ones as we are clearing debris or pumping out cellars,” said Sabine Lackner of the federal agency for technical relief, a volunteering organisation belonging to the German ministry of the interior.
“But sadly at this stage it is very likely that victims can only be recovered and not rescued,” Lackner told RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland.
A week after slow-moving weather system released two months’ worth of rain in two days over western Germany, the number of fatalities has risen to at least 171, of which 123 have been confirmed in the hilly Ahrweiler district in Rhineland-Palatinate. Another 764 people have been injured, and 155 people are still recorded as missing.
In the wine-growing Ahr valley and regions in neighbouring North-Rhine Westphalia approximately 40,000 people are believed to have been affected by the floods. The catastrophic flash floods have left thousands of people in western Germany without access to drinking water, electricity and gas. The full extent of damage to the area’s infrastructure has only emerged since the waters fully subsided over the last few days.
China’s military has blasted a dam to release water threatening one of its most heavily populated provinces, as the death toll in widespread flooding rose to at least 25 and was expected to climb further.
The dam operation was carried out late on Tuesday night near the city of Luoyang, just as severe flooding overwhelmed Zhengzhou, capital of Henan province, trapping residents in the subway system and stranding them at schools, apartments and offices.
Another seven people were reported missing, provincial officials said at a news conference on Wednesday night. The death toll was expected to rise on Thursday as rescue work continues in the devastated region where a year’s worth of rain – 640mm (25in) – fell in the region in just three days.
Chinese media said the rainfall was unprecedented in the past “1,000 years”. Some worry that given the scale of the damage, the post-disaster reconstruction will be particularly challenging for one of the most populous provinces in China. Zhengzhou alone is home to 12 million people and initial estimates say at 1.2 million have been directly affected by the flooding.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Gatemouth Moore - Highway 61 Blues
Gatemouth Moore - Beale Street Ain't Beale Street No More
Gatemouth Moore - Did you ever love a woman
Gatemouth Moore - Somebody's Got To Go
Gatemouth Moore - I Ain't Mad At You Pretty Baby
Gatemouth Moore - Nobody Knows The Way I Feel
Gatemouth Moore - My Mother Thinks I'm Something
Gatemouth Moore - Get Your House In Order
Gatemouth Moore - Boogie Woogie Papa