The Evening Blues - 7-27-17
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features r&b group The Treniers. Enjoy!
The Treniers - Rocking is our business
“What we revealed is that this spying system is devoted not to terrorists, but is directed to innocent people around the world. None of this has anything to do with terrorism. Is Angela Merkel a terrorist?”
-- Glenn Greenwald
News and Opinion
The National Security Agency and FBI violated specific civil liberty protections during the Obama administration by improperly searching and disseminating raw intelligence on Americans or failing to promptly delete unauthorized intercepts, according to newly declassified memos that provide some of the richest detail to date on the spy agencies’ ability to obey their own rules.
The memos reviewed by The Hill were publicly released on July 11 through Freedom of Information Act litigation by the American Civil Liberties Union.
They detail specific violations that the NSA or FBI disclosed to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court or the Justice Department's national security division during President Obama’s tenure between 2009 and 2016. ... Critics say the memos undercut the intelligence community’s claim that it has robust protections for Americans incidentally intercepted under the program.
“Americans should be alarmed that the NSA is vacuuming up their emails and phone calls without a warrant,” said Patrick Toomey, an ACLU staff attorney in New York who helped pursue the FOIA litigation. “The NSA claims it has rules to protect our privacy, but it turns out those rules are weak, full of loopholes, and violated again and again.” ...
The Hill reviewed the new ACLU documents as well as compliance memos released by the NSA inspector general and identified more than 90 incidents where violations specifically cited an impact on Americans. Many incidents involved multiple persons, multiple violations or extended periods of time.
Officials seized Trump protesters’ cell phones, cracked their passwords, and are now attempting to use the contents to convict them of conspiracy to riot at the presidential inauguration.
Prosecutors have indicted over 200 people on felony riot charges for protests in Washington, D.C. on January 20 that broke windows and damaged vehicles. Some defendants face up to 75 years in prison, despite little evidence against them. But a new court filing reveals that investigators have been able to crack into at least eight defendants’ locked cell phones. Now prosecutors want to use the internet history, communications, and pictures they extracted from the phones as evidence against the defendants in court.
Evidence against the defendants has been scant from the moment of their arrest. As demonstrators, journalists, and observers marched through the city, D.C. police officers channelled hundreds of people into a narrow, blockaded corner, where they carried out mass arrests of everyone in the area. Some of those people, including a journalist and two allegedly peaceful protesters, are now suing for wrongful arrest.
Police also seized more than 100 cell phones from “defendants and other un-indicted arrestees,” prosecutors disclosed in a March filing. ... But a July 21 court document shows that investigators were successful in opening the locked phones. The July 21 filing moved to enter evidence from eight seized phones, six of which were “encrypted” and two of which were not encrypted. A Department of Justice representative confirmed that “encrypted” meant additional privacy settings beyond a lock screen.
The Iraqi soldier looks out from his tiny three-walled room across a wasteland of rubble that crumbles steeply down to the banks of the Tigris River and contemplates the last days of the savage fight against the Islamic State (IS) group.
"We killed them all," he says quietly. "Daesh, men, women and children. We killed everyone."
What remains of this part of Mosul's Old City, where IS militants made their last stand, and what lies beneath betrays the horrific final days of the battle. Hundreds of corpses lie half-buried in the broken masonry and rubble that was once a bustling, historic quarter. The stench of decaying flesh, which comes fast in the 50C summer heat, overwhelms the senses. ...
Over the last week, armoured bulldozers have trundled back and forth over the crumpled houses, grinding uncounted corpses into the rubble. But the dead refuse to go away. Rotting body parts glow a reddish-brown amid the pale grey of the undulating heatscape of masonry, dust and broken buildings. "There are many civilians among the bodies," an Iraqi army major tells [Middle East Eye] MEE.
"After liberation was announced, the order was given to kill anything or anyone that moved."
An excellent piece worth reading in full. Here's a teaser:
A new Vox video (7/17/17) is the latest addition to a media onslaught that propagates numerous misleading talking points to demonize Iran—just as the US government, under Donald Trump’s vehemently anti-Iran administration, is ratcheting up aggression against that country. The 10-minute film, titled “The Middle East’s Cold War, Explained,” is a textbook example of how US government propaganda pervades corporate media. With the help of a former senior government official and CIA analyst, the Vox video articulates a commonplace pro-US, anti-Iran narrative that portrays the violent conflicts in the Middle East as sectarian proxy wars between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
In order to do so, the film grossly downplays US involvement in the region, treating Saudi Arabia as though it acts independently of the US. It also fails to ever mention Israel, totally removing one of the most important players in the Middle East from its “Cold War” narrative. Vox multimedia producer Sam Ellis likewise constructs a false equivalence for Iran, depicting it as a kind of Shia Saudi Arabia that is just as guilty of spreading sectarianism. The video correspondingly exaggerates Iran’s international influence, which is assumed to be dastardly and malign. ...
The crux of the video is an interview with a former top US government official, CIA analyst and think tank apparatchik who has spent years crafting US policy in the Middle East. Vox presents his deeply politicized views as unchallenged facts.
Kenneth Pollack, the only person featured in Vox‘s video, is identified simply as a “former Persian Gulf military analyst, CIA.” After several years as an Iran/Iraq military analyst at the CIA, Pollack went on to direct Persian Gulf affairs and Near East and South Asian affairs for the Clinton administration’s National Security Council. Pollack’s bio at the Brookings Institution notes “he was the principal working-level official for US policy toward Iraq, Iran, Yemen and the Gulf Cooperation Council States at the White House.”
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday his country will respond if a bill in the U.S. Congress imposing sanctions on people involved in Iran's ballistic missile program becomes law.
The House of Representatives passed the bill on Tuesday and it now goes to the Senate.
Without giving details, Rouhani said in a Wednesday cabinet meeting broadcast by state TV that Iran will "take any action that is necessary for the country's expedience and interests" and show "reciprocal" reaction to the law. ...
"If the enemy breaches parts of the deal, we will breach parts of it," Rouhani said. "If they breach the entire deal, we will breach it in its entirety."
"We will reinforce our whole defensive weapons without paying attention to what others say," he added.
Russia warned on Wednesday that new U.S. sanctions against Moscow approved by the House of Representatives take already battered ties into uncharted waters and said it was close to taking retaliatory measures of its own.
Russia was responding after the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to impose new sanctions on Moscow and to force President Donald Trump to obtain lawmakers' permission before easing any sanctions on Russia.
Moscow had initially hoped that Trump would work to repair a relationship which has slumped to a post-Cold War low, but has watched with frustration as allegations that Moscow interfered with last year's U.S. presidential election and concerns over Trump associates' Russia ties have killed off hopes of detente. ...
Russia has repeatedly warned the United States it will retaliate against what it sees as hostile moves and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov made clear Moscow was growing tired of showing restraint. ... Konstantin Kosachyov, who heads the foreign relations committee in Russia's upper house of parliament, called on Moscow to devise a "painful" response to the U.S. move.
The U.K. government plans to send two “colossal” warships to the South China Sea next year in a “freedom of navigation operation” set to infuriate Beijing. Announcing the plans Thursday, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the U.K. was taking the decision “not because we have enemies in the region but because we believe in upholding the rule of law.”
“One of the first things we will do with the two new colossal aircraft carriers that we have just built is send them on a freedom of navigation operation to this area to vindicate our belief in the rules-based international system,” Johnson told reporters in Sydney Thursday. ...
In what will be seen as a saber-rattling exercise, the U.K. move follows in the footsteps of the U.S. navy, which earlier this month sailed a warship close to a disputed island in the territory. China claims ownership over large parts of the South China Sea — one of the world’s busiest trade routes — and its program of island-building and militarization has unsettled western powers.
Bolivia's President Evo Morales has been highlighting his government's independence from international money lending organizations and their detrimental impact the nation, the Telesur TV reported. " ... Bolivia’s popular uprising known as the The Cochabamba Water War in 2000 against United States-based Bechtel Corporation over water privatization and the associated World Bank policies shed light on some of the debt issues facing the region. ... Since 2006, a year after Morales came to power, social spending on health, education, and poverty programs has increased by over 45 percent.
The Morales administration made enormous transformations in the Andean nation. The figures speak for themselves: the nationalization of hydrocarbons, poverty reduction from 60% to less than 40%, a decrease in the rate of illiteracy from 13% to 3%, the tripling the GDP with an average growth of 5% annually, the quadrupling of the minimum wage, the increasing of state coverage on all fronts, and the development of infrastructure in communications, transportation, energy and industry. And above all, stability, an unusual word in the troubled political history Bolivia, of which today, with the economic slowdown experienced by many countries in the region, is a real privilege.
Venezuela entered the second day of a nationwide mass strike Thursday, with millions expected to join a last-ditch attempt to pressure President Nicolas Maduro into scrapping plans for a new congress. But U.S. sanctions against 13 top Venezuelan officials announced Wednesday might offer the best chance of breaking the deadlock in the country’s political crisis, analysts say, by undermining crucial support for the government among its elite backers. ...
But on the surface, at least, Maduro and his allies have brushed off the U.S move with bravado. At a televised rally Wednesday night, Maduro presented some of the sanctioned officials with replicas of a sword belonging to revolutionary hero Simón Bolivar. “Congratulations for these imperialist sanctions,” he said. “What makes the imperialists of the United States think they are the world government?”
Esta es mi respuesta a los gringos, como les dijo Chávez "váyanse al carajo, yankees de mierda" pic.twitter.com/O0fuVcBVpI
— maria iris varela (@irisvarela) July 26, 2017
Maria Iris Varela, a key figure in efforts to establish the National Constituent Assembly who was one of those sanctioned, was less lofty in her response. “This is my response to the gringos, like Chavez told them, ‘Go to hell, you piece of shit Yankees,’” she wrote, in a tweet picturing her flipping the bird.
Israel has yielded to days of growing Palestinian street protests by removing all additional security measures around the compound housing al-Aqsa mosque, following the removal of metal detectors earlier this week.
The reversal marks a victory for a campaign of civil disobedience that saw Palestinians refuse en masse to enter the compound, one of the city’s most revered sites, choosing to pray instead in the streets of Jerusalem’s Old City.
The remaining additional security measures that had been installed by Israel in the last fortnight – including barriers and infrastructure for new cameras – were removed by workers in the early hours of Thursday amid mounting fears of unrest during what were expected to be large protests around Friday prayers. ...
On Wednesday night Israeli police took a far more conciliatory approach at the main Lions’ Gate entrance to the compound, where they had previously been quick to respond to any problems by clearing the streets with stun grenades.
There have been signs that the prayer protest movement – which drew thousands each night to largely non-violent gatherings – has given an unusual sense of empowerment to Palestinians in East Jerusalem who have long lived without their own political institutions under Israeli occupation.
Amid growing online attacks on Canada’s indigenous peoples – laced with vitriol, stereotypes and even death threats – a prominent First Nations leader is urging the government to crack down on hate speech. “It’s getting out of hand,” said Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, which represents 74 First Nations in the province of Saskatchewan. “Our people deserve to feel accepted. They shouldn’t feel that their lives are in danger.” ...
He pointed to last year’s fatal shooting of 22-year-old Colten Boushie, who was driving home with friends to Red Pheasant First Nation when a tyre blew out. The car pulled into a nearby farm, where Boushie was shot dead. Police charged the farm’s owner, 55, with second-degree murder, sparking a torrent of racist comments on social media. Some linked First Nations to crime while others praised the idea of vigilante justice. ...
This month, Barbara Kentner, a 34-year-old First Nations woman, died after a trailer hitch was thrown at her from a passing car in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Her sister said the pair had been walking in a residential neighbourhood when the metal hitch struck her sister in the abdomen. A passenger in the car yelled: “Oh, I got one,” she told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
An 18-year-old man has been charged with aggravated assault relating to the incident. ...
The issue of online attacks was thrust into the spotlight in 2015, after the CBC said it had closed comments on stories about indigenous peoples. “We’ve noticed over many months that these stories draw a disproportionate number of comments that cross the line and violate our guidelines,” Brodie Fenlon, the broadcaster’s acting director of digital news, explained in a blogpost. “Some of the violations are obvious, some not so obvious; some comments are clearly hateful and vitriolic, some are simply ignorant. And some appear to be hate disguised as ignorance (ie, racist sentiments expressed in benign language).”
Top White House adviser Steve Bannon is pushing for tax reform to include a new 44 percent top marginal tax rate, hitting people who earn more than $5 million a year, with the revenue paying for tax cuts for the rest, according to three people who’ve spoken to him recently. The top rate is now 39.6 percent and most Republicans have been planning to lower it significantly as part of tax reform. The plan Trump put out previously would have only three brackets, with the top one brought down to 35 percent.
Raising taxes on the very rich has been a rare policy that President Donald Trump has publicly espoused throughout much of his life. On Tuesday, he told the Wall Street Journal, “if there’s upward revision it’s going to be on high-income people.”
“I have wealthy friends that say to me, ‘I don’t mind paying more tax,’” he said. White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders was pressed on Trump’s comment at a televised briefing Wednesday, and said that further specifics of the plan would be released shortly, with an emphasis on tax cuts for the middle class.
Sen. Steve Daines is proposing an amendment to the Republican healthcare bill that would implement a government-run, single-payer insurance system in the U.S.
The Montana Republican doesn't support single-payer healthcare. But in a bit of political gamesmanship often seen in Congress, Daines wants to force vulnerable Democratic senators running for re-election in red states in 2018 to take a position on the liberal healthcare policy, which is gaining currency on the Left. ...
Daines' single-payer amendment is a carbon copy of one offered in the House by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich. The Conyers bill, with more than 100 Democratic cosponsors, proposes to create a program the legislation describes as "Medicare for All." According to the bill's language, "all individuals residing in the United States would be covered." To pay for the program, Conyers proposes raising income taxes on the top 5 percent of earners, plus hiking taxes on payroll and self-imployment income, unearned income, and stock and bond transactions.
As rumors about Trump’s intentions to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions continue to fly, Lindsey Graham told CNN, “If Jeff Sessions is fired there will be holy hell to pay.”
Lindsay Graham: "Any effort to go after Mueller could be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency." pic.twitter.com/CZGyL8i3D5
— Axios (@axios) July 27, 2017
Graham’s comments make clear that the political backlash for a firing spree like that may be too great if Trump wants to keep any friends in Congress. “Any effort to go after Mueller could be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency,” Graham said.
Malaysia’s Petronas has cancelled plans to build the Pacific NorthWest LNG plant on Lelu Island near Prince Rupert, B.C., in a move seen as a major setback for B.C.'s LNG dreams and as a major win for those concerned about climate change and salmon habitat. The project would have involved increased natural gas production in B.C.’s Montney Basin, a new 900-kilometre pipeline and the export terminal itself.
In a press statement about the investment decision, Petronas cited “changes in market conditions.” ... The B.C. projects were predicated on exporting low-cost gas to Asia where prices were as much as five times higher than in North America in 2013. But by 2016, prices had plunged and have shown little sign of increasing. ...
The Petronas press release stated that the company and its North Montney Joint Venture partners “remain committed to developing their significant natural gas assets in Canada and will continue to explore all options as part of its long-term investment strategy moving forward.” But how without a West Coast export facility? Well, TransCanada announced in June that the company would spend $2 billion to expand its NOVA Gas (NGTL) system to connect northern B.C. and Alberta natural gas producers to “premium intra-basin and export markets.” That’s code for: our gas is going to go east, not west.
[Considerably more detail is available at the link. - js]
[As an air-pollution reduction measure, the UK government has mandated that by 2040, new gas and diesel vehicles will be banned. They are anticipating that electric vehicles will take up the slack. - js]
The UK has less than 1% of the world’s population, so let’s assume that it has 1 fossil fuel powered motor vehicle of some kind for every 2 citizens (The ratio in the USA is 1:1). So there would today be 30 million fossil fuel powered privately owned vehicles in the U.K. The 200+ mile on a single charge range of a Tesla using a 60-80 KWh battery requires 19kg of cobalt. 30 million such vehicles would therefore require 570,000 t of cobalt, which would be immobilized (taken out of the market) for 5-8 years (the currently projected lifetime of the Li/Co type of battery used in the Tesla. This is nearly 5 times todays annual output of new cobalt production.. So the UK’s less than 1% of the globe’s people would require by 2040 around 20% of the world’s production of new cobalt at today’s production rate to completely eliminate fossil fuel powered cars and replace them with vehicles with a 200+ mile range.
China in the meantime has mandated 5,000,000 EVs to be on the road in their country by 2020! This would require 95,000 t of cobalt immobilized in Chinese batteries within 3 years. This WILL require about 30% of all global new cobalt production between now and the end of 2020. ...
The conversion of today’s fleet of 1 billion vehicles totally to pure long range EVs would take ALL of the world’s known resources of cobalt MOST of which are not today recoverable economically, and therefore could not occur in much less than 50-100 years and then ONLY if direct financial profit were not the motive but rather quality of life. This is against the neoliberal agenda.
They’re known as canned hunts; captive mammal hunting ranches in the US which offer the chance to shoot a zebra or antelope or even a lion for several thousand dollars. The animals are fenced in and often unafraid of humans so the kills are easy, to the extent that some venues even provide the option of shooting them via the internet, with the use of a camera and a gun on a mount.
It’s estimated that there are more than 1,000 of them - completely legal. But many US hunters consider them a betrayal of every belief they hold dear. “I don’t consider that hunting,” said John Rogalo, a New Jersey hunter who has been stalking bears, deer and turkeys for nearly 50 years. “It’s a weird culture that has developed in this country in the past few years. I joke that you may as well ask the farmer if you could shoot his black Angus because at least you’d get more meat for it.” ...
On the other side of the divide from Rogalo are the “shooters”, as they are known. “The shooter will come over, check his Blackberry every few hours, kill something and go home. There are now more and more shooters – younger, more urban, masters of the universe. They will have bait put out, sit in a blind and shoot lions as they feed. There’s no sport in that. It’s like a selfie.”
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
The Treniers - Rocking On Saturday Night
The Treniers - Day Old Bread And Canned Beans
The Treniers - Hadacol
The Treniers - Plenty Of Money
The Treniers - Cool It, Baby
The Treniers - Who Put The Ungh In The Mambo
The Treniers - Out of the Bushes
The Treniers - Everybody get together
The Treniers - Rock a Beatin' Boogie
The Treniers - It Rocks! It Rolls! It Swings!