The Evening Blues - 7-29-20
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues harmonica player George Harmonica Smith. Enjoy!
George Harmonica Smith - Juke
"True revolution comes from true revulsion; when things get bad enough the kitten will kill the lion."
-- Charles Bukowski
News and Opinion
A recent spate of reports in US media features US officials accusing Official Enemies Russia and China of “stealing” the US’s coronavirus vaccine research data. To accuse another party of “stealing” something, of course, is to imply unjust deprivation. If my wallet is stolen, it means I no longer possess it or its contents, while someone else does. Does it make sense to describe the alleged actions of Russian and Chinese hackers as a form of “theft”? If so, what kind of “theft” is it?
The New York Times’ report, “Russia Is Trying to Steal Virus Vaccine Data, Western Nations Say” (7/16/20), levied the accusations of US, British and Canadian governments that “the Kremlin” is “opening a new front in its spy battles with the West amid the worldwide competition to contain the pandemic.”
The Times story, by national security reporter Julian Barnes, takes it for granted that individual countries around the world are engaged in a ruthless struggle to gain geopolitical advantage by being the first to develop an effective vaccine. That ignores projects like the Inclusive Vaccine Alliance, formed by the German, French, Dutch and Italian governments to speed up development of a vaccine through joint research and investments. The Chinese government, for its part, has declared that its vaccine will be a “global public good,” and has repeatedly insisted on the necessity of “solidarity and cooperation,” in addition to actively cooperating with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (People’s Daily, 7/10/20).
The day after the Times published these accusations, the Russian government revealed that it had already sealed a deal with AstraZeneca and Oxford University for Russian manufacturing of the potential British vaccine (one of the leading contenders), and claimed that it didn’t need to “steal” state secrets because it would be given to them (Reuters, 7/17/20).
The Times report undermined its own headline when it admitted:
American intelligence officials said the Russians were aiming to steal research to develop their own vaccine more quickly, not to sabotage other countries’ efforts. There was likely little immediate damage to global public health, cybersecurity experts said.
In other words, even if these allegations were true, Western governments have not been deprived of their research. The Times fully admits that this alleged hacking would not harm US public health, but only the profits of US pharmaceutical companies:
Private firms are more at risk than the public, said Mike Chapple, a former National Security Agency computer scientist who teaches cybersecurity at the University of Notre Dame.
“The potential harm here is limited to commercial harm, to companies that are devoting a lot of their own resources into developing a vaccine in hopes it will be financially rewarding down the road,” he said.
The Times also acknowledged that:
The accusations against Russia were also the latest example of an increasing willingness in recent months by the United States and its closest intelligence allies to publicly accuse foreign adversaries of breaches and cyberattacks…. Attributing such attacks, however, is imprecise, an ambiguity that Moscow takes advantage of in denying responsibility, as it did Thursday.
Despite these acknowledgments, the Times nevertheless echoed the certitude of “American experts,” and anonymous government and intelligence officials, about Russian culpability and motives. The Times simply asserted that “the Russian espionage” signals “a new kind of competition between Moscow and Washington akin to Cold War spies stealing technological secrets during the space race generations ago.” Without providing any evidence, anonymous sources assert that Cozy Bear, an alleged Russian cyberespionage group “controlled by Russia’s elite SVR intelligence agency” is trying to “exploit the chaos created by the coronavirus pandemic.”
Despite the Times admitting that US government officials “would not identify victims of the hackings,” the paper speculated that the “primary target of the attacks appeared to be Oxford University in Britain and the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.” Note that these are the same groups with whom the Russian government has already announced a deal to manufacture their potential vaccine. ...
As epidemiologists, US academics and FAIR (4/2/20; CounterSpin, 5/9/20) have pointed out before, the optimal way to develop a coronavirus vaccine on the pace and scale required to combat the pandemic is through international cooperation and open research, which would both minimize risk and maximize efficiency. Current Affairs’s Nathan J. Robinson (7/17/20) noted that corporate media hysteria over alleged enemy hacking is one of “the most egregious examples” of “nationalistic bias leading to moral imbecility”:
What’s incredible is that nowhere in the stories is anybody quoted questioning the logic of viewing vaccine development as a “competition.” Nobody explains why researchers are keeping their research secret rather than sharing it as widely as possible. There is no discussion of how this constitutes a totally bizarre way to combat a global pandemic, which should not be a “race to see which country can find a vaccine first so that it can force everyone else to pay up if they want to save their people’s lives.”… Let’s have some moral honesty: The competitive approach is evil. It is criminal that any country is keeping vaccine information secret from other countries in the first place. That is mass murder.
One should expect corporate media outlets like the Times to equate corporate interests with the US national interest. By spinning the intellectual property of large US corporations as something that must be safeguarded rather than something that should be shared, US media are failing to inform their audiences about how corporations are delaying the development of a vaccine—and causing unnecessary deaths.
Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ted Lieu of California are proposing an amendment this week that would prohibit funds from being used to send federal agents into American cities as part of Operation Legend or Operation Relentless Pursuit: Justice Department initiatives that have led brutal crackdowns on protesters in cities like Portland, Oregon. While the Trump administration has framed the dispatching of secret police as efforts meant “to help state and local officials fight the surge of violent crime,” critics such as Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden and Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner have called the tactics “fascist.”
The measure, which was filed as an amendment to the upcoming House Appropriations bill, is co-sponsored by Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib, of Michigan, Deb Haaland of New Mexico, and Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri. The House Rules Committee is meeting today to decide which of the hundreds of amendments filed will be considered for a minibus spending package this week.
“I thank Rep. Lieu for co-leading this important amendment,” said Rep. Ocasio-Cortez in a statement. “Federal law enforcement officers are snatching Americans off of street corners and placing them into unmarked cars for the ‘crime’ of exercising their First Amendment rights. The United States of America should not have secret police. The idea that these federal law enforcement officers are there to protect Americans is a farce. In his testimony today, Attorney General Bill Barr made clear once again that his only priority is to reelect the President, not to protect the American people.”
A National Guard whistleblower told Congress on Tuesday that peaceful protesters were subjected to an “unprovoked escalation and excessive use of force” in Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., last month. On the evening of June 1, officers with the U.S. Park Police and Secret Service used tear gas, riot batons, and smoke devices to clear the square of protesters ahead of a staged photo where President Donald Trump posed in front of nearby St. John’s Church. Maj. Adam DeMarco, appointed that evening to act as a liaison officer between the D.C. National Guard and the U.S. Park Police, testified before the House Natural Resources Committee that the events of June 1 were “deeply disturbing” to him, and that he observed the protesters acting peacefully.
“Having served in a combat zone, and understanding how to assess threat environments, at no time did I feel threatened by the protestors or assess them to be violent,” DeMarco said in his opening statement. “In addition, considering the principles of proportionality of force and the fundamental strategy of graduated responses specific to civil disturbance operations, it was my observation that the use of force against demonstrators in the clearing operation was an unnecessary escalation of the use of force.”
Tuesday’s hearing also featured Acting Park Police Chief Gregory Monahan, who steadfastly insisted that the operation to clear the park was solely intended to put up a security fence around the square, and that it had nothing to do with Trump walking through and posing for a photo op with a Bible just minutes later. “Our focus that day was to install that fencing,” Monahan said. “There is 100 percent zero correlation to our operation and the president’s visit to the church.”
As the square was being cleared, Trump gave a brief speech in the Rose Garden, saying “As we speak, I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults, and the wanton destruction of property.”
Attorney General Bill Barr went to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to defend sending federal agents to Black Lives Matter protests, as well as his own reputation — and he got plenty of backup from the Republican members of the committee. ...
After telling Barr that he seems to “have a difficult time understanding systemic racism and institutional racism,” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas asked if his department seeks to end systemic racism in law enforcement. “I don’t agree that there’s systemic racism in police departments generally in this country,” Barr responded. Later, Barr told Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana that cops are less likely to shoot Black suspects than white suspects, without backing it up with evidence. “Police are less likely to shoot at a Black suspect, however that police are more inclined to use non-lethal force in contact with an African-American subject,” Barr said. “In terms of the statistics, that’s what it looks like to me.”
On the other hand, Barr appears to view the protests and the response of protesters to violent police actions as an all-out war on law enforcement. Barr referenced “powerful slingshots with ball bearings” and “pellet guns that have penetrated Marshals to the bone.” “They use lasers to blind the Marshals,” Barr added, echoing a recent White House claim that three federal law enforcement officials were left “blinded” by protesters pointing lasers at their eyes in Portland. An email to the Department of Homeland Security asking the agency to provide evidence or information to back this claim up was not immediately returned.
There was no shortage of conspiracy theories and wild claims about antifa on Wednesday, mostly coming from House Republicans on the committee. Republican Louie Gohmert of Texas, whose supporters allegedly assaulted his opponent’s campaign manager over the weekend, claimed that Marxists were behind the “mayhem.” ...
Later, Barr was asked by Republican Matt Gaetz of Florida if antifa was a “terrorist organization,” to which Barr responded that it was an “umbrella network” of groups. “I’m not suggesting it’s a national organization that moves nationally,” Barr said. Gaetz then floated using RICO laws—famously used to prosecute Mafia figures—to prosecute an “organization like this,” and Barr agreed that antifa attacking federal property was a problem that could “metastasize” if the government doesn’t shut it down.
Police say a man captured on surveillance video breaking windows at a south Minneapolis auto parts store in the days after George Floyd’s death is suspected of ties with a white supremacist group and sought to incite racial tension. The man’s actions soon led to an arson fire, the first of several that transformed peaceful protests into chaos, police say. He has been dubbed “Umbrella Man” for dressing in an all-black outfit that included hood, gas mask and black umbrella.
“This was the first fire that set off a string of fires and looting throughout the precinct and the rest of the city,” Erika Christensen, a Minneapolis police arson investigator, wrote in a search warrant affidavit this week, the Star Tribune reported.
Police identified the 32-year-old suspect through an emailed tip last week, Christensen said, and he is understood to be a Hell’s Angels member who was bent on stirring up social unrest. ... An investigation found that the man was also an associate of the Aryan Cowboy Brotherhood, a white supremacist prison and street gang.
"F-35s Don't Help Families Pay Their Bills": GOP Under Fire for Slipping $30 Billion Pentagon Gift Into Coronavirus Plan
In a floor speech late Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell described the GOP's newly released coronavirus stimulus package as a "carefully tailored" plan to provide financial relief to desperate Americans.
But a look at the legislative text (pdf) released by Senate Republicans shows the HEALS Act is replete with massive gifts to the Pentagon and defense contractors that would do nothing to aid the unemployed, provide nutrition assistance to hungry children, prevent an avalanche of evictions, or stop the spread of coronavirus.
"Last time I checked F-35s don't help families pay their bills," Rep. Chuy García (D-Ill.) tweeted in response to the GOP's proposal of $686 million in spending on new fighter jets.
The legislation also includes hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for surveillance planes, Apache helicopters, and armored vehicles.
Just how twisted is the Senate GOP #coronavirus bill you ask?
It includes $686 million for new #F35 fighter jets. As you know, fighter jets are well known for their pandemic fighting abilities.
— Stephen Miles (@SPMiles42) July 27, 2020
The HEALS Act proposes a total of $29.4 billion in new military spending just a week after the House and Senate approved a $740.5 billion Pentagon budget for fiscal year 2021.
Meanwhile, as Common Dreams reported earlier Tuesday, the Republican package includes no money for state and local governments, election assistance, or the U.S. Postal Service. The legislation would also slash the weekly federal unemployment insurance boost from $600 to $200.
Progressive Caucus Demands Democrats Reject GOP Plan to 'Unleash Widespread Suffering' on the American People
The leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus on Tuesday condemned the Senate GOP's new coronavirus stimulus proposal as a "policy of mass evictions, mass homelessness, mass poverty, and mass hunger" that Democrats must unequivocally reject in favor of increased protections for frontline workers and the unemployed.
"Millions of Americans are on the brink of complete economic devastation as Covid-19 cases and joblessness claims continue to rise, and yet the Republican response is to dramatically hollow out unemployment and housing protections in the midst of a pandemic," Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), co-chairs of the CPC, said in a statement.
"For more than 30 million unemployed Americans, the Republican proposal would amount to $400 less in critical relief every week as many families are already stretching resources to put food on the table, pay the bills, and make ends meet," Jayapal and Pocan added. "All the while, big corporations would be shielded from any responsibility or liability for endangering the wellbeing of the public."
The CPC leaders are urging Democrats in Congress to counter the GOP's business-friendly opening offer by demanding an extension of the $600-per-week boost in unemployment benefits, a moratorium on utility shut-offs, and strong housing protections to prevent a wave of evictions.
Last Friday, as Common Dreams reported, an eviction moratorium covering those who live in homes with federally backed mortgages expired, leaving more than 12 million people at risk of being forced onto the streets.
"We should also ensure that this latest bill does not become a free-for-all for corporations looking for bailouts, handouts, and liability shields, and prevent profiteering off the virus and people's pain," said Jayapal and Pocan, referring to the GOP's proposal to protect businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits for five years.
"Instead of shielding corporations, we should be ensuring that all essential workers are protected and states have access to increased PPE and testing supplies," Jayapal and Pocan said. "The American people can't afford half-measures—we must do better for the millions of families who are counting on us."
Pre-emptive surrender is a Democratic party speciality. https://t.co/ToIB3c8oFm
— Jeet Heer (@HeerJeet) July 28, 2020
Progressive congressional candidate Alex Morse, who is challenging Rep. Richard Neal in Massachusetts' September 1 Democratic primary, was among those criticizing Hoyer's suggestion that Democrats would be willing to cut a deal with the GOP on unemployment benefits.
"This isn't $600 or bust. This is food on the table or bust. This is rent or bust," Morse tweeted. "Let's not compromise for scraps and call it a win. This is a fight for our lives and we need Democrats to hold the line."
The Trump administration will allow so-called Dreamers to renew deportation protections for a year while it reviews a supreme court ruling before a fresh attempt to kill the program in question, a senior administration official said on Tuesday.
Hundreds of thousands of Dreamers live in the US without documentation, after entering as children. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) was put in place by Barack Obama and some 644,000 people are enrolled.
The Trump review follows the ruling last month that found the administration had erred in the way it decided to end the program.
The administration plans to continue its existing policy of not accepting new applicants, in place since 2017, the official told Reuters. But the administration will extend eligibility by a year for those whose protection from deportation was due to expire, as long as they do not have a criminal record.
Florida reported another record one-day rise in coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, and cases in Texas passed the 400,000 mark, fueling fear that the United States is still not taking control of the outbreak and adding pressure on Congress to pass another massive economic aid package. Public health experts are becoming concerned about the levels of infection in states such as Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee and Kentucky, while the surge in Florida along with Texas, Arizona and California this month has strained many hospitals.
The increase in cases has forced a U-turn on steps to reopen economies after the end of lockdowns put in place in March and April to slow the spread of the virus.
Florida has had 191 coronavirus deaths in the last 24 hours, the highest single-day rise since the start of the epidemic, the state health department said. Texas, the second-most populous state, added more than 6,000 new cases on Monday, pushing its total to 401,477, according to a tally being kept by the Reuters news agency. Only three other states – California, Florida and New York – have more than 400,000 total cases.
The widening outbreak has pushed the US death toll from Covid-19 closer to the bleak 150,000 milestone, which the country is expected to cross this week and comes just over three months before the 3 November election, where Donald Trump seeks a second term. The US has more than 4.3m confirmed cases, according to totals tracked by Reuters and Johns Hopkins University.
President Donald Trump helped propel a viral disinformation video on Monday night, sharing with his 84 million followers the false claims that no one needs to wear a mask and that hydroxychloroquine is a cure for coronavirus.
The video, featuring a group calling themselves “America’s Frontline Doctors,” was viewed tens of millions of times on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube on Monday before all three networks took action and removed it from their networks.
Twitter deleted the posts Trump had shared, saying the video was “in violation of our COVID-19 misinformation policy.”
Trump’s Twitter feed now has a note on it saying: “This tweet is no longer available.” Similar action was taken on tweets shared by Trump’s eldest son, Donald Jr.
Facebook and YouTube have also removed the video from their platforms, where it was first posted by right-wing news outlet Breitbart.
A Houston doctor who praises hydroxychloroquine and says that face masks aren’t necessary to stop transmission of the highly contagious coronavirus has become a star on the right-wing internet, garnering tens of millions of views on Facebook on Monday alone. Donald Trump Jr. declared the video of Stella Immanuel a “must watch,” while Donald Trump himself retweeted the video.
Before Trump and his supporters embrace Immanuel’s medical expertise, though, they should consider other medical claims Immanuel has made—including those about alien DNA and the physical effects of having sex with witches and demons in your dreams.
Immanuel, a pediatrician and a religious minister, has a history of making bizarre claims about medical topics and other issues. She has often claimed that gynecological problems like cysts and endometriosis are in fact caused by people having sex in their dreams with demons and witches.
She alleges alien DNA is currently used in medical treatments, and that scientists are cooking up a vaccine to prevent people from being religious. And, despite appearing in Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress on Monday, she has said that the government is run in part not by humans but by “reptilians” and other aliens.
Hello Facebook put back my profile page and videos up or your computers with start crashing till you do. You are not bigger that God. I promise you. If my page is not back up face book will be down in Jesus name.
— Stella Immanuel MD (@stella_immanuel) July 28, 2020
A Florida man who bought luxury goods including a Lamborghini sports car after receiving nearly $4m in loans from the paycheck protection program (PPP) has been charged with fraud, federal authorities announced. PPP payments are meant to help small businesses hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
A US Department of Justice complaint alleges that David Hines applied on behalf of a few companies for about $13.5m in PPP loans, used money he received to shop at luxury stores and resorts in Miami Beach, then lied about how much he had paid to employees.
Hines was charged with one count of bank fraud, one count of making false statements to a financial institution and one count of engaging in transactions in unlawful proceeds.
Bank of America approved three PPP applications for Hines. In each he claimed 70 employees, with monthly payroll expenses totaling $4m. He was paid $3,984,557. But his accounts for preceding months indicated monthly inflows and outflows of $200,000 and payments resembling payroll were for small amounts to just 12 people.
On receiving the PPP funds, he made two payments of $30,000 to a recipient noted as “Mom”. “Within days of receiving the PPP funds, Hines purchased a 2020 Lamborghini Huracan sports car for approximately $318,000, which he registered jointly in his name and the name of one of his companies,” prosecutors said.
President Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign is a political juggernaut that has taken control of much of the Republican Party’s data-collecting and fund-raising infrastructure. And according to one of the nation’s foremost election law watchdogs, it may also be evading the law in unprecedented fashion. A complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission Tuesday by the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center asserts that the Trump campaign and its joint fundraising committee with the R.N.C., the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, have violated federal election reporting requirements.
Specifically, the center is alleging that the Trump campaign is out of step with an anti-corruption provision of the Federal Election Campaign Act that states campaigns must disclose the name and address of each person or corporate entity to whom an expenditure in excess of $200 is made, “together with the date, amount, and purpose” of those expenditures. Senior Trump campaign officials, the complaint alleges, have “disguised over $170 million dollars of campaign spending by laundering the funds through firms headed by Trump’s recent campaign manager, Brad Parscale” and other Trump campaign officials—including Sean Dollman, the Trump campaign’s director of operations, and Alex Cannon, a special counsel to the campaign. (Parscale, who was recently demoted, has a new role as senior campaign adviser for data and digital operations.) ...
The Campaign Legal Center’s complaint asserts [...] that the Trump-aligned firms merely “serve as conduits that receive millions in payments from the campaign and disburse the funds to the campaign’s ultimate vendors, thereby concealing the campaign’s transactions with those vendors. Available information indicates that the ultimate vendors are effectively working under the direction and control of the campaign, and are providing services to the campaign rather than to Parscale’s conduit firms.”
A Democratic National Committee panel on Monday voted down an amendment that would have inserted a plank supporting Medicare for All into the party's 2020 platform, a move progressives decried as out of touch with public opinion and a slap in the face to the millions of people who have lost their health insurance due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The DNC Platform Committee rejected the Medicare for All amendment introduced by longtime single-payer advocate Michael Lighty by a vote of 36-125 during a virtual meeting Monday. The committee also voted down separate attempts to include support for expanding Medicare to children, dropping the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 55, and legalizing marijuana.
"Shameful. And during a pandemic," tweeted progressive radio host Kyle Kulinksi in response to the defeat of the Medicare for All amendment. "History will not judge this kindly. It's like opposing the New Deal during the Great Depression. Unforgivable."
Winnie Wong, former senior adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) presidential campaign, tweeted late Monday that she "can't even imagine what went on in the heads of those 125 DNC Platform Committee members who voted Medicare or All down."
"Today. Now. When the country is in the deathgrip of a global pandemic and people are dying because they can't afford to the upkeep of their sick-care," Wong wrote. "Shameful."
Lighty said ahead of the vote that with more than 100 million people and counting either uninsured or underinsured amid a deadly pandemic, "it is vital that the Democratic Party join the NAACP, the Poor People's Campaign, the Rising Majority, Mijente, community-based organizations all over the country and demand guaranteed healthcare for all through an improved Medicare for All system."
Speaking in support of Lighty's amendment during the platform meeting Monday, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, former health director for the city of Detroit and 2018 Michigan gubernatorial candidate, said the Covid-19 pandemic has "revealed that our house of healthcare was built of straw."
"We have a for-profit healthcare system that's left 27 million more people without healthcare because we attached healthcare to jobs," said El-Sayed.
As of late Tuesday, more than 600 DNC delegates had signed a petition vowing to vote against the Democratic platform if it doesn't include support for Medicare for All, a policy solution supported by around 80% of Democratic voters and a majority of House Democrats. Most of the petition's signatories are Sanders delegates, according to organizers, but some Biden delegates have also signed on.
"Hate to say, 'We told you so.'"
That comment came in a Monday tweet from climatologist Michael E. Mann, responding to a pair of meteorologists who noted the warm waters along the East Coast of the United States, which "means trouble for any tropical cyclones coming up the coast" for the next several weeks of the Atlantic hurricane season.
Mann, an atmospheric science professor at Penn State who directs the university's Earth System Science Center (ESSC), and other experts have warned that human-driven global heating that's warming the world's oceans is already causing and will continue to cause more intense and devastating tropical storms and hurricanes.
In April, Mann, ESSC scientist Daniel J. Brouillette, and alumnus Michael Kozar released their pre-season forecast for the 2020 North Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from the beginning of June to the end of November. They predicted a range of 15 to 24 named storms, with a "best estimate" of 20, for this year's season.
On Monday, Mann pointed out this was the first season in a decade for which they forecast up to 20 storms, then warned that "if anything, that might be too low..."
This means trouble for any tropical cyclones coming up the coast in the next 8 weeks... https://t.co/QvxhngWuOV
— Dan Satterfield (@wildweatherdan) July 27, 2020
The fresh concerns from Mann and meteorologists Dan Satterfield and Eric Fisher came after the Category 1 Hurricane Hanna—the first hurricane and eighth named storm of this season—made landfall twice Saturday evening in southeast Texas, a region "already battered by the coronavirus pandemic," as the New York Times noted.
The Texas Tribune reported Monday that thousands in the state remained without power as a result of Hanna. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) downgraded Hanna to a tropical storm early Sunday but also warned that "heavy rainfall, strong winds, storm surge, dangerous surf, and isolated tornadoes remain a threat from this system."
Late Tuesday morning, the NHC issued a potential tropical cyclone advisory for what could soon become the season's ninth named storm. Meteorologist Philip Klotzbach pointed out that the storm would be named Isaias and could set the record for the earliest ninth tropical cyclone in the Atlantic.
Two-hundred and fifty years after they were stripped of their ancestral homeland, the Esselen tribe of northern California is landless no more. This week, the Esselen tribe finalized the purchase of a 1,200-acre ranch near Big Sur, along California’s north central coast, as part of a $4.5m acquisition that involved the state and an Oregon-based environmental group.
The deal will conserve old-growth redwoods and endangered wildlife such as the California condor and red-legged frog, as well as protect the Little Sur River, an important spawning stream for the imperiled steelhead trout.
Tribal leaders say they’ll use the land for educational and cultural purposes, building a sweat lodge and traditional village in view of Pico Blanco peak, the center of the tribe’s origin story. “We’re the original stewards of the land. Now we’re returned,” Tom Little Bear Nason, chairman of the Esselen tribe of Monterey county, told the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
Nearly 250 years ago, Spanish soldiers built a military outpost in Monterey and Franciscan padres founded missions in nearby settlements – places where tribal members were brought to be baptized and converted to Catholicism. By the early 1800s, nearly all of the remaining tribe had been decimated by disease and death. Esselen tribal members were stripped of their land, language and culture. But this week, after 250 years, their descendants reclaimed some of their land. The tribe has no plans on leaving.
Populations of migratory river fish around the world have plunged by a “catastrophic” 76% since 1970, an analysis has found. The fall was even greater in Europe at 93%, and for some groups of fish, with sturgeon and eel populations both down by more than 90%.
Species such as salmon, trout and giant catfish are vital not just to the rivers and lakes in which they breed or feed but to entire ecosystems. By swimming upstream, they transport nutrients from the oceans and provide food for many land animals, including bears, wolves and birds of prey.
The migratory fish are also critical for the food security and livelihoods of millions of people around the world, while recreational fishing is worth billions of dollars a year. The causes of the decline are the hundreds of thousands of dams around the world, overfishing, the climate crisis and water pollution.
The scientists said the situation may be even bleaker than it seemed, as many declines began before 1970. Populations of sturgeon in the Great Lakes of North America, for example, have dropped by 95% from historic levels. Furthermore, suitable data has not been gathered on species in some of the world’s most biodiverse rivers such as the Mekong, Congo, Amazon and Yangtze, where researchers fear there will be hundreds of fish extinctions in the coming decades.
The average fall in populations was 84% in Latin America, while there has been a 59% decrease in Asia-Oceania, although there is limited data there and not enough from Africa to determine any reliable trend. In North America, the fall was less dramatic, at 28%. This is probably because large declines occurred before 1970, but also as a result of a growing number of dams being removed.
Respiratory illnesses are no stranger to the Latino communities who live around California’s largest lake, the Salton Sea. Asthma rates here are some of the highest in California, with air quality routinely failing to meet federal and state standards. Thanks in part to the state’s omnipresent water wars, the water in this desolate, former vacation destination is rapidly drying up, salinating the lake, and releasing decades-old contaminants into the air.
The community already beset by an environmental disaster is now facing a pandemic of the worst proportions. Residents and activists, who have long fought for more funding and pollution mitigation, say the area was already at a steep disadvantage for health care. Now the largely agrarian community has found itself in the middle of a perfect storm of environmental neglect, poverty, and the coronavirus. As Covid-19 cases resurge across the U.S., the numbers have been stark in the Golden State. Heralded for fast-moving lockdowns that helped thwart maxed-out hospitals at the beginning of the crisis, California is now breaking single-day case records.
The communities near the Salton Sea are some of the state’s hardest hit. To the north, the Eastern Coachella Valley has the largest number of coronavirus cases and deaths of any of Riverside County’s districts — and Riverside has the second highest number of Covid-19 cases in the state, aside from Los Angeles. Across the lake to the south, adjacent Imperial County has also emerged as a Covid-19 hotspot, with the highest death rate in California. The main hospital there is so overrun, they’ve turned to using portable military-style tents in the triple-digit heat. Nearly all admitted patients are suffering from Covid-19. ...
Oasis and Mecca, two of the gritty towns that dot the receding banks of the Salton Sea, were once aptly named. Created by accident in 1905 after a failed levee dumped fresh water from the Colorado River into the formerly bone-dry basin, the sea was a true desert wonder. In the mid-20th century, it became a family resort, appealing to residents looking for a break from the hustle of Los Angeles, a three-hour drive to the West. Vacationers came for water sports and to fish the stocked corvina. In the 1970s, there was a dramatic shift. Runoff from neighboring farmland that flowed untreated into the sea, paired with swiftly salinating waters due to limited new water supply, led to mass fish die-offs. Algae in the lake, feeding off the decay, turned the water freakish shades of green and red. Then a pungent smell began.
But nothing exacerbated the issue more than the 2003 approval of a multimillion-dollar transfer of water to San Diego: the largest farm-to-urban water agreement in U.S. history. It diverted water from the Colorado River that was previously available for use in the valley, dwindling runoff to the lake. Critics say the benefits from the deal haven’t trickled down.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
George 'Harmonica' Smith - Old Ugly Man Like Me
George 'Harmonica' Smith - Hawaiian Eye
George 'Harmonica' Smith - Roaming
George "Harmonica Smith" - Mellow Down Easy
George Smith - Rockin'
George "Harmonica" Smith - Blowin' The Blues
Little George Smith - Oopin Doopin Doopin
George Harmonica Smith - Woke up this mornin'
George Harmonica Smith - Tight Dress
George Harmonica Smith - Further on up the road