The Evening Blues - 7-30-21
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features Chicago blues guitarist Hip Linkchain. Enjoy!
Hip Linkchain - My Girl
"When everyone is moving towards depravity, no one seems to be moving, but if someone stops he shows up the others who are rushing on, by acting as a fixed point."
-- Blaise Pascal
News and Opinion
Daniel Hale, the guy who revealed that drone bombing killed 90% innocents, is now off to his stint in jail. He seems tough, maybe he won’t be driven to multiple suicide attempts like Manning was by the deliberate mistreatment he will surely experience..
“You are not being prosecuted for speaking out about the drone program killing innocent people,” O’Grady said. “You could have been a whistleblower . . . without taking any of these documents.”
Without the documents, though, there would have only been a claim, not proof. The documents are what made the “speaking out” work. O’Grady surely knows this, but his job is to put people in jail who don’t deserve to be there, and unlike Hale, his conscience, if he has one, isn’t sufficient to make him change his ways. ...
Hale is a hero but I feel bad for him, less because of the jail sentence, though I’m sure it’ll be horrific, than because his proving that drone murders were even worse than we thought did nothing to slow or stop them, because the American people don’t care and American elites are depraved psychopaths for whom mass murder means nothing.
New data obtained by The Intercept adds considerable detail to what we already know about former President Donald Trump’s relentless campaign against whistleblowers and leakers in the intelligence community. The Trump administration referred far more media leaks for criminal investigation each year than any of the previous 15 years, with the CIA accounting for the vast majority of such leaks, according to a trove of records released by the Department of Justice to the independent watchdog group Project On Government Oversight, or POGO, in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
The DOJ records provide a previously unavailable level of detail on media leak referrals, including the originating agency, the date of the referral, and the classification level of the suspected disclosure. The records also show the CIA accounting for more than 64 percent of all referrals. The next most common agency, the National Security Agency, accounted for just 15 percent. The documents reveal a dramatic spike in the number of such leak referrals — called “crime reports” — from the CIA in 2017, when Mike Pompeo led the spy agency. Many of those referrals pertained to leaks that had taken place months and even years prior during the Obama administration, raising questions about why they were being revisited.
As The Intercept has previously reported, in 2017 the number of criminal leak referrals spiked to 120 — much higher than any other point since 2005. The number of referrals to Trump’s Justice Department in 2018 was 88, with 71 in 2019, still considerably higher than the years before Trump became president. In the first three quarters of 2020, there were 55 referrals. More than twice as many leak referrals were sent to the Justice Department during the first three years of the Trump administration than in any other three-year period in the last decade-and-a-half. ...
Amid recent revelations of the Trump administration’s efforts to obtain the communications records of reporters from CNN, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, the new DOJ documents reveal the most complete picture yet assembled of a leak-hunting effort that dwarfs those of previous administrations. In the recently revealed cases, gag orders prevented news executives and tech companies from revealing the secret subpoenas. In May, President Joe Biden announced that he would not permit the seizure of reporters’ records, apparently unaware that his own Justice Department was attempting to do just that and had obtained a gag order against the New York Times. After it was lifted, the Biden White House claimed that it knew nothing about the Times gag order, and the Justice Department soon announced a new policy regarding reporters in leak investigations.
Although only some leak referrals lead to investigations, and a small fraction are likely to result in criminal charges, the raw number of referrals under the Trump administration could mean that more prosecutions will eventually emerge. But even without a formal prosecution, a government investigation can seriously impact a federal employee’s personal and professional life and cost a considerable sum in defense attorney’s fees — and chill others from disclosing information.
China’s foreign minister has met a Taliban delegation, signalling warming ties as the United States-led foreign forces continue their withdrawal from Afghanistan. Wang Yi on Wednesday told the nine visiting Taliban representatives, which included the group’s co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, that Beijing expected it to “play an important role in the process of peaceful reconciliation and reconstruction in Afghanistan”, according to a readout of the meeting from the foreign ministry. ...
Taliban leaders have stepped up their international diplomacy in recent months, seeking global recognition for when they hope to return to power. Wednesday’s meeting in the Chinese city of Tianjin, which Taliban spokesman Mohammed Naeem said was at the invitation from Chinese authorities, was widely seen as a gift from Beijing towards that legitimacy.
Beijing has viewed the US withdrawal from Afghanistan as a boon, while close ties with a future government in Kabul could also pave the way for an expansion of its Belt and Road Initiative into Afghanistan and through the Central Asian republics.
On Wednesday, China’s foreign ministry spokesman sought to further underscore the differences between Washington’s and Beijing’s policies. “China has throughout adhered to non-interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs … Afghanistan belongs to the Afghan people,” he said, adding it was a stark contrast to the “failure of US policy towards Afghanistan”.
For his part, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on an official visit to India, warned on Wednesday that Afghanistan would become a “pariah state” if the Taliban takes control by force.
New Zealand, Iceland, the UK, Tasmania and Ireland are the places best suited to survive a global collapse of society, according to a study.
The researchers said human civilisation was “in a perilous state” due to the highly interconnected and energy-intensive society that had developed and the environmental damage this had caused.
A collapse could arise from shocks, such as a severe financial crisis, the impacts of the climate crisis, destruction of nature, an even worse pandemic than Covid-19 or a combination of these, the scientists said.
To assess which nations would be most resilient to such a collapse, countries were ranked according to their ability to grow food for their population, protect their borders from unwanted mass migration, and maintain an electrical grid and some manufacturing ability. Islands in temperate regions and mostly with low population densities came out on top.
The researchers said their study highlighted the factors that nations must improve to increase resilience. They said that a globalised society that prized economic efficiency damaged resilience, and that spare capacity needed to exist in food and other vital sectors.
Israeli authorities have inspected the offices of the surveillance outfit NSO Group in response to the Pegasus project investigation into abuses of the company’s spyware by several government clients.
Officials from the defence ministry visited the company’s offices near Tel Aviv on Wednesday, at the same time as the defence minister, Benny Gantz, arrived for a pre-arranged visit to Paris in which the Pegasus revelations were discussed with his French counterpart. ...
Early media reports described the moves on NSO’s offices as a raid, but the company said in a statement that the authorities had “visited” rather than raided its premises. NSO said it had been informed in advance that defence ministry officials responsible for overseeing commercial exports of sensitive cyber-exports would be doing an inspection. “The company is working in full transparency with the Israeli authorities,” it added. ...
As the scale of the disclosures has become clearer, diplomatic pressure has mounted on Israel to explain the nature of the relationship between NSO and the state under the tenure of former prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The wider Pegasus project investigation found that the Israeli government gave NSO explicit permission in 2017 to try to sell the hacking tools to Saudi Arabia in a deal reportedly worth at least $55m.
Gantz told the French defence minister, Florence Parly, on Wednesday that Israel was investigating the matter “with the utmost seriousness”, according to a statement from the Israeli defence ministry.
Google has backtracked on plans to welcome most workers back to its sprawling campus in September, becoming the latest Silicon Valley company to delay reopening amid a surge in Covid cases.
The company announced Wednesday it is postponing a return to the office until mid-October and rolling out a policy that will eventually require everyone who returns in person to be vaccinated.
The decision sees Google join Apple and Netflix in postponing calling employees back to the office due to concerns about the highly transmissible Delta variant, which now accounts for more than 80% of new cases in the US. Twitter also halted reopening plans and closed offices last week due to the Delta variant.
In an email to Google’s more than 130,000 employees worldwide, chief executive officer Sundar Pichai said the company is now aiming to have most of its workforce back to its offices beginning 18 October instead of its previous target date of 1 September.
Google’s delay also affects tens of thousands of contractors who Google intends to continue to pay while access to its campuses remains limited.
The increasing polarization and disinformation around the Covid-19 vaccine has led to some people attempting to “disguise their appearance” and get vaccinated in secret, according to a Missouri doctor.
Dr Priscilla Frase, a hospitalist and chief medical information officer at Ozarks Healthcare in West Plains, said physicians had experienced a number of people who have asked to covertly receive the vaccine to avoid conflict with vaccine skeptical family, friends and co-workers.
In a video produced by Ozarks Healthcare, Frase said one pharmacist reported that several people: “Even went so far as to say: ‘Please, please, please don’t let anybody know that I got this vaccine.’”
Some 41% of people in Missouri are fully vaccinated. Nationwide 49.8% of Americans are fully vaccinated, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Last week the White House said Missouri, Florida and Texas account for 40% of new coronavirus cases in the US.
This spring, 166 workers in Janesville, Wisconsin awoke to a nightmare. OpenGate Capital, the private equity firm that owns their employer, Hufcor, announced it was moving their plant out of Janesville — taking those workers’ jobs and livelihoods with it. It’s the biggest business closure in Janesville since the Great Recession. This isn’t just another story about corporate globalization or pandemic upheaval. It’s a story about predatory private equity run amok. In too many cases with private equity, big firms acquire businesses and squeeze them for cash, routinely causing bankruptcies.
OpenGate Capital, a Los Angeles firm that amassed $5 billion in revenue during its first decade in business, has run exactly that playbook in Janesville since acquiring Hufcor in 2017. Hufcor, a market-leading producer of accordion-style doors and mobile room partitions, was profitable when OpenGate bought it. It maintained operations during the worst of the pandemic and even advertised $16 hourly wages and generous benefits as recently as January 2021. OpenGate is moving the plant to Mexico anyway. ...
OpenGate has a history of buying companies only to close operations shortly thereafter, leaving communities across the country in the lurch. To date, OpenGate has laid off 678 California workers from the Pennysaver classified ad magazine, 100 Wisconsin workers at its Golden Guernsey dairy plant, 140 employees of the Connecticut boxboard company Fusion Paperboard, and nearly 200 employees in Texas, Arkansas, and Wisconsin, who worked for the laboratory furniture company Hamilton Scientific. ... Even as hundreds of American workers have suffered from OpenGate’s schemes, Andrew Nikou, the OpenGate founder and CEO, has not faced any meaningful financial or social consequences for repeated business failures at the hands of his firm.
“We need to take legislative action in Congress to rip up the predatory playbook that these private equity firms use to leave workers with nothing but pink slips and lost livelihoods,” Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin wrote. Baldwin was a co-sponsor of the Stop Wall Street Looting Act, the first major effort to reform the private equity sector, in the last Congress. It would curb the industry’s worst abuses and prioritize people, not private equity profits.
Unless there is a new push to pass this law, Hufcor employees won’t be the last to suffer at the hands of private equity and its ruthless profiteering.
The Biden administration, perpetually a day late and a dollar short when it's time to help average americans:
The Biden White House announced Thursday that it will not extend an eviction moratorium that's set to expire in just three days, claiming a recent Supreme Court ruling rendered the administration powerless to act on its own.
In a statement, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that Congress must act "without delay" to "extend the eviction moratorium to protect such vulnerable renters and their families."
But there is virtually no chance that Congress will be able to approve legislation to prolong the nationwide moratorium before the Saturday deadline, guaranteeing at least a temporary lapse—which housing advocates warn could be disastrous, given that millions of tenants across the U.S. are currently behind on rent.
A wave of evictions would be all the more devastating amid the ongoing surge of coronavirus cases, a spike fueled by the ultra-contagious Delta variant. Research published earlier this week found that coronavirus cases and deaths "increased dramatically after states lifted eviction moratoriums" last year.
"If the federal government won't/can't act, states and cities must," Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said in response to Psaki's statement. "Governors and mayors should immediately implement/extend eviction moratoriums and get the [Emergency Rental Assistance] out NOW."
The Biden administration faced immediate criticism for waiting until just 72 hours before the expiration of the moratorium to announce that it won't take unilateral steps to keep it in place.
The Supreme Court ruling that Psaki cited to justify the administration's refusal to extend the moratorium on its own was handed down on June 29, meaning the White House had weeks to plan its next steps and pressure Congress to take action.
"The White House waited a month (and until the day the House is leaving for a six-week recess) to say, 'Yeah, Congress really should do something about that,'" tweeted The American Prospect's David Dayen.
Stemming from a lawsuit filed by a group of landlords, the high court's 5-4 ruling last month left in place the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's eviction moratorium, which was first implemented last September during the Trump administration.
But conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who cast the decisive vote, indicated that he would vote differently in a potential future case, writing in a concurring opinion that the CDC "exceeded its existing statutory authority by issuing a nationwide eviction moratorium."
"Clear and specific congressional authorization (via new legislation) would be necessary for the CDC to extend the moratorium past July 31," Kavanaugh added.
In her statement Thursday, Psaki insisted that President Joe Biden "would have strongly supported a decision by the CDC to further extend this eviction moratorium to protect renters at this moment of heightened vulnerability."
"Unfortunately," Psaki said, "the Supreme Court has made clear that this option is no longer available."
Julián Castro, former secretary of the Housing and Urban Development Department, said Thursday that while he agrees with the White House's demand for congressional action to prevent a looming wave of evictions, "these calls should have come weeks ago, not 72 hours before the moratorium expires."
Castro went on to suggest that the Biden administration should attempt to extend the eviction moratorium even if it believes the Supreme Court will strike it down at a later date.
"SCOTUS may strike down a CDC extension," Castro said, "but it's worth the risk to give tenants time to secure assistance without being kicked out into the street."
In an op-ed for The Guardian Thursday morning, Emily Benfer of Wake Forest University and Peter Hepburn of Rutgers University warned that "if historic patterns are any indication, the United States could experience a steep increase in eviction filings when the moratorium expires." Some states will still have temporary eviction bans in place beyond July 31.
"Data from the Census Pulse survey indicate that more than 10 million tenants are behind on rent, and only a small fraction of the emergency rental assistance allocated by Congress has made it to tenants and landlords," the pair noted. "Even where the aid reaches high-risk communities, it's no guarantee that eviction will be avoided. Few programs restrict landlords from filing eviction cases against aid recipients, and even fewer have meaningful enforcement mechanisms."
"While estimating the scale of the problem is nearly impossible," Benfer and Hepburn added, "increased eviction rates and unnecessary Covid-19 infection and death are almost guaranteed."
A Colorado police officer has been arrested after body-camera footage showed him pistol-whipping, choking and threatening to shoot an unarmed man.
The incident took place last Friday, after the two police officers were called to the scene of an alleged trespassing, police said in a press conference. There, they found three men who had outstanding warrants out for their arrests. After two of the men fled, they targeted the one remaining, named Kyle Vinson, per footage captured on one of the officers’ body cameras.
The footage shows the officers brutalizing Vinson, who cooperated with officers and repeatedly told them they had the wrong person. One officer, named John Haubert, threatened to shoot Vinson and hit him with a pistol multiple times, leaving him bloodied and bruised. Vinson can be heard in the video pleading with the officers, crying that he needs water, asking them not to shoot him. ...
Aurora’s police chief, Vanessa Wilson, announced the arrests at a press conference on Tuesday, saying that she ordered an internal investigation as soon as she saw the body-camera footage. It is possible Vinson, 29, did not know he had a warrant out for his arrest at the time, said Wilson.
In a move that environmental groups celebrated as a "historic victory" following years of campaigning to remove Roundup and similar weedkillers from store shelves, Bayer on Thursday announced that it will halt the sale of glyphosate-based herbicides to consumers in the U.S. lawn and garden market by 2023.
"Bayer's decision to end U.S. residential sale[s] of Roundup is a historic victory for public health and the environment," Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety (CFS), said in a statement.
"As agricultural, large-scale use of this toxic pesticide continues," he added, "our farmworkers remain at risk. It's time for EPA to act and ban glyphosate for all uses."
While calling the announcement "an important victory to protect the health of Americans," Kendra Klein, senior scientist at Friends of the Earth, stressed that "action on this toxic weedkiller can't wait until 2023. Major home and garden retailers like Home Depot and Lowe's must lead the industry by ending the sales of Roundup immediately."
The key ingredient found in Roundup, the world's most widely used herbicide, is glyphosate. Described by the World Health Organization as "probably carcinogenic," glyphosate poses threats to human health and to pollinators such as bumblebees and monarch butterflies.
Bayer stated that it will switch Roundup and other glyphosate-based weedkillers to formulas that "rely on alternative active ingredients" in order to "manage litigation risk and not because of any safety concerns."
Humans are continuing to gobble up Earth's resources faster than the planet can generate them, with this year's "Overshoot Day" landing on July 29.
"If we need reminding that we're in the grip of a climate and ecological emergency, Earth Overshoot Day is it," said Susan Aitken, leader of the Glasgow City Council, urging that the day be "our call to arms."
Driven by factors including a projected energy-related CO2 emissions growth of nearly 5% and a spike in Amazon deforestation, this year's milestone marker comes nearly a month earlier than 2020's August 22 Earth Overshoot Day. Last year's improved timeline was attributed to coronavirus-triggered shutdowns.
According to the metric, grounded in 15,000 data points per country, humanity would need 1.7 "Earths" to consume the biological resources currently used per year. If the world's population lived like the U.S. or Canada, the date would have fallen (pdf) on March 14.
The Global Footprint Network, which tracks the metric, along with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) on Thursday also announced the launch of the "100 Days of Possibility" initiative for the lead-up to COP 26, the key United Nations climate summit that begins October 31 in Glasgow. The initiative will highlight solutions for states and communities to take to "reverse overshoot and support biological regeneration," organizers say.
"The pandemic has demonstrated that societies can shift rapidly in the face of disaster," said Global Footprint Network CEO Laurel Hanscom. "But being caught unprepared brought great economic and human cost. When it comes to our predictable future of climate change and resource constraints, individuals, institutions, and governments who prepare themselves will fare better."
The new initiative's website explains:
We are entering a 'storm' of climate change and resource constraints. The earlier we start preparing ourselves for this predictable future, the better positioned we will be.
Fighting the climate and resource crisis will be easier with international cooperation. Without it, the need for companies, cities, and countries to prepare themselves for the future becomes even more existential.
For 100 days, from Earth Overshoot Day 2021 to COP 26, we're showcasing many ways we can use existing technology to displace business-as-usual practices we can no longer afford.
Among the solutions so far highlighted is a 23-kilometer (14-mile) stretch of a former railroad line in Germany converted into the Nordbahn walking and cycling path. In the city of Wuppertal, through which the Nordbahn route passes, the proportion of cyclists has gone up from 2% to 8% of commuters over a decade—a rise attributed to the revamped infrastructure.
"If we reduce our footprint from driving by 50% around the world and assume one-third of car miles are replaced by public transportation and the rest by biking and walking, Earth Overshoot Day would move back 13 days," the initiative states.
Looking ahead to the upcoming climate summit, SEPA CEO Terry A'Hearn said it must be a moment to ensure a climate-friendly, post-Covid recovery.
"In November, as a weary world turns its attention to Scotland and COP 26, together we can choose one-planet prosperity over one-planet misery," he said. "We can and must build from the pandemic—our global ability to plan, to protect and move at pace."
"In 2021," A'Hearn added, "the Glasgow summit and the future we choose as each community, city, company, or country offers real hope for a new net-zero revolution."
The lifestyles of around three average Americans will create enough planet-heating emissions to kill one person, and the emissions from a single coal-fired power plant are likely to result in more than 900 deaths, according to the first analysis to calculate the mortal cost of carbon emissions.
The new research builds upon what is known as the “social cost of carbon”, a monetary figure placed upon the damage caused by each ton of carbon dioxide emissions, by assigning an expected death toll from the emissions that cause the climate crisis.
The analysis draws upon several public health studies to conclude that for every 4,434 metric tons of CO2 pumped into the atmosphere beyond the 2020 rate of emissions, one person globally will die prematurely from the increased temperature. This additional CO2 is equivalent to the current lifetime emissions of 3.5 Americans.
Adding a further 4m metric tons above last year’s level, produced by the average US coal plant, will cost 904 lives worldwide by the end of the century, the research found. On a grander scale, eliminating planet-heating emissions by 2050 would save an expected 74 million lives around the world this century.
The figures for expected deaths from the release of emissions aren’t definitive and may well be “a vast underestimate” as they only account for heat-related mortality rather than deaths from flooding, storms, crop failures and other impacts that flow from the climate crisis, according to Daniel Bressler of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, who wrote the paper.
More than half the population of Flint, Michigan, has signed up to be part of the proposed settlement offered by the state to those affected by the poisoning of the city’s water system beginning in 2014. Not known to most of the residents, however, is the fact that benefits that were paid by Medicaid, Medicare and other health insurance entities may be deducted from their settlement payments. This deduction would come on top of the 33 percent that goes for administrative and lawyers’ fees. In addition to dozens of lawyers, numerous administrators will also be compensated from the settlement. For example, in July 2018, Judge Levy appointed Deborah Greenspan as a special master, at a rate of $600 an hour, plus reimbursement for expenses such as accountants, auditors and clerical help. Her primary job was tracking attorney fees and expenses.
Relatively little compensation will be left for the men, women and children, who ingested lead and other harmful contaminants causing deaths, miscarriages, and life-long medical and developmental harm or otherwise had their lives disrupted by the water crisis. A federal judge has not yet ruled on the entirely inadequate $641.25 million water settlement after hearing arguments presented at the misnamed “fairness hearing” on July 12-15. Judge Judith Levy will rule whether it goes forward as is, or with modifications, or the very unlikely option of rejecting the settlement and going to trial. Based on previous litigation it is likely the deduction of Medicaid and Medicare payments will remain in the approved settlement.
The discussion in the last 10 minutes of the final day of the fairness hearing earlier this month gives a glimpse of how the legal system works under capitalism. Greenspan directed her closing remarks to the issue of legal fees and other deductions. In a “by-the-way” moment, she reminded the lawyers attending the online hearing that in addition to legal and administrative fees, there will be the imposition of liens on Medicare, Medicaid and other health insurance, which will also be deducted before the residents receive any compensation. There were no comments, objections or any discussion from any lawyer regarding the liens. ...
The proposed settlement states that residents must reimburse “Medicare, Medicaid, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, all third-party public or private payors that have paid for and/or reimbursed the Claimant [Flint resident] for medical expenses, pharmacy expenses, disability benefits, or any other costs and expenses incurred due to or arising out of injuries alleged.” For those unschooled in the workings of the law, this may come as a revelation. How could Flint residents have to pay back the state of Michigan for medical services and treatments that would never have been required if the state had not contaminated their water in the first place? Why was there not a single objection to Greenspan’s description of the liens, that are detailed in the proposed settlement?
The harsh reality is that such liens are a normal and common feature of all litigation suits. The legal system under capitalism generally protects the interests of corporations, financial institutions and capitalist politicians and shields them from any legal liability. In the case of Flint, no one has been convicted or imprisoned, including former Governor Rick Snyder, who faces only two counts of willful neglect of duty—misdemeanors with potential sentences of one year each and/or a $1,000 fine. His case has not yet gone to trial. Clearly, the well-connected are not bound by the same laws that apply to the working class.
Three schoolteachers in Washington state who sued the chemical company Monsanto over exposure to materials in fluorescent lights have been awarded $185m.
The law firm that represented the teachers, Friedman Rubin, said a jury returned the verdict on Tuesday in King county superior court. The teachers, who worked at the Sky Valley education center in Monroe, Washington, said they suffered brain damage from exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, in the fluorescent lighting at the school.
“This is a big step in holding Monsanto accountable,” the teachers’ attorney, Rick Friedman, said in a statement.
Bayer, which bought Monsanto in 2018, said the company disagreed with the verdict and may appeal.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Hip Linkchain - I Don't Want No Woman
Hip Linkchain - Change My Blues
Hip Linkchain - Mad & Evil
Hip Linkchain - I Had A Dream
Hip Linkchain - Hideaway
Hip Linkchain - Gambler's Blues
Hip Linkchain - Diggin' My Potatoes
Hip Linkchain - You Must Be Shampoo Baby
Hip Linkchain - Housecat Blues
Hip Linkchain - Cold Chills