The Evening Blues - 8-10-22
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features r&b saxophone player Big Jay McNeely. Enjoy!
Big Jay McNeely - Just Crazy
"The American government is making nuclear weapons like there's no tomorrow."
-- Emo Philips
News and Opinion
Russia has suspended an arrangement that allowed US and Russian inspectors to visit each other’s nuclear weapons sites under the 2010 New Start treaty, in a new blow to arms control.
Mutual inspections had been suspended as a health precaution since the start of the Covid pandemic, but a foreign ministry statement on Monday added another reason Russia is unwilling to restart them. It argued that US sanctions imposed because of the invasion of Ukraine stopped Russian inspectors travelling to the US.
“There are no similar obstacles to the arrival of American inspectors in Russia,” the statement said. “The Russian foreign ministry raised this issue with the relevant countries, but did not receive an answer.”
The US state department did not immediately respond to the claim that the sanctions created an imbalance when it came to nuclear weapons inspections. A spokesperson said: “The United States is committed to implementation of the New Start Treaty, but we keep discussions between the parties concerning treaty implementation confidential.”
The treaty, which limits each country’s deployed strategic warheads to 1,550, and imposes limits on delivery systems, was extended for five years in February 2021. It is the last remaining arms control treaty in effect between the US and Russia, and its inspection and verification clauses are widely seen as vital in building mutual confidence and preventing nuclear miscalculation.
A Russian airbase deep behind the frontline in Crimea has been damaged by several large explosions, killing at least one person, although it was not immediately clear whether it had been targeted by a long-range Ukrainian missile strike.
Multiple social media videos showed explosions and clouds emerging from the Saky military base in Novofedorivka on the western coast of Crimea on Tuesday afternoon, prompting questions about how a location more than 100 miles (160km) from the frontline could have been attacked. Later a senior Ukrainian official appeared to claim responsibility, without giving details.
Russia’s defence ministry told the RIA Novosti news agency that the explosions took place at about 3.20pm local time, and that “several aviation munitions detonated” in a storage area. It said it was trying to discern the cause of the incident.
Russian tourists holidaying on beaches nearby could be seen leaving in fear. It is one of few occasions that the peninsula, occupied by Russia since 2014, has been directly affected by the latest fighting. Local people told one Russian news site that explosions went on for an hour.
Over the past three days, relentless Israeli airstrikes killed at least 45 Palestinians, including 16 children, and caused extensive devastation. At least 400 were wounded, many severely, and the handful of barely functioning hospitals and clinics were overwhelmed. Some 2.3 million Palestinians live in Gaza, confined by Israeli and Egyptian military cordons and fences. Hundreds of powerful bombs and missiles have rained down on a territory comprising only 141 square miles—exactly equal in area to the city of Detroit.
The most heavily bombed neighborhoods, where Israeli officials claimed leaders of the Islamic Jihad were the targets, were scenes of apocalyptic destruction, with apartment buildings transformed into craters and body parts strewn about. An Al-Jazeera montage of the faces of 12 martyred children, supplied by the Palestinian Health Ministry was circulated throughout the Arab world, producing widespread outrage.
If it were Ukrainian children who suffered the same fate, there is no doubt that the American corporate media, the faithful servant of the CIA and State Department, would be providing saturation coverage. There would be endless hours devoted to mourning the loss of innocent lives and branding those responsible for their deaths as murderers and war criminals. No such terms will be used for Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and other top Israeli military and intelligence officials.
The New York Times, which has spearheaded the media’s campaign over supposed Russian atrocities in the Ukraine war, began its report on the temporary halt in the Gaza bombardment this way: “A cease-fire ending three days of fierce cross-border fighting between Israel and a Palestinian militant group in Gaza appeared to be holding on Monday, and life on both sides of the lines began to return to normal.”
The supposed “fierce cross-border fighting” was a completely one-sided affair, with the Israeli military, the most powerful in the Middle East, armed to the teeth by US imperialism, dropping bombs and missiles on a defenseless population. ... As to the “return to normal,” for the people of Gaza, this means unbearable poverty, a 50 percent unemployment rate and a smashed infrastructure, in what is routinely described by observers as the largest open-air prison camp on the planet.
: Rubble covered the grounds of residential areas in the Gaza strip after Israel’s Operation Breaking Dawn.
With it came the death of innocent civilians.
— Middle East Eye (@MiddleEastEye) August 9, 2022
Biden Says He’s ‘Proud’ of US Support for Israel After Gaza Bombardment Kills 45, Including 16 Children
President Biden released a statement on Sunday night after a ceasefire was announced for Gaza following a three-day Israeli bombing campaign, which left at least 45 Palestinians dead, including 16 children.
The bombing campaign started on Friday when Israel targeted a leader of the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad in Gaza. The initial strike killed an Islamic Jihad leader, as well as a five-year-old girl, a 23-year-old woman, and seven other Palestinian men.
“My support for Israel’s security is long-standing and unwavering — including its right to defend itself against attacks. Over these recent days, Israel has defended its people from indiscriminate rocket attacks launched by the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad,” Biden said. ...
After Israel’s previous massive bombing campaign in Gaza in May 2021, which killed 256 Palestinians, including 67 children, Israel asked the US for an additional $1 billion in military aid, on top of the $3.8 billion the US provides each year. The US obliged, and the extra $1 billion was included in an omnibus spending bill Biden signed into law back in March.
Much more at the link:
President Joe Biden’s assassination of Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan was illegal under both U.S. and international law. After the C.I.A. drone strike killed Zawahiri on Aug. 2, Biden declared, “People around the world no longer need to fear the vicious and determined killer.” What we should fear instead is the dangerous precedent set by Biden’s unlawful extrajudicial execution.
In addition to being illegal, the killing of Zawahiri also occurred in a moment when the United Nations had already determined that people in the U.S. had little to fear from him. As a United Nations report released in July concluded,
“Al Qaeda is not viewed as posing an immediate international threat from its safe haven in Afghanistan because it lacks an external operational capability and does not currently wish to cause the Taliban international difficulty or embarrassment.”
Just as former President Barack Obama stated that “Justice has been done” after he assassinated Osama bin Laden, Biden said, “Now justice has been delivered” when he announced the assassination of Zawahiri. Retaliation, however, does not constitute justice.
Extrajudicial executions are prohibited by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which the United States has ratified, making it part of U.S. law under the Constitution’s supremacy clause. ... Moreover, willful killing is a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions, punishable as a war crime under the U.S. War Crimes Act. A targeted killing is lawful only when deemed necessary to protect life, and no other means (including apprehension or nonlethal incapacitation) is available to protect life.
Pentagon contractors operating in Afghanistan over the past two decades raked in nearly $108 billion—funds that "were distributed and spent with a significant lack of transparency," according to a report published Tuesday.
"These contracts show the shadowy 'camo economy' at work in Afghanistan," said report author Heidi Peltier, director of programs for the Costs of War Project at Brown Univesity's Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.
"Military contracting obscures where and how taxpayer money flows, who profits, and how much is lost to waste, fraud, and abuse," she added. "It also makes it difficult to know how many people are employed, injured, and killed through military contracting."
Based on Peltier's review of public contracting databases—USASpending.gov and the Federal Procurement Data System—just over a dozen U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) contractors got more than $44 billion, or about 41% of the almost $108 billion, from 2002 to this year.
As the document details:
In addition, thousands of smaller companies earned billions in contract spending, and about one-third of the contracts (in dollar terms) went to companies that are listed as "undisclosed" or "miscellaneous" in the data. These designations result from the contracts being given to foreign companies without a "DUNS" number, or they are undisclosed with national security or protection as a claimed rationale for secrecy. Whatever the reason, this creates an opacity that makes it impossible to know who exactly received U.S. taxpayer funds, what work was performed, how much profit was earned, and whether the intended purposes of the contracts were served.
Inadequate oversight, coupled with the issue of sub-contracting, results in a system in which the U.S. government pays contractors who then leave a trail of spending that is nearly impossible to follow.
"A number of companies performed services in Afghanistan under multiple different business names," the analysis notes. "A generous interpretation of this is that the businesses pursuing such practices were in fact performing different services. A less generous interpretation is that businesses can obscure how many contracts they are receiving as well as circumvent issues of ineligibility by operating under different names."
The report emphasizes that the almost $108 billion that Peltier focused on is "in addition to the trillions of dollars spent on DOD contracts performed in the U.S. over that period."
The contractors examined by Peltier were paid for construction, lodging, office supplies, refrigeration equipment, transportation, waste disposal, and weapons maintenance in the war-torn country. They operated various facilities—such as dining and troop housing—and were contracted for accounting, fuel, food, guard, and surveillance services.
During the nearly two-decade U.S. occupation, the analysis states, "contractors provided all types of goods and services that were essential to the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, including services (such as weapons maintenance and fuel supply) that made the U.S. military dependent on and arguably vulnerable to the performance of contractors."
"Most contracts for work in Afghanistan ended or were rescinded by August 31, 2021, when U.S. troops fully withdrew," the report says. "Some contractor presence may remain, though it is difficult to know which companies and how many employees could still be working in service of the U.S. government in that country."
Transparency is a major focus of the document, which highlights that "lack of oversight by the Department of Defense, combined with waste, fraud, and abuse on the part of both contractors and government employees, resulted in billions of misallocated and misspent taxpayer dollars."
The analysis cites reports by the DOD Inspector General (DODIG) and Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). In one case involving insufficient voucher reviews for a major contract from 2015 to 2017, the new report notes, "one-fifth of them had questionable or undocumented expenses, totaling over $536 million."
In another case, SIGAR found that "a subcontractor of Lockheed Martin submitted fraudulent invoices that resulted in overbilling the Department of Defense millions of dollars."
Peltier's report also points to government watchdogs' findings of "incomplete and shoddy construction of school buildings, warehouses, and other facilities" as well as "bribery of U.S. officials to secure contracts."
SIGAR, in its quarterly report to Congress this past January, "conservatively estimated nearly 30% of U.S. appropriations for Afghanistan reconstruction from 2009 to 2019 was lost to waste, fraud, and abuse." The Pentagon was responsible for the bulk of that spending.
The Brown analysis explains that "the overpayment of illegitimate expenses, and the lack of oversight of contracts by DOD was compounded by yet another problem: In some cases, contractors were hired to perform oversight of other contractors, in lieu of the oversight that should have been performed by DOD."
Peltier told Responsible Statecraft—which exclusively reported on the new document—that the DODIG "also found oversight by the DOD itself to be insufficient or poorly executed, so really the oversight problems are both 'the fox guarding the hen house' as well as internal issues (which in some cases are because of corruption, and in other cases just poor execution)."
The researcher suggested that to help prevent abuse, "there should be a committee or other body to make determinations of whether certain contracts can legitimately be labeled as 'undisclosed.'"
"I would recommend the DOD reduce its contracting overall and return to providing more services in-house," Peltier added, referencing "services like weapons maintenance and security, but also things like food services and lodging, in order to have more command in fulfilling its own needs and reduce the use of contracts and the opportunities for waste, fraud, and abuse."
In a statement Tuesday, Stephanie Savell, co-director of the Costs of War Project, put Peltier's findings about Pentagon contractor spending into a broader context.
"One hundred billion is an enormous amount of money, but it's also just a drop in the bucket when it comes to the full costs of the post-9/11 wars," Savell noted. "Nearly a million people have lost their lives in these wars and U.S. taxpayers have paid over $2.3 trillion for the war in Afghanistan alone—and over $8 trillion total for the post-9/11 wars in other places as well."
"It's shocking," she said, "that the U.S. government hasn't had a serious reckoning with the U.S. militarized counterterrorism model and its human and financial costs over the past two decades."
Poland’s national-conservative government has significantly toughened its rhetoric in its rule-of-law standoff with Brussels, threatening to turn “all our cannon” on the European Commission and if necessary build a coalition to unseat its president. If the EU executive “tries to push us against the wall we will have no choice but to pull out all the weapons in our arsenal” and respond “an eye for an eye”, said Krzysztof Sobolewski, the general secretary of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party.
Sobolewski told Polish state radio that if the commission did not release €35bn (£29.5bn) in pandemic relief funds Warsaw would take legal action against Brussels, veto EU initiatives and assemble an alliance to dismiss Ursula von der Leyen and her college of commissioners.
The threat came after Jarosław Kaczyński, who resigned as deputy prime minister in June but remains the chair of PiS and Poland’s de facto leader, said in an strongly worded interview in Sieci magazine that Warsaw had “no reason to fulfil its obligations” to the bloc.
“We have shown maximum goodwill, but [our] concessions have yielded nothing,” Kaczyński said, insisting Poland had respected its side of an agreement to roll back some of its controversial judicial reforms in exchange for EU funds. “On our part it was kept, on their part it was broken,” he said. “It’s time to draw conclusions. We had to try, if only to make the issue clear. And today it is clear – everyone can see what the game is about.”
In the name of preserving carefully negotiated legislation, Senate Democrats’ leaders united their caucus to vote down amendments that would have added the party’s Medicare expansion plan and expanded child tax credit into the final spending bill now moving through Congress.
That unity, though, was not universally enforced: Soon after those votes, seven Democratic senators joined with Republicans to cast a pivotal vote shielding their private equity donors from a new corporate minimum tax.
The seven Democrats who joined the GOP to give private equity firms that $35 billion gift were: Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly of Arizona, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff of Georgia, Jacky Rosen and Catherine Cortez-Masto of Nevada, and Maggie Hassan (N.H.).
Five of the seven Democrats are among the Senate’s top recipients of campaign donations from private equity donors, according to data from OpenSecrets. The group collectively raked in more than $1.4 million of campaign cash from the private equity industry, which has become a huge source of capital for the fossil fuel conglomerates that are creating the climate crisis.
The contrast between voting to protect private equity donors and voting against programs for the working class effectively screamed the quiet part out loud about whom senators typically respond to — and whom they don’t.
A Nebraska mother and her daughter are facing felony charges after the mother allegedly helped her teenager abort her pregnancy, burn the fetus and then bury it. Jessica Burgess, 41, is facing five criminal charges, including three felonies, after investigators accused her of helping her 17-year-old daughter obtain abortion pills to end her pregnancy, as well as burning and interring the fetus. Her daughter, who is being tried as an adult, is facing three charges, including one felony.
The alleged abortion happened before the US supreme court in June overturned its ruling in Roe v Wade, which established federal abortion rights nearly 50 years earlier. Nonetheless, in addition to being charged with essentially failing to properly report a death, authorities are accusing Burgess of facilitating an illegal abortion.
According to a search warrant affidavit, the Norfolk, Nebraska, police department launched an investigation in April after receiving information that Burgess’s daughter had miscarried and buried the fetus. A detective in the department then obtained the daughter’s health records, determining that she was nearly six months pregnant at the time of the miscarriage and expected to deliver in early July. It is unclear how the detective obtained the teen’s medical records or exactly how the tip was sent to police.
A grand jury in Mississippi has declined to indict the white woman whose accusation set off the lynching of Black teenager Emmett Till nearly 70 years ago, despite revelations about an unserved arrest warrant and a newly revealed memoir by the woman, a prosecutor said on Tuesday.
A grand jury in Leflore county in the north-western part of the state considered evidence and testimony regarding Carolyn Bryant Donham’s involvement in the kidnapping and death of Till, the local district attorney, Dewayne Richardson, said in a news release.
After hearing more than seven hours of testimony from investigators and witnesses, the grand jury determined that there was not sufficient evidence to indict Donham, Richardson said. The panel also considered charges of kidnapping and manslaughter. ...
A group searching the basement of the Leflore county courthouse in June discovered the unserved arrest warrant charging Donham, her then-husband, Roy Bryant, and brother-in-law, JW Milam, in Till’s abduction in 1955. While the men were arrested and acquitted on murder charges in Till’s subsequent slaying, Donham, 21 at the time and 87 now, was never taken into custody.
Scott Perry, the Republican congressman and a close ally of Donald Trump, has said that federal investigators seized his cellphone on Tuesday.
The news came a day after the FBI executed a search warrant on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, as part of a criminal inquiry over the mishandling of White House records. It was not immediately clear whether the seizure of Perry’s phone was connected to the raid.
The prominent House Republican from Pennsylvania, chair of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus and one of Trump’s most ardent defenders on Capitol Hill, confirmed his phone had been taken in a statement reported earlier by Fox News.
The landmark climate legislation passed by the Senate after months of wrangling and weakening by fossil-fuel friendly Democrats will lead to more harm than good, according to frontline community groups who are calling on Joe Biden to declare a climate emergency. ... It would be the first significant climate legislation to be passed in the US, which is historically responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than any other country.
But the bill makes a slew of concessions to the fossil fuel industry, including mandating drilling and pipeline deals that will harm communities from Alaska to Appalachia and the Gulf coast and tie the US to planet-heating energy projects for decades to come. ... “Solving the climate crisis requires eliminating fossil fuels, and the Inflation Reduction Act simply does not do this,” said Steven Feit, senior attorney at the Center for International Environmental Law (Ciel).
Overall, many environmental and community groups agree that while the deal will bring some long-term global benefits by cutting greenhouse gas emissions, it’s not enough and consigns communities already threatened by sea level rise, floods and extreme heat to further misery. ...
A cost-benefit analysis by the Climate Justice Alliance (CJA), which represents a wide range of urban and rural groups nationwide, concludes that the strengths of the IRA are outweighed by the bill’s weaknesses and threats posed by the expansion of fossil fuels and unproven technologies such as carbon capture and hydrogen generation – which the bill will incentivise with billions of dollars of tax credits that will mostly benefit oil and gas.
“Climate investments should not be handcuffed to corporate subsidies for fossil fuel development and unproven technologies that will poison our communities for decades,” said Juan Jhong-Chung from the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, a member of the CJA.
Large quantities of toxic and cancer-causing chemicals were released into the sewage system of Wixom, Michigan late last month by Tribar Technologies, an auto parts provider whose customers include Ford, General Motors and Stellantis Jeep. The toxic mixture, which included the notorious industrial chemical hexavalent chromium, made its way from the sewage plant into the Huron River, which runs through the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, before emptying into Lake Erie at Rockwood, 20 miles south of Detroit. A “no contact” advisory was put in place for a section of the river closest to the plant.
More than 3 million people could potentially be impacted by the contamination of the river, which flows through six counties downstream of the spill and supplies the drinking water for multiple cities, including Ann Arbor.
The spill into the sewage system may have begun as early as the morning of Saturday, July 30, despite the fact that Tribar claimed to have discovered it only on the morning of Monday, August 1, reporting the spill to Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) seven hours after it was discovered. According to media outlet Great Lakes Now, staff at Wixom’s wastewater treatment plant, upon learning of the spill, worked to divert as much wastewater as possible into holding tanks and containment ditches which quickly were overfilled, and staff had to let the rest of liquid into Norton Creek, part of the Huron River watershed. ...
Common industrial treatment of hexavalent chromium wastewater involves reducing it, through either chemical or electrical means, into trivalent chromium, a less toxic ion of chromium that is subsequently precipitated away as hydroxide. Wixom limits the concentration of hexavalent chromium in wastewater to less than 0.44 parts per million (ppm). However, of the 10,000 gallons of liquid released from Tribar, hexavalent chromium constituted five percent—hundreds of times higher than the set limit.
This week, retail giant Amazon announced that its carbon emissions jumped by a staggering 18% in 2021 during the pandemic and, overall, its emissions are up 40% since 2019. The vast majority of these increases came from many of the out-of-sight, out-of-mind things it takes to get billions of packages to consumers' front doors—think: ships, planes, trucks, and warehouses. ...
There should be no reason why Amazon—the number two retailer in the United States that shipped more than 5 billion packages in 2021 and generated $470 billion in revenue—should not be actively curbing its emissions now, in the 2020s, the most decisive decade of world climate history. Last year's rise in Amazon's climate emissions represent tremendous negligence toward frontline climate communities, our global community, and our planet. Amazon must end its port pollution now and Ship It Zero by 2030—commit to 100% zero-emission ocean cargo shipping this decade—to do its part to save our home on Earth for generations to come.
Kara Hurst, vice president of worldwide sustainability at Amazon, told the Wall Street Journal, "The hardest thing for any company to do is to take [this] commitment and operationalize it." With our world currently on fire, the largest online monopoly in modern capitalist history has no more time for excuses.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Big Jay McNeely - Nervous Man Nervous
Big Jay McNeely - Psycho Serenade
Big Jay McNeely - I Got The Message
Big Jay McNeely - Minnie
Big Jay McNeely - Man Eater
Big Jay McNeely - California Hop
Big Jay McNeely & Ray Collins´ HOT-CLUB - Funky Bug
Big J McNeely - Ice Water
Big Jay McNeely - Big Jay's Count