The Evening Blues - 9-27-21
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features blues singer and harmonica player Big Mama Thorton. Enjoy!
Big Mama Thornton - Everything Gonna Be Alright
"Hell is empty and all the devils are here."
-- William Shakespeare
News and Opinion
Under the leadership of then-Director Mike Pompeo, the CIA in 2017 reportedly plotted to kidnap—and discussed plans to assassinate—WikiLeaks founder and publisher Julian Assange, who is currently imprisoned in London as he fights the Biden administration's efforts to extradite him to the United States.
Citing conversations with more than 30 former U.S. officials, Yahoo News reported Sunday that "discussions over kidnapping or killing Assange occurred 'at the highest levels' of the Trump administration."
According to Yahoo:
The conversations were part of an unprecedented CIA campaign directed against WikiLeaks and its founder. The agency's multipronged plans also included extensive spying on WikiLeaks associates, sowing discord among the group’s members, and stealing their electronic devices.
While Assange had been on the radar of U.S. intelligence agencies for years, these plans for an all-out war against him were sparked by WikiLeaks' ongoing publication of extraordinarily sensitive CIA hacking tools, known collectively as "Vault 7," which the agency ultimately concluded represented "the largest data loss in CIA history."
President Trump's newly installed CIA director, Mike Pompeo, was seeking revenge on WikiLeaks and Assange, who had sought refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy since 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden on rape allegations he denied. Pompeo and other top agency leaders "were completely detached from reality because they were so embarrassed about Vault 7," said a former Trump national security official. "They were seeing blood."
Yahoo's reporting makes clear that , potentially paving the way for their prosecution."
", who had both been instrumental in publishing documents provided by [NSA whistleblower Edward] Snowden," Yahoo reported.
In a statement to Yahoo, Poitras called the intelligence officials' efforts "bone-chilling and a threat to journalists worldwide."
Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, said in a statement that "these new revelations, which involve a shocking disregard of the law, are truly beyond the pale."
"The CIA is a disgrace," said Timm. "The fact that it contemplated and engaged in so many illegal acts against WikiLeaks, its associates, and even other award-winning journalists is an outright scandal that should be investigated by Congress and the Justice Department. The Biden administration must drop its charges against Assange immediately. The case already threatens the rights of countless reporters."
The Trump Justice Department charged Assange with 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act for publishing classified documents, something journalists do often. Despite urgent pleas from press freedom advocates, the Biden administration has refused to drop the charges and continued its predecessor's attempt to extradite the WikiLeaks founder.
As Poitras wrote in an op-ed for the the New York Times last year, "It is impossible to overstate the dangerous precedent Mr. Assange's indictment under the Espionage Act and possible extradition sets: Every national security journalist who reports on classified information now faces possible Espionage Act charges."
"It paves the way for the United States government to indict other international journalists and publishers. And it normalizes other countries' prosecution of journalists from the United States as spies," Poitras noted. "To reverse this dangerous precedent, the Justice Department should immediately drop these charges and the president should pardon Mr. Assange."
Al-Quds [Jerusalem] reports that Palestinians in the West Bank greeted President Mahmoud Abbas’s UN speech, in which he pledged to take Israel to the International Criminal Court if its squatter-settlements weren’t withdrawn within a year, with widespread acclaim.
The International Criminal Court decided in March of this year that it has jurisdiction over the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza because the Palestine Authority has invited it to consider rights abuses there. Palestine is a signatory to the Statute of Rome, which established the ICC at the Hague in the late 1990s, and member states can ask the court to take up cases. Palestine was able to become a signatory because it was granted the status of non-member observer state at the UN by the General Assembly in 2012. This is the same status enjoyed by the Vatican.
Fatah greeted the speech as “an historic document” from the Palestinians to the world. Muhammad Gharib saw it as a gauntlet thrown down to international institutions demanding that they abide by their own principles and resolutions and that they cease their double standard when it comes to Palestine.
The Palestine National Council said that Friday’s speech before the UN General Assembly returned the Palestinian cause to its roots in that it focused on the creation of a Palestinian state in accordance with UN General Assembly resolution 181, which called for partition of British Mandate Palestine into Jewish and Palestinian states, and resolution 194, which called for the return of Palestinian refugees to Palestine. The chair of the PNC, Salim Zanoun, underlined that the plan would require the unity of the various Palestinian parties and factions.
He pointed out the Abbas’s speech put the onus on international bodies, including the UN, to be responsible about the establishment of a Palestinian state with genuine sovereignty.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett says he will not allow a Palestinian state to be formed, in stark contrast to the Biden administration’s stated support for a two-state solution. Despite Israeli attempts to depict the Palestinians as unwilling to negotiate, it seems clear that the road block is the Israeli government, which has put out of bounds the very goal of any negotiations before they could start.
When U.S. Central Command authorizes strikes against groups like ISIS-K or al Qaida in Afghanistan, they won’t be negotiating with the Taliban about where and when they can drop bombs.
While the U.S. generally negotiates agreements with countries where it conducts strikes, the Pentagon considers Afghanistan essentially a free space, following the collapse of its elected government in August.
“We retain all necessary authorities to execute over-the-horizon counterterrorism operations, and we remain confident in these capabilities moving forward,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told Military Times on Friday. “Without speaking to specific rules of engagement surrounding air strikes, there is currently no requirement to clear airspace with the Taliban, and we do not expect that any future over-the-horizon counterterrorism strikes would hinge on such a clearance.”
For almost a decade he was a pariah who struggled to get a meeting abroad or even to assert himself on his visitors. Largely alone in his palace, save for trusted aides, Bashar al-Assad presided over a broken state whose few friends demanded a humiliating price for their protection, and weren’t afraid to show it. During regular trips to Syria, Vladimir Putin arranged meetings at Russian bases, forcing Assad to trail behind him at functions. Iran too readily imposed its will, often dictating military terms, or sidelining the Syrian leader on decisions that shaped the course of his country.
But with the din of war and insurrection receding and a tired region recalibrating from an exhausting 10 years, an unlikely dynamic is emerging: Assad the outcast is in demand. Foes who opposed him as Syria unravelled increasingly view Damascus as a key to reassembling a ruptured region. ... Instead of being the epicentre of the Middle East’s demise, Syria has become a focal point of plans to restore a post-Arab Spring stability. Over the past 12 months, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have sent officials to the Syrian capital to meet its spy chiefs. Egypt and Qatar have also made overtures. Jordan, meanwhile, has implored the US to help with Syria’s reintegration and suggested it is best placed to help.
Earlier this month, Washington made a play of its own that will add to Assad’s resurgence. In an attempt to solve Lebanon’s energy crisis, the US embassy in Beirut announced a plan to send Egyptian natural gas via Jordan and Syria. The proposal gave Assad a direct stake in finding a solution for Lebanon – a turn of events that many in the Lebanese capital say will again drag the country into Syrian tutelage. ...
Visiting Washington in August, King Abdullah of Jordan pitched members of Congress on the need to re-engage Assad. The plan seemed aimed at restoring Jordan’s role as a go-between under the Biden administration – and offloading the financial burden of huge numbers of Syrians still on Jordanian soil, many of whom are refugees.
More unsurprising news about our coin-op congress:
In a bipartisan 316-113 vote on Thursday night, the U.S. House authorized a $778 billion military budget for fiscal year 2022. Every Republican voted against two amendments to reduce Pentagon spending, but Democrats were split, and a new analysis reveals that lawmakers who rejected the proposed cuts received far more campaign cash from the weapons industry than those who supported the cuts.
One amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), introduced by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), would have slashed the overall spending authorization level by 10%, exempting the paychecks and health benefits of military personnel and the Defense Department's federal civilian workforce.
The measure failed by a tally of 86-332. According to an analysis of OpenSecrets data by the Security Policy Reform Institute (SPRI) and Sludge, the Democrats who voted against the 10% Pentagon budget cut have taken, on average, 3.7 times more campaign money from arms manufacturers since January 2019 than the Democrats who voted for it.
Sludge's Donald Shaw and SPRI's Stephen Semler wrote Friday that "the average amount of defense cash received by Democrats who opposed the amendment was $60,680, while the Democrats who supported it received an average of $16,497" in contributions from the PACs of Defense Department contractors "as well as donations larger than $250 from those companies' employees."
"The vote was a step backwards for House progressives," noted Shaw and Semler, who added that:
Last year, an identical amendment was put forward and it received 93 votes in favor, seven more than it received yesterday. Nine Democrats switched from supporting the 10% reduction last year to opposing it this year: Emanuel Cleaver (Mo.), Dwight Evans (Pa.), Al Green (Texas), Bill Keating (Mass.), Robin Kelly (Ill.), Stephen Lynch (Mass.), Richard Neal (Mass.), Brad Sherman (Calif.), and Bennie Thompson (Miss.).
Earlier this month, the House Armed Services Committee voted in favor of a Republican-sponsored amendment to add $23.9 billion on top of President Joe Biden's proposed $753 billion military budget for fiscal year 2022—already up from the $740 billion approved for the previous fiscal year under the Trump administration.
A second NDAA amendment, led by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), would have restored military spending to the level requested by the president. That proposal for a modest 3% cut to the NDAA's top-line figure garnered the support of a majority of—but not all—House Democrats and was shot down in a 142-286 vote.
Sludge reported that "the 77 Democrats who opposed the 3% cut have received, on average, $52,211 from the defense sector since January 2019, and the 142 Democrats who supported it have received an average of $35,898."
New York City schools have been temporarily blocked from enforcing a vaccine mandate for teachers and other workers by a federal appeals judge, days before it was to take effect. The worker mandate for the the largest US school system was set to go into effect on Monday.
Late on Friday, a judge for the second US circuit court of appeals granted a temporary injunction and referred the case to a three-judge panel on an expedited basis.
A Department of Education spokeswoman, Danielle Filson, said officials were seeking a speedy resolution next week. “We’re confident our vaccine mandate will continue to be upheld once all the facts have been presented, because that is the level of protection our students and staff deserve,” Filson said. ...
As of Friday, 82% of department employees had been vaccinated, including 88% of teachers. Even though most school workers have been vaccinated, unions representing principals and teachers warned that could still leave the 1 million-student school system short of as many as 10,000 teachers, along with other staffers.
This article might be worth a full read:
Dr Carlos Chaccour ran into difficulty when he and his colleagues began recruiting patients in Peru for their study to determine the effect of a daily dose of the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin on people infected with Covid-19. “We would call the patient and say, ‘You have just been diagnosed with Covid and you’re eligible for this study. Are you taking ivermectin?’” he says. “And they would respond, ‘Of course’.” The former health minister of Peru and leader of the study, Patricia García, told Nature: “Of about 10 people who come [to the hospital], I’d say eight have taken ivermectin and cannot participate in the study.”
Ivermectin has never been proven as an effective Covid treatment, and studies that said it was have been either poorly conducted, too small for their findings to be applied more widely or outright faked. Yet the drug’s popularity has soared.
One of the first fraudulent ivermectin studies was revealed just a few months into the pandemic, before it was even being widely used or promoted to treat the virus. That study found ivermectin was leading to improved and reduced mortality in hospitalised Covid-19 patients around the world. The paper was eventually retracted by the medical journal that published it after the data was found to have been falsified and the patients nonexistent. ...
On Thursday, the prestigious medical journal Nature Medicine published an article authored by concerned epidemiologists and researchers who interrogated studies on ivermectin. “Many hundreds of thousands of patients have been dosed with ivermectin, relying on an evidence base that has substantially evaporated under close scrutiny,” the authors wrote. “Several … studies that claim a clinical benefit for ivermectin are similarly fraught, and contain impossible numbers in their results, unexplainable mismatches between trial registry updates and published patient demographics, purported timelines that are not consistent with the veracity of the data collection, and substantial methodological weaknesses.”
Democrats, having little else to show for their time in government, are ready to rev up and fundraise off of the culture wars:
Standing on the lawn of the US Capitol, in clear view of the supreme court, a coalition of Democratic women declared Roe v Wade was no longer the law of the land. Nearly half a century after the court established the constitutional right to abortion, it allowed a near-complete ban to stand in Texas, the second-most populous state. Though the 5-4 decision did not address the substance of the Texas law, Democrats warn that it was a mere taste of things to come from the court – and Republicans who helped expand its conservative majority.
“When this court embraced this shameful Texas law, they brought shame to the United States supreme court,” the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said at a press conference on Friday, ahead of a vote on legislation effectively codifying abortion rights into federal law. “What were they thinking, or were they thinking, or were they just rubber-stamping what they were sent to the court to do?”
After her remarks, Pelosi returned to the chamber to preside as Democrats narrowly approved the bill. The vote was largely symbolic – Republican opposition in the Senate all but ensures the measure will not become law. Yet the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, said he planned to bring it to the floor anyway. The urgent push, however futile, was a reflection of just how powerful Democrats believe the issue could be in coming elections.
In Washington and beyond, Democrats are embracing the struggle over abortion, portraying themselves as the last line of defense against further erosion – or outright abolition – of a constitutional right many believed settled long ago.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona has reportedly told her Democratic colleagues that she will not support any tax hikes on corporations or wealthy individuals, a stance that could derail the party's plan to fund its sprawling safety net and climate package.
According to the New York Times, Sinema's "resistance to tax rate increases" that Democrats have proposed to finance their reconciliation bill "has set off a scramble for alternatives, including a carbon tax, international corporate tax changes, and closing loopholes for businesses that pay through the individual income tax system."
Democrats can't afford a single defection in the Senate, a dynamic that gives Sinema and other right-wing lawmakers significant leverage over the reconciliation bill, which is a centerpiece of President Joe Biden's domestic policy agenda. On top of opposing tax hikes, Sinema has also said she won't support a package that includes $3.5 trillion in spending over the next decade, a price tag that progressive lawmakers have characterized as a bare minimum.
"This gives away what is really going on in Congress," Robert Cruickshank, campaign director at the advocacy group Demand Progress, said in response to Sinema's posturing. "The right-wing Dems are carrying water for big corporations and billionaires who don't want their taxes to go up."
The government watchdog group Accountable.US estimates that Sinema has received at least $923,000 in donations from industry lobbying groups that are currently working to kill or water down Democrats' reconciliation package, which has been dubbed the Build Back Better Act. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its leadership boards have donated $448,000 to the Arizona Democrat, Accountable.US found.
"Super-rich corporations have given Senator Sinema nearly a million reasons to vote against making them pay their fair share in taxes," Kyle Herrig, president of Accountable.US, said in a statement. "Make no mistake, if she sides with her wealthy donors and kills popular investments to jump-start the economy, everyday families—including across Arizona—will pay the price."
It's not clear whether Sinema would be willing to tank the entire reconciliation package over Democrats' proposed tax increases, which would partially or completely reverse elements of the GOP's deeply unpopular 2017 tax law. Sinema voted against the Republican tax cuts.
According to an analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, House Democrats' proposal to fund the Build Back Better Act "would result in a tax cut for the average taxpayer in all income groups except the richest 5%."
On Friday, Biden expressed confidence that congressional Democrats will ultimately approve enough revenue raisers to "pay for" the entire reconciliation package, which is expected to include major investments in green energy, child care, housing, Medicare expansion, and more.
"It is zero price tag on the debt we're paying," the president said in remarks from the State Dining Room of the White House. "We're going to pay for everything we spend."
The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said on Sunday Democrats will pass a $1tn bipartisan infrastructure bill this week. She also said she would work to build consensus on Joe Biden’s separate $3.5tn social spending agenda, which has caused divisions within the Democratic party. “Let me just say that we’re going to pass the [infrastructure] bill this week,” Pelosi told ABC’s This Week. “I’m never bringing a bill to the floor that doesn’t have the votes.” ...
“First of all,” she told ABC, “we have to make sure … we keep government open. And we will. Second of all, we have to honour the vision of President Biden.” Pelosi had promised moderates a vote on the infrastructure deal on Monday but it will almost certainly now come later. The House will reconvene late in the day.
Pramila Jayapal of Washington state, a leading progressive, told CNN’s State of the Union: “I know we’re working very hard to get agreement on the reconciliation package [the process needed to pass the spending plan by simple majorities] and that of course has to be agreement across the Senate and the House because we are not going to leave anyone behind.”
She also said Pelosi did not have the votes to pass the infrastructure deal on Monday. “The speaker is an incredibly good vote counter,” Jayapal said, “and she knows exactly where her caucus stands.”
Julián Castro, the former US presidential candidate, has become the latest prominent Democrat to attack Joe Biden for his handling of the humanitarian crisis at the southern border, lamenting his use of a contested Trump-era policy and warning that the president’s “baffling” approach could tear the Democratic coalition apart. In an interview with the Guardian, Castro said he was disappointed that the US president had remained silent about images of border patrol agents on horseback corralling Haitian migrants in Del Rio, Texas.
“Those images of Haitians being treated like animals demanded moral leadership from the president, it baffles me why he hasn’t said anything about it,” he said.
Castro also had strong words about the Biden administration’s ongoing use of Title 42, an obscure public health law that the Trump administration seized upon under the guise of the pandemic to clamp down on immigration across the Mexican border. Under Biden, the Department of Homeland Security has continued to invoke Title 42 as a means of quickly deporting more than 1,400 Haitians back to Haiti just this week.
Castro, who served under Barack Obama as housing and urban development secretary, said Title 42 mistreats desperate people by revoking their right, enshrined in US and international law, to claim asylum. It went against the advice of public health experts and was a direct contradiction of promises Biden made during the presidential campaign “to bring compassion and common sense to our immigration approach, instead of Trump’s cruelty”, Castro said.
People born today will suffer many times more extreme heatwaves and other climate disasters over their lifetimes than their grandparents, research has shown. The study is the first to assess the contrasting experience of climate extremes by different age groups and starkly highlights the intergenerational injustice posed by the climate crisis.
The analysis showed that a child born in 2020 will endure an average of 30 extreme heatwaves in their lifetime, even if countries fulfil their current pledges to cut future carbon emissions. That is seven times more heatwaves than someone born in 1960. Today’s babies will also grow up to experience twice as many droughts and wildfires and three times more river floods and crop failures than someone who is 60 years old today.
However, rapidly cutting global emissions to keep global heating to 1.5C would almost halve the heatwaves today’s children will experience, while keeping under 2C would reduce the number by a quarter. ...
The research, published in the journal Science, combined extreme event projections from sophisticated computer climate models, detailed population and life expectancy data, and global temperature trajectories from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Firefighters were gaining the upper hand on Sunday on a forest fire that displaced thousands and destroyed more than 100 buildings near Shasta Lake in northern California.
Lighter winds and cooler temperatures slowed the Fawn fire as it moved toward the shores of California’s largest man-made lake and away from populated areas north of the city of Redding, allowing crews to increase containment to 35%, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said. ...
The Fawn fire has charred more than 13 sq miles of heavy timber. It’s the latest destructive blaze to send Californians fleeing this year. Fires have burned more than 3,750 sq miles in 2021, destroying more than 3,200 homes, commercial properties and other structures.
Those fires include a pair of big forest blazes burning for more than two weeks in the heart of giant sequoia country on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada. More than 1,700 firefighters battled the KNP Complex fires, which covered 70 square miles by Sunday.
Nearby, the Windy fire grew significantly on Saturday as it made uphill runs and winds blew embers that ignited spot fires. The blaze ignited by lightning on 9 September has scorched 122 sq miles of trees and brush on the Tule River Indian Reservation and in Sequoia National Forest. Containment shrunk from 5% to 2% on Sunday.
Also of Interest
Here are some articles of interest, some which defied fair-use abstraction.
A Little Night Music
Big Mama Thornton - Big Mama's Bumble Bee Blues
Big Mama Thornton - Big Mama's Blues
Big Mama Thornton - Let's Go Get Stoned
Big Mama Thornton - I smell a rat
Big Mama Thornton - Summertime
Big Mama Thornton (feat. Mississippi Fred McDowell) - My Heavy Load
Big Mama Thornton w/B.B. King - Little Red Rooster
Big Mama Thornton - Sassy Mama
Big Mama Thornton - Looking the World Over
Big Mama Thornton - Stop Hoppin' On Me