Welcome! "The Evening Blues" is a casual community diary (published Monday - Friday, 8:00 PM Eastern) where we hang out, share and talk about news, music, photography and other things of interest to the community.
Just about anything goes, but attacks and pie fights are not welcome here. This is a community diary and a friendly, peaceful, supportive place for people to interact.
Everyone who wants to join in peaceful interaction is very welcome here.
Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features musician, songwriter and perhaps rock and roll's greatest lyricist Chuck Berry. Enjoy!
Chuck Berry - Maybellene
Our country is now taking so steady a course as to show by what road it will pass to destruction, to wit: by consolidation of power first, and then corruption, its necessary consequence.
-- Thomas Jefferson
News and Opinion
NSA got access to 40,000 Yahoo and Google user accounts in first 6 months of 2013
Last week, we noted that the DOJ and various internet companies had settled their legal fight, which concerned whether or not those companies could reveal the details of how many FISA Court requests they were receiving -- both in terms of how many requests they get and how many accounts are impacted. While Apple immediately released their information, showing very few users impacted, the real interest is in Google, Yahoo and to a lesser extent Facebook. Both Google and Yahoo have put out blog posts updating their transparency report numbers. It appears that both Yahoo and Google decided to go with "option 1" in the settlement, which lets them reports NSLs and FISA orders separately, but in bands of 0-999. The big question with both of them, really, was just how many "customer accounts affected" there would be, and both presented numbers (in slightly different formats). Google showed a historical listing:
If you remember, by choosing Option 1, the companies could actually show "customer accounts affected" -- if they had chosen option 2, they could only show targeted customers, leaving out others who were affected as well.
Microsoft, Facebook, Google and Yahoo release US surveillance requests
Tens of thousands of accounts associated with customers of Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Yahoo have their data turned over to US government authorities every six months as the result of secret court orders, the tech giants disclosed for the first time on Monday. ...
In announcing the updated data figures, the companies appeared concerned by the lack of precision over the depth of their compelled participation in government surveillance.
“We still believe more transparency is needed so everyone can better understand how surveillance laws work and decide whether or not they serve the public interest,” said Google’s legal director for law enforcement and information security, Richard Salgado, in a post on the company’s official blog.
“Specifically, we want to disclose the precise numbers and types of requests we receive, as well as the number of users they affect in a timely way.” ...
But the disclosures only apply to data requests turned over to the NSA and FBI as the result of Fisa court orders.
Documents that Snowden disclosed to the Guardian, Washington Post and other outlets show that the NSA also siphons communications and associated data from information in transit across the global communications infrastructure – without court orders, under authority claimed under a seminal executive order known as executive order 12,333.
“Nothing in today's report minimises the significance of efforts by governments to obtain customer information outside legal process,” Smith said, affirming that the company remained concerned about reports of clandestine government hacking and would continue to press for more transparency from the US government and others.
Arizona lawmaker pushes bill to combat NSA surveillance
State Sen. Kelli Ward, a tea party Republican who represents the Lake Havasu area, introduced a bill this month intended to limit NSA operations in Arizona.
In December, she became the first legislator in the nation to officially announce that she would offer up a wide-sweeping bill to push back against the NSA. State legislators from across the nation quickly followed suit.
So far, 12 states - from California to Mississippi - have introduced similar bills to make it more difficult for the agency to do surveillance in the United States, according to the Tenth Amendment Center, which provides model legislation to resist NSA surveillance.
The Arizona legislation, SB 1156, would forbid local and state law enforcement officials from cooperating with the NSA and would prevent state or local prosecutors from using NSA information that had not been obtained with a warrant. It would also cut funding to state universities supporting the NSA with research or recruitment.
"Many of my constituents have expressed serious anger about what they've learned the NSA is doing," said Ward, an emergency room physician. "And, personally, I'm not happy about NSA surveillance programs either. I believe it's my duty to do something here in Arizona to help put a stop to it."
Vermont Becomes 12th State With Legislation Targeting NSA Spying
On Tuesday, January 28th, a transpartisan group of four Vermont state representatives introduced legislation that would block some of the practical effects of mass data collection by the National Security Agency (NSA).
Rep. Teo Zagar (D-Windsor-4-1), along with co-sponsor Reps. Susan Davis (P/D-Orange-1), Patricia Komline (R-Bennington-Rutland) and William Stevens (I-Addison-Rutland) introduced the Fourth Amendment Protection Act to prohibit any state support of the NSA. ...
Reports in the Washington Post and USA Today last fall documented how "the FBI and most other investigative bodies in the federal government" are regularly using a mobile device known as a "stingray" to intercept and collect electronic data without a warrant. Local and state police "have access through sharing agreements."
Passage of H732 would ban the receipt of such information and prohibit "material support" by the state to any federal agencies engaged in the practice, known as a "tower dump."
The legislation is based off the long-standing legal principle of the anti-commandeerng doctrine, which prohibits the federal government from requiring, or "commandeering" the states to carry out its acts. The Supreme Court has upheld the doctrine in four major cases going back to 1842.
In the Prigg case of 1842, the Supreme Court held that the federal government was not allowed to require the states to help carry out federal slavery laws.
Egypt charges 20 Al Jazeera journalists with running terrorist cell
CAIRO — Egyptian authorities on Wednesday charged 20 journalists who work for the Al Jazeera satellite news channel, including five who hold foreign citizenship, with being agents of the Muslim Brotherhood and accused them of plotting to defame Egypt and of running a terrorist cell out of a luxurious Cairo hotel.
If convicted, they might face life in prison. ...
The charges shocked local and international journalists, human rights groups, the families of those detained and even some Egyptians, and they dashed any hopes that the military-backed government would embrace the freedom of speech referenced in a newly ratified constitution.
The state prosecutor’s formal filing of accusations – by far the most serious charges leveled against journalists – signaled that those who cover opponents of the government might face imprisonment as terrorists alongside the nation’s worst criminals.
Since the military ousted former President Mohammed Morsi last July, the government has undertaken a massive crackdown on his supporters and other political dissidents that’s resulted in hundreds of deaths and thousands of arrests. One Egyptian human rights group has estimated that more than 21,000 people have been detained. Two journalism advocacy groups said there had been at least 30 incidents of journalists being harassed or arrested for doing their work so far this month.
There are no Al Jazeera journalists reporting in Egypt - They’ve all been detained or indictedHat tip Don midwest:
CAIRO, Egypt—These are deeply uncertain times for journalists in Egypt. On Wednesday, the country’s chief prosecutor general leveled a raft of criminal charges against 20 Al Jazeera journalists, some of them in absentia, accusing them of joining a “terrorist group,” broadcasting false news, and distorting Egypt’s image abroad.
Part of what alarms press freedom advocates is that the accusations appear to hinge on the content of Al Jazeera’s reporting. The journalists, who deny the charges, face years in prison if convicted. In response to the indictments, Sherif Mansour, Middle East and North Africa Coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement, “This attempt to criminalize legitimate journalistic work is what distorts Egypt’s image abroad.”
The arrest and now the prosecution of prominent journalists, along with a growing concern over crowd violence against media workers, has begun to foment a sense of fear among many attempting to report on Egypt’s ongoing upheaval. ...
In an attempt to reassure international journalists, Egypt’s State Information Service issued a statement on Thursday, saying that “Egyptian law does not criminalize mere contact with or prior knowing of anyone accused of committing a crime or any person imprisoned pending a case.” The statement however contained that such contact is legal unless such contact constitutes “involvement in committing the crime by means of assisting, inciting or prior agreement.”
Not everyone was reassured. Guardian correspondent Patrick Kingsley quipped on Twitter, “Thinking is ok, as long as your thoughts are in line with a set of rules we make up as we go along.”
Top ten US aid recipients all practice torture
The top ten recipients of US foreign assistance this year all practice torture and are responsible for major human rights abuses, according to the findings of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other leading human rights organisations.
This may be in violation of existing US law, which requires that little or no aid be provided to a country which “engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights, including torture”.
1. Israel – $3.1bn
2. Afghanistan – $2.2bn
3. Egypt – $1.6bn
4. Pakistan – $1.2bn
5. Nigeria – $693m
6. Jordan – $671m
7. Iraq – $573m
8. Kenya – $564m
9. Tanzania – $553m
All ten have been accused of torturing people in the last year, and at least half of them are reported to be doing so on a massive scale.
Left-Leaning Candidates Continue to Sweep Latin America
Paraguay could be only country from the Rio Grande to Patagonia 'where a firmly right-wing leader remains in power'
"Left-leaning candidates dominated presidential elections in Central America on Sunday, with polls showing El Salvador’s Salvador Sanchez Ceren and Costa Rica’s Luis Guillermo Solis poised to claim victory in their respective runoffs," according to AFP. Those elections will take place in the coming weeks.
Ceren, former guerrilla leader of the Farabundo Marti Front for National Liberation (FMLN), won 48.9% of votes in the first round of a run-off election.
In what was considered a more surprising result, Solis, a former history professor, also finished with a strong lead in the first round of voting in Costa Rica.
German minister calls for sanctions threat against Ukraine
The German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has said sanctions should be used as a threat against Ukraine's government unless it finds a political solution to its long-running dispute with the opposition.
The Social Democrat minister's comments strike a different tone from the line taken so far by Chancellor Angela Merkel, who last week ruled out imminent sanctions.
"I think we must now show sanctions as a threat," Steinmeier told Germany's ARD television late on Monday, adding that Germany had to be ready to act if the situation did not improve.
Ukraine has been hit by more than two months of unrest following a decision by President Viktor Yanukovich not to pursue trade and other deals with the European Union. Ukraine is now in a tug-of war between Russia and the west.
Protests across North America Aim to Block 'NAFTA on Steroids'
Workers across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico will unite in an Inter-Continental Day of Action Friday to stop a massive new trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership—commonly referred to as “NAFTA on steroids.” ...
Fast track is designed to swiftly pass trade deals, circumventing the standard Congressional procedures of hearings, debates, and resolutions.
But there has been considerable backlash against the undemocratic concept. In November, anticipating its introduction, 151 Democratic Representatives signed a letter to the president stating they were opposed and would vote no on fast track; 21 Republican Representatives also submitted an opposition letter.
Since the bill was introduced January 9, letters to Congress have flooded in from unions, environmental protection organizations, food safety organizations, public health entities, domestic manufacturers, domestic agriculture, advocates for democracy, and internet freedom activists—all urging all representatives to publicly denounce the bill. Some 564 organizations signed onto a January 27 letter opposing fast track, submitted by Citizens Trade Campaign. ...
Like NAFTA, the TPP has little to do with trade, and more to do with perpetuating a global race to the bottom for all workers.
As Trans-Pacific Partnership Falters, Opponents Go After Fence-Sitting Pols
On Friday, [TPP's] secrecy took another hit as opponents gathered in more than 50 cities across North America in a noisy, colorful, continent-wide day of rallies, marches, and teach-ins. Events were held in New York, Toronto, and Mexico City, but smaller towns turned out as well. People marched and rallied in Red Deer, Alberta, held a press conference in Fresno, Calif., and protested in the downtown office of Republican Congressman Charlie Dent in Allentown, Pa. ...
Events on Friday showed a new focus on demanding that elected representatives commit to opposing fast-track legislation. The march and rally in San Francisco, for example, criticized California Democratic Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, who has refused to state her position on the fast-track bill since it was introduced by Senator Max Baucus, D-Mont., on Jan. 9.
In Washington state, volunteers with the Backbone Campaign entered the offices of U.S. Representative Dave Reichert, a Republican who actively supports fast track through the "Friends of the TPP" caucus, and issued him a "spineless citation." Democrats Suzan DelBene, Dennis Heck, Derek Kilmer, and Rick Larsen also received "spineless citations" for taking no position on the issue, while fellow House Democrat Jim McDermott received a thank-you letter (with an illustration of a spine, of course). McDermott has pledged to oppose fast track.
Their positions matter because the TPP would almost certainly be approved if Senator Baucus' fast-track bill passes, Lynne Dodson, secretary-treasurer for the Washington State Labor Council, told the crowd gathered in Seattle on Friday.
"No trade deal has ever been defeated once it got to fast track," she said.
Obama to meet with Harry Reid amid trade dispute
President Barack Obama meets today with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the Oval Office -- days after Reid said he opposed legislation critical to a trans-Pacific trade pact.
Obama is seeking so-called fast track negotiating authority to move the pact. But many Democrats oppose giving him the authority, which would require Congress to act on the trade deals negotiated by the administration by a yes-or-no vote, without the ability to make any changes. ...
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney wouldn't say what the two men would talk about during the meeting, but called trade an "important issue" for Obama.
"If we can successfully bring to conclusion trade agreements with Europe and Asia, that's good for American workers, good for the American economy," he said.
Treasury secretary Jack Lew demands action on debt ceiling 'very soon'
The treasury secretary, Jack Lew, said on Monday the US government’s borrowing limit should be extended as a matter of urgency, warning that the country will be unable to meet its debt obligations “at some point very soon”, possibly by the end of the month.
Conservative figures in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives are braying for a confrontation over the debt limit, as a way of prising unspecified concessions out of President Barack Obama’s administration. Obama is refusing to negotiate, saying he will not yield to heavy-handed tactics which could risk a calamitous US debt default.
On Monday, Lew said the Treasury’s borrowing capacity would expire “ in just a matter of days”, after which he would be required to use extraordinary measures to enable the government to meet its obligations.
However, Lew said, complex seasonal factors mean such measures will not last as long as they might do at other times of the year. “We now forecast that we are likely to exhaust these measures by the end of this month,” he said.
What You Can Do to Challenge Corporate Rule
There is always a disparity between what we are told by the government and corporate media; and reality. Our job is to understand and project reality by becoming the media. ... If you want to do more, write about the realities you see around you or video stories and share those, comment on articles that present a false narrative and write letters to the editor. By doing any of this you are becoming a member of the new citizen’s media that will overtake the corporate media.
If you are in the government or work for big corporate interests, you have a special opportunity. Those in power greatly fear people who leak documents that show the truth beyond any doubt. It has become safe to leak while remaining anonymous thanks to outlets like Wikileaks. The reaction to Snowden’s leaks show the power one person who tells the truth can have in a nation dominated by lies.
Another task is to mobilize. Talk to people in your community. Develop a core group of people to work with or join existing groups that are working on issues you care about. Understand the goals and strategy for success that has been developed. We can succeed and we know from past movements how to do so. ...
Chris Hedges makes the point that we are like the crew of the Pequod in Moby Dick. They are stuck in a suicidal chase for the great white whale, Moby Dick, led by an insane Captain Ahab. ...
Can we mutiny as Ahab’s crew should have done before they came to their destruction? Our mutiny begins with resistance which at its root begins with understanding and sharing the truth around us. We cannot let the misleaders falsify reality for their own purposes. Our task is to break through, get the truth out and mobilize people so we avoid the fate of the Pequod.
Record number of people exonerated of crimes in US in 2013
A new report from the National Registry of Exonerations finds that almost a third of the people in 2013’s unprecedented crop of exonerations were convicted in cases in which, in fact, no crime was committed – a record-breaking number in itself. Some 22 men and five women were given sentences ranging from probation to life, yet when their convictions were investigated, they were not only found to be innocent, but it was discovered that no offence had occurred in the first place. ...
Among the 27 crimeless exonerations are several cases in which an accidental death by fire was wrongly interpreted as arson or murder. Other cases involved individuals who were falsely implicated in a fictitious crime, as well as seven cases of a sexual nature, which involved wrongful allegations of rape or child sex abuse.
Professor Samuel Gross, a Michigan law professor who edits the registry, said the large proportion of crimeless wrongful convictions ran counter to how most people perceive exonerations – as cases where innocence is proved when the real perpetrator confesses or is caught through DNA analysis. For these 27 people, there was no real perpetrator, as there was no crime. ...
Last year’s 87 exonerations included 40 in cases of murder and one prisoner, Reginald Griffin, who had been sentenced to death. The new crop brought the total number of prisoners who have been cleared of wrongful convictions over the past 25 years to at least 1,300 – and that number, of course, does not count the people who have been wrongfully convicted but not yet cleared.
The Evening Greens
Excuse me, but we shouldn't be moving on from West Virginia's chemical spill
On Friday, MSNBC killed a segment with activist Erin Brockovich on the topic in order to devote more airtime to Chris Christie's traffic problems.
To anyone that follows environmental news, this arc is familiar: A human-interest story with an environmental pollution angle breaks through the media chatter. Cable news outlets roll clips of distraught residents. Footage the damage unspools (with or without stomach-turning images of dead or injured wildlife). There is a news conference of dubious utility. Investigative reporters find evidence of previous infractions of safety and environmental regulations. Politicians declare the need for hearings and more strict enforcement. Volunteers show up to help. Sometimes there's a concert.
Then we move on. ... The underlying crisis behind most environmental tragedies is the part of the story that we rarely hear about. Our attention is shifting away from chemical spill, as it has from mine collapses and explosions, from oil spills, and, often, from natural disasters as well. Ironically, it's natural disasters – the ones with the least tangible connection to the actions of specific individuals – that manage to sustain the most interest among the national media. I am pretty sure this is because no one lobbies on Hurricane Sandy's behalf. Tornados are not considered to be good Sunday talk show guests.
That the coal industry has spent upward of $14m a year for the past four years on lobbying efforts – not including the $14m they spent just last year on direct contributions to campaigns – partially explains why our attention is so fleeting. It also explains why the disasters are so bad.
The latter consequence stems from a distressingly simple pattern of cause and effect: for 200 years, and most particularly during the last two decades, the coal industry (and the energy lobby in general) has been as much, if not more, effective and industrious in its influence on politicians than it has been in generating electricity.
Duke Energy plant reports coal-ash spill
Duke Energy said Monday that 50,000 to 82,000 tons of coal ash and up to 27 million gallons of water were released from a pond at its retired power plant in Eden into the Dan River, and were still flowing.
Duke said a 48-inch stormwater pipe beneath the unlined ash pond broke Sunday afternoon. Water and ash from the 27-acre pond drained into the pipe. ...
The Dan River plant is about 130 miles northeast of Charlotte near the Virginia line.
The North Carolina environmental agency said it notified downstream water districts of the spill. The nearest municipality that draws water from the Dan River, Danville, reported no problems with its water.
Duke and the North Carolina agency took water samples from the river but said results are not yet back. Coal ash contains metals that can be toxic in high concentrations.
More Bad News About Pipelines
Recently, arguing that pipelines are safer ways to carry oil than are trains, Ed Schultz has signed aboard with out old friend, the Keystone XL pipeline, the continent-spanning death funnel that will carry the world's dirtiest fossil fuel from the blasted environmental moonscape of northern Alberta to the refineries along the Texas Gulf coast, and thence to the world. Last week, the State Department came to the remarkable conclusion that the project would have a negligible impact on the dynamics of climate change. This made extraction fans happy, environmentalists furious, and it bumfuzzled the administration, which is still clearly playing for more time while it decides who it will eventualy piss off with its decision. ...
The whole project is simply shot through with bad faith, from the phony job estimates to the sharp practices by which people have been relieved of their property to any environmental evaluation emanating from TransCanada or any government to which it has attached itself. These apparently now include our State Department. There is no reason to trust a word coming from anyone who stands to make a dime from it.
Researchers: Canadian oil sands pollution two to three times higher than estimated
The amount of harmful pollutants released in the process of recovering oil from tar sands in western Canada is likely far higher than corporate interests say, university researchers said Monday.
Actual levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) emissions into the air may be two to three times higher than estimated, said the findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a peer-reviewed US journal.
The study raises new questions about the accuracy of environmental impact assessments on the tar sands, just days after a US State Department report said the controversial Keystone pipeline project to bring oil from Canada to Texas would have little impact on climate change or the environment.
Current, government-accepted estimates do not account for the evaporation of PAHs from wastewater pools known as tailings ponds, which are believed to be a major source of pollution, said researchers at the University of Toronto.
Mass dolphin deaths in Peru
More than 400 dead dolphins were found in January on the Pacific Ocean beaches of northern Peru where twice that number were encountered in the whole of 2012, officials have said.
Authorities never established the cause of the deaths in 2012. They are doing autopsies on the latest dolphins found in the Lambayeque region on the northern coast. ...
Autopsies of some of the more than 870 dolphins found in 2012 were inconclusive. Speculation ranged from biotoxins in the sea to seismic testing or an unknown ailment.
Blog Posts of Interest
Here are diaries and selected blog posts of interest on DailyKos and other blogs.What's Happenin' Is On Hiatus
A Little Night Music
Chuck Berry - You Can't Catch Me
Chuck Berry - Little Queenie
Chuck Berry - You Never Can Tell
Chuck Berry - Johnny B. Goode
Chuck Berry - Back in the USA
Chuck Berry - Havana Moon
Chuck Berry - House Of Blue Lights
Chuck Berry - Downbound Train
Chuck Berry - Let It Rock
Chuck Berry - Nadine
Chuck Berry - Reelin and Rockin
John Lennon, Yoko Ono & Chuck Berry - Memphis Tennessee, Johhnny B. Goode
Chuck Berry & Eric CLapton - Wee Wee Hours
Chuck Berry & Keith Richards - Oh Carol
Chuck Berry - No Particular Place To Go
Chuck Berry - Down the road apiece
Chuck Berry - Too Much Monkey Business
Chuck Berry - Rip It Up
Chuck Berry - Around And Around
Grateful Dead - Around and Around
It's National Pie Day!
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Come on over and sign up so that we can send you announcements about the site, the launch, and information about participating in our public beta testing.
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