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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 New Orleans Jazz and blues singer Blue Lu Barker.  Enjoy!

Blue Lu Barker - Don't You Feel My Leg

"Statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception."

  -- Mark Twain

News and Opinion

Ukraine parliament delivers ultimatum to Crimea over referendum

Ukraine's parliament has warned the regional assembly in Crimea that it faces dissolution unless it cancels a referendum it has called to join the region to Russia.

A resolution, supported by a parliamentary vote, gave the Crimean parliament until Wednesday to call off the referendum, due to take place on Sunday. The Crimean parliament on Tuesday passed a motion stating that it would become independent in the event of a yes vote and then seek to join the Russian Federation, arguing that "the unilateral declaration of independence of part of a state does not violate any international laws". Increasing their isolation from Kiev, the pro-Russian authorities have closed Crimea's airspace to commercial flights.

Also on Tuesday, the acting Ukrainian president, Oleksander Turchinov, announced that a new national guard would be formed in response to Russian attempts to annex Crimea.

Turchinov said mismanagement of the armed forces under the former president, Viktor Yanukovych, meant the Ukrainian military had to be rebuilt "effectively from scratch". The acting defence minister said the country had only 6,000 combat-ready infantry compared with more than 200,000 Russian troops on its eastern borders.

Hopes of a diplomatic solution to the crisis were dealt a blow after the US secretary of state, John Kerry, abandoned a visit to Moscow to discuss the crisis and the US and Russia traded accusations over who was to blame.

This is an excellent commentary, well worth clicking the link for a full read:
Ukraine and the west: hot air and hypocrisy

Instead of blustering into their microphones in a frenzy of self-righteous indignation, the leaders of the US and EU would do well to spend a few minutes swotting up on the history of this volatile region. They would learn that Crimea has a long history of conflict between its Ukrainian, Russian and Tatar communities, and has been ping-ponging back and forth between Ottoman, Russian and Ukrainian jurisdiction for years. The last time the British got involved was in 1853-6, and that, too, was a shambles. This time, the west's intervention has been foolish and inept, and its hypocrisy is shameful.

Less than a month ago, a violent insurrection in the streets of Kiev against the elected government was greeted in the west as an uprising of "the people of Ukraine" choosing the west against closer ties with Russia. Everyone knows, if they stop to think about it, that such a simplistic characterisation of "the people of Ukraine" is wilfully naive, but the breathless journalists and huffy politicians gushing their stuff never stop to think. Thinking is dangerous. It can lead you to see the other person's point of view. ...

The cynicism and hypocrisy with which some politicians have tried to pick apart the seams in this delicate and ancient fabric fills me with rage and despair. The histories of Russia and Ukraine have been entwined since at least the ninth century, and so have Russian and Ukrainian families. Only in some fascist paradise are people ethnically "pure".

In fact, Kiev was the original capital of Kievan Rus', the proto-Russian Slavic state of the early middle ages, but became too vulnerable during the Mongol invasions, and the administrative and royal headquarters were moved north, near Moscow, which gradually became the dominant region. The languages of north and south drifted apart, too, but are mutually comprehensible, and closer than, say, Italian and Spanish. Many people, like my own family, speak Surzhyk, a mongrel mixture of the two. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the western part of Ukraine was annexed by the Polish empire, which imposed Catholicism on a previously Orthodox population. During the 19th century, this region, Galicia, centred on the city of Lviv, belonged to the Catholic Austro-Hungarian empire. Not surprisingly, these regions of Ukraine are still predominantly Catholic, and see themselves as belonging in the west. In a way, this historic tug of war between Poland and Russia over Ukraine is still being played out, with Poland being the strongest champion of Ukraine in the EU. ...

What will happen next? I predict that nothing will happen. There will be a tremendous amount of huffing and puffing of hot air; well-oiled muscles will be flexed and machinery moved about. Some kleptocratic Russian and Ukrainian ladies will have to put on hold their next shopping trip to Harrods or Gucci. ... Let us hope I am right, because the alternative is civil war: people slaughtering each other in the streets over some fabricated notion of ethnicity.

Svoboda and the History of Ukrainian Nationalism

Ukraine crisis: Russia drafting counter-offer to US demands

Russia has said it is drafting counterproposals to a US plan for a negotiated solution to the Ukraine crisis. The Kremlin denounced the new western-backed government as an unacceptable “fait accompli” and claimed Russian-leaning parts of the country had been plunged into lawlessness.

The Kremlin moves came as Russian forces strengthened their control over Crimea, less than a week before the strategic region is to hold a contentious referendum on whether to split off and become part of Russia.

In a televised briefing with President Vladimir Putin, the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, said proposals made by John Kerry, the US secretary of state, were “not suitable” because they took the situation created by the coup as a starting point, referring to the ouster of Ukraine’s pro-Kremlin president, Viktor Yanukovych.

Referring to a document he received from Kerry explaining the US view of the situation in Ukraine, Lavrov said: “To be frank it raises many questions on our side … Everything was stated in terms of allegedly having a conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and in terms of accepting the fait accompli.”

Ukraine forms new defense force, seeks Western help

Ukraine's interim leaders established a new National Guard on Tuesday and appealed to the United States and Britain for assistance against what they called Russian aggression in Crimea under a post-Cold War treaty.

Blaming their ousted predecessors for the weakness of their own armed forces, acting ministers told parliament Ukraine had as few as 6,000 combat-ready infantry and that the air force was outnumbered nearly 100 to 1 by Moscow's superpower forces. ...

Acting Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk, who will visit the White House and United Nations Security Council this week, said a 1994 treaty under which Ukraine agreed to give up its Soviet nuclear weapons obliged Russia to remove troops from Crimea and also obliged Western powers to defend Ukraine's sovereignty. ...

NATO AWACs surveillance planes were beginning flights over Poland and Romania to monitor events in Ukraine and the U.S. navy was preparing for exercises in the Black Sea with NATO allies Bulgaria and Romania over the next few days.

At Crimea base, Ukraine troops who fought in Iraq face a force they never thought they’d fight

PEREVALNE, Ukraine — The cloaked soldiers camped outside the Ukrainian coastal security base may be silent to strangers about who they are and where they come from. But they freely admit to the Ukrainian soldiers they’ve surrounded that they come from Russia. In fact, they say that when they left their Russian base recently, they were under the impression that they were leaving on a training exercise somewhere in their native land.

“Then when they saw the mountains and were told this was not training, they assumed they were in Chechnya,” said a Ukrainian officer who has been involved in talks with the Russians. “When they learned they were actually in Ukraine, in Crimea, they told us they were shocked.” ...

Here in Perevalne, an uneasy calm holds, though the stress is obvious on everyone involved.

The officer who spoke is a captain in what he would describe only as a brigade of foot soldiers under the framework of the Ukrainian navy. ... “I tell you the truth, I would have been less surprised to find men from the moon surrounding our base,” he said. “Right now, the Russians are our captors. But I cannot get my mind around the idea that they are the enemy. The Russians have always been my brothers. Are we expected to spill the blood of our brother? And if we cannot, will they spill ours?”

“We have had no reassurances from Kiev that they can come to our aid,” he said. “We do not even know if our families who live nearby will be protected if things go wrong. Kiev could not even tell us what we were expected to do, other than to stand firm. So we will stand firm.”

'Unrest in Ukraine part of NATO's expansion plan'

Another excellent piece with good background info:
The Flaw in ‘Cornering’ Russia

Twenty years ago, the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union marked a virtual end to the long-standing military and ideological threat that Moscow represented to the United States. ...

In expanding NATO, the United States has been guilty of betraying a guarantee that Secretary of State James Baker gave to Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze in 1990, when the United States stated that it would not “leapfrog” over East Germany to place U.S. military forces in East Europe in the wake of the Soviet military withdrawal from Germany.

The administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush ignored that commitment when the United States sponsored the entry of eight former Warsaw Pact members as well as three former Soviet Republics into NATO. The Obama administration, meanwhile, appears ignorant of the geopolitical context of its foreign policies, which have not taken this betrayal into account in the Crimean crisis. ...

The Obama administration also ignored Secretary of State Baker’s verbal commitment against “leapfrogging” over a united Germany by basing U.S. fighter jets in Poland as well as favoring the deployment of a sophisticated regional missile defense in Poland and the Czech Republic. He is using the Crimea crisis to base additional fighter jets in Poland and is considering the expansion of fighter patrols over the Baltic States. ...

In the Crimean crisis, President Obama seems to be unnecessarily accommodating the right-wing criticism of his administration from politicians and pundits instead of finding a diplomatic solution to the current imbroglio. If the United States offered guarantees against the further expansion of NATO and invited Russia to take part in a multilateral economic aid program for beleaguered Ukraine, then it is possible that President Vladimir Putin would find a way to lower the Russian military presence in the Crimea.

U.S. senator attacks CIA over interrogation and detention documents

The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee did not hack into CIA computers to obtain an internal report on the agency's interrogation and detention program, the head of the committee said on Tuesday.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, in a scathing statement on the Senate floor aimed at the CIA's handling of the matter, said she had "grave concerns" that the agency's search of the committee's computers was illegal.

"The committee clearly did not hack into CIA computers to obtain these documents, as has been suggested in the press," Feinstein said. ...

She said the internal report was obtained by committee staffers using a CIA search tool provided to them.

Feinstein denied reports the panel had gotten the internal review through unauthorized means.

Sen. Feinstein Accuses CIA of Searching Congressional Computers

"CIA illegally searched computers in Congress over interrogation probe"

A senior US senator on Tuesday accused the Central Intelligence Agency of illegally searching computers of Senate staff members who were investigating a CIA interrogation program.

Dianne Feinstein, the powerful chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, angrily denounced the CIA’s actions, saying it appeared to be a bid to intimidate lawmakers from holding the spy agency accountable. ...

Feinstein said she and the vice chairman of the intelligence committee learned of the search on January 15 in an “emergency meeting” requested by CIA director John Brennan.

The CIA search covered documents as well as “the standalone and walled off committee network drive containing the committee’s own internal work product and communications,” she said.

Feinstein accuses CIA of 'intimidating' Senate staff over torture report

The chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, Dianne Feinstein, on Tuesday accused the Central Intelligence Agency of a catalogue of cover-ups, intimidation and smears aimed at investigators probing its role in an “un-American and brutal” programme of post-9/11 detention and interrogation.

In a bombshell statement on the floor of the US Senate, Feinstein, normally an administration loyalist, accused the CIA of potentially violating the US constitution and of criminal activity in its attempts to obstruct her committee’s investigations into the agency’s use of torture. She described the crisis as a “defining moment” for political oversight of the US intelligence service.

Her unprecedented public assault on the CIA represented an intensification of the row between the committee and the agency over a still-secret report on the torture of terrorist suspects after 9/11. Resolution of the crisis, Feinstein suggested, may come this week at the White House. ...

She also alleged that anonymous CIA officials were effectively conducting a smear campaign in the media to discredit and “intimidate” Senate staff by suggesting they had hacked into the agency’s computers to obtain a separate, critical internal report on the detention and interrogation programme.

Staff working on the Senate investigation have been reported to the Department of Justice for possible criminal charges by a lawyer at the CIA who himself features heavily in the alleged interrogation abuses. The CIA’s inspector general has another inquiry open into the issue.

CIA Search of Congressional Computer Sparks Constitutional Crisis

Two top Senate leaders declared Tuesday that the CIA’s recent conduct has undermined the separation of powers as set out in the Constitution, setting the stage for a major battle to reassert the proper balance between the two branches.

Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), in a floor speech that Judiciary Committee chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) immediately called the most important he had heard in his career, said the CIA had searched through computers belonging to staff members investigating the agency’s role in torturing detainees, and had then leveled false charges against her staff in an attempt to intimidate them.

Edward Snowden and ACLU at SXSW

Edward Snowden: 'The NSA set fire to the internet. You are the firefighters'

Snowden quickly explained why he’d opted to speak to this audience: SXSW’s technologists were “the people who can really fix” the deficiencies in the internet and its applications “to enforce our rights and protect standards, even though Congress hasn’t gotten to the point of doing that.” Spies have treated the internet as “an adversarial global freefire scenario, and we need to protect people against it. The NSA has advanced policies that erode Fourth Amendment protections through the proactive seizure of communications. This demands a policy response, but we need a technical response from makers. The NSA is setting fire to the future of the internet and you guys are the firefighters.” ...

Soghoian pointed out that everyone had something to worry about when it came to mass surveillance: “The government has collected a massive database of everyone’s private communications: everyone who’s called abortion clinic, everyone who’s called Alcoholics Anonymous, everyone who’s called a gay bookstore. Many Americans don’t want this stored. Whatever your politics, you know that your call to a church or gun store is not the government’s business. The person who sits in the Oval Office changes every few years and the person who sits there next may not be someone who you like.”

But privacy is only the surface of the NSA leaks. For cryptographers and many civil libertarians, the real worry is the integrity of the internet itself. All three speakers railed against the NSA’s programme of sabotaging security standards as well as the security of networks and networked devices.

Snowden described the unique recklessness of an American intelligence agency undermining internet security. “Our country’s economic success is based on our intellectual property – our ability to create, share, communicate and compete. Since 9/11, former NSA director Michael Hayden and current NSA director Keith Alexander have elevated offense at the expense of defense of our communications. They’ve eroded protection of our communications at the expense of defense of our communications.

The NSA won’t shut up about Snowden, but what about the spy who stole more?

Why does the US intelligence establishment vilify Edward Snowden but not Jeffrey Delisle? The government’s focus on whistleblowers and press leakers instead of real spies – as evidenced by former National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander’s renewed push for legislation to shut down “media leaks”, which Snowden called out Monday at SXSW – warps the security policy debate by treating public scrutiny of intelligence activities as a threat to our democracy, rather than its necessary foundation. ...

So how come most people have never heard of Jeff Delisle? He is, after all, an admitted Russian spy who compromised US signals intelligence for almost five years before his arrest in 2012 and whose dismissal from the Canadian military was revealed in court last week.

Don’t blame Canada; American officials have been strangely silent on the matter. As part of his duties as an analyst assigned to an “intelligence fusion centre”, Delisle had access to a top-secret US Defense Intelligence Agency database – part of the intelligence-sharing arrangement among the so-called “Five Eyes”, the US, Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand. He volunteered his services to Russian intelligence as an embassy walk-in, then used thumb drives to steal classified material that he disseminated to his spymasters through a shared email account. He was prosecuted in Canada, and sentenced to 20 years in prison – 15 fewer than Manning received. ...

Real spies don’t blow whistles or publish the materials they steal. This makes their actions more damaging, since it’s more difficult for victim intelligence agencies to discover the breach, assess the resulting damage, and correct it. Were Snowden really a spy, his Russian handlers would have been as angry about the documents’ publication as Clapper is, as it diminished their intelligence value.  ...

When spies reveal information to foreign powers, however, there are no angry tirades in Congress – no vote-grabbing tactics – that might draw public attention to this counter-intelligence failure. The silence helps them avoid uncomfortable questions about whether such broad information-sharing was really in our national security interests, or whether our intelligence agencies were negligent.

Government Officials To Spy on Workers With Secret Clearance

Michael Rogers goes before Senate committee to outline vision for NSA

The likely next director of the National Security Agency will testify on Tuesday for the first time about his new job, in perhaps the agency’s best chance for a post-Edward Snowden reboot.

Vice Admiral Michael Rogers will field major questions about the future of NSA surveillance and the protection of the internet before the Senate armed services committee, his first opportunity to outline his vision for the world’s most controversial intelligence service since being nominated to lead it in January.

But he’ll only do so by proxy. The Senate does not confirm the NSA director. Rogers is testifying because of his simultaneous nomination to lead Cyber Command, the military’s new entity for defending its networks online and attacks on adversary data. It is deeply entwined with the NSA. ...

[H]is views on the bulk surveillance of US phone data and communications content believed to be foreign, exposed by whistleblower Snowden, are largely a mystery. In preliminary questions to the committee, Rogers stressed a need to comb through metadata repositories quickly in the event of an emergency, a concern often expressed by defenders of the status quo. ...

Critics of the mass data collection have expressed concern that Rogers represented more continuity for the NSA than change.

“Right now, we don’t know a lot about Mike Rogers, but the little we do know suggests he is not a reform candidate at all, but more of the same,” said Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation.

“It’s a shame President Obama didn’t use this opportunity to appoint an NSA chief that can better calibrate Americans’ growing privacy concerns against the NSA’s current goal to ‘collect it all.’”

UN report calls for independent investigations of drone attacks

A report by the United Nations Human Rights Council has called for independent investigations to be carried out into drone attacks after a series of strikes that result in unexpected civilian deaths in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere. Most of the attacks involved US drones.

In a 21-page report, the UN special rapporteur on human rights, Ben Emmerson, records a dramatic reduction in drone strikes in 2013 in Pakistan but increases in Afghanistan and, towards the end of the year, in Yemen.

The decline in drone strikes in Pakistan comes after its government's repeated calls for the US to reduce their number. Islamabad argued that the impact of drone strikes was counterproductive, turned opinion in the country against the US and undermined the Pakistani government.

But Emmerson noted a threefold increase in recorded civilian casualties from drone strikes in Afghanistan in 2013. He concluded that states have an obligation to launch inquiries into cases in which civilians become caught up.

His report said: "Having regard to the duty of states to protect civilians in armed conflict, the special rapporteur concluded that in any case in which there have been, or appear to have been, civilian casualties that were not anticipated when the attack was planned, the state responsible is under an obligation to conduct a prompt, independent and impartial fact-finding inquiry and to provide a detailed public explanation of the results.

Great job r2pers!
Al Qaeda hijacks spirit of Syria revolt three years on

Syrian refugees in this border outpost were delighted to hear their home town of Azaz had been liberated - not from Bashar al-Assad's troops but from al Qaeda fighters who subjected them to a regime that included torture and public beheadings.

For Syrians who three years ago rose up against 43 years of Assad family rule, living under the hard-line Sunni jihadists who said they had come to save them from the president's atrocities was even worse than Assad himself.

While neither Assad nor the rebels have the upper hand, there is a growing sense among his foreign opponents that the battle for Syria has become a twin-track operation, with defeating the jihadists as important as ousting Assad.

Three years on, Assad is still in power, while his subjects have been gassed, starved, exiled and bombed with impunity.

Many of those who initially succeeded in liberating large parts of northern Syria from government control soon found themselves under the yoke of foreign jihadists. ...

Syrians, according to the U.N., are about to replace Afghans as the world's largest refugee population. So far 2.4 million have fled a conflict that has killed 140,000 people.

Student shot dead at Venezuela protest

A Venezuelan student leader was fatally shot on Monday night in the western university city of San

Cristóbal after a long day of street clashes in which security forces attacked and dismantled barricades at key intersections. Daniel Tinoco was shot in the chest after dark, the San Cristóbal mayor, Daniel Ceballos, said. The opposition politician did not say who might have killed Tinoco but tweeted that armed paramilitaries allied with the government known as colectivos had battled protesters along with the national guard.

Local TV reporter Beatriz Font said there were unconfirmed reports of at least two others wounded by gunfire after dark in the city of 600,000 people where student-led protests erupted last month and where anti-government unrest has been at its most fierce. The human rights group Provea tweeted that one student was seriously wounded by a bullet.

National guard troops firing teargas and plastic shotgun pellets had battled protesters all day in residential neighbourhoods, Font said by phone.

Why the GOP cares about poverty now: poor people are looking more white

The face of poverty doesn’t look the same anymore. And Republicans here in Washington seem to be taking note. They even seem to be caring. What, Paul Ryan, worry about the takers and not the makers? Maybe the war-on-the-war-on-poverty message has less to do with faulty data and midterm chances than something a lot simpler: the GOP’s favorite all-purpose boogeyman – the Welfare Queen – has been replaced with a poor population that looks a lot more, well, white.

According to a recent report from the Census Bureau, one in three Americans can be expected to fall below the poverty line for at least six months, and more than 50% of all Americans between the ages of 25 and 60 have experienced at least a year of poverty. What’s different, now, is that two-thirds of those who fall below the poverty line now self-identify as white.

The GOP has responded to the ongoing pledge from Barack Obama and the Democrats to solve what the president calls “the defining challenge of our time”: income inequality. And they’ve responded primarily by way of Ryan’s controversial poverty report, which focuses much of its attention on the sort of social science reports that liberal Democrats have relied on for years. The report tiredly bemoans the government’s waste of social assistance programs, while praising some, like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which Obama’s new budget proposes to expand. ...

The EITC is appealing to Republicans because it’s a way to increase pay for low-income workers that doesn’t burden their employers, which is more or less their argument against the minimum wage.

The faint praise in the Ryan report for the EITC – and programs like it – seems to reflect the Right’s sudden heartswell for the poor. Conveniently, a lot of those feel-good vibes come from those facing uphill re-election battles, those who need white votes, those running for the White House in 2016 or some combination thereof.

The McCutcheon Decision Hangs in the Balance. So Does Our Democracy

The US Supreme Court is about to rule in a case that, if successful, would sound the death knell for average Americans’ rapidly-dwindling influence over our politics. McCutcheon vs. FEC seeks to remove many of  the few leftover limits protecting  our democracy since Citizens United. ...

The Citizens United decision effectively gave birth to large, usually anonymously-funded Super PACs, which are now permitted to spend as much as they want on TV ads and other forms of advertising. After Citizens United, corporate and wealthy donors organized and funneled tens of millions of dollars to shadowy Super PACs, which sought to influence campaign outcomes through attack ads and dastardly means.

Although the growth of super PACs and their influence has been alarming, their dollars only represented 1/7 of the total spent in the 2012 elections. The rest was the money raised by the candidates and their parties through individual donations. Citizens United preserved the existing cap on donations individuals could make to federal candidates and political parties in a two-year cycle.

If McCutcheon succeeds, those limits will be blown out of the water. Wealthy donors will be allowed to contribute an aggregate amount of up to $5.9 million to candidates and committees. It will give plutocrats a direct channel of influence, laying the groundwork for a class of super donors.

The ‘next Citizens United’ may fuel a popular uprising

McCutcheon is the Alabama businessman suing the Federal Election Commission for abridging his First Amendment right to free speech— that is, if we define free speech as McCutcheon’s right to donate upward of $123,200 in a single election cycle. He claims eliminating federal limits on an individual’s aggregate campaign contributions is “about practicing democracy and being free.” To underscore his love of freedom, McCutcheon wrote checks to 15 Republican candidates in the symbolic sum of $1,776.

The Supreme Court is expected to hand down its decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission any day now. Given the Roberts court’s track record, the biggest campaign-finance decision since Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission is likely to blow another gigantic hole in the fabric of our democracy.

Such a ruling will fuel popular outrage and increase pressure for fundamental reforms such as disclosure and public financing. Already, Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) have introduced a constitutional amendment allowing campaign spending limits. This would finally supercede the Supreme Court’s infamous 1976 ruling in Buckley v. Valeo, which equated money with speech and effectively turned our elections into auctions.

Economic high: Colorado made $3.5 million in pot tax in first month since legalization

Marijuana sales in Colorado brought in $3.5 million in tax revenues and fees in the first month retail pot outlets were allowed, the western US state said Monday.

The figure included $2.9 million in taxes for recreational and medical marijuana in the month of January, and nearly $600,000 in fees, said Colorado’s Department of Revenue.

The Rocky Mountain state had legalized pot in 2012, but made drug history on January 1 by inaugurating retail sales of marijuana for recreational use. It levies a 15 percent excise tax and a 2.9 percent sales tax.

The Evening Greens

Fukushima operator may have to dump contaminated water into Pacific

A senior adviser to the operator of the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has told the firm that it may have no choice but to eventually dump hundreds of thousands of tonnes of contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean.

Speaking to reporters who were on a rare visit to the plant on the eve of the third anniversary of the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, Dale Klein said Tokyo Electric Power [Tepco] had yet to reassure the public over the handling of water leaks that continue to frustrate efforts to clean up the site.

"The one issue that keeps me awake at night is Tepco's long-term strategy for water management," said Klein, a former chairman of the US nuclear regulatory commission who now leads Tepco's nuclear reform committee. ...

Tepco's failure to manage the buildup of contaminated water came to light last summer, when it admitted that at least 300 tonnes of tainted water were leaking into the sea every day.

That revelation was followed by a string of incidents involving spills from poorly assembled storage tanks, prompting the government to commit about $500m (£300m) into measures to contain the water.

Chomsky: From Hiroshima to Fukushima, Vietnam to Fallujah, State Power Ignores Its Massive Harm

Duke Energy to Customers: You Pay for Coal Ash Mess

Duke Energy's North Carolina customers should pay for the cleanup of its toxic coal ash ponds across the state.

That's what the company's CEO, Lynn Good, said on Friday. Speaking to The Charlotte Observer after receiving the BusinessWoman of the Year award at Queens University of Charlotte, Good said that though the decision ultimately rests with a state regulatory board, she believes that removing the toxic sludge from its 14 sites around the state is "ultimately a part of our cost structure."

"Does Duke expect customers [...] to pay for the closure of the ash ponds and the removal of the ash if you do that?" The Charlotte Observer asked Good.

"We've taken responsibility for the spill and the cleanup of Dan River," Good responded. "Ash pond closure has been a plan for a very long time. We've had plans to close ash ponds, and because that ash was created over decades from generation of electricity we do believe that ash pond disposal costs are ultimately a part of our cost structure."

Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan confirmed later on Friday the message that the company would try to push those costs onto ratepayers.

Testimony Reveals Record 36% of North Dakota Fracked Gas Was Flared in December

The recent March 6 House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power hearing titled "Benefits of and Challenges to Energy Access in the 21st Century: Fuel Supply and Infrastructure" never had over 100 online viewers watching the livestream at any point in time. And it unfolded in an essentially empty room.

But the poor attendance record had no relation to the gravity of the facts presented by testifiers. Among other things, one presenter revealed 36 percent of the gas by-product from oil obtained via hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") in North Dakota's Bakken Shale basin was flared off as waste during a brutally cold midwest winter with no end in sight. ...

"Flaring in North Dakota hit 36% in December, a new record,"[Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (Ceres) Programs Director Andrew] Logan told the subcommittee. "This means that more than 1/3 of all natural gas produced in the state is going up in smoke, at the same time as consumers around the country are seeing price spikes from natural gas in this cold winter, along with actual shortages of propane in many places."

Logan also said that wasteful flaring is also a growing quagmire in Texas, which has seen a 10-fold increase in flaring permits since 2010.

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 year of ethical living revisited

Glenn Greenwald speaks at SXSW

How to Get Feinstein to Support the Fourth Amendment – Snoop and Intimidate Her Staff

Robert Eatinger, Lawyer Who Approved Torture Tape Destruction, Tries to Intimidate Senate Investigators

Democracy 21 Documents OFA Influence Peddling, Corrupt Sales of Access to Obama

Center For American Progress Takes Direction From Obama White House

Photographer Alvaro Laiz documents transgender existence in little-known cultures

A Little Night Music

Blue Lu Barker - A Little Bird told Me

Blue Lu Barker - I Don't Dig You Jack

Red Allen w/Blue Lu Barker - Blue Deep Sea

Blue Lu Barker - Scat Skunk

Blue Lu Barker- Georgia Grind

Blue Lu Barker - I got ways like the devil

Blue Lu Barker - What Did You Do To Me

Blue Lu Barker - Here's a Litte Girl

Blu Lu Barker - Love That Man

It's National Pie Day!

The election is over, it's a new year and it's time to work on real change in new ways... and it's National Pie Day.  This seemed like the perfect opportunity to tell you a little more about our new site and to start getting people signed up.  

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.

Why is National Pie Day the perfect opportunity to tell you more about us?  Well you'll see why very soon.  So what are you waiting for?!   Head on over now and be one of the first!

Originally posted to DFH writers group on Tue Mar 11, 2014 at 05:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Team DFH.

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