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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 delta bluesman Mississippi John Hurt.  Enjoy!

Mississippi John Hurt - Spike driver blues

“The saddest thing about selling out is just how cheaply most of us do it for.”

  -- James Bernard Frost

News and Opinion

Gosh, what a surprise, Obama must've gotten a warning from his corporate sponsors and his inequality rhetoric has gone the way of his "I'm gonna renegotiate NAFTA" talk, his "comfortable shoes" and his "Wall Street Fat Cat Bankers" rhetoric.

Afraid to Stoke Populist Ire, Obama Abandons 'Inequality' Rhetoric

Guided by pollsters and consultants, top Democrats tack to the right on economic issues

As reported by the Washington Post on Saturday, President Obama is heeding the instructions and advice of pollsters and political consultants as the administration abandons its flirtation with populist rhetoric and a brief White House push to make the scourge of economic inequality a political issue.

Instead, according to officials who spoke to the Post's Zachary Goldfarb, the administration will pivot towards more "politically palatable" messaging less likely to draw critique from Wall Street and the political right.

According to Goldfarb's reporting, the shift in tactics

hints at a broader repositioning of Democratic messaging ahead of the midterm elections and, perhaps, the 2016 presidential race. House and Senate strategists and their pollsters have concluded that they should focus less on the wealth gap and more on emphasizing that all Americans should have economic “opportunity” to get ahead or a “fair shot.”

“Both the White House and the Senate agreed that the decline of middle-class incomes was the most serious issue we face in this country, but the focus had to be on how to get middle-class incomes up, rather than drive other people’s incomes down,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), the messaging chief for Senate Democrats.

He added, “There are some who believe it’s better to talk about the negative parts of wealth that people have accumulated, but our polling data show people care less about that and more about how we’re going to help them.”

But many liberal Democrats, represented most prominently by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), have been pushing an increasingly populist economic agenda. Some warn against papering over the wealth gap with euphemisms

On the progressive left, both inside and outside of the Democratic Party, much new energy is being funneled into the idea that a "new populist moment" is the only hope for reinvigorating a progressive agenda in the face of election cycles increasingly dominated by the interests of big money donors and corporate cash.
Time to Stand Up and Fight for a More Perfect Union

We live in a populist moment. The Great Recession shattered the myths and lies of the conservative era. Barack Obama’s historic election briefly lifted hopes, but they were dashed in a recovery that still fails most Americans. A young generation, bequeathed unprecedented debt, lousy or no jobs, and a calamitous climate, has every reason to challenge business as usual. ...

New leaders like Warren and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio won office by running aggressively populist campaigns. Voters from California to New Jersey have supported measures to expand school funding by raising taxes on the rich. Seattle passed a $15-an-hour minimum wage, and states across the country are pushing to hike wages, crack down on wage theft and pass paid family leave. A populist temper finds expression on both the left and the right (exemplified in the latter case by the defeat of House majority leader Eric Cantor).

Despite this, despair is widespread on the left. ...

The formidable candidacy of Hillary Clinton illustrates the difficulties. If she doesn’t face a serious challenge in the primaries—which at this point seems unlikely—the strength of the progressive voice will be muted. In fact, the most attractive Democratic leaders—people like Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, Jeff Merkley, Tammy Baldwin, Keith Ellison, Raúl Grijalva, Donna Edwards and Bill de Blasio—support a vision and an agenda far bolder and more progressive than that of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama or Joe Biden. And they are backed by the rising American electorate: Obama’s electoral majority of minorities, millennials and single women, as well as the vast majority of the party base outside Wall Street and Silicon Valley, including unions and civil rights, environmental, women’s rights and citizen-action groups.

This reality can and should be organized and amplified. A broad coalition should lay out a clear vision and reform agenda. Progressives in the House and Senate could force national debates, as Warren has done on student loans. Social media and activism could be complemented by the old populist tactic of dispatching lecturers to traverse the country, speaking at union halls, house parties, schools and church basements. That would help crystallize serious pressure on Clinton—or any other candidate. And it would set up progressives both to oppose the right and to press an independent agenda when a Democrat is in the White House.

In NSA-intercepted data, those not targeted far outnumber the foreigners who are

Ordinary Internet users, American and non-American alike, far outnumber legally targeted foreigners in the communications intercepted by the National Security Agency from U.S. digital networks, according to a four-month investigation by The Washington Post.

Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations, which former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided in full to The Post, were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else.

Many of them were Americans. Nearly half of the surveillance files, a strikingly high proportion, contained names, e-mail addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents. NSA analysts masked, or “minimized,” more than 65,000 such references to protect Americans’ privacy, but The Post found nearly 900 additional e-mail addresses, unmasked in the files, that could be strongly linked to U.S. citizens or U.S.residents. ...

Many other files, described as useless by the analysts but nonetheless retained, have a startlingly intimate, even voyeuristic quality. They tell stories of love and heartbreak, illicit sexual liaisons, mental-health crises, political and religious conversions, financial anxieties and disappointed hopes. The daily lives of more than 10,000 account holders who were not targeted are catalogued and recorded nevertheless.

The NSA Said Edward Snowden Had No Access to Surveillance Intercepts. They Lied.

For more than a year, NSA officials have insisted that although Edward Snowden had access to reports about NSA surveillance, he didn't have access to the actual surveillance intercepts themselves. It turns out they were lying. In fact, he provided the Washington Post with a cache of 22,000 intercept reports containing 160,000 individual intercepts. The Post has spent months reviewing these files and estimates that 11 percent of the intercepted accounts belonged to NSA targets and the remaining 89 percent were "incidental" collections from bystanders. ...

Naturally, the NSA has an explanation:

Robert S. Litt, the general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said in a prepared statement that Alexander and other officials were speaking only about "raw" intelligence, the term for intercepted content that has not yet been evaluated, stamped with classification markings or minimized to mask U.S. identities.

"We have talked about the very strict controls on raw traffic…" Litt said. "Nothing that you have given us indicates that Snowden was able to circumvent that in any way.”

Silly intelligence committee members. They should have specifically asked about access to processed content.

Jesus. If someone in Congress isn't seriously pissed off about this obvious evasion, they might as well just hang up their oversight spurs and disband.

Guess who else lied...
Obama: 'Nobody Is Listening to Your Phone Calls'

The Latest Snowden Leak Is Devastating to NSA Defenders

Consider the latest leak sourced to Edward Snowden from the perspective of his detractors. The National Security Agency's defenders would have us believe that Snowden is a thief and a criminal at best, and perhaps a traitorous Russian spy. In their telling, the NSA carries out its mission lawfully, honorably, and without unduly compromising the privacy of innocents. For that reason, they regard Snowden's actions as a wrongheaded slur campaign premised on lies and exaggerations.

But their narrative now contradicts itself. The Washington Post's latest article drawing on Snowden's leaked cache of documents includes files "described as useless by the analysts but nonetheless retained" that "tell stories of love and heartbreak, illicit sexual liaisons, mental-health crises, political and religious conversions, financial anxieties and disappointed hopes. The daily lives of more than 10,000 account holders who were not targeted are catalogued and recorded nevertheless."

The article goes on to describe how exactly the privacy of these innocents was violated. The NSA collected "medical records sent from one family member to another, résumés from job hunters and academic transcripts of schoolchildren. In one photo, a young girl in religious dress beams at a camera outside a mosque. Scores of pictures show infants and toddlers in bathtubs, on swings, sprawled on their backs and kissed by their mothers. In some photos, men show off their physiques. In others, women model lingerie, leaning suggestively into a webcam ..."  ...

The NSA collects and stores the full content of extremely sensitive photographs, emails, chat transcripts, and other documents belong to Americans, itself a violation of the Constitution—but even if you disagree that it's illegal, there's no disputing the fact that the NSA has been proven incapable of safeguarding that data. There is not the chance the data could leak at sometime in the future. It has already been taken and given to reporters. The necessary reform is clear. Unable to safeguard this sensitive data, the NSA shouldn't be allowed to collect and store it.

The Snowden Effect, Cont'd

Over the weekend, The Washington Post produced yet another story birthed by the revelations of Edward Snowden, International Man Of Luggage. As is customary in such things, the story immediately was drowned out by usual Glenn Greenwald: Threat Or Menace? arias from most of the usual suspects. ("Inadvertent" apparently has a shiny new meaning in this context.)  However, the story itself remains fairly significant. ...

I am sure that all of these useless-but-strangely-retained conversations were never passed around for shits-and-giggles by the folks in the cubicles. I'm sure that the high priests of the surveillance state never would stoop to profane the temple in such a skeevy fashion. And I am the Tsar of all the Russias. One of the prime arguments from the people who Know The Way The World Works is that we all should have assumed this was going on anyway, and, anyway, Target has your information, too, y'know? Look, we have a gigantic surveillance state now, one that was created largely beyond the reach of public debate, and anything that shows me how that surveillance state, the one that was created on my dime, works is valuable information. I also am tired of being lied to.

Inside Embassy Refuge, Julian Assange on WikiLeaks, Snowden & His New Bid for Freedom

CIA employee’s quest to release information ‘destroyed my entire career’

His CIA career included assignments in Africa, Afghanistan and Iraq, but the most perilous posting for Jeffrey Scudder turned out to be a two-year stint in a sleepy office that looks after the agency’s historical files.

It was there that Scudder discovered a stack of articles, hundreds of histories of long-dormant conflicts and operations that he concluded were still being stored in secret years after they should have been shared with the public.

To get them released, Scudder submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act — a step that any citizen can take, but one that is highly unusual for a CIA employee. ... His request set in motion a harrowing sequence. He was confronted by supervisors and accused of mishandling classified information while assembling his FOIA request. His house was raided by the FBI and his family’s computers seized. Stripped of his job and his security clearance, Scudder said he agreed to retire last year after being told that if he refused, he risked losing much of his pension. ...

Scudder’s case also highlights the risks to workers who take on their powerful spy-agency employers. Senior U.S. intelligence officials have repeatedly argued that Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, should have done more to raise his concerns internally rather than exposing America’s espionage secrets to the world. Others who tried to do that have said they were punished.

Scudder’s actions appear to have posed no perceptible risk to national security, but he found himself in the cross hairs of the CIA and FBI.

Security fears loom over CIA report

Security concerns are complicating the release of a controversial report on “enhanced interrogations techniques,” with officials fearing the document could inflame the Arab Street and put Americans in danger.

The White House and the CIA are working on final redactions to a 481-page executive summary of the investigation, which was conducted by Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee but boycotted by Republicans, who dispute its findings.

A congressional staffer said the report wouldn’t be ready for a “couple of weeks,” while the CIA said the declassification process should be finished by August 29th.

While an August release seems unlikely, putting the report out in early September might not be an option, as it would fall near the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks — a day when terrorist groups typically attempt to strike, as they did two years ago in Benghazi, Libya.

Officials have made clear the release date is a sensitive matter, as Democrats claim the report documents "shocking" brutality during the George W. Bush administration.

Germany arrests BND member on suspicion of spying for US

A new surveillance scandal is threatening to unsettle US-German relations after it emerged that an employee of Germany's intelligence agency has been arrested under suspicion of acting as a double agent for the US. ...

Some newspapers are speculating whether the BND employee may have been specifically tasked with spying on the activities of the special Bundestag inquiry committee currently investigating the NSA's activities in Germany.

According to Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, the employee had been approached several times by the NSA, at least once with a specific request for information on the Bundestag's investigation into NSA surveillance.According to Der Spiegel, the BND staffer had collected between 200 and 300 secret documents from internal servers and saved them onto a USB stick.

They were sold on to the US intelligence services between 2012 and 2014, for price of several tens of thousands of euros, said the magazine. The employee had managed to establish contact with the NSA by the most obvious way imaginable – by sending an email to the US embassy.On Friday, the investigative committee gathered for an emergency meeting in response to the arrest. Martina Renner, a Left party politician on the parliamentary committee, told Associated Press that the case indicated that anyone who examined Snowden's revelations in detail was subject to scrutiny by US intelligence agencies.

Angela Merkel says allegations of US spying on Germany are 'serious'

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, says allegations that a German man worked as a double agent for US intelligence are serious.

"If the reports are correct it would be a serious case," Merkel told a news conference in Beijing, standing next to the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang.

"If the allegations are true, it would be for me a clear contradiction as to what I consider to be trusting cooperation between agencies and partners."

The case risks further straining ties with Washington, which have been sorely tested by revelations last year of large-scale snooping on Germany by the US National Security Agency.

Iraq Parliament Postpones Next Session to August 12

After last week’s first session of parliament in Baghdad lasted only a matter of minutes before major walkouts, it was clear that the process of electing a new speaker, president, and premier wouldn’t be so easy. Yet it seems no progress at all is being made.

Closed door meetings among officials aimed at deciding on the speaker, the first step, ended in failure over the weekend, and the government has announced it is delaying its next session until August 12.

In Iraq, airstrikes slam into Mosul, city held by al-Qaeda-inspired militants

Warplanes carried out multiple bombing raids in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Sunday, a day after the leader of a powerful al-Qaeda-inspired militant group appeared online in a video from the city’s main mosque.

Residents of the city, reached by phone, said airstrikes shook the city at least three times Sunday, starting at dawn. It remains unclear what force carried out the airstrikes. The U.S. Defense Department said that it had no knowledge of the airstrikes and that U.S. forces were not involved. An Iraqi government official in Baghdad said he had no information about any airstrikes near Mosul.

On Friday, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, which declared a revival of the medieval Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria last week, delivered a sermon to worshipers from Mosul’s Great Mosque.

The video, which appeared online Saturday, marked the first time that the elusive extremist leader has appeared in a video.

The fact that Baghdadi ventured into public at all appeared to underscore just how solidly the group controls Mosul, which it seized June 9 in a stunning offensive that simultaneously instigated the collapse of an entire regional division of the Iraqi army.

'Water war' threatens Syria lifeline

When severe water cuts began to hit Aleppo province in early May, residents started referring to a "water war" being waged at the expense of civilians. Images of beleaguered women and children drinking from open channels and carrying jerry cans of untreated groundwater only confirmed that the suffering across northern Syria had taken a turn for the worse.

However, lost in the daily reports was a far more pernicious crisis coming to a head: a record six-metre drop in Lake Assad, the reservoir of Syria's largest hydroelectric dam and the main source of water for drinking and irrigation to about five million people.

Under the watch of the  Islamic State group - formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) - levels in Lake Assad have dropped so low that pumps used to funnel water east and west are either entirely out of commission or functioning at significantly reduced levels. The shortages compel residents in Aleppo and Al Raqqa to draw water from unreliable sources, which can pose serious health risks.

The primary reason behind the drop appears to be a dramatic spike in electricity generation at the Euphrates Dam in al-Tabqa, which has been forced to work at alarmingly high rates.

Ukrainian president hails breakthrough as Slavyansk seized from separatists

The Ukrainian authorities have trumpeted a turning point in the three-month conflict with separatists in the east after retaking a town at the epicentre of the breakaway movement.

The breakthrough came after the president, Petro Poroshenko, ignored calls from both Russia and the EU to extend a ceasefire that ran out a week ago and decided to go on the attack. Ukrainian forces seized the town of Slavyansk on Saturday, ending a protracted standoff that left dozens dead and reduced parts of the town to rubble.

"It's not a total victory. But the purging of Slavyansk of these bands, made up of people armed to the teeth, has incredible symbolic importance," said Poroshenko in a statement.

On Sunday, Ukrainian authorities said they had taken full control over a number of other towns that had been seized by separatists, including Kramatorsk, Artemovsk and Druzhovka. ...

The town of around 100,000 people had become the epicentre of the fighting, surrounded by armed checkpoints. It has undergone food and water shortages in recent weeks as Ukrainian forces have encircled it, and there have been civilian casualties from Ukrainian shelling. Almost half the population have fled, many to refugee camps in Russia, and it Kiev now faces a sizeable task to win back the population.

As West, Russia talk truce, Poroshenko heeds Ukrainians' call to arms

In a country torn between Russia and western Europe, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's decision to resume an offensive against pro-Moscow rebels has carefully ignored both neighbors to show an ear acutely tuned to Ukrainian domestic politics.

Telephone diplomacy involving the leaders of Germany, France and Russia, as well as Ukraine, has dwelt on extending a truce that could help ease tensions between Moscow and the West.

But in the end, in calling off a patchy 10-day ceasefire a week ago, Poroshenko may have been as influenced by more radical views within Ukraine. They are summed up in the voice of a young man who made his name in the street protests that toppled his predecessor and who is now fighting in the east.

"I would advise you, Mister President, to listen less to Europe or to Russia, but pay attention to the Ukrainian people," wrote Volodymyr Parasyuk, 26, who became the toast of Kiev in February with an impassioned speech on Independence Square - the Maidan - telling president Viktor Yanukovich to get out of town.

"We will go to the end, as we did on the Maidan. We have enough resources and enough will to build our own thriving government and dance neither for Europe nor Russia," Parasyuk wrote on his Facebook page, which also carries photographs from eastern Ukraine, where he is now fighting pro-Russian rebels.

Six weeks after he was elected, and facing a slew of problems that range from the revolt to Ukraine's economic feasibility, Poroshenko may have decided it is more prudent to show he is listening to popular political support and the voice of the gritty "Euro-Maidan" revolution that put him in office.

Kiev to create 'filtration camps' for East Ukrainians?

Georgia's former president Eduard Shevardnadze dies aged 86

Eduard Shevardnadze, the Soviet Union's last foreign minister and later the president of Georgia, has died aged 86 after a long battle with illness. His death was confirmed by a spokesperson on Monday.

The politician had an extraordinary career, rising through the ranks of the communist hierarchy in his native Georgia, before springing onto the international scene as the Soviet Union was in its death throes, helping bring down the Berlin Wall, reunite Germany and bring an end to the cold war. ...

Shevardnadze was born in 1928, and had a long career in the Georgian branch of the Communist party before becoming first secretary in 1972, making him the de facto leader of Georgia. During his rule there was some economic growth in the republic, and attempts at modest reform and innovation were made.

Then in 1985 he was called to Moscow by Mikhail Gorbachev to add to his circle of reformers, and become foreign minister. While he won many friends abroad, he also came up against stern resistance among Soviet figures who loathed Gorbachev's reforms and saw Shevarnadze's foreign policy of détente and withdrawal from Afghanistan as shameful.

Gorbachev described Shevardnadze as an "extraordinary, talented man" who was able to find common ground with old and young generations alike. "We were friends, and I am very sad about his death," the last Soviet leader told Interfax.

Soviet defector's trove of KGB secrets made public

Original documents from one of the biggest intelligence leaks in history — a who's who of Soviet spying — were released Monday after being held in secret for two decades.

The files smuggled out of Russia in 1992 by senior KGB official Vasili Mitrokhin describe sabotage plots, booby-trapped weapons caches and armies of agents under cover in the West. ...

Mitrokhin was a senior archivist at the KGB's foreign intelligence headquarters — and a secret dissident. For more than a decade he secretly took files home, copied them in longhand and then typed and collated them into volumes. He hid the papers at his country cottage, or dacha, some stuffed into a milk churn and buried.

After the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, Mitrokhin traveled to a Baltic state — which one has never been confirmed — and took a sample of his files to the U.S. Embassy, only to be turned away. So he tried the British embassy, where a junior diplomat sat him down and asked, "Would you like a cup of tea?" ...

The newly released papers include a list of KGB agents in America over several decades. It runs to 40 pages and about 1,000 names.

One of the most notorious was code-named "Dan." He was Robert Lipka, a National Security Agency employee who was paid $27,000 for handing secrets to Russia in the 1960s. After Mitrokhin's information was passed by Britain to U.S. intelligence services, Lipka was arrested and sentenced to 18 years in prison.

US 'Troubled' by Video of Israel Forces Beating American Teen

Video footage appears to show American teen, whose Palestinian cousin was murdered last week, being severely beaten by Israeli police forces

Sunday, an Israeli court ordered a cousin of the recent murder victim, a 15-year-old American named Tariq Khdair, who was filmed being beaten while handcuffed by two Israeli Border Police officers to remain under house arrest while an "investigation" is conducted into the incident which occurred head of Mohammad's funeral on Thursday.

In comments to reporters after his release on Sunday, Tariq said that he was not participating in protests—only "watching" when he was grabbed by what he believes were Israeli police officers who grabbed him from the side. “And they hit me," Tariq said, "and they kept hitting me and then I fell asleep and then I woke up in the hospital.”

Israel's Border Police units and the IDF have a long and well-documented history of excessive force and brutality against Palestinians from which children receive little immunity.

As Palestinian journalist and activist Ali Abunimah noted on his widely-read Electronic Intifada website, "Tariq’s experience is far from rare. As of the end of April 2014, a total of 196 Palestinian children were in Israeli prisons, according to Defence for Children International Palestine Section."

The case, continued Abunimah, has "garnered massive international media attention both because the brutal beating was caught on video and because he is a US citizen," but typically "Israeli forces who attack Palestinians are almost never held accountable due to a pervasive culture of impunity."

In response to Tariq's arrest and the evidence of his treatment, the U.S. State Department said in a statement it was "profoundly troubled by reports that he was severely beaten while in police custody and strongly condemn any excessive use of force. We are calling for a speedy, transparent and credible investigation and full accountability for any excessive use of force."

Hamas vows revenge on Israel after seven members die in air strike

Hamas has vowed revenge on Israel after seven of its members were killed in an air strike in the deadliest exchange of fire since the latest round of attacks began weeks ago.

Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, said "the enemy will pay a tremendous price", referring to Israel.

The group said its men were killed by an Israeli air strike early on Monday morning on a tunnel used by the militants.

Two militants from a different group were also killed in a separate strike. The men were involved in rocket attacks on southern Israeli communities, the Israeli military said.

Israel said it carried out air strikes on at least "14 terror sites" including "concealed rocket launchers" in Gaza overnight in retaliation for a recent spike in attacks from Gaza.

Egypt's president says al-Jazeera journalists should never have been tried

Egypt's president has acknowledged for the first time that the heavy sentences handed down to three al-Jazeera journalists had a "very negative" impact on his country's reputation, saying he wished they had never been put on trial.

The comments by Abdel Fatah al-Sisi to Egyptian media editors, published late on Sunday, are the first public recognition by Egyptian officials that the case has damaged the country's international relations.

The sentencing of the Australian reporter Peter Greste, Egyptian-Canadian acting bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed on 23 June, after a five-month trial described as a "sham" by rights groups, caused an international outcry.

"The verdict issued against a number of journalists had very negative consequences, and we had nothing to do with it," Sisi said, suggesting it had no political element. "I wished they were deported immediately after their arrest instead of being put on trial."

North Carolina voter law challenged: 'the worst suppression since Jim Crow'

North Carolina’s voter identification law, which has been described as the most sweeping attack on African American electoral rights since the Jim Crow era, is being challenged in a legal hearing that opens on Monday.

Civil rights lawyers and activists are gathering in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, for the start of the legal challenge that is expected to last all week. They will be seeking to persuade a federal district judge to impose a preliminary injunction against key aspects of HB 589, the voting law enacted by state Republicans last August.

Lawyers for the North Carolina branch of the NAACP and the civil rights group the Advancement Project will argue that the main pillars of the law should be temporarily halted ahead of a full trial next year. Otherwise, they say, tens of thousands of largely poor black voters could find themselves turned away at the polls at the midterm elections in November.

“This is the worst voter suppression law we have seen since the days of Jim Crow. It is a full-on assault on the voting rights of minorities,” said Reverend William Barber, president of the North Carolina state conference of the NAACP.

Democratic Blame for SCOTUS Rulings

June 30, 2014 will go down in history as a day when two truly horrendous Supreme Court decisions were handed down. Both cases will have lasting and devastating impacts on Americans but the Republican right wing is not solely to blame for the damage done. ...

In this dystopian world of late stage capitalism, corporations have ever increasing rights and human beings have fewer and fewer. Americans are fighting for their lives against corporate greed, white supremacy and misogyny because they are at the mercy of the two conservative political parties which control this country. The Republicans are true believers in retrograde politics which will undo any and all protections against big corporations, law enforcement and the state itself. Democrats may appear less evil in the beliefs they claim to have but they obviously have no interest in fighting the good fight. They want to be part of the permanent government and that means pleading for corporate money and endlessly finding ways to compromise the interests of voters. Regardless of their true feelings, their unwillingness to fight the power makes them of little use. ...

While Democrats talk a good game, Republican true believers go for the jugular. They speak openly of impeaching president Obama should they gain control of the Senate in November. In 2008 congressman Dennis Kucinich brought 35 articles of impeachment against George W. Bush but Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders scuttled his plans. The Constitution also allows for a state to call for impeachment. When a Democratic legislator in Washington tried to bring the case for impeaching Bush, his efforts were also squelched. Senator Barack Obama was among those who demurred when Democrats had the chance to delegitimize Republicans for years to come.

The senators deference in his quest to become president has come back to haunt him. Justice Samuel Alito wrote the decisions in both the Harris and Hobby Lobby cases. He and chief justice Roberts are now the villains du jour for Democrats. Unfortunately Democrats in the Senate weren’t interested in keeping them off of the court when they had the opportunity to do so. Senators Barack Obama and John Kerry sat on the Senate Judiciary Committee (which votes Supreme Court nominees up or down. Alito and Roberts were well known members of the right wing Federalist Society but Democrats passed up the opportunity to grill them on their associations. Obama and Kerry could have filibustered these two nominees but instead went along to get along and lobbed softball questions. The rest is history.

Ikea Agrees to Pay Their Workers More than Minimum Wage

Washington state issues first pot shop licenses for Tuesday openings

Washington state issued its first retail marijuana licenses on Monday, in a series of middle-of-the-night emails alerting bleary-eyed pot-shop proprietors that they will finally be able to open for business.

"We're pretty stoked," said John Evich, an investor in Bellingham's Top Shelf Cannabis, in a 2.30am PT interview. "We haven't had any sleep in a long time, but we're excited for the next step."

Randy Simmons, the state Liquor Control Board's project manager for legal marijuana, said on Sunday night that the first two dozen stores were being notified so early in order to give them an extra few hours to get cannabis on their shelves before they are allowed to open their doors at 8am on Tuesday – an opening that is expected to be accompanied by high prices, shortages and rationing.

The issuance of the retail licenses marked a major step that has been 20 months in the making. Washington and Colorado stunned much of the world by voting in November 2012 to legalise marijuana for adults over 21, and to create state-licensed systems for growing, selling and taxing the pot. Sales began in Colorado on 1 January.

It remained unclear how many of the pot-shops being licensed in Washington planned to open on Tuesday. Officials eventually expect to have more than 300 recreational pot shops across the state.

The Untold History of Independence Day

The Evening Greens

This is really great news. Look at what can happen in a nation where the government isn't a wholly-owned subsidiary of the energy industry:

Solar has won. Even if coal were free to burn, power stations couldn't compete

Last week, for the first time in memory, the wholesale price of electricity in Queensland fell into negative territory – in the middle of the day.

For several days the price, normally around $40-$50 a megawatt hour, hovered in and around zero. Prices were deflated throughout the week, largely because of the influence of one of the newest, biggest power stations in the state – rooftop solar.

“Negative pricing” moves, as they are known, are not uncommon. But they are only supposed to happen at night, when most of the population is mostly asleep, demand is down, and operators of coal fired generators are reluctant to switch off. So they pay others to pick up their output.

That's not supposed to happen at lunchtime. Daytime prices are supposed to reflect higher demand, when people are awake, office building are in use, factories are in production. That's when fossil fuel generators would normally be making most of their money.

The influx of rooftop solar has turned this model on its head. There is 1,100MW of it on more than 350,000 buildings in Queensland alone (3,400MW on 1.2m buildings across the country). It is producing electricity just at the time that coal generators used to make hay (while the sun shines).

The impact has been so profound, and wholesale prices pushed down so low, that few coal generators in Australia made a profit last year. Hardly any are making a profit this year. State-owned generators like Stanwell are specifically blaming rooftop solar.

Is This the Dawn of a Renewable Energy Revolution?

Dark snow: from the Arctic to the Himalayas, the phenomenon that is accelerating glacier melting

When American geologist Ulyana Horodyskyj set up a mini weather station at 5,800m on Mount Himlung, on the Nepal-Tibet border, she looked east towards Everest and was shocked. The world's highest glacier, Khumbu, was turning visibly darker as particles of fine dust, blown by fierce winds, settled on the bright, fresh snow. "One-week-old snow was turning black and brown before my eyes," she said.

The problem was even worse on the nearby Ngozumpa glacier, which snakes down from Cho Oyu – the world's sixth highest mountain. There, Horodyskyj found that so much dust had been blown on to the surface that the ability of the ice to reflect sunlight, a process known as albedo, dropped 20% in a single month. The dust that was darkening the brilliant whiteness of the snow was heating up in the strong sun and melting the snow and ice, she said.

The phenomenon of "dark snow" is being recorded from the Himalayas to the Arctic as increasing amounts of dust from bare soil, soot from fires and ultra-fine particles of "black carbon" from industry and diesel engines are being whipped up and deposited sometimes thousands of miles away. The result, say scientists, is a significant dimming of the brightness of the world's snow and icefields, leading to a longer melt season, which in turn creates feedback where more solar heat is absorbed and the melting accelerates.

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Originally posted to DFH writers group on Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 05:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Team DFH.

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