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 slide guitarist Casey Bill Weldon. Enjoy!
Casey Bill Weldon - I believe I'll make a change
"If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there'd be peace."
-- John Lennon
News and Opinion
Israel Claims New "Legitimacy" as Attack on Gaza Resumes
As predicted, what was seen as a "cease-fire ploy" by many results in new justifications for vicious assault on civilian population
Fulfilling fears and suspicions that an Egyptian-proposed "cease-fire" agreement put forth late on Monday would not last and may have simply been a pretext for Israel to bolster a narrative that it was Hamas and other militant factions that refused a settlement, the Israel military—after a brief respite—resumed its aerial bombing of the Gaza Strip on Tuesday with a massive show of firepower. ...
At press conference earlier on Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "If Hamas rejects the ceasefire, we will have international legitimacy to restore the needed quiet.”
Israel accepts Egypt ceasefire plan to end Gaza fighting
Israel has accepted an Egyptian proposal to end the week-long conflict in Gaza, suggesting that an end to the violence, which has killed more than 180 Palestinians, could be in sight. ...
The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, warned that Israel would step up its offensive in Gaza if Hamas rejected the Egyptian proposal. ... Israel said 24 rockets had been fired from Gaza since 9am local time, when Egypt called for "de-escalation".
Hamas's spokesmen in Gaza said the Islamist group had not received an official ceasefire proposal, and its demands must be met before it lays down its weapons. Hamas has specifically called for the lifting of Israel's eight-year blockade on the Gaza Strip, the opening of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt and the release of Palestinian prisoners Israel rearrested after freeing them in exchange for kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011.
Hamas's suspicions are likely to have been exacerbated by Blair's apparent involvement in mediating between the Egyptian president, Abdul Fatah al-Sisi, and Netanyahu. ... But the Middle East envoy has little credibility among most Palestinians as he is seen as a staunch defender of Israel's interest and an enthusiast for the Cairo regime and its crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, the ideological parent of Hamas. Since Sisi came to power a year ago, the Brotherhood has been outlawed and attitudes towards Gaza, and Hamas in particular, have hardened.
Israel may have calculated that its bombardment of Gaza over the past eight days has achieved its goal of punishing Hamas and the people of the coastal enclave. It may be reluctant to escalate the offensive further, with a ground invasion, for fear of risking Israeli lives and fatally crippling Hamas – a move that would allow more radical groups to fill a power vacuum in Gaza.
Four out of every five Palestinians killed in Gaza have been civilians, UN reports
Four out of every five Palestinians killed during Israel’s ongoing military offensive in Gaza have been civilians, including dozens of women and children, the United Nations said Monday.
The statistic was disclosed by the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) amid mounting international concern over non-combatant casualties during an operation Israeli officials have said is aimed solely at rooting out militants and stopping rockets being fired into Israel.
Pressure intensified for a ceasefire as the latest death toll climbed to 172.
Of 160 deaths that had occurred by Sunday, 133 — 80 per cent — had been among Gaza’s civilian population, OCHA said, including 35 children and 27 women. Only 26 were established to have belonged to “armed groups” while the status of another nine men was unverified. Some 296 children and 233 women have been among the 1,140 wounded, according to Gaza health ministry figures.
OCHA said its statistics had been checked and verified through a variety of sources.
The figures appeared to show a higher non-combatant casualty rate than that recorded in Israel’s eight-day offensive against Gaza in November 2012, when 108 civilians were said to be among the 167 Palestinians killed.
UN questions legality of Israel’s Gaza offensive, Netanyahu dismisses intl pressure
The legality of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, which entered its fifth day on Saturday, has been questioned by the UN's humanitarian chief. But Israel's prime minister has said that no international pressure will stop the offensive.
Under international law, Israel must make sure its attacks are proportional, avoid civilian deaths, and identify military versus civilian objects on the ground, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said on Friday.
"We have received deeply disturbing reports that many of the civilian casualties, including of children, occurred as a result of strikes on homes. Such reports raise serious doubt about whether the Israeli strikes have been in accordance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law," Pillay said in a statement.
Israel Firing Experimental Weapons at Gaza’s Civilians, Say Doctors
Doctors treating patients in Gaza have accused Israel of using experimental weapons on Palestinian civilians.
Addressing reporters at a press conference on Sunday, Youssef Abul Resh, undersecretary of the health ministry in Gaza said, “Medical teams have registered injuries consistent with those caused by DIME [dense inert metal explosives] and other banned weapons.”
He added, “Israel has mercilessly targeted Palestinian civilians leaving many of them with life-threatening injuries and future handicaps.” ...
DIME munitions were developed by the US Air Force in 2006 and have since been tested repeatedly on the people of Gaza, who have long served as involuntary lab rats for Israel’s weapons industry.
DIME bombs contain tungsten, a cancer-causing metal that helps to produce incredibly destructive blasts which slice through flesh and bone, often decapitating the lower limbs of people within the blast radius.
Renowned Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert, who witnessed the horrific injuries caused by DIME bombs during Israel’s 2009 Gaza onslaught, told The Electronic Intifada over the phone from al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City that patients are showing up with DIME-related injuries.
“A good number of the injuries seen here are consistent with the use of dense inert metal explosives, or DIME, that we saw during the 2009 attack and also in 2006,” said Gilbert. “The bodies are pretty much destroyed by enormous energy released by the explosives that are shot near them or at them.”
Israeli Politician Declares ‘War’ on ‘the Palestinian People’
The political climate in Israel is so ugly that at least one member of Knesset is quoting an article referring to Palestinian children as “little snakes”—and suggesting that the country is ready to declare war on the entire Palestinian population.
Ayelet Shaked—a Knesset member of the religious nationalist Jewish Home party—took to Facebook to share inflammatory remarks (originally authored by Uri Elitzur, a former Netanyahu associate and journalist) about the Palestinians on July 1, the day before the brutal murder of 17-year-old Palestinian Mohammed Abu Khudair, as reported first at Electronic Intifada.
“This is a war,” Shaked quoted Elitzur in the post. She has been routinely denounced in the Israeli press as an extremist. “Words have meanings. This is a war. It is not a war against terror, and not a war against extremists, and not even a war against the Palestinian Authority. These too are forms of avoiding reality. This is a war between two people. Who is the enemy? The Palestinian people. Why? Ask them, they started.” ...
“They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads,” the post reads. “Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.”
Turkey's Erdogan compares Israeli Knesset Member Ayelet Shaked to Hitler
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has compared Habayit Hayehudi lawmaker Ayelet Shaked to Adolf Hitler and accused Israel of committing "state terror" against the Palestinians.
The Knesset member earlier this month wrote on Facebook, "Who is the enemy? The Palestinian people. Why? Ask them, they started it."
In a weekly address to his parliamentary group Tuesday, Erdogan said Shaked's mentality was like Hitler's.
“If these words had been said by a Palestinian, the whole world would have denounced it,” he said, according to a report by Turkish newspaper Hurriyet.
Erdogan also addressed the latest round of escalation between Israel and Hamas, saying Israel has been guilty of “systematic atrocity and state terror” against the Palestinians since 1948.
Regarding Egypt's proposal for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, Erdogan lauded the initiative, but said Israel should “immediately lift the illegal embargo on Palestine,” along with outlining the terms of a cease-fire.
He blasted the international community over its "inaction" in the face of Israel's Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip, adding that the West has "ignored the Palestinian tragedy since 1948,” and that the U.S. hasn't worked hard enough for a two-state solution.
American-Arab group boycotts White House iftar, citing Israeli strikes, NSA snooping
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee is boycotting government iftars, including tonight’s White House event hosted by President Obama, citing what it says is “the government’s condoning of the current slaughter of Palestinians in Palestine and the spying of American Arabs and Muslims domestically.”
More than 160 Palestinians have reportedly died in Israel’s offensive against the militant Islamist group Hamas, which controls Gaza, but the committee said the “deplorable situation, brought on by Israel’s U.S.-sanctioned illegal occupation of Palestine, has received no direct action from President Obama.”
Obama is hosting the traditional breaking of the fast in the Islamic holy month of Ramadan tonight in the State Dining Room at the White House. The White House late Monday said the Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan would be the sixth Obama has hosted, continuing a tradition of hosting Iftars and Ramadan Eid celebrations that began with President Clinton and was continued by President George W. Bush. ...
But the group calling for the boycott said that "as this humanitarian crisis continues abroad, we do not believe it is appropriate to attend iftar dinners sponsored by government agencies while lives are being lost,” the committee said in a statement, noting that the event also comes as recent revelations showed that the National Security Agency has spied on some Arab and Muslim community leaders and organizations.
Does Uncle Sam Have a God Complex?
As a matter of faith, some people believe that God can see and hear everything. But as a matter of fact, the U.S. government now has the kind of surveillance powers formerly attributed only to a supreme being.
Top “national security” officials in Washington now have the determination and tech prowess to keep tabs on billions of people. No one elected Uncle Sam to play God. But a dire shortage of democratic constraints has enabled the U.S. surveillance state to keep expanding with steely resolve.
By the time Edward Snowden used NSA documents to expose—beyond any doubt—a global surveillance dragnet, the situation had deteriorated so badly because the Bush and Obama administrations were able to dismiss earlier warnings to the public as little more than heresy. ...
NSA surveillance proliferates in a context that goes well beyond spying. The same mentality that claims the right to cross all borders for surveillance—using the latest technologies to snoop on the most intimate communications and private actions of people across the globe -- is also insisting on the prerogative to cross borders with the latest technologies to kill.
When a drone or cruise missile implements an assumed right to snuff out a life, without a semblance of due process, the presidential emulation of divine intervention is implicit.
GCHQ has tools to manipulate online information, leaked documents show
The UK intelligence agency GCHQ has developed sophisticated tools to manipulate online polls, spam targets with SMS messages, track people by impersonating spammers and monitor social media postings, according to newly-published documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Among the programs revealed in the document are:
• GATEWAY: the "ability to artificially increase traffic to a website".
• CLEAN SWEEP which "masquerade[s] Facebook wall posts for individuals or entire countries".
• SCRAPHEAP CHALLENGE for "perfect spoofing of emails from BlackBerry targets".
• UNDERPASS to "change outcome of online polls".
• SPRING BISHOP to find "private photos of targets on Facebook".
The document also details a range of programs designed to collect and store public postings from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+, and to make automated postings on several of the social networks.
Capabilities to boost views of YouTube videos, or to boost the circulation of particular messages are also detailed.
GCHQ has also, the document suggests, developed capabilities to scan and geolocate the IPs of entire cities at a time.
Germany 'may revert to typewriters' to counter hi-tech espionage
German politicians are considering a return to using manual typewriters for sensitive documents in the wake of the US surveillance scandal.
The head of the Bundestag's parliamentary inquiry into NSA activity in Germany said in an interview with the Morgenmagazin TV programme that he and his colleagues were seriously thinking of ditching email completely.
Asked "Are you considering typewriters" by the interviewer on Monday night, the Christian Democrat politican Patrick Sensburg said: "As a matter of fact, we have – and not electronic models either". "Really?", the surprised interviewer checked. "Yes, no joke", Sensburg responded.
During the continuing row over alleged US spying operations in Germany, there had been speculation that the CIA may have actively targeted the Bundestag's NSA inquiry committee.
"Unlike other inquiry committees, we are investigating an ongoing situation. Intelligence activities are still going on, they are happening," said Sensburg..
Merkel doubts whether US will stop spying on Germany
Amid a continuing scandal over the arrests of two German government workers for allegedly spying for the US, the country's chancellor, Angela Merkel, said on Saturday she was doubtful the US would ever stop spying on Germany.
On Friday, a senior German official told the Guardian the country expected “something in public” from the US about spying activities regarding its ally, as the German people were “so outraged” on the issue. ...
Of her feelings regarding the arrests, Merkel said: "It is not about how angry I was. For me it is a sign that we have fundamentally different conceptions of the work of the intelligence services.
"I can't say in advance if [the measures we took] will have an effect, of course I hope something will change. But the important thing is to show how we view things … and it is not a co-operative partnership when such things take place."
Hunting American Spooks: Germany Prepares Further Spying Clampdown
The Federal Prosecutor's Office in Karlsruhe, Germany's top investigative agency, is now pursuing three cases of suspected espionage relating to the United States, supposedly Germany's closest ally. ... There is a palpable sense of insecurity in Berlin's government district these days. Even lawmakers with many years of experience have become suspicious of the US Embassy, as well as the embassies of France, Great Britain and Russia. They are all merely a stone's throw from the offices and conference rooms where German politicians sometimes meet. Some now view the highly secured foreign embassies as little more than surveillance antennas surrounded by buildings. ...
If Obama refuses to back down, the German government could take further steps. However, Merkel already imposed narrow limits on herself from the very beginning. She doesn't want to jeopardize intelligence cooperation, because she believes that the risk of attacks in Germany is too great to simply dispense with US intelligence information.
But in light of the most recent events, even the most pro-American faction in the government is now increasingly willing to "realign" the intelligence services. What this means, most of all, is that the BFV will probably broaden its focus to include the United States in its counterespionage efforts in the future. In addition, the government is having experts in all government ministries search for weaknesses in communication technology, along with signs of American spying activity.
The hunt for additional moles has also begun at the BND. An investigative team will search data systems in all departments for unauthorized access, over a period of several years.
If the Americans remain obstinate, Berlin officials are even thinking about suspending or even paring back treaties with the United States.
MPs in Western Ukrainian Lvov demand Poroshenko reinstate Nazi collaborators as national heroes
“We demand the president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, reissue a decree awarding Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevich the title of heroes of Ukraine,” says an address by Lvov’s city council, as cited by Ukraine's UNIAN news agency.
According to the MPs behind the claim, the move would confirm Poroshenko as “an independent president of the Ukrainian state, for which the head of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), Stepan Bandera, and commander of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), Roman Shukhevich, fought and gave their lives.”
Bandera and Shukhevich were awarded the title of heroes of Ukraine in 2007 and 2010 respectively, under President Viktor Yushchenko, who came to power in 2005 after the Orange Revolution.
But the Nazi collaborators were deprived of the honors as soon as Viktor Yanukovych, who was mainly supported in the eastern regions of the country, came to power.
Bandera’s Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) nationalist movement collaborated with Nazi Germany during World War II and was involved in the ethnic cleansing of Poles, Jews, and Russians.
The Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), which Shukhevich headed, was OUN’s military wing.
In the summer of 1941, Bandera called on “the people of Ukraine to help the German army to defeat Moscow and Bolshevism.”
Islamic State consolidates control of eastern Syria with fall of Deir el Zour
ISTANBUL — Extremists of the Islamic State on Monday seized nearly all of Deir el Zour, the last town not under their control in eastern Syria, after executing the emir of a rival jihadi group, the Nusra Front, anti-government activists reported.
The takeover of the city in the heart of Syria’s oil and gas producing zone marked a major advance for the Islamic Front, which now controls a large swath of territory in eastern Syria and more than one-third of Iraq.
The military airport remains in the hands of the Syrian government along with some parts of the city, but for all intents and purposes, eastern Syria is now under the control of a militia the United States views as terrorists.
America's Biggest Arms Sale Of 2014 Is To A Country With Fewer Than 300,000 CitizensHat tip dharmafarmer:
Qatar is purchasing $11 billion in Patriot missile batteries and Apache attack helicopters from the United States, according to AFP. It's the largest single sale of U.S. weaponry in 2014, and it's to a country with only 278,000 citizens (and about 1.5 million expatriates).
This purchase is a sign that Qatar's ambitions haven't dimmed in spite of its inevitably unsuccessful approach to the region's post-Arab Spring turbulence. It's also a sign of how little a price in terms of its relationship with the U.S. Qatar has paid for its support of groups like Hamas, or its citizens' alleged assistance for extremist groups in Syria.
Qatar is still a favored U.S. partner in the region, perhaps because of this ability to provide an opening to extremist groups: The emirate played a major role in mediating the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner swap in June.
Appeals court overturns two convictions of Guantánamo’s lone life-sentence prisoner
WASHINGTON -- A civilian appeals court on Monday vacated two convictions of a former aide to terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden who is the only detainee at Guantánamo serving a life sentence.
In a split decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit concluded a military commission lacked authority when it convicted Ali Hamza al Bahlul of two out of three charges in November 2008.
It did not overturn a conviction on conspiracy to commit war crimes for serving as as bin Laden’s media secretary but vacated Bahalul’s convictions of, providing material support for terrorism and solicitation of others to commit war crimes. ...
He admitted to creating an at-times cartoonish laptop computer recruiting video for the terror group al-Qaida. It glorified the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole warship off Yemen in which 17 U.S. sailors died. ...
“Solicitation of others to commit war crimes is plainly not an offense traditionally triable by military commission,” Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson wrote, adding that “the government offers little domestic precedent to support the notion that material support or a sufficiently analogous offense has historically been triable by military commission.”
Aid to Africa: donations from west mask '$60bn looting' of continent
Western countries are using aid to Africa as a smokescreen to hide the "sustained looting" of the continent as it loses nearly $60bn a year through tax evasion, climate change mitigation, and the flight of profits earned by foreign multinational companies, a group of NGOs has claimed.
Although sub-Saharan Africa receives $134bn each year in loans, foreign investment and development aid, research released on Tuesday by a group of UK and Africa-based NGOs suggests that $192bn leaves the region, leaving a $58bn shortfall.
The perception that such aid is helping African countries "has facilitated a perverse reality in which the UK and other wealthy governments celebrate their generosity whilst simultaneously assisting their companies to drain Africa's resources", the report claims. It points out that foreign multinational companies siphon $46bn out of sub-Saharan Africa each year, while $35bn is moved from Africa into tax havens around the world annually.
The study, which also notes that African governments spend $21bn a year on debt repayments, calls for the aid system to be overhauled and made more open.
Obama sets up clash with Democrats
President Barack Obama is facing a clash with Democrats in Congress over proposals to water down a law intended to combat human trafficking in order to speed up the repatriation of unaccompanied children crossing the US southern border from Central America. ...
But the idea faces fierce opposition from a number of senior Democrats, especially those in the hispanic caucus, which is urging the passage of a “clean” funding bill to deal with the crisis and refuses to countenance any watering down of anti-trafficking measures it says are vital to ensuring a fair legal hearing for refugees.
Under the new bill, children from countries in Central America would in future be treated the same as those from Mexico, who currently can be fast-tracked back to their country of origin. ...
“The thing that is going to make it even harder is that Democrats are going to dig their heels in,” said Edward Alden of the Council on Foreign Relations. “Throughout [the] last year they have been tremendously conciliatory, but now that door is shut, there is no reason for them to do anything other than stand 100% behind their constituency. There will be zero willingness on behalf of the Democrats to change that 2008 law and I think that leaves Obama in a very untenable position.”
First U.S. flight deports Honduran kids under fast-track drive
The United States deported a group of Honduran children on Monday in the first flight since President Barack Obama pledged to speed up the process of sending back illegal immigrant children from Central America.
Fleeing violence and poverty, record numbers of children from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala have crossed into the United States over the past year, testing U.S. border facilities and sparking intense debate about how to solve the problem.
Monday's charter flight from New Mexico to San Pedro Sula, the city with the highest murder rate in the world, deported 17 Honduran adult women, as well as 12 girls and nine boys, aged between 18 months and 15 years, the Honduran government said. ...
Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala have suffered from gang violence and the predations of Mexican drug cartels using the region as a staging post for their trafficking operations.
Honduran President Juan Hernandez, in an interview published on Monday, blamed U.S. drug policy for sparking violence and ramping up migration to the United States. His wife urged the United States to do more to help.
"The countries consuming drugs need to support (us) and take joint responsibility because if there wasn't demand, there wouldn't be production and we wouldn't be living like we are," Ana Hernandez said as she awaited the children at the airport.
Still No Real Accountability: Citigroup to Pay $7 Billion for Its "Egregious Misconduct"
Banking giant Citigroup has sealed a $7 billion deal with the Justice Department over its "egregious misconduct" of selling toxic mortgage-based securities, which contributed to the financial crisis. ...
Citigroup was also the recipient of $45 billion in government bailout funds from TARP, though the Congressional Oversight Panel found that adding up all the various bailout funds the bank received brings the total to $476.2 billion in cash and guarantees. That makes it the bank to receive the biggest amount of federal bailout money.
"DOJ brags about and wants everyone to focus on the $7 billion settlement dollar amount, but that amount is meaningless without disclosure of the key information about how many hundreds of billions of dollars Citigroup made, how many tens of billions investors lost, how many billions in bonuses were pocketed, which executives were involved and what positions they now have with the bank," Better Markets President and CEO Dennis Kelleher said in a statement.
“Citigroup, the Wall Street bank that received the largest amount of Federal bailouts to prevent its bankruptcy in 2008 (almost $500 billion), was a conveyor belt for toxic securities throughout the world and is now being handed another big bailout by the government: a sweetheart immunity deal and ongoing concealment of how its executives, officers and staff defrauded the American people and almost caused a second Great Depression," Kelleher continued.
“Today’s actions again confirm the indefensible double standard of justice DOJ established of treating Wall Street’s biggest, richest, most politically connected banks more favorably than anyone else," he added.
Who Is the Unsung Hero of the $7 Billion Citigroup Settlement?
WORONCZUK: So what would be an appropriate fine or legal punishment for Citigroup's role in this mortgage-backed securities fraud and its role in the financial crisis?
BLACK: You should be prosecuting the senior officials who led the fraud and covered up the frauds. And we know from Richard Bowen that he sent the memorandum to the most senior people at Citicorp. And our viewers can look at this free online in the report of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. But I can summarize it briefly.
Richard Bowen was in charge of looking at the quality of mortgages that Citicorp was selling to Fannie and Freddie. And Richard Bowen found that 40 percent of these mortgages were being sold to us under false representations and warranties. And so he warned the senior people and asked them to fix it. They did nothing in response. Richard Bowen and his staff looked again, and the percentage of lies--again, that's a felony--in Citicorp's sales to Fannie and Freddie had risen to 60 percent. He became so frustrated that he CCed Robert Rubin, the former Treasury secretary of the United States of America and one of the most senior Citicorp officials on these letters of complaint. And we know what Citicorp did in response to this, because (a) the Attorney General of the United States has just said that they covered it up, and (b) we know that Richard Bowen was demoted. Virtually all of his staff was removed. I think he had one secretary reporting to him instead of an entire staff of auditors who had found this embarrassing facts.
So Richard Bowen should be one of the people in America that is best known for his honesty, integrity, and courage in coming forward, and it is a particular disgrace that Eric Holder has never even mentioned his name or given any credit today in his press conference.
Microsoft to announce mass job cuts as it integrates Nokia handset business
Microsoft is on the verge of announcing its biggest round of job cuts in at least five years, as the software giant looks to slim down its operations in the face of fierce competition from nimbler rivals such as Apple and Google.
... Anonymous Microsoft executives told the news wire the cuts could exceed the 5,800 jobs lost in 2009, the biggest in Microsoft's history. ...
In April, Microsoft reported better-than-expected net profits of $5.7bn (£3.4bn), when it reported an uptick in demand for its cloud-computing products and subscription-based Office programmes.
The Microsoft job cuts are not unexpected following the software giant's acquisition of Nokia's €5.4bn (£4.6bn) mobile phone business in September, when it promised $600m (£350m) cost savings in the 18 months after the deal, against a backdrop of broader changes in the industry. Hewlett Packard, another tech titan of the 1990s, announced in May it was laying off to 16,000 workers amid declining sales.
New analysis of the Detroit Institute of Arts responds to creditors and unions
A leading New York art advisory firm issued a report July 8 on the value of the collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts and the feasibility of a sale of the artwork, as well as its effect on the art market. The study concludes that while the DIA collection is worth between $2.8 billion and $4.6 billion, a sale of the work would only bring in between $1.1 billion and $1.8 billion under present market conditions.
... Artvest’s study was commissioned to rebut the claims that the city was undervaluing the DIA’s collection, claims included in the catalogue drawn up by investment bankers Houlihan Lokey this spring, on behalf of various creditors and AFSCME, Detroit’s largest municipal union. ...
Those creditors and the unions are unhappy with the so-called “Grand Bargain” proposed by Detroit’s unelected Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr. Under the terms of this proposal, twelve regional and national foundations, the state of Michigan and the DIA itself have pledged $816 million over twenty years to “save” the museum, through privatization, as well as to bolster pensions. The “bargain” includes major cuts in pensions for city employees. The solution of the disgruntled creditors and AFSCME, on the other hand, is the liquidation of the DIA, Detroit’s cultural center.
All the parties engaged in the various legal and public relations battles reject the idea that the art in the DIA belongs to the people of the Detroit area, not the rich. None of them consider for an instant that access to the museum’s remarkable collection is an elementary social right. Therefore, the arguments, including those opposing the immediate sale of the collection, proceed within the narrowest of frameworks. ...
None of the official parties, neither those like the municipal unions who scandalously support a fire sale of the art nor those like the DIA management and various middle class patrons of the arts who oppose it, can be relied on to fight for the cultural needs of the population. Again and again, the DIA crisis has demonstrated that the only social force capable of defending access to art and culture—and every social right—is the working class, organizing itself independently of the Democratic Party and the trade unions.
For-profit education chain Corinthian College implodes
Corinthian College Inc. (CCI), one of the largest for-profit college and technical training schools in the US, has cut a deal with the Obama administration to sell 85 of its campuses and shut down 12 others. The publicly-traded company has 72,000 students and 12,000 employees in more than 25 states and Canada which will be affected. ...
The immediate cause of the selloff was the Department of Education’s (DOE) demand for CCI documents regarding job placement among graduates. When the school failed to produce their statistics, the DOE imposed a 21-day waiting period for the company to draw on federal student aid funds.
The DOE action, together with the reintroduction of “gainful employment” regulations, are largely pre-Congressional midterm election public relations moves designed to camouflage the administration’s abandonment of its election promises to clean up the palpable exploitation and illegality rampant among for-profit colleges.
Faced with the federal measures, Corinthian announced it might close last week. Not uncharacteristically, the Obama administration responded with an immediate $16 million life preserver, with a total of $35 million pledged in the form of accelerated financial aid payments. The government move was unprecedented, and some have likened it to a bank-style bailout. Majority stock in Corinthian is, in fact, held by the bank Wells Fargo.
Additionally, if Corinthian simply shut down, close to $1 billion in student loan debt—held by the federal government—could have been potentially discharged under federal rules.
Frankly, the big question is not why Corinthian—a thoroughly disreputable and wildly expensive educational institution—is closing, but why it managed to operate so long, at taxpayer expense. Corinthian receives $1.4 billion in Pell grants and federal student loans each year, which represents at least 85 percent of total revenues.
The Evening Greens
Miami is drowning while the powers that be look away
"Climate change is no longer viewed as a future threat round here," says atmosphere expert Professor Ben Kirtman, of the University of Miami. "It is something that we are having to deal with today."
Every year, with the coming of high spring and autumn tides, the sea surges up the Florida coast and hits the west side of Miami Beach, which lies on a long, thin island that runs north and south across the water from the city of Miami. The problem is particularly severe in autumn when winds often reach hurricane levels. Tidal surges are turned into walls of seawater that batter Miami Beach's west coast and sweep into the resort's storm drains, reversing the flow of water that normally comes down from the streets above. Instead seawater floods up into the gutters of Alton Road, the first main thoroughfare on the western side of Miami Beach, and pours into the street. Then the water surges across the rest of the island.
The effect is calamitous. Shops and houses are inundated; city life is paralysed; cars are ruined by the corrosive seawater that immerses them. ...
What makes Miami exceptionally vulnerable to climate change is its unique geology. The city – and its satellite towns and resorts – is built on a dome of porous limestone which is soaking up the rising seawater, slowly filling up the city's foundations and then bubbling up through drains and pipes. Sewage is being forced upwards and fresh water polluted. Miami's low topography only adds to these problems. There is little land out here that rises more than six feet above sea level. Many condos and apartment blocks open straight on the edge of the sea. Of the total of 4.2 million US citizens who live at an elevation of four feet or less, 2.4 million of them live in south Florida. ...
It a devastating scenario. But what really surprises visitors and observers is the city's response, or to be more accurate, its almost total lack of reaction. The local population is steadily increasing; land prices continue to surge; and building is progressing at a generous pace. ... Most of Florida's senior politicians – in particular, Senator Marco Rubio, former governor Jeb Bush and current governor Rick Scott, all Republican climate-change deniers – have refused to act or respond to warnings.
Thus one of the great cities of the world faces obliteration in the coming decades. "It is over for south Florida. It is as simple as that. Nor is it on its own," [geology professor at the University of Miami, Harold] Wanless admits.
"The next two or three feet of sea-level rise that we get will do away with just about every barrier island we have across the planet. Then, when rises get to four-to-six feet, all the world's great river deltas will disappear and with them the great stretches of agricultural land that surrounds them. People still have their heads in the sand about this but it is coming. Miami is just the start. It is worth watching just for that reason alone. It is a major US city and it is going to let itself drown."
U.S. tariffs on Chinese solar panels break trade rules, WTO saysApparently you can get Obama to believe in science, but you can't get him to change his values so that the lives and well-being of everyone on the planet are more important than money for favored industries.
When it comes to global trade in solar panels and components, the U.S. trade representative wants to have his suncake and eat it too. Even as the trade rep has been hauling India before the World Trade Organization, complaining that the country’s requirements for domestically produced solar panels violate global trade rules, the U.S. has been imposing new duties on panels imported from China and Taiwan. By some estimates, the U.S. duties could increase solar module costs in the country by 14 percent.
On Monday, WTO judges who were mulling China’s complaint against the U.S. over its duties on solar panels and steel ruled in favor of — you guessed it — more world trade. Reuters reports:In the $7.2 billion Chinese case, the panel found that Washington had overstepped the mark in justifying the so-called countervailing duties it imposed as a response to alleged subsidies to exporting firms by China’s government. …... Trade Representative Michael Froman’s office said it “will evaluate all options to ensure that U.S. remedies against unfair subsidies remain strong and effective.” In other words, it is likely to appeal the ruling — something that could help keep the tariffs in place for at least another six to 12 months.
And it told the United States it should adapt its measures to bring them into line with the WTO’s agreement on subsidies and countervailing measures.
U.S. Government Providing Billions in Fossil Fuel Subsidies to Unburnable Carbon
Today, Oil Change International released a comprehensive report on fossil fuel exploration and production subsidies in the U.S. – Cashing in on All of the Above: U.S. Fossil Fuel Production Subsidies under Obama – which demonstrates that at a time when we need urgent action on climate change more than ever, the U.S. government is channeling huge and growing amounts of money to increasing discovery and production of oil, gas, and coal. These federal and state subsidies totaled $21.6 billion in 2013.
Subsidies that promote fossil fuel exploration are particularly harmful and hypocritical. The world’s preeminent scientific institutions working on climate and energy have determined that the majority of the world’s existing fossil fuel reserves need to be left in the ground in order to avoid catastrophic climate impacts. In 2012, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned that “no more than one-third of proven reserves of fossil fuels can be consumed prior to 2050 if the world is to achieve the 2°C goal.” The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reached a similar conclusion in its 2013 climate assessment.
“The All of the Above energy strategy is not only climate denial – it’s climate denial that is funded with more than $20 billion in taxpayer support each year.” said Steve Kretzmann, Executive Director of Oil Change International. ...
Fossil fuel exploration subsidies are in direct conflict with these calls to restrict fossil fuel production and use. Rather than finding ways to curtail fossil fuel production in line with the demands of climate science, the U.S. federal government, under President Obama’s “All of the Above” energy strategy, is currently channeling more than $5 billion each year in exploration subsidies to actually expand proven reserves, leading to the discovery of fossil fuels that we know we should never burn.
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
Casey Bill Weldon- Guitar Swing
Casey Bill Weldon - The Big Boat
Casey Bill Weldon - Blues Everywere I Go
Casey Bill Weldon - We Gonna Move On The Outskirts Of Town
Casey Bill Weldon - Go Ahead,Buddy
Casey Bill Weldon - You Shouldn't Do That
Casey Bill Weldon - You Just as Well Let Her Go
Casey Bill Weldon - Somebody changed the lock on that door
Casey Bill Weldon - W P A Blues
Casey Bill Weldon - Back Door Blues
Casey Bill Weldon + Memphis Minnie - New Orleans Stop Time
Casey Bill Weldon - Sold My Soul to the Devil
Casey Bill Weldon- Has My Gal Been Here
Casey Bill Weldon - New Round and Round
Casey Bill Weldon-Two Timin' Woman
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