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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 jazz and blues guitarist Charlie Christian best known for his work with Benny Goodman.  Enjoy!

Benny Goodman Septet 1940 - Ad-Lib Blues

"How you define a problem shapes how you address it."

  -- John O. Brennan

News and Opinion

CIA improperly accessed Senate computers, agency finds

CIA employees improperly accessed computers used by the Senate Intelligence Committee to compile a report on the agency’s now defunct detention and interrogation program, an internal CIA investigation has determined.

Findings of the investigation by the CIA Inspector General’s Office “include a judgment that some CIA employees acted in a manner inconsistent with the common understanding reached between SSCI (Senate Select Committee on Intelligence) and the CIA in 2009,” CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said in a statement.

The statement represented an admission to charges by the panel’s chairwoman, Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that the CIA intruded into the computers her staff used to compile the soon-to-be released report on the agency’s use of harsh interrogation methods on suspected terrorists in secret overseas prisons during the Bush administration.

CIA Director John Brennan briefed Feinstein and the committee’s vice chairman, Saxby Chambliss, R-GA, on the CIA inspector general’s findings and apologized to them during a meeting on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Boyd said.

CIA initially 'kept Colin Powell in the dark' about torture practices

Powell_anthrax_jbcA Senate report on the CIA’s interrogation and detention practices after the 9/11 attacks concludes that the agency initially kept the secretary of state and some US ambassadors in the dark about harsh techniques and secret prisons, according to a document circulating among White House staff.

The still-classified report also says some ambassadors who were informed about interrogations of al-Qaida detainees at so-called black sites in their countries were instructed not to tell their superiors at the State Department, the document says.

The 6,300-page Senate report on the CIA’s interrogation program has been years in the making. The findings are expected to reveal additional details about the CIA’s program and renew criticisms that the US engaged in torture as it questioned terrorism suspects after the 2001 attacks.

A congressional official who has read the Senate report confirmed that it makes the findings outlined in the document. A former senior CIA official said the secretary of state at the time, Colin Powell, eventually was informed about the program and sat in meetings in which harsh interrogation techniques were discussed. But Powell may not have been informed when the techniques were first used in 2002, the official said. A spokeswoman Wednesday said Powell would not comment. ...

The Senate report, a summary of which is expected to be made public in the coming weeks, concludes that the CIA used brutal techniques on detainees that failed to produce life-saving intelligence, and then misled Congress and the Justice Department about the interrogation program. ...

The report does not draw the legal conclusion that the CIA’s actions constituted torture, though it makes clear that in some cases they amounted to torture by a common definition, two people who have read the report said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the still-classified document.

Ex-Chief of C.I.A Tenet. Shapes Response to Detention Report

tenet1Just after the Senate Intelligence Committee voted in April to declassify hundreds of pages of a withering report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s detention and interrogation program, C.I.A. Director John O. Brennan convened a meeting of the men who had played a role overseeing the program in its seven-year history.

The spies, past and present, faced each other around the long wooden conference table on the seventh floor of the C.I.A.’s headquarters in Northern Virginia: J. Cofer Black, head of the agency’s counterterrorism center at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks; the undercover officer who now holds that job; and a number of other former officials from the C.I.A.’s clandestine service. Over the speakerphone came the distinctive, Queens-accented voice of George J. Tenet.

Over the past several months, Mr. Tenet has quietly engineered a counterattack against the Senate committee’s voluminous report, which could become public next month. The effort to discredit the report has set up a three-way showdown among former C.I.A. officials who believe history has been distorted, a White House carefully managing the process and politics of declassifying the document, and Senate Democrats convinced that the Obama administration is trying to protect the C.I.A. at all costs. ...

After private conversations with Mr. Brennan, he and two other former C.I.A. directors — Porter J. Goss and Michael V. Hayden — drafted a letter to Mr. Brennan asking that, as a matter of fairness, they be allowed to see the report before it was made public. ... Mr. Brennan then passed the letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein ... Ms. Feinstein agreed to let a group of former senior C.I.A. officials read a draft of the report, although she initially insisted they be allowed to review it only at the committee’s office. Officials said President Obama’s chief of staff, Denis McDonough, intervened and brokered an arrangement in which the officials could read an unredacted version of the report inside a secure room at the office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The White House has been working closely with intelligence agencies to redact the document before it is returned to the Intelligence Committee, providing fuel to critics that Mr. Obama was giving license to the C.I.A. to vet a report that accuses the agency of a raft of misdeeds.

Jeremy Scahill: White House Censoring What US Public Can Know About Torture Program

Following news that the very same Central Intelligence Agency officials involved with the CIA torture program are being allowed access to the still classified U.S. Senate torture report, journalist Jeremy Scahill said Tuesday that "the White House, at the highest levels, is basically going through and editing what the American people can and can't read" about the damning findings that show systematic cruelty imposed on detainees. ...

Speaking on MSNBC's NOW With Alex Wagner, Scahill said, "Let's remember this is a report from one body of government, from the United States Senate, that is going to be examining this whole program." ...

Asked by host Wagner why the White House would give this special treatment to "CIA officials who may have been—who are—implicated in [torture]?" Scahill said, "It became very clear early on in the Obama presidency that he made a political decision—and it probably was a survival decision in terms of his respect at the CIA—that he was not going to prosecute individuals that were involved with the torture program. And what's happened since then is he's done a lot of running of defense for the CIA."

Israeli Cabinet Vows to Intensify Gaza War: Over 1,400 Killed

The Israeli Security Cabinet once again spurned international calls to end their invasion of the Gaza Strip, today declaring that not only the war would continue, but that they will “intensify” the attacks.

It was another day of attacks overwhelmingly targeting civilians, with an overnight strike on a UN-run school in a refugee camp, packed with thousands of refugees, killing at least 20 people and wounding hundreds of others. Israel’s Foreign Ministry defended the attack.

All told the death toll in Gaza is over 1,400 killed, overwhelmingly civilians. The death toll on the Israeli side is 59, with 56 of them soldiers. The fighting has also displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians within Gaza.

Israel calls up 16,000 more reservists after rejecting calls for ceasefire

Israel has said it is calling up another 16,000 reserves following a security cabinet meeting that decided to keep up military operations in Gaza, ignoring international pressure for an immediate ceasefire.

The move will allow the Israeli military to substantially widen its 23-day campaign against Hamas, which has already claimed more than 1,360 Palestinian lives – most of them civilians – and reduced entire Gaza neighbourhoods to rubble. Fifty-six Israeli soldiers and three Israeli civilians have died during the campaign.

Israel has now called up a total of 86,000 reserves during the Gaza conflict. At least 19 air strikes were carried out overnight, officials said.

"Enough Blood Has Been Spilled": Israel Condemned for Striking U.N. Shelter as Death Toll Tops 1300

US condemns shelling of UN school in Gaza but restocks Israeli ammunition

The United States issued a firm condemnation of the shelling of a United Nations school in Gaza that killed at least 16 Palestinians on Wednesday, but also confirmed it restocked Israel’s dwindling supplies of ammunition.

The White House expressed concern that thousands of civilians who had sought protection from the UN were at risk after the shelling of the girls’ elementary school. Some 3,300 civilians were taking shelter there, after being told by Israel to leave their homes.

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, which runs the school, said its initial assessment was that it has been struck by Israeli artillery.

“The United States condemns the shelling of a UNRWA school in Gaza, which reportedly killed and injured innocent Palestinians – including children – and UN humanitarian workers,” said Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the White House’s National Security Council.

“We are extremely concerned that thousands of internally displaced Palestinians who have been called on by the Israeli military to evacuate their homes are not safe in UN designated shelters in Gaza.” ...

At the same time however, there was little evidence of Washington using its leverage with Israel, including record levels of military aid, to apply pressure on Jerusalem to curtail its offensive.

"The world stands disgraced' - Israeli shelling of school kills at least 15

United Nations officials described the killing of sleeping children as a disgrace to the world and accused Israel of a serious violation of international law after a school in Gaza being used to shelter Palestinian families was shelled on Wednesday.

At least 15 people, mostly children and women, died when the school in Jabaliya refugee camp was hit by five shells during a night of relentless bombardment across Gaza. More than 100 people were injured.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, said the attack was "outrageous and unjustifiable" and demanded "accountability and justice". The UN said its officials had repeatedly given details of the school and its refugee population to Israel.

Fighting in Gaza continued through the day despite a four-hour humanitarian ceasefire called by Israel from 3pm. A crowded market in Shujai'iya was hit in the late afternoon, causing at least 17 deaths, including a journalist, and injuring about 200 people, according to Gaza health officials. They said people had ventured out to shop in the belief a ceasefire was in place. Witnesses said several shells struck as people were running away.

U.S. Jewish Leader Henry Siegman to Israel: Stop Killing Palestinians and End the Occupation

Back to the Stone Age

You know how sometimes a cop will turn off his dash cam (often “mistakenly,” or it “malfunctions”) right before he brutalizes or executes a victim? That’s what Israel did yesterday, when it knocked out Gaza’s only power plant, killing the power for most of the population. This, besides its economic/humanitarian impacts, will make it much harder for Gazans to convey their plight to the rest of the world.  As smartphone and computer batteries run out, powerful, sympathy-inducing voices from Gaza, like that of the 16-year old Twitter-user Farah Baker (@Farah_Gazan), and the 10-year-old girl in this viral video, will be silenced. And as camera batteries die, we may see fewer devastating images of the carnage and wreckage that Israel’s pogrom is inflicting upon civilians, especially children.

Israeli government officials and their cheerleaders will welcome such a development, as one of their chief complaints in interviews has been the “unfair” impact that such images of, in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s words “telegenically dead Palestinians,” have had on world opinion. Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the US, recently fretted that, “the pictures look terrible on the TV, and that immediately translates into diplomatic pressure on Israel to accept a far-less advantageous ceasefire.” Oren was particularly worried that the outrage over the images would lead to Israel having its (blood-soaked) “hands tied” by the UN Security Council. ...

Surely, Netanyahu and Oren hope that the electricity black-out will result in an atrocity black-out. And with the “telegenically” dead conveniently made invisibly dead, the massacre might become “out of sight, out of mind” enough to world opinion, that Israel can secure a Carthaginian peace, with their precious starvation blockade of Gaza fully intact.

Israel Uses Palestinians as Human Shields but US Lawmakers Condemn Hamas

Both houses of the US Congress are considering passing a resolution that condemns Hamas for using human shields despite not having any evidence to prove Hamas is employing this tactic. ...

In propaganda echoed by the US State Department, the Israeli government has repeatedly claimed that Hamas is using women and children as human shields to protect its weapons and rocket launchers, forcing Israel to massacre innocent Palestinians.

The only evidence Israel has provided for this unsubstantiated accusation is cartoon sketches.

But even The New York Times has conceded that “There is no evidence  that Hamas and other militants force civilians to stay in areas that are under attack.” ...

Ironically, it is Israel that has a well-documented history of using Palestinian civilians, including children, as human shields. In what is referred to as “the neighbor procedure”, Israeli soldiers force Palestinian civilians to approach armed suspects and homes potentially rigged with explosives to protect the lives of soldiers.

Israel was condemned by the United Nations as recently as last year for its “continuous use of Palestinian children as human shields and informants.

More recently, Palestinian civilians have accused Israeli forces of using them as human shields in the Khuzaa neighborhood in Gaza, which has been the site of heavy shelling.

UNRWA on Gaza destruction

Under fire and out of cash, U.N. overwhelmed by Gaza crisis

The United Nations in Gaza is struggling to withstand a flood of almost a quarter of a million refugees into shelters that have repeatedly come under Israeli fire.

Out of cash, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the main U.N. body in the impoverished enclave of 1.8 million Palestinians, says it can barely handle the humanitarian crisis unleashed by more than three weeks of fighting between militants and Israel.

Asked to explain the scale of the civilian suffering to an Arab news station, an UNRWA spokesman simply burst into tears.

"There are times when tears speak more eloquently than words. Mine pale into insignificance compared with Gaza's," Chris Gunness said.

"UNRWA is overwhelmed in Gaza. We have reached breaking point; our staff are being killed, our shelters overflowing. Where will it end ... UNRWA now has 225,178 displaced in 86 shelters. But Gaza is being destroyed. So when the war is over, where will these people go?" Gunness said. ...

Eight U.N. employees have been killed since Israel launched its offensive on July 8 after rocket fire from Gaza intensified. U.N. shelters have been bombed by Israel on six separate occasions, including in another shelling of a U.N. shelter last week that killed 15 people.

Guess what? Not only do American taxpayers get to provide more than 3 billion dollars in aid to the Israelis so that they can blow up Palestinians and their stuff, we get to pay for the stuff that the Israeli's blow up! Happy taxpaying!
Power Plant Bombed In Gaza Is Insured By U.S. Government

As lawmakers on Capitol Hill scrambled to approve increased military funding for Israel this week, a little-noted federal agency across town prepared to spend as much as $84 million to compensate an American company for losses sustained in the Israeli bombardment of a Gaza power plant.

The money would come from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, which helps U.S. companies expand business abroad in ways that, to quote OPIC's website, "help solve critical development challenges and in doing so, [it] advances U.S. foreign policy." The agency does all this in part by offering insurance policies designed to protect companies from political risk, a broad term that includes "war, civil strife, coups," and "terrorism." ...

The potential Gaza insurance claim highlights the costliness of U.S. foreign policy. First, the United States sends more military funding to Israel than to any other country. That kind of aid makes it possible for the Israel Defense Forces to conduct its highly sophisticated -- and some say overly brutal -- campaign in Gaza. Ultimately, paying for the results of that operation will also partly fall on the U.S. government.

What happens to Hamas-Fatah reconciliation after Gaza conflict?

The current operation in Gaza is challenging the Fatah strategy, according to Alaa Rimawi, an expert on Islamic politics.

“The message of Hamas was always that Israel will never give you a state, and it seems the Hamas prediction was right,” Rimawi said. “Fatah is in crisis. . . . Fatah and Hamas are now presently on the same track.”

[Nabil] Shaath is intimately familiar with the tensions between Hamas and Fatah. During the long hostility between Hamas and Fatah, he was instrumental in shuttling from the West Bank to Gaza to hammer out an agreement. Under the unity deal signed in April, the two sides were to form an interim government within five weeks and hold parliamentary elections six months later. So far the interim government hasn’t been formed because of the campaign.

Shaath said some Fatah members still harbored bad feelings toward Hamas. “Yes, there are some of us who still think of the fraternal enemy more than they think of the real enemy,” he said. However, many of these Fatah members have been galvanized against Israel by the spiraling death toll in Gaza, he said.

A turning point came last week, when Abbas adopted the Hamas demands for a cease-fire with Israel, including opening border crossings with Israel and Egypt and building an airport and seaport.

Shaath didn’t endorse violence against Israel. In fact, he said, Palestinian police continue to check for weapons at rallies and to keep a tight lid on what could escalate into violent protest and lead to a third “intifada,” the term used to describe previous prolonged periods of anti-Israel violence.

However, he noted that “the word intifada does not mean violence. An intifada is an uprising, its people saying ‘no’ to the occupation. . . . If Israelis continue in Gaza, there will be an intifada, and my duty will be to steer that in a nonviolent direction.”

Fractured Lives: Stories of those fleeing Ukraine's war

Warmonger Carl Levin (D-Bloodthirsty) wants to give Kiev surface-to-air missiles to fight a civil war against people without airplanes or helicopters!  Guess who Levin really wants Kiev to fight. I'll give you three guesses, and the first two don't count. What an asshole.
Dem chairman Carl Levin pushes for lethal military aid to Ukraine

The chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday said the U.S. should provide “certain types” of lethal weapons to Ukraine’s military.

“We should allow them to have types of lethal equipment, which are not the most provocative, but which are defensive,” Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) told reporters after his panel received a classified briefing from administration officials.

He said the assistance could include ammunition and surface-to-air missiles. ...

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Ukraine’s wish list includes items ranging from body armor and Humvees to F-16 fighter jets.

Land for gas: Merkel and Putin discussed secret deal could end Ukraine crisis

Germany and Russia have been working on a secret plan to broker a peaceful solution to end international tensions over the Ukraine.

The Independent can reveal that the peace plan, being worked on by both Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin, hinges on two main ambitions: stabilising the borders of Ukraine and providing the financially troubled country with a strong economic boost, particularly a new energy agreement ensuring security of gas supplies.

More controversially, if Ms Merkel’s deal were to be acceptable to the Russians, the international community would need to recognise Crimea’s independence and its annexation by Russia, a move that some members of the United Nations might find difficult to stomach.

Sources close to the secret negotiations claim that the first part of the stabilisation plan requires Russia to withdraw its financial and military support for the various pro-separatist groups operating in eastern Ukraine. As part of any such agreement, the region would be allowed some devolved powers.

At the same time, the Ukrainian President would agree not to apply to join Nato. In return, President Putin would not seek to block or interfere with the Ukraine’s new trade relations with the European Union under a pact signed a few weeks ago.

Second, the Ukraine would be offered a new long-term agreement with Russia’s Gazprom, the giant gas supplier, for future gas supplies and pricing. At present, there is no gas deal in place; Ukraine’s gas supplies are running low and are likely to run out before this winter, which would spell economic and social ruin for the country.

As part of the deal, Russia would compensate Ukraine with a billion-dollar financial package for the loss of the rent it used to pay for stationing its fleets in the Crimea and at the port of Sevastopol on the Black Sea until Crimea voted for independence in March.

Foreign investigators reach MH17 crash site in Ukraine

An international team of investigators in eastern Ukraine has reached the crash site of the Malaysia Airlines flight 17.

Fighting between government troops and pro-Russian separatist rebels had kept the delegation from reaching the area for several days. ...

Russian specialists also hope to visit the crash site to take part in the investigation. Sergei Izvolsky, of Rosaviatsiya, Russia's federal air transport agency, told the Associated Press that a delegation was due to arrive in Kiev. ...

Meanwhile, food supplies to the rebel stronghold of Luhansk have been cut during a military offensive on the city by government forces, according to local officials.

The army says it has almost completely encircled Luhansk but has opened a humanitarian corridor to allow people to leave the city. It says it is not firing on residential areas. Three people were reported killed in overnight shelling.

City authorities said in a statement: "Chains of large supermarkets, food shops and markets work intermittently. Food deliveries to the city have stopped, supplies are decreasing every day. Shops only offer products from their stocks."

Global Austerity and the US War Agenda

State Department OKs Largest-Ever Sale of Hellfire Missiles to Iraq

Pending Congressional approval, 5,000 Hellfire missiles will be shipped to Iraqi forces

In a sign that the U.S. Pentagon is preparing further military backing of the government of Nouri al-Maliki, the State Department on Monday granted its approval of the largest shipment to date of Hellfire missiles to Iraq.

Last week, Human Rights Watch issued a report accusing the Iraqi government of killing civilians with "indiscriminate air strikes" supposedly targeting the insurgents. The rights group recorded 75 civilian deaths from 17 airstrikes, the majority of which were in the first half of July.

According to reporting by the Washington Post, the Iraqi military "burned through its inventory of about 300 Hellfire missiles in June." ...

During a Tuesday press briefing, Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters, "Iraq still is the benefactor of one of the highest foreign military sales programs that we have with any country." Since January, Kirby said, the U.S. delivered a total of 780 Hellfire missiles and are planning to ship another 366 over the course of August. These figures are in addition to the 5,000 that now need Congressional approval.

Greek court acquits farmers who shot 28 Bangladeshi strawberry pickers

A Greek court's decision to acquit local farmers who admitted shooting 28 Bangladeshi strawberry pickers when they dared to ask for months of back pay has sparked outrage in the country.

Politicians, unionists and anti-racist groups roundly condemned the verdict describing it as a black mark for justice in a case that had shone a light on the appalling conditions in which migrant workers are often kept in Greece. ...

Scores of migrants, many sobbing in disbelief, protested outside the court house after magistrates allowed two of the men, including the owner of the farm who had been accused of human trafficking, to walk free.

Two others, accused of aggravated assault and illegal firearms possession, were handed prison sentences of 14 years and seven months and eight years and seven months but were also freed pending appeal.

The Bangladeshis were shot at in April last year when they demanded to be remunerated for six months of unpaid work at a farm in Manolada in the southern Peloponnese. Four of the strawberry pickers were badly injured in the attack.

NSA keeps low profile at hacker conventions despite past appearances

As hackers prepare to gather in Las Vegas for a pair of annual conventions, the leadership of the National Security Agency won’t make the trek. ...

Vanee Vines, a spokeswoman for the NSA who confirmed Rogers and Ledgett’s absences, said she was unaware of any invitations the hacker conferences extended to NSA officials, and did not know if staffers would attend, either.

A spokeswoman for Black Hat, Meredith Corley, said the conference “exists to cultivate conversations among all members of the security community, both public and private. We did not invite Admiral Mike Rogers to [be a] keynote this year.”

US intelligence will still have some representation. The keynote speaker of Black Hat, which begins on Saturday, is Dan Geer, a highly respected information security expert who currently serves as security chief of In-Q-Tel, the technology-investment arm of the CIA and the broader intelligence community.

Def Con representatives did not reply to Guardian inquiries.

Argentina: talks with bondholders break down

Argentina was heading for its second debt default in 13 years on Wednesday night after negotiations with bondholders broke down in New York.

Axel Kicillof, Argentina’s economy minister, said US hedge funds rejected the country’s latest offer.

Kicillof has been locked in intense negotiations with holdout creditors demanding to be paid the full value for bonds they own on which Argentina defaulted. The talks have been overseen by a mediator appointed by a US judge who ordered Argentina to pay the creditors.

The court-appointed mediator, Daniel Pollack, confirmed that no agreement had been reached and “the Republic of Argentina will imminently be in default”.

Pollack said that default “is not a mere ‘technical’ condition, but rather a real and painful event that will hurt real people,” including Argentine citizens, exchange bondholders and the holdout investors.

Argentina defaults but investors see eventual deal possible

Argentina defaulted for the second time in 12 years after last-ditch talks with what it called "vulture" creditors failed, though debt insurance prices on Thursday suggested investors believed a deal could eventually be reached.

After a long legal battle with hedge funds that rejected Argentina's debt restructuring following a 2002 default, Latin America's third-biggest economy failed to strike a deal in time to meet a midnight payment deadline.

The immediate focus was on whether a group of big banks and funds overseen by the International Swaps and Derivatives Association would declare the situation a "credit event".

Any such ruling would set off a series of insurance payments and give most of Argentina's current bondholders the right to demand their money back immediately. The deadline is August 4, according to analysts.

The cost of insuring Argentina's debt against default fell sharply on Thursday, however, data provider Markit said, as investors speculated a deal could be struck, even if only in the long term.

America's Kleptocro-Oligarchy

Labor Board Delivers Victory for Low-Wage McDonald's Workers

A nationwide expansion of union rights could be in store if NLRB ruling is upheld

In a ruling being hailed by union groups and wage rights advocates, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found Tuesday that fast food giant McDonald's can be considered a joint employer of workers employed by its franchise restaurants, meaning the corporation can be found liable for labor and wage violations that previously only franchisees could be found liable for.

The NLRB's general council stated that he "found merit in some of the charges" that McDonald's "violated the rights of employees as a result of activities surrounding employee protests." Specifically, 43 cases were found to have merit with 64 still pending investigation.

The decision comes in response to 181 separate cases filed since November 2012 by McDonald's workers alleging that their involvement in minimum wage protests resulted in unfair retaliation, including firings and cut hours, by their employer.

"Employers like McDonald’s seek to avoid recognizing the rights of their employees by claiming that they are not really their employer, despite exercising control over crucial aspects of the employment relationship," argued labor law professor Julius Getman. "McDonald’s should no longer be able to hide behind its franchisees."

While McDonald's plans on contesting the decision, if upheld it could have broad implications for labor and union rights nationwide.

Wisconsin Supreme Court: Public sector union members do not have a constitutional right to negotiate with their employer for wages and on other matters

Wisconsin's collective bargaining reforms, which prompted protests from organized labor, do not violate the free speech and equal protection rights of public sector union workers, the state's supreme court ruled on Thursday.

The reforms, passed in 2011 by Republican lawmakers, severely limit the bargaining power of public sector unions while forcing most state workers to pay more for benefits such as health insurance and pensions.

The court ruled the public sector union members do not have a constitutional right to negotiate with their employer for wages and on other matters and that the law does not restrict their free speech and association rights.

"The plaintiffs remain free to advance any position, on any topic, either individually or in concert, through any channels that are open to the public," the court wrote in its opinion.

The Evening Greens

Humans Driving Planet's New Mass Extinction, Say Scientists

The planet appears to be at the early stages of its sixth mass extinction, and humans are responsible, a new study finds.

Published last week in the journal Science, the study incorporates scientific literature review and data analysis by a team of international scientists, led by author Rodolfo Dirzo, a professor of biology at Stanford.

Scientists say that the Earth has already sustained five mass species die-offs, the most recent having occurred millions of years ago. But unlike the mass extinction events prior, the one likely underway is caused by human-made climate change and habitat loss.

Over 320 vertebrates have gone extinct since 1500, and today, between 16 and 33 percent of vertebrates are endangered or threatened, the study notes.

Large vertebrate animals (megafauna), which include elephants, zebra, and polar bears, face the steepest decline, because they require large habitats and are targeted by human hunters for their more plentiful meat.

According to the study, the especially steep fall of megafauna is a characteristic of prior mass extinction events.

'There Will Be No Water' by 2040?

The world risks an "insurmountable" water crisis by 2040 without an immediate and significant overhaul of energy consumption and demand, a research team reported on Wednesday.

"There will be no water by 2040 if we keep doing what we're doing today," said Professor Benjamin Sovacool of Denmark's Aarhus University, who co-authored two reports on the world's rapidly decreasing sources of freshwater. ...

In addition to an expanding global population, economic development, and an increasing demand for energy, the report also finds that the generation of electricity is one of the biggest sources of water consumption throughout the world, using up more water than even the agricultural industry. Unlike less water-intensive alternative sources of energy like wind and solar systems, fossil fuel-powered and nuclear plants need enormous and continued water inputs to function, both for fueling thermal generators and cooling cycles. ...

Unless water use is drastically minimized, the researchers found that widespread drought will affect between 30 and 40 percent of the planet by 2020, and another two decades after that will see a severe water shortage that would affect the entire planet. The demand for both energy and drinking water would combine to aggressively speed up drought, which in turn could exacerbate large-scale health risks and other global development problems.

The Politics of Going Green

DESVARIEUX: So let's start off by talking about Germany. In May, Germany hit a milestone with renewable energy generation accounting for nearly 75 percent of the country's total electricity. Bob, you recently wrote an article in Boston Review. Can you just map out your thesis, really? And is this possible in the United States?

POLLIN: Yes, thanks. In my article and in forthcoming research, more extensive research, what I have found, along with my coauthors, is that let's say the United States invests only about 1.2 percent of GDP annually for 20 years in renewable energy, solar, wind, geothermal, hydro, small-scale hydro, and in energy efficiency, crucially in energy efficiency. The U.S. could reduce its emissions by 40 percent within 20 years, which would be a massive achievement. But, mentioning Germany, at the end of the 20 years, even if we achieve the 40 percent reduction, we'd still be 20 percent over where Germany is today in their emissions. So we've got a long way to go and there's a lot of room for improvement. And Germany is at roughly our standard of living, and they are right now at an emissions level that is half what the United States emission level is.

DESVARIEUX: Right. Right. But, Chris, could we do that here in the United States? I mean, with the powers that be, you know, the big oil energy, fossil fuel industry, how could we actually make that leap here in the United States? Is it possible?

WILLIAMS: I think some of the interesting things coming out in the research, Professor Pollin's article and others', Mark Jacobson and so on, illustrate how this is really not a technical, scientific issue. We could certainly achieve a much cleaner energy economy. We could be on track with regard to what the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) says that we need to be in order to avoid dangerous levels of climate change or extremely dangerous levels of climate change. And we have the technical answers. We have the money as well. It's a question of is the political will there. And judging by the latest pronouncements from President Obama in terms of opening up the Atlantic to offshore oil and gas prospecting, the increasing fracking across the country for oil and gas, the coming exploration of the Arctic, all of the above, President Obama's energy policy looks very much like more of the same.

Blog Posts of Interest

Here are diaries and selected blog posts of interest on DailyKos and other blogs.
What's Happenin' Is On Hiatus

Israel's Propaganda Machine Is Finally Starting to Misfire

Israel mows the lawn

The children of Gaza

In Gaza's rubble, with the families who live there

Why Is Washington Risking War With Russia?

CIA Acknowledges It Hacked, Spied On Senate Intel Cmte In '09. Meanwhile, What About 2014?

A Little Night Music

Charlie Christian - Stompin' at the Savoy

Charlie Christian - Blues in B

Charlie Christian - Royal Garden Blues

Benny Goodman Sextet -  Rose Room

The Edmond Hall Celeste Quartet - Profoundly Blue

Charlie Christian - Swing to Bop

Charlie Christian - Solo Flight

Benny Goodman Sextet - Roast Turkey Stomp

Charlie Christian - Charlie's Dream

Charlie Christian - Celestial Express

Benny Goodman, Charlie Christian - Flying Home

BB King discusses the influence of Charlie Christian

Charlie Christian - Lester Young - Buck Clayton - Good Morning Blues

Charley Christian Live at Minton's Playhouse

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 Thu Jul 31, 2014 at 05:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Team DFH.

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