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.
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Hey! Good Evening!
This evening's music features the Chicago bluesman Muddy Waters. Enjoy!
Muddy Waters - Manish Boy
"People feel like the system is rigged against them, and here is the painful part, they're right. The system is rigged."
-- Elizabeth Warren
News and Opinion
While Wronged Homeowners Got $300 Apiece in Foreclosure Settlement, Consultants Who Helped Protect Banks Got $2 Billion
The obscene greed-and-arrogance stories emanating from Wall Street are piling up so fast, it's getting hard to keep up. This one is from last week, but I missed it – it's about the foreclosure/robo-signing settlement that was concluded earlier this year.
The upshot of this story is that in advance of that notorious settlement, the government ordered banks to hire "independent" consultants to examine their loan files to see just exactly how corrupt they were.
Now it comes out that not only were these consultants not so independent, not only did they very likely skew the numbers seriously in favor of the banks, and not only were these few consultants paid over $2 billion (over 20 percent of the entire settlement amount) while the average homeowner only received $300 in the deal – in addition to all of that, it appears that federal regulators will not turn over the evidence of impropriety they discovered during these reviews to homeowners who may want to sue the banks. ...
Regulators had mandated the hiring of these "independent" consultants back in 2011, and the list of companies included Promontory Financial Group, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, and Deloitte & Touche. These private firms were hired to review the banks' loan files in search of errors, and collectively were paid by the banks over $2 billion, a staggering sum which ultimately worked out to over $20,000 per file.
US Military Calls in 'Force-Feeding Teams' as Guantanamo Hunger Strike Continues
The US military has confirmed that at least 40 medical personnel have arrived at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in order to expand a force feeding operation designed to counter an ongoing hunger strike by more than 100 prisoners protesting their indefinite detention and ill treatment.
Despite warnings that the practice amounts to torture and is an affront to accepted medical ethical standards, reports indicate that at least 21 men have been approved for force feeding at the US prison. ...
Late last week, president of the American Medical Association, Dr. Jeremy Lazarus, sent a letter to US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in order to remind the Pentagon that the AMA's long-held view is that force feeding is both an unethical and inhumane practic practice.
As Reuters report:[The AMA letter] urged the defense secretary "to address any situation in which a physician may be asked to violate the ethical standards of his or her profession."
Hagel had just returned from a trip to the Middle East and it was unclear whether he had seen the letter, said Pentagon spokesman Army Lieutenant Colonel Todd Breasseale.
Asked if military doctors had raised ethical concerns about being asked to perform force-feedings, Breasseale said, "I can tell you there have been no organized efforts, but I cannot speak for individual physicians.
CIA 'Biggest Source of Corruption in Afghanistan'
All evidence points to how US occupation fuels racketeering, graft, and deep mistrust
Confirming what many policy experts have known for some time, a New York Times headline in Monday's print edition describes how the most corrupting influence within the Afghan government of Hamid Karzai is not innate cronyism or tribal favoritism, but rather the suitcases full of US cash delivered to the Presidential Palace over the last decade by the CIA.
“The biggest source of corruption in Afghanistan was the United States,” one unnamed US official told the Times' Matthew Rosenberg, who described "wads of American dollars packed into suitcases, backpacks and, on occasion, plastic shopping bags" being delivered to Karzai's door.
According to the Times' report:All told, tens of millions of dollars have flowed from the C.I.A. to the office of President Hamid Karzai, according to current and former advisers to the Afghan leader.
“We called it ‘ghost money,’ ” said Khalil Roman, who served as Mr. Karzai’s deputy chief of staff from 2002 until 2005. “It came in secret, and it left in secret.”
The C.I.A., which declined to comment for this article, has long been known to support some relatives and close aides of Mr. Karzai. But the new accounts of off-the-books cash delivered directly to his office show payments on a vaster scale, and with a far greater impact on everyday governing.
Moreover, there is little evidence that the payments bought the influence the C.I.A. sought. Instead, some American officials said, the cash has fueled corruption and empowered warlords, undermining Washington’s exit strategy from Afghanistan.
Panel seeks to fine tech companies for noncompliance with wiretap orders
A government task force is preparing legislation that would pressure companies such as Facebook and Google to enable law enforcement officials to intercept online communications as they occur, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the effort.
Driven by FBI concerns that it is unable to tap the Internet communications of terrorists and other criminals, the task force’s proposal would penalize companies that failed to heed wiretap orders — court authorizations for the government to intercept suspects’ communications.
Rather than antagonizing companies whose cooperation they need, federal officials typically back off when a company is resistant, industry and former officials said. But law enforcement officials say the cloak drawn on suspects’ online activities — what the FBI calls the “going dark” problem — means that critical evidence can be missed. ...
Under the draft proposal, a court could levy a series of escalating fines, starting at tens of thousands of dollars, on firms that fail to comply with wiretap orders, according to persons who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. A company that does not comply with an order within a certain period would face an automatic judicial inquiry, which could lead to fines. After 90 days, fines that remain unpaid would double daily.
Matt Yglesias resigns from the presumed-progressive community — with prejudice
Different Places Have Different Safety Rules and That’s OKThus speaks a man with enough money to be able to choose a safe job. More to the point, thus speaks a man whose comfortable life is financed by people whose forced risk of death he exploits to his professional benefit.
It’s very plausible that one reason American workplaces have gotten safer over the decades is that we now tend to outsource a lot of factory-explosion-risk to places like Bangladesh where 87 people just died in a building collapse. This kind of consideration leads Erik Loomis to the conclusion that we need a unified global standard for safety[.] …
I think that’s wrong. … The reason is that while having a safe job is good, money is also good [and] there are very good reasons for Bangladeshi people to make different choices in this regard than Americans.
If Matthew Yglesias were ever a liberal or a progressive — hint: despite his bio, no, he never was one — he has in this essay ripped the last shred of the last mask from his last face. The faux-progressive community (the world of presumed-progressives) has permanently lost one of its own.
Flow of Tainted Water Is Latest Crisis at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear PlantHat Tip to Cosmic Debris:
Two years after a triple meltdown that grew into the world’s second worst nuclear disaster, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is faced with a new crisis: a flood of highly radioactive wastewater that workers are struggling to contain.
Groundwater is pouring into the plant’s ravaged reactor buildings at a rate of almost 75 gallons a minute. It becomes highly contaminated there, before being pumped out to keep from swamping a critical cooling system. A small army of workers has struggled to contain the continuous flow of radioactive wastewater, relying on hulking gray and silver storage tanks sprawling over 42 acres of parking lots and lawns. The tanks hold the equivalent of 112 Olympic-size pools. ...
While the company has managed to stay ahead, the constant threat of running out of storage space has turned into what Tepco itself called an emergency, with the sheer volume of water raising fears of future leaks at the seaside plant that could reach the Pacific Ocean.
That quandary along with an embarrassing string of mishaps — including a 29-hour power failure affecting another, less vital cooling system — have underscored an alarming reality: two years after the meltdowns, the plant remains vulnerable to the same sort of large earthquake and tsunami that set the original calamity in motion.
Grand Canyon uranium mining set to go ahead despite ban from Obama
Uranium mining on the doorstep of the Grand Canyon national park is set to go ahead in 2015 despite a ban imposed last year by Barack Obama.
Energy Fuels Resources has been given federal approval to reopen its old Canyon Mine, located six miles south of the canyon's popular South Rim entrance, that attracts nearly 5 million visitors a year.
The Canadian company says that the Obama administration's ban on new hard-rock mining over 1m acres doesn't apply because its rights date from when it closed over 20 years ago.
However, its approval is based on an environmental study the US Forest Service conducted more than 25 years ago, in 1986.
Several environment groups – including the Grand Canyon Trust, the Sierra Club and the Centre for Biological Diversity – and the Havasupai tribe filed suit in March against the Forest Service, arguing that the study is badly outdated.
Study Reveals 30 Toxic Chemicals at High Levels at Exxon Arkansas Tar Sands Pipeline Spill Site
An independent study co-published by the Faulkner County Citizens Advisory Group and Global Community Monitor reveals that, in the aftermath of ExxonMobil's Pegasus tar sands pipeline spill of over 500,000 gallons of diluted bitumen (dilbit) into Mayflower, AR, air quality in the area surrounding the spill has been affected by high levels of cancer-causing chemicals. ...
The chemicals found in the samples include benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, n-hexane, and xylenes. Breathing in both ethylbenzene and benzene can cause cancer and reproductive effects, while breathing in n-hexane can damage the nervous system and usher in numbness in the extremities, muscular weakness, blurred vision, headaches, and fatigue.
All of these chemicals are hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), "regulated under the 1990 Federal Clean Air Act amendments as the most toxic of all known airborne chemicals," as explained in the press release summarzing the study.
TransCanada Lashes Out at EPA Over Keystone, Asserts Canadian 'Sovereignty'
The Canadian builder of the Keystone XL pipeline has lashed out at the Environmental Protection Agency for recommending that the United States and Canada work together to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases from the tar sands crude that the pipeline would carry to refineries on the U.S. gulf coast.
The suggestion "ignores the fundamental sovereignty of the Canadian government," said Shawn Howard, a TransCanada spokesman, in a message to reporters on Tuesday.
The EPA made its recommendation on Monday in a scathing critique of the State Department's latest environmental impact study, part of the process of deciding whether to grant the pipeline a presidential permit. The study, released in March, suggested that the pipeline would have no significant environment impact. They called it "insufficient" and asked for significant changes to protect the environment. ...
EPA's suggestion that Canada and the province of Alberta should do more, together with the U.S., to cut greenhouse gas emissions, seemed especially to bother TransCanada, whose project has long been at the center of the dispute over the nation's energy future. ... "The EPA's recommendation that the State Department explore ways for the U.S to involve itself in ways to reduce GHG emissions from the Canadian oil sands ignores the fundamental sovereignty of the Canadian government, as well as the significant steps that Canada and Alberta have already taken in this direction," Howard said. "Respectfully, this goes far beyond the mandate of the EPA and legislators and others would not appreciate other countries interfering in issues of American federal or state sovereignty."
Northeast US Ocean Temperatures Highest on Record
Temperature spikes causing drastic shifts in ecosystem
Ocean surface temperatures off the Northeast U.S. coast last year were the highest in 150 years, according to a new report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Comparing measurements taken since 1854, the scientists from NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) said that sea surface temperatures between Cape Hatteras and the Canadian border, the Northeast Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem, reached a record breaking average high of 57.2 degrees Fahrenheit last year.
The shifting temperatures are having a drastic impact on the under-water ecosystems of the region, the NEFSC reports, with over half of 36 fish stocks in the northwest Atlantic Ocean shifting northward in the past 40 years.
The temperature increase in 2012 alone was the highest jump in temperature ever recorded, according to the NEFSC, which analyzed data from satellite remote-sensing data and long-term ship-board measurements.
LSD Inventor Albert Hofmann Dead at Age 102
Albert Hofmann, the pioneering Swiss chemist and advocate of psychedelics who discovered the hallucinogenic properties of LSD, died Tuesday. He was 102.
Hofmann reportedly died of a heart attack at his home in Basel, Switzerland.
Hofmann’s most famous discovery happened on April 16, 1943. He was researching the synthesis of a lysergic acid compound, LSD-25, when he inadvertently absorbed a bit through his fingertips. Intrigued by the effect it had on his perception, Hofmann decided further exploration was warranted. Three days later, on April 19, he ingested 250 micrograms of LSD, embarking on the first full-fledged acid trip. That day became known among LSD fans as “bicycle day” because Hofmann began experiencing the drug’s intense effects on his bicycle trip home from the lab.
Blog Posts of Interest
Here are diaries and selected blog posts of interest on DailyKos and other blogs.What's Happenin'
A Little Night Music
Muddy Waters - Stuff You Gotta Watch
Muddy Waters - Champagne & Reefer
Muddy Waters - Hoochie Coochie Man
Muddy Waters - I feel like blowing my horn
Muddy Waters - You Can't Lose What Your Never Had
Muddy Waters - Blow Wind Blow
Muddy Waters - Rollin' Stone
Muddy Waters - Long Distance Call
Muddy Waters - I'm A King Bee
Muddy Waters - Got my Mojo Workin'
It's National Pie Day!
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