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This evening's music features New Orleans piano player James Booker. Enjoy!
James Booker Live BBC Sessions 1978
"Our country is now geared to an arms economy bred in an artificially induced psychosis of war hysteria and an incessant propaganda of fear."
-- Douglas MacArthur
News and Opinion
NYT Retracts Russian-Photo Scoop
Two days after the New York Times led its editions with a one-sided article about photos supposedly proving that Russian special forces were behind the popular uprisings in eastern Ukraine, the Times published what you might call a modified, limited retraction.
Buried deep inside the Wednesday editions (page 9 in my paper), the article by Michael R. Gordon and Andrew E. Kramer – two of the three authors from the earlier story – has this curious beginning: “A collection of photographs that Ukraine says shows the presence of Russian forces in the eastern part of the country, and which the United States cited as evidence of Russian involvement, has come under scrutiny.”
In the old days of journalism, we used to apply the scrutiny before we published a story on the front page or on any other page, especially if it had implications toward war or peace, whether people would live or die. However, in this case – fitting with the anti-Russian bias that has pervaded the mainstream U.S. press corps – the scrutiny was set aside long enough for this powerful propaganda theme to be put in play and to sweep across the media landscape.
Only now do we belatedly learn what should have been obvious: the blurry photographs provided by the coup regime in Kiev and endorsed by the Obama administration don’t really prove anything. ... And, one of the photos featured by the Times in its Monday lead article, purportedly showing some of the armed men in Russia, was actually shot in the Ukrainian town of Slovyansk, according to Maxim Dondyuk, the freelance photographer who took the picture and posted it on his Instagram account. ...
After noting Dondyuk’s denial that the photo was snapped in Russia, the Times quoted State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki as acknowledging “that the assertion that the photograph in the American briefing materials had been taken in Russia was incorrect. ... But the misidentification of the photo’s location as Russia, not Ukraine, was not some minor mistake. If the photo was taken in Ukraine, then the whole premise of the claim that these same guys were operating in Russia and have since moved to Ukraine collapses.
#Lavrov: It is inappropriate to accuse Russia of interfering in the events in eastern Ukraine without providing any actual evidence— MFA Russia (@mfa_russia) April 24, 2014
New York Times propaganda photos on Ukraine exposed
A day after the New York Times published a front-page report purporting to show the involvement of Russian Special Forces in protests in east Ukraine, its report, titled “Photos Link Masked Men in East Ukraine to Russia,” has been exposed as a blatant fabrication.
The Times printed low-resolution pictures of fighters—allegedly wearing Russian insignia while in Georgia, and then later as protesters in east Ukraine—asserting they were the same men, thus proving the existence of an armed Russian intervention in Ukraine. It was based on a crude trick first noted by a commenter on a link posted on Reddit. The photos in the Times were down-sampled versions of higher-resolution images circulating online, which show that the men in the different pictures are in fact not the same.
It very rapidly became clear that the Times ’ claims to have proven that Russian soldiers were driving the east Ukraine protests against the pro-Western regime in Kiev were complete rubbish. ...
In publishing the false allegations, the Times worked closely with the US government, which received the photos from the unelected pro-US regime in Kiev and “endorsed” them before passing them on.
Military intervention in Ukraine risks spiralling into 'all-out war' with Russia
Spy chiefs have warned that any British or Western military action in Ukraine risks spiralling into an all-out war with Russia, reports the Sunday People.
The head of MI6, known as C, is understood to have told Prime Minster David Cameron that Russian President Vladimir Putin will not “stand idly by” if the West sends troops to support the Ukrainian government.
One senior source said: “The basic message is that it’s not worth starting World War Three over Ukraine.”
Nato chiefs are considering options ranging from economic sanctions against Russia to offers of military assistance.
But MI6 agents and Defence Intelligence Staff on the ground warn that the crisis could turn into a violent civil war with much of eastern Ukraine declaring independence and effectively joining Russia.
Ukraine forces kill up to five rebels, Russia starts drill near border
Ukrainian forces killed up to five pro-Moscow rebels on Thursday as they closed in on the separatists' military stronghold in the east and Russia launched army drills near the border in response, raising fears its troops would go in.
Under an international accord signed in Geneva last week, illegal armed groups in Ukraine, including the rebels occupying about a dozen public buildings in the largely Russian-speaking east, are supposed to disarm and go home.
But they have shown no signs of doing so and on Thursday the Ukrainian Interior Ministry said its forces backed by the army had removed three checkpoints manned by armed groups in the separatist-controlled city of Slaviansk.
"During the armed clash up to five terrorists were eliminated," it said in a statement, adding that one person had been wounded on the side of the government forces.
A rebel spokeswoman in Slaviansk said two fighters had died in a clash in the same area, northeast of the city center.
Putin warns of 'consequences' after Ukraine's military action
The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, warned of "consequences" on Thursday as Ukraine's government launched assaults on rebel-held eastern towns, in which up to five people were reported killed.
The offensive sent international tensions soaring and oil prices up, raising the prospect of Russia deploying troops stationed on the ex-Soviet republic's borders. ...
As the offensive at Slavyansk was confirmed, Putin said it would be a serious crime for Ukraine to use its army in the east. "If Kiev has really begun to use the army against the country's population ... that is a very serious crime against its own people," he said, calling Kiev's authorities a "junta".
He warned of "consequences, including for our intergovernmental relations".
Protesters in Ukraine guard biggest weapons cache in eastern Europe
When pro-Russia protesters stormed a police station in Slavyansk, in eastern Ukraine, they seized several hundred firearms. They also took control of the biggest weapons cache in eastern Europe, which lies beneath their feet.
Since March a group of protesters have been guarding the entrance to the Volodarsky salt mine, which holds an underground collection of at least a million firearms ranging from first world war heavy machine guns to Soviet-era Kalashnikovs.
The protesters say they are there to prevent the new government from using the weapons against them, but officials and analysts worry that pro-Russia militias could seize the guns. ...
The protesters, who have blockaded the entrance with a string of tents, identify themselves as self-defence forces of Donbass, the coalmining and metalworking region with strong historical and economical ties to Russia. Many of them support the Donetsk People's Republic, which calls the new Kiev government an illegitimate "fascist junta" and has vowed not to leave occupied government buildings a referendum is held on the region's "sovereignty".
They fear that weapons in the cache will go to arm the national guard announced last month by the acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, or worse yet to the dreaded Right Sector militias that have become a kind of bogeyman in eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine crisis: Obama warns Russia that more sanctions are 'teed up'
Barack Obama has said Russia is failing to respect the Geneva agreement to defuse tensions in Ukraine and the US has fresh sanctions "teed up" to impose on Moscow.
Under last week's accord struck by Ukraine, Russia, the US and the EU, militias in Ukraine were to disarm and give up control of seized state property. But law and order has deteriorated rapidly in parts of eastern Ukraine as Kiev and Moscow have accused each other of failing to follow through on the Geneva accord.
"So far at least we have seen them not abide by the spirit or the letter of the agreement in Geneva," Obama said in Tokyo at the start of a tour of Asia. "Instead we continue to see malicious, armed men taking over buildings, harassing folks who are disagreeing with them, destabilising the region and we haven't seen Russia step out and discouraging it."
If Russia did not play its part, he said, there would be "consequences and we will ramp up further sanctions".
US Troops Arrive in Poland to ‘Confront Russia’
The first 130 US soldiers arrived today in Poland, the initial deployment of several hundred ground troops across Eastern Europe. US Ambassador Stephen Mull presented the deployment as part of a “solemn obligation” to confront Russia militarily.
Polish officials were also quick to paint the move as an overt challenge to Russia, with Prime Minister Donald Tusk saying it was a guarantee of Polish security from a Russian invasion.
Nato's action plan in Ukraine is right out of Dr Strangelove
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US has ringed Russia with military bases, nuclear warplanes and missiles as part of its Nato enlargement project. Reneging on a US promise to the Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990 that Nato would not expand "one inch to the east", Nato has all but taken over eastern Europe. In the former Soviet Caucasus, Nato's military build-up is the most extensive since the second world war.
In February, the US mounted one of its proxy "colour" coups against the elected government of Ukraine; the shock troops were fascists. For the first time since 1945, a pro-Nazi, openly antisemitic party controls key areas of state power in a European capital. No western European leader has condemned this revival of fascism on the border of Russia. Some 30 million Russians died in the invasion of their country by Hitler's Nazis, who were supported by the infamous Ukrainian Insurgent Army (the UPA) which was responsible for numerous Jewish and Polish massacres. The Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists, of which the UPA was the military wing, inspires today's Svoboda party.
Since Washington's putsch in Kiev – and Moscow's inevitable response in Russian Crimea to protect its Black Sea fleet – the provocation and isolation of Russia have been inverted in the news to the "Russian threat". This is fossilised propaganda. The US air force general who runs Nato forces in Europe – General Philip Breedlove, no less – claimed more than two weeks ago to have pictures showing 40,000 Russian troops "massing" on the border with Ukraine. So did Colin Powell claim to have pictures proving there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. What is certain is that Barack Obama's rapacious, reckless coup in Ukraine has ignited a civil war and Vladimir Putin is being lured into a trap.
A Nato membership action plan – straight from the war room of Dr Strangelove – is General Breedlove's gift to the new dictatorship in Ukraine. "Rapid Trident" will put US troops on Ukraine's Russian border and "Sea Breeze" will put US warships within sight of Russian ports. At the same time, Nato war games in eastern Europe are designed to intimidate Russia. Imagine the response if this madness was reversed and happened on the US's borders. Cue General Turgidson.
Poland presses for shift from Russian energy as Ukraine standoff escalates
Poland is calling for the European Union to wean itself off of Russian oil and gas – and turn to alternative suppliers such as Canada – in order to keep Moscow from using energy prices as a weapon in its escalating conflict with the West. ...
Mr. Sikorski said it was imperative that Europe now reduce its reliance on Russian energy.
“We should play to our strengths. Our strength is the fact that Russia needs our money more than we need Russia’s oil and gas. Because we have other suppliers, like Canada, like Norway, that give us a more competitive price, with no political strings attached. We should concentrate on creating – at least in Europe – an energy union that will make the internal EU market for energy more competitive, and more capable of helping one another.”
Mr. Sikorski said Canada was a natural partner for Europe because of the Canaport liquefied natural gas terminal near Saint John, which allows large volumes of North American gas to be shipped across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe. “We should welcome every development which makes democracies produce more energy and thereby makes us less dependent on autocracies,” he said, adding that Canada had been “one of the more principled countries” during the Ukraine crisis.
U.S. official says Hamas-PLO government would prompt aid reassessmentHat tip to artisan. Picketty's presentation starts about 10 minutes in.
The United States would have to reconsider its assistance to the Palestinians if Islamist group Hamas and the Palestinian Liberation Organization form a government together, a senior U.S. administration official said on Thursday.
Gaza-based Hamas - which is listed by the United States as a terrorist organization - and President Mahmoud Abbas's West Bank-based PLO announced a unity pact on Wednesday, complicating U.S.-brokered peace talks with Israel that Washington is already struggling to extend past an April 29 deadline.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had warned Abbas against pursuing reconciliation with Hamas, convened his security cabinet to discuss Israel's next moves. ...
The move, coming after a long line of failed efforts to reconcile after seven years of internal bickering, envisions a unity government within five weeks and national elections six months later. ...
Both the United States and Israel greeted the announcement of the unity pact with dismay.
America’s Surge Toward Oligarchy
Is America an oligarchy? Thanks to a new study from Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin I. Page of Northwestern University, social media, Op-Ed pages and the blatheri are all atwitter at the implication that American democracy is a sham.
In Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens, Gilens and Page used a data-set of 1,779 policy issues from 1981 to 2002 to compare actual policy outcomes with the prevailing policy preferences of three income groups: “10Th income percentile (quite poor), the 50th percentile (median), and the 90th percentile (fairly affluent).”
Not surprisingly, the policy desires of the 90 Percenters (earning at least $146,000 per year) are the most likely to become policy outcomes. If they support a policy, it has a 45% chance of being enacted. But if they oppose a policy, there is an 82% chance it will be defeated, derailed on the way to becoming a law, even if a majority of Americans support it.
These findings are more daunting when we consider that the study’s data-set ends before Citizens United, the sanctification of money as constitutionally-protected speech and the growing post-crash spike in inequality. But one word the authors did not use to describe the ruling class was “oligarchy.”
Foreigners buy fewest U.S. 10-year bonds in a year
Foreigners bought the lowest amount of U.S. 10-year Treasuries notes at auction in a year, according to Treasury Department data released on Wednesday.
Overseas investors purchased $2.659 billion or 12.7 percent of the $21 billion of the benchmark 10-year notes the Treasury offered on April 9, the data showed.
Spain restricting people's right to protest, Amnesty report finds
The Spanish government is using fines, harassment and excessive police force to limit the right to protest, Amnesty International warned in a new report released on Thursday.
Against a backdrop of chronic unemployment and shrinking public funds for education, health and social services, a growing number of Spaniards have taken to the streets in recent years. But "instead of listening to their demands, instead of starting a dialogue, authorities are doing everything they can to impede people from protesting", said the report's author, Virginia Álvarez.
Amnesty International tracked several protests in Madrid and Barcelona during the past year, gathering first-person accounts, interviewing journalists and lawyers and analysing videos and photographs.
The resulting report paints a stark picture of a heavy-handed government response to the country's growing social movements.
"With threats of fines or threats of being beaten, the government is trying to stigmatise and criminalise people who are just practising their rights."
Net Neutrality Finally Dies at Ripe Old Age of 45
Apparently net neutrality is officially dead. The Wall Street Journal reports today that the FCC has given up on finding a legal avenue to enforce equal access and will instead propose rules that explicitly allow broadband suppliers to favor companies that pay them for faster pipes:The Federal Communications Commission plans to propose new open Internet rules on Thursday that would allow content companies to pay Internet service providers for special access to consumers, according to a person familiar with the proposal.
The proposed rules would prevent the service providers from blocking or discriminating against specific websites, but would allow broadband providers to give some traffic preferential treatment, so long as such arrangements are available on "commercially reasonable" terms for all interested content companies. Whether the terms are commercially reasonable would be decided by the FCC on a case-by-case basis.
…The FCC's proposal would allow some forms of discrimination while preventing companies from slowing down or blocking specific websites, which likely won't satisfy all proponents of net neutrality, the concept that all Internet traffic should be treated equally. The Commission has also decided for now against reclassifying broadband as a public utility, which would subject ISPs to much greater regulation. However, the Commission has left the reclassification option on the table at present.
Unless Defeated, New FCC Rules Will Put 'Stake in Internet's Heart'
Defenders of an open, innovative and fair internet are up in arms Thursday after learning the Federal Communications Commission is about to issue new rule proposals that will kill the online principle known as "net neutrality."
The death of net neutrality—which has governed the equal treatment of content since the internet was created—will create, say critics, a tiered internet that allows major internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon to cut special and lucrative deals with content providers who can afford to pay for special "fast lanes." The result will be an internet that will incentivize slower traffic by ISPs and the creation of privatized, corporate-controlled "toll-roads" that will come to dominate a once fair and free environment.
As reported by various outlets, the new rules have been circulated by FCC chairman Tom Wheeler to the other members of the commission and will be officially announced on Thursday.
"With this proposal, the FCC is aiding and abetting the largest ISPs in their efforts to destroy the open Internet," said Craig Aaron, president of the media advocacy group Free Press. "Giving ISPs the green light to implement pay-for-priority schemes will be a disaster for startups, nonprofits and everyday Internet users who cannot afford these unnecessary tolls. These users will all be pushed onto the Internet dirt road, while deep pocketed Internet companies enjoy the benefits of the newly created fast lanes."
The Evening Greens
David Suzuki: Only With Political Will Can We Avoid The Worst Of Climate Change
It’s fitting that the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report was released during Earth Month. After all, the third chapter of its Fifth Assessment focuses on ways to keep our planet healthy and livable by warding off extreme climatic shifts and weather events caused by escalating atmospheric carbon. ...
Doing nothing isn’t an option. That would lead to a significant increase in global average temperatures and extreme weather-related events such as storms, droughts and floods, wreaking havoc on our food systems, communities and the natural environment we depend on for our health and survival. Technological measures and behavioural change could limit global mean temperatures to less than 2 C above pre-industrial levels, but only with “major institutional and technological change.”
Because we’ve stalled so long, thanks largely to deceptive campaigns run by a small but powerful group of entrenched fossil fuel industry interests and the intransigence of some short-sighted governments, we must also consider ways to adapt to climate change that’s already occurring and that we can’t stop. ...
It’s been seven years since the fourth assessment report in 2007. We can’t wait another seven to resolve this crisis. As nations gear up to for the 21st climate summit in Paris in late 2015, where the world’s governments have pledged to reach a universal legal climate agreement, international co-operation is needed more than ever. Let’s urge our government to play a constructive role in this critical process.
Vice President Joe Biden Promotes U.S. as Fracking Missionary Force On Ukraine Trip
During his two-day visit this week to Kiev, Ukraine, Vice President Joe Biden unfurled President Barack Obama's “U.S. Crisis Support Package for Ukraine.”
A key part of the package involves promoting the deployment of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in Ukraine. Dean Neu, professor of accounting at York University in Toronto, describes this phenomenon in his book “Doing Missionary Work.” And in this case, it involves the U.S. acting as a modern-day missionary to spread the gospel of fracking to further its own interests.
With the ongoing Russian occupation of Crimea serving as the backdrop for the trip, Biden made Vladimir Putin's Russia and its dominance of the global gas market one of the centerpieces of a key speech he gave while in Kiev.
“And as you attempt to pursue energy security, there’s no reason why you cannot be energy secure. I mean there isn’t. It will take time. It takes some difficult decisions, but it’s collectively within your power and the power of Europe and the United States,” Biden said.
“And we stand ready to assist you in reaching that. Imagine where you’d be today if you were able to tell Russia: Keep your gas. It would be a very different world you’d be facing today.”
Texas Yanks Funding From San Antonio Air Quality Program For Releasing Emissions Data
A few casual words and the early release of some scientific data have cost the San Antonio region much-needed state funds to battle its growing air pollution problem. The misstep, which appears to have been unintentional, highlights the sensitivity of studying oil and gas pollution in business-friendly Texas.
The dispute began after the Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG)—a coalition that oversees 13 counties in the San Antonio region—launched a two-part study to determine how oil and gas drilling was affecting the city's air quality. ...
AACOG released the first part of the study, an emission inventory of the Eagle Ford, on April 4. It projected a dramatic increase in air emissions by 2018 during peak ozone season, including a possible 281-percent increase in releases of volatile organic compounds, which react with nitrogen oxides to form ozone. More details are expected in the second part, a photochemical model that explains how the emissions affect San Antonio's ozone levels.
About a week after the emission inventory was released, the Austin American-Statesman reported that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), which funded the study, had slashed AACOG's air-quality planning budget by 25 percent because an AACOG employee had made some of the draft results public.
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
James Booker - Slowly But Surely
James Booker - Papa Was A Rascal
James Booker - Rockin' Pneumonia, Baby Won't You Please Come Home
James Booker - On the Sunny Side of the Street
James Booker - Let Them Talk
James Booker - Pop's Dilemma
James Booker - Gonzo's Blue Dream
James Booker - Junco Partner
James Booker - Goodnight Irene
James Booker - All Around The World
James Booker - Gonzo
James Booker - Black Night
James Booker - Lonely avenue
James Booker with Jerry Garcia - Slowly But Surely
James Booker - United Our Thing Will Stand
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