Welcome to Thursday’s Over Easy, a continuation of Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner and its tradition of giving an overview of news our everyday media doesn’t cover, issues that we ought to consider outside the U.S. scene.
Love Is Your Name, the first country single Steven Tyler, begins with the downward strum of an autoharp.
The stringed instrument, rarely heard on country records these days, is often associated with the Carter Family’s Mother Maybelle Carter and her daughter June Carter Cash. For the Aerosmith frontman, though, there’s another association: The Lovin’ Spoonful.
“When I was a kid, I used to go down and see those guys; they had a huge hit with Do You Believe in Magic,” Tyler says. With other songs, most notably Nashville Cats, the ’60s folk-rock group helped young rock fans of that generation think differently about country music.
Tyler, who has signed with Nashville’s Big Machine Label Group to record a country solo album, says he was already into the music. The singer’s lifelong infatuation with country music began when he stole the Everly Brothers singles that belonged to his older sister. Around that same time, he turned a long wire into a radio antenna up an apple tree near his house and began picking up the signal from a country station in Ft. Wayne, Ind. “That’s how I grew up listening to all that stuff,” says the singer, who counts the Everlys, Patsy Cline and Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks among his early country favorites.
The harmony-rich Love Is Your Name doesn’t sound quite like anything else on country radio at the moment, nor does it sound like what Aerosmith fans might expect from the group’s singer. “It’s a little bit between Steven Tyler and Mumford & Sons and the Everly Brothers,” Tyler says…
Despite shifts on Cuba and Venezuela, the Obama administration’s appointment of a man who’s been involved in the overthrow of leftist governments since the 1980s, to head the White House’s top agency on Latin American affairs shows little may have really changed.
The Obama administration announced in December that it would immediately re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba, a policy shift that ended 54 years of isolation. In another move that was diametrically opposed to this policy shift, it then imposed economic sanctions on Venezuela in March.
Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and president of Just Foreign Policy, argues that Obama realized his administration made a mistake implementing the sanctions, and so attempted to back-pedal by stating: “We do not believe that Venezuela poses a threat to the United States, nor does the United States threaten the Venezuelan government.”
Weisbrot added: “And then he did something that no U.S. president has done since 1999, when Hugo Chávez was president-elect of Venezuela: he met with Venezuela’s head of state. This was arguably as important for hemispheric relations as his meeting with Raúl Castro.”
But with the appointment of Feierstein, Weisbrot told MintPress News that he believes U.S. policy toward Latin America may not have changed at all.
“Feierstein’s been involved in campaigns against left governments since the U.S.-backed war against the Sandinistas in the 1980s,” Weisbrot told MintPress, adding that he can’t understand why nobody has reported on Feierstein’s appointment yet.
Indeed, a quick review of Feierstein’s track record in Latin America reveals that the new senior director for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the National Security Council has played an integral role in facilitating destabilization of South American countries since the 1980s.
Feierstein will replace Ricardo Zúñiga, who negotiated the Cuba deal, along with deputy national security adviser Benjamin J. Rhodes.
Massacre in Bolivia
In 2010, Feierstein was appointed assistant administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). This caused considerable friction between Bolivia and the U.S. because Feierstein acted as a campaign consultant to former Bolivian President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada (1993-1997; 2002-2003). Sánchez de Lozada, who is also known as “Goni,” is infamous in Bolivia because 64 people were allegedly killed under his orders for opposing the liberalization of the country’s gas resources during the notorious “Black October” incident. He currently faces charges of genocide in Bolivia, but has fled to the United States.
In 2006, Feierstein expressed no regret to getting Sánchez de Lozada elected. He said: “You know, we are proud of the role that we played in electing Goni.”
Coup in Paraguay
Feierstein was assistant administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean at USAID in 2012, when the country’s opposition legislature executed a coup d’etat against leftist President Fernando Lugo, allegedly for mishandling the violent eviction of peasant farmers in the Curuguaty region. (more…)
After 63 witnesses testified in the penalty phase, Steve Mellin stepped up to the lectern in courtroom 9 this morning, faced the jury and gave the government’s opening closing argument. Judy Clarke gave Jahar Tsarnaev’s closing argument. William Weinreb delivered the government’s rebuttal argument. The jury has retired to the jury room to begin deliberations. No one expects a verdict today.
The government led off, since it has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the aggravating evidence sufficiently outweighs the mitigation evidence. If the jury unanimously agrees that the government satisfied its burden, it will sentence Jahar Tsarnaev to death. That means that the sentence will be life without possibility of parole (LWOP), even if 11 jurors agree that the government met its burden, but one does not.
I was surprised that the government doubled down on Jahar Tsarnaev’s middle-finger salute to a video camera to prove absence of remorse while he was waiting in a holding cell for his arraignment. They clearly took it out of context, as became evident when the entire clip was shown. To double down in both closings today really confirmed what I have been saying ever since they got caught. Their objectivity and professionalism was overcome by their blood lust. They should be embarrassed and remorseful, but they aren’t. That makes them hypocrites in my book.
Before Steve Mellin began his argument, Judge O’Toole spent more than an hour reading the instructions aloud to the jury. Important distinctions to keep in mind are:
1) aggravating factors must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, whereas mitigating factors only need to be proven by a preponderance of the evidence;
2) jurors must unanimously agree that an aggravating factor has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt to consider it in determining the sentence, whereas they do not have to unanimously agree that a mitigating factor has been proven by a preponderance of the evidence;
3) jurors must individually decide how much weight to assign to the aggravating and mitigating evidence;
4) weight cannot be determined by any objective, mathematical or mechanical formula; and
5) since the death penalty is never automatic in any case, a juror can decide that the aggravating evidence does not merit the death penalty, even if there is no mitigation evidence.
For example, despite what he did, Jahar’s friends described him as kind and his aunts and cousins love him. Pursuant to these instructions, a juror could decide that the evidence admitted in aggravation does not sufficiently outweigh the evidence admitted in mitigation and vote to impose a sentence of LWOP. Or a juror could similarly decide that the evidence admitted in aggravation does not sufficiently outweigh Jahar’s father’s mental illness, his mother’s emotional instability and her religious extremism and their abandonment of the family leaving Tamerlan in charge.
You can expect Judy Clarke will focus on all mitigation factors, including his age, immaturity and absence of a criminal a criminal record, as well as the ones I mentioned in my examples in the preceding paragraph.
The following quotes are from the twitter feed by the pool of reporters in court covering the trial.
Steve Mellin began, “There’s so much death and loss and devastation in this case, it’s hard to know where to begin.”
“He killed indiscriminately to make a political statement. His actions have earned him a sentence of death. The defense will ask you to value the defendant’s life, but he did not value the lives of his victims.”
“After causing all this pain and suffering, this defendant went out and bought a gallon of milk. He acted like it was just any other day . . . he didn’t care.”
Regarding what Jahar wrote in the boat, “No remorse, no apology. Those are the words of a terrorist.”
“Remember the river of blood running down the sidewalk.”
“Death and misery is what he sought that day. There is no just punishment other than death.”
“What deserves more weight? What the defendant did or the speculation of what Tamerlan said?”
“Nowhere in that manifesto did he write, my brother made me do it.”
“He made a conscious decision to destroy loving and caring families. The mitigating factors are weightless.”
“All murderers start out as cute children. But sometimes, cute children grow up to be bad people.”
“After all the terror, carnage and fear that he caused, the right punishment is clear. The only sentence that will bring justice to this case is death.”
Judy Clarke began her closing after the lunch break.
“Jahar still had friends [after the bombing]. They said he was loyal, laid-back, funny. Sweet, shy and goofy.” one girl said.
[In the two years Tsarnaev has been in prison], “He’s never tried to influence anybody about his beliefs… never tried to break the rules.”
Over two years in prison, and all the government has on Tsarnaev is the still image of a middle finger. They took the clip entirely out of context..when he was called on it what did he say? I’m sorry. He apologized.”
“What unrepentant … young jihadi is going to meet with a Catholic nun? The picture the government painted of Tsarnaev as unrepentant & unchanged is not true. We ask you to reflect on Sister Helen Prejean’s testimony. It shows the great potential for redemption. Government may tell you he pulled the wool over Sister Helen’s eyes. She’s experienced and wouldn’t lie about what she thinks. He is grown. He is sorry and he is remorseful.”
“You can find one mitigating factor outweighs all aggravating. You can find no mitigating factors and still give life sentence.”
“You have an obligation to hear each other. You have no obligation to vote for death. No one of you has to ever, ever vote for death penalty”
“The law values life and you have no responsibility to vote for death. Each individual is a safe guard” against the death penalty.”
“He will die under bleak conditions, with no fame and no attention, and no glory or stature that martyrdom might bring.”
“Even if you believe that is who [the government says] he is, that is not who we are,”
Life in prison “reflects justice and mercy” and allows for redemption.
“Mercy is never earned but it is bestowed,”
William Weinreb spoke in rebuttal.
“Where is the evidence of brainwashing or mind control? Where is the evidence that he was under his brothers spell?”
“The whole middle finger video was worse than just clip. He was remorseless in court too.”
“Tsarnaev’s friends, relatives, teachers, told you who he was. His crimes tell you who he is.”
“Yes, you know who Tsarnaev was as a child. But you must consider who he became as an adult.”
“Life is the minimum punishment allowed by law for this, does he deserve the minimum punishment for those four deaths?”
A media backlash against investigative journalist Seymour Hersh for his report on the raid that killed Osama bin Laden has fueled a perception that it has been wholly discredited. Yet, a key part of Hersh’s report has been corroborated by the New York Times’ Carlotta Gall, a Pakistan newspaper, and partly by NBC News.
Hersh reported a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer approached Jonathan Bank, who was the CIA station chief in the US embassy, and offered to provide information on where bin Laden was located in return for reward money offered in 2001. The CIA did not find bin Laden by spying on his couriers but uncovered his whereabouts because Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, had him essentially on house arrest since 2006.
Gall writes, “Hersh appears to have succeeded in getting both American and Pakistani sources to corroborate it. His sources remain anonymous, but other outlets such as NBC News have since come forward with similar accounts. Finally, the Pakistani daily newspaper The News reported Tuesday that Pakistani intelligence officials have conceded that it was indeed a walk-in who provided the information on Bin Laden. The newspaper names the officer as Brigadier Usman Khalid; the reporter is sufficiently well connected that he should be taken seriously.” Khalid was promised reward money as well as “US citizenship with a new identity.”
“It is the strongest indication to date that the Pakistani military knew of bin Laden’s whereabouts and that it was complicit in hiding a man charged with international terrorism and on the United Nations sanctions list,” Gall concludes.
Gall, whose previous reporting on bin Laden is referenced in the beginning of Hersh’s story, shares, “When I was researching my book, I learned from a high-level member of the Pakistani intelligence service that the ISI had been hiding bin Laden and ran a desk specifically to handle him as an intelligence asset. After the book came out, I learned more: that it was indeed a Pakistani Army brigadier — all the senior officers of the ISI are in the military — who told the CIA where bin Laden was hiding, and that bin Laden was living there with the knowledge and protection of the ISI.”
CNN chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto followed up after NBC News published their report. He asked sources if the US ever paid out a $25 million reward for bin Laden’s capture. Sciutto’s sources told him that some “small payments” were made to Pakistanis, “who helped track the SUV to bin Laden’s courier.” No source told Sciutto that anyone received a $25 million reward.
This does not disprove the main aspects of the story. It is possible he never was paid $25 million and received a smaller reward. Hersh says he was paid in “various chunks.” And, significantly, NBC News’ sources said an asset was paid reward money by the CIA. (more…)
President Barack Obama’s campaign to give him authority to jam a secretive “trade” deal down Congress’ throat hit a roadblock in the Senate on Tuesday when Democrats refused to vote to cut off debate. Senator Tom Carper of Delaware was the only Democrat to vote in favor of advancing controversial fast-track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Despite claims by White House officials that President Obama is leading “The most transparent administration in history,” the TPP deal has been shrouded in secrecy with a ban on members of Congress speaking about what is in the bill with the public. Members of Congress know that Obama wants fast-track authority so he can negotiate the entire agreement without Congressional amendments then demand Congress pass the agreement or risk hurting the economy.
The con did not work this time. President Obama responded to the defeat by lashing out at his own party and claiming that an economic agreement that would last years and effected numerous countries was “personal.”
President Obama’s dismissive attitude towards TPP opponents within his own party had already been an issue especially concerning his statements on Senator Elizabeth Warren which some claimed were sexist. Obama and his supporters have been waging a full scale campaign against progressive TPP critics in press releases and social media.
For now the campaign seems stalled thanks to the efforts of Senators Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown which are prevailing within the Democratic Party. TPP has already been scrutinized by economists as being mostly irrelevant to new job creation leaving the downsides of the bill which will lead to further diminished labor and environment standards, more expansive intellectual property “rights” at the expense of health and innovation, and a surrender of national sovereignty to corporate tribunals.
With Republicans eager to officially turn America over to transnational corporations and the global 1% it seems unlikely that fast-tracking the TPP is completely off the table. The House is set to take up the proposal soon and there is no guarantee that Democrats in the Senate will stay united. TPP is far from dead.
– Pew: Among Hispanics living in the U.S., they are more likely today to be speaking English and a little less likely to be speaking Spanish
– Funny how some journalists would call journalist Seymour Hersh’s latest piece “conspiracy“; Have they actually looked that word up or did they think the cool kids down the block would look at what they had to say?
More than 70 tornadoes were reported across various states over Mother’s Day weekend. The deadly EF-3 tornado that struck Van, Texas (North Central) was 700 yards wide and traveled on the ground for 9.9 miles.
National Geographicreports that more storms are expected in upcoming days, but precise tornado prediction in advance remains difficult despite recent advancements in weather science. Most tornadoes tend to occur in May and June when conditions are likely more favorable for tornado formation. According to the report, tornadoes kill an average of 60 people per year, and most deaths are caused by flying debris.
The most intense tornadoes emerge from what are called supercell thunderstorms. For such a storm to form, you first “need the ingredients for a regular thunderstorm,” says Brooks.
Those ingredients include warm moisture near the surface and relatively cold, dry air above. “The warm air will be buoyant, and like a hot-air balloon it will rise,” says Brooks.
Over the weekend at our residence in the Lake Texoma area we learned (to my horror) that we cannot hear the warning sirens. Our TV and internet was the first thing to go in the storm(s)- which sounded like a bombing raid. We were only able to get our tornado warnings, followed by our flash flood warnings on our cell phones. Of course, everyone has a plan for what to do in a tornado-warned storm. But for some reason, underground shelters do not seem to be as prevalent as they once were. What ever happened to the concept of a storm cellar? Perhaps the answer is that storm cellars no longer serve a storage purpose.
Creative Commons photo courtesy of Kelly DeLay on flickr.
Billy Idol’s redemption anthem “Save Me Now” gets a fitting tribute with a new video from frequent Muse collaborator Thomas Kirk, featuring a priest, a cop, and (of course) Idol himself…
The California desert is the setting for this story. The archetypal characters head for a roadside confession in a stolen cop car, courtesy of Idol’s longtime guitarist Steve Stevens. “I went for a concept which very much took the lyrics of ‘Save Me Now’ and turned them into a surreal story that I felt was as true to the very visual lyrics as possible,” Kirk says of the video. “I loved the image of a bruised cop and a priest trapped inside a car.”
The single, which was co-written by Idol, Twin Shadow, and Greg Kurstin, comes courtesy of Kings & Queens Of The Underground, the British rock legend’s first studio album in almost a decade. He’s currently on the last leg of his world tour to support the album (which was released last fall) with North American dates wrapping June 4, followed by a run of shows in Europe this summer. He’s be back in the U.S. this fall, including stops at Outside Lands and Austin City Limits.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) broke its own internal rules when it spied on Keystone XL opponents in Texas, violating guidelines designed to prevent the agency from becoming overly involved in complex political issues, a new report by the Guardian and Earth Island Journal published Tuesday has revealed.
Internal documents acquired by the outlets through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request show how the FBI failed to get approval for launching investigations into Houston-based protesters, whom the agency labeled “environmental extremists,” and held a bias in favor of the controversial tar sands pipeline—currently awaiting federal approval—extolling its supposed economic benefits in one document which outlined reasons for spying on its opponents.
“Many of these extremists believe the debates over pollution, protection of wildlife, safety, and property rights have been overshadowed by the promise of jobs and cheaper oil prices,” the file states. “The Keystone pipeline, as part of the oil and natural gas industry, is vital to the security and economy of the United States.”
The Guardian reports:
Between November 2012 and June 2014, the documents show, the FBI collated inside knowledge about forthcoming protests, documented the identities of individuals photographing oil-related infrastructure, scrutinised police intelligence and cultivated at least one informant.
….However, the partially redacted documents reveal the investigation into anti-Keystone activists occurred without prior approval of the top lawyer and senior agent in the Houston field office, a stipulation laid down in rules provided by the attorney general.
Additionally, the FBI appeared to have opened its file on the Keystone XL opponents in 2013 following a meeting between officials from the agency and TransCanada, the company building the pipeline.
“For a period of time—possibly as long as eight months—agents acting beyond their authority were monitoring activists aligned with [direct action climate group] Tar Sands Blockade,” the Guardian writes.
Dozens of activists were arrested in Texas in late 2012, although none were accused of violent crime or property damage, according to key Tar Sands Blockade organizer, Ron Seifert.
“Less than a month after TransCanada showed the FBI a PowerPoint claiming that people opposed to [Keystone XL] need to be watched, Houston’s FBI office cuts corners to start an investigation; it’s not surprising but it is revealing of who they really work for,” Seifert told Common Dreams on Monday. “The FBI has been harassing and actively repressing communities of organizers for decades.”
Yet more records show that the FBI associated the Tar Sands Blockade, which organizes peaceful protests, with other “domestic terrorism issues.”
Other documents suggest that the Houston-based investigation was only one of a larger probe, possibly monitoring other anti-Keystone XL activists around the country.
“We’re not surprised,” Seifert continued. “We’re also not deterred. Movements for climate and environmental justice are activating people from diverse political backgrounds to take direct action to defend themselves from threats like [Keystone XL]. People are stepping out of the blind alleys of electoral politics and building grassroots power, and that’s scary for people who want a monopoly on power.”
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