Sunday, October 14, 2018

Last Call For Meat The Press, Con't

The case of missing Virginia resident and Saudi journalist dissident Jamal Khashoggi is only getting worse, as the Turks insist they have boatloads of physical evidence that he was lured into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and executed, while US intelligence swears the Saudi royals wanted to "rendition" him out of the country.   Since the Trump regime is covering for the Saudis, and all eyes are firmly on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the supposed reformist prince now faces international condemnation starting with Europe.

Britain, France and Germany have issued a joint statement telling Saudi Arabia they were treating the case of the missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi with “the utmost seriousness”.

The foreign ministers of the three countries demanded an investigation into Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance and called for a “detailed response” from Saudi Arabia.

“There needs to be a credible investigation to establish the truth about what happened, and – if relevant – to identify those bearing responsibility for the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, and ensure that they are held to account,” the foreign ministers said in the joint statement.

“We encourage joint Saudi-Turkish efforts in that regard, and expect the Saudi government to provide a complete and detailed response. We have conveyed this message directly to the Saudi authorities.”

Either way, nobody seems to know where he is, and with heavy bipartisan efforts to pressure Donald Trump into sanctions on Riyadh, the Saudis are already warning that they could easily drive the price of oil through the roof right before US midterm elections.

The Saudi stock market lost $33 billion of its value on Sunday amid investor worries about deteriorating international relations, one of the first signs of the economic pain that Riyadh could suffer over the affair.

In a column published just after the SPA statement, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya channel’s General Manager Turki Aldakhil warned that imposing sanctions on the world’s largest oil exporter could spark global economic disaster.

It would lead to Saudi Arabia’s failure to commit to producing 7.5 million barrels. If the price of oil reaching $80 angered President Trump, no one should rule out the price jumping to $100, or $200, or even double that figure,” he wrote.

U.S. senators have triggered a provision of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act requiring the president to determine whether a foreign person is responsible for a gross human rights violation. The act has in the past imposed visa bans and asset freezes on Russian officials.

Anti-Saudi sentiment in the U.S. Congress could conceivably raise pressure to pass the so-called No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act, which would end sovereign immunity shielding OPEC members from U.S. legal action.

Needless to say, oil at $200 a barrel would decimate the US economy overnight, and the Trump regime knows it.  Don't expect them to do anything about Khashoggi's disappearance.  If anything, expect them to continue to help cover the crime up.

Deportation Nation, Con't

Latinx voters despise the GOP, but Democrats have failed miserably to make the case that they can fix the problems facing communities in Arizona, Nevada, Florida and Texas, all home to the Senate races that will decide control of upper chamber in January. In a country where Donald Trump can end up in the Oval Office and any information you give the government can and will be used by ICE against your family, many Latinx voters are just tuning out politics altogether and will stay home in November.

Democrats and activists working to turn out Latino voters say they face several obstacles, some of them created by the party itself.

And they worry that anger toward Trump, rather than driving votes, is turning people off of politics altogether.

"The more noise there is in Washington, D.C., oftentimes it can be confusing and it can be intimidating to voters," said Dan Sena, who is overseeing an estimated $30 million outreach effort to young and minority voters as executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "I think there's been an intentional strategy from the White House to do that to communities of color."

Party organizers see potential in messages that emphasize bread-and-butter issues and community empowerment, but getting that to voters and registering new ones requires time, money and attention, all of which are in high demand to court other key voters.

About 55 percent of Latino voters reported that they had not yet been contacted by a campaign or party about registering to vote this year, according to a Latino Decisions survey for the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials last week.

Hispanic turnout traditionally lags behind other demographic groups, especially in midterm elections, where it dropped to a record low of 27 percent nationally in 2014, compared with 45 percent among whites, according to the Pew Research Center. And recent polls show Latinos less enthused about November than other minorities.

The issue is compounded by the fact that the Latino voting population skews younger than the overall one.

"Age by itself is the single biggest predictor of turnout and no other variable comes close," said Matt Barreto, co-founder of the polling firm Latino Decisions. "But overlaid on that, the reason young people don't vote is because they don't feel the system is responsive to them."

Some Democrats worry this dynamic has created a dangerous cycle of futility: The party needs to engage millions of young Hispanic voters to win tomorrow, but pursuing them means less time spent on voters who are likely to show up and decide elections today.

Young voters don't vote.  Latinx voters don't vote.  And young Latinx voters?  Forget about it.  If they did vote,  all those states would be solid blue.  But right now, they don't have a reason to care.

Sunday Long Read: The Walmart Of Heroin

Everything old is new again as Jennifer Percy's piece in NYT Magazine tells us, as Philly's Kensington neighborhood has become America's one-stop shop for heroin, serving the East Coast as America continues to lose the War on Drugs.

In the summer of 2017, when I first toured the area with Patrick Trainor, a special agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration, he called Kensington the largest open-air narcotics market for heroin on the East Coast. It’s known for having both the cheapest and purest heroin in the region and is a major supplier for dealers in Delaware, New Jersey and Maryland. For years, the heroin being sold in Kensington was pure enough to snort, but that summer, it was mixed with unpredictable amounts of fentanyl. In Philadelphia, deaths related to fentanyl had increased by 95 percent in the past year.

Philadelphia County has the highest overdose rate of any of the 10 most populous counties in America. The city’s Department of Health estimates that 75,000 residents are addicted to heroin and other opioids, and each day, many of them commute to Kensington to buy drugs. The neighborhood is part of the largest cluster of overdose deaths in the city. In 2017, 236 people fatally overdosed there.

“We have not only people from other parts of the state,” Trainor said, “we have people from other parts of the country who come here.” Every year, “drug tourists” from all over the United States visit Kensington for the heroin. Eunice Sanchez, a local pastor, put it more succinctly: the area, she said, was the “Walmart of heroin.”

Once a blue-collar factory neighborhood, Kensington was especially devastated when deindustrialization swept through the area in the 1950s. (Philadelphia neighborhoods don’t have officially designated boundaries, and the northeast section of the city, including West Kensington, East Kensington, Fairhill, Port Richmond and Olde Richmond, is often referred to as “Kensington.”) As the white population fled for the suburbs, Hispanic and African-American people moved in, and with few investments from the city, the drug market filled the economic vacuum. Houses transformed into drug dens, factories into spaces to shoot up, rail yards into homeless encampments. Most residents, many of them immigrant families who had come to Kensington for a better life, did not have the means to move.

In the early 2000s, Dominican gangs started bringing in Colombian heroin that was not only purer but much cheaper than heroin imported from Asia, which historically predominated. Kensington’s decentralized market kept competition high and prices low. Most corners were run by small, unaffiliated groups of dealers, making the area difficult to police; if a dealer was arrested, there was always someone there to replace him. The Philadelphia prison system has become the largest provider of drug treatment in the city. The police have realized that they can’t arrest the problem away, and they spend many of their calls reviving drug addicts with Narcan, an overdose-reversal spray. The D.E.A. focused on the high-level drug traffickers, not the guys working the streets, but the arrests did little to curb the growing demand.

“They call this the Badlands,” Elvis Campos, 47, said about Kensington. “Good people are held hostage in their homes.” Campos, who moved to the neighborhood 22 years ago, lives on a small, crumbling block next to a demolished crack house. “I didn’t know about the drugs when I came,” he said. “I found the house, and it was cheap
.” No one on his block used or sold drugs, he said, and his neighbors worked hard to keep it clean. But dealers were always around their homes trying to sell. “I tell them to leave,” Campos said. “I served in Iraq, and I think that’s why I’m good at telling drug dealers to get off the block.”

Like Campos, many residents had come to Kensington simply because they couldn’t afford housing anywhere else, and though many expressed empathy for the users, they also wanted them to leave. People cleared needles off their lawns, their front steps and the sidewalks where their children played. Some wouldn’t go anywhere unless they were in a car, but a lot of families were too poor to afford a car. They organized cleanups, lobbied City Council members and state representatives and asked for help from church groups, but the problem seemed insurmountable. The drug market, institutional racism, joblessness and the ravages of the war on drugs in the ’80s left the community struggling. “You see everything here,” one female resident told me. “Overdoses, shootings, killings. We are exposed to trauma every day just living here. It’s constant.”

Dealers fought for territory and intimidated police informants. The area has one of the highest rates of shootings and murders in the city. Less than two-thirds of the residents have a high school diploma, and only a fraction have a bachelor’s degree. Nearly half the residents live below the poverty line. And yet parts of the neighborhood were solidly working-class, and the edges of the neighborhood were gentrifying. “The narrative of the opioid crisis is focused on big-pharma greed,” ZoĆ« Van Orsdol, a public-health specialist, told me, “but in Kensington the reality is far more complicated.”

The residents are fighting back, but there's nowhere they can go.  They're trapped because nobody will buy their homes, so they can't move out.  Kensington never recovered from the bad ol' days of the 80's.   Both the city and the state are starting to remove encampments of homeless drug users, but treatment funding cuts from the Trump regime means that there's no extra money for getting users sober, so they just change locations.  And all the while, new addicts to big pharma painkillers know they can always go to Kensington if they need to take the edge off.

It's a human disaster and there's no end in sight.

Failing Egregious Meatheads, Again

72 hours after Hurricane Michael ripped into the Florida Panhandle, southern Georgia and the Carolinas, once again Brock Long and FEMA are nowhere to be found as residents are without food, water, shelter, and power for the foreseeable future.

Hurricane Michael’s sudden transformation into a storm that is unprecedented for the Florida Panhandle haunts everyone who lived through it. “It was raw power,” says Panama City resident Walter McAlster, “you felt you were in it, not outside and didn’t know if you would live through it. You knew that everything was going to change the landscape forever.”

And it did, in the span of three hours.

The destruction is everywhere, at every corner for as far as the eye can see. Mexico Beach, where the hurricane’s eyewall slammed into Florida with 140 mph winds, is flattened. Panama City, gem of the Emerald Coast, looks like a bomb had been dropped on it. Is now a desolate landscape of countless toppled power poles, transformers, electical lines, severed trees, and metal roofings, twisted and tangled into a sea of debris covering every road. Nearly all homes, businesses, stores, banks, schools are severely damaged or destroyed, skeletal remains with blown out windows or crushed facades. To residents, it is unrecognizable.

There is so much rubble that the official death toll of 14 is expected to rise as search-and-rescue teams inspect thousands of buildings, looking for the the missing. On Friday, a team from the Miami Fire Department found a body in a Mexico Beach home.

The flood of debris has rendered most roads and streets virtually impassible for evacuees and first responders. Electric poles bent at 90 degrees and power lines strewn like spaghetti cover most lanes. Nearly all transformers were destroyed. Vehicles dodge trees that look like they were split like toothpicks or pulled up from the ground as if by giants.

Driving across the Apalachicola National Forest reserve that borders the coast was like touring a cemetery: endless rows of decapitated trees, leaning perfectly aligned like fallen prisoners who had been executed. Thirty-foot tall electrical poles split in half, their power lines strewn across the macadam. It went on like this for 60 miles.

Since the storm, there’s been no electricity and no water in Panama City. Emergency disaster relief was yet to be seen in strength as of Saturday morning and residents are growing more frustrated and desperate by the day.

Chantell Goolspy sat in her car making phone calls to get help. Goolspy and many of her neighbors live in a public housing area in downtown Panama City that was badly devastated.

“We’re in need of food, water, anything, we’re not getting any help. The whole street needs help,” Goolspy told the Red Cross. “FEMA referred me to you. That person told me to call 211.”
Down the street, Barbara Sanders stood outside her daughter’s unit where she had come to stay during the hurricane.

“We’re not getting any help,” she said. “We need food. It’s just crazy.”

Sanders said not a single relief agency had come by to check on them. Only the police had come and it was to tell everyone to leave. “They told us there’s nothing they can do and it’s gonna take a long time to rebuild,” Sanders said.

The greatest country in the world got caught flatfooted on the response to yet another hurricane, and people are somehow surprised.  Meanwhile, Donald Trump continues to stump for Republicans in the Midwest, telling everyone how great he is, while hundreds of thousands are suffering across the Southeast.

Just another reminder that Trump and the GOP don't particularly care, and never did.  You're on your own, Florida.

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