News, July 26th

Backgrounder: Why is the first U.S. hurricane of this year’s season called Hanna?

The first hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season has made landfall in the U.S. state of Texas on Saturday, with maximum winds of 90 mph and pouring rains, as well as flash flood warnings and stay-at-home advice.

The hurricane is called Hanna, a name that does not necessarily sound virile enough for the “significant structural damage” some countries have reported soon after it came.

Weather forecasters give each tropical cyclone a name to avoid confusion, but how are the names chosen?

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said that in the beginning, storms were named arbitrarily, until the mid-1900s, when people started giving storms women’s names.

In the pursuit of a more organized and efficient naming system, meteorologists later decided to identify storms using names from a list that is arranged alphabetically.

But it was not until 1979 when men’s names were introduced and began alternating with women’s names. Since then, tropical cyclones receive names in alphabetical order each year.

There is a strict procedure to determine a list of tropical cyclone names.

In general, tropical cyclones are named according to the rules at a regional level.

Atlantic tropical storms, for example, had been named from lists compiled by the U.S. National Hurricane Center since 1953, and are now maintained and updated through a strict procedure by an international committee of the WMO.

There are six lists that are being used for Atlantic tropical cyclones in rotation every six years. The 2020 list, for instance, will be used again in 2026.

There are 21 names in each list. Hanna, starting with an “H” is one of them, as well as other good ones such as Bertha for “B”, Josephine for “J”, and Teddy for “T”.

Currently, there is no name starting with the letters “Q,””U,””X,””Y,” or “Z.”

A name could be erased from the list if a storm is extremely deadly or costly, and a new name will be selected to replace it.

There are several names that have been retired. Infamous storm names include Mangkhut (Philippines, 2018), Irma and Maria (Caribbean, 2017), Haiyan (Philippines, 2013), Sandy (United States, 2012), and Katrina (United States, 2005).

In the event that more than twenty-one named tropical cyclones occur in the Atlantic basin in a season, additional storms will take names from the Greek alphabet.

The WMO said that “it is important to note that tropical cyclones/hurricanes/typhoons are not named after any particular person.”

One frequently asked question on the U.S. National Hurricane Center website is “Can I have a tropical cyclone named for me?”

The answer is no, euphemistically though.

Global Covid-19 deaths reach 645,715

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 645,715 people since emerging in China late last year, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1100 GMT on Sunday.

At least 16,072,290 cases of coronavirus have been registered in 196 countries and territories. Of these, at least 9,061,300 are now considered recovered.

The tallies, using data collected by AFP from national authorities and information from the World Health Organization (WHO), probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections.

Many countries are testing only symptomatic or the most serious cases.

On Saturday, 6,003 new deaths and 260,578 new cases were recorded worldwide. The countries with the newest deaths were Brazil with 1,211, followed by the United States with 1,067 and Mexico with 729.

The US is the worst-hit country with 146,463 deaths from 4,178,730 cases. At least 1,279,414 people have been declared recovered.

The next hardest-hit countries are Brazil with 86,449 deaths from 2,394,513 cases, the United Kingdom with 45,738 deaths from 298,681 cases, Mexico with 43,374 deaths from 385,036 cases and Italy with 35,102 deaths from 245,864 cases.

The country with the highest number of deaths compared to its population is Belgium with 85 fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by the United Kingdom with 67, Spain 61, Italy 58, and Sweden 56.

China – excluding Hong Kong and Macau – has to date declared 83,830 cases (46 new since Saturday), including 4,634 deaths and 78,908 recoveries.

Europe overall has 207,869 deaths from 3,061,857 cases, Latin America, and the Caribbean 182,511 deaths from 4,329,332 infections, while the United States and Canada have reported 155,381 deaths from 4,292,245 cases.

Asia has recorded 57,019 deaths from 2,456,523 cases, the Middle East 25,238 deaths from 1,087,157 cases, Africa 17,513 deaths from 829,127 cases, and Oceania 184 deaths from 16,057 cases.

As a result of corrections by national authorities or late publication of data, the figures updated over the past 24 hours may not correspond exactly to the previous day’s tallies.

Indigenous leader Raoni recovers from illness in Brazil

Chief Raoni Metuktire, an Indigenous leader who has become a symbol of the fight for Indigenous rights and preservation of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, has recovered from an illness after being hospitalized for 10 days, a doctor said Saturday.

Raoni had been taken to a private hospital in Sinop, a city in Mato Grosso state in western Brazil, from his home in the Xingu Indigenous reservation after suffering diarrhea and dehydration, said his great-nephew, Patxon Metuktire. Raoni had tested negative for the new coronavirus.

“Now I’m healed. I wanted to tell you that disease comes at any time. Think about it and love and respect each other because we don’t know tomorrow. The disease does not warn when it comes,” Raoni, the nearly 90-year-old Kayapó ethnic leader, said at a press conference.

Raoni “is still a little weak, but already strong enough to continue to lead his people,” said Dr. Douglas Yanai, adding that Raoni had been formally discharged. Raoni later left the hospital after logistics for his trip home were arranged.

According to the doctor, Raoni had been suffering low blood pressure and anemia. He had ulcers and had to undergo two blood transfusions. The Indigenous leader was very upset by the recent death of his wife.

Raoni has campaigned for decades for the protection of Indigenous territories in the Amazon and for the rainforest itself.

A 1978 documentary, “Raoni: The Fight for the Amazon,” helped make him famous, as did a 1989 tour with the musician Sting.

He has been an outspoken critic of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and visited European leaders last year to denounce Bolsonaro’s calls for developing Indigenous lands in the rainforest. Bolsonaro, who has rejected a call by French President Emmanuel Macron to meet Raoni, has said developing land is key to Brazil’s economic prosperity.

Republicans and Democrats want Mueller to testify again.  They may regret it.

Lindsey Graham once said he had no interest in hearing from Robert Mueller.

Now, 100 days out from Election Day, the South Carolina Republican and Senate Judiciary Committee chairman is teasing a blockbuster hearing with the former special counsel, joining Democrats’ months long push for Mueller to appear before the panel.

But hauling Mueller back to the Capitol won’t be easy. And some doubt it will even happen so close to the election, in part because of the political land mines such an event would create for both Republicans and Democrats.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a Judiciary Committee member, said in a brief interview. “I have seen nothing since that leads me to think [Graham] is actually going to call Mueller.”

Despite the public bipartisan agreement, there are real obstacles and risks to securing Mueller’s testimony. For Republicans, a strong defense by Mueller could shed unwelcome light on President Donald Trump’s previous statements and conduct in the final stretch of the election. For Democrats, another halting performance by the ex-FBI chief could give Trump and his allies more ammunition for their attacks on the investigations that have dogged Trump and his associates for years.

Then, there’s the logistical hurdles.

House Democrats faced an uphill battle to pressure a reluctant Mueller to testify last year; it took weeks of talks, and eventually a subpoena, for Mueller to appear before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees — an appearance Graham later called “not pretty.”

Negotiating with Mueller a second time won’t be any easier, and Graham said his staff isn’t yet in contact with Mueller or his team.

Graham is spearheading a comprehensive review of the origins of the Russia investigation, which ensnared President Donald Trump and his allies for years. And he’s eyeing testimony from former FBI bigwigs in the coming months, including former FBI Director James Comey and the ex-FBI deputy director, Andrew McCabe, even before hearing from Mueller.

That puts a potential Mueller hearing just weeks before Americans head to the polls. Democrats view Graham’s posture as simply an effort to discredit Mueller’s investigation and, in the process, boost a key theme of Trump’s reelection campaign as close to the November election as possible. Graham has maintained that his investigation has nothing to do with the election.

“He’ll be invited,” Graham reiterated last week. “[But] that’ll come at the end. I’m just working through the nuts and bolts.”

A spokesman for Mueller and former deputy special counsel Aaron Zebley, declined to comment on possible testimony before the panel.

With Graham’s investigation, Democrats also see an election-year plot by Republican senators to run cover for Trump, who has sought to hit back against those who spearheaded the various investigations that targeted him and his associates. To this day, Trump continues to remind Americans of the probes that he believes unfairly targeted him — an effort that invigorates his loyal base of supporters.

At the same time, Democrats still welcome Mueller’s appearance before the committee and dismiss the notion that it would be politically risky for them, leaning on Mueller to push back on Republicans’ characterizations of his investigation as unfounded and to defend what they believe was a properly predicated inquiry.

“They’ll hear more of the truth. It’s the old Harry Truman story — someone from the crowd called out, ‘Give ‘em hell, Harry.’ And he said, ‘I’m just going to tell them the truth and they’ll think it’s hell,’” Blumenthal quipped.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), another member of the panel, talked up Mueller as a skilled professional who is “more than capable” of defending his probe, which yielded 34 criminal indictments.

“I would think for people who are trafficking in these conspiracy theories and these unfounded allegations about Mueller, the risk is that he’ll be forceful and clear, and demonstrate that it was a well-predicated investigation,” Coons said in a brief interview.

In justifying their investigation into the origins of the Russia probe, Republicans point to several pieces of recently declassified information that calls into question the genesis of the investigation into potential ties between Trump associates and the Kremlin. That includes a Justice Department inspector general report that documented serious errors and abuses as part of the warrant application process for a former Trump campaign adviser.

Earlier this month, Graham released documents suggesting that senior FBI officials were initially skeptical of the emerging narrative early in Trump’s presidency that his campaign was in contact with Russian intelligence officers. Republicans assert that the risks of hearing from Mueller instead lie with Democrats, whom they say will be forced to defend an investigation riddled with biases and corruption.

“I want to know how, [did] this become a fishing expedition — and we got plenty of evidence that it should have never started in the first place,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the former Judiciary Committee chairman.

“Now, that’s probably not his fault. He didn’t make the decision to set up his job,” Grassley added of Mueller. “But it’s just kind of irritating that the president has gone through two years of Russia-gate, $30 million, and then you’ve got impeachment and I don’t know how many other things that ever since before he was elected president, they were going to get him out of office.”

Indeed, Republicans concede that their concerns about the Russia investigation have less to do with Mueller himself and focus more on the Justice Department officials who spearheaded the counterintelligence investigation that eventually spun off into the Mueller probe, after then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel.

Republicans have focused more of their ire on the Obama administration, specifically the senior FBI agents who opened and continued pursuing an investigation that Trump has said was a “hoax” and a “witch hunt,” even as more evidence began to emerge that Russia was interfering in the 2016 campaign to boost Trump’s prospects against Hillary Clinton.

“More and more disturbing evidence has come up about the politicization and corruption of the Obama FBI and Department of Justice, and I think it’s important for Mr. Mueller to describe what they knew and when they knew it,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a one-time Trump foe who has used his perch on the Judiciary Committee to hammer the Obama administration for its handling of the Russia probe.

Graham announced earlier this month that he would grant Democrats’ request for Mueller to appear before the committee, citing Mueller’s July 11 Washington Post op-ed in which he strongly defended his nearly two-year investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

In the op-ed, Mueller also defended his office’s prosecution of Roger Stone, the longtime Trump confidant whose prison sentence the president had commuted just a day earlier. Stone was convicted on seven counts including obstruction, witness tampering and making false statements.

“Bottom line is, I had no intention of calling Mr. Mueller. He testified before the House. It was not pretty to watch. But at the end of the day, Trey, he decided to interject himself into the Roger Stone case,” Graham said recently on a Fox News podcast with former Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.).

Democrats had said they were eager for Mueller to appear before the committee to allow him to more thoroughly justify his investigation, which has drawn consistent attacks from Trump and his allies, particularly as the committee continues to release new information about the probe’s origins.

Asked about the timing of Mueller’s possible appearance before the Senate, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), a Judiciary Committee member, said her party’s initial calls for Mueller to testify came months ago, noting that Democrats have since sought testimony from other central figures in the Russia investigation like Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort — only to be shut down by the committee’s Republican majority.

“That pretty much gives you an idea of where Lindsey is coming from with regard to getting to the truth of anything,” Hirono added.

Democrats insist they’re not afraid of what could come out of a Mueller hearing, even if it happens so close to the election. They said Americans would see through what they perceive to be a partisan stunt.

“Everything that Lindsey has been doing lately is really, in my view, for political purposes,” Hirono said. “And he’s very much in step with the president, who does nothing without a political motive behind it, which has to do with protecting — as we say in Hawaii — his okole.”

Trump’s federal repression election ploy spurs greater resistance

The Trump administration’s attempt to destroy the Portland Black Lives Matter movement by sending in federal forces has backfired.  Far from being intimidated, Portland residents were outraged when unannounced paramilitary units started grabbing protesters off the street, firing projectiles at demonstrators, and inundating them with tear gas. The movement swelled and strengthened.  By July 21, after 54 days of continuous protest, some 2,000 anti-racist demonstrators, including mothers in yellow t-shirts, and dads with leaf blowers, forced the federal troops to retreat inside Portland’s Federal Building, and trapped them there.

The Trump administration, however, intends to continue such provocative actions. Federal forces have been deployed to Seattle, despite the opposition of Mayor Jenny Durkam and Gov. Jay Inslee, and to Chicago, where Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said she agrees to the deployment which is being framed as a mission to fight violent crime. Trump said he may send federal troops New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, Baltimore and Oakland, and other cities run by his political opponents.

In just two months, this unprecedented uprising against racism and police murders has reached so deep in the popular culture that the 2020 baseball season opened July 23 with all 4 teams in the sport’s two leagues taking the knee in support of Black lives.

Yet Trump has not even acknowledged the epidemic of blatant police murders of African Americans nationally, much less done anything to address over policing and police killings.  Trump continues to fuel racism against Asian Americans by continuing blame China for COVID-19, even using a racist slur to describe the virus at his campaign rally in Tulsa.

In late June, the President signed an executive order to protect federal property from destruction. Protecting Portland’s federal building became the excuse for deploying U.S. marshals, BORTAC, the Border Patrol’s tactical unit, ICE troops and the Coast Guard to Portland on July 4, against will of local officials.

The aggressive actions of these elite units have been captured on video. They have snatched protesters off the street into unmarked vehicles. They have arrested 43 people to date, according to the July 25 New York Times.

They have beaten protesters with batons including breaking the hand of a 53-year-old man after he attempted to ask them if seizing civilian protesters violated their oath to defend the Constitution. They have attacked street medics and fired projectiles at protestors and at the media. The troops are using flash bomb and pepper balls, and tear gas in such copious amounts that it has filled all of downtown Portland.

Trump praised these thugs on July 20, saying they were doing a “fantastic job” in Portland.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, in a tweet on July 17 defended what his troops were doing with, of all things, pictures of graffiti on Portland’s federal building. The excuse for these aggressive attacks on protesters was the need to defend federal property from defacement by “violent extremists,” he claimed.

Far from being “violent extremists,” the young and mostly white protesters of Portland had staged largely peaceful demonstrations in support of Black lives throughout the city.  They became focused on the federal building only when Trump’s troops arrived, adding to their demand that federal troops leave Portland.

Anger over the federal deployment caused the protests to broaden and deepen. Among those now adding their voice for Black lives and against the fed occupation was the Wall of Moms. These women in yellow tee shirts formed a protective wall between the troops and the mostly young demonstrators who were being attacked by the feds. Pictures and videos show them linking arms in a human chain and chanting “Feds stay clear! Moms are here!” captured national attention. The moms were joined by men in orange t-shirts carrying leaf blowers to use against the tear gas and calling themselves the PDX Dad Pod.

The demonstrators’ message to the feds was “go home.” In the early hours of July 21, some 2,000 people “tore open the doors of a federal courthouse and then beat back the agents inside” a journalist on the scene reported on Twitter. The next day, using umbrellas as shields from the tear gas and projectiles fired by the feds, demonstrators managed to flush the federal troops out of the building.

Trump’s troop deployments are based on a myth his administration has created that cities run by Democratic mayors are “soft” and have let “crime” and “violent protests” get out of control. In truth, police occupation of Black communities and over policing are national phenomena.  Democratic mayors are just as responsible for police murders and brutality as Republican ones.

An on-line spread sheet catalogues more than 13,000 videos posted on Twitter of police brutality against demonstrators during the uprising against racism. The cities Trump calls “soft’ have police departments with long histories of unjustified murders of Black people, and, most recently of viciously attacking Black Lives Matter protesters.

For example, Portland activists have complained that the Portland police have used the same brutal tactics on protesters as the federal troops and have done so for some time. Mayor Tim Wheeler, who opposes the federal presence, and was actually tear gassed by them, is a case in point.  The Mayor is also Portland’s Chief of Police, making him responsible for the Portland police brutality, according to residents.

Seattle, another notably liberal, Democrat-dominated city in the Pacific Northwest, has a police department that was so violent it was placed under a federal consent decree. On the first major day of protests in the national uprising, some 12,000 complaints were filed against SPD for violence. Now, just in time for the arrival of the federal troops, despite Durkan’s pearl-clutching, Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best have gotten the consent decree federal judge to put a temporary restraining order on the implementation of a City Council passed ban on tear gas, pepper balls and other so-called non-lethal weapons at protests. This came after Best essentially threatened that cops would have to use “batons and bullets” on protesters instead. (Seattle Times)

New York, another city Trump considers “soft,” has a very long history of unjustified police murders of Black people. On July 22, at 4 am, a phalanx of cop moving in lockstep behind a wall of plastic shields stormed a homeless encampment in front of City Hall. They forced homeless people out and thew everything in the encampment–water tents, personal effects– into garbage trucks and had them carted away. In 2011 NYC cops destroyed the Occupy Wall Street encampment in the same way.

Donald Trump remains determined to reduce the mass and extremely diverse movement against racism to “dangerous criminals.”  He is not letting little things like facts get in the way. On July 21 Trump’s reelection campaign released a Facebook ad with an image of a group of protesters attacking a police officer alongside the words “public safety vs chaos & violence.” But that photo was not from the U.S. It was from a rightwing protest in Kyiv, Ukraine, in 2014, and was posted on Wikimedia as such.

The photographer, Mstyslav Chernov, confirmed to Business Insider that it is his photo from six years ago. Exposed, the Trump campaign has since made the ad inactive.

The rebellion against racism and for Black lives is a force in itself and will not be quelled by repression alone. Federal troops are headed to Chicago.  But what will they face? Inspired by the Wall of Moms that placed itself between the federal troops and protesters in Portland, a coalition of moms has formed in Chicago to help and defend any protest against federal intervention.  More than 3,000 joined the new group in its first 36 hours.

Published by jim

Curator of things...

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