July 24, 2014 archive

The Death Penalty: When Do We End State Sponsored Barbarism?

In the barbaric custom of using secret drugs to execute prisoners, the state of Arizona botched another state sponsored murder taking nearly two hours for convicted murder Joseph R. Wood III to die.

In another unexpectedly prolonged execution using disputed lethal injection drugs, a condemned Arizona prisoner on Wednesday repeatedly gasped for one hour and 40 minutes, according to witnesses, before dying at an Arizona state prison.

At 1:52 p.m. Wednesday, one day after the United States Supreme Court overturned a stay of execution granted by a federal appeals court last Saturday, the execution of Joseph R. Wood III commenced.

But what would normally be a 10- to 15-minute procedure dragged on for nearly two hours, as Mr. Wood appeared repeatedly to gasp, according to witnesses including reporters and one of his federal defenders, Dale Baich. [..]

Arizona officials said they were using the same sedative that was used in Oklahoma, midazolam, together with a different second drug, hydromorphone, a combination that has been used previously in Ohio. Similar problems were reported in the execution in Ohio in January of Dennis McGuire, using the same two drugs. He reportedly gasped as the procedure took longer than expected.

Capital punishment by lethal injection has been thrown into turmoil as the supplies of traditionally used barbiturates have dried up, in part because companies are unwilling to manufacture and sell them for this purpose.

A court order was issued to preserve Mr. Wood’s body and anything that was used during the execution. The medical examiner was also ordered to take blood and tissue samples by 11 PM last night but he refused to comply with the deadline.

While Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) has ordered the State Department of Corrections to review the execution, Mr. Wood’s attorneys have called for an independent inquiry:

“There has to be a thorough and independent review of what happened here and the Arizona execution protocol,” Dale Baich, a member of Wood’s legal team, told the Guardian.

Wood’s death reignites controversies about state secrecy and the suitability of drugs used to execute prisoners. It was the third time this year that a lethal injection procedure has gone wrong, following problems in Ohio and Oklahoma.  [..]

“We were concerned that the mixture of midazolam and hydromorphone had only been used in one prior execution and that did not turn out well, so we were very concerned about that and that’s why we asked as one of our requests: how did the state come up with the formula that it was using?” Baich said.

This is an experiment by people who have no clue about what they are doing and is barbaric. It just needs to stop.

Last Dance for Dave?

Rumors Swirling That David Gregory Will Dumped From Meet The Press After Midterm Elections

By: Jason Easley, PoliticusUSA

Wednesday, July, 23rd, 2014, 4:55 pm

It has been reported by mainstream outlets like The Washington Post that David Gregory is on thin ice. The constant reports that NBC News is thinking about making a change on Meet The Press are becoming a where there’s smoke, there’s fire situation. The one fact in the NY Post report is that ratings have plummeted since Gregory took over for Tim Russert.

Judging from all of the media reports, it seems that NBC will only look in house if they get rid of David Gregory. This would be a huge mistake. A Chuck Todd or Morning Joe led Meet The Press won’t be any better than Gregory’s version of the show. I have long suggested that Rachel Maddow be given the job, but she is apparently viewed as too partisan (read: too liberal and too not a heterosexual white male) to anchor a Sunday morning show.

The problems at Meet The Press go beyond David Gregory. The show itself, much like the rest of Sunday morning political talk, is dominated by Republicans. The faces on the Sunday shows don’t match the changing face of the country. The Sunday shows tend to be dominated mostly by older white men while the country is getting younger, browner, and more female. The Sunday shows are out of step with leftward direction of the nation.

Meet The Press would be best served if NBC News dumped Gregory, and looked outside of the NBC family for his replacement. If they have to stay in house and refuse to hire Maddow, Chris Hayes, who ironically enough, is killing MSNBC’s primetime ratings would be an excellent host for Meet The Press. Hayes’s style has been a painful fit on cable news primetime, but he would make an excellent Sunday morning host. Hayes was excellent as the host of MSNBC’s Up, and he is capable of interviewing both Republicans and Democrats.

Ok, so there’s something wacky about the page in my browser (Seamonkey 2.26.1), but you can cut and paste it to get the whole piece, and don’t be put off by the obscurity of the source, I’ve seen it other places and this was the easiest to find.

So this is good news right?  Anybody would be better than Dancin’ Dave!

Hold on there.  Would Chris Todd really be an improvement?  Joe and Mika (the Beltway Bootlicker favorites)?

Even the Sainted Rachel has shown a noted ability to ignore in her own network the problems she cheerfully exopses in others.

But Chris, Chris Hayes, surely we can count on him!

‘Witch Hunt’: Fired MSNBC Contributor Speaks Out on Suppression of Israel-Palestine Debate

By Max Blumenthal, Alternet

July 22, 2014

Jebreal said that in her two years as an MSNBC contributor, she had protested the network’s slanted coverage repeatedly in private conversations with producers. “I told them we have a serious issue here,” she explained. “But everybody’s intimidated by this pressure and if it’s not direct then it becomes self-censorship.”

With her criticism of her employer’s editorial line, she has become the latest casualty of the pro-Israel pressure. “I have been told to my face that I wasn’t invited on to shows because I was Palestinian,” Jebreal remarked. “I didn’t believe it at the time. Now I believe it.”

An NBC producer speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed Jebreal’s account, describing to me a top-down intimidation campaign aimed at presenting an Israeli-centric view of the attack on the Gaza Strip. The NBC producer told me that MSNBC President Phil Griffin and NBC executives are micromanaging coverage of the crisis, closely monitoring contributors’ social media accounts and engaging in a “witch hunt” against anyone who strays from the official line.

“Loyalties are now being openly questioned,” the producer commented.

The suppression campaign culminated after Jebreal’s on-air protest during a July 21 segment on Ronan Farrow Daily.

“We are disgustingly biased on this issue. Look at how much airtime Netanyahu and his folks have on air on a daily basis, Andrea Mitchell and others,” Jebreal complained to Farrow. “I never see one Palestinian being interviewed on these same issues.”

When Farrow claimed that the network had featured other voices, Jebreal shot back, “Maybe for thirty seconds, and then you have twenty-five minutes for Bibi Netanyahu.”

Within hours, all of Jebreal’s future bookings were cancelled and the renewal of her contract was off the table. The following day, Jebreal tweeted: “My forthcoming TV appearances have been cancelled. Is there a connection to my expose and the cancellation?”

According to the NBC producer, MSNBC show teams were livid that they had been forced by management to cancel Jebreal as punishment for her act of dissent.

At the same time, social media erupted in protest of Jebreal’s cancellation, forcing the network into damage control mode. The role of clean-up man fell to Chris Hayes, the only MSNBC host with a reputation for attempting a balanced discussion of Israel-Palestine. On the July 22 episode of his show, All In, he brought Jebreal on to discuss her on-air protest.

In introducing Jebreal, Hayes took on the role of the industry and network defender: “Let me take you behind the curtain of cable news business for a moment,” Hayes told his viewers. “If you appear on a cable news network, you trash that network and one of its hosts by name, on any issue – Gaza, infrastructure spending, sports coverage, funny internet cat videos – the folks at the network will not take kindly to it.”

In fact, MSNBC Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough has publicly attacked fellow MSNBC hosts and slammed the network for its support for the Democratic Party.

“I did not think that i was stepping in a hornet’s nest,” Jebreal told me. “I saw Joe Scarborough criticizing the network. I thought we were liberal enough to stand self criticism.”

Yet when she appeared across from Hayes, Jebreal encountered a defensive host shielding his employers from her criticism. “We’re actually doing a pretty good job” of covering the Israel-Palestine crisis, Hayes claimed to her. “I think our network, and I think the New York Times and the media all around, have been doing a much better job on this conflict.”

Jebreal appeared on screen as a “Palestinian journalist” – her title as a MSNBC contributor had been removed. When she insisted that American broadcast media had not provided adequate context about the 8-year-long Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip or the roots of Palestinian violence, Hayes protested that he had wanted to host Hamas officials alongside the Israeli government spokespeople he routinely featured but that it was practically impossible.

“Not all Palestinians are Hamas,” Jebreal vehemently replied.

“Airtime always strikes me as a bad metric,” Hayes responded. “I mean there are interviews and then there are interviews. I had [Israeli government spokesman] Mark Regev on this program for 16 minutes, alright? That’s a very long interview but there was a lot to talk to him about.”

The NBC producer remarked to me that the network’s public relations strategy had backfired. Hayes’ performance was poorly received on social media while Jebreal appeared as another maverick journalist outcasted by corporate media for delivering uncomfortable truths.

For her part, Jebreal told me she was disturbed by Hayes’ comments. “I admire that Chris [Hayes] wanted to have me on but it seems like he was condoning what happened to me,” she said. “He was saying, ‘What do you expect? We rally around our stars.’ Well, I rally around reality, if that still matters in media.”

Oh, You Thought Cable News Was About The Truth?

By Susie Madrak, Crooks & Liars

July 23, 2014 9:39 am

Say what? Was that Chris Hayes, the voice of moral reason, blowing off MSNBC’s treatment of Jebreal as no big deal, par for the course?

Well, see, this is one of the reasons why I don’t get my news from cable teevee. Because (and I’m not going to blame Chris Hayes for wanting to keep his job, he’s got a mortgage and a couple of kids) inevitably, the same people we see as reliable voices become Villagers. Maybe not as dyed-in-the-wool as Mrs. Greenspan or Dancin’ Dave, but if they want to pay the bills, there’s an electric fence they dare not cross.

This started in earnest when television news morphed from a public service to a profit center, and it ain’t going back anytime soon. Problem is, a lot of us still remember the public service days.

Exactly.  This is an institutional problem.  Television News is to Journalism as a Cesspit to a Mountain Spring.

MSNBC’s Sole Palestinian Voice Rula Jebreal Takes on Pro-Israeli Gov’t Bias at Network & in US Media

Democracy Now!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A week after public outrage helped force NBC’s reversal of a decision to pull veteran reporter Ayman Mohyeldin out of Gaza, the sole Palestinian contributor to sister network MSNBC has publicly criticized its coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict. “We are disgustingly biased when it comes to this issue,” Rula Jebreal said Monday on MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow Daily, citing a disproportionate amount of Palestinian voices and a preponderance of Israeli government officials and supporters. Jebreal joins us to discuss her decision to speak out against MSNBC and her broader criticism of the corporate media’s Israel-Palestine coverage. An author and political analyst who worked for many years as a broadcast journalist in Italy, Jebreal also shares her personal story as a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship who is married to a Jewish man and has a Jewish sister.  (Transcript linked in article).

And who is this Ayman Mohyeldin of whom Rula Jebreal speaks?  Oh, he’s the NBC Gaza correspondent who filed the story about the Israeli Defense Forces bombing 4 Palestinian children playing soccer on the beach.  The one who got canned and then re-instated after enormous public outcry.  Not everyone is fooled by the propaganda you see.

Glenn Greenwald: Why Did NBC Pull Veteran Reporter After He Witnessed Israeli Killing of Gaza Kids?

Democracy Now!

Friday, July 18, 2014

NBC is facing questions over its decision to pull veteran news correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin out of Gaza just after he personally witnessed the Israeli military’s killing of four Palestinian boys on a Gaza beach. Mohyeldin was kicking a soccer ball around with the boys just minutes before they died. He is a longtime reporter in the region. In his coverage, he reports on the Gaza conflict in the context of the Israeli occupation, sparking criticism from some supporters of the Israeli offensive. Back in 2008 and 2009, when he worked for Al Jazeera, Mohyeldin and his colleague Sherine Tadros were the only foreign journalists on the ground in Gaza as Israel killed 1,400 people in what it called “Operation Cast Lead.” We speak to Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept, who has revealed that the decision to pull Mohyeldin from Gaza and remove him from reporting on the situation came from NBC executive David Verdi. Greenwald also comments on the broader picture of the coverage of the Israel/Palestine conflict in the U.S. media.  (Transcript linked in article).

NBC News Pulls Veteran Reporter from Gaza After Witnessing Israeli Attack on Children

By Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept

17 Jul 2014, 12:43 PM EDT

Yesterday, Mohyeldin witnessed and then reported on the brutal killing by Israeli gunboats of four young boys as they played soccer on a beach in Gaza City. He was instrumental, both in social media and on the air, in conveying to the world the visceral horror of the attack.

Mohyeldin recounted how, moments before their death, he was kicking a soccer ball with the four boys, who were between the ages of 9 and 11 and all from the same family. He posted numerous chilling details on his Twitter and Instagram accounts, including the victims’ names and ages, photographs he took of their anguished parents, and video of one of their mothers as she learned about the death of her young son. He interviewed one of the wounded boys at the hospital shortly before being operated on. He then appeared on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes, where he dramatically recounted what he saw.

Despite this powerful first-hand reporting – or perhaps because of it – Mohyeldin was nowhere to be seen on last night’s NBC Nightly News broadcast with Brian Williams. Instead, as Media Bistro’s Jordan Chariton noted, NBC curiously had Richard Engel – who was in Tel Aviv, and had just arrived there an hour or so earlier – “report” on the attack. Charlton wrote that “the decision to have Engel report the story for ‘Nightly’ instead of Mohyeldin angered some NBC News staffers.”

Indeed, numerous NBC employees, including some of the network’s highest-profile stars, were at first confused and then indignant over the use of Engel rather than Mohyeldin to report the story. But what they did not know, and what has not been reported until now, is that Mohyeldin was removed completely from reporting on Gaza by a top NBC executive, David Verdi, who ordered Mohyeldin to leave Gaza immediately.

Over the last two weeks, Mohyeldin’s reporting has been far more balanced and even-handed than the standard pro-Israel coverage that dominates establishment American press coverage; his reports have provided context to the conflict that is missing from most American reports and he avoids adopting Israeli government talking points as truth. As a result, neocon and “pro-Israel” websites have repeatedly attacked him as a “Hamas spokesman” and spouting “pro-Hamas rants.”

Last week, as he passed over the border from Israel, he said while reporting that “you can understand why some human rights organizations call Gaza ‘the world’s largest outdoor prison,'”; he added: “One of the major complaints and frustrations among many people is that this is a form of collective punishment. You have 1.7 million people in this territory, now being bombarded, with really no way out.”

So two questions for you dear reader, are you still sure Chris Hayes is any improvement or is the problem behind the camera; and two, is it sexist not to show the same support for Rula Jebreal that we did for Ayman Mohyeldin.  What would Hillary think?

When you’ve lost Tom Ricks…

Why Am I Moving Left?

By THOMAS E. RICKS, Politico

July 23, 2014

In my late 50s, at a time of life when most people are supposed to be drifting into a cautious conservatism, I am surprised to find myself moving steadily leftward.

I wonder whether others of my generation are similarly pausing, poking up their heads from their workplaces and wondering just what happened to this country over the last 15 years, and what do to about it.

The things that are pushed me leftward began with the experience of closely watching our national security establishment for decades. But they don’t end there. They are, in roughly chronological order:

Disappointment in the American government over the last 10 years. Our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were the first big shocks. I thought that invading Afghanistan was the right response to the 9/11 attacks, but I never expected the U.S. military leadership would be so inept in fighting there and in Iraq, running the wars in ways that made more enemies than were stopped. I believe that the invasion of Iraq was wrong, not only launched on false premises but also strategically foolish in that ultimately it has increased Iran’s power in the Middle East.

Torture. I never expected my country to endorse torture. I know that torture has existed in all wars, but to my knowledge, its use, under the chilling term “enhanced interrogation,” was never official U.S. policy until this century.

How we fought. I never thought that an American government would employ mercenaries in a war.

Intelligence officials run amok. I think that American intelligence officials have shown a contempt for the way our democracy is supposed to work in turning a vast and unaccountable apparatus on the citizens it is supposed to be protecting.

Growing income inequality. I also have been dismayed by the transfer of massive amounts of wealth to the richest people in the country, a policy supported over the last 35 years by successive administrations of both parties. Apparently income redistribution downward is dangerously radical, but redistribution upward is just business as usual. The middle class used at least to get lip service from the rich-“backbone of the country” and such. Now it is often treated like a bunch of saps not aware enough to evade their taxes.


The Breakfast Club July 24, 2014

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Breakfast Tunes

Le Tour 2014: Stage 18, Pau / Hautacam

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

The big contest yesterday was for King of the Mountains (Climbing competition) which will likely be decided after today with but a single Category 4 left tomorrow between the riders and the Champs-Élysées.  It is our 3rd and last day in the Pyrenees with a riding rest day and an Individual Time Trial left in play before the customary grand procession where it’s considered bad form for any but Sprinters to attempt to change their positions.

Rafal Majka was able to extend his lead in that contest over the 2nd place competitor Vincenzo Nibali and 3rd place Joaquim Rodriguez after withstanding an early charge by Vasil Kiryienka.  As for the General Classification Alejandro Valverde BelMonte, Thibaut Pinot, Jean-Christophe Péraud, Romain Bardet, and Tejay Van Garderen attempted to improve their positions heading into Saturday’s Time Trials where presumably Nibali is weakest (though pre-Tour that was rated his strongest discipline) with most of the attention on the contest between the 2 young French riders, Pinot and Bardet, none of them to much effect.

On the stage it was Rafal Majka, Giovanni Visconti (:29), Vincenzo Nibali and Jean-Christophe Péraud tied at :46, Allesandro De Marchi (:49), and Pierre Rolland (:52).  Frank Schleck led a group of 9 riders at under 2 minutes including Alejandro Valverde BelMonte, Thibaut Pinot, Romain Bardet, and Tejay Van Garderen.  In the General Classification it is Vincenzo Nibali, Alejandro Valverde BelMonte (5:26), Thibaut Pinot (6:00), Jean-Christophe Péraud (6:08), and Romain Bardet (7:34).  Everyone else is over 10 minutes behind.  For Points it is Peter Sagan (408), Bryan Coquard (233), Alexander Kristoff (217), Marcel Kittel (177), Mark Renshaw (153), Vincenzo Nibali (149), Greg Van Avermaet (147), and André Greipel (143).  Everyone else is 38 points behind.  In the In the Climbing contest it is Rafal Majka (149), Vincenzo Nibali (118), and Joaquim Rodriguez (112).  Everyone else is 46 points behind.  In Team competition it is AG2R, Belkin (26:43), Movistar (52:30), Sky (56:55), and BMC (59:33).  Everybody else is over an hour behind.  In Youth it is Thibaut Pinot, Romain Bardet (1:34), and  Michal Kwiatkowski (30:41).  Everybody else is 55 minutes or more behind.

Today’s 90 and a half mile stage from Pau / Hautacam is really about the last chance for a major shuffle.  If Nibali can emerge with anything like the margins he now holds any Time Trial speciallist will be hard pressed to make them up.  There are 80 points available in King of the Mountains so there’s at least the theoretical chance of movement, after today there are virtually no points left.  Peter Sagan would have to have something catastrophic happen and might win despite that.  You can expect Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet to battle to the end in the Youth competition.

This stage looks easy only in comparison to yesterday, 2 Category 3s and 2 Beyond Category.  The Sprint Checkpoint is after the 2 Category 3s.

Distance Name Length Category
Km 28.0 Côte de Bénéjacq 2.6 km @ 6.7% 3
Km 56.0 Côte de Loucrup 2 km @ 7% 3
Km 95.5 Col du Tourmalet (2 115 m) Souvenir Jacques Goddet 17.1 km @ 7.3% H
Km 145.5 Montée du Hautacam (1 520 m) 13.6 km @ 7.8% H

The Col du Tourmalet is legendary and they are going up the hard side.  It is long and steep, a little less than 3 km of 10% gradient.  Montée du Hautacam is, if anything, even worse.  It’s only marginally shorter and has a full 3 km of 10% gradient plus.  The finish is up hill, don’t expect to see a sprint.

On This Day In History July 24

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge

July 24 is the 205th day of the year (206th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 160 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1911, Machu Picchu discovered

American archeologist Hiram Bingham gets his first look at Machu Picchu, an ancient Inca settlement in Peru that is now one of the world’s top tourist destinations.

Tucked away in the rocky countryside northwest of Cuzco, Machu Picchu is believed to have been a summer retreat for Inca leaders, whose civilization was virtually wiped out by Spanish invaders in the 16th century. For hundreds of years afterwards, its existence was a secret known only to the peasants living in the region. That all changed in the summer of 1911, when Bingham arrived with a small team of explorers to search for the famous “lost” cities of the Incas.

Traveling on foot and by mule, Bingham and his team made their way from Cuzco into the Urubamba Valley, where a local farmer told them of some ruins located at the top of a nearby mountain. The farmer called the mountain Machu Picchu, which meant “Old Peak” in the native Quechua language. The next day–July 24–after a tough climb to the mountain’s ridge in cold and drizzly weather, Bingham met a small group of peasants who showed him the rest of the way. Led by an 11-year-old boy, Bingham got his first glimpse of the intricate network of stone terraces marking the entrance to Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu was built around 1450, at the height of the Inca Empire. It was abandoned just over 100 years later, in 1572, as a belated result of the Spanish Conquest. It is possible that most of its inhabitants died from smallpox introduced by travelers before the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the area. The latter had notes of a place called Piccho, although there is no record of the Spanish having visited the remote city. The types of sacred rocks defaced by the conquistadors in other locations are untouched at Machu Picchu.

Hiram Bingham theorized that the complex was the traditional birthplace of the Incan “Virgins of the Suns”. More recent research by scholars such as John Howland Rowe and Richard Burger, has convinced most archaeologists that Machu Picchu was an estate of the Inca emperor Pachacuti. In addition, Johan Reinhard presented evidence that the site was selected because of its position relative to sacred landscape features such as its mountains, which are purported to be in alignment with key astronomical events important to the Incas.

Johan Reinhard believes Machu Picchu to be a sacred religious site. This theory stands mainly because of where Machu Picchu is located. Reinhard calls it “sacred geography” because the site is built on and around mountains that hold high religious importance in the Inca culture and in the previous culture that occupied the land. At the highest point of the mountain in which Machu Picchu was named after, there are “artificial platforms [and] these had a religious function, as is clear from the Inca ritual offerings found buried under them” (Reinhard 2007). These platforms also are found in other Incan religious sites. The site’s other stone structures have finely worked stones with niches and, from what the “Spaniards wrote about Inca sites, we know that these (types of) building(s) were of ritual significance” (Reinhard 2007). This would be the most convincing evidence that Reinhard points out because this type of stylistic stonework is only found at the religious sites so it would be natural that they would exist at this religious site. Another theory maintains that Machu Picchu was an Inca llaqta, a settlement built to control the economy of conquered regions. Yet another asserts that it may have been built as a prison for a select few who had committed heinous crimes against Inca society. An alternative theory is that it is an agricultural testing station. Different types of crops could be tested in the many different micro-climates afforded by the location and the terraces; these were not large enough to grow food on a large scale, but may have been used to determine what could grow where. Another theory suggests that the city was built as an abode for the deities, or for the coronation of kings

Although the citadel is located only about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Cusco, the Inca capital, the Spanish never found it and consequently did not plunder or destroy it, as they did many other sites. Over the centuries, the surrounding jungle grew over much of the site, and few outsiders knew of its existence.

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