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Arizona Executioners Had To Use 15 Doses of Lethal Drugs Before Inmate Finally Died

| Sat Aug. 2, 2014 6:30 AM EDT

Documents released Friday afternoon in the case of Arizona's  botched execution of Joseph Wood—who gasped for air and struggled, according to witnesses, repeatedly during the two-hour process—show that  executioners used 15 separate doses of a new drug cocktail before Wood finally died. Lawyers had warned that the combination of 50 milligrams hydromorphone (a pain killer) and 50 milligrams of midazolam (a sedative) was rife with potential problems. (The state also has a long history of failing to follow its own protocol.) The documents suggest they were right.

"Instead of the one dose as required under the protocol, ADC injected 15 separate doses of the drug combination, resulting in the most prolonged execution in recent memory," said Dale Baich, Wood's lawyer. "This is why an independent investigation by a non-governmental authority is necessary.”

Ohio  used a similar drug cocktail in January to execute Dennis McGuire, who gasped and snorted for 25 minutes before finally succumbing, the longest execution in Ohio history. Arizona apparently increased the dosage of midazolam from what Ohio had used, but it doesn't seem to have gotten any better results.

When officials in Ohio and elsewhere first expressed their intent to experiment with the midazolam/hydromorphone combination, experts predicted, as Mother Jones' Molly Redden reported, that little was known about how the new drug combinations would work in executions. She wrote:

Jonathan Groner, a professor of clinical surgery at the Ohio State University College of Medicine who has written extensively on the death penalty, says effects of a hydromorphone overdose include an extreme burning sensation, seizures, hallucination, panic attacks, vomiting, and muscle pain or spasms. [David Waisel, an associate professor of anesthesiology at Harvard Medical School], who has testified extensively on capital-punishment methods, adds that a hydromorphone overdose could result in soft tissue collapse—the same phenomenon that causes sleep apnea patients to jerk awake—that an inmate who had been paralyzed would be unable to clear by jerking or coughing. Instead, he could feel as though he were choking to death.

Because hydromorphone is not designed to kill a person, Groner says, there are no clinical guidelines for how to give a lethal overdose. "You're basically relying on the toxic side effects to kill people while guessing at what levels that occurs," he explains.

The new Arizona documents suggest that these assessments were dead on.

State officials are using new drug combinations because pharmaceutical companies have been refusing to sell or export the drugs traditionally used in executions. The US has seen a shortage of those drugs for several years now, and death penalty states have gone to increasingly desperate measures to kill their condemned, everything from illegally importing the old drugs to buying them from dubious compounding pharmacies. Arizona illustrated the latest gambit—using new combinations of other available drugs, something critics have called an unethical human experiment.

States have also gone to great lengths to hide information about the drugs they're using in executions and how they're getting them. In Arizona, Wood was just the latest of many death row inmates who have tried and failed to force states to be more transparent. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Wood in late July and agreed that he had a right to know how he was going to die. But the US Supreme Court overruled that decision and allowed the execution to go forward.

 

 

 

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The Minnesota Vikings' New Stadium Will Be a "Death Trap" for Birds

| Sat Aug. 2, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

The Minnesota Vikings' new football stadium was supposed to be a point of pride for fans. The $1 billion state-of-the-art facility in the heart of downtown Minneapolis is set to be completed in 2016, and will put the crumbling Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome out of its misery. But a number of groups are getting angrier about a darker side to this dream project: The stadium's shiny glass walls, which are almost certain to pose a lethal hazard to migrating birds.

Watch Stephen Colbert Give Great, And Completely Unironic, Advice to Teen Girls

| Fri Aug. 1, 2014 8:05 PM EDT

Stephen Colbert's wife of two decades, Evelyn McGee-Colbert, once told Oprah she didn't like his TV alter-ego—someone she calls "that other guy." In this video, as he offers advice to teenage girls wearing a plaid button-down and thick-framed hipster glasses, he's definitely left the other guy behind.

When Loretta, 14, asks why some guys are jerks, he says to confront them (they may just be trying, badly, to get her attention), but also:

For this kind of thing to stop, boys have to be educated. Does our society educate boys to be misogynistic? It probably doesn't value girls and women as much as it should, and boys probably see that as a signal that they can get away with things like devaluing women.

For Maria, 19, who asks how you can tell when someone likes you, he ends up defining love: when someone thinks "your happiness is more important than their happiness." And cookies. "Cookies are also a really good sign that somebody likes you."

The video is part of the girl-positive Rookie Magazine's series "Ask a Grown Man." Earlier last year, Rookie's fashionista founder, then 16-year-old Tavi Gevinson, was the youngest person ever to appear on The Colbert Report, where she gave the self-proclaimed "pear-shaped" Colbert style suggestions and called him a "Cool Dad" (capitals hers).

At the time, Colbert—a father of three, including 18-year-old Madeleine—wasn't thinking of dispensing sage advice for Rookie. Instead he proposed a dad-inspired magazine project in which he would veto pictures of teen girls' skin-baring outfits in a column called "You're Not Wearing That."

Obama: "We Tortured Some Folks"

| Fri Aug. 1, 2014 4:58 PM EDT

On Friday, President Obama said that some of the things the United States did after 9/11 were indeed acts of torture. National Journal has the full quote:

Obama also addressed post-9/11 America in remarks about the Central Intelligence Agency. "We tortured some folks," he said. "We did some things that were contrary to our values. I understand why it happened. I think it's important when we look back to recall how afraid people were after the Twin Towers fell, and the Pentagon had been hit, and a plane in Pennsylvania had fallen and people did not know whether more attacks were imminent and there was enormous pressure on our law enforcement and our national security teams to try to deal with this."

This isn't the first time Obama has said that the US tortured people but the usage of "folks" immediately set tongues wagging. Presumably it's because "folks" is far more humanizing than "detainees" or "enemy combatants".  The US did torture people (real flesh-and-blood human people) after 9/11, and it's good that Obama says so—even if he was just trying to get off the topic of his CIA admitting to spying on Congress.

For a long time it was incredibly controversial to call "enhanced interrogation" torture. It's a sign of progress that no one batted an eye at the "torture" bit and instead focused on the "folks" part. To their credit, even conservatives have come around to using the dreaded T word. Just kidding. Conservatives are freaking out:

Barack Obama is an inexperienced "celebrity" community organizer/campaigner-in-chief who won't stop apologizing for America and was only elected president because of The Decemberists.

Friday Cat Blogging - 1 August 2014

| Fri Aug. 1, 2014 3:00 PM EDT

Domino's new favorite snoozing spot is the closet in our master bedroom. Naturally, knowing that everyone would want to be kept up to date on this development, I took a picture. Unfortunately, it turns out that cameras need a stream of photons to work properly, and the inside of a closet doesn't have many. So all I got were a bunch of black blurs. Soon enough, though, Domino saw the camera and came out. So I followed her over to the water dish, and eventually took a picture there. Even with plenty of help from Mr. Photoshop, however, it wasn't very good either. So I waited. Eventually, Domino went back into the closet and curled up, and this time I took some pictures with the flash.

Which picture to use? I hate flash pictures. I especially hate them when they basically lie—making a dark closet look brightly lit, for example. But the other picture was pretty lousy. Decisions, decisions. In the end, I opt for lousy but honest. Let's call it "Still Life With Two Cats" just to make it seem a little more refined. Like Domino.

John Brennan Needs to Leave the CIA, One Way or Another

| Fri Aug. 1, 2014 1:43 PM EDT

What's going on with the CIA hacking into Senate computers? Here's a very brief, very telescoped timeline to get you up to speed:

2009: The Senate Intelligence Committee begins working on an investigation of CIA torture during the Bush administration. Then CIA Director Leon Panetta secretly orders a parallel internal review.

December 2012: The Senate finishes a draft of its report and submits it to the CIA for review and declassification.

March 2013: John Brennan takes over from David Petraeus as CIA director.

June 2013: The CIA issues a blistering response to the Senate report, vigorously disputing its conclusions that the CIA routinely engaged in brutal torture of detainees.

December 2013: Sen. Mark Udall reveals the existence of the "Panetta Review"—actually a series of memos—written at the same time Senate staffers were collecting material for their report. He suggests that it "conflicts with the official C.I.A. response to the committee’s report." In plainer English: the CIA lied about what its own review concluded.

The CIA, apparently under the impression that Senate staffers had gotten access to the Panetta Review improperly—and had removed copies from their secure reading room at CIA headquarters—hacks into the computers used by Senate staffers. As part of their secret investigation, they read emails and do a keyword search to find out how the Senate staffers had gotten access to the memos. No one on the Senate is aware of any of this.

January 2014: The CIA presents the results of its investigation to the Senate Intelligence Committee and accuses its staffers of misconduct. They also refer the matter to the FBI for criminal investigation.

March 2014: Sen. Dianne Feinstein launches a blistering attack on the CIA for hacking into the Senate computers in violation of an explicit agreement that they wouldn't do so. Brennan counterattacks vigorously. "As far as the allegations of the CIA hacking into Senate computers, nothing could be further from the truth," he says.

Yesterday: The CIA inspector general releases a report conceding that the "factual basis" for the FBI referral of the Senate staffers was "not supported" and that five CIA staffers did indeed hack into Senate computers. In other words, Brennan was very badly mistaken in March when he loudly insisted that nothing of the sort had happened.

So then: The CIA lied about the conclusions of its own internal review. The Senate found out about this. The CIA then hacked into Senate computers to find out how they had discovered the incriminating evidence. Then they lied again, denying that they had done this. David Corn lays out two possible explanations for Brennan's misleading statements in March:

Either he knew that his subordinates had spied on the Senate staffers but had claimed otherwise, or he had not been told the truth by underlings and had unwittingly provided a false assertion to the public. Neither scenario reflects well upon the fellow who is supposed to be in-the-know about the CIA's activities—especially its interactions with Congress on a rather sensitive subject.

Nope. Either way, he ought to resign or be fired. This is simply not excusable behavior in a public official.

UPDATE: I've reworded the sentence about the IG report. It did not explicitly find that Senate staffers had done nothing wrong. It said that the CIA filed a crimes report against the staffers, but that "the factual basis for the referral was not supported, as the author of the referral had been provided inaccurate information on which the letter was based.  After review, the DOJ declined to open a criminal investigation of the matter alleged in the crimes report."

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Should Pundits Apologize More Often?

| Fri Aug. 1, 2014 11:55 AM EDT

From Dan Drezner:

One norm I’d really like to see emerge is pundits admitting error and apologizing when they get things wrong, and Frum did that.  But I’m curious what other norms, if any, should be strengthened among the pontificating class.

I'd dissent slightly from this. Should pundits do a better job of admitting when they get things wrong? Sure. Who can argue with that? But should they apologize? I'm not so sure. Being wrong isn't a sin, after all, especially for someone in the business of offering up opinions. I'd be happy to see a bit more self-reflection about what caused the error, but there's no need for an apology.

Now, Drezner wrote this in the context of David Frum's allegation that a New York Times photo had been faked, which turned out to be untrue. This is obviously a case that calls for an apology since Frum accused someone of wrongdoing. But that's a bit different from simply being wrong in an analytic or predictive way. That kind of error, as long as it's honest, deserves some reflection, but not an apology.

Opposition to Obamacare Suddenly Spiked in July

| Fri Aug. 1, 2014 11:16 AM EDT

Here's the latest news on Obamacare from the Kaiser Family Foundation: it suddenly became a lot more unpopular in July:

So what happened? I can't think of any substantive news that was anything but good, so I figure it must have been the Hobby Lobby decision. Did that turn people against Obamacare because they disapproved of the decision? Or because it reminded them that Obamacare pays for contraceptives? Or what? It's a mystery, all the more so because every single demographic group showed the same spike. Democrats, Republicans, and Independents all spiked negative. The rich and the poor spiked negative. The young and the old spiked negative. Ditto for men, women, whites, blacks, and Hispanics. It's a little hard to figure out why the Hobby Lobby decision would have affected everyone the same way, but I can't think of anything else that happened over the past month that could have caused this. It certainly wasn't John Boehner's lawsuit, and I very much doubt it was the Halbig decision.

So it's a bit of a puzzler—though perhaps another chart explains it. It turns out that in conversations with family and friends, people have heard bad things about Obamacare more than good things by a margin of 27-6 percent. Likewise, they've seen more negative ads than positive by a margin of 19-7 percent. Roughly speaking, the forces opposed to Obamacare continue to be louder and more passionate than the forces that support it. I don't think that's actually changed much recently, so it probably doesn't explain the sudden spike in July's polling. But it might explain part of it.

Or, it might just be a statistical blip. Who knows?

Chart of the Day: Net New Jobs in July

| Fri Aug. 1, 2014 10:22 AM EDT

The American economy added 209,000 new jobs in March, but about 90,000 of those jobs were needed just to keep up with population growth, so net job growth clocked in at 119,000. The headline unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 6.2 percent.

The jobs number is a little lower than expected, and continues to show that the recovery is weak. On the bright side, the unemployment number increased not because more people were out of work, but because more people were entering the labor force. It's basically not a negative sign. As Jared Bernstein says:

There is some evidence that the all-important labor force participation rate may be stabilizing. It rose a tenth last month to 62.9%, but has wiggled between 62.8% and 62.2% since last August. If the firming job market has in fact arrested the decline in this key metric of labor supply, it will be an important and favorable sign.

Overall, the economy still appears to be dog paddling along. GDP growth is OK but not great; jobs growth is OK but not great; and wage growth is positive but not by very much. More and more, this is starting to look like the new normal.

Watch Drought Take Over the Entire State of California in One GIF

| Fri Aug. 1, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

California, the producer of half of the nation's fruits, veggies, and nuts, is experiencing its third-worst drought on record. The dry spell is expected to cost the state billions of dollars and thousands of jobs, and farmers are digging into groundwater supplies to keep their crops alive. We've been keeping an eye on the drought with the US Drought Monitor, a USDA-sponsored program that uses data from soil moisture and stream flow, satellite imagery, and other indicators to produce weekly drought maps. Here's a GIF showing the spread of the drought, from last December 31—shortly before Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency—until July 29.