Late, Late Night FDL: Mr Blue Sky

ELO – Mr Blue Sky

Jeff Lynne and ELO plan to release a new DVD and a new album soon…

Jeff Lynne‘s triumphant revival of the Electric Light Orchestra banner for a Sept. 2014 festival performance will get the home video treatment this fall, when Jeff Lynne’s ELO: Live in Hyde Park is scheduled to arrive in stores.

The concert film, due Sept. 11, is being released on DVD, Blu-ray and digital formats, and will include the documentary Mr. Blue Sky: The Story of Jeff Lynne & ELO alongside the band’s Hyde Park live performance, which marked ELO’s first appearance on a festival stage in nearly three decades. According to the Live in Hyde Park press release, Lynne “has been involved every step of the way with every aspect of this production, especially the audio delivery.”

“It seemed like the entire 50,000 were singing and clapping along, which carried on for the whole night. The Hyde Park concert turned out to be one of the most memorable shows ever for me,” says Lynne in a statement. “It’s important to me that viewers experience the Hyde Park show exactly as it was performed on the night … in stereo.”

For Lynne, who’s spent most of the last 25 years focusing on studio work, returning to the concert stage was an experience not without its share of jitters — but one that ultimately left him wanting more.

“For the last 20 years, I’ve been sitting down in the studio playing, so you have to learn all over again how to stand up and sing and play,” he admitted last year. “Once we got that good, that tight, we wanted to play another gig, but my manager said no. We were all fired up and it would’ve been perfect time to do it.”

Happily for fans who’ve been patiently waiting for new music, Lynne evidently feels that time hasn’t passed. Saying he’s “definitely” planning on scheduling some U.S. tour dates in the near future, he revealed, “I’m working on a new album, and that’ll be involved in the new times when we play.”

What’s on your mind tonite…?

SCOTUS rules against Oklahoma inmates challenging use of midazolam in executions

The SCOTUS held today by a vote of 5-4 in Glossip v. Gross, that three Oklahoma inmates awaiting execution failed to establish a likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that the use of midazolam as the first drug administered in a three-drug execution cocktail violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishmen because it “fails to render a person insensate to pain.”

Midazolam is a Schedule IV controlled substance, a benzodiazepine in the same class as diazepam, lorazepam, alprazolam and clonazepam. It has been approved for use in treating epileptic seizures, anxiety disorders and agitation. It is normally administered to patients to relax them before undergoing surgery or a medical procedure. It has never been approved by the manufacturer and the FDA for use in rendering people unconscious before administering a paralytic agent to inhibit all muscular-skeletal movements and potassium chloride to induce cardiac arrest.

Oklahoma and other states started using midazolam after the manufacturer of sodium thiopental, the barbiturate used to induce a state of unconsciousness before administering the other two drugs, objected to it being used to execute people and refused to sell it to any vendor who would sell or transfer it to states to use in executions.

The inmates based their argument on several botched executions where inmates appeared to be experiencing considerable distress before dying. They contended that midazolam failed to render those inmates unconscious while inducing a feeling described by one victim as burning up inside.

After a three-day evidentiary hearing, a United States District Court judge held that the inmates failed to identify an available alternative method that presented a substantially less severe risk of pain. The judge also held that the inmates failed to establish a likelihood that the use of midazolam created a risk of severe pain. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the decision.

Writing for the majority, Justice Alito affirmed the district court decision holding that the inmates failed to establish a likelihood of success on their Eighth Amendment claim.

Justice Sotomayor dissented, joined by Justice Breyer and Justice Kagan. Condemning the execution with midazolam as the equivalent of burning someone to death on a stake, she said,

The Court’s determination that the use of midazolam poses no objectively intolerable risk of severe pain is fac­tually wrong. The Court’s conclusion that petitioners’ challenge also fails because they identified no available alternative means by which the State may kill them is legally indefensible.

/snip/

“By protecting even those convicted of heinous crimes,the Eighth Amendment reaffirms the duty of the govern­ment to respect the dignity of all persons.” Roper v. Simmons, 543 U. S. 551, 560 (2005). Today, however, the Court absolves the State of Oklahoma of this duty. It does so by misconstruing and ignoring the record evidenceregarding the constitutional insufficiency of midazolam as a sedative in a three-drug lethal injection cocktail, and by imposing a wholly unprecedented obligation on the con­demned inmate to identify an available means for his orher own execution. The contortions necessary to save this particular lethal injection protocol are not worth the price.

I dissent.

Justice Breyer also wrote his own dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Ginsburg. He wrote,

I would ask for full briefing on a more basic question: whether the death penalty violates the Constitution….Today’s administration of the death penalty involves three fundamental constitutional defects: (1) serious unreliability, (2) arbitrariness in application, and (3) unconscionably long delays that undermine the death penalty’s penological purpose. Perhaps as a result, (4) most places within the United States have abandoned its use.

Breyer and Ginsburg with Sotomayor and Kagan close behind appear ready to stop tinkering with the machinery of death and decide that the death penalty violates the Eighth amendment, regardless of the underlying facts.

Read the slip opinion here: PDF

WikiLeaks Publishes NSA Documents Detailing Economic Espionage by ‘Five Eyes’ Alliance Against France

WikiLeaks French Economic Espionage Documents
Graphic created by WikiLeaks for release of documents showing French economic espionage

WikiLeaks published documents from the National Security Agency showing details of economic espionage against France by the “Five Eyes’ alliance, which consists of the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

One document is an “information need” spying order that was first created in 2002. It shows that the alliance sought information on economic relations with the United States, French business practices, relations with least developed countries and transitional states, foreign contracts, French trade, French views, views on G8/G20 developments/issues, budgetary constraints/contributions to NATO, and “questionable trade activities.”

The information gathered was supposed to support the CIA, Commerce Department, Federal Reserve, Treasury Department, State Department, US Trade Representative and Homeland Security Department. Any information collected was designated “releasable” to any of the “Five Eyes” countries.

Another document from 2012 shows particular interest in uncovering information on any “French contract proposals” or “negotiations for international sales or investments in major projects or systems of significant interest to the foreign host country,” especially those involving more than $200 million in sales and/or services.

Of particular interest was information on telecommunications networks or technology, electric power, natural gas or oil facilities and infrastructure, including nuclear power and renewable energy, transportation infrastructure, environmental technology, and health care infrastructure, services, and technology.

In one intercepted communication from about 2008, European Union Trade Section head Hiddo Houben and French Minister-Counselor for Economic and Financial Affairs Jean-Francois Boittin criticized US trade policy toward the World Trade Organization (WTO). Boittin was astonished at the “level of ‘narcissism’ and wasteful contemplation currently on display in Washington.”

Houben was especially critical of the Trans-Pacific Partnership initiative and how the US seemed to want to negotiate with every nation bordering China, “asking for commitments that exceed those countries’ administrative capacities so as to ‘confront’ Beijing.” If this took 10 years, Houben maintained China would grow disinterested in the process because the world would have changed so much. The US would have to return to the WTO, and it would prove that Washington had “no real negotiating agenda” for nations like China or Brazil.

In another summary of an intercepted communication that is believed to be from 2008, it is clear there was spying against French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte.  The diplomat considered confronting the US over corruption related to the United Nations’ oil-for-food program in Iraq after a report from the Iraq Survey Group.

“The ambassador termed the report scandalous, since it named no US companies and he claimed that many French companies with contracts under the OFF program were actually subsidiaries of US firms that also profited from the business dealings. He therefore planned, with foreign ministry backing, to present a list of these US companies to both the US Congress and the media,” according to the summary.

On July 31, 2012, a communication from Finance, Economy and Trade Minister Pierre Moscovici was intercepted. Moscovici indicated, “The French economic situation is worse than anyone can imagine and drastic measures will have to be taken in the next 2 years.”

The documents are the latest documents from WikiLeaks that have been released as part of a project, “Espionnage Élysée.”

“The United States has been conducting economic espionage against France for more than a decade,” WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange declared. “Not only has it spied on the French Finance Minister, it has ordered the interception of every French company contract or negotiation valued at more than $200 million.” (more…)

Supreme Court’s Rare Decision That Found Part of Law Used to Impose Harsh Mandatory Sentences Unconstitutional

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court ruled a part of the Armed Career Criminals Act (ACCA), which enables sentencing enhancements for “violent felonies,” unconstitutional because it is vague, requires “guesswork,” and denies defendants due process. Now, thousands of prisoners in the United States prosecuted under this law may potentially be resentenced.

The decision, issued on June 26 [PDF], marked the first time in over fifteen years that the court had found a criminal statute was void for vagueness. Leah Litman for Columbia Law Review previously pointed out, “Hispanic and black offenders receive the ACCA enhancement at higher rates than white offenders do.” The harsh mandatory minimum may explain why many defendants “plead guilty to avoid more extensive prison time.”

ACCA was a prelude to federal “three strikes” laws of the 1990s. In 1984, it was passed so that a 15-year mandatory minimum sentence could be imposed on any person convicted of possessing a firearm as a felon who also had three prior convictions for a “violent felony.”

The law defined “violent felony” as “any crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year” that “has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person of another.” It lists burglary, arson, or extortion, as well as the “use of explosives,” as crimes that would trigger the enhancement. But vague (and now unconstitutional) part of the law is the “residual clause” that says the law can be applied to any crime that “otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.”

The case the Supreme Court heard, Johnson v. United States, involved whether this part of ACCA covered Minnesota’s “offense of unlawful possession of a short-barreled shotgun.”

Samuel Johnson, a white supremacist, was monitored by the FBI in 2010 as he became more and more involved in a neo-Nazi organization. The FBI suspected he might be planning acts of terrorism. He informed undercover agents he planned to attack “the Mexican consulate” in Minnesota, “progressive bookstores,” and “liberals.” He showed agents “an AK-47 rifle, several semiautomatic firearms and over 1,000 rounds of ammunition.” Prosecutors sought a 15-year sentencing enhancement and were granted the mandatory minimum sentence under ACCA.

As Justice Antonin Scalia explains in the decision, “Since 2007, this court has decided four cases attempting to discern its meaning.” It ruled in 2007 this part of the law covered attempted burglary in Florida and, in 2011, the offense of “vehicular flight from a law enforcement officer” in Indiana. The court, however, ruled in 2008 that the law did not cover “driving under the influence” in New Mexico and, in 2009, that it did not cover “failure to report to a penal institution” in Illinois.

Over the past eight years, Scalia notes that the court made “repeated attempts” but repeatedly failed to “craft a principled and objective standard out of the residual clause.” Seeing how it is impossible to prevent any “risk comparison” from “devolving into guesswork and intuition,” it was deemed to be unfair. (more…)

The Roundup for June 28-29, 2015

Another week folks! Looking forward to the end!

International Politics

Overall

– Journalist Glen Ford and policy analyst Robert Naiman join The Real News to discuss whether the United Nations is able to effectively act on anything

– Sepp Blatter: Leaving FIFA is “liberating” not only for me, but the organization too

-France is considering, once the P5+1-Iran deal is signed, sanctions against Israel over settlements

– A European Union official praised the “political will” for an international deal

Middle East

– Activist Robert Lovelace and Robert Naiman join The Real News to talk about another flotilla heading to the Gaza Strip

– Israeli lawmakers are starting to, once again, marginalize Palestinian culture

An interview with journalist Max Blumenthal about his new book on the bombings of the Gaza Strip last year and the future of Gaza

– The Kuwait government detained a Saudi national, who they say helped the suicide bomber who killed 27 people at a mosque

-The Islamic State, in just one year, killed more than 3,000 people in Syria (more…)

Over Easy: Monday Science

funny-pictures-bunny-porcupine-flavorGreetings!

Hope everybody is psyched up for July 4th. We should have good weather here for the fireworks, we’re fortunate enough to have the Rozzi’s running the major displays in the area.

Fukushima update:

Major newspapers are finally asking the question “Where is the corium?”. The current official position is “we don’t know, but we’re SURE it’s all still in containment”. Simulations show that it must have melted through containment, but differ on if it’s actually through the floor and into the groundwater. Personal guess: #1 is on the floor, #2 is in the pedestal, #3 is at the bottom of Fuku bay.

Plume models show 1MBq/M**2 on US west coast after explosion. It appears that despite Government concern, the Nuke industry was able to spike additional studies.

Somebody noticed the Polonium. Polonium is a alpha emitter, so is usually ignored with a statement like “Alpha radiation doesn’t even penetrate the skin”. True that, HOWEVER if ingested in microgram quantities it can be fatal. And it has been used in assassination(s) before.

An NPG that hosts Japanese reports that “every single person” has health problems and their beds are generally bloodstained after use. Yet the JG feels that the evacuated areas are safe for people to return.

They are concerned enough about the Torus in the reactors that they’ve issued a call for proposals to reinforce them. How they will get close enough to do the work is going to have to be part of the proposals.

TEPCO’s original plan to remove fuel debris was to flood the reactor containment and work under water. They have finally admitted that won’t work as the containment areas don’t hold water.

How TEPCO plans to remove the temporary bolt together tanks and replace them with welded tanks. Almost all of the major leaks are from the bolted tanks, which were only supposed to last for two years or so.

Toshiba, supplier of two of the reactors at Fukushima, is also hurting because of the disaster.

Japan is building a wind farm to make up for some of the lost Nuke generation. They are still publicly committed to Nuclear Power, but citizen opposition to restarting is becoming a real concern to politicians running for re-election.

And one of the companies responsible for waste disposal has caught a computer virus.

New Horizons is on final approach to Pluto. When I was a kid, they expected that probe to launch in 1989. It only launched 27 years late. I’m oddly excited to see what it will see.

The Dawn probe is finding out neat things about Ceres. There’s water. There are two bright spots they can’t explain. And there’s a pyramid shaped mountain in the middle of nowhere.

Rosetta has been given an extension until Sept 2016. And the lander is awake and transmitting still!

Don’t eat porcupines.

Boxturtle (Poor Python!)

Late, Late Night FDL: I’ve Seen All Good People

Yes – I’ve Seen All Good People

R.I.P. Chris Squires…!

Chris Squire, the influential rock bassist who was a founding member of the celebrated British band Yes, died on Saturday in Phoenix. He was 67.

His death was confirmed by the band’s keyboardist, Geoffrey Downes. Mr. Squire, the only member to have played on every one of Yes’s albums and participated in every one of its tours, was being treated for acute erythroid leukemia and said last month that he would not be with Yes for its summer and fall tour, scheduled to begin on Aug. 7.

“I’m in pieces over it,” Mr. Downes said in a phone interview from his home in Wales. “The guy was a total legend.”

Yes, formed in 1968, was known for its blend of rock, jazz, folk and classical influences and also for its complex time signatures and pristine vocal harmonies. One of the first of the so-called progressive (or prog) rock bands — among the others were King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer — it went on to become the most successful and longest-lasting.

The first Yes albums to reach a wide international audience were the group’s third and fourth, “The Yes Album” (1971) and “Fragile” (1972), both released in the United States on Atlantic. The group’s most recent studio album, “Heaven & Earth,” was released by Frontiers Records last year.

Mr. Squire’s propulsive and often melodic bass playing was a key element of the Yes sound. A self-taught virtuoso, he has been cited as an influence by many other rock bassists.

What’s on your mind…?

New Evidence on CIA Medical Torture: Injection “to the Bone” on Former Black Site Prisoner Majid Khan

Countries that articipated in CIA torture & rendition program - via Wikimedia Commons
Countries involved in the CIA Extraordinary Rendition and Detention Program according to a 2013 Open Society Foundation – Image by opensocietyfoundations.org via transcend.org [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Quite recently, U.S. authorities allowed the declassification of notes from Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) attorney Wells Dixon that described what his client, high-value detainee Majid Khan, told him about his torture at the hands of the CIA. Khan, a Pakistan citizen, is currently at Guantanamo, and awaits trial by military commission.

Dixon has described the hideous torture of his client, which comes on the heels of revelations in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence executive summary of their report on the CIA’s torture program.

According to a June 2 Reuters report, Dixon described from interview notes with Khan, CIA use of solitary confinement; sexual abuse, including frequent touching of “private parts”; threats of physical harm; being hung naked from a pole for days; so-called “rectal feeding” (a form of anal rape); denial of food; water immersion and waterboarding, among other atrocities.

According to a CCR press release on Khan’s torture, CIA doctors onsite were among the “worst torturers.” Both Reuters and CCR have noted how doctors would check Khan’s condition, ignore his appeals for help, and send him back into extreme forms of torture.

In a June 10 phone interview with Wells Dixon, Khan’s attorney revealed there was more unreported material left out of the Reuters and CCR reports. In particular, Dixon revealed that Khan told him he was “also injected with a needle to the bone, and screamed in pain, then lost consciousness.”

According to my research, an injection that just happens to hit a bone does not usually cause great pain. But an injection that enters the bone can. The latter is called an intraosseous or IO injection, and is used to quickly infuse drugs, particularly in instances where a person’s life is at stake. It is usual medical procedure to insert lidocaine, a pain reliever, with or prior to injection because of the great pain associated with IO injections. Certain kinds of drugs can also cause great pain upon injection.

Did the CIA have medical need to make an IO injection, and withhold lidocaine or other pain reliever? Did CIA use the IO injection specifically to cause pain? Was a drug injected into Khan that specifically, or as side effect, caused great pain, in order to further torture him?

We don’t know exactly what the CIA did with this, or any other injection, but the evidence of such forms of medical torture cannot be denied, despite recent attempts by the CIA to minimize allegations of such medical torture, such as the use of drugs in interrogation. In fact, a recent FOIA release from CIA obtained by Jason Leopold at VICE News showed that the CIA used blood thinners to prolong certain forms of torture.

It has not been easy to obtain this information. As Dixon noted in a June 22 op-ed at Al Jazeera, “The CIA has long tried to bury evidence of its crimes. When we filed a legal case challenging Majid’s detention after his arrival at Guantanamo, the government prevented us from meeting with him for a year so that we would not learn about his torture.”

UN Special Rapporteurs’ “Letter of Allegation” to U.S. on Medical Torture and Experimentation

A new article by Adam Goldman at the Washington Post revealed that hundreds of photos from the CIA black sites exist. The fact they may be evidence at any future military commissions trial is currently being determined, as military prosecutors review the photos, which are said to include pictures of naked detainees, CIA personnel, and “photographs of confinement boxes where detainees such as Abu Zubaydah… were forced into for hours.”

But it seems highly unlikely the public will see these photos, and we will have to rely on detainee testimony, and other various attempts by journalists, domestic and international bodies and organizations to pry out the information from the U.S. government. Along those lines, CCR has called for the full Senate CIA torture report and the Panetta Review to be released. A letter initiated by ACLU and signed by approximately 100 national and international rights groups on the need to ensure accountability for the U.S. CIA Torture Program was delivered to the most recent session of the UN Human Rights Council. (more…)

Pope Francis Calls Attention to Climate Change as Moral Issue of Our Time

Pope Francis

In the encyclical Pope Francis released on June 18, he called on the world to create “a new and universal solidarity” in response to climate change and stressed the need for the world to immediately act.

“It is remarkable how weak international political responses have been. The failure of global summits on the environment make it plain that our politics are subject to technology and finance,” Francis stated. “There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected.”

Francis highlighted problems that will happen—and already are happening—because of climate change. “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth,” he declared.

The encyclical, found here, is a letter usually written to members of the Catholic Church by the pope. Famous encyclicals in history include Rerum novarum, written by Pope Leo XIII in 1891 supporting both unions and private property, and Humanae vitae, written by Pope Paul VI in 1968 to denounce birth control and affirm the sanctity of life.

Daniel Blackman is a managing partner at Social Karma and worked with the interfaith community for the past decade on the issue of climate change. The Vatican invited him, along with other leaders, to Rome later this month for a series of events for the world to act on global warming. He told Firedoglake he agreed with the intentions of the encyclical as climate change is “the moral issue of our time.”

“The reality is climate change is real and it’s getting worse.” Blackman said. “There are vast arrays of environmental, social, economic and political challenges facing humanity. One fact that must be addressed is the disproportionate effects of global warming on the poor. Climate change’s worst impact, as Pope Francis says, ‘will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades.'”

 

Blackman noted how he hoped people, not just Catholics, would take a “shared moral responsibility to address climate change.”

“I believe the protection of our planet, our home, is essential and not an option. Living harmoniously on the planet is our sacred right; protecting it is our moral obligation,” Blackman said.

The release of the encyclical, noted Blackman, would help in ensuring a strong deal at the U.N. conference in Paris later this year featuring nearly 200 nations coming together and creating an agreement.

“Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment will have a major impact in encouraging U.N. negotiations on global warming. In my lifetime, Pope Francis’ personal commitment to this issue is like no other pope before him and other faith leaders around the world should follow his lead. The biggest effect on the Paris negotiations will be the addition of a ‘moral element,’ a moral responsibility to climate change for many believers, and activists to hold on to,” Blackman said.

Blackman emphasized the importance of mobilizing to prevent global warming’s worst effects.

“As my colleague, the Reverend Gerald Durley, puts it, if we can’t breathe, if we have no planet, there are no human rights or environmental issues to resolve.  The organizing must begin with leaders with massive audiences and effective means of communication—the pope, President Barack Obama, interfaith leaders, heads of state and especially non-governmental organizations with active memberships,” Blackman said.

Reverend Durley recommended Blackman to be a part of a cohort to Rome. (more…)

Young Turks: “Epic Setback in Marijuana Legalization Movement” (VIDEO)

In Colorado, where marijuana is now legal, a quadriplegic employee of Dish Network was fired from his job for using medical marijuana- not at work- but during his off-hours. When he challenged his termination from his job by filing a lawsuit, the Supreme Court in Colorado sided with the employer. Cenk Uygur (host of The Young Turks) discusses this ruling and poses the question:

Do you think your employer should be able to fire you if you smoke marijuana?

Dish Network attorney Meghan Martinez made the following incomprehensible statement defending the firing of this employee (see video at 2:49):

He smoked marijuana while at home, but he crossed the threshold [to his office] with THC in his system. The use is the effects, it’s the THC, it’s the whole point of marijuana. So, when he came to work, he was using.

Babbling nonsense.

As an aside, I’ll say this much: If Dish Network spent more time on providing even marginal services to its paying customers and less time stalking its employees with junk science and nonsensical arguments that have nothing to do with actual impairment, maybe Dish wouldn’t suck so much. Since we no other choices, we are unfortunately reduced to being customers of Dish, where we have, hands-down, the worst internet service we have ever had. Ever.

What do you think of a company firing someone for having marijuana metabolites in urine, in a state where marijuana, and its use, is legal?