Lawyers for Joseph Wood, a death row inmate in Arizona, claim that the state botched his execution on Wednesday afternoon, painfully dragging out his death for about two hours. Wood was "gasping and snorting for more than an hour," said the lawyers, who tried to stay his execution once it became apparent that things were going awry.
The bungled execution follows a similar incident in April, when Oklahoma used an untested lethal injection cocktail on inmate Clayton Lockett, essentially causing his heart to explode, according to Andrew Cohen at The Atlantic. Wood had reportedly received a little-used cocktail:
His attorneys had argued earlier that the execution should be held until he could learn more about the drugs that would be used. Arizona planned to use a two-drug combination — medazolam and hydromorphone — that had only been used once before in an execution. (That episode, a lethal injection in Ohio, lasted for nearly 25 minutes and also involved the inmate snorting and gasping.) [The Washington Post]
The spate in botched executions stems from a shortage of the drugs traditionally used in lethal injections, after the European Union, the main source of the drugs, imposed limits on their export. Ryu Spaeth
The first few days of the Trump administration have publicly played out in front of a behind-the-scenes power struggle involving the "Big Four" Trump advisers — Kellyanne Conway, Stephen Bannon, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, and son-in-law Jared Kushner — though "at the center, as always, is Trump himself, whose ascent to the White House seems to have only heightened his acute sensitivity to criticism," The Washington Post reports, citing "interviews with nearly a dozen senior White House officials and other Trump advisers and confidants."
Many Trump campaign loyalists say that Kushner is trying to elbow aside anyone who might prevent him from being Trump's "chief consigliere," and that included trying to keep Conway out of the White House, The Post reports. Other insiders suggest Conway is trying to undermine press secretary Sean Spicer, an ally of Priebus from the Republican National Committee and not Trump's first choice for the job. The Post also has this tidbit:
Because Conway operates outside of the official communications department, some aides grumble that she can go rogue when she pleases, offering her own message and promoting herself as much as the president. One suggested that Conway's office on the second floor of the West Wing, as opposed to one closer to the Oval Office, was a sign of her diminished standing. Though Conway took over the workspace previously occupied by Valerie Jarrett, who had been Obama's closest adviser, the confidant dismissively predicted that Trump would rarely climb a flight of stairs. [The Washington Post]
Trump, however, is publicly effusive in his praise of Conway, and by all accounts privately values her dogged and skillfully befuddling defense of him. While "some Trump allies were unsettled by her performance" on Meet the Press Sunday, The Post reports, Trump "called Vice President Pence to rave about how she handled questions from [host Chuck] Todd... and called Conway to offer his congratulations," though he was "perturbed that the media focused on two words from Conway's interview: 'alternative facts.'" Still Conway's role as Trump's most visible aide has come at a cost. Due to "threats against her life," The Post reports, Conway "has been assigned a Secret Service detail, according to someone with detailed knowledge of the situation." You can read more at The Washington Post. Peter Weber
On Tuesday, Britain's Supreme Court ruled 8-3 that Prime Minister Theresa May cannot start the process of pulling the U.K. out of the European Union without an act of Parliament, putting a speed bump in May's plans to invoke Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty by March. The Supreme Court, the highest court in England and Wales, agreed with a lower court that May can't use executive powers called the royal prerogative to trigger Brexit because it would affect the rights of Britons conferred by Parliament in 1972 in order to join the European Union.
It is not yet clear what kind of legislation May's government will introduce to get Parliament's assent, or whether Brexit skeptics will be able to wrest concessions in the process, but May is expected to gain approval in both the House of Commons and, despite more resistance, the House of Lords. The Supreme Court unanimously decided that May does not need to consult regional governments in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, which would have proved a bigger obstacle.
May has one more court she could appeal the ruling to, the EU's highest court, the European Court of Justice, but she won't do that, the BBC reports. First, that would just delay her Brexit strategy, and more importantly, her "government has made great play of the fact that, by leaving the EU, it will end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice over the U.K. and restore the supremacy of British courts." Peter Weber
Last weekend was the debut of "our new celebrity a-president," Jimmy Kimmel said on Monday's Kimmel Live, "and you know how sometimes there's a lot of hype for something and then when it finally happens, it disappoints? Well, that was certainly not the case for President Donald John Madden Trump this weekend — he is off to a flying start."
Kimmel started with Trump's make-up visit to CIA headquarters, where he talked about everything from his "genius" uncle and his own intelligence to the number of times he's been on the cover of Time. But mostly Trump berated the media for saying he had a small crowd at his inauguration. "He is so focused on size — nobody asked him about that, by the way, he brought it up," Kimmel said. "He's focused on the size of his crowds, the size of his ratings, the size of his hands, the size of, well, everything. And again, he's there to make peace with the CIA but he couldn't help himself, he had a crowd and he just started going. Instead of the CIA, he should be talking to a C-I-chiatrist."
Kimmel thanked the audience for laughing at his dumb joke, then shook his head: "Who cares? He won the election — it's such a tiny thing to be mad about, but he was so mad he made his press secretary — this guy, Sean Spicer, who hadn't even had his first press conference yet — he made him gather the press, immediately on a Saturday, to yell at them." He showed the clip." No one had numbers, but it was the largest, period," Kimmel repeated, laughing. "That poor bastard doesn't even know where the coffee machine is yet, he's already having to yell at everybody." Kellyanne Conway "managed to top that" on Sunday, with her "alternative facts" line, Kimmel said. "Not since 'consciously uncoupled' have I heard something as conveniently skewed as 'alternative facts.' I wish I'd known about alternative facts when I was in high school — I would have had straight As." He finished with some "alternative facts" about himself, including some exaggerated audience estimates and other... things. Watch below. Peter Weber
Staff at the Environmental Protection Agency has been told to freeze all grants and contracts until further notice, an unusual move that will likely affect everything from state-level efforts to improve air and water quality to toxic waste cleanup efforts, The Washington Post and ProPublica reported Monday night. The order went out to the EPA Office of Acquisition Management within hours of President Trump's inauguration, and EPA staff were ordered not to talk about the freeze, The Huffington Post reports, citing an email purportedly sent to EPA employees on Monday, the same day Trump issued a blanket hiring freeze.
"They're trying to freeze things to make sure nothing happens they don't want to have happen, so any regulations going forward, contracts, grants, hires, they want to make sure to look at them first," Myron Ebell, an EPA critic at the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute who led Trump's EPA transition team, told ProPublica Monday night. "This may be a little wider than some previous administrations, but it's very similar to what others have done." EPA veterans and The Washington Post disagree, saying the blanket freeze was unprecedented in recent history.
The Senate has not yet voted on Trump's nominated EPA director, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who has frequently sued the EPA, accusing it of regulatory overreach on everything from mercury pollution to carbon emissions from power plants and waterways. The memo to EPA staff obtained by The Huffington Post includes strictures such as "No press releases will be going out to external audiences"; "No social media will be going out. A Digital Strategist will be coming on board to oversee social media. Existing, individually controlled, social media accounts may become more centrally controlled"; and "If anyone on your staff receives a press inquiry of any kind, it must be referred to me so I can coordinate with the appropriate individuals in OPA," or the Office of Public Affairs. EPA officials did not respond to requests for comment from any of the news organizations. Peter Weber
The Women's Marches that took place around the world on Saturday appear to have gotten under the skin of one Republican state senator in Mississippi, who devoted a good chunk of the last 48 hours to dwelling on, writing about, and stewing over the demonstrations attended by millions.
Chris McDaniel made his first post on Facebook Sunday, declaring that at the Washington, D.C., march, which had an estimated 500,000 women, men, and children in attendance, "a group of unhappy liberal women" participated. He went on to make what he must have thought was a sick burn, asking how demonstrators "can afford all those piercings, tattoos, body paintings, signs, and plane tickets, when they want us to pay for their birth control?" In the comments section, he had the support of some, but most people tried to explain to him what the march meant to them and how they didn't appreciate his generalizations.
McDaniel came back Monday afternoon with another post saying that "no amount of liberal hell raising" will change his opinion about "free abortions," and shared a picture that he implied was from Saturday but was actually taken years ago. Thousands of comments were made, with many pointing out the irony of McDaniel complaining about things being free when taxpayers were paying for him to troll on Facebook. Later, he returned with another diatribe about march supporters loving "free stuff," and added a comment saying "literally 99 percent of you are not from MS. Perfect. It's nice to know I'm in your heads."
One user replied by letting him know that the troll was being trolled, saying, "Keeping you on Facebook stops you from doing more damage 'doing your job.' Thanks for taking the bait." Countless others railed against Mississippi, telling McDaniel he might want to stop insulting internet strangers and focus on matters closer to home, like the fact that in 2013, Mississippi had the highest rates of both chlamydia and gonorrhea in the U.S., and in 2016 the state was ranked last for academic achievement and 43.68 percent of state revenue came from federal funding. McDaniel responded by blaming everything on the man who held his seat three years ago. Catherine Garcia
President Trump got some ribbing for apparently borrowing a phrase from Batman villain Bane in his inaugural address — both promised to take power from the establishment and give it "back to you, the people." If the people want to make their voices heard with the new Trump administration, though, they have to use the White House email form or mail a paper-and-ink letter, because the White House comment line appears to be dead. If you call the comment line now, 202-456-1111, you get an automated message telling you to use the White House web form or Facebook messenger.
Using Facebook Messenger sounds like the most convenient option for many people, but "there's only one problem," says Variety's Janko Roettgers: "Neither the White House nor President Donald Trump seem to currently maintain an active Facebook Messenger account."
The comment line, staffed by White House volunteers, was reportedly mothballed in the final weeks of the Obama administration, and maybe the Trump White House just hasn't gotten around to staffing it yet — Trump still has to hire 659 of 690 key positions in his administration, the Partnership for Public Service's tally indicates, so maybe this isn't a high priority. Still, Trump also promised "the forgotten men and women of our country" in his inaugural address that "everyone is listening to you now." And according to Pew, 13 percent of Americans don't use the internet. For those who do, there's always Twitter.... Peter Weber
President Trump's first weekend in the White House was an edifying start to the Trump era, Seth Meyers said on Monday's Late Night. "On one hand, we saw what may have been the largest organized protest in U.S. history, and on the other hand we had the new Trump administration openly lying on its first full day in office." He started with the Women's Marches, which turned out 3-4 million people in the U.S. and around the world. "Imagine being so disliked that people are willing to go outside and protest you in Antarctica," Meyers said. "That would be like if you climbed Mt. Everest and when you got to the top there was a guy there booing you."
The protests and modest turnout for Trump's inauguration may be understandable given his historically low popularity and popular vote loss, but Trump didn't try to mend many fences in his "nightmarish dystopian hellscape" of an inaugural address, Meyers said. "Just to clarify, Ronald Reagan said it's morning in America; Trump is saying it's morning in America, but like early morning, when you wake up hungover, in a cold sweat, and you realize you're in Thailand and there's a dead body in the bed next to you, the only sound you hear is cops banging on your door, and all you can think is, 'What the f—k is happening?!?' — it's that kind of morning."
Trump couldn't help but complain about media coverage of his inaugural crowd at a CIA pep talk on Saturday. "Look, no one cares about crowd sizes," Meyers said. "The only reason this is a story is that Trump insists on lying about it, and sending White House officials out to lie about it." White House press secretary Sean Spicer's inaugural briefing was a PR disaster, and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway didn't really clean it up on Sunday when she said Spicer was just relying on "alternative facts." "Kellyanne Conway is like someone trying to do the Jedi mind trick after only a week of Jedi training," Meyers said, imaging the alternative dialogue: "'These are not the droids you're looking for.' 'Yeah, they are, those are my droids.' 'No, these are alternative robots.'" He wrapped it up by explaining why Trump's little lies matter. Watch below. Peter Weber