While the final 50 days of a president’s tenure are typically the quiet phase of their administration, Donald Trump is vigorously pursuing the fast-track authorization of a number of broad policy changes before he exits the White House in January, including the revival of firing squads and electrocutions in federal executions.
According to a report from ProPublica, a proposed rule change from the Department of Justice was registered in August and cleared a White House review this month, allowing the president to authorize the policy just before his time in office ends.
Typically, federal executions are carried out by lethal injection. Such has been the case without exception for the past decades.
Just last week, the Justice Department announced its intention to execute three more inmates on federal death row. If the executions are administered – along with two other previously-scheduled executions – there will have been 13 prisoners put to death since July of this year, marking one of the most deadly periods in the history of federal capital punishment since 1927, notes the New York Times.
“What is clear is that this administration wants these prisoners dead before Joe Biden takes office,” Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center Robert Dunham told CNN. The last time over one execution happened during a presidential transition was during the end of Grover Cleveland’s first transition, from November 1884 to March 1885.
In the proposed rule, which should be published in the Federal Register on Friday, the administration asserts that “death by firing squad and death by electrocution do not violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment”
The proposal also claims: “In recent U.S. Supreme Court litigation involving Eighth Amendment challenges to execution by lethal injection, nitrogen hypoxia and firing squad have been identified as potential alternative methods of execution, including by prisoners themselves, that might – or even must– be used instead of lethal injection, in particular because those methods allegedly carry a lesser risk of pain.”
It remains unclear whether the rule would practically have any importance, especially given the fact that President-elect Joe Biden opposes the death penalty and has vowed to seek the elimination of capital punishment for felony convictions and the suspension of federal executions.
Since he was sworn in last year, Attorney General William Barr has aggressively pursued the use of capital punishment to bring “justice to victims of the most horrific crimes,” resuming federal executions after a 17-year hiatus of the practice.
Critics argue that the death penalty is far too frequently used against people who have been wrongfully convicted, with 172 people being sentenced to death since 1973 who were later exonerated from their crimes.
Legal advocates are hopeful that the Biden-Harris administration could finally put an end to the federal death penalty as part of a broader overhaul of the criminal justice system. The Biden campaign has announced that it intends to end the practice on the federal level and incentivize an end to state executions, as well.
“As we find itself in the midst of a national reckoning with racism and our history of racial violence, ending the death penalty must be part of our transformation,” said former federal prosecutor Miriam Krinsky, who now heads the Fair and Just Prosecution advocacy group. “Abolishing the death penalty would be a signal that the Biden-Harris administration is committed to fairness, equity, and evidence-based justice — and the time for this definitive move is long overdue.”
However, the president has been hoping to finalize 36 major rule changes in his final days, similar to the 35 to 40 rule changes made by four previous administrations that were undone by their successors. In 2017, Republicans successfully overturned the outgoing Obama administration’s rule changes using the Congressional Review Act.
However, the lasting impact of the rule changes remain contingent on critical runoff elections in Georgia that could determine whether the Democrats could invoke the act or whether the GOP maintains control of the Senate.
Regardless of the outcome of that race, advocates remain opposed to the largely bipartisan inertia over the continuing practice of capital punishment in the U.S.
“Without question this unprecedented execution spree makes clear that this system is in need of either abandonment of the death penalty or major overhaul. It also shows that a moratorium just kicks the can down the road,” Dunham said. “Prior administrations including the Obama-Biden Administration failed to take action on these cases that created the circumstances in which you could have this thing of unparalleled series of executions.”
“There’s no question that these crimes were horrific, but that’s not the issue,” Dunham said. “You can go down the list of these executions one at a time and illustrate the injustices.”
Jeff Bezos Thanks Amazon Workers And Customers For Paying For His Flight To Space
The billionaire space race chalked up one more ignoble milestone on July 20 when the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, boarded a reusable rocket his company Blue Origin built and funded, flew to the edge of space for a moment of weightlessness, and came back down to earth.
You can watch the flight and learn more about the journey here.
The Amazon founder has faced withering criticism for accumulating his massive fortune on the backs of an exploited workforce that is subject to harsh working conditions and low pay in warehouses or Fulfillment Centers where staffers must urinate in water bottles in order to meet their quotas.
In his press conference following the launch, Bezos thanked that same workforce for helping him to shoot himself into space in a move that many critics have described as a simple “joyride.”
“I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for this,” he told the crowd, which responded with laughter. “Seriously, for every Amazon customer out there and every employee thank you from the bottom of my heart very much. It’s very appreciated.”
Critics on Twitter responded with derision, noting that Bezos was able to enjoy the trip at the expense of his hard-working employees.
“Thing is, employers are supposed to pay their employees, not the other way around, but that’s basically how Amazon works,” one user tweeted.
While another tweeter asked: “Maybe they’re searching space for signs of a livable wage or a way to pay their fair share of taxes?”
On Tuesday, Bezos blasted off in the sub-orbital New Shepard rocket from Texas. The date for the launch was chosen to coincide with the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Members of the crew, which included his brother mark and 82-year-old female astronaut Wally Funk, brought a number of historic items on the flight, including a piece of canvas from the conceptual plane originally flown by the Wright brothers, the goggles Amelia Earhart used to fly across the Atlantic, and a brass medal made from the first hot air balloon which flew in 1783.
Keanu Reeves Praised As Video of Him Offering Seat to Lady in Subway Resurfaces
Keanu Reeves is an actor who has long been loved by audiences —and not necessarily due to his acting skills, but due to how nice the John Wick star is.
And now, Reeves is once again earning praise as a “true gentleman” after resurfaced video footage shows Reeves giving up his seat on the subway.
The clip was shared by Instagram film fan account Cinemonkeys where it has since earned nearly 45,000 likes.
The video footage dates back to 2011, when it was shared on YouTube by a user of the video-sharing platform.
At the time, Reeves was already a superstar riding on the fame he earned from the Matrix, Speed, and a number of other blockbuster hits.
When Reeves notices a woman carrying a heavy bag, he quickly points to his seat and asks if she would like to sit. The woman accepts and Reeves gets up without hesitating to let her take his seat.
Reeves, ever the model citizen, then stands and holds onto a subway pole while carrying his bag.
The video has since been watched over 27 million times and was even cited in a 2019 Time magazine profile of the actor describing Reeves as the “soul mate” of the internet.
The resurfacing of the clip on Instagram once again impressed users of the platform.
“This human being’s soul honestly shines so bright,” wrote one user.
“OMG I love him in every single way,” another person commented.
“His kindness knows no bounds,” commented someone else.
Keanu is set to reprise his role as Neo in the upcoming fourth Matrix film directed and written by Lana Wachowski, who co-directed the earlier trilogy with her sister Lilly. He will also return to the silver screen in John Wick: Chapter 4, which will be released in 2022.
Drunk Man Rescues Injured Baby Bird By Sending It To Animal Shelter… In An Uber
An injured baby bird received a new lease on life after a young man who was inebriated had the good sense to send the little creature to an animal shelter because he and his friends were too drunk to drive.
In the Summer of 2019, a small lesser goldfinch suddenly appeared by itself at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah. The center’s chairman, Buz Marthaler, was notified by a volunteer who sent him a photo.
“It was a picture of this bird, and it had come by Uber,” Marthaler told FOX13. “It was just crazy.”
As it turns out, the tiny bird – which was only two weeks old – indeed rolled up to the site by its lonesome, the sole passenger in an Uber vehicle called by concerned citizens who found the injured creature.
Among those good Samaritans was Tim Crowley, who had been “day drinking” on that Saturday before he and his buddies witnessed the little bird fall from the sky.
“Impromptu, sitting in some camp chairs, hanging out, having a few drinks when we had a visitor fall out of the sky,” he explained.
Crowley then snapped a photo of the bird and sent it to the WRCNU, which instructed him to immediately bring the bird in. However, the group obviously couldn’t drive since they had been guzzling booze all day.
So Crowley decided he’d hail a cab for the creature.
“At first it was a joke, like, ‘Hey, maybe we should just call Uber!’” he said. “Then we were like, ‘No, really. Why not? We’re paying them.’”
As it turns out, the bird – since named “Petey Uber” by staff at the rescue center – likely would have perished if not for Crowley’s quick thinking.
Marthaler remains impressed by Crowley’s move and shared the news on its Facebook page.
“While we feel we’ve seen it all and can’t be amazed by anything, there is always someone out there to prove us wrong,” the shelter’s post read. “Thank you to the rescuer who helped this little one get the care it needed in a timely manner and thank you for keeping yourself safe and others on the road safe as well.”