TBR News November 12, 2017

Nov 12 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., November 12, 2017:” The Essenes, a Judean cult, were an agricultural community that had a communistic approach to their life style. There was a common purse and shared wealth and much, if not most, of the first expressed Christian dogma came directly from the Essenes. Unfortunately, like the Spartans and Zulus who were essentially a military community cult, the agricultural Essenes were male-oriented and homosexual in nature and performance. The Essenes were outlawed by the Romans, and many members were subsequently crucified in a general crackdown under Titus, not because of their sexual practices but because of their political opposition to Roman rule.The small remnants of the Essenes retreated to the Dead Sea area and eventually died out.

The Essenes are discussed in detail by Josephus and Philo. Scholars believe that the community at Qumran that produced the Dead Sea Scrolls were Essenes, that Jesus was an Essene, and Christianity as we know it today evolved from this sect of Judaism, with which it shared many ideas and symbols The Essenes are best known today as the inhabitants from Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were located by Bedouins first in 1947.  It is now known that they were closely affiliated with the Hasidim, a sectarian group that included the disciples of Hillel and Menahem the Essene who left for Damascus in 20 BCE.

The Gospel of John makes references to the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 13:23, 19:26, 21:7, 20), In the text, this beloved disciple is present at the crucifixion of Jesus, with Jesus’ mother ,Mary .

It has traditionally been assumed that the disciple whom Jesus loved is a self-reference by the author of the Gospel, traditionally regarded as John the Apostle.

Aelred of Rievaulx , in his work Spiritual Friendship, referred to the relationship of Jesus and John as a “marriage” and held it out as an example sanctioning friendships between clerics. It has been claimed that it was held by Francesco Calcagno, who was investigated on that account by the Venetian Inquisition in 1550 .

James I of England may have been relying on a pre-existing tradition when he defended his relationship with the young Duke of Buckingham : “I wish to speak in my own behalf and not to have it thought to be a defect, for Jesus Christ did the same, and therefore I cannot be blamed. Christ had his son John, and I have my George.”

In the Gospel of John, the disciple John frequently refers to himself in the third person as ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’.” One might argue that Jesus loved all of his followers in a non-sexual way. Thus to identify Jesus’ love for John in a special way might indicate a sexual relationship. The disciple was “the” beloved. He was in a class by himself. During the Last Supper before Jesus’ execution, the author(s) of the Gospel of John describes how the “beloved” disciple laid himself on Jesus’ inner tunic — his undergarment. See John 13:25 and 21:20. Robert Goss, assistant professor of comparative religion at Webster University in St. Louis, LA, noted that Jesus and the beloved disciple: “… eat together, side by side. What’s being portrayed here is a pederastic relationship between an older man and a younger man. A Greek reader would understand.” On the other hand: Some commentators have suggested that it was a common practice in Judea at that time for heterosexual man to lay his head on another’s undergarment. Such behavior was common between two heterosexuals in an emotionally close but non-erotic relationship during the first century CE.

Morton Smith, of Columbia University reported in 1958 that he had found a fragment of a manuscript which at the Mar Saba monastery near Jerusalem. It contained the full text of Mark, chapter 10. Apparently the version that is in the Christian Scriptures is an edited version of the original. Additional verses allegedly formed part of the full version of Mark, and were inserted after verse 34. It discusses how a young man, naked but for a linen covering, expressed his love for Jesus and stayed with him at his place all night.

Mark 7:14-16 shows that Jesus approves of homosexual acts. The critical phrase reads: “There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him…” Jesus gave great emphasis to this teaching, directing it to everyone.

Mark 14:51-52 describes the incident when Jesus was arrested by the religious police. It describes how one of Jesus’ followers was scantily dressed. The King James Version says he had a linen cloth cast on his naked body; the size and location of the cloth is not defined. The New International Version says that he was “wearing nothing but a linen garment.” When the police tried to seize him, they were able to grab only his cloth; the man ran away naked. Reverend Peter Murphy wrote: “We don’t know from the sources what really was going on, but we do know that something was very peculiar between Jesus and young men.” 11 (Emphasis in the original.)

Michael Kelly wrote of Jesus’ attitude towards a same-sex couple as described in Matthew 8:5-13: and Luke 7:2: “One day a Roman Centurion asked him to heal his dying servant. Scholars of both Scripture and Ancient History tell us that Roman Centurions, who were not permitted to marry while in service, regularly chose a favorite male slave to be their personal assistant and sexual servant. Such liaisons were common in the Greco-Roman world and it was not unusual for them to deepen into loving partnerships….Jesus offered to go to the servant, but the centurion asked him simply to speak a word of healing, since he was not worthy to welcome this itinerant Jewish teacher under his roof. Jesus responded by healing the servant and proclaiming that even in Israel he had never found faith like this! So, in the one Gospel story where Jesus encountered people sharing what we would call a ‘gay relationship,’ we see him simply concerned about — and deeply moved by — their faith and love.” Kelly implies that Jesus’ sensitivity towards the gay couple might have arisen from his own bisexual or homosexual orientation.

Some commentators argue from silence. They note that there is no passage in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) that directly describes anything about Jesus’ sexuality. There are many direct and indirect references to Jesus’ sensuality. He was accused of being a “drunkard and a glutton” and of partying with “prostitutes and sinners.” He apparently enjoyed a tender foot massage from a woman. Yet, neither Jesus’ sexuality nor his celibacy is mentioned. Yet, sex is referred to, elsewhere in the Bible, quite often. One might argue that the books in the Christian Scriptures might have once described Jesus’ sexual relationships, but that these passages have been vigorously censored by the later church because they were unconventional.

Other commentators have noted that Jesus is silent towards homosexuality in the Gospels. Yet, Paul’s opinions and those of many other authors in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) are clearly stated. They conclude that Jesus could reasonably have been gay.

In the Renaissance period (14th—16th centuries), a man was accused and tried in Venice (c.1550) for heresies, one of which was his claim that John was Christ’s catamite (cinedo di Cristo), an idea that apparently had a certain following in Italy at the time. In England, Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593) authored the famous homoerotic play Edward II (1591). Then after his death, Richard Baines in a libel case claimed that Marlowe had professed that “St. John the Evangelist was bedfellow to Christ and leaned alwaies in his bosome, that he used him as the sinners of Sodome.” Another playwright Thomas Kyd said that “He [Marlowe] would report St. John to be our Saviour Christ’s Alexis,” referring to the love which the Greek shepherd Corydon felt for the fair youth Alexis as described in Virgil’s Eclogues 2 and about which Marlowe had written in his poem “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love.”71 James I, king of England and Ireland (1603-1625), shrewdly neutralized charges brought against him in Parliament over his homosexual relationship with George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, by noting that “Christ had his John and I have my Steenie.” Later, the philosopher and jurist Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) devoted himself to trying to decriminalize homosexual relations in Britain, where hangings for this had increased. In an only-partially published manuscript titled Not Paul but Jesus, Bentham mentions the special fondness which Jesus had for John, and asked, “Could John have meant to imply that he and Jesus were lovers?” Then he added, “[G]ood taste and . . . prudence would require us to turn aside” from such a “topic of extreme delicacy,” although at the same time a regard for human happiness, truth and justice still “compel” this author “to go over it.” In the modern period, the Austrian psychoanalyst

Modern scholars who believe that Jesus and his Beloved Disciple shared a homosexual relationship. Modern interpreters who hold that there was a homoerotic relationship here include: Hugh Montefiore (1969), Robert Williams (1992), Sjef van Tilborg (1993), John McNeill (1995), Rollan McCleary (2003), Robert E. Goss (2006), and James Neill (2009). The United Reformed Church of Christ of Great Britain in its document Toward a Christian Understanding of Sexuality (1984) wrote that Jesus “may have . . . been homosexually inclined.” Psychoanalyst Richard C. Friedman (1988) viewed Jesus and his’ beloved disciple’ as having a homosexual marriage. Rosemary Ruether (1978) and Nancy Wilson (1995) held that Jesus was bisexual. Going further in the other direction, Morton Smith (1973) suggested that as part of a secret baptismal ritual Jesus may have had physical union with more than one of his disciples.―although this view is based on a later ‘heretical’ text. Theodore Jennings (2003) believes definitely that Jesus and John “were lovers,” although he notes that the Bible tells us nothing more about how Jesus and his Beloved shared their love beyond the physical intimacy described at the Last Supper.”


Table of Contents

  • In demanding Hariri’s return, Lebanese find rare unity
  • Hariri indicates possibility of revoking his resignation
  • ‘Dose as small as a grain of sand can kill you’: alarm after Canada carfentanil bust
  • Roy Moore: Alabama voters will ‘see through this charade’ of sexual misconduct claim
  • UK prosecutors destroyed crucial emails in Assange case
  • Bitcoin crash: Cryptocurrency loses third of its value ahead of Sunday split
  • Bitcoin’s price bubble will burst under government pressure
  • Winston Spencer-Churchill: A Tribute
  • Arkansas Justice: Racism, Torture, and a Botched Execution


In demanding Hariri’s return, Lebanese find rare unity

November 12, 2017

by Imad Creidi


BEIRUT (Reuters) – A country long divided by sectarian conflicts, Lebanon has found a rare point of unity since Saad al-Hariri’s shock resignation as prime minister: Lebanese of all stripes want him to come back from Saudi Arabia and to continue his work as premier.

Hariri left Beirut for Riyadh on Nov. 3 and resigned the following day in a speech that caught even his closest aides off guard. He cited fear of assassination and blamed Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah for sowing strife in the Arab world.

The Lebanese authorities believe Saudi Arabia forced Hariri to resign and is holding him against his will, say top Lebanese state officials and politicians close to Hariri.

While some in Lebanon believe Hariri’s decision was his own and blame Iran and Hezbollah for the crisis, many others, including some of his longtime supporters, think he was forced to quit.

Billboards and posters demanding his return have gone up across Beirut. “We want our PM back,” declared a huge billboard near the Beirut waterfront.

Runners in the annual Beirut marathon on Sunday echoed the demand. Some wore T-shirts printed with Hariri’s face and the message: “We’re all waiting for you.”

“This year, there are definitely many telling him ‘we are waiting for you’, and God willing he will come back safe and sound,” May al-Khalil, the founder and president of the Beirut Marathon Association, said.

Hariri ran in the Beirut marathon last year, shortly after he was installed as prime minister of a coalition government that generated hope of stability after years of political tension and paralysis.

Thousands of runners turned out, defying security concerns that have grown since Hariri resigned and Saudi Arabia declared both Lebanon and Hezbollah as hostile parties.

“Sheikh Saad al-Hariri represents all Lebanese people,” said Beirut Mayor Jamal Itani, wearing a cap that read “Running for You”. Lebanese wanted Hariri “to return as Prime Minister”, he said.


Saudi Arabia has denied reports Hariri, a long time ally of Riyadh, is being held against his will and coerced into resigning. It says he is a free man and quit because Hezbollah was calling the shots in his government.

Ashraf Rifi, a hawkish Sunni politician who is fiercely critical of Hezbollah and Iran, has welcomed Hariri’s resignation, saying “it pulled the official cover away from Iran’s project in Lebanon”.

Tension between Hariri and Hezbollah has been a defining feature of Lebanese politics since the 2005 assassination of his father, Rafik al-Hariri. A U.N.-backed tribunal has charged five Hezbollah members over the killing. Hezbollah denies any role.

But Hariri has twice set aside his differences with Hezbollah to lead coalition governments including the group.

“We all love him, even those who weren’t sympathetic to him are now sympathetic, because as you know he’s the prime minister of all of Lebanon, not just prime minister for us Sunnis,” said Yousef Saad al-Deen, 40.

“No one is allowed to decide for us, neither who our president is nor who we will elect,” he added, speaking in the staunchly pro-Hariri Beirut neighborhood of Tariq al-Jdideh, where newly erected posters pledged loyalty to Hariri.

Munir Khatib, a man in his late 60s, said Iran was to blame. “He is not being held, as they are saying,” he said.

Hezbollah, the strongest group in Lebanon thanks to its vast arsenal, has declared Saudi Arabia’s detention of Hariri as an insult to all Lebanese. At a rally on Friday, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said he must return.

The Future Movement, Hariri’s political party, also says Hariri must come back to Lebanon, calling him a national leader whose presence is vital to upholding the Lebanese system. It has also taken aim at criticism of Saudi Arabia, on Saturday rejecting “campaigns targeting” the Kingdom.

Lebanon, which fought a civil war from 1975-90, is governed according to a carefully balanced system that parcels out the state along sectarian lines. Many say now is the time for unity.

“The war had taught us that if we don’t have our ranks united and on the same ground, the country cannot succeed,” said Arlette Dakkash, a resident of Beirut.

Additional reporting by Ellen Francis and Sarah Dadouch; Writing by Sarah Dadouch/Tom Perry; Editing by Richard Balmforth


Hariri indicates possibility of revoking his resignation

November 12, 2017


BEIRUT (Reuters) – Saad al-Hariri, who announced on Nov. 4 from Saudi Arabia that he was quitting as Lebanon’s prime minister, suggested on Sunday he could rescind his resignation.

Speaking from Riyadh in an interview with Future TV, a station affiliated with his political party, Hariri said he planned to return to Lebanon to confirm his resignation in accordance with the constitution. But he also said that if he rescinds his decision to quit, the Hezbollah movement must respect Lebanon’s policy of staying out of regional conflicts.

Reporting by Lisa Barrington, Tom Perry and Laila Bassam; Editing by Peter Graff


Dose as small as a grain of sand can kill you’: alarm after Canada carfentanil bust

Discovery of 42kg of opioid, described as 100 times more toxic than fentanyl, in Toronto home throws spotlight on dangerous and poorly understood drug

November 12, 2017

by Ashifa Kaddsm in Toronto

the Guardian

It was a carbon monoxide alarm that brought the Canadian authorities to the house in Liatris Drive, a quiet residential street lined with manicured gardens. As firefighters checked over the house to ensure its inhabitants were safe, something else caught their eye: kilograms of a mysterious powder sitting in the basement.

Soon afterwards, the police arrived at the house in Pickering, near Toronto, with a search warrant. They seized 33 identical handguns – and 53kg of the unidentified white and yellow powder.

Lab tests eventually revealed 42kg of the substance to be carfentanil – a drug the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has described as “crazy dangerous” and which authorities in the US have flagged as as potential chemical weapon. The local police force had unwittingly stumbled across what is believed to be the largest volume of the opioid ever seized in North America.

Developed in the 1970s as a tranquilizer for large animals such as elephants and bears, the synthetic opioid has also been studied as a potential chemical weapon by countries including the US, China and Israel. It is thought to have been deployed with disastrous effects when Russian special forces attempted to rescue hundreds of hostages from a Moscow theatre in 2002.

But it only burst into public view last year after officials across North America began to warn that it was being cut with heroin and other illicit drugs, leaving a rash of overdoses and deaths in its wake.

“An amount as small as a grain of sand can kill you,” Dr Karen Grimsrud, Alberta’s chief medical officer, told reporters after traces of carfentanil were found in the bodies of two men who had overdosed. “Carfentanil is about 100 times more toxic than fentanyl and about 10,000 times more toxic than morphine.”

Authorities in Cincinnati said the drug was one possible explanation for why 174 people in the US city had overdosed in the span of six days. Dealers were now cutting carfentanil into heroin and other drugs to offer users a hard-hitting, longer-lasting high, officials said as they scrambled to shore up supplies of the antidote. While it often takes just one or two shots of naloxone to counteract a heroin overdose, overdoses involving carfentanil can take half a dozen shots or more.

Authorities were already grappling with the effects of fentanyl – carfentanil’s chemical cousin – a less potent opioid that has claimed thousands of lives on both sides of the border.

The use of carfentanil by dealers is complicated by a lack of information regarding potency, said Hakique Virani, a Canadian doctor who specialises in addiction medicine.

“The fact that we can’t say how much carfentanil equals fentanyl makes it that much more unpredictable and that much more of a dangerous hazard … So it’s anybody’s guess how much is in this stuff and what it’s going to do from person to person,” he said.

He pointed to North America’s crackdown on drugs to explain dealers’ willingness to embrace carfentanil, which can boost the effects of heroin in just minuscule amounts. “It’s quite necessary in a prohibition environment for drug traffickers to move towards more toxic, smaller chemicals because they’re much easier to traffic,” said Virani.

An investigation carried out last year by the Associated Press found 12 businesses in China who said they would readily export the chemical for as little as US$2,750-per-kg. Months later China’s ministry of public security said it would move to outlaw carfentanil.

While the investigation into the 42kg that were seized recently in Canada is ongoing, police have said the substance seized could have yielded as many as 420,000 doses of carfentanil with an estimated street value of C$13m.

Police arrested a 33-year-old man in connection with the Pickering seizure in September, charging him with possession for the purpose of trafficking as well as 337 weapons-related charges. A spokesman for the Durhan Region Police Service declined to say whether other charges are also being considered.

What could widen the scope of the investigation are the concerns the US voiced over carfentanil last year. “Agents like carfentanil could be used in lethal doses that would make them comparable to traditional nerve agents, raising concerns that they could be used as chemical weapons,” a state department official told the Associated Press under the condition of anonymity.

The remarks came after Canadian police – protected by hazmat suits and oxygen containers – seized one kilogram of carfentanil hidden inside cartridges labelled as printer ink and which had been shipped to Vancouver from China.

Given the purity of the substance seized, police estimated that the package could contain as many as 50m lethal doses – enough to wipe out the entire population of the country.

“Cocaine or heroin, we know what the purpose is,” Allan Lai of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police told reporters. “With respect to carfentanil, we don’t know why a substance of that potency is coming into our country.”

Wherever carfentanil goes, death follows, said Brian Escamilla, a forensic chemist who has trained officials with the US DEA for more than a decade.

And law enforcement agencies’ biggest fear is that it could eventually be employed by terrorists, he said. “Something like a carfentanil, being so toxic, once they got it airborne, it would easily put large populations down, especially if the population was congested in a certain area.”

Russian special forces are suspected to have used carfentanil after Chechen rebels seized a Moscow theatre in 2002, taking more than 800 people hostage. After three days, elite troops pumped an unknown chemical agent through the building’s ventilation system before storming it. The gas was later blamed for the deaths of at least 125 hostages.

A 2012 analysis by British scientists that looked at the clothing and urine of three survivors concluded that the gas was likely a mixture of carfentanil and remifentanil, a potent short-acting opioid used for sedation.

The tragedy shed light on another facet of the danger carfentanil poses to the public, said Escamilla. “I don’t view it as a narcotic, I view it as a toxin and a potential WMD agent,” he added. “And I think a lot of agencies are now looking at it from that perspective too.”


Roy Moore: Alabama voters will ‘see through this charade’ of sexual misconduct claim

November 11, 2017

by Elise Viebeck and Tom Hamburger

The Washington Post

VESTAVIA HILLS, Ala. — Senate candidate Roy Moore tried to rally support behind his embattled campaign Saturday as some prominent Republicans disowned him over allegations that he pursued sexual or romantic relationships with teenage girls when he was in his 30s.

In his first public appearance since The Washington Post reported the allegations, Moore called the claims “a desperate attempt to stop my campaign” and cast doubt on the intentions of his accusers, one of whom said she was 14 when the former Alabama judge initiated a sexual encounter.

“These allegations came only four-and-a-half weeks before the election,” Moore told about 100 supporters at a Veterans Day breakfast here.

“That’s not a coincidence. It’s an intentional act to stop a campaign. . . . We do not intend to let the Democrats or the establishment Republicans or anybody else behind this story stop this campaign,” he said.

Moore’s effort to frame the allegations as a political conspiracy perpetrated by the media and his political enemies came as national Republicans withdrew financial support for his campaign and called for him to bow out before the Dec. 12 special election.

Republican voters at the event in Alabama were defiant in their support for Moore.

“From what I’ve read, it seems like this 14-year-old girl who is now 50-something has a somewhat checkered past,” Johnny Creel, 56, an insurance broker wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, said outside the event.

“You have to judge a story like that on the credibility of the accuser. . . . I don’t think it happened.”

Willie A. Casey, one of the few African Americans at the event, said the story is the “hottest thing going in Birmingham,” especially in the black community. But he said the allegations have not changed his position.

“I believe in [Moore’s] biblical principles,” said Casey, 70, comparing the United States to “Sodom and Gomorrah.” “I think in America, we’ve gone so far out of the Bible, someone needs to bring it back.”

Leigh Corfman, who described a sexual encounter with Moore when she was 14, told The Post she thought about confronting Moore for years but feared her personal history — three divorces and a messy financial background — could hurt her credibility. She also worried how it would affect her children, she said.

Moore, who won his Senate nomination while touting his belief in the supremacy of a Christian God over the Constitution, said he expects “the citizens of Alabama to see through this charade.”

The 70-year-old is running against Democrat Doug Jones to fill the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, but the claims have raised questions about his viability in the race and how the Republican Party should respond.

President Trump, who has been on a 12-day tour of Asia, told reporters Saturday aboard Air Force One that he hasn’t “been able to devote very much time” to follow the report about Moore.

“Honestly, I’d have to look at it and I’d have to see. Because, again, I’m dealing with the president of China, the president of Russia, I’m dealing with the folks over here,” he said when asked to comment on the accusations.

On Friday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders echoed the positions of Vice President Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that “if the allegations are true, Judge Moore will do the right thing and step aside.”

Conservative Sens. Mike Lee (Utah) and Steve Daines (Mont.) have rescinded their endorsements of Moore. They were joined Saturday by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who wrote on Twitter, “Based on the allegations against Roy Moore, his response and what is known, I withdraw support.”

And on Saturday, two more Republicans, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), disparaged him.

Some Republicans have hoped that Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) would postpone the election, but her staff told local media outlets Saturday that the election will go on as scheduled next month.

“These allegations are deeply disturbing,” Ivey said in a statement. “I will hold judgment until we know the facts. The people of Alabama deserve to know the truth and will make their own decisions.”

Ivey, who does not endorse candidates, indicated Wednesday that she would vote for Moore. An inquiry about her current position was not immediately returned.

Under state law, Moore’s name cannot be removed from the ballot this close to the election, but the state GOP can petition to disqualify him and he can still withdraw from the race. If Moore is disqualified or withdraws, votes for him would not be counted.

Republicans such as Sen. Luther Strange (R) and Rep. Mo Brooks (R) — who both ran against Moore in the primary — could also mount their own write-in campaigns. But given the apparent strength of Moore’s base, national Republicans are skeptical that a write-in candidate could win.

Some Republican women who attended the event Saturday said further allegations against Moore could change their feelings about him. But as a whole, they continue to back “the judge,” they said.

Ann Eubank, who leads a conservative group called Alabama Legislative Watchdogs, said The Post was part of a political conspiracy against Moore.

“Y’all chose the month before to bring a hit piece thinking you could influence how Alabamians vote. And that’s what makes Alabamians mad. Don’t come down here and tell us how to vote,” she said.

Moore arrived at the event Saturday morning with his wife, Kayla, amid boos from about a dozen protesters. He declined to answer questions as he walked inside and as he left.

“I was horrified,” Lisa Wienhold, 56, who held a sign that read “No Moore,” said of the allegations. “I never liked Roy Moore that much, but when I heard about that, I was beyond horrified. . . . There are a lot of smart people who have been on the other side for whom maybe this will be the final straw.”

“I’m not surprised,” said Lisa Sharlach, 49, holding a sign that read “Grabby Old Pervert.” “It’s usually the people who are screaming God and Jesus that are the ones with skeletons in the closet.”

Moore spoke Saturday after addressing the charges of sexual misconduct in a radio interview with Sean Hannity on Friday.

“These allegations are completely false and misleading,” he told Hannity. He specifically denied The Post’s report that he had a sexual encounter with Corfman in 1979. However, in the interview Friday, Moore did not rule out that he may have dated girls in their late teens when he was in his 30s.

Moore’s campaign faces a steeper climb financially after the National Republican Senatorial Committee on Friday pulled out of a joint fundraising committee with him. Deprived of a key source of campaign funding, Moore has sought to capi­tal­ize on the controversy in fundraising appeals to supporters.

“The Obama-Clinton Machine’s liberal media lapdogs just launched the most vicious and nasty round of attacks against me I’ve EVER faced,” he wrote in a mass email sent by the campaign under his wife’s name on Saturday morning.

“Rest assured I will NEVER GIVE UP the fight!” he wrote.

Moore’s backers showed no signs of abandoning him Saturday.

I’m here to give him a check for $1,000,” Creel said outside the library. “I may even double-down on the judge.”

Hamburger reported from Washington. Michael Scherer in Washington contributed to this report.


UK prosecutors destroyed crucial emails in Assange case

November 10, 2017


The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) admitted to deleting potentially crucial emails relating to attempts to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who remains cooped up in the Ecuadorian embassy.

An email exchange between the CPS and their Swedish counterparts, who were pursuing rape charges against Assange, was deleted in 2014 after a lawyer from the UK side retired.

The CPS, who said the deletion was standard procedure, has denied any legal implications from the supposed error, though they admitted, in comment given to the Guardian, that “We have no way of knowing the content of email accounts once they have been deleted.”

The newspaper reported that the CPS lawyer in question also advised his Swedish counterparts against visiting London in 2010 or 2011 to interview Assange. The revelations came ahead of a tribunal hearing relating to information held by the CPS on WikiLeaks founder.

Prof. Mads Andenas, the Faculty of Law at the University of Oslo, says this latest development with the deletion of correspondence “adds to the litany of abuses which have taken place in this case.”

“On the one hand, technically there is probably some truth in what they say about the general routines, but there’s absolutely no credibility to the claim that there’s no copy,” he told RT.

Commenting on whether it’s likely that these emails could have a significant impact on Assange’s case, he said:

“They do show that from what I’ve heard is very close to, if not crossing the threshold for misfeasance, it is disloyal to the legal system, it leaves us, who follow this case, with very little confidence in the rule of law. And it is clearly a breach of duty to indicate something like what we now expect was, or we are pretty sure was requested.”

Sweden dropped the investigation into Assange in May, leading to suggestions that he might leave the sanctuary of the embassy, though he subsequently declined to do so. Assange fears that the US, which has been investigating him since 2010, will seek to extradite the WikiLeaks founder from the UK should he leave the embassy.

The Justice Department is seeking Assange chiefly over the publishing of more than a quarter of a million classified US embassy cables leaked by Chelsea Manning. Despite being accused of aiding Donald Trump’s election through the leaking of Hillary Clinton’s emails, charges against Assange were noted as a “priority” for the US, by the attorney general, Jeff Sessions.

The revelations were disclosed after Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi, a reporter on La Repubblica, pursued a freedom of information (FOI) case against the CPS.

In 2015, journalist uncovered, using another FOI request, an email from a CPS lawyer to Swedish prosecutors, dated January 25 2011, reading: “My earlier advice remains, that in my view it would not be prudent for the Swedish authorities to try to interview the defendant in the UK.”

Maurizi is pursuing further FOI requests related to Assange and, unhappy at their lack of progress, is taking her case against the CPS to an information tribunal next week, according to the Guardian.

“Serious questions should be raised with the UK authorities around the accountability of the Crown Prosecution Service, and an internal review about the way this case is being conducted,” Doughty Street Chambers barrister Jenifer Robinson told RT.

“The United Kingdom is in breach of its international obligations, it’s found [Assange is] arbitrarily detained. And a large part of this decision-making process, was the way in which this case has been handled; and the fact he has been offering his testimony to the Swedish prosecutors for seven years,” added Robinson, who will be representing Maurizi at the tribunal.

“This case could have and should been have resolved back in 2010, and now we know the UK played a key role in extending his detention… The British prosecuting service plays a role as an agent of the Swedish prosecuting authority. We have been offering his testimony for a number of years.”


Bitcoin crash: Cryptocurrency loses third of its value ahead of Sunday split

November 12, 2017


The world’s most popular cryptocurrency bitcoin dropped below $6,000 on Sunday, losing over 30 percent of its value since hitting an all-time high set earlier this week.

Bitcoin was trading as low as $5,519 on Sunday, plunging over $2,300 from its Wednesday record high, according to data compiled by industry website Coinmarketcap. Later in the day it regained some of its losses, trading above $6,000 by 9:30am GMT.

On Wednesday, the world’s most valued virtual currency touched $7,888 on news that a controversial software upgrade planned for next week was suspended. The change was to introduce a new code proposal, Segwit2x, which could create a competing cryptocurrency, Bitcoin2x.

As bitcoin plunged, Bitcoin Cash, a clone of the original that was generated from another split earlier this year, briefly surged as much as 35 percent on the day to around $850. The offshoot was trading at $772.32 at 12:36pm GMT.

Despite losing almost seven percent during this week, bitcoin is still up more than 600 percent so far this year. The current market cap of the digital currency is nearly $105 billion, about that of McDonald’s.

On Friday, the team behind the fork of the bitcoin blockchain announced the release of a formal software client download on their website. Starting on Sunday, miners and users will get access to processing Bitcoin Gold. “The BTG blockchain will officially be live, with blocks mined openly by users and pools from all around the world,” the developers say.

The idea behind bitcoin gold is to decentralize mining operations, which are currently in the hands of large companies that can afford expensive processing chips. Bitcoin gold requires cheaper hardware to mine, and are therefore more available to the general public.


Bitcoin’s price bubble will burst under government pressure

The cryptocurrency is up 1,600% in two years – but state efforts to remove its near-anonymity will undermine its popularity

October 9, 2017

by Kenneth Rogoff

the Guardian

Is the cryptocurrency bitcoin the biggest bubble in the world today, or a great investment bet on the cutting edge of new-age financial technology? My best guess is that in the long run, the technology will thrive, but that the price of bitcoin will collapse.

If you haven’t been following the bitcoin story, its price is up 600% over the past 12 months, and 1,600% in the past 24 months. At over $4,200 (as of 5 October), a single unit of the virtual currency is now worth more than three times an ounce of gold. Some bitcoin evangelists see it going far higher in the next few years.

What happens from here will depend a lot on how governments react. Will they tolerate anonymous payment systems that facilitate tax evasion and crime? Will they create digital currencies of their own? Another key question is how successfully bitcoin’s numerous “alt-coin” competitors can penetrate the market.

In principle, it is supremely easy to clone or improve on bitcoin’s technology. What is not so easy is to duplicate bitcoin’s established lead in credibility and the large ecosystem of applications that have built up around it.

For now, the regulatory environment remains a free-for-all. China’s government, concerned about the use of bitcoin in capital flight and tax evasion, has recently banned bitcoin exchanges. Japan, on the other hand, has enshrined bitcoin as legal tender, in an apparent bid to become the global centre of fintech.

The United States is taking tentative steps to follow Japan in regulating fintech, though the endgame is far from clear. Importantly, bitcoin does not need to win every battle to justify a sky-high price. Japan, the world’s third largest economy, has an extraordinarily high currency-to-income ratio (roughly 20%), so bitcoin’s success there is a major triumph.

In Silicon Valley, drooling executives are both investing in bitcoin and pouring money into competitors. After bitcoin, the most important is Ethereum. The sweeping, Amazon-like ambition of Ethereum is to allow its users to employ the same general technology to negotiate and write “smart contracts” for just about anything

As of early October, Ethereum’s market capitalisation stood at $28bn, versus $72bn for bitcoin. Ripple, a platform championed by the banking sector to slash transaction costs for interbank and overseas transfers, is a distant third at $9bn. Behind the top three are dozens of fledgling competitors.

Most experts agree that the ingenious technology behind virtual currencies may have broad applications for cybersecurity, which currently poses one of the biggest challenges to the stability of the global financial system. For many developers, the goal of achieving a cheaper, more secure payments mechanism has supplanted bitcoin’s ambition of replacing dollars.

But it is folly to think that bitcoin will ever be allowed to supplant central-bank-issued money. It is one thing for governments to allow small anonymous transactions with virtual currencies; indeed, this would be desirable. But it is an entirely different matter for governments to allow large-scale anonymous payments, which would make it extremely difficult to collect taxes or counter criminal activity. Of course, as I note in my recent book on past, present, and future currencies, governments that issue large-denomination bills also risk aiding tax evasion and crime. But cash at least has bulk, unlike virtual currency.

It will be interesting to see how the Japanese experiment evolves. The government has indicated that it will force bitcoin exchanges to be on the lookout for criminal activity and to collect information on deposit holders. Still, one can be sure that global tax evaders will seek ways to acquire bitcoin anonymously abroad and then launder their money through Japanese accounts. Carrying paper currency in and out of a country is a major cost for tax evaders and criminals; by embracing virtual currencies, Japan risks becoming a Switzerland-like tax haven – with the bank secrecy laws baked into the technology.

Were bitcoin stripped of its near-anonymity, it would be hard to justify its current price. Perhaps bitcoin speculators are betting that there will always be a consortium of rogue states allowing anonymous bitcoin usage, or even state actors such as North Korea that will exploit it.

Would the price of bitcoin drop to zero if governments could perfectly observe transactions? Perhaps not. Even though bitcoin transactions require an exorbitant amount of electricity, with some improvements, bitcoin might still beat the 2% fees the big banks charge on credit and debit cards.

Finally, it is hard to see what would stop central banks from creating their own digital currencies and using regulation to tilt the playing field until they win. The long history of currency tells us that what the private sector innovates, the state eventually regulates and appropriates. I have no idea where bitcoin’s price will go over the next couple years, but there is no reason to expect virtual currency to avoid a similar fate.

  • Kenneth Rogoff is professor of economics and public policy at Harvard University. He was the chief economist of the IMF from 2001 to 2003


Winston Spencer-Churchill: A Tribute

by Harry Elmer Barnes

No informed person could well deny that Winston S. Churchill was probably the most spectacular showman in the history of British politics, and he was surely one of Britain’s great masters of patriotic and honorific rhetoric. But when we go beyond this into any phase of Churchill’s career we enter debatable ground. Any careful study of his personality and career raises serious questions as to his personal and political integrity and the value of his public services to Great Britain.

His political career revealed no firm political principles or ideology. He shifted in his party affiliations from the Conservatives to the Liberals and back to the Conservatives. He praised Mussolini and Hitler lavishly after their totalitarian programs had been fully established and their operations were well known. He said that if he had been an Italian he would have been a Fascist, and as late as 1938 he stated that if England were ever in the same straits that Germany had been in 1933, he hoped that England would find “her Hitler.” The eminent Anglo-American publicist, Francis Neilson, declared that Churchill’s praise of Hitler was the most extreme tribute ever paid by a prominent Englishman to the head of a foreign state. When his “great and good friend” of former days, Mussolini, was murdered by Communist partisans and his corpse hung up head down in Milan, Churchill rushed in to a dinner party with the news, exclaiming: “Ah, the bloody beast is dead!” In World War II he declared that it was his great life purpose to destroy Hitler and National Socialism.

Churchill’s shifts on Communism were equally fantastic. He had been one of the most bitter critics of Communism and its leaders, denouncing it as “foul baboonery,” but during World War II he extolled Stalin as generously as he previously had Mussolini and Hitler, only to shift again as early as 1946 and demand a Cold War on Communism.

There is no convincing evidence whatever that Churchill ever proposed or supported any public measure with a primary interest in its probable effect on the welfare of Britain or humanity. He appeared to be exclusively concerned with its probable reaction on his own political career. In this he differed from Roosevelt. Even John T. Flynn admits that the latter, as a country squire, had a real sense of noblesse oblige and was interested in the well-being of the common people when helping them did not interfere with his own political ambitions. Churchill never revealed any sense of noblesse oblige. To him rank only demanded special privileges and rewards. It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that he was the most vain person in the whole history of prominent public figures, a trait enduring until his death and after, when he had planned years or months in advance even the details of a pompous and dramatic public funeral.

Churchill was completely lacking in integrity with respect to his public career. He had no hesitation in uttering the most flagrant misstatements when this appeared necessary to him to promote his political ambitions or cover up his past mistakes. He did not turn aside from deceiving the British people on matters of great public import if this was required for his political self-protection. Perhaps the best of many examples was his report to the House of Commons after his return from the disastrous Yalta Conference, where he had witnessed Stalin’s duplicity and mendacious greed, having already observed this at Tehran and in the atrocious violation of Stalin’s promises in regard to the Soviet treatment of Poland. Churchill assured the House: “The impression I brought back from the Crimea is that Marshall Stalin and the other Soviet leaders wish to live in honorable friendship and democracy with the Western democracies. I feel that no government stands more on its obligations than the Russian Soviet Government.”

It is well to remember that Churchill’s great current reputation as a statesman rests entirely on events between April 1940 and July 1945. He was so thoroughly discredited as a politician by 1933 that both the Baldwin and Chamberlain governments considered that to have him in the Cabinet would be a detriment to Conservative prestige and prospects. When public issues returned again to domestic affairs in 1945, Churchill was resoundingly defeated in the General Election of that summer. As a wartime administrator he showed tremendous energy rather than organizing and directive genius. He was more distinguished for his pugnacity than for his statecraft, although there can be no doubt that he inspired the British to unite and continue the war against Hitler, but it may be questioned if unthinking resistance to Hitler after Dunkirk was the best policy for Britain. The most effective indictment of Churchill’s wartime statecraft is that after gaining military victory he lost the peace to Soviet Russia.

There has been no greater fallacy than to regard Churchill as a military genius, although it is probable that no other important British leader has so loved war or worked harder to insure it when it seemed within the range of possibility. Churchill was responsible for the disastrous attempt to force the Dardanelles in 1915, which was Britain’s most spectacular defeat in the World War I (except for the futile attempts to break through the German trenches). It has been said that it was a good plan if it had worked, but a truly good military plan must work out in practice and not merely be impressive on paper. Both Lord Fisher and Lord Kitchener warned against the project. Churchill was compelled to resign as responsible for the failure.

In regard to World War II both English and American experts have indicated that Churchill’s interference in strategic decisions was often disastrous. General Albert C. Wedemeyer has pointed out that Churchill and Roosevelt really ran military operations like a pair of Indian chiefs conducting a scalping party, with little consideration of the ultimate military or political outcome. Churchill’s constant demand to concentrate the Allied attack against the “soft underbelly of Europe”-a sort of return to the Dardanelles fantasy- was properly discredited by the impressive manner in which General Kesserling defended the Italian sector of the soft underbelly under the greatest handicaps, defeated in the end mainly by the treachery of Hitler and his SS underlings.

It is held even by restrained admirers of Churchill that we must at least give him credit for saving Britain. One might ask: saving Britain from whom and from what? Hitler was a worse bootlicker of Britain than the Kaiser and the cornerstone of his foreign policy was to achieve a permanent understanding with Britain. Even after Dunkirk, where he deliberately permitted the British to escape, he offered Britain a generous peace and told his generals that he would put the German Wehrmacht, air force and navy at the service of Britain to preserve the British Empire. Real statesmanship would have dictated Churchill’s agreeing to a stalemate with Germany in June 1941, and letting Germany and Russia bleed each other white and thus remove the threat of dictatorship from either the Right or the Left. This was what wise Americans like Herbert Hoover, Robert A. Taft, and Harry S. Truman recommended at the time. But Churchill was just getting too much joy and thrill-“having too much fun,” as Roosevelt put it-out of being an active war leader to consider for a moment retiring to the role of an observer, even if this was probably the only way to assure British safety and the preservation of the Empire. He condemned England to four more years of costly and brutal warfare, failed to protect eastern and central Europe from Russia and Communism, and made inevitable the liquidation of the British Empire.

Churchill led in the denunciation of the alleged horrible atrocities and brutalities of the Nazis, but his record is surely no better. He rejected Hitler’s proposal at the outset of the War to ban all bombardment of non-military objectives and launched this barbarous form of bombing on 11 May 1940, with an attack on the helpless university town of Freiburg. He announced that he would stop at no type or extent of brutality and terrorism to crush Hitler and he made good his word. He directed the terrible incendiary bombing of Hamburg, and was solely responsible for ordering the needless destruction of the beautiful city of Dresden, the most ruthless, despicable and indefensible major atrocity of World War II, in which the losses of life and property were far greater than in the case of the American bombing of either Hiroshima or Nagasaki. He approved and ordered the application of the Lindemann Plan for the saturation bombing of Germany which, for stark brutality in both conception and operation, matched any of the alleged Nazi “extermination” measures. This plan ordered concentration of British bombing on the homes of the poorer or working classes whose houses were huddled close together so that more innocent civilians could be killed per bomb that was dropped.

In his remarks at the funeral of Mr. Churchill, former President Dwight Eisenhower laid main stress on Churchill’s achievements as a “friend of peace.” It would be no exaggeration to say that this was not unlike J. Edgar Hoover paying a special tribute to Al Capone as a friend of law enforcement. Even his British admirers have conceded Churchill’s lifelong and inordinate love of war. No other British public figure worked as hard to bring Britain into World War I as did Churchill. This has been admitted in the recent book, Twelve Days, by the English writer George Malcolm Thomson on the crisis of 1914. It is common knowledge that Churchill was the leader of the British war party from 1936 onward, having told General Robert E. Wood in that year that: “Germany is getting too strong; we must smash her.” He not only cooperated with the war party in Britain but also worked closely with Bernard Baruch and the other powerful warminded Americans.

Perhaps the best summary appraisal of Churchill’s personality comes from the distinguished British publicist, F.S. Oliver:

From his youth up Mr. Churchill has loved with all his heart, with all his mind, with all his soul, and with all his strength, three things: war, politics and himself. He has loved war for its dangers, he loves politics for the same reason, and himself he has always loved for the knowledge that his mind is dangerous -dangerous to his enemies, dangerous to his friends, dangerous to himself. I can think of no man I have ever met who would so quickly and so bitterly eat his heart out in Paradise.

The significance of Churchill’s career for this and later generations was admirably summarized by the British journal, The European:

In terms of personal success there has been no career more fortunate than that of Winston Churchill. In terms of human suffering to millions of people and destruction to the noble edifice of mankind there has been no career more disastrous. In that sad paradox lies the tragedy of our time.


Arkansas Justice: Racism, Torture, and a Botched Execution

November 12 2017

by Liliana Segura

The Intercept

Just over six months have passed since the disturbing execution of Kenneth Williams, but as far as the state of Arkansas is concerned, it might as well be ancient history. No sooner did media witnesses return to the press room on the night of April 27 to describe how Williams coughed and convulsed on the gurney than officials acted like nothing had happened. Never mind the veteran reporter who said it was unlike any execution he had ever seen. Gov. Asa Hutchinson dismissed calls for an investigation. “My goal was to make sure that we had justice in Arkansas in a way that reflected well on the state,” he said the next day, “and I think that was accomplished.”

In reality, the apparently botched execution was the culmination of an ugly ordeal that had put Arkansas at the center of international controversy for weeks. Hutchinson had originally scheduled execution dates for eight men to take place over 11 days last spring, in a rush to use drugs set to expire at the end of April. The plan sparked chaos, with defense attorneys scrambling to write clemency petitions, state lawyers beating back legal challenges, and prison staff preparing to try out a questionable sedative, midazolam, never previously used in Arkansas. The drug has been linked to several executions gone awry, and many observers warned something was bound to go wrong. Of the four executions that proceeded, Williams’s fulfilled the worst predictions. One attorney called it “horrifying.”

Yet there has been no reckoning; no meaningful look at how the drugs were administered or whether Williams was tortured to death. Shielded by the state’s secrecy law, there has been no sanction for state officials who were willing to buy drugs by any means necessary, including by misleading drug manufacturers who did not wish their products to be used to kill. In fact, just this week Arkansas was poised to execute another man, Jack Gordon Greene, until his execution was stayed by the Arkansas Supreme Court over concerns about his severe mental illness.

Today, the only public official held accountable for any potential misconduct during the state’s execution spree is a man who stood briefly in the way. Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Wendell Griffen issued a temporary restraining order after a pharmaceutical corporation sued the Arkansas Department of Correction, charging officials with buying drugs under false pretenses and then refusing to return them. That same day, Griffen, a Baptist minister, took part in a dramatic Good Friday protest outside the governor’s mansion, playing the condemned in a mock execution. Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge cried foul – and the consequences were swift: The Arkansas Supreme Court ordered a disciplinary review and announced it would reassign all of Griffen’s death penalty cases. In a special session, state legislators voted to implement rules that would allow for his impeachment.

Griffen defended himself, citing his First Amendment rights. But his fight with what he calls Arkansas’s “white power structure” has exposed a deeper divide. “In the history of Arkansas, no white member of the Arkansas judiciary has ever been summarily banned from hearing an entire category of cases based on his or her exercise of the First Amendment protected freedoms of speech, peaceful assembly, religion, and exercise of religion,” Griffen argues in a lawsuit filed against the Arkansas Supreme Court last month. He cites “multiple white judges in Arkansas who admitted to engaging in criminal behavior have been treated more favorably.”

Among them is a judge who led police officers on a high-speed chase after blowing through a sobriety checkpoint. That man pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated, on same day Griffen took part in the demonstration in Little Rock. The white judge will go back to presiding over DWI cases next month. “African-American Judge Griffen, on the other hand, is barred for life from presiding over any cases involving the death penalty,” his lawsuit argues.

Racism has always helped decide who gets punished in Arkansas, and how.

Griffen is 65 years old, raised by sharecroppers in the rural town of Delight, Arkansas. He may never have become a judge if not for a lawsuit brought in 1989, which exposed how black voters were being disenfranchised from judicial elections, in violation of the Voting Rights Act. In 1991, just as executions were returning to Arkansas, a consent decree forced the state to create new electoral subdistricts. Several black judges would be elected in years to come, among them Griffen, voted onto the bench in 2010.

Griffen is no stranger to controversy. He is outspoken against racism on his blog, sometimes using his sermons to point out ways in which Arkansas has not abandoned the white supremacy of its past, but has reinvented it. He has been open about his moral opposition to the death penalty, while also issuing legal rulings against people facing execution. Griffin argues he is perfectly capable of following the law even when it conflicts with his personal views. Others decry him as an activist judge.

Yet his critics’ own controversies have raised questions about how fairly they approach questions of law and order. Chief among them is Rutledge, who continues to lead the charge to carry out executions. A Donald Trump supporter whose father was the drug czar under former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, she came under criticism a few years ago after sending a shockingly racist email mocking black people in 2014. There were no consequences.

Racism has always helped decide who gets punished in Arkansas, and how. Three black men and one white man died in the Arkansas death house last April. Of all of them, Kenneth Williams undoubtably had the most blood on his hands. But if no one cares to consider how he died, it is also because whitewashing torture has a long tradition in Arkansas prisons. State officials ignored their own grim history in their rush to execute last spring. By absolving itself of wrongdoing, Arkansas continues to repeat it.

Mayor Essie Mae Cableton was in her office the day Arkansas killed Kenneth Williams, across from the Dollar General on Highway 65. The city of Gould, population 836, lies on the southern edge of sprawling farmland owned by the Arkansas Department of Correction, in unincorporated parts of Lincoln County. The land is anchored by two maximum-security prisons: the Varner Unit, which houses men on death row, and the Cummins Unit, where they are sent to die.

That morning, 38-year-old Williams waited in a holding cell next to the death chamber just up the road. News vans would soon start arriving to cover his death, scheduled for 7 p.m. It would be the fourth execution at the prison in eight days.

Cableton once worked at the Cummins Unit. Now 76, she was born and raised in Gould during a different era. She remembers picking cotton in the fields alongside her sisters by the time she was six. “We would get like $2.50 or $3 per hundred pounds,” Cableton said. White students passing on school buses sometimes threw things out the window, laughing at “those niggers picking cotton.” After graduating from Gould Colored High School, Cableton worked factory jobs and joined the civil rights movement. She married an organizer with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which had a field office in town. In one corner of her office, an old photograph shows the safe house where activists met to hide from the Ku Klux Klan.

The Arkansas prison system was built upon “an ancient philosophy of retribution, corruption, exploitation, sadism and brutality.”

Back then, the local penitentiary, known as Cummins Prison Farm, was “a very horrible place,” Cableton said. Neighbors saw men getting whipped in the fields. In the 1969 expose, “Accomplices to the Crime: The Arkansas Prison Scandal,” former prison superintendent Tom Murton described the system as one of modern-day slavery, built upon “an ancient philosophy of retribution, corruption, exploitation, sadism and brutality.” Rather than pay civilian guards, the state relied on armed “trusties,” who violently enforced the state-ordered regimen of hard labor on fellow prisoners. Men were towed to the fields like cattle, harvesting crops under close supervision. Many compared it to a Nazi concentration camp.

Whippings were routine and legal in those years – and torture was an open secret. Especially notorious was an instrument called the “Tucker Telephone,” facilitated by so-called prison doctors at a penitentiary of the same name. As Murton described it, “An undressed inmate was strapped to the treatment table at Tucker Hospital while electrodes were attached to his big toe and to his penis. The crank was then turned, sending an electrical charge into his body. In ‘long distance calls,’ several charges were inflicted – of a duration designed to stop just short of the inmate’s fainting.”

The brutality in Arkansas prisons made national headlines following a police probe in 1966. A handful of firings followed, but many politicians dismissed the revelations. “Ninety-five per cent of the complaints of convicts are lies,” said one lawmaker, a former chair of the penitentiary board. Another simply declared: “Arkansas has the best prison system in the United States.” After Murton discovered three skeletons buried at Cummins – proof of longtime rumors that some “escapees” had actually been murdered – evidence and press witnesses who saw the exhuming were whitewashed by a state investigation. Murton was pushed out. One state senator called for him to be censured for digging up the bodies in the first place.

In 1970, a federal judge declared the whole Arkansas prison system unconstitutional, deeming it a “dark and evil world.” By the time Cableton took a job as a guard 30 years later, the system had been totally overhauled. The Tucker Telephone was moved to a museum. Still, at the Cummins Unit, she could see the “circle in the floor where the whipping block used to be.”

If torture was officially a thing of the past, a harsh new form of punishment had been introduced in the meantime. In 1990, after more than 25 years without an execution in Arkansas, Gov. Bill Clinton ushered in a wave of new executions, replacing the electric chair with lethal injection. It was ostensibly a more humane method of killing, overseen by medical personnel. But the first execution, of Ronald Gene Simmons, was harrowing; witnesses saw him cough and heave, shaking the gurney. Two years later, while on the campaign trail, Clinton himself famously witnessed the execution of brain-damaged Ricky Ray Rector, who died a similarly disturbing death.

These executions took place before Cableton’s time at Cummins. But she remembers the 1995 execution of Barry Lee Fairchild, a black man with mental disabilities who had been railroaded by a racist sheriff for a crime he swore he did not commit. “It still bothers me,” Cableton said, “because I’m wondering was an innocent man put to death?”

As a member of Cummins’s Emergency Response Team, Cableton provided security on execution nights. “At that time to me, it was just part of the job,” she said. Still, the job had always been a last resort. She grew tired of the overnight shifts and “John Wayne-type” supervisors, who reminded her of the men who cursed at her when she was a child working in their fields. “I told them it was time I come out of Egypt,” she said. “I can’t stand for a man now to tell me what to do.” In 2007, at age 65, Cableton left Cummins. She went back to school and got a degree in criminal justice. In 2015, she ran for mayor. She won by five votes.

That same year, Hutchinson signed a new lethal injection protocol into law. Cableton’s perspective on the death penalty had evolved. “I’ve come to be a little more sympathetic and compassionate,” she said. As Rutledge deployed dozens of lawyers to work over Easter weekend to push through Hutchinson’s execution plans earlier this year, Cableton questioned the governor’s priorities. He had yet to visit her corner of the Arkansas Delta – and Cableton had yet to secure funding to fix the partially caved-in roof of the town hall building where she works. “If those are our taxpayers’ dollars out there, why is it so difficult to get it to do the things that we need to do down in this end of Arkansas?”

As the executions proceeded, other questions were hard to avoid. On April 20, two black men were scheduled to die back-to-back. Both insisted they were innocent – and both had disastrous defense representation at trial. “I didn’t even want to watch the news,” Cableton said. “I really didn’t. I called my sister and I asked her, ‘Have they executed those two?’” The next morning, she learned that one execution had gone through while the other had been stayed.

It seemed to be arbitrary, who lived and who died. But as the execution dates came and went, Cableton was not surprised that the single recommendation for clemency went to a white man, or that the two black men put to death so far had been convicted of crimes against white women. It was a story she knew too well, a lesson that went back to the murder of Emmitt Till. “That’s something I’ve been mad about all my life,” she said.

At 5 p.m. on April 27, reporters settled into the media room at the Cummins Unit. The prison had provided pastries and chocolate frosted cookies, along with fruit punch and sugary coffee, flavored with cinnamon. Media packets featured corrections department’s slogan: “Honor and integrity in public service.”

Reporters also received a list of everyone executed in Arkansas since 1913. Kenneth Williams would be the 200th — and the 140th black man killed by the state. But he was unusual in one sense. His would be only the third execution ever to come out of small, rural Lincoln County. The first was a black man named Fred Pelton, who had killed someone following an escape from Cummins, after going to prison in the late 1800s for the attempted rape of five white women in Little Rock, a crime he swore he did not commit. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette praised police for avoiding a lynching of the “negro brute,” but he was executed in 1914. Then there was Revertia Reynolds, killed in 1921 for murdering a black man. His execution was notable for being witnessed by the daughter of a local businessman. The headline in the Arkansas Gazette was “Young Woman Sees Negro Go to Death.”

Kenneth Williams arrived at Cummins in 1998. Sentenced to life for abducting and killing a 19-year-old college student, he escaped the next year, climbing into a vat of hog slop being towed from the prison. He broke into the home of a local farmer named Cecil Boren, shooting him in the head with his own gun. After driving some 300 miles to Missouri, Williams crashed Boren’s truck, killing a 24-year-old man. Later, from death row, Williams wrote a letter confessing to yet another murder.

Members of Boren’s family were at the prison that night. Like many in Lincoln County, their lives were intertwined with the Cummins Unit. Boren and his relatives had worked at the prison during some of its most volatile times. After the barracks were forcibly integrated in the spring of 1970, Boren was among those tasked with handling the unrest. Excerpts from local news reports in the 1977 book “Killing Time” included a quote from Boren, who warned that the black prisoners were intent on “burning this place down.” His cousin David would later testify that he had been ordered by a field supervisor to fatally shoot a black prisoner, but refused. David said he had “seen inmates assaulted by guards, beaten in the stomach and personally had falsified disciplinary records of inmates to prolong their sentences in isolation cells.”

As Williams went to trial in 2000 for killing Boren. It was hard to find an impartial jury in Lincoln County. Many prospective jurors “either work at the prison or are related to someone who works there, or know Boren’s family,” the AP reported at the time. As the execution neared 17 years later, the local coroner spoke to the New York Times. “What I’ve heard nonstop in this community — this entire community — is: ‘This is the one we’re waiting on.’”

At 5:30 sharp, Arkansas Department of Correction spokesperson Solomon Graves welcomed reporters. A black man wearing a pink tie and a gray suit coat, Graves reported that Kenneth Williams had refused a last meal, choosing instead to take communion. Then he listed the food Williams had been given anyway: “two pieces of fried chicken, barbecue beans, sweet rice, whole kernel corn, stewed seasoned tomatoes, two cinnamon rolls, two cookies, four slices of bread, and fruit punch.”

A reporter asked Graves to repeat what came after the sweet rice. Another asked whether Williams “ate the whole tray.” An internal affairs log would later detail precisely how much food Williams consumed: “all of the chicken, 1 peanut butter cookie, half of the sweet rice, 1 slice of bread, and half cup of the BBQ beans.”

The atmosphere in the media room was one of collective tedium, peppered with small talk, gossip, and some laughter. Reporters covering the executions had spent long, late hours at the prison, waiting out last-minute legal challenges. Officials came prepared for a long night, armed with candy and a Lays variety pack. A chatty woman in a red blazer brought sodoku, sighing that she had hardly slept for the past two weeks.

Reporters checked email and Twitter for the latest legal filings. Attorneys for Williams pointed to his low IQ and abusive childhood as reasons he should be spared. Separately, a story had gone viral about Michael Greenwood, the driver killed in the crash caused by Williams after his escape from Cummins. Greenwood’s daughter, Kayla, had written to Hutchinson, asking him to spare Williams. She had discovered he had a daughter her own age who could not afford to come see her father before he died. Her family bought a flight for her, picked her up at the airport, and took her to the prison. “If Mr. Williams is executed, her loss, her pain, will be as real as mine,” Kayla wrote. The governor did not respond.

At 6 p.m., it was time to name the media witnesses. Only three local press representatives are allowed to view executions, representing print, electronic media, and the Associated Press. If reporters do not agree on the representatives, the witnesses must be chosen at random. Reporters hastily wrote their names on slips of paper, which were put in a Tupperware container.

Hours would pass with no new information. J.R. Davis, the official spokesman for Governor Hutchinson, came in and out of the media room, with little to share. At 10:11 p.m., a man in a jacket and tie came and finally asked for the media witnesses. For a few minutes, the room silent. But before long, the chatter started up again.

It was 11:07 when Graves answered his phone in the media room. He scratched his head and wrote something down, hanging up a minute later. Then he addressed the reporters. Williams had been declared dead at 11:05 p.m., he said. Then he added, Williams “did shake for approximately 10 seconds” during the execution. He declined to give further details.

Media witnesses returned looking solemn. One man’s face was red. AP reporter Kelly Kissel quickly got to the heart of the matter. “Coughing, convulsing, lurching, jerking,” he said, reading from their pooled notes. The execution began at 10:52. After the midazolam had been administered, he said, Williams lurched forward 15 times, then another five times, more slowly. It lasted no more than a minute, he said. But after that, Williams gasped, taking labored breaths. “It was clear that he was in trouble,” Kissel said. “It was clear that he was striving for breath.”

Reporters asked what drugs had been administered at that point. The three-drug protocol relies first on an efficacious dose of a sedative – in this case midazolam – to ensure that the effects of the next two drugs do not lead to a tortuous death. Kissel said only midazolam should have been given, but there was really no way to know for sure. No one alerted witnesses to when the other drugs were being injected. Continuing through his notes, Kissel said that, at 10:58, witnesses heard a “moan or a groan” from Williams. After that, he went still, eventually appearing “serene.” He could not tell if Williams had been conscious while he was lurching. Still, of the 10 executions Kissel had witnessed, he had never seen one like this.

The reporters were still asking questions when a different group of witnesses were led into the room. Several looked shaken. The daughter of Cecil Boren took the podium, her voice strained with emotion. She thanked the state of Arkansas for its handling of the execution, saying that any movement by Williams paled in comparison to what her father had suffered. A reporter asked her if her mother had found peace. “Our peace will come later,” she said.

But the last word would belong to J.R. Davis, who took the podium on Hutchinson’s behalf. Davis had not witnessed the execution. He ignored the reporters’ descriptions, announcing that all had gone well. The convulsing was merely an “involuntary muscular reaction,” he said. He reiterated Williams’s crimes and said it was important to concentrate on the families of his victims. Finally, he said, the execution of Williams should bring a renewed faith in its judicial system.

The death of Kenneth Williams marked the last of the planned executions last spring. As the national press left Arkansas, Williams’s lawyer accused the governor and his spokesman as  “trying to whitewash the reality of what happened.” He subpoenaed the state crime lab for autopsy records, toxicology reports, and handwritten notes. In response, the state asked a federal judge to quash the subpoena, arguing that such a request would violate Williams’s privacy rights.

In June, a brief article appeared in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on the autopsy and toxicology reports for the executed men, obtained via Freedom of Information requests. They were not revealing. Yet there was one macabre detail: The autopsy for Jack Jones Jr., executed on April 24, found “tan colored makeup” covering multiple needle marks on his neck – places where the prison staff had repeatedly tried and failed to insert an IV. It was not clear who applied it. But it seemed clear it was meant to make things look a little less ugly.

In August, officials announced they had a new batch of midazolam, after the state medical board quietly voted to end a short-lived probe into the acquisition of its previous execution drugs. The new supply was supposed to be used to kill Jack Greene last week. But two days after his stay, the manufacturer of the drug was revealed to be a company based in New York state. In a statement on its website, the company made clear it “does not want any of our products used in capital punishment.” Whether Arkansas cares is an open question.

Today, a state poll showed that Arkansas residents remain staunch in their support for the death penalty, in contrast to the rest of the country. Governor Hutchinson’s popularity has gone up since last year. As Judge Griffen continues to fight to keep his seat on the bench, members of the Arkansas Supreme Court are now in the political crosshairs themselves. After halting three of the planned executions last spring, the most recent stay has prompted cries of judicial activism.

“It’s just troubling,” one politician said of the barrier to carrying out executions. “I want to know the reason why we’re delaying justice to these families so we can properly move forward.”





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