U.S. reinstates death penalty after 16-year break

Robie de Guzman   •   July 26, 2019   •   846

The injection gurney, with an overhead microphone, in an execution chamber  in the United States (Reuters)

As the U.S. Justice Department reinstated a two-decades long-dormant policy allowing the federal government’s use of capital punishment, questions have arisen about how the government plans on implementing capital punishment amid concern over long-standing questions of whether it can be applied in a fair manner.

“Congress has expressly authorized the death penalty through legislation adopted by the people’s representatives in both houses of Congress and signed by the President,” Attorney General William Barr said in a statement in which the government immediately scheduled the executions for five death row federal inmates. “The Justice Department upholds the rule of law – and we owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system.”

The last federal execution took place in 2003. Since then, protracted litigation over the drugs historically used in lethal injection executions prevented the government from continuing the practice, according to Justice Department officials, which said that all five will be executed by lethal injection using a single drug – pentobarbital.

Since 2010, 14 states have switched to using pentobarbital to carry out more than 200 executions, after they were unable to obtain the chemicals needed to execute people using a drug cocktail.

Robert Brett Dunham, the executive director of the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center, said pharmaceutical companies have not wanted to supply the drugs for the controversial practice and there are questions about how the federal government will obtain the drugs legally.

“It’s really important that the government be open about what the sources of the drugs are. It’s important that the public know whether the drugs were obtained properly or whether they were obtained by violation of contracts, breaches of contract, or through violating the law. If we’re going to have a death penalty, it’s important that if you carry it out openly, it be carried out honestly, and it be carried out according to the law. We shouldn’t have a lawless death penalty,” he said.

U.S. President Donald Trump has called for increasing the use of the death penalty for drug traffickers and mass shooters, a request the department has since laid the groundwork to carry out.

There are currently 62 federal inmates on death row and 2600 on state death rows. The ruling only affects federal inmates.

The Justice Department said it has scheduled executions for five federal inmates who have been convicted of horrific murders and sex crimes, with more planned in the future.

Those inmates include Daniel Lewis Lee, a white supremacist who was convicted in Arkansas for murdering a family of three, including an eight-year-old girl. Another is Lezmond Mitchell, who was found guilty by a jury in Arizona of stabbing a 63-year-old grandmother and forcing her young granddaughter to sit next to her lifeless body on a car journey before slitting the girl’s throat.

The other three inmates who will be executed are Wesley Ira Purkey, who raped and murdered a teenaged girl, Alfred Bourgeois, who sexually molested and killed his young daughter, and Dustin Lee Honken, who shot and killed five people.

Despite the fact that U.S. public support for the death penalty has declined since the 1990s, according to opinion polls, President Trump has advocated for it. Dunham said the inmates who will be executed first were chosen because their crimes targeted children and the elderly, a clear attempt to stir emotion and infuse politics into the situation.

“I think the fact that the five cases were selected because of factors that are irrelevant to federal jurisdiction, underscores that these cases were not chosen because they justify the federal death penalty. They were chosen because they were designed to inflame the public,” he said, adding that it’s not the only case in which the current administration has used emotion to build support.

“It has emphasized the very rare examples of murders committed by immigrants as a way to suggest to the American public and to the world at large that immigrants pose a disproportionate danger to the American public. The facts show that’s not the case,” he said. “It’s a false argument but it is one it is an argument that that appeals to a political, to a particular political base and it’s an argument that plays into the rhetorical campaign that we’ve been seeing in Washington.”

Dunham also highlighted that the death penalty has been unequally applied in the United States, with the poor and minorities more likely to be executed. He said people who are convicted of killing white victims are also more likely to be put on death row.

Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have abolished the death penalty and only 25 inmates were executed in 2018, compared to almost 100 in the late 1990s.

Lee will be the first one to be executed, with the date set for December 9, 2019. (REUTERS)

(Production: Kevin Fogarty, Arlene Eiras)

BOC intercepts illegal shipment of waste from United States

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 22, 2020

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) on Wednesday (October 21)  intercepted an illegal shipment of potential waste materials exiting the Subic Bay International Terminal Corporation.

The two container vans arrived from the United States and were consigned to Bataan 2020 Incorporated. They were declared as American old corrugated cartons for repulping.

However, further examination by the BOC revealed that the containers were filled with prohibited waste materials which were illegally imported.

Authorities said the consignee and other individuals involved will face charges for violating Republic Act no. 10863 or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act. AAC

President Trump and first lady Melania test positive for COVID-19

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 2, 2020

United States President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump

United States President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump have tested positive for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Trump confirmed their health situation on his twitter account where he also announced they will immediately begin a quarantine and recovery process.

The president’s physician in a statement said the president and the first lady are both well at this time but did not confirm if the two are experiencing symptoms. He added that the first couple will remain in isolation at the White House. AAC

US donates hygiene kits, handwashing stations to Manila City gov’t

Robie de Guzman   •   September 17, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The government of the United States on Thursday donated hygiene kits and handwashing stations to the city government of Manila in support of the Philippine capital’s fight against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

In a statement, US Ambassador Sung Kim said he visited the Delpan Quarantine Facility in Tondo to handover 5,000 hygiene kits and 16 handwashing stations to Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso.

Kim said the hygiene kits could provide additional protection against COVID-19 through the provision of items essential to practicing good personal hygiene.

The kits contain face masks, soap, laundry detergent, dishwashing liquid, and toothbrushes.

“The U.S. government is a friend, partner, and ally of the Manileños in facing this pandemic. The American people are pleased to support the City of Manila’s efforts to fight COVID-19,” Kim said.

To complement the donation, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) said it will continue to collaborate with the Manila City Health Office to help ensure that citizens can access quality tuberculosis services during the pandemic as well as to support the rollout of the Department of Health’s “Coordinated Operations to Defeat Epidemic (CODE)” strategy to contain the pandemic.

USAID recently donated two ventilators to the Tondo Medical Center as part of the 100 ventilators that the U.S. government handed over last August 28 to the Philippine government.

To date, the U.S. government has donated over P1 billion ($22.6 million) to support the Philippines’ COVID-19 response.

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