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Arizona Plans To Execute Inmates With Same Gas Nazis Used in Mass Murder of Jews

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The state said the move will provide an alternative to lethal injections, but critics note that, in addition to its dark historic roots, the method has resulted in some of the most gruesome botched executions in the U.S.


Arizona Restarts Gas Executions

Arizona is officially taking steps to begin executing death row inmates using the same deadly gas that Nazis used to commit genocide at Auschwitz and other death camps.

According to partially redacted invoices obtained by The Guardian through public records requests, corrections officials in the state have begun “refurbishing” a gas chamber that has not been used for over two decades.

They have also spent thousands on the very specific materials needed to make the lethal hydrogen cyanide gas, often called Zyklon B. This includes a brick of potassium cyanide purchased for $1,530, as well as sodium hydroxide pellets and sulfuric acid, which are intended to make the gas.

The report quickly sparked backlash.

“You have to wonder what Arizona was thinking in believing that in 2021 it is acceptable to execute people in a gas chamber with cyanide gas,” Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, told The Guardian. “Did they have anybody study the history of the Holocaust?”

Critics of the gas method have also noted that in addition to the horrible connotations with the Holocaust and the mass murder of Jews, it has also resulted in some of the most atrociously botched and disturbing executions in the U.S. 

Fordham University law professor Deborah Denno told The Washington Post that while there is little research on how the gas affects the human body, executions that use it have taken much longer than other alternatives.

“It’s without question that lethal gas, or as least the lethal gas that Arizona is trying to bring back, is the most gruesome of all these methods we’ve had in this country,” she said.

In fact, Arizona has even explicitly seen these abhorrent outcomes in its previous use of the technique. While most of the 37 executions the state has conducted using gas happened before the 1950s, two people were killed using the method after the federal moratorium was lifted in 1976.

According to The Post, in both cases, “witnesses recounted excruciating deaths.”

Concerns Over Protocols

There is also apprehension over the protocols that Arizona has been taking in preparation for restarting the gassings.

The documents obtained by The Guardian showed that officials had “significant concerns” about the rubber seals on the chamber because of their age. However, some of the methods used to test the safety of the chamber were shockingly primitive, including checking for gas seepage with a candle to see if the flame flickered. 

Attorneys have raised questions about the chemicals obtained by the corrections officials, with one noting that while the state mandates the use of sodium cyanide, the corrections department bought potassium cyanide.

Not only does that appear to violate Arizona statute, but it could further indicate the officials are not properly preparing.

“This is not a small detail – the specific compound is vitally important,” the lawyer added.

In a statement, the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry said it was “prepared to perform its legal obligation and commence the execution process as part of the legally imposed sentence, regardless of method selected.” 

The department also pointed to the Arizona law that allows death row inmates to choose between lethal injection or gas. However, the move comes amid a nationwide shortage in lethal injection drugs due to manufacturers clamping down after several botched executions. 

In fact, Arizona has not conducted an execution since 2014 when it halted the program after a particularly grisly incident involving the injectable drugs.

Arizona is not alone in its renewed efforts to aggressively restart its execution system. Numerous death penalty states have been looking for alternatives to injections. Last month, South Carolina’s legislature passed a bill adding the firing squad to their list of options.

See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (The Washington Post) (Newsweek)

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Medical Workers Sign Letter Urging Spotify to Combat Misinformation, Citing Joe Rogan

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The letter accused Spotify of “enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research.”


Doctors and Medical Professionals Sign Letter to Spotify

A group of 270 doctors, scientists, and other medical workers signed an open letter to Spotify this week urging the audio platform to implement a misinformation policy, specifically citing false claims made on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast. 

Rogan has faced no shortage of backlash over the last year for promoting vaccine misinformation on his show, which airs exclusively on Spotify. Most recently, he invited Dr. Robert Malone on a Dec. 31 episode that has since been widely criticized by health experts. 

Dr. Malone was banned from Twitter for promoting COVID-19 misinformation. According to the medical experts who signed the letter, he “used the JRE platform to further promote numerous baseless claims, including several falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines and an unfounded theory that societal leaders have ‘hypnotized’ the public.”

“Notably, Dr. Malone is one of two recent JRE guests who has compared pandemic policies to the Holocaust,” the letter continued. “These actions are not only objectionable and offensive, but also medically and culturally dangerous.”

Joe Rogan’s History of COVID-19 Misinformation

Rogan sparked swift criticism himself in the spring of 2021 when he discouraged young people from taking the COVID-19 vaccine. He also falsely equated mRNA vaccines to “gene therapy” and incorrectly stated that vaccines cause super mutations of the virus. He took ivermectin after testing positive for the virus in September, despite the fact that the drug is not approved as a treatment for COVID.

“By allowing the propagation of false and societally harmful assertions, Spotify is enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research and sow doubt in the credibility of data-driven guidance offered by medical professionals,” the doctors and medical workers wrote. 

“We are calling on Spotify to take action against the mass-misinformation events which continue to occur on its platform,” they continued. “With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, JRE is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence. Though Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, the company presently has no misinformation policy.”

Rolling Stone was the first outlet to report on the letter from the medical professionals. Dr. Katrine Wallace, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois Chicago, was among the signees. She told the magazine that Rogan is “a menace to public health.”

“These are fringe ideas not backed in science, and having it on a huge platform makes it seem there are two sides to this issue,” she said. “And there are really not.”

Spotify had not responded to the letter as of Thursday.

See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (Deadline) (Insider)

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Data Shows Omicron May be Peaking in the U.S.

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In some cities that were first hit by the surge, new cases are starting to flatten and decline.


New Cases Flattening

After weeks of recording-breaking cases driven by the highly infectious omicron variant, public health officials say that new COVID infections seem to be slowing in the parts of the country that were hit the hardest earlier on.

Following a more than twentyfold rise in December, cases in New York City have flattened out in recent days. 

New infections have even begun to fall slightly in some states, like Maryland and New Jersey. In Boston, the levels of COVID in wastewater — which has been a top indicator of case trends in the past — have dropped by nearly 40% since the first of the year.

Overall, federal data has shown a steep decline in COVID-related emergency room visits in the Northeast, and the rest of the country appears to be following a similar track.

Data from other countries signals the potential for a steep decline in cases following the swift and unprecedented surge.

According to figures from South Africa, where the variant was first detected, cases rose at an incredibly shocking rate for about a month but peaked quickly in mid-December. Since then, new infections have plummeted by around 70%.

In the U.K., which has typically been a map for how U.S. cases will trend, infections are also beginning to fall after peaking around New Year’s and then flattening for about a week.

Concerns Remain 

Despite these recent trends, experts say it is still too early to say if cases in the U.S. will decline as rapidly as they did in South Africa and the parts of the U.K. that were first hit. 

While new infections may seem to be peaking in the cities that saw the first surges, caseloads continue to climb in most parts of the country. 

Meanwhile, hospitals are overwhelmed and health resources are still strained because of the high volume of cases hitting all at once.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Wall Street Journal)

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COVID-Driven School Closures Top Record Highs, But Many Remain Open

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While some districts have implemented protective measures, many teachers say they fall short.


Schools Respond to Omicron Surge

U.S. COVID cases, driven by the omicron variant, are continuously topping new record highs, posing difficult questions for schools resuming after winter break.

According to Burbio, a data firm that tracks school closures, at least 5,409 public schools canceled classes or moved to remote learning by the end of last week due to COVID — more than triple the number at the end of December.

That is still only a fraction of the nation’s 130,000 schools, and many of the biggest school districts in the country are still insisting that students come into the classroom.

Los Angeles, which is home to the second-biggest district, is requiring that students at least test negative before they return to school this week.

In the biggest district of New York City, classes have already resumed following winter break. Although the city has said it will double random tests and send home more kits, students were not required to provide negative results.

Teachers Protest In-Person Learning

Teachers in other major districts have protested the local government’s decisions to stay open.

One of the most closely watched battles is in Chicago, where students on Monday missed their fourth consecutive day of school due to a feud between the Chicago Teachers Union and Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D).

Last week, the union voted to return to remote learning in defiance of a city-wide order mandating they teach in-person, citing inadequate COVID-19 protections. Lightfoot claimed the conditions were fine and that students were safe, despite record surges, instead opting to cancel classes altogether while the fight plays out.

On Sunday, the union said it was “still far apart” from making any kind of agreement with public school officials after Lightfoot rejected their demands.

Lightfoot, for her part, has said she remains “hopeful” a deal could be reached, but she also stirred up the union by accusing teachers of staging an “illegal walkout” and claiming they “abandoned their posts and they abandoned kids and their families.”

Meanwhile, teachers in other school districts have begun to emulate the tactics in Chicago.

On Friday, teachers in Oakland, California staged a “sick-out,” promoting 12 schools serving thousands of students to close.

See what others are saying: (The Chicago Tribune) (CNN) (The New York Times)

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