Letter from America 22nd January

Hi Guys and Gals,

It was not until after I had sent last week’s letter that I learnt that Congresswoman Gabriel Clifford, who was shot in the head at Tucson, is a Jew which makes the comment of Sarah Palin on “blood libel” of even greater bad taste if that is possible. She continues to try to defend herself but is just digging a bigger hole all the time. On the other hand Gabriel Clifford is in the news every day for her remarkable recovery from the bullet wound to the head. However the main news has been the visit of the Chinese President Hu Jintao which no doubt has been fully covered in the British press. Two points that are of interest though and may not have been covered are the fact that the First Lady Michelle Obama was wearing a British designed long dress for the President’s Dinner. This has not met the approval of some people with the comment in one newspaper that “The First Lady should be sticking strictly to home-grown design talent. The understanding was that the visit was to promote American-Chinese trade – American products in China and Chinese products in America . Why did the First Lady wear European clothes?” asked a fashion journalist. The other interesting point was the question as to whether China ’s continued ascent could lead to a Communist Party collapse with the bubble bursting as some people have predicted. Sounds like American wishful thinking but can you imagine what a world wide disaster that would cause.

Following on from last week’s letter we carry on some of the more bizarre aspects of the American judicial system: In Texas a judge has begun a hearing on the legality of the death penalty. The State of Texas executes more convicts than any other state in America having executed some 464 inmates over the last three decades since capital punishment resumed in the US . Current Texas law carries a nightmare proportion of risk for the accused to be wrongfully convicted of capital murder and sentenced to the death said Richard Burr defence attorney for John Green. Green, 25 is awaiting trial after being charged with murdering a woman during a robbery in Houston in 2008 and maintains he is innocent. Burr said that testimony from eyewitnesses, informants and forensic evidence used to convict suspects can be flawed, as are the procedure for jury selection and compelling prosecutors to hand over contradictory evidence. According to the Death Penalty Information Centre 138 US prisoners sentenced to death have been exonerated since 1973 and twelve of those cases have been in Texas .

Following on from the above this will horrify you particularly so those that are against capital punishment. The State of Missouri is preparing to execute Richard Clay, its first convict to be executed for nearly two years. However concerns are being expressed as the Missouri Department of Corrections has a dwindling supply of sodium thiopental which is the first of three drugs used in executions. It is as an anesthetic that renders the condemned person unconscious but what little stock they currently have is nearing its expiration date. The State of Missouri maintains that the stock of sodium thiopental is sufficient for the execution and for a rehearsal of the execution. Previous execution rehearsals used ten units but the American Civil Liberties Union claim that Missouri didn’t use the drug during the most recent quarterly execution rehearsal. Attorney Antony Rothert claims that in earlier rehearsals the corrections department staff practiced how to prepare and mix all three of the drugs used in the execution process but did not use it in the last one. Thus he maintains execution simulation training is inaccurate and raises concerns that the staff may not correctly prepare the drug during Clay’s execution. This could cause the convict to experience some pain.

The weather here continues to be cold for the time of the year although we did have two days back in the high 70’s (24C+) but back to cold nights with freeze warnings. Otherwise our daytime highs have been in the 50’s (13C), which I believe is much the same as back in the UK, although we do get those lovely blue skies to go with it. Have a good week everyone.

Bryan Staples

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