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Monthly Archives: June 2015

Smart meter scheme loses chairman

The organisation tasked with promoting the rollout of smart meters has lost its chairman just weeks after she spoke out over how the government-led programme was being run.

Apple launches Beats 1 radio station

Apple's Beats 1 radio station launches with Zane Lowe presenting the first show from Los Angeles.

What Chris Christie Didn’t Say at His Campaign Kickoff

Now that Chris Christie is officially running for president, his record as governor of New Jersey will be getting a lot more scrutiny. As we reported with The Washington Post in April, there’s plenty to look at.

Our reporting focused on Republican Christie’s fiscal record, an area where he’s claimed some of his biggest achievements – and committed some of the “Budget Sins” he attacked his predecessors for.

Kicking off his campaign today, Christie used familiar rhetoric to champion his record in New Jersey. “We rolled up our sleeves and we went to work and we balanced six budgets in a row,” he said. “We’ve refused to raise taxes on the people of this state for six years.”

But as our earlier reporting showed, Christie’s fiscal record doesn't always line up with his campaign’s “Telling It Like It Is” tagline. Take public employee pensions, a chronic problem in New Jersey.

When Christie signed his sixth budget on Friday, he reiterated his claim that his contributions to the state’s pensions have far outpaced those of his predecessors. As we pointed out in April, that’s only true if you exclude a $2.75 billion pension contribution by former Republican Gov. Christine Todd Whitman.

Christie doesn’t count Whitman’s payment because it was made with borrowed money, allowing him to assert that pension contributions under his administration are “more than twice as much as any other governor in New Jersey history.”

More recently, Christie has also claimed a pension victory from a New Jersey Supreme Court decision that came out in his favor. But again, the circumstances are more complicated than he describes.

“We just won a major court decision supporting the pension reforms that we put into place in 2011,” Christie told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos during a recent interview on “This Week.”

The details: The court ruling actually allowed Christie to avoid making a full $2.25 billion payment to the pension funds due by today, as dictated by the reforms. To allow for a smaller contribution – $893 million – Christie’s lawyers had argued that a key provision of the reforms was unconstitutional.

In the past, Christie has claimed the pension reforms as one of his biggest political wins.

Entangled in the recent pension wrangling was another issue we reported on in April – a reduction in the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit under Christie. The cut effectively raised taxes on the working poor.

New Jersey Democrats, who control the legislature, had pushed a “millionaires’ tax” to help make the full pension contribution in the state’s 2016 fiscal year. Christie vetoed the tax – and then sent a surprise proposal back to lawmakers to restore the prior cut in the tax credit and raise it even higher.

But the proposal came with a catch – it required concurrence with the millionaires’ tax veto. Democrats groused that it would give Christie a campaign sound bite, but they went along anyway. The tax credit increase now awaits Christie’s signature.

Related coverage: See our complete list of Christie’s “Budget Sins.”

Zane Lowe debuts Beats 1 radio show

Former Radio 1 presenter Zane Lowe broadcasts his first show on Apple Music's Beats 1 radio station.

Justice Alito Defends Lethal Injection Expert Who Did His Research on Drugs.com

On Monday, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to uphold Oklahoma’s use of midazolam, a controversial sedative that is used as part of its three-drug lethal injection protocol.

The case, first brought by four condemned Oklahoma inmates, came after several high-profile botched executions in 2014 involving midazolam. The petitioners argued that the use of midazolam presented a “substantial, constitutionally unacceptable risk of pain and suffering.”

As ProPublica has previously detailed, the doctor Oklahoma relied on as its expert witness had never given a patient anesthesia and based much of his research on drugs.com.

That witness, Roswell Lee Evans, ended up being a contentious part of the decision. Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito repeatedly defended his testimony. In dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor questioned Evans’ credibility. Here are the best bits.

Alito defended Evans’ use of drugs.com.

However, Sotomayor viewed Evans’ use of the consumer website differently. Not only did the website fail to support the most contentious parts of Evans’ testimony – the information from the website may have even supported the petitioners’ arguments:

Alito: Midazolam is not a pain reliever, but inmates will feel no pain.

Alito supported Evans’ testimony that midazolam would keep inmates unconscious and unable to feel pain during an execution, even though Evans himself testified that the drug was not an analgesic:

However, Sotomayor emphasized that just because a supposed expert makes a claim does not mean that the claim is a fact:

Sotomayor compares lethal injection to being burned at the stake

In one of the more colorful passages of her dissent, Sotomayor compares the new court ruling to a former execution technique that would be considered torture today:

In the closing paragraph of the opinion, Alito directly responds to this medieval allusion, asserting that Sotomayor’s words are but “outlandish rhetoric,” further illustrating the supposed deficiencies of the dissenting argument:

Alito: Death-row inmates should have suggested another way to die.

Alito affirms that one of primary reasons the use of midazolam was upheld was because the inmates challenging the drug did not suggest another execution method in its place:

Sotomayor replied in her dissent, asserting that it is the state’s responsibility to find a method that is not unusual or cruel should they want to execute someone:

Breyer challenges lethal injection in its entirety. Scalia calls that “gobbledy-gook.”

Rather than focusing on the minute legal details of majority opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer, writing in a separate dissent, challenges the legality of the death penalty:

In a sneering rebuke, Justice Antonin Scalia ridicules his fellow justice, calling him out by name over 15 times, and concluding:

Court says Apple fixed e-book prices

A US federal appeals court upholds a ruling that Apple conspired with publishers fix the prices of electronic books.

Cybercriminals exploit Flash bug

An exploit which takes advantage of a flaw in Adobe's Flash Player is being used by cybercriminals.

Washington Post encrypts the news

The Washington Post begins encrypting parts of its website to make it harder for governments and hackers to monitor the articles people are reading.

Egypt profile

Provides an overview of Egypt, including key events and facts.

SMS pioneer Matti Makkonen dies

Matti Makkonen, who pioneered SMS technology and launched the worldwide sensation of texting, has died.