Monday, July 25, 2011

Michael Jackson's family split over tribute concert

Several members of Michael Jackson's family, including his mother Katherine, Tito, Jackie, Marlon and La Toya - have announced that a tribute concert is to take place in honor or the singer. "Michael Forever" is due to take place October 8th in Cardiff, Wales - two weeks after the scheduled start of the criminal trial of Dr Conrad Murray, the man charged in relation to Michael's death.

However two prominent members of the family, Randy and Jermaine Jackson, have made it clear that they do not support the event. The brothers have issued the following statement:

"While we wholeheartedly support the spirit of a tribute that honors our brother, we find it impossible to support an event that is due to take place during the criminal trial surrounding Michael's death. As everyone knows, those proceedings commence September 20th, and this "Michael Forever" concert takes place in Cardiff, Wales, on October 8th. In light of this, we feel it is inappropriate to be involved with such an ill-timed event and its promoter, Global Live. Furthermore, the decision to proceed with this concert disrespects opinions and wishes expressed in the strongest terms to Global Live during conversations in April when this event was presented to the majority of the family as an idea already in its advanced stages. There will come a time and place for an amazing and deserving tribute to Michael. But we feel that the most important tribute we can give to our brother at this time is to seek justice in his name."

No performers have been named for the tribute show. Last month Jermaine Jackson told me talks were underway regarding a tribute show, although there was no hint of a family feud. In 2009 plans for a similar event in Vienna were scrapped after Jermaine struggled to attract big name acts to perform.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Seeking evidence that the lethal injection causes "needless suffering"

The last time a US execution was filmed was in California in 1992 as part of a challenge against the gas chamber. Now, another execution - this time in Georgia - has been recorded on video, at the request of an inmate there who's facing the death penalty. Lawyers for death row inmates in that state have argued that one of the three drugs Georgia uses in lethal injections, causes "needless suffering."

Andrew DeYoung was convicted of fatally stabbing his parents and his 14-year-old sister in 1993. A judge agreed to allowed his execution by lethal injection on Thursday evening to be videotaped at the request of Gregory Walker who's appealing his own death sentence. His lawyers say the recording will provide critical evidence about the effects of pento-barbital, one of the three drugs used in Georgia in lethal injections. They argue that the procedure doesn't adequately sedate the inmate and could cause pain and suffering.

Georgia state officials said the videotaping would interfere with security measures and they raised concerns about the potential for sensationalism and abuse of the video. The judge's order required that the tape be sealed.

The legal process will be lengthy - but this could mark the beginning of a process that could see death by lethal injection go the same way as the gas chamber.

BBC News: Georgia killer Andrew DeYoung's execution filmed

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Remembering Betty Ford

Today, Radio 4: Correspondent Peter Bowes looks back at the life of a woman who became famous in her own right for her work helping people with addictions.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Down and Out in the City of Angels: Documentary

Rob Campbell used to be in charge of a top secret computer system for the US military; he now camps down for the night in a doorway, his hair matted, his fingernails grimy, alert for trouble from cops. Corporal Hernadez left the US Infantry in 2006, and considers himself pretty sorted out; but he still gets jumpy hearing fireworks on the 4th of July.
It's Veteran's Day in California. It's a day to celebrate returning heroes, and in true Hollywood style, Arnold Schwarzenegger is giving the address. But Los Angeles, city of sunshine and movie stars, is also the homeless capital of America - estimates vary between 50 and 75 thousand - and returning US veterans from Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, make up a fifth of that number.
Veterans are 50% more likely to become homeless than any other demographic in the US, and to try and end the crisis, one year ago, President Obama gave a speech in which he not only promised to fight the problem, but end homelessness completely amongst veterans by 2015.
Can Obama succeed in his plan to avert a human crisis as a flood of newly discharged soldiers, carrying with them the trauma of war, re-enter an economy in recession?
Peter Bowes heads out to skid row - more than just a row, actually 50 square blocks of down town LA - to find out what the challenge will be, meeting the down and outs on skid row, a city within a city, to find out where things went wrong for America's heroes, and whether Obama has a hope of turning round America's hidden shame.
Broadcast on BBC Radio 4, July 4th, 2011
Producer: Sara Jane Hall.

Remembering homeless veterans on Independence Day

Today, like last year, President Obama is marking Independence Day by hosting military families at a White House party. It is also a year since the President declared: "No-one who served in our uniform should sleep on our streets." The US government has pledged to end homelessness amongst veterans by 2015. But with troops returning from Afghanistan and Iraq - never mind the tens of thousands of vets who've been homeless since conflicts dating back through the first Gulf war, Vietnam and WWII - it is un uphill struggle. US-wide approximately 130,000 veterans are homeless.

Over the past six months or so I've been meeting veterans and the groups helping them on the streets of Los Angeles. The result is this radio documentary, Down and Out in the City of Angels, which aired on BBC Radio 4 today.

BBC Website:
Veterans battle homelessness as they return from war

New Statesman
Gillian Reynolds in The Telegraph
The Guardian
The Sunday Herald

Peter Bowes reporting from California