Justices, 5-4, Tell California to Cut Prisoner Population
New York Times: Ruling Raises Stakes in California’s Fiscal Crisis
|(NYT) - WASHINGTON — Conditions in California's overcrowded prisons are so bad that they violate the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday, ordering the state to reduce its prison population by more than 30,000 inmates.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority in a 5-to-4 decision that broke along ideological lines, described a prison system that failed to deliver minimal care to prisoners with serious medical and mental health problems and produced "needless suffering and death."
Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel A. Alito Jr. filed vigorous dissents. Justice Scalia called the order affirmed by the majority "perhaps the most radical injunction issued by a court in our nation's history." Justice Alito said "the majority is gambling with the safety of the people of California."
The majority opinion included photographs of inmates crowded into open gymnasium-style rooms and what Justice Kennedy described as "telephone-booth-sized cages without toilets" used to house suicidal inmates. Suicide rates in the state's prisons, Justice Kennedy wrote, have been 80 percent higher than the average for inmates nationwide.
...The court's more liberal members — Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — joined Justice Kennedy's opinion.
... Justice Scalia summarized his dissent, which was pungent and combative, from the bench. Oral dissents are rare; this was the second of the term. Justice Kennedy looked straight ahead as his colleague spoke, his face frozen in a grim expression.
San Francisco Chronicle: California must cut prison population by 33,000
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Stories and Headlines
- Libya: Nato steps up air strikes on Tripoli
|BBC - Nato planes have launched a series of air attacks on Libya's capital Tripoli, with correspondents saying they appear the largest so far of the campaign.
Some of the strikes appear to have targeted Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi's Bab al-Aziziya compound.
They came after France announced it and the UK would also deploy attack helicopters to escalate strike power.
Video: The BBC's Andrew North says there is a large plume of smoke rising from near Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi's compound
- Flights cancelled over ash cloud
Bloomberg: Iceland Volcanic Ash Drifts Toward U.K.
|Flights cancelled as ash cloud heads towards UK
BBC - Flights in and out of Scotland have been cancelled as a volcanic ash cloud from Iceland heads towards the UK.
BA, KLM, Easyjet, Flybe, Aer Lingus, Loganair and Eastern Airways have cancelled services on Tuesday, and some flights over the Atlantic were delayed.
The threat of further disruption led US President Barack Obama to fly out of the Republic of Ireland a day early to get to London for a state visit.
Ash from another Icelandic volcano led to huge disruption in Europe last year.
- Obama stands by proposal for Palestinian borders
|President Obama struck back at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a speech to a pro-Israel lobbying group Sunday, defending his stance that talks over a Palestinian state should focus on Israel's pre-1967 borders, along with negotiated land swaps, and challenging Israel to "make the hard choices" necessary to bring about a stable peace.
"We cannot afford to wait another decade, or another two decades, or another three decades, to achieve peace," Obama said. The world, he said, "is moving too fast."
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/...
- Harold Camping 'flabbergasted'; rapture a no-show
|sfgate.com (05-22) 19:18 PDT ALAMEDA -- The man who said the world was going to end appeared at his front door in Alameda a day later, very much alive but not so well.
"It has been a really tough weekend," said Harold Camping, the 89-year-old fundamentalist radio preacher who convinced hundreds of his followers that the rapture would occur on Saturday at 6 p.m.
Massive earthquakes would strike, he said. Believers would ascend to heaven and the rest would be left to wander a godforsaken planet until Oct. 21, when Camping promised a fiery end to the world.
But on Sunday, almost 18 hours after he thought he'd be in heaven, there was Camping, "flabbergasted" in Alameda, wearing tan slacks, a tucked-in polo shirt and a light jacket.
- Assembly approves shark fin ban
|(05-23) sfgate.com 16:19 PDT Sacramento -- The California Assembly overwhelmingly approved a ban on the sale and distribution of shark fins in California, moving the state one step closer to outlawing an ancient Chinese delicacy and keeping alive a debate that has split the ethnic community.
... The law takes aim at a practice known as "finning" in which a shark's fins and tails are cut off before the animal is thrown back into the ocean to suffer and die.
..."I knew when I accepted the responsibility (of authoring this bill) - I weighed the cultural implications versus the environmental concerns, and the environmental issues outweighed the cultural," said Assemblyman Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, who cited sharks' position as a top predator.
... Opponents - including San Francisco Assemblywoman Fiona Ma - argued that the measure unfairly targets the Chinese community and say that existing laws are adequately protecting sharks.
- Greece to start selling domestic assets to ease debts
|BBC - The Greek government has said it will begin to sell stakes in a number of domestic corporations "immediately" in order to raise cash to help reduce its massive debts.
These include stakes in the telecoms firm OTE, state-owned Postbank and the ports of Athens and Thessaloniki.
Earlier, European stock markets fell, partly due to continuing fears about a possible debt restructuring in Greece.
- Airline shares hit by Icelandic volcano ash fears
|BBC - Shares in Europe's biggest airlines have fallen on fears that Iceland's latest volcanic eruption could disrupt flights across the continent.
International Consolidated Airlines and Easyjet fell by about 5%, with Air France KLM down 4.5%.
- Body of Chilean President Salvador Allende is exhumed
A forensic team will try to determine whether the leader, who was overthrown in 1973, actually committed suicide, as is believed, or was killed.
|By Fabiola Gutierrez and Chris Kraul, Los Angeles Times
May 24, 2011
Reporting from Santiago, Chile, and Bogota,—
Nearly four decades after a bloody coup overthrew Chilean President Salvador Allende, the remains of the socialist leader were exhumed Monday to try to determine whether he was killed or committed suicide.
The procedure was authorized by an appellate court judge April 15 in response to controversy over whether Allende killed himself, was felled by a bullet fired from outside the palace, was given a coup de grace by an associate after a failed suicide attempt or was executed by soldiers.
The longstanding version of events, which has been accepted by Allende's family, is that the president killed himself with an AK-47 assault rifle given to him by Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Forces controlled by coup leader Gen. Augusto Pinochet were about to storm the palace and Allende had vowed not to be taken alive.
Human rights groups and independent investigators say there are discrepancies in the official autopsy report, among them the possibility that the late president suffered two gunshot wounds. The lawyer who led the effort to reopen the case said clarifying the circumstances of Allende's death was "a debt to human rights."
- Herman Cain's Enron-esque Disaster
|(Mother Jones) - [S]crubbed from Cain's official story is his long tenure as a director at a Midwest energy corporation named Aquila that, like the infamous Enron Corporation, recklessly dove into the wild west of energy trading and speculation—and ultimately screwed its employees out of tens of millions of dollars.
According to five lawsuits filed in federal court in 2004, Aquila's board of directors—which Cain joined in 1992—allegedly steered employees into heavily investing their retirement savings in company stock. At the same time, the company shifted its business model from straightforward energy generation to risky energy trading, an unregulated market made infamous by now-defunct Enron. The suits, later folded into a single, massive class action (PDF), alleged that Cain and top company officials violated a 37-year-old federal law requiring that employers manage employees retirement programs responsibly. (Cain's presidential exploratory committee did not respond to a request for comment.)
- Department of Labor Releases Smartphone App
|(MyBankTracker) - Employers will need to start keeping a closer eye on their timesheets as the Department of Labor has just released a smartphone app that will now allow employees an easier way to keep track of their wages.
The App, called the DOL Timesheet, is currently available for iPhone and iPod touch. It provides the opportunity for users create their own wage records by tracking hours, calculating breaks and overtime as well as regular work hours. SOme the things the app cannot calculate are; tips, commissions, bonuses, deductions, holiday pay, pay for weekends, shift differentials, or pay for regular days of rest.
- Democrats Try to Woo Consumer Advocate to Run
|(NYT) WASHINGTON — Officials in the Democratic Party are wooing Elizabeth Warren to run for the Senate against the Massachusetts Republican Scott P. Brown rather than have her continue to set up the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Ms. Warren has become a lightning rod for controversy over the new agency, which she conceived and is helping create. Consumer groups and some Democrats have demanded her appointment as its first director. A group of 44 Senate Republicans, with applause from the financial industry, has promised to block any nominee.
In seeking to enlist Ms. Warren for a different campaign, Democrats are taking aim at two birds. They can lay the groundwork for a potential compromise over a different candidate to lead the new agency and, they hope, they can increase their chances of reclaiming Mr. Brown's seat by sending against him a woman who has won considerable acclaim and popularity among liberals for taking on the financial industry.
- Saudis Arrest Woman Leading Right-to-Drive Campaign
|(NYT) RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — The government of Saudi Arabia moved swiftly to extinguish a budding protest movement of women claiming the right to drive, a campaign inspired by uprisings across the Arab world demanding new freedoms but at risk Monday of foundering.
Manal al-Sharif, 32, one of the campaign organizers, was detained Sunday in the eastern city of Dammam for up to five days on charges of disturbing public order and inciting public opinion by twice driving in a bid to press her cause, said her lawyer, Adnan al-Saleh.
- Lawmakers Ask Hillary Clinton to Explain Erik Prince's Mercenaries in the UAE
|(The Nation) - Five members of Congress have called on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to clarify if Blackwater founder Erik Prince's recently disclosed deal to provide a small mercenary army to the United Arab Emirates complies with US law and export regulations. "We question whether private US citizens should be involved in recruiting and assembling forces, as well as providing military training and support to foreign governments and militaries," wrote the lawmakers, led by Rep. Jan Schakowsky, a member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. "The implications of allowing a US citizen to assemble a foreign legion in any foreign country, and especially in a combustible region like the Middle East, are serious and wide-ranging."
- Obama and Black Americans: the Paradox of Hope
|(The Nation) When Barack Obama was pondering a run for the presidency Michelle asked him what he thought he could accomplish. He replied,"The day I take the oath of office, the world will look at us differently. And millions of kids across this country will look at themselves differently. That alone is something." His victory was indeed something. The world certainly looked at America differently, though this had as much to do with who he wasn't—George W. Bush—as what he was, black, among other things.
Polls show that African-Americans indeed look at themselves differently. A January 2010 Pew survey revealed huge optimism. The percentage of black Americans who thought blacks were better off than they were five years before had almost doubled since 2007. There were also significant increases in the percentages who believed the standard-of-living gap between whites and blacks was decreasing.
But for all the ways black America has felt better about itself and looked better to others, it has not actually fared better. In fact, it has been doing worse. The economic gap between black and white has grown since Obama took power. Under his tenure black unemployment, poverty and foreclosures are at their highest levels for at least a decade.
- Square promises to replace cash registers, eliminate receipts
|Mobile payments startup Square announced new technology Monday that it said would replace cash registers and eliminate paper receipts -- and it's all starting today at more than two dozen small businesses in San Francisco.
quare's updated software, which launches today, effectively puts an entire cash register on to an iPad. Merchants can accept payments via cash or card,
Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/...
- Sesame Street's Bert interviews Andy Samberg
|sfgate.com As Oprah Winfrey steps down, Bert (of Bert and Ernie fame) is ready to take over as our country's favorite talk show host.
The loveable muppet with an expressive unibrow recently sat down with "Saturday Night Live" comedian Andy Samberg in a tongue-in-cheek interview that follows the slower-paced format used by James Lipton on "Inside the Actors Studio."
Last and certainly least:
'The Celebrity Apprentice' finale makes for all-time series-low ratings
|Nothing to smile about here, Trump. The ratings for the season finale of The Celebrity Apprentice were anything but YOUGE.
Pulling in a rather paltry 2.9/7 share in the coveted 18-49 demo, the episode proved to be the lowest spring finale ever for The Apprentice, Celebrity or otherwise.