The U.S. Supreme Court told California it must reduce its prison population by about 40,000 prisoners over the next two years. The majority's opinion-which swing-vote Justice Anthony Kennedy penned with support from Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Stephen Breyer-said the state's prisons are so overcrowded they are "incompatible with the concept of human dignity." A lower court found that one prisoner in the system died for lack of medical care every six or seven days.
Conservative justices sharply dissented from the decision, saying the ruling didn't solve California's underlying problems and predicting disaster from such massive prisoner reentry. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a dissent, which Justice Clarence Thomas joined, saying the decision was "perhaps the most radical injunction issued by a court in our nation's history." Justice Samuel Alito wrote a separate dissenting opinion, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts.
But faith-based and community organizations were already meeting with California corrections officials the morning the high court issued the decision. "California has no budget," said Prison Fellowship's Pat Nolan, and it will need the outside groups to coordinate reentry programs critical to implementing the court's order. "Here are all these faith-based and community groups who are saying, 'We'll do it,'" said Nolan, who served in the California legislature for 15 years, then spent over two years in prison after being convicted on a corruption charge, which sparked his desire to work on prison reform. Nolan blamed the California legislature's inaction for the court's intervention. - by Emily Belz
A trial in Chicago could provide important clues to the United States about the extent of Pakistan's official links to terrorists following the U.S. killing of Osama bin Laden. David Headley, the star witness in the trial of Tahawwur Rana, told a U.S. district court in late-May testimony that in all arrangements leading up to a 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai, India, there was extensive coordination between Lashkar-e-Taiba and Pakistan's intelligence service, the ISI. Rana is a Pakistani-Canadian on trial in federal court for his role in the Mumbai attacks that killed 160 people, including six Americans. Headley, a drug dealer turned informant, has pleaded guilty to helping plan the 2008 massacre. The two are charged with conducting surveillance for it, as well as plotting other attacks.
On the witness stand Headley recalled at least 50 training sessions with the ISI and named ranking leaders of the organization as coordinating the attack with the al-Qaeda-linked terror group. His testimony prompted attorney James Krindler, who is representing U.S. victims of the Mumbai attack, to declare: "It's not just officers at the rank of Majors who are handling terrorists or sponsoring terror. ISI chief Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha and its former director-general Lt. Gen. (retired) Nadeem Taj should also come clean."
Stealth missile report
A detailed UN report reveals ongoing cooperation between Iran and North Korea on ballistic missile technology along with Chinese assistance to move materiel between the two countries. But it's unlikely the public will get a look at it: China as a permanent member of the UN Security Council is blocking its release. STRATFOR analyst Nathan Hughes said it doesn't take official word to know of the trilateral cooperation; the "simultaneous existence of near-identical medium-range ballistic missiles in each country's arsenal," he said, should tell us they're working together. Without publicizing the report, UN Security Council members, including the United States, are likely to get a look at its contents.
Anthony Weiner, the Democratic congressman from New York, is known as one of Capitol Hill's most combative lawmakers. Now a bizarre incident involving his Twitter account and a lewd picture has placed Weiner's often-fiery temperament on full display. The indecent image, sent from Weiner's Twitter account to a 21-year-old college student in Seattle, dominated talk in Washington after Memorial Day. Weiner, 46, insists the photo was a prank, but he could not say "with certitude" that the image wasn't of him. Weiner's office said his Twitter account has been hacked.
But, oddly, Weiner has not asked law enforcement officials to investigate, even though officials say it would be fairly easy to determine the picture's origins. In a strange and testy on-camera exchange with reporters on May 31, Weiner likened the incident to someone throwing a pie to distract a speaker and he called one reporter an obscene name. "I am not going to allow this thing to dominate what I am talking about," Weiner insisted. But questions remained.
The last college football game ended nearly five months ago, but the scandals that plagued the sport all season continue. Jim Tressel, a Christian who has long been up-front about his faith, became the latest casualty on May 30 when he resigned as head coach of the powerhouse Ohio State Buckeyes. Just two months ago Ohio State officials slapped Tressel's wrist with a two-game suspension and a fine for withholding information concerning six players who had received improper benefits from an Ohio tattoo shop. The university then upped Tressel's ban to five games in the face of widespread criticism, but the school stood behind its man despite evidence that Tressel had lied to the NCAA. "I'm just hopeful the coach doesn't fire me," said Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee, laughing off initial calls for Tressel's firing.
But the jokes stopped over the Memorial Day weekend after news reports revealed that as many as 28 players may have been involved in improperly selling memorabilia. An NCAA investigation is also looking into allegations of special deals for players at a used car dealership. Ohio State is not alone. Infractions rocked college football over the last year, hitting teams from North Carolina to Oregon and calling into question the integrity of the sport.
War fugitive Mladic caught
Serbian authorities captured Europe's most-wanted war crimes fugitive on May 26, bringing an abrupt end to Ratko Mladic's 16 years in hiding. Mladic-the former commander of the Bosnian Serb military-faces charges of genocide and crimes against humanity for his role during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war that left some 100,000 people dead. Authorities say Mladic, 69, orchestrated ethnic cleansing campaigns to rid the region of non-Serbs.
Mladic's most notorious wartime moment came in 1995: Authorities say that the military commander oversaw the massacre of 8,000 Muslim boys and men in the Srebrenica region. The victims had fled to the eastern Bosnian town seeking the protection of UN troops. Mladic's forces overran the refugees, killing thousands. The slaughter represented Europe's worst massacre since World War II.
A UN tribunal indicted Mladic in 1995, but the fugitive eluded police for 16 years. After his capture in May, Serbian officials extradited Mladic to the Netherlands to face trial at The Hague.
A unanimous Supreme Court ruled that a man detained after 9/11 on the pretext of being a material witness in a terrorism case could not sue Bush administration Attorney General John Ashcroft for his detention, ruling that Ashcroft deserved qualified, but not absolute, immunity. Federal authorities detained the American man, Abdullah al-Kidd, as he was about to board a plane to Saudi Arabia, and held him for 16 days before releasing him without calling him to testify. The Obama administration sided with the Bush administration in this case, backing Ashcroft's immunity.
"Qualified immunity gives government officials breathing room to make reasonable but mistaken judgments about open legal questions," wrote Justice Antonin Scalia in the court's opinion. The court was united on the immunity question, saying Ashcroft broke no laws, but divided about the extent of freedom authorities have to detain people on the pretext of being material witnesses, a foggy area of law in the post-9/11 world.
Arizona wins one
The Supreme Court upheld Arizona's law that revokes or suspends the licenses of businesses that hire illegal immigrants, ruling in a 5-3 decision that federal immigration law does not preempt the state's law. The Chamber of Commerce had challenged the law (which then-Gov. Janet Napolitano, now secretary of homeland security, signed), calling it a "business death penalty," and found support from liberal groups and the Obama administration, while 13 states wrote amicus briefs in support of Arizona.
Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority-the conservative justices along with swing justice Anthony Kennedy-upheld the law and argued that while only the federal government can impose civil or criminal sanctions on employers in regard to immigration, federal law includes an exception that allows states to regulate immigration through licensure. Three justices dissented (Elena Kagan recused herself), contending that revoking a license was a civil penalty itself and therefore was prohibited under federal law. The dissenters also argued that the law would push businesses to discriminate in order to avoid losing their licenses. The decision is one victory for Arizona after the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals temporarily blocked its newer, more controversial immigration law, requiring law enforcement to check the immigration status of suspicious individuals.
A county judge in Wisconsin struck down the state's controversial law that limits collective bargaining power for public employees, saying that legislators violated an open-meetings law that requires a 24-hour public notice before passing legislation. Republican legislators argued that they could pass the bill without adhering to the open-meetings requirement because it was an emergency measure, but Judge Maryann Sumi, an appointee of Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson, said she didn't find evidence that justified emergency conditions.
"This case is the example of values protected by the open meetings law: transparency in government, the right of citizens to participate in their government and respect for the rule of law," she wrote in her opinion. The conservative-majority state Supreme Court will hear arguments on the case June 6. Republican legislators have said that if the courts strike down the law over the procedural matter, they will simply pass it again, which they can do with their majorities even if Democratic legislators remain in the state to vote.