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Radical injunction

and other news briefs

Issue: "Tour d'America," June 18, 2011

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

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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.

Weiner dogged

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.

Tressel departs

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.


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