No death penalty for you. Russian President Vladimir Putin still says he won’t extradite NSA leaker Edward Snowden to face trial on espionage charges. At first, the U.S. State Department asked nicely. Then officials made vague threats, including sanctions against any country that sheltered the former CIA analyst. Now U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is practically begging. Holder said Friday the United States would not seek the death penalty against Snowden if Russia would just hand him over. Russian officials evidently used the death penalty excuse as one reason not to give up their most famous visitor, which is funny considering the frequency with which Russian courts mete out harsh sentences. It seems like 20 or 30 years in a Siberian prison just might be a fate worse than death.
Guilty as charged. Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro has agreed to plead guilty to hundreds of charges pending against him in exchange for escaping the death penalty. Although the deal will save Castro’s three victims from testifying and the state the cost of a trial, it could end up disappointing those who wanted to see him tried for murder. Prosecutors charged Castro with 977 counts, including aggravated murder for beating one of his victims until she miscarried at least three of his children. But Castro will only plead guilty to 937 counts under the deal. Although it’s not yet clear whether prosecutors dropped the murder charges—those carried the death penalty potential. Under the agreement, Castro will get life plus 1,000 years in prison. Safe to say, he’s never getting out.
Destroying evidence. In other plea deal news, Houston-based Halliburton Energy Services has agreed to plead guilty to destroying evidence from the 2010 Deep Water Horizon oil spill. The company provided the concrete used to make the well, which exploded and spewed thousands of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. During the investigation into what caused the explosion, which triggered a fire that killed 11 rig workers, Halliburton conducted two simulation models to assess the well’s design and construction. After the experiment failed to clear the cement as a potential cause of the accident, company officials ordered employees to destroy the results. As part of the deal, Halliburton will pay a fine, although the amount has not been announced.
Defaced. The U.S. Park Service closed the Lincoln Memorial in Washington today after vandals splashed light green paint on the base of the massive marble statue of the 16th president. Crews managed to remove most of the paint with pressure washers and scrub brushes. Police officials are reviewing surveillance tape to see if they can figure out who might be responsible. The memorial, located on the National Mall, is one of the most visited sites in the nation’s capital.
On the decline. Parents and students will throng college campuses next month as classes resume in the fall, but the crowds won’t be as big as they’ve been in the last few years. According to The New York Times, the enrollment boom that buoyed many schools is over, and administrators are scrambling to make up for the projected loss in prospective students. Enrollment fell 2 percent last year at for-profit and community colleges. Education analysts now expect the trend to seep into four-year schools. The decline isn’t likely to hurt big-name schools, or those with large endowments, but smaller institutions could really feel the pinch. The biggest culprit: a decline in the number of college-age Americans.