Old Sparky’s back. Tennessee is going to avoid all of those messy execution problems other states are having with lethal injections by bringing back the electric chair. Gov. Bill Haslam approved a law yesterday that allows prisons to electrocute prisoners if they don’t have access to the proper drug cocktails they need for injections. States with the death penalty have had trouble buying the drugs since suppliers have refused to sell them to prisons. Several recent botched executions involving drugs made by compounding pharmacies have added to the debate over whether executions amount to cruel and unusual punishment.
Overflowing with respect? Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would respect the choice of the Ukrainian people in Sunday’s referendum to select a new president. But he also insisted ousted leader Viktor Yanukovych technically remains in power. Despite Putin’s conciliating words, tensions in the eastern part of Ukraine are not letting up. While he spoke at an economic conference in St. Petersburg, members of the Ukrainian military clashed with heavily armed pro-Russian separatists near Donetsk. At least two people died. Putin may be tired of being called the biggest bully on the block (or being compared to Hitler). “I’m an optimist,” he said. “I am not losing faith that the situation in Ukraine will at some point become normal, and we will find the inner strength to normalize relations [with the United States].”
Spying restrictions. House lawmakers on Thursday approved new restrictions on the National Security Agency’s electronic intelligence-gathering authority. If the new restrictions get final approval in the Senate, the agency will no longer be able to collect bulk metadata on phone call times, durations, and numbers dialed. Phone companies would continue to store the data for at least 18 months, but government analysts would need a court order to access it. The measure had broad bipartisan support, quite a feat in Washington these days, with 303 lawmakers from both parties voting for it.
New kid in D.C. President Barack Obama is expected to nominate San Antonio mayor Julián Castro as the next secretary of housing and urban development later today. Castro is a rumored 2016 vice-presidential prospect, and his move to Washington will raise his national profile. If confirmed by the Senate, Castro would be the youngest member of the president’s cabinet at age 39. Castro made his first foray onto the national stage in 2012 when he delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention. Though he came from humble beginnings, raised by a single mom, Castro went to Stanford and then Harvard Law School. Political analysts say he has a good chance at being the nation’s first Hispanic president.
GOPar-tay. Republicans will not be going to Las Vegas for their next national convention. That’s probably a good thing, since what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. The city withdrew its bid for the convention because of requirements the party had for the event’s main arena. Cincinnati had the same problem. That leaves Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, and Kansas City as finalists. The Family Research Council cheered Las Vegas’ decision. Nevada’s state Republican party voted a few weeks ago to strip its platform of pro-life and pro-traditional marriage language.