Overruled. A federal judge in California ruled Wednesday that the state’s death penalty is unconstitutional. The system’s numerous delays and lengthy appeals process means the penalty is only randomly and arbitrarily carried out, the judge said. “As for the random few for whom execution does become a reality, they will have languished for so long on Death Row that their execution will serve no retributive or deterrent purpose and will be arbitrary,” wrote U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney, an appointee of President George W. Bush. Executions in California were already on hold from an earlier judge’s order to overhaul the state’s lethal injection procedures. California officials have not announced whether they will appeal the ruling.
That’s a lot of pink slips. Microsoft will cut a record 18,000 jobs, the computing giant announced this morning. In a public email to employees, CEO Satya Nadella said the cuts would help the company “become more agile and move faster.” Microsoft has a reputation for having a bloated management structure and being slow to innovate. Meanwhile, rival Apple is dominating the mobile and tablet markets. Microsoft bought Nokia last year to help it grow its mobile business. In its previous biggest round of layoffs, Microsoft cut 5,800 employees in 2009.
Will they or won’t they? Gaza residents got a brief respite from Israeli attacks Thursday during a ceasefire. But no sooner had Gazans returned from banks, vegetable markets, and shops when Hamas, the militant Palestinian group, started firing rockets at Israel again. The back-and-forth has led to conflicting reports of a possible peace deal between the two sides. Egypt’s new president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has been trying to broker a truce. While Israel and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas seemed open to a diplomatic solution, Hamas has repeatedly spurned the Egyptian proposals. In Cairo, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri insisted in an interview with The Associated Press that the cease-fire deal was still alive and expressed frustration that “Palestinian factions”—a clear reference to Hamas—had not agreed to it.
Sanctions spat. President Barack Obama announced yesterday a new round of sanctions targeting Russia’s lucrative oil and gas sector. In addition to two major energy firms, a handful of banks and other firms are now barred from getting long-term loans from U.S. entities. The goal of the sanctions is to pressure Russia to stop supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine. Russia annexed part of that area, Crimea, in the spring, and many ethnic Russians in the rest of eastern Ukraine would like to see their territories join Russia, too. The Russian foreign ministry issued a statement effectively telling the U.S. to butt out: “We consider the new round of American sanctions against Russia as a primitive attempt to take vengeance for the fact that events in Ukraine are not playing out to the tune of the script of Washington.”