Blog Posts by Liz Goodwin

  • Montana jury pool rejects marijuana charges

    AP080528038872A Montana prosecutor could not seat a jury to try an accused drug dealer last week because the jury pool was so opposed to sending someone away to prison for possessing small amounts of marijuana, writes Gwen Florio of The Missoulian.

    Of the 27 potential jurors, only about five said they would vote to convict a person of marijuana possession. Tiny amounts of the drug were found the home of the defendant, Touray Cornell, but prosecutor Deputy Missoula County Attorney Andrew Paul said Cornell was dealing drugs and is an eight-time felon. The jury didn't know the other charges against Cornell, but their ambivalence toward marijuana charges encouraged Paul to reach a plea deal with the defense, in which Cornell did not have to admit guilt.

    Paul called it a "mutiny."

    "I think it's going to become increasingly difficult to seat a jury in marijuana cases, at least the ones involving a small amount," the judge in the case, Dusty Deschamps, told the paper.

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  • FIRST LOOK: Montana jury ‘mutinies’ in marijuana case

    Welcome to First Look, our daily roundup of early-bird news:

    • The Senate's temporary funding bill does not include money for the health-care law. (WSJ)

    • More than half of Americans think federal workers are overpaid. (The Washington Post)

    • U.S. executions dropped 12 percent this year. (AP)

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  • Alabama spends education stimulus money on prisons

    The state of Alabama awarded the biggest chunk of $1.1 billion in federal education stimulus funds to prisoners and prison employees -- even though the money in question was not allocated for jail education programs.

    So far, the Department of Corrections has snagged $118 million of the education funds to pay for prisoner health care and employees' salaries, according to the Press-Register's Reva Havner Philips. This unorthodox funding was legal, since governors were permitted to earmark about 18 percent of education stimulus dollars to unrelated programs. Nonetheless, "Alabama spent about $4,500 in education stimulus dollars per prisoner, about four times the amount per student in kindergarten through 12th grade," Philips writes.

  • Hooters responds to NOW complaint: Our sex appeal is ‘wholesome’

    babyhootersBusty restaurant chain Hooters is hitting back against a women's group that says the chain is breaking the law by serving children.

    Hooters' brand of sex appeal is "wholesome" and all-American, and thus compatible with a child clientele, according to a statement by the company's marketing vice president, Mike McNeil.

    "Hooters Girls are sexy and vivacious. The element of sex appeal is certainly prevalent in our restaurants, and is the essence of the Hooters experience, but the Hooters brand of sex appeal is wholesome and that of the all-American cheerleader, not a seedy strip club," said McNeil. "It is time for NOW to accept the fact that the public likes Hooters and there is really nothing they can do about it. Hooters is no more in violation of California's adult entertainment codes than the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition is. However, guys can't do that job, either."

    The National Organization for Women argues that the restaurant is violating California law by classifying

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  • Re-enlistment choice looms for discharged gay veterans

    AP100416133609The main concern on the minds of two discharged service members now that "don't ask" is repealed: hitting the gym.

    "If I'm going to go back to the Army, which I plan to, I need to get in shape," Lt. Dan Choi tells The Lookout. "I've been doing a lot of nonstop media stuff, so I'm not at the level. ... I used to do 100 push-ups in two minutes. I've got to get back."

    Michael Gerson, who was discharged in 2005 while in naval submarine training, says he's going to get into shape to take his mind off waiting for repeal to be "certified."

    "Realistically, I'm looking at the timetable, and I haven't really done much in the past six years, so I'd have to do something to get back in shape," Gerson of Stockton, Calif., told The Lookout. Both Gerson and Choi tried to re-enlist in October when a federal judge refused to enjoin her decision striking down the law as discriminatory, thus in legal terms creating an opening for would-be re-enlisters who are gay. The new law does not specify that discharged members may re-enlist, but the Pentagon's report on "don't Ask" recommended it.

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  • Ivy League may accept ROTC after ‘don’t ask’ repeal

    AP6904090203Harvard, Columbia and Yale are signaling they will again allow military recruiting on campus now that gays and lesbians will soon be allowed to serve openly in the armed services.

    The Reserve Officer Training Corps will be allowed back on campus at Harvard, according to President Drew Gilpin Faust; it had been banned since the Vietnam War. A Yale ROTC student leader told the school paper that he thinks the program will also be allowed back on campus for the first time since 1969, but that it's unclear whether many students are interested in the program.

    Columbia University President Lee Bollinger said debate can now begin on campus over whether the program can return, according to Politico. Repeal "effectively ends what has been a vexing problem for higher education, including at Columbia -- given our desire to be open to our military, but not wanting to violate our own core principle against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation," Bollinger said in a statement.


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  • 5 revelations from the Post’s ‘Monitoring America’ investigation

    screenThe FBI is assembling a massive database on thousands of Americans, many of whom have not been accused of any crime, the Washington Post's Dana Priest and William Arkin report. The reporters' latest look at the country's ballooning national security system focuses on the role that local agencies -- often staffed by people with little to no counter-terrorism training -- have played in combating terrorism since 2001.

    Here are five striking revelations in their piece:

    1. The FBI's Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative, or SAR, currently contains 161,948 suspicious activity files, into which authorities can put information they've gathered about the people at the center of the files: employment history, financial documents, phone numbers, photos. In many cases, the people in the files have not been accused of any crime but have attracted the suspicions of a local cop, FBI agent or even fellow citizen. The files have led to five arrests but no convictions, the FBI says. Some of the files are unclassified so that local police agencies and even businesses can submit reports on anyone they deem suspicious.

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  • FIRST LOOK: Two states sue Bank of America for fraud

    Welcome to First Look, our daily roundup of early-bird news:

    • A busy weekend in the Senate: The DREAM Act failed, "don't ask, don't tell" was repealed, and the revised food safety bill passed. (Washington Post)

    • Some senators still aren't giving up on the 9/11 health bill. (Reuters)

    • Until the repeal of "don't ask" is implemented, service members can still be discharged for being gay, gay rights group warn. (Los Angeles Times)

    • Arizona and Nevada are suing Bank of America for mortgage fraud. (New York Times)

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  • L.A. cops field hundreds of calls after ‘Grim Sleeper’ photos released

    Los Angeles police have been inundated with calls after they called on the public to help identify women pictured in nearly 200 photos found in a suspected killer's home. Tipsters calling in have helped the police to identify five of the 160 women pictured in the photos the department released Thursday, according to the L.A. Times. Police released the images, which were found in the home of accused serial killer Lonnie Franklin Jr., because they fear some of the women may have been his victims.

    The photos have received 8 million page views on various websites, the police say. Many of the women appear to be nude or partially nude, and some seem to be sleeping or unconscious. Police Chief Charlie Beck said there was no other way for police to identify the women.

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  • Congressman vows inquiry into American Muslims

    AP070619015434New York GOP Rep. Peter King, the soon-to-be chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, says he wants to launch a congressional inquiry into what he calls the radicalization of the American Muslim community.

    "When I meet with law enforcement, they are constantly telling me how little cooperation they get from Muslim leaders," King told the New York Times. He cited the case of Najibullah Zazi, who pleaded guilty to plotting to blow up New York's subways. King says that a Queens resident tipped off Zazi that he was under investigation.

    Muslim advocacy groups told the New York Times they were worried the congressional hearings would scapegoat American Muslims and falsely paint the entire group as supporting terrorism.

    Terrorism experts agree that homegrown terror is an increasingly pressing problem in America. But studies show that American Muslim leaders are not the most influential players in promulgating the spread of terrorism.

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