Twelve years after banning the execution of the "mentally retarded," the U.S. Supreme Court is examining the question of who qualifies as having mental retardation, for purposes of capital cases, and who does not.
In 2002, the high court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia that executing "mentally retarded" people is unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment. But the justices left it to the states to define mental retardation.
Now the court is focusing on what limits, if any, there are to those definitions.
Colorado opened its first pot stores in January, and adults in Washington state will be able to walk into a store and buy marijuana this summer. But this legalization of recreational marijuana is taking place without much information on the possible health effects.
In northern Nevada, a place famous for its wide, open spaces and expansive cattle operations, ranchers are in a bind due to the historic drought.
Much of the state is desert, so when people talk about drought, they're really talking about the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada. It's at barely 20 percent of average.
This is a huge concern for farmers and ranchers like Julie Wolf, because the mountains store the snow that melts and feeds rivers and reservoirs. These bodies of water then allow the desert to bloom with grass and alfalfa for her cattle.
It already has an ominous-sounding name: Winter Storm Titan. And it has much of the nation's mid-section in its sights.
The storm is the same system that that caused flash-flooding in California on Saturday and is now heading the Midwest and the Deep South on Sunday, where it will dump snow, ice or some combination of the two over a large swath of the country, according to The Weather Channel.
Secretary of State John Kerry, who has described Moscow's military intervention in the Crimea an "incredible act of aggression," will travel to Ukraine's capital on Tuesday to meet with the country's embattled government.
U.S. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement late Sunday that Kerry "will meet with senior representatives of Ukraine's new government, leaders of the Rada [Ukraine's parliament], and members of the civil society."
Originally published on Fri March 14, 2014 12:24 pm
JACKI LYDEN, HOST:
JP Morgan Chase announced this past week that it's going to lay off 8,000 people this year, most of them in the company's residential home loan business. Home sales are slowing nationwide and are now at their lowest point in 18 months. So, does that mean we headed for another housing swoon? Well, NPR's Chris Arnold says that things might be better than they appear.
In Louisiana, Mardi Gras comes each year with dozens of parades filled with marching bands, colorful floats and parade-goers who scream, "Throw me something, Mister!"
That "something" the crowd wants are beads. The goal of any Mardi Gras parade is to catch as many as possible. After the revelry, people often have so many beads around their necks they can barely turn their heads.
On Tuesday, President Obama will unveil his budget proposal for the coming year. But for all the sound and fury surrounding the president's spending plan, it's likely to have very little significance. Congress routinely ignores the president's budget. And lawmakers have already settled on overall spending levels for the coming year.
That's led some to ask whether it's time to bring the curtain down on this annual exercise in political theater.
An ad on a bus shelter in New Mexico is part of an ongoing effort to educate law enforcement and the public about human trafficking. The Justice Department estimates that each year at least 200,000 children are trafficked for sex in the U.S.
We've all seen them: the public service announcements about sex trafficking in America. They're plastered on buses and billboards; images of young women exploited for their bodies, with hotlines to call for help.
The numbers are staggering. The Justice Department estimates that each year at least 200,000 children are trafficked for sex in the U.S., and it is said to generate upward of $32 billion a year.
In fact, most of those 15 or so states that use the Heat and Eat loophole have Democratic governors. Along with New York and Connecticut are the likes of California, Massachusetts and Oregon. More than 20 percent of Oregonians are on food stamps. That's one of the highest rates in the country. These new cuts would affect over 140,000 people there. On average, they'd lose about $58 a month.
It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Arun Rath.
Last month, President Obama made a special trip to Michigan to sign the farm bill, finally passed after two years of disagreement in Congress. One important clause said to take effect this month is a major cut to food stamps. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated the cuts would affect about 850,000 households, saving about $8.5 billion over the next 10 years. That cut was achieved by closing what some see as a loophole regarding who qualifies for the program.
Hundreds of visual-effects artists are planning to picket the Academy Awards on Sunday for the second year in a row. They're hoping to bring attention to what's been happening in their industry.
The field is losing jobs and relocating to countries with bigger subsidies for employers. It's the result of a technical revolution that's changed the profession since it kicked off in the 70s with Star Wars creator George Lucas' visual-effects company, Industrial Light and Magic.
Young people look at pro-Russian armed men blocking access to the Ukrainian frontier guard base in Balaklava, a small city not far from Sevastopol, on Saturday.
Credit Viktor Drachev / AFP/Getty Images
Armed men take up positions around the regional parliament building in the Crimean city of Simferopol on Saturday. Ukraine's defense minister said on Saturday Russia had "recently" brought 6,000 additional personnel into Ukraine.
Russia's parliament has unanimously approved a request by President Vladimir Putin to authorize the intervention of Moscow's forces in Ukraine until "the normalization of the political situation" there. In response, Ukraine put its own forces on alert and warned that a Russian invasion would spark war between the two countries.
In the desert outside of Phoenix, there have been 18 shootings in the last five years, a series of mysteries that has stumped federal investigators.
Let's be clear, we're talking about donkeys: specifically, wild burros, the federally protected asses of the Old West. In late January, out among the desert scrub and beavertail cactus, two from the Lake Pleasant herd were found dead.
Professor Longhair's house has been saved. Now, last year we brought you a story about the piano legend and the nationwide effort to rebuild his home following Hurricane Katrina. Henry Roeland Byrd, better known as Professor Longhair, is widely considered to be the father of modern New Orleans music. He died in 1980, but at carnival time especially, it's evident that Professor Longhair's influence endures. Now, his house will too. Gwen Thompkins brings us this story of music and more.
Contractors working for the state of Washington are planning a high-stakes operation to rescue Bertha — the world's largest tunneling machine.
Bertha is supposed to be boring a 2-mile highway tunnel under downtown Seattle, but it got stuck in December.
Bertha is on Seattle's waterfront, between South Main and South Jackson streets, about 60 feet straight down. At first, they thought the machine was being stymied by a big glacial rock. Then attention focused on the chewed-up remains of a metal pipe. But now it seems Bertha's ailment is mechanical.
Idaho's Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has signed a bill that criminalizes the act of secretly filming animal abuse at agricultural facilities. The move comes days after the state's legislature approved the measure.
"Otter, a rancher, said the measure promoted by the dairy industry 'is about agriculture producers being secure in their property and their livelihood,'" according to the AP.
President Obama spoke about the Ukraine crisis Friday afternoon, saying, "The United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine."
Originally published on Fri February 28, 2014 8:46 pm
Saying that the United States is "deeply concerned" by reports that Russia is taking military action in Ukraine, President Obama urged Russia not to intervene in the destabilized country, where tensions have reached new highs this week.
Obama said that he had spoken to Russia's President Putin in recent days, to foster cooperation in coping with the situation.
George P. Bush passes a portrait of his grandfather George H.W. Bush at the Republican Party of Texas headquarters in Austin. Bush, the son of a governor and the nephew and grandson of two presidents, is running for Texas land commissioner.
Originally published on Fri February 28, 2014 5:41 pm
George Prescott Bush.
Ring a bell?
It should, and if it doesn't, it soon will. George P. Bush, 37, is a great-grandson of a late U.S. senator from Connecticut; a grandson and nephew of former U.S. presidents; and the eldest son of ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who just may run for president himself in 2016.
On Tuesday, George P., referred to by some as the "Hispanic George Bush" because of his mother's Mexican heritage, will take his generation's first crack at the family business when he runs in a statewide Republican primary for Texas land commissioner.
87-year-old John Dingell, the longest-serving member in the history of Congress, retires at the end of his current term. When he goes, another Dingell hopes to win his seat. Today, in the city of Dearborn, in the heart of Michigan's 12th district, Debbie Dingell, the congressman's wife, announced her candidacy. NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea reports.
Social monitoring started in the world of marketing, allowing companies to track what people were saying about their brands. But now, with software that allows users to scan huge volumes of public postings on social media, police are starting to embrace it as well.
Many police departments in Britain use a product sold by CrowdControlHQ. CEO James Leavesley calls it a "social media risk media and monitoring" company, meant primarily as a means of staying in touch with the public. But Leavesley says it's also a way to detect trouble.
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block. The Clinton Library and the National Archives released some 4,000 documents today from the Clinton administration. Among other things, the papers the deal with the Clinton's defeated healthcare reforms and then First Lady Hillary Clinton's image. They're part of a trove of documents and the first of several batches to be made public. NPR's Brian Naylor has been going through them and he joins me now. Brian, welcome.
The first American athlete to win an Olympic medal in singles luge returned home last night. Erin Hamlin's thrilling runs on the ice track in Sochi earned her the bronze. She also earned a police escort past miles of cheering crowds to her tiny hometown of Remsen. It's in the foothills of New York's Adirondack Mountains. North Country Public Radio's David Sommerstein was there for her homecoming.