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Justice Department backs reduced penalties for low-level drug offenses

US prisonAttorney General Eric Holder on Thursday urged the U.S. Sentencing Commission to reduce the recommended prison time for certain low-level drug offenses.

Citing prison overcrowding, and the fact that nearly half of the nation’s 216,000 federal prisoners are incarcerated on drug charges, Holder said sentencing reform is desperately needed.

“ Modestly reducing the quantity-based guideline for drug offenses, while continuing to ensure higher penalties for drug offenders involved violence, or who are career criminals, or who use weapons in their offenses is consistent the Attorney General's Smart on Crime initiative and will help further our current need for efficient and strategic criminal justice reforms,” the Justice Department’s written testimony stated.


White House withholds thousands of documents from Senate CIA probe, despite vows of help

white HouseThe White House has been withholding for five years more than 9,000 top-secret documents sought by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence for its investigation into the now-defunct CIA detention and interrogation program, even though President Barack Obama hasn’t exercised a claim of executive privilege.

In contrast to public assertions that it supports the committee’s work, the White House has ignored or rejected offers in multiple meetings and in letters to find ways for the committee to review the records, a McClatchy investigation has found.


Michigan’s ‘Rape Insurance’ Law Limiting Abortion Coverage Takes Effect

Michigan rape insurance billA law requiring Michigan women to purchase a rider if they expect their private health insurance to cover abortion services takes effect Thursday.

Right to Life Michigan admits the Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act won’t  lower abortion rates in the state, but will shift the burden on who pays for the services. Opponents say it’s a draconian law that threatens women’s health by limiting their access to a procedure that is legal and constitutionally protected, the Detroit Free Press reports.


Wrongly convicted Louisiana inmate released after 30 years on death row

Glenn Ford released after 30 yearsLouisiana inmate Glenn Ford walked free Tuesday after 30 years on death row at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola.

My mind going all kind of directions, but it feels good," Ford, now 64, told reporters immediately after his release.  Asked whether he felt resentful, Ford said, "Yeah, because I was locked up almost 30 years for something I didn't do."

Ford, the longest serving death row inmate, was sentenced to death in 1985 for the 1983 murder of jeweler and watchmaker Isadore Rozeman, who was killed in a shooting at his Shreveport shop.


Washington detention center hunger strike on Day 5

Wshington prison hunger strikeA hunger strike at the Northwest Detention Center in Washington state that started with hundreds of participants was down to five detainees on its fifth day, and they were under medical evaluation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said Tuesday.

The agency said 27 people had refused to eat at the start of the day. They were placed under medical observation and separated from others at the Tacoma facility. By Tuesday afternoon, 22 detainees had eaten, and five remained on hunger strike and under medical evaluation.


Sex trade in eight cities worth nearly $1 billion, study says

Urban Institute studyA study to be released Wednesday about the world’s oldest profession concludes that the lucrative underground commercial sex economy in eight large U.S. metropolitan areas brings in anywhere from $40 million annually to as much as nearly $300 million.

The unprecedented 340-page study by the Urban Institute, a policy research group, finds _ not surprisingly _ that the reach of the Internet has facilitated the flesh trade and made it harder to combat. The report and its in-depth interviews with 73 convicted pimps and traffickers also challenges conventional wisdom on the illicit side of the sex industry.


Gas explosion in NYC's East Harlem kills 2, injures 22 — a dozen feared missing

NYC building collapseA thunderous explosion in East Harlem sent "people flying out the windows," killing two women, injuring 22 and leveling two buildings Wednesday morning, the Fire Department and witnesses said.

Mayor de Blasio said the search continued for people still unaccounted for three hours after the blast at 9:31 a.m.

An NYPD source said nine to 12 people were missing.

Two people suffered life-threatening injuries, five had serious injuries that did not appear life-threatening, a Fire Department spokesman said. “It’s a tragedy of the worst kind because there was no indication in time to save people," said de Blasio at the scene, adding there was no indication of foul play. "We know we've lost two people already."


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