News Roundup

I’ve been traveling a fair bit lately, which made me especially receptive to this story about things the TSA has found on air passengers or in their luggage this year. To sum up: “Things like guns and bombs aren’t enough anymore, the TSA finds grenade launchers, venomous snakes, gassed up chainsaws and more.” Also a chastity belt. I don’t even know what to say about that.

In other news:

1. Nidal Hasan, the defendant in the Fort Hood shootings, has asked to plead guilty to 13 counts of premeditated murder, telling the court that his religious beliefs require him to take responsibility for his actions. The judge has refused to accept the plea, because under military law, a defendant in a capital case may not plead guilty. However, the judge has repeatedly chastised the defendant for coming to court unshaven, most recently holding him in contempt and fining him $1000, an order the defendant has appealed, resulting in a delay in his trial. Arguably, the judge is missing the forest for the trees.

2. Speaking of mass shootings, I was one of several guests on WUNC radio’s The State of Things this week, discussing gun control in the wake of the Aurora shootings. We talked less about the law, which I know pretty well, and more about policy and social science research, which I know only slightly, but the show overall may be of interest to some readers. It’s archived here.

3. A couple of interesting prison-related stories cropped up this week. This one talks about the inmate rodeo at the famous (infamous? notorious?) Angola prison in Louisiana. And this one reports on a company that markets durable, unweaponizable MP3 players to inmates. Up next: a tablet computer designed for prison use. Soon inmates may be reading this blog on portable devices. Wild.

4. I doubt, however, that the aforementioned gizmos will be approved for use on North Carolina’s death row, where even TV access has been controversial. California may soon get rid of its death row entirely – a ballot initiative is before the state’s voters concerning the abolition of capital punishment. Among others, a prominent former Los Angeles district attorney supports the measure, mainly based on cost concerns. After the Aurora shootings, however, polling data suggests that the measure is unlikely to pass.

5. I always appreciate dumb crook stories, and a good one made the rounds this week: a Pennsylvania man accidentally called 911 during a drug deal, allowing authorities to listen in on the whole thing. A good reminder to lock your cell phone when it’s in your pocket.

6. Finally, it is that time of year when the ABA accepts nominations for its Blawg 100 awards. They have a division for single-state blogs, so if, by chance, there is a state-specific blog that you read regularly, consider going here and submitting a nomination for that blog. You know, whatever blog it may be.

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