By Aruna Viswanatha WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Justice has named Marshall Miller as the new No. 2 official in its criminal division, after a spate of departures thinned its top ranks, according to an internal memo obtained on Wednesday. Miller, who was most recently chief of the criminal division at the U.S. Attorney's office in Brooklyn, is now the deputy head of the 600-lawyer criminal division at department headquarters in Washington, said a DoJ memo dated April 17. "He's done a great job in Brooklyn," said John Buretta, Miller's predecessor in the criminal division until last November when he joined the law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore.
By Julia Edwards and Aruna Viswanatha WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department laid out new clemency guidelines on Wednesday that are expected to make thousands of drug offenders eligible for a reduction in the sentences they are currently serving. Under the new guidelines, inmates that were sentenced under laws that have since changed, have served at least 10 years of their sentence and are nonviolent may be re-examined by the Justice Department and suggested to the president for clemency. Deputy Attorney General James Cole, who announced the details of the plan, said the most obvious candidates for review were those sentenced before a 2010 law that lowered the terms for crack cocaine possession charges. "These older, stringent punishments that are out of line with sentences imposed under today's laws erode people's confidence in our criminal justice system," Cole said at a news conference on Wednesday.
By Jim Forsyth SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Reuters) - The U.S. Army is looking to cut about 2,000 positions for captains and majors by the end of the year as part of its overall plans to reduce its active duty numbers due to budget cuts, the Army's chief of staff said on Wednesday. "Probably this year, we will ask 1,500 captains to leave the service, and we will ask probably 400 to 500 majors to leave the service," General Ray Odierno, the Army's top officer, told reporters at an event in Texas. "That is because we have to get down to the appropriate size." The Pentagon said last month it would shrink the U.S. Army to pre-World War Two levels, eliminate the popular A-10 aircraft and reduce military benefits in order to meet 2015 budget spending caps. He said the planned cut of the Army to 490,000 active duty soldiers will be reached by the end of 2015 and will not prevent the service from carrying out its current missions.
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon commission has ordered a waste-to-power facility to stop accepting boxed medical waste after learning it might be using the remains of aborted fetuses from British Columbia to generate electricity.
DARRINGTON, Wash. (AP) — Fisheries biologist Pete Verhey waded through the cold, clear creek that feeds into the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, scanning riffles and side channels looking for evidence of fish eggs.
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont lawmakers have passed the country's first state bill to require the labeling of genetically modified foods as such, setting up a war between powerful lobbyists for the behemoth U.S. food industry and an American public that overwhelmingly says it approves of the idea.
By Jonathan Kaminsky OLYMPIA, Washington (Reuters) - The U.S. Army convened a pre-trial evidentiary hearing on Wednesday for a soldier accused of shooting dead two deaf, unarmed Iraqi boys in 2007. Sergeant First Class Michael Barbera faces two counts of premeditated murder stemming from the incident. The court proceeding, called an Article 32 hearing, is being held at Washington state's Joint Base Lewis-McChord and is expected to last five days, Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Dennis Swanson said. Last June, U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales pleaded guilty to killing 16 unarmed Afghan civilians in 2012.
Most Californians support dramatic changes set to take hold in public education, including funneling more money to schools with disadvantaged students and implementing rigorous national standards known as the common core curriculum, a new poll shows. Nearly three-quarters of Californians also say they support free preschool for all 4-year-olds, a measure that has been proposed by Democrats in the legislature but met with skepticism by Governor Jerry Brown, the poll by the Public Policy Institute of California released Wednesday night showed. "Public support is solidly behind the significant changes that are being made to school funding and classroom curricula this year," said PPIC President Mark Baldassare. After hearing a brief description of the Common Core, criticized by some conservatives as a federal takeover of local public schools because the Obama administration is pushing for the change, 69 percent of California residents interviewed said they supported the standards, Baldassare said in a news release.
KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) — When they moved from Georgia to the theme park playground of central Florida four years ago, Anthony and Candice Johnson found work at a barbecue restaurant and a 7-Eleven. Their combined salaries nevertheless fell short of what they needed to rent an apartment, so the couple and their two children have instead been hopping among cheap motel rooms along U.S. 192.
A nursing Southern California mother stopped from taking breast milk through airport security has reached a $75,000 settlement with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, her lawyer said on Wednesday. TSA officers stopped Stacey Armato at Phoenix's Sky Harbor International Airport while she was traveling to Los Angeles in 2010 with bottles of pumped breast milk for her seven-month-old son. In a 2012 lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Phoenix, Armato contended TSA officers initially refused to follow the agency's policy of providing alternative security screenings for bottles of breast milk instead of X-raying them.
LITTLE FALLS, Minn. (AP) — A Minnesota man who killed two teenagers who broke into his home can be heard on an audio recording talking to himself for hours after the shooting and at one point, apparently describing the slain teens as "vermin."
By Teresa Carson EUGENE, Oregon (Reuters) - Lawyers for four same-sex couples challenging Oregon's prohibition on gay marriage appeared before a federal judge on Wednesday to argue their case, even as the state declined to defend the ban. Oregon's attorney general declined to defend the state's constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2004 that defined marriage as a union exclusively between a man and a woman. Officials from several other states, including California, Nevada and Virginia, have likewise refused to defend such laws in court as gay marriage proponents make legal headway across the country. "As creative as state attorneys can be, and we can be very creative, we could not come up with a justification" for maintaining a prohibition on gay marriage, special Assistant Attorney General Mary Williams told a 90-minute hearing in a packed Eugene courtroom.
By Heide Brandes OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - The Oklahoma Supreme Court lifted a stay of execution on Wednesday for two murderers, put in place due to concerns over secrecy surrounding lethal injection drugs, clearing the way for them to be put to death next week. The court said their records indicate that the inmates have been provided with the identity and dosages of the drugs for the lethal injections and there were no pending secrecy concerns that would merit a further stay. The decision came a few hours after a member of the House of Representatives said he would start proceedings that could have led to impeachment proceedings in the state's legislature for court members. The two inmates, Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner, had been scheduled to be executed in March but had the death sentences put on hold after lower courts ruled that the state needed to provide more information on the drugs.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Poor management, an eroding safety culture, ineffective maintenance and a lack of proper oversight are being blamed for a radiation release that contaminated 21 workers and shuttered the federal government's nuclear waste dump two months ago in southeastern New Mexico.
The former commander of an elite U.S. Navy flight unit was removed from his position amid an allegation that he enabled a climate of inappropriate behavior when he commanded the famed Blue Angels flight team, the Navy said on Wednesday. The allegations against the former commanding officer of the precision flying team, renowned for its aeronautic acrobatics, mark the latest report of military misconduct as the Pentagon seeks to recover from a string of conduct scandals and hone an image as an organization with strong ethics. "According to the investigation, Capt. Gregory McWherter, while serving as the commanding officer of the Blue Angels, tolerated an inappropriate work environment within the squadron which may have violated the Navy's sexual harassment, hazing and equal opportunity policies," the official Navy News Service said in a statement emailed to reporters. "The complaint alleges that lewd speech, inappropriate comments, and sexually explicit humor were allowed in the workplace and in some case encouraged by the commanding officer," the Navy said.
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled late Wednesday that two death row inmates are not entitled to know the source of the drugs that will be used to kill them, putting them back on track to be executed as early as next week.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled late Wednesday that death row inmates Clayton Lockett and Charles Warner are not entitled to know the source of the drugs that will be used to kill them. The court, which is the highest in the state for civil cases, had previously halted their executions, even though critics said only the Oklahoma Court of Appeals can issue stays. The Court of Appeals is the highest in the state for criminal cases. Here is a look at the inmates' legal challenge:
CLEVELAND (AP) — Attorneys for two women held in a Cleveland home and abused for a decade say Joan Rivers should apologize for comparing living in her daughter's guest room with the captivity they experienced.
SAN DIEGO (AP) — A former commanding officer of the Navy's Blue Angels allowed, and in some cases encouraged, sexually explicit humor and inappropriate comments among members of the famed precision flying team, the U.S. Navy contended Wednesday.
The blast at the Williams Companies Inc plant in Opal, Wyoming, touched off a fire that was still burning several hours later, company spokeswoman Michele Swaner said. The Lincoln County Sheriff's Department said the fire had been contained to one area of the plant. The explosion, at least the second safety incident suffered by Williams Companies in the last few weeks, could affect prices on Thursday when the market starts trading for gas to be delivered on Friday. Wyoming and U.S. regulators were not available to comment or say if gas flows at the Hub would be affected.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration is encouraging many nonviolent federal prisoners to apply for early release — and expecting thousands to take up the offer. It's an effort to deal with high costs and overcrowding in prisons, and also a matter of fairness, the government says.
HONOLULU (AP) — Long flights can leave anyone a little unsteady, but a teenager who defied the odds, surviving a flight from California to Hawaii tucked in a jetliner's wheel well, was disoriented, thirsty and could barely walk after the freezing, low-pressure ordeal, airport officials said Wednesday.
PHOENIX (AP) — Five senior Arizona child welfare employees were fired Wednesday for orchestrating a plan that led to more than 6,500 Arizona child abuse and neglect cases being closed without investigations, officials said.
HONOLULU (AP) — The father of a teenager who survived a flight from California to Hawaii tucked in a jetliner's wheel well has told Voice of America his son missed Africa, where he used to live, and was struggling in school.