Congressional negotiators agreed yesterday on an “Amber Alert” child kidnapping law that is now expected to be enacted this week. The law will stiffen maximum sentences on child kidnappers and child pornographers. It will create a national child kidnapping notification network named after Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old Texas girl who ws abducted and killed. The legislation authorizes federal matching grants to states and communities for equipment and training for a network that will distribute information via broadcasts and electronic highway signs about kidnapped children. The law includes child pornography provisions in response to a Supreme Court ruling that voided an earlier law.
Homeland security secretary Tom Ridge is asking Congress to focus federal anti-terrorism aid on the areas most at risk. Ridge yesterday criticized a federal law that allocates money to states and localities on a per capita basis. Places like New York City and Washington, D.C., argue that the formula shortchanges them. Under a revised law, the Washington Post reports, New York received $1.38 per person and California $1.33; Wyoming got $9.78 per capita. Ridge called the traditional distribution formula one in which “everybody got a little bit and none of it would make a difference.
Republicans in Congress want to make permanent the broad antiterrorism law that was supposed to expire in 2005. The New York Times reports. Many Democrats and some Republicans maintain that the “Patriot Act” goes too far in allowing federal agencies to spy on Americans, and will resist an indefinite extension. The law increased federal surveillance powers over terrorist suspects. It was passed barely a month after the September, 11, 2001, terorist attacks.
A Kentucky man accused of murders in 1985 and 1987 still is awaiting trial. Sherman Noble, 51, sits in Louisville cell surrounded by paperwork on his case, the Associated Press reports: “Noble is settled in like a man with no plans to leave anytime soon.” He is charged with murdering four men, three of whom were bludgeoned with bricks, . For more than 15 years, the criminal justice system has debated his mental competency. Noble contends that with all the delays, “I can’t get a fair trial at this point.”
Police used with wooden dowels, “sting balls” and other non-lethal weapons to deal with anti-war protesters outside the Port of Oakland, reports the Associated Press. At least a dozen demonstrators and six bystanders were hurt. longshoremen standing nearby. Most of 500 demonstrators were dispersed without incident yesterday, but police opened fire at two locations when protesters refused to move. Demonstrators said it was the first time they had been fired on since anti-war protests started in the San Francisco area more than two weeks ago.
The new federal Transportation Security Agency may have wasted $250 million in its short existence, reports the Los Angeles Times. The TSA is in charge of securing 429 airports. “From overstaffing rural airports to paying security companies at inflated rates to buying more than 1,000 baggage scanners built with dated technology for $1 million each, the agency let spending get out of control, critics charge,” says the Times. Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), who heads the subcommittee responsible for the TSA’s budget, has blasted the agency for “budget estimates pulled from thin air” and “wild funding swings.” One government official familiar with the situation called the waste estimate figure “reasonable.”
A Los Angeles judge must decide how to dispose of the $5,500 in goods that Winona Ryder shoplifed from Saks Fifth Avenue. Among items catalogued by The Los Angeles Times: a $760 Marc Jacobs cashmere thermal top, $300 Gucci shoes, a $540 Natori handbag, a $225 Eric Javits hat, hairpieces and two Yves St. Laurent blouses. Ryder’s lawyer says the actress wants to auction the goods for charity, saying it is silly to burn it. Prosecutor Ann Rundle said the items should be destoyed, at Saks’ request.
A Louisiana state representative says that police officers in southern Louisiana should have their DNA tested as part of a search for a serial killer. Rep. Yvonne Welch issued the call amid speculation that the killer may be a uniformed officer. There have been no signs of forced entry where the victims were murdered or abducted. Rep. Yvonne Welch said DNA tests could clear law enforcement, if it doesn’t catch the murderer. “Women have told me they’re afraid to stop when it’s a police officer.
Gun owners may be held liable for failing to store their firearms safely, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled yesterday. The Indianapolis Star said the court unanimously a trial court’s dismissal of a 1999 lawsuit against the owners of a handgun used to kill a sheriff’s deputy. The officer was killed in a 1997 shootout with a convict. The victim’s family sued parents of the assailant on the ground that they knew their drug-addicted son was fleeing from police but did not safeguard his gun. “Indiana gun owners are guaranteed the right to bear arms,” wrote Chief Justice Randall Shepard, “but this right does not entitle owners to impose on their fellow citizens all the external human and economic costs associated with their ownership.”
More than two million inmates were behind bars in the United States for the first time in mid-2002, says a new federal report. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics says that state and federal facilities held 1,355,748 prisoners and municipal and county jails an additional 665,475. The jail population rose 5.4 percent in the year before the count, the largest increase in five years. At midyear 2002, 1 in every 142 U.S. residents was in prison or jail. The federal system now is the nation’s largest prison jurisdiction.