This just in
July 16, 2014

A federal judge on Wednesday ruled that California's death penalty was unconstitutional because "arbitrary" factors determined whether or not convicts would be put to death.

"Inordinate and unpredictable delays" have "resulted in a system in which arbitrary factors, rather than legitimate ones like the nature of the crime or the date of the death sentence, determine whether an individual will actually be executed," Judge Cormac Carney wrote in his opinion.

California hasn't executed a prisoner since 2006, but the state still has almost 750 convicts on death row. Jon Terbush

activist governor
9:55 p.m. ET

Despite an Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling last week saying a 10 Commandments monument violates the state Constitution, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) said it will remain on Capitol grounds.

Fallin said she made her decision after Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt asked the court to reconsider its 7-2 decision and lawmakers filed legislation to have citizens vote on whether to remove Article II, Section 5 of the constitution, which reads "No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such."

The court said the statue, which was privately funded by Rep. Mike Ritze (R-Broken Arrow), was obviously religious in nature and an integral part of Christian and Jewish faiths, Tulsa World reports. Citing Pruitt's request and the potential vote, Fallin said, "Oklahoma is a state where we respect the rule of law, and we will not ignore the state courts or their decisions. However, we are also a state with three co-equal branches of government."

The ACLU of Oklahoma filed the challenge on behalf of three plaintiffs, and Fallin's decision doesn't sit well with executive director Ryan Kiesel. "The Supreme Court did not give any leeway in their opinion," he told Tulsa World. "The bipartisan, seven-member majority did not say remove the monument except if you look into your crystal ball and think the law might allow it at some point in the future and go ahead and keep it. The court said remove the monument." Catherine Garcia

Greek debt crisis
8:47 p.m. ET
Thierry Charlier/Getty Images

The eurozone is giving Greece until Thursday to come up with new proposals to secure a deal with its creditors.

This is the "most critical moment in the history of the eurozone," European Council President Donald Tusk said. "The final deadline ends this week." During an emergency summit Tuesday in Brussels, it was expected that new Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos would bring written proposals, but instead only supplied an oral update on Greece's financial situation. The problem goes beyond Greece, French President Francois Hollande said, adding, "It's the future of the European Union."

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said he wants a "socially just and economically viable agreement," and suggested on Tuesday night he will agree to several demands from creditors, including some that he rejected in the past. In return, he wants a third bailout from the eurozone, an agreement on restructuring Greece's public debt, and measures to encourage economic growth, the BBC reports. Catherine Garcia

Crisis in Syria
8:04 p.m. ET
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Ash Carter told Congress Tuesday that the United States has only trained roughly 60 Syrian opposition fighters to take on the Islamic State.

The program launched in Jordan and Turkey this May, with the goal of training 5,400 fighters a year, Reuters reports. Some rebel leaders say that in order to be successful, the trainees have to target Syrian government forces, but they are off-limits for U.S. offensive operations.

Carter said he thinks Syrian recruits need some protection from the U.S., but said no decisions have been made yet on the type of assistance to provide. He also said that after the U.S. streamlined vetting candidates, the numbers of recruits would increase. “We are refining our curriculum, expanding our outreach to the moderate opposition, and incorporating lessons learned from the first training,” he said. Catherine Garcia

sorry donald
7:26 p.m. ET
Matthew Simmons/Getty Images

ESPN is the latest company to cut ties with Donald Trump, following comments he made about Mexican immigrants during his presidential campaign kick off in June.

The ESPY Celebrity Golf Classic was scheduled to be played July 14 at the Trump National Golf Club in Palos Verdes, California, but has been moved to Pelican Hill in Orange County, the Los Angeles Times reports. In a statement, ESPN said the change reflects "support for inclusion of all sports fans. Diversity and inclusion are core values at ESPN, and our decision also supports that commitment."

During his kick off event, Trump stated that Mexican immigrants are "bringing drugs" and "crime" to the U.S., and "they're rapists." He later added, "some, I assume, are good people." Since then, Macy's, NBC, Univision, and other major corporations have severed ties with the GOP candidate. Catherine Garcia

Nature's Wonders
6:46 p.m. ET
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A giant sheet of granite has fallen from Half Dome, making it even harder to ascend the Yosemite National Park landmark.

Park officials said the sheet, which they estimate is 100 by 200 feet, peeled off from halfway up the sheer face of Half Dome sometime last week. No one was hurt or saw the granite fall; it was found by climbers, who were unable to pass and had to turn around. "What used to be relatively easy climbing has gotten much more difficult," park geologist and climber Greg Stock told The Associated Press.

There are several routes climbers can take, and this particular one is considered one of the top 50 climbing destinations in North America. Hundreds of skilled climbers take on Half Dome every year, and while this affects some climbers, Yosemite Chief of Staff Mike Gauthier is certain it won't keep anyone away. "Now is their chance to find a new work-around," he said. "And they will." Catherine Garcia

In a galaxy far, far away
4:13 p.m. ET
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

That galaxy far, far away just keeps getting more crowded. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Disney has yet another expansion of the Star Wars universe on the horizon: a spin-off focused on the adventures of the young Han Solo.

The Han Solo spin-off will be written, directed, and produced by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the directorial team behind recent smash hits like 21 Jump Street and The LEGO Movie. No word on casting, but it's hard to imagine a young actor in Hollywood who wouldn't jump at the chance to step into such an iconic role.

The Han Solo movie is just one of many new movies designed to expand the depth and breadth of the Star Wars universe. In addition to J.J. Abrams' Episode VII, which arrives in December, and its two planned sequels, Godzilla director Gareth Edwards is slated to helm Rogue One, a spin-off about the team that stole the plans for the Death Star, setting the stage for the original Star Wars.

Update: Following The Hollywood Reporter's story, the Han Solo spin-off was confirmed on The movie will explain "how young Han Solo became the smuggler, thief, and scoundrel whom Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi first encountered in the cantina at Mos Eisley," says the press release. The film will hit theaters in May 2018. Scott Meslow

ride on
4:01 p.m. ET

Bike-sharing programs are all the rage in major U.S. cities, but none have got it quite right the way Chicago has. In an announcement Tuesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said that the city's bike-sharing program, Divvy, will become available to low-income residents for $70 off — that is, it will cost only $5 total for a year of use. The city will even throw in a free helmet for the first 250 applicants.

The hope is that the usual bike-share riders — who tend to be wealthy, college-educated, white men — won't be the only ones taking advantage of eco-friendly transportation. But the new discounted price isn't all that makes Divvy's bikes more accessible. Unlike New York's program, Citi Bike, Divvy's stations aren't confined mainly to the wealthier neighborhoods. Divvy is the largest bike-sharing program in the States, with its service area stretching as far north as Chicago's Touhy Avenue, as far south as 75th Street, and as far west as Pulaski Road. Jeva Lange

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