Perhaps the biggest qualm people have with capital punishment is that it can wrongfully be applied to innocent people. So how often does that happen? About once per every 25 death sentences, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
To arrive at that number, the authors started by noting that 1.6 percent of people put on death row since 1973 were later exonerated. But since many death row inmates have their sentences converted to life in prison, they no longer receive as vigilant of a review process that could determine their innocence, thus driving down the exoneration rate. So if everyone sentenced to death row stayed there, the authors estimated the exoneration rate would spike to "at least" 4.1 percent.
That said, the advent of DNA evidence may help curb wrongful executions going forward, bringing that estimated 4.1 figure down. And Americans are in general souring on capital punishment, while more states are ending the practice either by choice or due to a lack of execution drugs, all of which will result in fewer death sentences and thus, one hopes, fewer wrongful executions, too. Jon Terbush
The West Coast can expect warm winters for the rest of this century — and the East Coast, frigid snowstorms
Donald Trump rather famously complained that climate change is just an elaborate Chinese hoax, and has used New York's frigid winter storms to mock global warming. But according to a new study in Atmospheres, New York's brutal winters are actually evidence of the growing impact climate change is having on the United States — and it is a trend that is going to continue throughout the century.
Researchers have observed what they call a "North American winter temperature dipole," meaning East Coast winters have brought snowstorms and sub-zero temperatures, while the West Coast has roughed mild, dry winters that bring on droughts due to the lack of snow. "We're in this new world that's much, much warmer with much less sea ice and that's changing the way the atmosphere behaves," said climate scientist Jennifer Francis. "It's an interesting time to be studying this, but the bad news is, we're watching this planet fall apart."
It's freezing and snowing in New York--we need global warming!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 7. november 2012
The occurrence of warm West/cold East winters began as early as 1980, but "has become more frequent … a trend that reflects the influence of global warming on the atmosphere in the Northern Hemisphere," Inside Climate News writes. The pattern will continue for the rest of the century but eventually "level off as the East becomes too warm for extreme weather conditions." Hooray? Jeva Lange
The U.S. plans to send roughly 600 more troops to Iraq to "further enable" local forces in the fight to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State, Defense Secretary Ash Carter told reporters Wednesday. The additional troops will join the 4,565 military personnel already in Iraq, and will assist with training and advising the Iraqi military.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said he had requested additional troops to "provide support for security forces," and the Obama administration had agreed to provide them. In a statement posted to his official website, al-Abadi stressed that the role of American troops would remain strictly advisory, and that Iraqi troops would complete the combat mission.
The Associated Press reported that a victory in Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city and ISIS's "last major urban stronghold" in the country, would be both "symbolic and strategic." If Iraqi troops could successfully reclaim Mosul, The Associated Press reported, the U.S. and its allies believe that could pave the way for defeating ISIS in Raqqa, the terrorist group's stronghold in Syria. Becca Stanek
Actress Melissa Joan Hart is locking up the teen witch vote for Gary Johnson, having thrown her support behind the Libertarian candidate and stepped up as his campaign's Connecticut chairperson. "I want to break away from this two-party system and I think it's important for people to know that there's another candidate out there who really toes the line between Democrat and Republican," Hart told People. "I mean, he's Libertarian. But socially he's liberal, but fiscally conservative."
"Governors, I love, because they already ran their state as, like, a little president," Hart added, in reference to Johnson's eight years as governor of New Mexico. "He was on a border state, so if you want to talk about immigration, he's the guy."
Johnson is currently polling at an average of 7.4 percent nationally; in an Emerson poll in early September, he was at about 9 percent in Connecticut. Watch Hart talk about why she supports the underdog, below. Jeva Lange
In a fitting continuation to his high-drama athletic career, former NFL quarterback turned baseball rookie Tim Tebow took his first pitch as a professional baseball player Wednesday — and promptly hit a home run:
Tebow is playing with the Instructional League team of the New York Mets based in Port St. Lucie, Florida. The major-league Mets are fighting hard for a wild card spot in the MLB playoffs, but have been decimated by injuries. If they need some extra firepower, it looks like they know who to call. Kimberly Alters
The Senate on Wednesday overrode President Barack Obama's veto of a controversial bill allowing families of 9/11 victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia. The Senate prevailed in a landslide 97-1 vote, and the House will likely vote on the bill later this week.
The bill is expected to result in the first veto override of Obama's presidency, Politico reports. The bill's detractors have argued it would weaken sovereign immunity, with the Obama administration claiming "the bill could lead other nations to alter their laws upholding sovereign immunity ... [and] would have dire consequences for Americans posted overseas," CNN explained.
The Saudi government has long denied involvement in the 9/11 attacks. Jeva Lange
Eric Trump praises his father's 'courage' for not mentioning Bill Clinton's infidelity at the debate
Some kids will always remember their dad teaching them to ride a bike or taking them on that childhood camping trip. Eric Trump, on the other hand, says what he'll "always remember" about dad Donald Trump is when he so bravely refrained from mentioning former President Bill Clinton's infidelity during the presidential debate Monday. "I mean, he very well could've looked down — and he said it when he came off the debate stage, 'I wasn't gonna respond to that question because I saw Chelsea [Clinton] in the front row and I just wasn't gonna go there out of respect for her," Eric said during an interview Tuesday with 1040 WHO Iowa radio. "That was a big moment for me and probably will actually become ... something I'll always remember."
Eric said he thought it took "a lot of courage in so many regards" for his father to take "the high road" instead of retaliating against Hillary Clinton when she attacked him for his past poor treatment of women. "I'm really proud of him for doing that," Eric said. You can listen to the rest of Eric's praise for his father below, via BuzzFeed. Becca Stanek
Historians have dedicated lifetimes of study to the Silk Road trade route, which connected Ancient China and the Roman Empire. But new skeletons unearthed in a London cemetery now have researchers questioning exactly the extent of the partnership between the two great civilizations.
In a Roman cemetery in London, archaeologists found two pairs of remains belonging to people of Asian ancestry. Analysis indicates it is highly likely the people were Chinese, meaning they would have had to travel around 5,000 miles to get to England. "Many people traveled, often vast distances, for trade or because of their occupation, for example in the military, or their social status, for example if they were enslaved," Dr. Rebecca Redfern explained in The Journal of Archaeological Science.
The bones date back to sometime between the 2nd and 4th century A.D. Up until now, only one other person of Asian ancestry had ever been discovered from a site dating back to the Roman Empire, NextShark reports.
While nothing is conclusive yet, researchers can begin to speculate about what kinds of lives the people lived; perhaps the pair were immigrants who had come to Europe to set up their own business. Other skeletons in the area have been linked to African and Mediterranean peoples, suggesting the neighborhood was perhaps home to a diverse community of immigrants that shared the same social or economic status as the other locals. Jeva Lange