April 21, 2014

The Justice Department will announce later this week new criteria to use when recommending clemency applications to President Obama, a move that Attorney General Eric Holder said could result in "thousands" of applications for reduced sentences.

The change is aimed at reducing prison sentences for those who were convicted years ago under drug laws that no longer carry as harsh of punishments. Yet the new criteria could affect many other non-violent drug offenders who feel they deserve some leniency, too.

"The White House has indicated it wants to consider additional clemency applications, to restore a degree of justice, fairness, and proportionality for deserving individuals who do not pose a threat to public safety," Holder said in a video statement posted to the DOJ's website Monday.

Holder did not elaborate on what the new criteria would entail, saying only that it would make the department's clemency review process more "expansive." And to handle the potential flood of applications, he said the DOJ could "potentially" beef up its staff with dozens of new attorneys.

Obama hasn't used his clemency powers much, though both he and the DOJ have signaled in recent months that they planned to do something to aid non-violent drug offenders. Back in January, New York Deputy Attorney General James Cole said having so many low-level offenders clogging up jails "is not fair, and it harms our criminal justice system." Jon Terbush

September 25, 2016

In a town filled with recognizable faces, one voice stands out from all the rest.

Vin Scully, the famed Los Angeles Dodgers announcer whose dulcet tones are known throughout Southern California, called his last game at Dodger Stadium on Sunday. The 88-year-old has spent 67 seasons with the Dodgers, following the team to L.A. from Brooklyn. The day was all about Scully, with players tipping their caps to him before their first at-bat, and his grandchildren surprising him in the booth.

During the seventh inning, a recording of Scully singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" played, and his rendition of "Wind Beneath My Wings" was heard at the end. Addressing the crowd, Scully said: "You have kept me young at heart. Believe me when I tell you, I've needed you far more than you needed me." The game ended on a high note, with a walk-off homer in the 10th inning by Charlie Culberson giving the Dodgers a 4-3 win over the Colorado Rockies and their fourth consecutive division title. "Would you believe that run?" Scully asked. "Leave it to the Dodgers." Catherine Garcia

September 25, 2016
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The midnight curfew put into place Thursday in Charlotte, North Carolina, following protests over the fatal officer-involved shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, was lifted Sunday by Mayor Jennifer Roberts.

In a statement, Roberts and Trevor M. Fuller, the chairman of the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners, said they wanted the community to "show their unity in a peaceful and legal manner." After Scott's shooting on Tuesday, protesters took over the streets of uptown Charlotte, with some incidents of violence — a 26-year-old man was shot and killed by a civilian, police say, and several protesters and officers were injured.

The protests over the weekend, including one outside of the NFL game Sunday between the Carolina Panthers and Minnesota Vikings, were all peaceful. As "The Star-Spangled Banner" played inside Bank of America stadium, demonstrators went down to their knees, NBC News reports, with riot police watching. Catherine Garcia

September 25, 2016
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Arnold Palmer, the beloved golfer who helped popularize the game, died Sunday. He was 87.

His death was confirmed by Arnold Palmer Enterprises CEO Alastair Johnson. In a career that spanned six decades, Palmer won 62 PGA tour titles and seven majors, in addition to making millions as a pitchman and golf course designer — he put his touch on more than 300 golf courses in 37 states and 25 countries, including the first modern course built in China in 1988. Palmer was born Sept. 10, 1929, in Pennsylvania, and his father, a pro and greenskeeper at a country club, first put a club in his hands at age 3. Before winning the 1954 U.S. Amateur at the Country Club of Detroit, Palmer attended Wake Forest University on a golf scholarship, spent three years in the Coast Guard, and sold paint in Cleveland. Palmer, nicknamed "The King," said his 1954 win was the "turning point in my life. It gave me confidence I could compete at the highest level of the game."

Palmer was also known to non-golfers for the famous beverage carrying his name: the Arnold Palmer, half iced tea and half lemonade. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2004 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2012, the highest honors the United States can give to a civilian. His wife of 45 years, Winifred Walzer, died in 1999. He is survived by his second wife, Kit; daughters Amy Saunders and Peggy Wears; and six grandchildren, including PGA Tour golfer Sam Saunders. Catherine Garcia

September 25, 2016
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Charlotte city officials say they are planning extra security for the Carolina Panthers vs. Minnesota Vikings game their city will host Sunday, because protests over the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott are expected to move to the Bank of America Stadium. The city has labeled the game an "extraordinary event," a category which permits police to ban backpacks in the stadium as well as items like box cutters and chains that might be used as weapons.

Protesters took to the streets for a fifth night on Saturday after the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department released dash and body camera footage depicting Scott's death. The video does not settle the issue of whether Scott had a gun or whether he was holding it while interacting with officers, a major point of contention between police and the Scott family.

"There is no definitive evidence in this video as to whether or not there is an object in his hand, and if there is, what that object is," said an attorney for Scott's family, Justin Bamberg. "But what we do know is that the moment Mr. Scott is shot, it appears as though he's not aggressively moving toward law enforcement; he's actually doing the opposite. He's passively stepping back."

Some protesters have expressed hope that an NFL player, like the Panthers' Cam Newton, who has spoken on race-related issues in the past, might declare his support for the rally at the stadium. Bonnie Kristian

September 25, 2016

North Korea held its first air show Sunday, and only two of the planes were remote-controlled scale models.

Intriguingly, one of the models was a miniature American F-16, an odd choice for the isolated, communist nation whose government regularly declares its hatred for the United States. Likewise odd, another demonstration featured U.S.-made Hughes MD 500 military-use helicopters, which in theory should not be in North Korea thanks to U.S. sanctions.

The show also featured parachutists, passenger planes, and fireworks. Watch a portion of the demonstration below. Bonnie Kristian

September 25, 2016
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French United Nations Ambassador Francois Delattre said Sunday the barrage of Syrian government airstrikes that have pounded rebel-held areas of Aleppo since Friday amount to "war crimes" by the Bashar al-Assad regime and cannot be left unpunished.

The "Security Council simply cannot accept such war crimes — yes, war crimes — to repeat again," Delattre argued, proposing "an immediate humanitarian truce in Aleppo and the Ghouta [a region of Syria near Damascus], 20 years after the siege of Sarajevo."

Since Friday, more than 200 strikes have hit Aleppo, killing at least 100 people and leaving 2 million civilians without running water. The U.N. Security Council convened at 11 a.m. Eastern time Sunday to discuss the situation. Complicating matters, the council includes Russia, which is allied with the Assad regime.

Update 1:06 p.m.: British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday also said "war crimes" are occurring in Syria and suggested Russia is responsible because of its alliance with Damascus. American U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power took a slightly more measured approach, avoiding the war crimes label but terming Moscow's actions in Syria "barbarism, not counter-terrorism" and calling the conditions in Aleppo "apocalyptic."

A Russian spokeswoman immediately rejected Johnson's remarks. "The foreign minister of Great Britain Boris Johnson said in a broadcast of the BBC that Russia is guilty of protracting civil war in Syria and, possibly, of committing war crimes in the form of air attacks on convoys with humanitarian aid," Maria Zakharova said on Facebook Sunday. "All this is right except for two words: Instead of 'Russia' it needs to be 'Great Britain' and instead of 'Syria,' 'Iraq.'" Bonnie Kristian

September 25, 2016
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Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence promised Sunday his running mate, Donald Trump, will "absolutely" tell the truth while debating Hillary Clinton on Monday because he "always speaks straight from his mind and straight from his heart."

Trump is "going to speak the truth to the American people," Pence said in an interview with CBS's Face the Nation. "That’s why you see the tremendous momentum in this campaign."

The veep candidate also weighed in on Trump's informal style of debate prep — which poses a sharp contrast to Clinton's more studied approach — arguing that Trump "has been preparing for this debate for his entire lifetime." After all, "he's built a great business and he's traveled the country," Pence said, "and particularly in this campaign he's given voice to the frustration and aspirations of the American people like no leader in my lifetime since Ronald Reagan." Bonnie Kristian

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