The week at a glance...United States
Olympia, Wash. Execution moratorium: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee this week indefinitely suspended the death penalty in his state in order to “join a growing national conversation about capital punishment.” Nine men are currently on death row at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, but recent executions have been marred by controversies over the effectiveness of the lethal injection method, which critics say causes inmates to suffer “cruel and unusual” punishment prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. “There have been too many doubts raised about capital punishment, there are too many flaws in this system today,” said the Democratic governor. State Senate Republican Leader Mark Schoesler said the governor was “out of touch” with legislative and public support for capital punishment.
The South ‘Catastrophic’ storm: Governors throughout the South declared states of emergency this week as a blistering winter storm crippled parts of the South, cutting off power for tens of thousands of customers and paving the streets of Atlanta with up to three quarters of an inch of ice. National Weather Service forecasters predicted that the storm, which dumped close to a foot of snow over parts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama before moving to Georgia, could be a “catastrophic event,” prompting the deployment of more than 400 members of the National Guard in Georgia alone. By the middle of the week, more than 150,000 people were without power in the Peach State, with the state’s largest utility, Georgia Power, warning that customers could face “days” of blackouts.
New Orleans Nagin convicted: Former New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin was found guilty this week on 20 counts of corruption committed during the city’s recovery from Hurricane Katrina, including bribery, money laundering, and filing false tax returns. Prosecutors alleged that Nagin awarded city contracts in the aftermath of the 2005 storm in exchange for trips by private jet and $500,000 worth of bribes. “Every time a contractor critically needed something from Mayor Ray Nagin, he would seize on that opportunity and get something in return,” said prosecutor Richard Pickens during closing arguments. Nagin, 57, who was mayor from 2002 to 2010, said businessmen invented the charges to get plea deals. He could face more than 20 years in prison.
Raleigh, N.C. Moral March: Between 80,000 and 100,000 people turned out in Raleigh last week to protest the policies of the Republican-controlled state government. The diverse group of “Moral Marchers” demonstrated against a range of recent North Carolina measures, including education spending cuts, limits to reproductive rights, the gerrymandering of voting districts, and a new voter ID law that ends same-day registration and restricts early voting. The demonstration was a continuation of last year’s Moral Monday marches, which led to the arrests of more than 900 protesters. North Carolina NAACP President Rev. William Barber II promised it would be the first of many this year. “If you are going to change America, you have to think states,” said Barber after the march. “And if you are going to think states, you have to change Southern states.”
Washington, D.C. Drone debate: The Obama administration is currently debating whether to attempt to kill a U.S. citizen by drone strike, according to current and former senior government officials. The citizen in question is an al Qaida member living in Pakistan and is said to be actively plotting terrorist attacks against the U.S. The unidentified man apparently had a relationship with radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen killed in a drone strike ordered by President Obama in 2011. Discussions over whether to authorize the target have apparently been taking place among the White House, the CIA, and the departments of Justice, State, and Defense over the last six months. The main concern is whether the suspect meets the new standards for drone use laid out by Obama in May, which stipulate that a strike may only be carried out to stop a planned attack.
New York City Woody Allen responds: In an op-ed in The New York Times last week, Woody Allen rejected allegations that he was a child molester, calling the claims a “ludicrous” smear against him. He was responding to accusations made in an open letter by Dylan Farrow, his adopted daughter with former partner Mia Farrow, that he had sexually assaulted her when she was 7 years old. Allen said that Dylan had been used by her mother as a “pawn for revenge” to punish him for running off with her other adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn, then 19. “Of course I did not molest Dylan,” writes Allen. “I loved her and hope one day she will grasp how she has been cheated out of having a loving father.” Dylan dismissed Allen’s defense as attempt to “discredit and silence” her. “Nothing he says or writes can change the truth,” she said.