The world at a glance . . . United States
Wichita, KansasJailhouse confession: Scott Roeder, who stands accused of murdering abortion doctor George Tiller, has confessed to the killing but says it was justified in order to save unborn children. “There is a distinction between killing and murdering,” he said in a 20-minute phone interview with The Kansas City Star. “I don’t like the accusation of murder whatsoever, because when you protect innocent life, that’s not murder.” Roeder is charged with gunning down Tiller, one of the few doctors in the country who performed late-term abortions, while Tiller was serving as an usher in his Wichita church in May. Roeder’s trial is scheduled for Jan. 11.
Albuquerque, N.M.Unsportsman-like conduct: A junior on the University of New Mexico’s women’s soccer team has been suspended after her rowdy play became a YouTube sensation. In a widely watched video, Elizabeth Lambert can be seen engaging in several vicious, illegal plays, including kicking and tackling opposing players from Brigham Young University, and yanking one of them to the ground by her ponytail. Lambert has now been suspended indefinitely, though during the game, she only received a warning from the referees. “I let my emotions get the best of me in a heated situation,” she said. “This is in no way indicative of my character or the soccer player that I am.”
Washington, D.C.Life for minors? Confronted with the stark reality of a 13-year-old Florida boy sentenced to life in prison without parole for a rape, the U.S. Supreme Court this week signaled that such a penalty may violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Taking up the appeal by the 13-year-old, along with that of a 17-year-old serving life in prison for armed robbery, a majority of the justices seemed prepared to limit or abolish life imprisonment for those under 18 whose felonies fall short of homicide. “To say to any child that you are only fit to die in prison is cruel,” argued lawyer Bryan Stevenson. While most of the justices seemed sympathetic to that argument, Antonin Scalia disagreed. “I don’t know why the value of retribution diminishes to the point of zero when it’s a person who’s, you know, 17 years 9 months old,” he said.
Bryan, TexasFrom pro-choice to pro-life: The director of a Texas Planned Parenthood clinic has joined a pro-life organization, saying she underwent a “change of heart” while watching the termination of a pregnancy. Abby Johnson, who has been with Planned Parenthood for nine years, quit her job after she saw an ultrasound image of a fetus “crumple” during an abortion, she said. She is now a member of Coalition for Life, which prays outside the clinic. “I thought, Never again,” she said. Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Diane Quest says that it’s not unusual to have “complex thoughts and emotions about abortion. That’s why Planned Parenthood respects it as a personal, emotional issue.”
Washington, D.C.Troop decision nears: President Obama is leaning toward a compromise plan that would send about 35,000 additional troops to Afghanistan next year, White House officials said this week. The plan has reportedly gained favor among key administration officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen. At the same time, Obama remains concerned about the state of the Afghanistan government. “He’s simply not convinced yet that you can do a lasting counterinsurgency strategy if there is no one to hand it off to,” one official told The New York Times. The troop figure gaining favor is well short of the top number recommended by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, who recently called for sending up to 80,000 new troops. There are currently about 65,000 U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan.
Jarratt, Va.D.C. sniper executed: John Allen Muhammad, who in 2002 terrorized the capital region for three weeks when he and a young accomplice randomly gunned down 10 people, was put to death by lethal injection this week. Muhammad, 48, always maintained his innocence but chose not to make any final statement. He showed no emotion and kept his eyes closed as the procedure began. Bob Meyers, whose brother was killed at a gas station, was among the witnesses to the execution. “We are not celebrating,” he said. “It was a sad day for everyone.” Muhammad’s accomplice, Lee Malvo, who was then 17, is serving a life sentence.