The world at a glance . . . United States
Your ad here: Cash-strapped California has devised a novel but controversial plan to raise money: Selling advertisements on electronic freeway signs used for Amber Alerts and other emergencies. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says the state could make millions by allowing ads when the signs are not in use for emergencies, funding much-needed safety improvements. But critics say the potential revenue is not worth the costs of tempting drivers to take their eyes off the road. “The biggest issue with digital billboards is they are enormously distracting,” said safety advocate Kevin Fry. Others have expressed concern that commercial messages would increase visual clutter and change the purpose of a system meant to save children and help drivers. “If we need to do this to get money,” said Ted Wu of the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight, “maybe the state should go ahead and open a brothel.”
Closing in on Palin hacker: FBI agents investigating the hacking of Sarah Palin’s personal e-mail account this week searched the apartment of the 20-year-old son of a Tennessee Democratic state legislator. A hacker last week broke into Palin’s Yahoo e-mail account and published several inconsequential messages she had received since John McCain picked her as his running mate. Agents searched the apartment of David Kernell, a University of Tennessee student and son of state Rep. Mike Kernell. The younger Kernell was linked to an e-mail address that accompanied a first-person online account of the hacking. Said his father: “I wasn’t in on this. I wouldn’t know how to do anything like that.”
Anthrax doubts: Lawmakers from both parties this week demanded an independent investigation into the FBI’s contention that an Army scientist acted alone in the 2001 anthrax letter attacks. The FBI has pinned the anthrax mailings on scientist Bruce Ivins, who killed himself in July before he could be charged. But critics question whether Ivins could have weaponized and mailed the anthrax spores on his own. “I believe there are others who can be charged with murder,” said Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, one of the targets of the letters. Republican Sen. Charles Grassley called for an “independent review” of both the science employed by the FBI as well as the bureau’s “detective work.” Four letters laced with anthrax powder, mailed shortly after the 9/11 attacks, left five people dead.
Shipwreck unearthed: Hurricane Ike left more than destruction and power outages in its wake: The storm also uncovered a shipwreck in Mobile Bay, prompting speculation that it is the hulk of a two-masted Confederate schooner that ran aground in 1862. Some archeologists believe the 136-foot vessel is the Monticello, a battleship that crashed trying to get past the U.S. Navy and into Mobile Bay during the Civil War. Other experts suspect the wreck is the schooner Rachel, which sank in 1933. “They need to get this thing inside before it falls apart,” said archeologist Glenn Forest, “or another storm comes along and sends it through those houses like a bowling ball.”
Reversal in immigration case: U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey this week rescinded the order to deport a Malian woman who feared genital mutilation and a forced marriage to a first cousin if she returned home. In a rare and stinging rebuke to immigration officials, Mukasey said the federal Board of Immigration Appeals had erred when it ruled that Alima Traore, 28, could be deported because the “reprehensible” genital mutilation she suffered as a child could not be repeated. Mukasey called that reasoning flawed. “Female genital mutilation is indeed capable of repetition,” he said in a letter to the court. Human-rights groups estimate that 95 percent of women in Mali have undergone genital cutting.
Last-minute reprieve: A convicted killer on Georgia’s death row won a reprieve from the U.S. Supreme Court this week, just two hours before he was to die by lethal injection. Troy Davis, convicted in the 1989 murder of an off-duty police officer, learned of the stay as he watched television in the Georgia prison where he was about to be fed his last meal and sedated. Davis was convicted of the murder in 1991, largely on the strength of nine eyewitnesses. But prosecutors presented no physical evidence linking him to the crime, and seven of the witnesses have since recanted. His cause has been taken up by such luminaries as Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and former President Jimmy Carter. The Supreme Court will decide next week whether to grant Davis a new trial.