The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Thursday, October 1, 2009 - 3A
Mich. Senate votes
to cut prison funds
The Republican-led Michigan
Senate has voted to cut prison spend-
inghours before adeadline to address
a $2.8 billion state budget deficit.
The 5 percent cut approved 23-14
last night would be met partly by
completing a previously announced
plan to close prisons and prison
camps. Democratic Gov. Jennifer
Granholm's administration has
been paroling more inmates to save
It costs more than $32,000 a year
to incarcerate a prisoner. Lawmak-
ers want the $2 billion Corrections
Department to reduce costs by more
than $800 per inmate by saving on
things like prisoners' prescription
drugs, educational classes, legal ser-
vices and food.
The bill already has passed the
Democratic-controlled House. The
Senate so far has put off votes letting
budget bills take effect today.
Small plane goes
down after pilot
A single-engine plane crashed
into an Indiana cornfield Wednes-
day after the pilot, who was seen
slumped over at the controls, lost
consciousness and the aircraft flew
out of control, officials said.
Military officials do not believe
the crash was terrorism-related but
instead said the pilot may have had
a health problem or been suffering
from a lack of oxygen. F-16s under
direction of U.S. North American
Aerospace Defense Command inter-
cepted the plane and followed it for
about an houruntil it crashed.
Indiana State Police Sgt. Rod
Russell said the pilot, who was the
only person aboard the plane, died
in the crash but that the pilot's
name would not be released until
the body is positively identified. No
oneonthegroundwas injured when
David Lykins, 54, of Muncie said
he and his nephew were doing con-
struction work on a nearby home
when they saw the plane, its wings
pointed down, fly in three circles
overhead before it clipped some trees
and crashed into the field.
Colombian authorities say a
gunman on horseback killed a
town councilman and wounded
an 11-year-old boy in the country's
The president of the national
councilman's federation, Fabior
Estrada, says the slain politician,
41-year-old German Herrera, was
the president of the town council in
Castillo and a father of four.
reward for information leading to
the capture of the gunman.
Estrada says Herrera had been
threatened by leftist rebels of the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Co-
lombia, or FARC, who are active in
According to the federation, nine
town councilmen have been killed
in Colombia this year, compared to
13 in all of 2008.
may change position,
Business and political leaders who
backed the coup overthrowing Presi-
dent Manuel Zelaya now are consid-
ering the unthinkable: returning him
to office with limited powers.
The reversal, and Zelaya's decision
to consider it, reflect the growing
desperationto resolve a three-month
standoff that has turned this Central
American countryupside down.
John Biehl, special adviser to
the organization of American
States, said Wednesday he sensed
some movement toward talks."The
moment has arrived for tempers to
cool and reason to reign, and that's
when errors will start being cor-
rected," Biehl said. "I have found
a strong willingness for dialogue,"
adding he had heard of proposals
to return Zelaya to office briefly.
An advance team of the OAS is
scheduled to arrive in Tegucigalpa
on Friday to promote negotiations
ahead of a visit by a delegation of
foreign ministers from member
S nations next week.
- Compiled from
Daily wire reports
more than 200
With the addition of the Supreme Court's newest member, Justice Sonia Sotomayor (top row right), the high court sits tAr a
new group photograph on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2009, at the Supreme Court in Washington.
High Court to decide
state gun rights case
trapped in rubble
PADANG, Indonesia (AP) - A
powerful earthquake that struck
western Indonesia triggered land-
slides and trapped thousands of
people under collapsed buildings
- including two hospitals, officials
in one coastal city and the toll was
expected tobe far higher.
The temblor yesterday started
fires, severed roads and cut off
power and communications to
Padang, a coastal city of 900,000
on Sumatra island. Thousands fled
in panic, fearing a tsunami.
Buildings swayed hundreds of
miles (kilometers) away in neigh-
boring Malaysia and Singapore.
In the sprawling low-lying city
of Padang, the shaking was so
intense that people crouched or
sat on the street to avoid falling.
Children screamed as an exodus of
thousands tried to get away from
the coast in cars and motorbikes,
At least 500buildings in Padang,
the regional capital, collapsed or
were badly damaged, said Disaster
Management Agency spokesman
Priyadi Kardono, adding that 200
bodies had been pulled from the
The extent of damage in sur-
rounding areas was still unclear
due to poor communications, he
Padang's mayor appealed for
assistance on Indonesian radio sta-
"We are overwhelmed with vic-
tims and ... lack of clean water, elec-
tricity and telecommunications,"
Mayor Fauzi Bahar said. "We really
need help. We call on people to
come to Padang to evacuate bodies
and help the injured."
Hundreds of people were
trapped under collapsed buildings
in Padang alone, including a four-
star hotel, he said.
The magnitude 7.6 quake hit
at 5:15 p.m. (1015 GMT, 6:15 a.m.
EDT), just off the coast of Padang,
the U.S. Geological Survey report-
ed. It occurred a day after a killer
tsunami hit islands in the South
Pacific and was along the same
fault line that spawned the 2004
Asian tsunami that killed 230,000
people ina dozen nations.
A tsunami warning was issued
Wednesday for countries along
the Indian Ocean, but was lifted
after about an hour; there were no
reports of giant waves.
The shaking flattened build-
ings and felled trees in Padang,
damaged mosques and hotels and
Case could overturn
local gun control laws
across the country
WASHINGTON (AP) - The
Supreme Court said Wednesday it
will consider a challenge to Chi-
cago's ban on handguns, opening
the way for a ruling that could set
off a vigorous new fight over state
and local gun controls across the
A victory for gun-rights propo-
nents in the Chicago case is consid-
ered likely, even by supporters of
gun control. If the court rules that
the Second Amendment right to
keep and bear arms doesn't allow
the city's outright handgun ban,
it could lead to legal challenges to
less-restrictive laws that limit who
may own guns, whether firearms
must be registered and even how
they must be stored.
The court last year moved in
the direction of voiding tough gun
control laws when it struck down
a prohibition on handguns in the
District of Columbia, a city with
unique federal status. Now the
court will decide whether that rul-
ing should apply to local and state
laws as well. The court will hear
arguments in the case early next
year, and a ruling probably would
follow in the spring.
The court has said previously
that most, but not all, rights laid
out in the Constitution's Bill of
Rights serve as checks on state
as well as federal restrictions.
Separately, 44 state constitutions
already enshrine gun rights.
Though faced with potential
limits from the high court on their
ability to enact laws and regula-
tions in this area, 34 statesweighed
in on the gun-rights side before
the justices agreed to take the case
Wednesday, an indication of the
enduring strength of the National
Rifle Association and its allies.
The gun case was among sev-
eral the court added to its docket
for the term that begins Monday.
- A challenge to part of a law
that makes it a crime to provide
financial and other aid to any
group designated a terrorist orga-
- A dispute over when new,
harsher penalties can be given to
sex offenders who don't register
with state sex offender databases.
- Whether to throw out a
human rights lawsuit against a
former prime minister of Soma-
lia who is accused of overseeing
killings and other atrocities. The
issue is whether a federal law gives
the former official, Mohamed Ali
Samantar, immunity from lawsuits
in U.S. courts.
In the gun case, outright hand-
gun bans appear to be limited to
Chicago and suburban Oak Park,
Ill. But a ruling against those ordi-
nances probably would "openup all
the gun regulations in the country
to constitutional scrutiny, of which
there are quite a few," said Mark
Tushnet, a Harvard Law School
professor whose recent book "Out
of Range" explores the often bitter
national debate over guns.
Already, Alan Gura, who led the
legal challenge to the Washington
law and represents the plaintiff in
Chicago, is suing to overturn the
District of Columbia's prohibition
on carrying firearms outside a per-
son's home. Illinois and Wisconsin
have similar restrictions.
In voiding Washington's hand-
gun ban last year, Justice Antonin
Scalia suggested that gun rights,
like the right to speech, are limited
and that many gun control mea-
sures could remain in place.
Ultimately, said Tushnet, the
court will have to decide, possibly
restriction by restriction, which
limits are reasonable.
"It's very hard to know where
this court would draw the line
between reasonable and unrea-
NRA Executive Vice President
Wayne LaPierre said he hopes the
court rules that "core fundamental
freedoms like speech, religion and,
we believe, the right to keep and
bear arms are intended to apply to
every individual in the country."
Paul Helmke, president of the
Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun
Violence, said the court's deci-
sion to take up the new case was
unsurprising in light of last year's
These cases should "take the
extremes off the table," Helmke
said, referring to bans on guns
and unlimited gun rights. "What's
critical for us is how the court
goes about fleshing out what the
Mayor Michael Bloomberg of
New York, which under state law
requires handgun permits and a
safety course, said he hopes the
court brings clarity to gun laws.
"My hope is that they will decide
that reasonable restrictions, which
I think is the way most reasonable
people in this country think, are
appropriate," Bloomberg said.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals in Chicago had upheld the
gun bans as legitimate expressions
of local and state rights.
Judge Frank Easterbrook, an
appointee of President Ronald Rea-
gan, wrote in the ruling that "the
Constitution establishes a federal
republic where local differences
are to be cherished as elements of
liberty rather than extirpated in
order to produce a single, nation-
ally applicable rule."
"Federalismis an older and more
deeply rooted tradition than is a
right to carry any particular kind
of weapon," Easterbrook wrote.
Evaluating arguments over the
extension of the Second Amend-
ment is a job "for the justices rather
than a court of appeals," he said.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, then
an appeals court judge, was part
of a three-judge panel in New York
that reached a similar conclusion
The high court took the sugges-
Judges on both courts - Repub-
lican nominees in Chicago and
Democratic nominees in New York
- said only the Supreme Court
could decide whether to extend
last year's ruling throughout the
The New York ruling also has
been challenged, but the court did
not act on it Wednesday. Sotomay-
or would have to sit out any case
involving decisions she was part of
on the appeals court. Although the
issue is the same in the Chicago
case, there is no ethical bar to her
participation in its consideration
by the Supreme Court.
She replaced Justice David
Souter, who dissented in the 5-4
Washington case, so the five-jus-
tice majority remains intact.
War council talks
push for troop
WASHINGTON (AP) -
"President wrack Obama sum-
moned his war council to the
White House Situation Room
on yesterday for an intense,
three-hour discussion that
exposed emerging fault lines
over Afghanistan - with mili-
tary commanders pressing for
more troops and other key offi-
cials expressing skepticism.
There was no discussion
of specific troop levels dur-
ing the meeting in the West
Wing basement, according to a
senior administration official.
But the talks underscored the
divisions throughout Obama's
inner circle that must be navi-
gated in the coming weeks, the
Secretary of State Hillary
Rodham Clinton and special
Afghan and Pakistan envoy
Richard Holbrooke appeared
to be leaning toward support-
ing a troop increase, said the offi-
cial, who spoke on the condition
of anonymity because the discus-
sions were private. The official,
who attended the meeting, based
the assessment on the tone and
substance of their participation.
White House Chief of Staff
Rahm Emanuel and Gen. James
Jones, Obama's natiha1 sedrity
adviser, appeared to be skeptical of
troop increases, the official said.
No firm or final recommen-
dations were offered to Obama,
the official said, suggesting that
views were still evolving.
The differences are not new
and they were aired civilly in the
meeting, the official said. But for
most of Obama's advisers, this
was the first time they exchanged
views in person - rather than
via official channels and media
leaks - and in a large group that
included the president.
The meeting, the second of
at least five Obama has planned
as he reviews his Afghanistan
strategy, comes after Obama
received a critical assessment of
the war effort from Gen. Stanley
McChrystal, the man he put in
charge of the Afghan war earlier
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