KDAQ Repairs:

Politics

4:10am

Tue December 16, 2014
Law

Judge Regrets Harsh Human Toll Of Mandatory Minimum Sentences

Originally published on Wed December 17, 2014 2:08 pm

The shocking death of basketball player Len Bias from a cocaine overdose in 1986 led Congress to pass tough mandatory sentences for drug crimes.
AP

It seems long ago now, but in the 1960s, '70s and '80s, murders and robberies exploded as cocaine and other illegal drugs ravaged American cities.

Then came June 19, 1986, when the overdose of a college athlete sent the nation into shock just days after the NBA draft. Basketball star Len Bias could have been anybody's brother or son.

Congress swiftly responded by passing tough mandatory sentences for drug crimes. Those sentences, still in place, pack federal prisons to this day. More than half of the 219,000 federal prisoners are serving time for drug offenses.

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3:28am

Tue December 16, 2014
Law

From Judges To Inmates, Finding The Human Casualties Of Mandatory Sentencing

Originally published on Fri December 19, 2014 1:34 pm

NPR's series looks at the human toll of mandatory minimum prison sentences. The White House and the Justice Department have taken the unprecedented step of asking for candidates who might win early release from prison through presidential pardons or commutations in the final years of the Obama presidency.
Dan Henson iStockphoto

The United States spends nearly $7 billion a year to operate a network of federal prisons that house more than 200,000 inmates. About half of them are incarcerated for drug crimes, a legacy of 1980s laws that prosecutors use to target not only kingpins but also low-level couriers and girlfriends. Multiple convictions for small-time offenses under those laws mean thousands of people are locked up for decades, or even the rest of their lives.

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2:47am

Tue December 16, 2014
Parallels

Kurdish Officials Worry About Kurds Joining The Islamic State

Originally published on Tue December 16, 2014 5:15 pm

The Iraqi town of Halabja is dominated by Kurds, the group that has been fighting the Islamic State in northern Iraq. However, some Kurdish residents have been slipping away to join the Islamic State.
Yahya Ahmad Reuters/Landov

In the northern Iraqi city of Halabja, near the border with Iran, we knock on the door of a 16-year-old boy who disappeared. His family says he lied to them, saying he was going on a picnic with a teenage friend. But they never came home.

"He disappeared in May," says the boy's older sister. "A few days later a letter arrived in his handwriting. It said, 'I'm in Syria. Don't look for me.' "

The boy, like most everyone in this city, is a Kurd, most of whom are Sunni Muslim. He joined the so-called Islamic State, a Sunni Muslim extremist group also known as ISIS.

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2:28am

Tue December 16, 2014
Shots - Health News

Alaska's Governor Eager To Expand Medicaid

Originally published on Tue December 16, 2014 6:31 am

Valerie Davidson was appointed health commissioner by Alaska's Gov. Bill Walker to help him expand Medicaid in the state. She'll look for middle ground with Republicans to get it done, she says.
Lori Townsend/Alaska Public Media

Alaska's new governor won his election in one of the tightest races in the country, a race that was too close to call even a week after election night. Bill Walker, who ran as an independent (unaffiliated with the Republicans or Democrats), took office on Dec. 1, after campaigning on the promise that he would expand Medicaid as one of his first orders of business.

To make good on that, he'll have to face a Republican-controlled legislature that hasn't been willing to even consider the idea.

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5:31pm

Mon December 15, 2014
The Two-Way

The U.S. Has A Surgeon General, For The First Time In 17 Months

Originally published on Mon December 15, 2014 6:14 pm

More than a year after he was nominated, Dr. Vivek Murthy was confirmed as the next surgeon general Monday. Back in February, Murthy testified about his nomination before a Senate panel.
Charles Dharapak AP

A job that's been open in President Obama's administration since July of 2013 was finally filled Monday, as the Senate voted to confirm Vivek Murthy as America's new surgeon general.

The tally was 51-43, ending a confirmation process that began after Obama nominated Murthy to the post in November of 2013 — yes, that's one year ago.

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