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Report: Death penalty continues to fade in U.S.

Though California voters rejected a ballot measure last month that would’ve abolished the state’s death penalty, a new report shows capital punishment continues to decline nationwide.

2012 executionsThe Death Penalty Information Center’s survey found only nine states carried out executions in 2012 – the fewest number of states to do so in 20 years. More than half of the states (29) now either have no death penalty or have not carried out an execution in five years.

The 43 executions carried out in the United States in 2012 was 56 percent less than the peak in 1999, and equal to last year’s total. The number of new death sentences in 2012 was the second-lowest since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976: 80 people were sentenced to death in 2012, representing a 74 percent decline since the 315 sentences rendered in 1996.

Many death penalty states with histories of high use had no new death sentences or no executions in 2012; for example, there were none in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, the latter of which is second only to Texas in total executions since 1976,

“Capital punishment is becoming marginalized and meaningless in most of the country,” Richard Dieter, DPIC’s executive director and the report’s author, said in a news release. “In 2012, fewer states have the death penalty, fewer carried out executions, and death sentences and executions were clustered in a small number of states. It is very likely that more states will take up the question of death penalty repeal in the years ahead.”

California’s Proposition 34, which would’ve abolished the state’s death penalty and replaced it with life in prison without possibility of parole, won the support of only 48 percent of voters in November’s election. Elsewhere, Connecticut this year became the 17th state to repeal its death penalty.

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Lockyer: Pension funds should dump gunmakers

California Treasurer Bill Lockyer wants the state’s gigantic public pension funds to divest themselves of investments in any firearm manufacturer that makes guns banned in California.

Lockyer said Monday that he has asked staff at the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) to identify all their investments in gun manufacturers. As treasurer, Lockyer sits on both systems’ boards.

The request follows reports that CalSTRS indirectly owns a part of Bushmaster Firearms International, the North Carolina-based maker of the .223-caliber assault rifle that Adam Lanza used in his murderous spree Friday at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Lanza killed 20 children, six adults and himself.

“STRS and PERS should not be investing in any company that makes guns that are illegal in California, especially ones used to kill 20 innocent children and 6 innocent adults,” Lockyer said Monday.

Reuters reports CalSTRS had invested $751.4 million with Cerberus by the end of March 2012, according to its website. Cerberus owns Madison, North Carolina-based Freedom Group Inc., which includes Bushmaster.

Bushmaster’s XM15 line of rifles are specifically banned by California’s assault weapons law.

1

Good Samaritan drug law takes effect Jan. 1

Among California’s new laws taking effect Jan. 1 will be a “Good Samaritan” law, encouraging witnesses of suspected drug or alcohol overdoses to seek emergency aid without fear of arrest.

California is the 10th state to enact such a law; it was authored here as AB 472 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco.

The law neither penalizes those who don’t call for help, nor is a blanket protection against arrest – for example, those who sell drugs aren’t protected. But it does ensure that you won’t get busted for personal possession if you call 911 on behalf of an endangered friend.

“Reassuring all Californians that calling 911 is safe and the right thing to do when someone’s life is on the line is essential,” Meghan Ralston, the Drug Policy Alliance’s harm reduction manager, said in a news release today. “While people should feel confident that they won’t get in trouble for small amounts of drugs when they call for help, the range of the protections provided under the new law is very limited and very specific. This isn’t a get-out-jail-free card for people who sell or traffic large quantities of drugs. This law basically says, ‘If you have a small amount of drugs in your possession, or the person overdosing does, don’t let your fear of arrest for that be the reason you fail to call 911 to help save someone’s life.”

As in many other states, drug overdose fatalities are California’s leading cause of accidental injury-related death, beating out even motor vehicle deaths. Studies have found most people overdose in the presence of others, yet many onlookers either delay or don’t call at all for emergency services, often because they fear their own arrest.

4

One answer to fiscal cliff: Find a sugar daddy

Still fearing a fall off the fiscal cliff? One Las Vegas-based company claims it has the solution, for women anyway: Sugar daddies.

I received this news release this morning from SeekingArrangement.com – and no, this is not from The Onion:

With 20 days left until the “Fiscal Cliff,” will you have your “parachute”?

Many are speculating on how to avoid yet another financial crisis, but no one has offered a solution, except one website. It’s actually quite simple: women can use their beauty to transcend the “Fiscal Cliff”.

According to Forbes, the average person will lose $2,000 to higher taxes starting January 3. Instead of feeling powerless, one million attractive women have already improved their financial situation through mutually beneficial relationships.

On SeekingArrangement.com, women earn an average of $3,000 from monthly allowances. Why count pennies? Instead of having to choose between celebrating the holidays this year or not drowning in debt next year, SeekingArrangement.com offers a solution: date rich men.

The website’s CEO and Founder, Brandon Wade, has even created a video with a special message to beautiful women across America: “A woman needs a rich man to be her financial ‘parachute’ in order to survive the ‘Fiscal Cliff’.”

SeekingArrangement.com is offering free premium memberships to attractive women, until the Fiscal Cliff is avoided.

Here’s the aforementioned video:

I’m not completely sure which part of this is most offensive – it presents so many options – but for the moment, I’ll go with “A woman needs a rich man to be her financial ‘parachute’ in order to survive the ‘Fiscal Cliff’.”

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Randy Thomasson: Schools need more God, guns

Randy Thomasson, president of SaveCalifornia.com, which calls itself “a leading family issues organization promoting moral virtues for the common good,” issued this statement today:

“Our hearts go out to the victims and their families. This is deeply disturbing and should stir great anger in all of us. Why were 26 people murdered today, most of them children? The main motive for murder is always sin. The Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, whose birthday we celebrate at Christmas, identified murder as a sin that proceeds from the heart. (See Mark 7:21-23)

“More than asking why this evil happened, we need to work diligently to prevent it. The innocents killed at Newtown are double the number of Columbine victims in 1999. We should be all the more grieved and all the more resolved to stop murders before they start. The answer is teaching the fear of God and love for God in schools and throughout society. Because mass murder is another example of societal degradation, a deadly consequence of promoting murderous abortions, godless evolution, and gratuitous violence. How opposite of teaching children that all people are worthy because they were created by God, that all innocent human beings deserve protection because they’re made in God’s image, and that every person is accountable to God when He judges the world.

“Every school official should be armed and trained to repel these attacks upon schoolchildren. And every parent and every media industry decision maker should absolutely prohibit children from enjoying scenes that glorify violence and desensitize them to the taking of innocent human life.”

Have at it, commenters.

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Reactions to the Newtown school massacre

From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

“No words can console the parents of the children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School or describe the pain and shock of such an unspeakable tragedy. No words can comfort the loved ones of those brutally taken from us today. All Americans share our prayers and our grief over these horrifying events.

“We are all stunned, shocked, and distraught by this tragic shooting, by this violent act, and by the loss of so many young children. Our hearts go out to the families and friends of the students, teachers, and educators killed and wounded in Newtown, Connecticut. The entire nation will continue to stand as a source of support to this community in the days and weeks to come.”

From Rep. Mike Honda, D-Campbell:

“Earlier today, another horrific gun tragedy struck our nation as innocent men, women, and children were senselessly shot at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. My prayers are with the victims, their families and friends, and the communities impacted by today’s terrifying events.

“As an educator for 30 years, I know firsthand the importance of making a school a safe place where children can grow and learn. Having that sense of safety ripped from us, again, is both shocking and jarring. It is difficult to imagine what it feels like to be a parent that has outlived their child or to be part of a family inexplicably left with a gaping hole in their hearts. While exact details still remain unclear, there is no doubt that today is a somber day. A close-knit community, like countless communities all around our country, was violently attacked, and we will continue to feel the shocks of this violence for some time.

“This event, much like the numerous other shootings earlier this year, will undoubtedly lead to difficult discussions about safety, public policy and emergency preparedness. This self-reflection is natural, and it is my hope that we can finally take action to address the root causes of these horrific tragedies together, as a nation.”

From state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco:

“My thoughts and prayers go out to the children and families of Newtown. In a year with so many appalling acts of gun violence, this is the most shocking of such tragedies. While we do not have all the details behind this senseless and unconscionable massacre, it is a sad and horrific reminder of what is possible when guns get into the wrong hands. We must limit access to weapons that can result in such catastrophe and mass murder.”

From U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

“I am horrified and incensed by today’s tragedy in Connecticut. These massacres don’t seem to stop—they continue on and on.

“When senseless mass shootings reach into our kindergartens and elementary schools, one has to question what is happening to America. Gun violence took the lives of more than 8,000 Americans last year, and today claimed the lives of at least 18 children.

“As I have said many times before—and now repeat in the wake of yet another tragedy—weapons of war don’t belong on our streets or in our theaters, shopping malls and, most of all, our schools.

“I hope and trust that in the next session of Congress there will be sustained and thoughtful debate about America’s gun culture and our responsibility to prevent more loss of life.”

“But today we mourn for those who have been killed and the families that have been devastated.”

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

“My heart breaks over this senseless tragedy that took so many innocent lives. My prayers go out to their families and to all those who were injured.

“This touches us all so deeply, and it is long past time that we enacted sensible gun laws and school safety legislation.”

From Gov. Jerry Brown:

“We all mourn the heartbreaking loss of those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary. We pray for their families and loved ones.”

From Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom:

“For those calling for the postponement of any discussion of gun and mental health policy in America – you are wrong.

“Just WRONG!

“We postponed after the President and his press secretary, James Brady were shot more than 30 years ago. We postponed after the tragedy in Columbine 13 years ago. We postponed after Virginia Tech five years ago. We postponed after Representative Gabriel Giffords was shot in 2011. We postponed in July when a mentally disturbed James Eagan Holmes opened fire in a crowded movie theatre. And earlier this week, people said it was too soon to talk about gun and mental health policy when a gunman opened fire at a crowded mall in Oregon.

“Today, President Barack Obama addressed the nation from the White House briefing room named for James Brady and now we turn to our political leaders to finally and decisively act.

“Prayers are important. We are a nation that always prays at times of great tragedy. But prayer is not enough as we learn in James 2 14-26, ‘What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works…Faith without works is dead.’

“Today is a clarion call to all leaders, regardless of political party, to act purposefully. Senseless gun violence is not simply about gun control. It must also include meaningful discussion of mental health policy in America. Political parties must be realistic – Democrats can’t draw the line in the sand at banning all guns and Republicans can’t dig in on the status quo.

“The NRA and the gun lobby are not supportive the President and now is the time for him to give them a real reason. The President must call the question. Put the gun lobby on the bench. Call on every member of congress to step out from behind the money and power of the gun lobby and act before we are lulled back into a false sense of security and forget to have the conversation again until the next tragedy. There are families in Connecticut, Oregon, Virginia, California, Arizona, Colorado, Wisconsin and every other state that have suffered loss due to gun violence and they do not want a postponement this debate any longer.

“How many more people have to die before we decide the time is right to have this debate and take action? Now is a time for prayer…and leadership.”

Lots more, after the jump…
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