In August, Attorney General Eric Holder told federal prosecutors to no longer hit low-level drug offenders with charges that carry mandatory minimum sentences. But it's not yet clear how broadly that directive is being interpreted.
A new report says the Justice Department regularly coerces defendants in federal drug cases to plead guilty by threatening them with steep prison sentences or stacking charges to increase their time behind bars.
And for the first time, the study by Human Rights Watch finds that defendants who take their fate to a judge or jury face prison sentences on average 11 years longer than those who plead guilty.
A train leaves the Rangeland Energy company's crude oil loading terminal near Epping, N.D. So far this year, 60 percent of all oil produced in North Dakota left the state by rail. One economist says there aren't enough oil tankers to fill the demand.
The oil boom in the United States is creating another boom — for the railroad industry.
So far this year, in North Dakota alone, 140 million barrels of oil have left on trains. Shipments of crude oil by rail are up almost 50 percent over last year — and this upward trend is expected to continue.
A visit to the world-famous Tehachapi Loop, part of a winding mountain pass in Southern California, demonstrates the scale and reach of the oil boom in the middle of the country. As a train full of oil tanker cars rumbles past, it's hard not to think of it as a pipeline on wheels.
Telemundo recently announced that its telenovelaEl Señor de los Cielos (Lord of the Skies) will be back for a second season; production began this week in Mexico City. This resurrection sets it apart from almost every other telenovela because, unlike American soap operas, telenovelas have a clear beginning and a definitive ending, airing for a set number of episodes.
Originally published on Wed December 4, 2013 6:27 pm
MSNBC host Martin Bashir has resigned from the network following controversial remarks he made about former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
Some three weeks ago, Bashir referred to Palin as a "world-class idiot" for suggesting that U.S. indebtedness to China was akin to slavery. The television host quoted from plantation owner Thomas Thistlewood's diary describing a punishment for slaves that involved having others defecate in their mouths.
Originally published on Wed December 4, 2013 5:28 pm
It's lunchtime at Oakland High School in Oakland, Calif., and that means fence hoppers. Several kids wear mischievous grins as they speedily scale a 12-foot-high metal perimeter.
In theory, anyway, Oakland High is a "closed campus." That's done in the interest of safety and security and to cut down on school-skipping. It means kids can't leave during school hours without parental consent, especially at lunchtime. But it doesn't stop several students from breaking out.
At least 10 pilot whales are dead and dozens stranded in the shallows off Florida's southwest coast, as wildlife workers struggle to redirect them back out to deep water.
Blair Mase, the marine mammal stranding network coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, says four of the whales had to be euthanized on Wednesday, and six others had already died since the stranding was first identified on Tuesday.
As it has done for the past 16 years, the Embassy of Norway decorated a Christmas tree at Union Station in Washington, D.C. — a gift to the American people to say thanks for helping Norway during World War II.
This year is no different. The tree was lit in a ceremony Tuesday evening, but what stands out is the nature of the ornaments that adorn the artificial tree: In addition to small American and Norwegian flags, the tree is decked out with 700 shining decorations with the iconic image from Norwegian Edvard Munch's painting The Scream.
Originally published on Wed December 4, 2013 4:55 pm
Drugs that help women become pregnant have replaced in vitro fertilization as the main culprit behind high-risk multiple births, according to a study looking at births of triplets and higher-order multiples.
"IVF, which is usually the one we tend to point fingers at, was not the leading culprit," says Eli Adashi, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Brown University who was senior author of the study, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Originally published on Wed December 4, 2013 4:39 pm
Want to understand why House Republicans aren't onboard with an immigration overhaul? Take a close look at the districts they represent.
Hispanics today make up 17 percent of the nation's population and are the fastest-growing ethnic group. But an NPR analysis of U.S. census data shows they live disproportionately in districts represented by Democrats. The average Democratic district is 23 percent Latino; the average Republican district, less than 12 percent.