Groups criticize life terms for minors

Washington There are 2,225 people serving life terms in prison without parole for crimes committed as children, most of them in a handful of states where judges don’t have the discretion to impose lighter penalties.

A report being released today by Amnesty International USA and Human Rights Watch found that a surge in violent crime in the late 1980s and early 1990s led to tougher sentencing laws and a jump in the number of juveniles sent to prison for the rest of their lives.

Pennsylvania has the most such inmates (332), followed by Louisiana (317), Michigan (306) and Florida (273). All four states have laws making life without parole mandatory for certain crimes and don’t allow judges to lighten sentences.

“Kids who commit serious crimes shouldn’t go scot-free,” said Alison Parker, senior researcher for Human Rights Watch. “But if they are too young to vote or buy cigarettes, they are too young to spend the rest of their lives behind bars.”

The groups say the sentence amounts to cruel and unusual punishment for criminals who may not be mature enough to grasp the consequences of their actions. They want the United States to abolish the penalty, which is allowed in 43 states but imposed in only a handful of other countries.

LA has third blackout in less than a month

Los Angeles A blackout hit downtown government buildings, Chinatown and adjacent areas Tuesday, but backup power kept key parts of City Hall and police headquarters running. It was the third significant electrical failure in the city since mid-September.

The blackout began about 9 a.m. and cut power to as many as 1,000 customers, affecting City Hall, the Los Angeles County Hall of Administration and police headquarters at Parker Center, said Gale Harris, a spokeswoman for the city Department of Water and Power, which provides electricity to 1.4 million customers.

Power was restored shortly before 6 p.m. The cause of the outage remained under investigation, although officials ruled out terrorism or human error, said Carol Tucker, another DWP spokeswoman.

“Outages just happen periodically, but we do seem to be having an inordinate number,” Tucker said.

Three people die in Colorado snowstorm

Denver Crews worked to restore power to thousands of customers and dozens of schools remained closed Tuesday, a day after a storm blasted Colorado with up to 30 inches of snow.

But traffic was rolling across most of the state after 20 inches of blowing snow on the plains had closed much of Interstate 70 between Denver and the Kansas border.

“We thought we were in Siberia,” said Robert Wade, 21, who took refuge in a Red Cross shelter after he drove off a highway in whiteout conditions Monday.

Xcel Energy said about 100,000 customers lost power throughout the storm. Spokesman Tom Henley said the company hoped to have electricity back on by Tuesday night for the remaining several thousand customers still in the dark.

A 73-year-old woman died after being struck by a falling tree limb while she swept snow outside her Denver home Monday.

An unidentified man and a woman died after a van carrying 11 people struck a guardrail along a slick and slushy Interstate 76 about 20 miles northeast of Denver.


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