An attorney and part-time judge in Indiana is facing disciplinary charges after allegations that she had sexual relations at a state prison with a legal client. Lisa Traylor-Wolff, a senior judge serving in Pulaski and Fulton counties, allegedly had sex with a 26-year-old inmate she was appointed to represent, according to the Indiana Supreme Court. "Inappropriate conduct occurred when Traylor-Wolff and the client were in an attorney-client visitation room at the Miami Correctional Facility," the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications said in a court statement. "The defendant was eventually convicted and sentenced to the Department of Correction." read more
The US was more reliant on the Middle East for its oil imports last year, underscoring the critical importance of the politically unstable region for the country despite the growing energy independence its shale gas revolution is bringing, the Financial Times reports. While domestic production increased the most in 150 years last year, Washington will confirm later this week that oil imports from the Gulf region continued to rise.
Following a blistering loss in the 2012 presidential election, discussion about social issues, particularly gay rights, has emerged as a potentially-problematic area for right-of-center politicians. And in an era colored by increasing support for homosexual marriage, the pressure is mounting. This week, more than 80 prominent Republicans, including top advisers to President George W. Bush, four former governors and two members of Congress signed a legal brief that proclaims gay people have the right to marry under the U.S. Constitution. The document will be submitted to the Supreme Court this week, where it is purportedly intended to add to the voices that will be heard during two upcoming gay rights cases. read more
Atheists, humanists and freethinkers face widespread discrimination around the world with expression of their views criminalized and subject in some countries to capital punishment, the International Humanist and Ethical Union told the United Nations Monday. A number of Muslim governments that asked the UN to ensure that religious faith is respected are not extending that respect to atheists in their countries, the IHEU said. The countries "prosecute people who express their religious doubt or dissent, regardless of whether those dissenters identify as atheist," it told the UN. read more
A bunch of Republican governors have been in Washington the past few days for the National Governors Association meeting, just in time to chew out their fellow Republicans in Congress over the upcoming sequestration cuts. I think there's a lack of leadership," Gary Herbert of Utah groused to Politico on Sunday. "They need to stop having press conferences and start meeting," echoed Virginia's Bob McDonnell. "I think the Hill ought to be saying, 'We're ready to sit down and work on a budget,'" said Pennsylvania's Tom Corbett. read more
Former NBA star Dennis Rodman and some of the Harlem Globetrotters arrived Tuesday in North Korea for a trip billed as "basketball diplomacy." They will stop by national monuments, visit an animation studio and run a basketball camp for North Korean children. Bringing the pierced and provocative Rodman into the regimented and isolated country is aimed at "finding common ground on the basketball court," said Shane Smith, the founder of the media company Vice, which is filming the delegation for an HBO special. read more
In a speech to students in Berlin Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry offered a defense of freedom of speech, religion and thought in the United States. "People have sometimes wondered about why our Supreme Court allows one group or another to march in a parade even though it's the most provocative thing in the world and they carry signs that are an insult to one group or another," he said. "The reason is, that's freedom, freedom of speech. In America you have a right to be stupid -- if you want to be."
An Illinois grocer was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in federal prison Monday for defrauding government and nutrition programs. Khaled Saleh, 48, the owner of Sunset Food Market in Waukegan, was sentenced to 30 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Charles Norgle. Saleh, along with his wife, Fatima Saleh, 37, acquired more than $844,000 by paying customers approximately half the value in cash for goods purchased at other stores using their benefits. Then they resold the items at a higher price at their store.
President Barack Obama's political team is raising $50 million to convert his re-election campaign into a powerhouse national advocacy network, a sum that would rank the new group as one of Washington's biggest lobbying operations. Giving or raising $500,000 or more puts donors on a national advisory board for Obama's group and the privilege of attending quarterly meetings with the president, along with other meetings at the White House. Moreover, the new cash demands on Obama's top donors and bundlers come as many of them are angling for appointments to administration jobs or ambassadorships. read more
Under an assault-weapons ban that advanced late last week in the Maryland General Assembly, experts say the gun would be illegal in the state where it is produced. Now Beretta is weighing whether the rifle line, and perhaps the company itself, should stay in a place increasingly hostile toward its products. Its iconic 9mm pistol -- carried by every U.S. soldier and scores of police departments -- would also be banned with its high capacity, 13-bullet magazine. "Why expand in a place where the people who built the gun couldn't buy it?" said Jeffrey Reh, general counsel for Beretta. read more
Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) said Saturday that former Vice President Dick Cheney would likely end up in hell because of his role in the Iraq war. At a Young Americans for Liberty conference, Jones said it was impossible under current law to prosecute a president for intentionally manipulating intelligence reports to make the case for war. He explained he co-authored a bill to change the law, but the legislation was killed in committee by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas). Jones initially voted in favor of the Iraq war in 2002, but turned against the war after it became clear Iraq was not building any weapons of mass destruction. "Congress will not hold anyone to blame," Jones said. "Lyndon Johnson's probably rotting in hell right now because of the Vietnam War, and he probably needs to move over for Dick Cheney." read more
A hot air balloon carrying foreign tourists exploded 1,000 feet off the ground in Luxor, Egypt, on Tuesday, killing 19 of the 21 people aboard. One British tourist and the pilot survived and are being treated at a hospital for their injuries. Balloon rides offering panoramic views of the Nile River and the ancient temples of Karnak and Hatshepsut are a popular tourist attraction in Luxor.
National Journal: As Republicans rebound from the 2012 election and plot their future, an uncomfortable debate over gay rights is taking place. Some party leaders are promoting a more inclusive approach to help the GOP modernize its image and reach across the generational divide. ... Yet even as Republicans are increasingly willing to consider more-moderate immigration policies to bridge the gap with the Hispanic community, accepting same-sex marriage is more complicated. read more
Congressional Republicans are preparing to counter dire warnings from President Barack Obama about the impact of automatic budget cuts with a plan to give the administration more flexibility in instituting $85 billion in cuts, a proposal they say could protect the most vital programs while shifting more of the political fallout to the White House. The plan is vigorously opposed by the administration, which said Monday that it would do little to soften the blow to military and domestic programs. But it is also dividing Democrats, with lawmakers from the states facing the deepest cuts signaling they may be prepared to go along with Republicans if it means avoiding indiscriminate cuts to defense programs and social services.
One potential Republican 2016 candidate didn't get an invitation to this year's Conservative Political Action Conference: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. A conference source told CNN that Christie wasn't asked to attend by organizers, which takes place in mid-March at a resort outside Washington. GOP politicians who did get invites: Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin.