A look at widely criticized Indiana law on religious freedom

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence listens to a question during a news conference, Tuesday, March 31, 2015, in Indianapolis. Pence said that he wants legislation on his desk by the end of the week to clarify that a new religious-freedom law does not allow discrimination. The law has triggered an outcry, with businesses and organizations voicing concern and some states barring government-funded travel to the Midwestern state. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana Gov. Mike Pence urged lawmakers Tuesday to send a bill to his desk by the end of the week to clarify the intent of a new law that critics fear could permit discrimination against gays and lesbians.

Obama commutes sentences of 22 drug offenders

US President Barack Obama speaks to the press at the White House in Washington, DC, March 31, 2015US President Barack Obama on Tuesday reduced the jail terms of 22 drug offenders, part of a drive to address fairness in sentencing. "I am granting your application because you have demonstrated the potential to turn your life around," Obama wrote in letters to the 22 individuals. "They served years — in some cases more than a decade — longer than individuals convicted today of the same crime," said White House Counsel Neil Eggleston. The White House said it wanted to encourage non-violent offenders who have a clean prison record and were sentenced under out-of-date laws to come forward.

Obama commutes sentences of 22 people in federal prison

President Barack Obama speaks in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, March 31, 2015, after signing a Memorandum of Disapproval Regarding S.J. Res. 8, a Joint Resolution providing for congressional disapproval of the rule submitted by the National Labor Relations Board relating to representation case procedures. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Tuesday shortened the prison sentences of nearly two dozen drug convicts, including eight serving life in prison, in an act the White House said continues Obama's push to make the justice system fairer by reducing harsh sentences that were handed down under outdated guidelines.

US, Cuba hold technical talks on human rights

The stage is cleared after Cuban and US officials spoke to the press after talks at the US State Department in Washington, DC on February 27, 2015US and Cuban diplomats met in Washington on Tuesday to define an agenda for future sessions on human rights as part of the rapprochement between the long-time adversaries, officials said. "Each side raised concerns about human rights issues, and both sides expressed willingness to discuss a wide range of topics in future substantive talks," it added. Cuban delegate Pedro Luis Pedroso said while "profound differences" existed on human rights between Havana and Washington, the discussions had proved "useful" although no agenda for future meetings had been decided.

No nuke agreement yet: Iran talks push past deadline

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, second left, U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, left, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, center, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, second right, and German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier wait for the start of a meeting on Iran's nuclear program with other officials from France, China, the European Union and Iran at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland Tuesday, March 31, 2015. Diplomats scrambled Tuesday to reach consensus on the outline of an Iran nuclear deal just hours ahead of a self-imposed deadline to produce an agreement. (AP Photo/Brendan Smialowski, Pool)LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — With stubborn disputes unresolved, nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers went past a self-imposed deadline and into overtime as negotiators renewed efforts to hammer out the outline of an agreement.

Negotiators power past midnight deadline in Iran talks

A press photographer walks along news television vehicles parked in front of the hotel Beau-Rivage Palace during Iran nuclear talks in Lausanne late on March 31, 2015Top diplomats worked past a midnight deadline into the early hours of Wednesday seeking to agree the outlines of a nuclear deal with Iran, insisting "enough progress" had been made to continue the marathon talks. The announcement came late on a sixth day of talks in Switzerland aimed at laying the groundwork for a deal that world powers hope will prevent Iran developing nuclear weapons under the guise of its civilian programme. The stakes are high, with fears that failure to reach a deal may set the United States and Israel on a road to military action to thwart Iran's nuclear drive, which Tehran says is purely peaceful. "We are in the final phase of the negotiations," he told Iranian television, adding there were still a few "limited" issues linked to sanctions to be resolved, along with questions about Iran's research and development.

Obama urges DRCongo's Kabila to respect constitution

Joseph Kabila came to power in 2001 after the assassination of his father, and is now approaching the end of the two full terms in power permitted under the country's constitutionAs Congolese President Joseph Kabila appears to toy with extending his 14-year rule, US President Barack Obama on Tuesday urged him to respect the Democratic Republic of Congo's constitution. "The president emphasized the importance of timely, credible, and peaceful elections that respect the DRC's constitution," the White House said following a phone call between the two men. Kabila came to power in 2001 after the assassination of his father Laurent, and is now approaching the end of the two full terms in power permitted under the country's constitution. The Democratic Republic of Congo has long been a source of instability in southern and central Africa.

Lawsuit aims to stop Ohio from dropping people from Medicaid
An Ohio group wants a federal judge to block state officials from ending the Medicaid health coverage of tens of thousands of low-income residents. The request comes as the state's Medicaid agency works ...

End-of-Day Wrap-Up: Indiana Backs Down

End-of-Day Wrap-Up: Indiana Backs DownWhat's Happening: Indiana Battles a Backlash

ND to join Wyoming lawsuit against federal fracking rules

North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple, left, and state Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem discuss joining the state of Wyoming in a lawsuit against Federal fracking rules, during a meeting of the North Dakota State Industrial Commission Tuesday, March 31, 2015, at the state Capitol in Bismarck. N.D. The Obama administration is requiring companies that drill on federal lands to disclose chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing. (AP Photo/The Bismarck Tribune, Tom Stromme)BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota, whose oil riches have been unlocked by the use of hydraulic fracturing, said Tuesday it will join Wyoming in a lawsuit challenging a new federal rule requiring more information about the process when it's used on U.S. government lands.

Lessons from Germanwings crash on mental disability
“If only he had received help from someone.” 

Obama Offers Commutations to 22 of 209,155 Federal Prisoners

Obama Offers Commutations to 22 of 209,155 Federal PrisonersThe Good News: President Obama has announced that he's issuing commutations to 22 individuals. The Bad News: As The Huffington Post notes, that more than doubles the number of commutations and pardons Obama has issued through the first three-quarters of his presidency. As my colleague Matt Ford noted in December, Obama has been stingy with his mercy, even by the standard of recent presidents, who have used their power more infrequently (though George W. Bush issued only 11 commutations over two terms). Ron Fournier also wrote an excellent analysis of Obama's pardons in 2013.

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