NEW DEATH PENALTY NUMBERS
According to a new poll by ABCNEWS.com, 65 percent of Americans support capital punishment when no alternative is offered, but given the choice between death and life without parole Americans are almost evenly divided -- with less than a majority favoring the death penalty.
The poll found that 46 percent still favor executions even if life without parole is an option, while 43 percent said life in prison was preferable to execution.
Whites, males, older citizens and Republicans broke more for support of execution than nonwhites, women, young adults and Democrats. But even among Republicans just 50 percent said they prefer capital punishment when life without parole is available as an option.
-- If less than half of Americans favor capital punishment when life with parole is an option, can it truly be said that Americans favor the death penalty?
-- What do you suppose accounts for the fact that whites, males, older citizens and Republicans support the death penalty more strongly than nonwhites, women, young adults and Democrats?
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SHIFTS 2ND AMENDMENT POLICY
The Bush administration parted with long-standing federal government police Monday, arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to bear arms -- and is not necessarily related to the maintenance of militias by the states.
Solicitor General Ted Olson took the position in two cases before the Supreme Court. Most observers in Washington believe it was the first time that the Justice Department -- speaking for the federal government -- has argued in a formal filing in any federal court that the Second Amendment applies to an individual right to bear arms.
Olson acknowledged that the briefs signal a change in U.S. policy.
"The current position of the United States is that the Second Amendment more broadly protects the rights of individuals," said Olson in one brief, "including persons who are not members of any (state) militia or engaged in active military service or training, to possess and bear their own firearms."
According to a report in the Washington Post, the briefs reflect the strongly held views of Attorney General John Ashcroft on gun ownership. Ashcroft first articulated this view of the Constitution in a letter last year to the National Rifle Association. He reiterated it in November in a memorandum to all U.S. attorneys in the country.
Michael Barnes, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence -- which advocates for gun control -- said the development is proof "that the worst fears about Attorney General Ashcroft" have been realized.
"His extreme ideology on guns has now become government policy," said Barnes.
NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam called the development "a step in the right direction."
-- Does the Second Amendment apply to an individual right to bear arms?
-- Is the administration doing the right thing by abandoning the legal position taken by the administrations that preceded it in Washington?
TOPLESS, BUT NOT ANNA
Judith Soltesz-Benetton, the 28-year-old daughter-in-law of fashion designer Luciano Benetton, has filed suit against Penthouse -- over the magazine's June layout that Penthouse had advertised as topless photos of tennis player Anna Kournikova.
Soltesz-Benetton said the photos show her -- not Kournikova -- topless. A federal judge ordered Penthouse to temporarily stop distributing the issue and ordered that none of the pictures be posted on the Internet.
U.S. District Judge Denny Chin said that Penthouse had acted recklessly, and suggested that Soltesz-Benetton would suffer irreparable harm if the magazine were allowed to continue distributing the photos -- which he said obviously did not depict Kournikova.
"The way Penthouse has used this," said Chin, "shows me Penthouse doesn't really care whether it's true or not, only whether it will sell issues and get people to the Web site."
Kournikova's agent had already denied that the pictures were of her.
A lawyer for Penthouse said he would prove at a hearing set for next week in the case that the magazine had acted responsibly, and that the photo spread was an honest mistake.
-- Do you trust Penthouse to make an honest mistake?
-- If the photos were of Anna Kournikova topless, wouldn't they be on the Internet already?
ABC BOSS MAD AT KOPPEL AND WALTERS
Iger took exception to Koppel's public suggestion that no ABC executives tried to contact him before a story broke in the national media that ABC was courting David Letterman to replace Koppel in the slot where "Nightline" has been a fixture for more than 20 years.
Iger told an interviewer tried to reach Koppel several times at his vacation home in Florida -- and was told that Koppel was out, or "didn't want to talk to him." Iger said he was still trying to contact Koppel when an e-mail circulating among "Nightline" fans claimed that "no executive from ABC or Disney" had spoken to Koppel.
Iger said that e-mail was particularly galling.
"It completely ignored the fact that someone from the Walt Disney Co. -- namely the president, me," said Iger, "had tried to reach Ted from the night before."
Iger also had some choice words for Barbara Walters -- because she complained on her ABC show "The View" about the way the network's parent company, Walt Disney, treated her and Koppel poorly.
"Go on any street corner and say what you like, even if it's about the company you work for," said Iger. "Write an op-ed in the New York Times, appear on Larry King if you want," said Iger. "But to use one of our own programs to do that?"
-- Was Barbara Walters out of line using a network TV show to criticize the boss?