Hot Buttons: Talk show topics

By ALEX CUKAN, United Press International  |  Oct. 31, 2002 at 3:15 AM
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The federal government filed capital charges against John Allen Muhammad in the Washington, D.C., sniper shootings, sparking a debate on which jurisdiction should prosecute the suspects.

The federal charges, filed under the Hobbs Act intended to root out organized crime, include 11 of the 14 shooting incidents tied to the sniper attacks, The Washington Post reports.

U.S. Justice Department officials say they have all but ruled out having the first case brought in the Maryland courts because of limitations in the capital murder law there and the state's historical reluctance to impose the death penalty, The Post says.

This has Montgomery County State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler hopping mad. "Because our citizens were terrorized and paralyzed for three weeks and seven of our citizens were murdered, (we would hope) that it would begin in Montgomery County," he says.

-- If the suspects are convicted, does it matter to you if they get the death penalty or life in prison?

-- Some legal experts say the Hobbs Act might be a tortured route to a capital conviction because it depends on extortion, and the demand for $10 million came after most of the killings occurred. What do you think?


In a move to cut administrative costs and save on paper and postage, some businesses have started billing customers a few extra dollars a month for paper invoices that come in the mail.

Telecommunications companies like Primus and MetroPCS, and lenders and insurance providers like State Farm Insurance and USAA, are charging for snail mail bills.

The New York Times reports a California couple recently learned they would have to pay $8 a month to receive paper invoices for their auto and student loans from USAA.

Some argue charging for paper bills punishes people who are not comfortable handling their finances online and that while 60 percent of Americans have a computer, it penalizes those who do not. Others say they can delete bills and statements because they can appear like online ads.

Companies say they need to cut costs and that consumers need to adapt. "It's time to change, to educate our customer base to get them to move with the times," says Ann Martin, Primus's director of North American sales and operations.

-- Should consumers be penalized for getting bills in the mail?

-- Do you feel comfortable paying bills online?


It won't get much media attention, but the most important elections next week are in the state legislatures, not the ones deciding control of the U.S. Senate or House, according to Philip Mayer of the USAToday,

The federal government has been moving more of its regulatory authority out of Washington and down to the statehouses.

Washington has about 1,900 accredited newspaper and wire-service journalists watching Congress. The typical state has only 10 newspaper reporters and a few wire service reporters keeping their eyes on its legislature even though that's where decisions affecting insurance, health care, public health, public services and recreation are made.

-- Is there a lack of interest in state races because there is no coverage or no coverage because there is a lack of interest?

-- What races do you think are most important?

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