It's not all bad
April 11, 2013

Seven years ago, Evie Branan suffered a stroke that put her in a semi-coma. Then, in May 2011, she tumbled out of bed in her Michigan nursing home, hit her head, awoke, and spoke these nine magical words: "I want to go to a Bob Seger concert." Tonight, Branan gets her wish. A limo will pick the 79-year-old up and take her to the performance, which she'll enjoy from the front row. To top it off, she'll get to meet Seger and the band. "I'm going to hug him and give him and great big smooch," Branan told NPR.

This just in
11:28 a.m. ET
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Iraqi forces on Tuesday recaptured the city of Tikrit from the Islamic State, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a speech on state television. "The successful experience of Tikrit will be repeated in other areas," he said. ISIS seized control of the city last summer, so its recapture by the state represents one of the most significant gains in Iraq's campaign to push back against the militant group.

11:24 a.m. ET

Keeping a forbidden cell phone in prison is impressive on its own, but Britain's Neil Moore went above and beyond. Moore used a smuggled phone to create a fake government email account, and he emailed prison officials to obtain his freedom.

Moore, 28, was being held in the maximum-security Wandsworth prison. He was awaiting trial on fraud charges in March 2014 when he began what prosecutors called a plan of "extraordinary criminal inventiveness, deviousness, and creativity," NBC News reports.

After creating a fake web address similar to that of Britain's Royal Courts of Justice, Moore pretended he was a count clerk and emailed prison officials that he was granted bail. The prison then released him on March 10.

Even though he got away with the scheme, Moore "had a change of heart" and turned himself in a few days later, according to NBC News. He pleaded guilty to eight counts of fraud, as well as one count of escape from lawful custody, and he will be sentenced on April 20.

injustice system
11:05 a.m. ET

If you want to kill somebody in Alabama, try not to do it when there's an election coming up:

Statistics show that Alabama judges, who are elected to the bench, have overridden juries in murder cases 111 times since the death penalty’s reinstatement in 1976. Of that 111, judges have upgraded the sentences to death 101 times. In the remaining 10 cases, the judges downgraded the sentence to life in prison. More than 20 percent of the inmates on death row in Alabama are there as a result of judicial overrides. [...]

The Alabama Criminal Defense Lawyers Association says in the 111 death-penalty upgrade decisions, 80 percent occurred in the year leading up to a judge's re-election. [Allgov]

Alabama's combination of elected judges, the death penalty, and judicial override essentially allows judges to campaign from the bench, convincing voters they're tough on crime by handing down the death penalty in cases where jurors didn't find it appropriate. This lethal legal mix is unique to Alabama among all 50 states.

For more background on the (relatively rare) American practice of electing judges, take a look at this segment from John Oliver on Last Week Tonight.

Germanwings Crash
10:57 a.m. ET
Sascha Steinbach/Getty Images

Lufthansa spokeswoman Kerstin Lau announced Tuesday that the company's insurers have set aside $300 million to deal with "all costs arising in connection with the case" of last week's Germanwings crash. The jet crashed into the French Alps, and all 150 people aboard the plane were killed.

Last week, Lufthansa, Germanwings' parent company, offered 50,000 euros (about $54,250) to relatives of the victims of the crash. The announcement comes after aviation lawyers told Bloomberg that the victims' families may be able to seek unlimited liabilities.

Investigators believe that the plane's co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, intentionally crashed the plane and locked his captain out of the cockpit.

10:48 a.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has no regrets over claiming in 2012, sans evidence, that Mitt Romney hadn't paid taxes in a decade.

"They can call it whatever they want," Reid said in an interview with CNN when asked if that claim amounted to McCarthyism. "Romney didn't win did he?"

With Romney hanging close in the 2012 election, Reid assailed the former Massachusetts governor's refusal to release years' worth of his taxes. He later claimed an anonymous investor with Bain Capital — Romney's old workplace — tipped him off that the GOP nominee "didn't pay any taxes for 10 years." 

Visualize This
10:33 a.m. ET

Congress and the president may provide the visible faces of Washington, but a set of charts from The Washington Post shows just how tiny a proportion of our government they actually represent. Most of the data comes from a 2012 book called Becoming a Candidate, which calculates that there are more than 500,000 elected officials at all levels of government nationwide:

(Daily Kos)

That's just the tip of the iceberg, though: Unelected bureaucrats and members of the military far outnumber the government employees we voters select:

(Washington Post)

And that 4.2 million is just federal employees. As for state- and local-level workers, as Philip Bump concludes at the Post, "we'll just assume that they constitute the rest of the American population."

9:58 a.m. ET
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) on Tuesday insisted his state's controversial new religious freedom law was not meant as a back door to allow people and businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians. But acknowledging the public furor the law has created, he said the state would soon seek tweaks to ensure such discrimination could never happen.

"There was never any intention in this law to create a license to discriminate," Pence said on Fox News. "And we'll clarify that in the days ahead and we'll fix this and move forward."

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