California outlaws plastic knuckles for security

Sunday, August 25, 2002

Fearing that plastic knuckle sets present yet another subtle threat that should not be overlooked, California has made a law banning them.

The law signed by Gov. Gray Davis this past week bans the manufacture, import or sale of plastic knuckles in the state. Brass knuckle sets, which , like their plastic counterparts, are typically worn either to make a punch more powerful or to protect the hand delivering a blow, already were outlawed in California.

Davis said he was worried such devices could be smuggled on to an airplane by terrorists.

"It's an outrage that these dangerous weapons can be easily purchased by a person with criminal intentions," the governor said.

Inmates stand in toilets to keep cool in prisons

Men standing in toilets is part of the standard tableau along death row during sticky, hot Florida summers, prisoner advocates say.

The men climb into their commodes in an effort to escape temperatures that routinely top 100 degrees in their cells, which are not air-conditioned, according to a class action lawsuit working its way through the Florida federal courts. The suit, originally filed by convicted murderers William Kelley and Jim Chandler, says inmates are subjected to cruel and unusual punishment.

"The U.S. openly condemns other countries for conditions like this," said Randall Berg, an attorney with the Miami-based Florida Justice Institute, which is arguing the case on behalf of more than 370 death row inmates.

Florida prison officials dispute the institute's contentions, saying death row cells at the Union Correctional Institution, near Raiford in northern Florida, are well-ventilated.

Pennsylvnia's high court allows gay adoptions

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- The state Supreme Court ruled that a child may be adopted by a parent's same-sex partner.

In a 6-0 decision Tuesday with one justice abstaining, the court found that one partner in a gay or lesbian relationship can adopt a child without forcing the other partner to give up parental rights. Previously, the parent would have had to give up rights to the child in order for the adoption to proceed.

The decision means children in gay and lesbian families could now qualify for health insurance, inheritances and other benefits from the adoptive parent.

Alaska voters might add instant runoff elections

JUNEAU, Alaska -- Voters get to decide this week whether Alaska will become the first state with instant runoff elections, something supports say would give third-party candidates a fighting a chance.

The initiative, appearing on Tuesday's gubernatorial primary ballots, would replace Alaska's majority-vote election with preferential voting similar to the method used in San Francisco city elections and to elect Lord Mayor of London and members of the Australian House.

Voters would pick their choices for an office in descending order from most favored to least favored.

If no candidate received more than 50 percent of the first-choice vote, then the person with the lowest total would be defeated. Election officials then would count the second choice votes of voters who picked the losing candidate and add those numbers to the totals for the remaining candidates.

The process would continue until one candidate received more than 50 percent.

--From wire reports

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