By Gina Cherelus NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York City Council approved a bill on Thursday to require many merchants to charge 5 cents for each plastic or paper bag taken by consumers at checkout counters, and Mayor Bill de Blasio said he intended to sign it. The bill, backed by 28 of the 48 council members, is designed to encourage consumers to shift to reusable bags in a city that goes through more than 9 billion of the flimsy white containers a year, according to the council. Most of the bags used by shoppers are not recycled, forcing the city to pay millions of dollars to haul 91,000 tons of plastic and paper bags to landfills in other states each year, City Council spokeswoman Amy Varghese said.
U.S. President Barack Obama has commuted the prison terms of 58 non-violent drug offenders, nearly a third of whom were serving life sentences, the White House said on Thursday. "It just doesn’t make sense to require a non-violent drug offender to serve 20 years, or in some cases, life, in prison," Obama said in a blog post. Many of the convicts had been serving time for crack cocaine.
By Colleen Jenkins WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (Reuters) - Republican leaders in North Carolina on Thursday refused to back down from a law regulating which restrooms can be used by transgender people after the federal government told the state the law violated the U.S. Civil Rights Act. The state’s leading Republican lawmaker, House Speaker Tim Moore, told reporters in Raleigh that North Carolina would not be “bullied” into meeting the U.S. Justice Department’s Monday deadline to change the law. North Carolina is the first U.S. state to pass a law requiring transgender people to use public bathrooms that correspond with the sex on their birth certificate instead of the gender with which they identify.
BARNEGAT TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) — An escaped inmate who once served time for manslaughter for killing a baby eluded authorities for a third day Thursday, leading to increased security at schools in the New Jersey town where he was last seen.
A Pennsylvania judge on Thursday granted convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky a hearing later this month to press his case for a new trial, four years after the former Penn State University football coach was found guilty of abusing 10 boys. Lawyers for Sandusky can pursue several issues at the May 20 hearing, including the competency of his trial attorney, whether prosecutors and the judge who oversaw the grand jury withheld evidence and whether the state attorney general's office leaked sealed grand jury material to a reporter in an effort to persuade additional victims to come forward. John Cleland, a visiting judge in the Centre County Court of Common Pleas in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, had expressed skepticism regarding Sandusky's appeal during a court appearance on Monday but nevertheless ordered the evidentiary hearing.
By Brendan O'Brien (Reuters) - The Michigan House of Representatives approved on Thursday a $500 million spending package for Detroit's cash-strapped schools, which could run out of money to pay employees at the end of June. The legislation, which still needs approvals from the state Senate and Governor Rick Snyder, was passed early Thursday morning after hundreds of Detroit teachers called in sick over paycheck concerns. Detroit school teachers returned to their classrooms on Wednesday following the "sick-out" after receiving assurances from officials that they will be paid for their work.
CLEVELAND (AP) — A convicted sex offender was found guilty Thursday of the murder of three women whose bodies were found wrapped in garbage bags in a case that raised fears that another serial killer was hunting for victims in the Cleveland area.