Court to review key fraud law

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court this week is to consider whether to apply the brakes to a 20-year-old federal antifraud provision that has been key to the prosecutions of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, former Illinois Gov. George Ryan, and executives involved in the collapse of Enron, and likely will be used against former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in his corruption trial.

At issue is the law's language that it is illegal for public or private employees to "deprive another of the intangible right of honest services."

The court has taken the unusual step of accepting three cases that challenge the standard as vague and limitless.

Last term, in dissenting from an earlier decision by his colleagues not to review the law, Justice Antonin Scalia said the provision "invites abuse by headline-grabbing prosecutors."

- Washington Post

Palin's Iowa visit fuels speculation

SIOUX CITY, Iowa - Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, fueling speculation about a 2012 presidential run, greeted hundreds of admirers in Sioux City yesterday.

Iowa's caucuses traditionally kick off the presidential nominating season, and Republican strategists saw the stop in Palin's national book-signing tour - in conservative, Republican-dominated western Iowa - as a signal not to be missed.

"No politician comes to Iowa by accident," GOP strategist Tim Albrecht said. "Every politician knows the implications when they set foot here."

As with other stops on Palin's tour to promote her book, Going Rogue, the event was tightly controlled, with photographers allowed in briefly and reporters banned. Palin arrived about 90 minutes late and didn't speak publicly, other than to greet the crowd. - AP

A birthday party ends in violence

BALTIMORE - One man was shot in the face and another was severely beaten when a fight erupted early yesterday during a birthday party at a downtown Baltimore hotel, police said.

A woman had rented two adjoining hotel rooms at the Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel for a birthday party with about 20 young adults when a fight broke out between two 19-year-old men, Raymond Woodland and Marquis Johnson, police said.

Baltimore police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Woodland pulled out a Tech-9 semiautomatic machine pistol and fired one shot, striking Johnson in the face. Then two of Johnson's friends took the gun, held Woodland down and severely beat him, police said.

Woodland, who is on probation for drug charges, was in critical condition, while Johnson was in serious condition and expected to survive, Guglielmi said. - AP

Elsewhere:

Alexa Ray Joel, the daughter of pop singer Billy Joel and supermodel Christie Brinkley, was released from a Manhattan hospital after being rushed there Saturday afternoon for treatment of an overdose of pills.

A psychiatrist is expected in federal court in Salt Lake City today to discuss the religious writings of Elizabeth Smart's alleged abductor, Brian David Mitchell, a self-proclaimed prophet who is said to have claimed in his work that she went with him willingly as a young girl and with the permission of her parents.