Nation Briefs

U.S. defends deal sparing ex-executives’ arrest

NEW YORK – American authorities on Tuesday cited “astonishing” dysfunction at the British bank HSBC and said that it had helped Mexican drug traffickers, Iran, Libya and others under U.S. suspicion or sanction to move money around the world.

HSBC agreed to pay $1.9 billion, the largest penalty ever imposed on a bank.

The U.S. stopped short of charging executives, citing the bank’s immediate, full cooperation and the damage that an assault on the company might cause on economies and people, including thousands who would lose jobs if the bank collapsed.

Outside experts said it was evidence that a doctrine of “too big to fail,” or at least “too big to prosecute,” was alive and well four years after the financial crisis.

The settlement avoided a legal battle that could have further savaged the bank’s reputation and undermined confidence in the banking system. HSBC does business in almost 80 countries, so many that it calls itself “the world’s local bank.”

Court strikes down Ill concealed carry ban

CHICAGO – In a major victory for gun rights advocates, a federal appeals court on Tuesday struck down a ban on carrying concealed weapons in Illinois – the only remaining state where carrying concealed weapons is entirely illegal – and gave lawmakers 180 days to write a law that legalizes it.

In overturning a lower court decision, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the ban was unconstitutional and suggested a law legalizing concealed carry is long overdue in a state where gun advocates had vowed to challenge the ban on every front.

“There is no suggestion that some unique characteristic of criminal activity in Illinois justifies the state’s taking a different approach from the other 49 states,” Judge Richard Posner, who wrote the court’s majority opinion. “If the Illinois approach were demonstrably superior, one would expect at least one or two other states to have emulated it.”

Gun-rights advocates were thrilled by the decision. They have long argued that the prohibition violates the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment and what they see as Americans’ right to carry guns for self-defense.

NTSB recommends ignition interlocks

WASHINGTON – Every state should require convicted drunken drivers, including first-time offenders, to use devices that prevent them from starting a car’s engine if their breath tests positive for alcohol, the National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday.

The ignition interlock devices – already required for all convicted drunken drivers in 17 states – are currently the best available solution to reducing drunken driving deaths, which account for about a third of the nation’s more than 32,000 traffic deaths a year, the board said.

Drivers breathe into breathalyzers mounted on the vehicle’s dashboard. If their breath-alcohol concentration is greater than the device’s programmed limit – usually a blood alcohol concentration of .02 percent or .04 percent – then the engine won’t start.

The board also urged the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to speed up its research effort with automakers to develop systems that can determine a driver’s blood alcohol concentration using infrared light when the driver presses an ignition button. The vehicle won’t start if the alcohol concentration is too high.

The technology, which is sometimes breath-based rather than touch-activated, is already in use in some workplace drug-testing programs. If the technology were incorporated into all new vehicles, eventually all drivers would be alcohol-tested before driving. That could potentially prevent an estimated 7,000 drunken-driving deaths a year, the board said.

Associated Press