Wednesday March 27, 2013

Supreme Court justices suggest they may avoid a major ruling on gay marriage ban

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court dove into a historic debate on gay rights Tuesday that could soon lead to resumption of same-sex marriage in California, but the justices signaled they may not be ready for a major national ruling on whether America’s gays and lesbians have a right to marry.

The court’s first major examination of gay rights in 10 years continues Wednesday, when the justices will consider the federal law that prevents legally married gay couples from receiving a range of benefits afforded straight married people.

The issue before the court on Tuesday was more fundamental: Does the Constitution require that people be allowed to marry whom they choose, regardless of either partner’s gender? The fact that the question was in front of the Supreme Court at all was startling, given that no state recognized same-sex unions before 2003 and 40 states still don’t allow them.

There is no questioning the emotions the issue stirs. Demonstrators on both sides crowded the grounds outside the court, waving signs, sometimes chanting their feelings.

Inside, a skeptical Justice Samuel Alito cautioned against a broad ruling in favor of gay marriage precisely because the issue is so new.


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Outside the Supreme Court is packed with people on first of 2 days of marriage cases

WASHINGTON (AP) -- They mostly kept their distance, these supporters and opponents of gay marriage, as they massed Tuesday in front of the Supreme Court to proclaim with signs and slogans their conflicting views about the cutting-edge question before the justices.

People who favor legalizing same-sex marriage carried pictures of gay weddings and families and held signs that read "marriage is a constitutional right." They waved American and rainbow flags, and one man in devil horns danced in pink heels and a rainbow tutu.

Opponents, meanwhile, marched down a roadway in front of the court, hoisting placards including "Every child deserves a mom & dad" and "Vote for holy matrimony."

By the time the court began its session, which on Tuesday dealt with California’s ban on same-sex marriage, the sidewalk outside was packed. Supporters spilled over to the other side of the roadway. "Gay, straight, black, white, marriage is a civil right," the crowd chanted at one point, followed by "we honor this moment with love."

Many supporters of gay marriage came with homemade signs including ones that read "a more perfect union," "love is love," and "’I do!’ want 2 B (equals)" Some signs had pictures of gay couples. "Together 34 years," read one, "married with pride," said another.

Cyprus businesses feeling
strain as Cyprus bank shutdown enters second week

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) -- Cypriot businesses were under increasing strain to keep running on Tuesday after financial authorities stretched the country’s bank closure into a second week in a harried attempt to stop depositors rushing to drain their accounts.

Cyprus’s central bank governor, Panicos Demetriades, said "superhuman efforts are being made" to open banks on Thursday.

"Temporary" restrictions will be imposed on financial transactions once the banks do, he said, but would not specify what they would be or how long they would be in place for.

"We have to restore the public’s trust in banks," he said.

Finance Minister Michalis Sarris told the Associated Press the restrictions would help stem any mass deposit withdrawal that is "bound to happen" and that they would be removed in a "relatively short period of time."

C. African Republic hospitals looted after coup, aid groups and United Nations say

BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) -- Aid groups and the international community on Tuesday condemned widespread looting in Central African Republic’s capital, saying that even hospitals had been robbed in the aftermath of a weekend coup that ousted the president of a decade.

Efforts to restore order to Bangui, a city of 700,000, came as a rebel leader declared himself the new president and announced he would stay in power for three years.

Continuing violence in Central African Republic was preventing critically wounded patients from getting the help they needed, said the French medical aid group, Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders.

"MSF condemns the looting and robberies of our facilities and reminds all parties that medical personnel must be respected and protected and must be granted all available help in the performance of their duties," said Serge St. Louis, MSF head of mission in Bangui.

U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky also said Tuesday that "widespread looting is continuing, including of one pediatric hospital."

N.D.governor signs bill banning most abortions as early as 6 weeks into pregnancy

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) -- Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed legislation Tuesday that that would make North Dakota the nation’s most restrictive state on abortion rights, banning the procedure if a fetal heartbeat can be detected -- something that can happen as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

The Republican governor also signed into law another measure that would makes North Dakota the first to ban abortions based on genetic defects such as Down syndrome, and a measure that requires a doctor who performs abortions to be a physician with hospital-admitting privileges.

The measures, which would take effect Aug. 1, are fueled in part by an attempt to close the state’s sole abortion clinic in Fargo. Dalrymple, in a statement, said the so-called fetal heartbeat bill is a direct challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion up until a fetus is considered viable, usually at 22 to 24 weeks.

"Although the likelihood of this measure surviving a court challenge remains in question, this bill is nevertheless a legitimate attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade," Dalrymple said. "Because the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed state restrictions on the performing of abortions and because the Supreme Court has never considered this precise restriction ... the constitutionality of this measure is an open question."

Abortion-rights advocates have promised a legal fight that they say will be long, costly and unwinnable for the state.

British teenage whiz kid
strikes deal with Yahoo
over mobile app Summly

LONDON (AP) -- At 17, he’s a tech whiz, he’s rich -- and he can even offer some advice on how to raise your kids.

Teenage programmer Nick D’Aloisio’s decision to sell his news application Summly to Yahoo for what’s rumored to be a massive payout has turned him into a media sensation. The sale caps a short but successful career at Apple Inc.’s vast app store, where hundreds of thousands of pieces of software compete for the attention of smartphone and tablet users.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday, D’Aloisio said his computer skills were self-taught, explaining that he started by mastering movie-making software before tackling programming languages.

He said his parents were "very enthusiastic and supportive." Asked what advice he’d give couples hoping to raise their own wunderkinds, he urged them to let their children explore their own paths -- be it computer science or drama.

"If there’s a natural curiosity, that’ll lead to, eventually, some success," the teenager said.

Bomb-making materials found in car of man suspected of killing Colo. prisons chief

DECATUR, Texas (AP) -- Investigators found bomb-making materials and bloody clothes in the car of a man suspected in the death of the Colorado prisons chief.

Documents made public Tuesday show that authorities also found documents from the Department of Corrections, maps and handwritten directions in Evan Spencer Ebel’s car. Also found were parts of the uniform of a Domino’s Pizza worker, zip ties and duct tape.

Ebel was killed in a shootout with Texas authorities last week.

Authorities in Decatur sent the items to Colorado agencies investigating the death of corrections chief Tom Clements and the slaying of a pizza deliveryman whose body was found two days before Clements was killed.

Meeting of Arab League leaders showcases Qatar’s growing political clout

DOHA, Qatar (AP) -- Qatar’s emir looked over an assembly of Arab leaders Tuesday as both cordial host and impatient taskmaster. His welcoming remarks to kings, sheiks and presidents across the Arab world quickly shifted to Qatar’s priorities: Rallying greater support for Syrian rebels and helping Palestinians with efforts such as a newly proposed $1 billion fund to protect Jerusalem’s Arab heritage.

No one seemed surprised at the paternal tone or the latest big-money initiative. In a matter of just a few years, hyper-wealthy Qatar has increasingly staked out a leadership role once held by Egypt and helped redefine how Arab states measure influence and ambition.

Little more than a spot to sink oil and gas wells a generation ago, Qatar is now a key player in nearly every Middle Eastern shakeout since the Arab Spring, using checkbook diplomacy in settings as diverse as Syria’s civil war, Italian artisan workshops struggling with the euro financial crisis, and the soccer pitches in France as owners of the Paris Saint-Germain team.

As hosts of an Arab League summit this week, Qatar gets another chance to showcase its swagger.

With power, however, come tensions. Qatar has been portrayed as an arrogant wunderkind in places such as Iraq and Lebanon where some factions object to its rising stature, and Qatar’s growing independent streak in policy-making has raised concerns among its Gulf Arab partners. It also faces questions -- as do other Gulf nations and Western allies -- over support for some Arab Spring uprisings while remaining loyal to the embattled monarchy in neighboring Bahrain.

Kerry in Paris to talk
Syria with French

PARIS (AP) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in Paris for talks with French officials about aid to the Syrian opposition and the situation in Mali.

Kerry arrived in the French capital Tuesday on the last leg of a five-nation trip that also took him to Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan with President Barack Obama and then on his own to Iraq and Afghanistan.

He will see the French foreign minister on Wednesday. France is one of several European nations that would like to send military aid to the Syrian rebels. It also has been urging the U.S. to boost its assistance.