Wisconsin Supreme Court Upholds Ban on Same-Sex ‘Marriage’

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has upheld the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex “marriage” and civil unions. In a 7-0 vote, the court on Wednesday ruled that the 2006 constitutional amendment was properly put to voters in a statewide referendum. The court rejected a lawsuit that claimed the amendment violated a rule that limits referendum questions to a single subject. The lawsuit, filed by a voter opposed to the amendment, argued that homosexual marriage and civil unions were two different subjects. Justice Michael Gableman says both sentences “carry out the same general purpose of preserving the legal status of marriage in Wisconsin as between only one man and one woman.”

Supreme Court: Christian Group Can’t Bar Gays, Get School Funding

The Christian Legal Society (CLS) at California’s Hastings College of the Law will have to change their charter to include gays and atheists if they want campus recognition. According to The Christian Post, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the school has the legal right to deny official status to campus groups that do not abide by its anti-discrimination policy. CLS’s attorney, Jordan Lorence of Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), says the group allows anyone to join the group, but voting members must sign a statement of belief. ADF says the ruling is specific to Hasting’s unique policy, and should have little immediate effect. “It is very frustrating that the Supreme Court chose to rule on a policy that very few universities have,” said Lorence.

Pope Battles Secularization, ‘Eclipse of the Sense of God’

Pope Benedict XVI is creating a new Vatican office to fight secularization and “re-evangelize” the West — a tacit acknowledgment that his attempts to reinvigorate Christianity in Europe haven’t succeeded and need a new boost. Benedict said parts of the world are still missionary territory, where the Catholic Church is still relatively unknown. But in other parts of the world like Europe, Christianity has existed for centuries yet “the process of secularization has produced a serious crisis of the sense of the Christian faith and role of the Church.” The new pontifical council, he said, would “promote a renewed evangelization” in countries where the Church has long existed “but which are living a progressive secularization of society and a sort of ‘eclipse of the sense of God.'”

  • Unfortunately, Catholicism is part of the problem as people reject its unbiblical veneration of Mary, prayers to saints, etc. In addition, its sordid history of political chicanery and, more recently, sexual abuse render it a poor representative of what true Christianity is all about.

Supreme Court Ruling Tilts Law Against Limits on Guns

The Supreme Court’s historic decision Monday allowing gun owners to challenge city and state regulations as a violation of their Second Amendment rights clears the way for new challenges to firearms laws nationwide. A five-justice conservative majority, over vigorous protests from the four more liberal justices, declared the right to keep and bear arms is fundamental to the American notion of liberty and can shield gun owners from certain regulations across the country. Although the majority noted some gun laws would stand, such as prohibitions on felons possessing firearms, its rationale is certain to usher in a new era of litigation over gun control. The case stemmed from a 28-year-old Chicago law that was a rare, total ban on handguns. The law was challenged by four homeowners who said they needed handguns for their safety. In Monday’s case, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito deemed the right to bear arms “fundamental” and noted the court had previously held that most provisions of the Bill of Rights apply to both the federal government and the states. He was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas.

Kagan Congressional Hearings Begin

On the first day of Senate questioning, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan deflected GOP challenges, declined entreaties by Democrats to attack conservative rulings and made the spotlight at the televised hearings her own. She described herself Tuesday as a pragmatist and insisted, “My politics would be, must be, have to be completely separate from my judging.” Kagan, a former Clinton policy adviser who has been U.S. solicitor general for a year, said she would be swapping her role as an advocate for that of a judge. The testiest exchange was spurred by senior Senate Judiciary Committee Republican Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who challenged Kagan’s action limiting military recruiting as Harvard law dean. Kagan said military recruiters had access to Harvard students throughout the controversy in the mid-2000s over U.S. military policy excluding openly gay soldiers. Sessions replied, “I’m just a little taken aback by the tone of your remarks, because it’s unconnected to reality. … I know you were an outspoken leader against the military policy.”

Kagan said she would abide by two gun regulation rulings, one in 2008 and one Monday, ensuring individual rights under the Second Amendment: “That is settled law.” She declined California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein‘s invitation to condemn Monday’s decision opening the door to new challenges to gun regulation in states and cities nationwide. Kagan deflected other questions by saying, “I’m reluctant to say how I would think about the question as an average, everyday citizen,” she said, “because I might have to think about the question as a judge.” Senators from both parties voiced growing frustration Tuesday over Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan’s evasive answers on Day Two of her confirmation hearings. A well-prepared Kagan bobbed and weaved, ducking even the most straightforward questions to avoid saying anything remotely controversial. But her evasive tactics left some senators visibly put off.

  • What the court nominees say at these hearings is often different from what they do once on the bench

BP Slows Drilling of Relief Well

Drilling of a relief well, intended to interrupt oil flow from the ruptured well, reached 16,770 feet, 1,230 feet shy of the goal, BP said Monday. But drilling has slowed as engineers perform tests to determine the precise location of the damaged well. The relief well will intercept the original well at 18,000 feet and is scheduled to be complete in mid-August. BP is capturing nearly 1 million gallons of oil a day in two containment systems. The company has begun installing a third system that could double the amount of oil captured by the first two systems. The new system could be disconnected quickly if a hurricane approaches, the company said. The current system requires five days to disconnect, said Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the federal government’s incident commander. BP has spent $2.65 billion in its effort to cap a gushing oil well and clean up a growing slick in the Gulf of Mexico, the company reported Monday in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Oil giant BP PLC is floating a financial lifeline to the owners, operators and suppliers of the gas stations around America that bear its name and have been struggling because of boycotts prompted by the Gulf spill. The head of a trade group that represents distributors of BP gasoline in the U.S. said Tuesday that the company is informing outlets that they will be getting cash in their pockets, reductions in credit card fees and help with more national advertising. The cash component will be based on distributors’ volume and will be higher for outlets along the Gulf Coast than for those elsewhere in the country.

Immigrant Deaths on the Rise

Every year for a decade, more than 200 suspected illegal immigrants die crossing the U.S.-Mexican border into Arizona. That’s roughly half of all such immigrants who die in the U.S. This year, there have been 88 such cases — above the norm for this time of year. Years ago, the office averaged 19 undocumented immigrant bodies a year. The death tide in Arizona started in 1994 with Operation Gatekeeper and rose in 2002 when President George W. Bush signed a bill that led to the largest restructuring of border enforcement since World War II, according to a 2009 Migration Policy Institute (MPI) study. The squeeze was put on El Paso and San Diego, shifting immigrants to the Arizona border. “We’re the portal of entry now,” Bruce Anderson says. “Hard to survive it, but easy to get across.” Anderson is Pima County‘s forensic anthropologist whose job is to try and identify the deceased and return them to their families.

Federal officials told Arizona‘s attorney general and a congresswoman on Monday that 524 of the 1,200 National Guard troops headed to the U.S. Mexican border will be deployed in the state by August or September. the 524 troops are now being trained for deployment in August, and Goddard said two drone aircraft also will be used in Arizona. Attorney General Terry Goddard says the commitment is a first step. President Obama previously announced that he plans to send 1,200 troops to the border, and he asked Congress for $600 million to pay for 1,000 more Border Patrol agents, 160 new federal immigration officers and two unmanned aircraft.

The U.S. Supreme Court later this year will hear arguments on the constitutionality of Arizona’s landmark 2007 law that penalizes employers for hiring illegal immigrants. A decision is expected next year. The court, following a request from the U.S. solicitor general, announced Monday that it will hear challenges to the Legal Arizona Workers Act, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2008.

Economic News

Unemployment benefits are set to run dry for 1.2 million people nationwide Friday after the U.S. Senate decided not to extend a deadline for these benefits last week. Come Saturday, the number of people cut from unemployment benefits will surge to 1.63 million, according to U.S. Department of Labor estimates. By mid-July, about 2 million unemployed Americans could lose their benefits. Before last month, out-of-work Americans were eligible for extensions once they maxed out at 26 weeks of state benefits and 73 weeks of federal benefits — a total of 99 weeks. But, Senate Republicans blocked the extension with a 57-14 vote last week.

Homebuyers would get an extra three months to complete their purchases and qualify for a generous tax credit under a bill overwhelmingly passed by the House on Tuesday. Under current law, homebuyers who signed purchase agreements by April 30 have until Wednesday to close on the sale to qualify for tax credits of up to $8,000. The bill would give buyers until Sept. 30 to complete their purchases. The extended deadline only applies to people who signed purchase agreements by April 30.

Cities across the USA are dousing the fuse on Fourth of July fireworks displays this year because of continued budget woes. Glendale, Ariz., Jersey City and Springfield, Mo., are among the latest cities that have canceled their traditional Independence Day celebrations, joining other cities including San Francisco suburb Redwood City and Ridgefield Park, N.J. A May survey of elected officials found that despite signs of an economic turnaround, growth is lacking, poverty is on the rise, and budgets are still dwindling.

Gasoline prices continue to rise Monday as vacationers in RVs and campers join commuters on the roads during the peak summer driving season. Pump prices likely will increase over the next couple of weeks but fall short of $3 a gallon in most states. The national average for retail gasoline prices rose 0.1 cent to $2.756 a gallon Monday.

Japan‘s economic recovery faltered in May as moderating export demand dented factory output, household spending fell and the jobless rate unexpectedly rose for a third straight month. Industrial production dropped 0.1% from the previous month — the first decline in three months, the government said Tuesday. Shipments overseas fell 1.7%.

China /Taiwan

China and Taiwan signed a tariff-slashing trade pact Tuesday that boosts economic ties and further eases political tensions six decades after the rivals split amid civil war. Beijing hopes the deal, signed live on on state television, can lead to political accommodation. Taiwan is looking for the tighter economic links to keep the island from being marginalized as China’s global clout grows. The pact will end tariffs on hundreds of products traded across the strait and allow Taiwanese firms access to 11 service sectors on the mainland, including banking, accounting, insurance and hospitals. It should boost bilateral trade already totaling about $110 billion a year: some $80 billion in goods flowing to China, and $30 billion to Taiwan.

Russia

The Justice Department has arrested 10 Russian intelligence officers for allegedly serving as “illegal agents of the Russian government in the United States.” The New York Times writes that the complaints filed in federal court “read like a thriller novel”: Secret Russian agents were assigned to live as married couples in the United States, even having children who were apparently unaware of their parents’ true identities. A spy swapped identical bags with a Russian official as they brushed past each other in a train station stairwell. Messages were written with invisible ink, hidden in the data of digital pictures, and encoded in messages sent over shortwave radio. The Times says it’s not clear “what their intelligence reports were about.” Russia’s official and unofficial response to a reported “spy ring” in the United States ranges from questioning the U.S. timing of the affair, to sinister accusations of reviving the “Cold War” to suggestions that the White House is trying to divert attention from setbacks in the Afghan war. So far, no official denials of the accusations, though.

Greece

Dozens of masked youths clashed with police at a union protest Tuesday in Athens during a general strike against the cash-strapped government’s planned pension and labor reforms. Riot police fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse troublemakers who threw chunks of marble smashed off a metro station entrance and set rubbish bins on fire. Running clashes continued along a major avenue — lined with shuttered shops and banks — as rioters armed with wooden clubs made repeated sallies against police. One motorcycle policeman was injured in the clashes, while rioters smashed bus stops and phone booths. The violence came as some 10,000 people took part in a demonstration organized by the country’s two main labor unions and fringe left-wing groups. A separate march by some 5,000-6,000 members of the Communist Party-backed PAME union ended peacefully.

Iran

Iran will not hold talks with the West over its nuclear program until late August to “punish” world powers for imposing tougher sanctions against the country, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Monday. He also vowed that Iran will retaliate should its ships be searched over suspicions that the cargo may violate the new sanctions approved by the U.N. Security Council earlier this month. The European Union and U.S. Congress followed with new punishing measures of their own to discourage the Iranian government from continuing its uranium enrichment program, which they fear could be used to produce a nuclear weapon. The Iranian leader also set three conditions for an eventual resumption of talks, saying countries who want to participate should make clear whether they oppose Israel‘s purported atomic arsenal, whether they support the Nonproliferation Treaty and whether they want to be friends or enemies with Iran.

Afghanistan

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was in the Afghan capital to talk with officials about improving the justice system and fighting corruption Wednesday, a day after Afghanistan‘s top prosecutor defended himself against allegations that he’s being pressured not to pursue cases against powerful figures. Corruption and an ineffectual court system have undermined public trust in President Hamid Karzai‘s government. The Obama administration and other donor nations, who need Karzai to be perceived as a credible partner, are pushing him to clean up bribery, graft and corruption. Karzai, who has set up an anti-corruption commission, insists that he does not condone or tolerate corruption. In a recent speech, he invited people to come forward with evidence of corruption even if it implicated his relatives, friends or government officials.

Eight militants were killed in a gunbattle after a suicide car bombing Wednesday at the entrance to an airport outside the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad After the car bombing, a group of militants, using light weapons and rocket-propelled grenades, battled international forces for 30 minutes. The Taliban claimed responsibility. In a text message to The Associated Press in Kabul, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said six suicide attackers killed 32 foreign and Afghan security forces at the airport, about 78 miles east of the Afghan capital.

Worthy News reports that more than 20 Afghan Christians have been detained in Afghanistan after leaked video footage led to official demands for the execution of Christian converts. Conversion and proselytizing are illegal in the Islamic nation. Christian Solidarity Worldwide said the Christians were detained since last week and added that non-Christians with ties to Westerners have also been targeted for interrogation. The crackdown began early this month after an Afghan TV station showed Afghan men praying in Farsi and being baptized. One member of the Afghan parliament, Abdul Sattar Khawasi, called for immediate action. “Those Afghans that appeared in this video film should be executed in public, the house should order the attorney general and the NDS (intelligence agency) to arrest these Afghans and execute them,” Khawasi said.

Pakistan

A government official says fighter jets have bombed suspected militant hide-outs in a new assault on an Afghan tribal region where the army had previously declared victory. He says at least 20 people have died. The aerial bombings Wednesday destroyed six Taliban hide-outs in the region. Field informants confirmed the killing of 20 suspected militants. Pakistan’s army has been bombing Orakzai for months, believing it to be a hiding place for Taliban fighters fleeing another offensive further south in the tribal belt. It declared victory there in early June, but violence persists.

Iraq

A series of bombings and shootings around Iraq Tuesday claimed 13 lives, including four policemen, an Iraqi army general and a 9-year-old girl, Iraqi While violence has dropped overall across the country, the attacks underline the continued threat to government employees and members of the security forces, who are often targeted by insurgents trying to destabilize the country. Also on Tuesday, officials in southern city of Basra said that a bullet-riddled body of Sabri al-Asadi, a municipal official who missing for two days, was found.

Earthquakes

A strong 6.5-magnitude earthquake rattled the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca early Wednesday morning, and was felt at least as far away as Mexico City. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake was centered in a sparsely populated, mountainous area of Oaxaca near the southern Pacific coast. Authorities did not yet know if there were injuries or damage.

Weather

Hurricane Alex strengthened in the Gulf of Mexico into the season’s first hurricane late Tuesday and is the first June hurricane since 1995. The approaching storm prompted residents along the southern coast of Texas to evacuate, and oil spill workers to halt some cleanup efforts in Louisiana. Hurricane Alex will likely make landfall near the Mexico-Texas border Wednesday night. The Category 1 storm, with winds of 75 mph, is expected to dump up to 20 inches of rain in Texas and Mexico.

Hundreds of distraught villagers huddled in tents Tuesday as rescuers searched for family members buried after a landslide trapped at least 107 people in rain-hit southwestern China. But there appeared to be little hope for survival as rescue efforts were hindered by rain Tuesday morning, threatening to wash more mud down hill slopes. Many homes were buried when the landslide struck the village of Dazhai in Guizhou province on Monday afternoon after days of rain. Makeshift tents were set up on site as first aid stations and soldiers carrying villagers waded through water and mud as they evacuated 300 residents.

While other parts of the nation complained about hotter than usual temperatures, New England, a region that often endures chilly, dank springs, welcomed its warmest spring on record with open arms. Each of the region’s six states recorded its warmest spring on record. The Climate Prediction Center’s latest forecast for the months of July, August and September indicates that the entire Eastern Seaboard, from New England to Florida, should see higher-than-average temperatures.

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