Judge Rules Federal Defense of Marriage Act is Unconstitutional

The federal law banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional because it interferes with the right of a state to define the institution and therefore denies married gay couples some federal benefits, a federal judge ruled Thursday in Boston. U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro ruled in favor of gay couples’ rights in two separate challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA, a 1996 law that the Obama administration has argued for repealing. The rulings apply to Massachusetts but could have broader implications if they’re upheld on appeal. The state had argued the law denied benefits such as Medicaid to gay married couples in Massachusetts, where same-sex unions have been legal since 2004. Tauro agreed and said the act forces Massachusetts to discriminate against its own citizens in order to be eligible for federal funding in federal-state partnerships. In a ruling in a separate case filed by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Tauro ruled the act violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Presbyterian Church Committee: Allow Same-Sex Marriage

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) would become the largest denomination in the nation to allow same-sex marriage if it follows a recommendation made Tuesday by a church legislative committee. And another church committee, gathering for the Louisville-based church’s week-long legislative General Assembly in Minneapolis, recommended the church begin ordaining non-celibate gays and lesbians. The assembly’s committee on Civil Union and Marriage Issues voted 34-18 to change the definition of marriage in the church constitution to describe marriage as a covenant between “two people” rather than between “a man and a woman.” This “would recognize committed, lifelong relationships that are already being lived out by our members,” said a committee statement. Both measures would require passage by the full General Assembly later this week, but their passage by strong majorities in committee shows they have strong prospects.

  • Satan’s plan to undermine God’s natural order is gaining traction as the end-times continue to unleash the spirit of lawlessness (Matt. 24:12, 2Thess.2:7)

Three Arrested in al-Qaeda Bomb Plot

Three suspected al-Qaeda members are under arrest in what Norwegian and U.S. officials say was a bombing plot linked to similar plans in New York and England. U.S. and Norway had been watching the three men for more than a year and say they planned a bombing similar to the one thwarted in the New York subway system last year. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has called that one of the most serious terrorist plots since 9/11. On Wednesday, U.S. prosecutors revealed the existence of a related plot in England.

Three Convicted over Airliner Bomb Plot

A jury on Thursday convicted three British Muslims of conspiring to murder hundreds of people as part of a plot to blow up passenger planes over the Atlantic. The three men were found guilty at London’s Woolwich Crown Court after a three-month trial. They will be sentenced Monday and face life imprisonment. Prosecutors say the men were part of a group that planned to detonate liquid explosive bombs hidden in soft drink bottles on aircraft bound for the United States and Canada in 2006, an attack that could have killed people on the scale of the Sept. 11 attacks. The plot was broken up when suspects were scooped up in raids in London and the surrounding area in August 2006.

NSA Creating Spy System to Monitor Domestic Infrastructure

The National Security Agency has begun work on an “expansive” spy system that will monitor critical infrastructure inside the United States for cyber-attacks, in a move that detractors say could end up violating privacy rights and expanding the NSA’s domestic spying abilities. The Wall Street Journal cites unnamed sources as saying that the NSA has issued a $100-million contract to defense contractor Raytheon to build a system dubbed “Perfect Citizen,” which will involve placing “sensors” at critical points in the computer networks of private and public organizations that run infrastructure, organizations such as nuclear power plants and electric grid operators. In an email obtained by the Journal, an unnamed Raytheon employee describes the system as “Big Brother.” Some officials familiar with Perfect Citizen see it “as an intrusion by the NSA into domestic affairs, while others say it is an important program to combat an emerging security threat that only the NSA is equipped to provide,” the Journal states.

Number of Afghans Gone AWOL in U.S. Reaches 46

A be-on-the-lookout alert issued last month for 17 Afghan military men who walked away from an Air Force base in Texas has turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg. No fewer than 46 members of the Afghan military have gone absent without leave from the Defense Language Institute’s English Language Center at Lackland Air Force Base in recent years, FoxNews.com has learned. Five of these Afghan deserters remain at large; eight are in custody; at least 18 are in Canada and one has been granted conditional U.S. residency.  The most recent to disappear fled the Texas base just last Thursday, hours after his graduation ceremony. Some of the men disappeared before completing the Defense Language Institute (DLI) program. Others graduated from DLI but vanished before their scheduled flights back to Afghanistan. Many never showed up at the U.S. military base where they were scheduled to attend specialized formal training.

U.S. & Russia Swap Spies

U.S. and Russian flights involved in a 14-person spy swap landed briefly in Vienna, apparently exchanged agents, then took off again in the largest such diplomatic dance since the Cold War. In a carefully scripted exchange, the two planes arrived within minutes of each other Friday, parked nose-to-tail at a remote section on the tarmac, then spent about an hour and a half there before departing just as quickly. The swap apparently completed, a Russian Emergencies Ministry Yakovlvev Yak-42 plane left Vienna reportedly carrying 10 agents deported from the U.S. Minutes later, a maroon-and-white Boeing 767-200 that brought those agents in from New York took off, apparently with four Russians who had confessed to spying for the West. U.S. officials said some of those freed by Russia were ailing, and cited humanitarian concerns in part for arranging the swap in such a hurry. The 10 Russian agents arrested in the U.S. had tried to blend into American suburbia but been under watch for up to a decade by the FBI. Their access to top U.S. national security secrets appeared spotty at best, although the extent of what they knew and passed on is not publicly known.

Arizona Immigration Law a Model for Other States

Arizona’s immigration law, considered controversial by some and under legal assault by the Obama administration, is fast emerging as a popular model in other states where illegal immigration is a hot-button issue. And while protests against the law have drawn thousands to marches across the country, polls have consistently showed a majority of Americans favor the get-tough approach against illegal immigration. At least three other states could pass similar legislation next year, and in many others, like Florida, GOP candidates are filming campaign ads and pushing debates favoring the law. Oklahoma, South Carolina and Utah have each taken steps against illegal immigration, and politicians in the three states are advocating further measures when their legislatures reconvene early next year, according to The Washington Post. Meanwhile, lawmakers in at least 14 other states drew up bills that permit police officers to question anyone they suspect of being in the county illegally – the core issue of the Arizona law. Immigration law experts tell Newsmax that the administration has little chance of prevailing against the Arizona statute.

Poll: Illegals Are Major Strain on Budget

As the country wrestles with a future of historic-level deficits, 67% of U.S. voters say that illegal immigrants are a significant strain on the U.S. budget. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 23% disagree and do not believe illegal immigration is a strain on the budget. Two-out-of-three (66%) voters say the availability of government money and services draw illegal immigrants to the United States. These findings help to explain why 68% say gaining control of the border is more important than legalizing the status of undocumented workers already living in the United States. Twenty-six percent (26%) think legalizing illegal immigrants is more important. The majority support for controlling the borders has been consistent through several years of surveying.

BP Compensation Falls Short

BP is wading into the murky, massive effort of compensating Gulf Coast fishermen, workers and businesses affected by the spill — one of the biggest payout efforts in U.S. history. As of Thursday, BP has paid more than $158 million to 51,000 claimants; payouts range from $1,000 to $450,000, according to BP statistics. Another 48,500 claims remain unpaid. More than 900 adjusters each day — seven days a week, in 35 claims offices throughout the Gulf Coast region — sift through the tax records, bank statements, check stubs and fishing tickets of the tens of thousands of out-of-work fishermen, oyster shuckers, dock owners and litany of others who claim to be financially harmed. The adjusters decide who should get a check and who shouldn’t. More than 2,000 new claims are added to the system each day.

Under pressure from the White House, BP also has agreed to set up a $20 billion fund independently administered by Kenneth Feinberg, the lawyer best known for managing the $7 billion payout to the families of 9/11 victims. Another $100 million has been set aside to compensate workers left idled by the federal government’s six-month moratorium on deep-sea drilling. The moratorium remains in effect pending appeals of a federal judge’s recent ruling to overturn the moratorium and allow the drilling to continue. Claimants receiving the payouts will give up their rights to sue BP or seek further compensation. Many claim the payments are only a fraction of their total loss.

Gulf of Mexico‘s Vietnamese Fishing Community Hit Hard

The gushing oil from the Deepwater Horizon rig has upturned countless lives across the Gulf Coast. The Vietnamese community in and around Biloxi, Mississippi, has been particularly devastated. Consisting mostly of shrimp and crab fishermen, the Vietnamese community here centers around the Gulf — from fishermen to tackle shop owners to restaurateurs serving Gulf seafood. Around 2,000 of the area’s 7,500 Vietnamese have been directly impacted by the oil spill. As BP began compensating those affected, language barriers quickly became a problem. Claim forms and posters were initially English-only and translators were scarce. Those issues have been corrected by BP, but the Vietnamese still struggle to navigate through the system and get fully compensated.

Gulf’s Endangered Sea Turtles’ Eggs Relocated

Friday an army of wildlife experts, volunteers and FedEx will kick off an unprecedented plan to relocate more than 50,000 sea turtle eggs from the northwest coast of Florida and Alabamato the east coast of Florida, allowing the turtles a safer swim in the Atlantic Ocean. Without the help, it’s “highly unlikely” this generation would survive in the Gulf’s oil-tainted waters, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman Chuck Underwood. The hatchlings normally feed on the seaweed at the edge of the current where oil is located. The sea turtle eggs will be moved within a week of hatching from about 600 to 800 nests buried across the Florida Panhandle and Alabama beaches. Once the turtles emerge from their shells, they’ll be released at night when predators are less likely to find them. The process will continue until October. The eggs take about 60 days to mature.

Gun Control Group Support Kagan

The gun control group at The Brady Center issued a statement urging senators to confirm anti-gun Kagan to the Supreme Court. Anti-gun extremists at the Brady Center said the group was “encouraged” by Kagan’s work on gun control issues in the Clinton White House, as well as her comments on 2nd amendment decisions during her confirmation hearings. Obama’s judicial nominations reflect a pattern of loading courts with anti-gun judges and goes against his 2008 presidential campaign promise about guns that despite his anti-gun past he assured voters that he had always supported the Second Amendment as an individual right.

U.S. Cancer Death Rate Continues to Drop

The number of deaths due to cancer continues to decline in the United States, according to new statistics from the American Cancer Society. The downward trend, which began in the early 1990s, means about 767,000 fewer deaths from cancer over the past two decades, according to the group’s estimates. The report finds that the death rate from cancer overall in the United States in 2007 was 178.4 per 100,000 people — a drop of 1.3% from the previous year. This decline continues a trend that started in 1991 for men and in 1992 for women. Since that time, death rates have fallen 21% among men and 12% among women, the report says. “Cancer death rates continue to decrease because of prevention, early detection and improved treatment,” said lead researcher Dr. Ahmedin Jemal.

Economic News

New claims for unemployment benefits dropped sharply last week, but they have yet to reach levels that most economists say would signal strong job creation. The Labor Department said Thursday that new requests for jobless aid dropped 21,000 to a seasonally adjusted 454,000. The decline takes claims to their lowest level since early May, erasing the increases of the last two months.

The number of unemployed Americans receiving unemployment benefits is also dropping sharply because their aid is ending. About 350,000 people saw their benefits cut off in the week of June 19 after Congress left for a week-long recess without extending federal jobless aid. That brings the total to about 1.6 million people who have had their benefits end since May. Those numbers could reach 3.3 million by the end of the month if Congress doesn’t pass an extension when it returns from recess.

Early reports from U.S. retailers show sluggish June sales and shoppers buying mostly deeply discounted clothing amid escalating job worries. June’s lackluster revenue performance is raising concerns about back-to-school shopping and the health of the economic recovery.

Consumer borrowing fell again in May, more evidence that Americans remain jittery over their finances and the durability of the economic recovery. The Federal Reserve said Thursday that borrowing dropped by $9.1 billion in May. It also said borrowing declined by $14.9 billion in April. Consumer borrowing has fallen in 15 of the past 16 months. Credit card borrowing has fallen for 20 straight months.

Wells Fargo says it’s laying off 3,800 employees over the next year as part of a restructuring of its consumer finance unit. The San Francisco-based bank is consolidating Wells Fargo Wells Fargo Financial into its community banking network. The company says 638 independent consumer finance offices will be closed as a result. The layoffs represent about 27% of Wells Fargo Financial’s 14,000 employees.

Iraq

Militants struck across the Iraqi capital Wednesday, killing more than 50 people, including 32 in a suicide bombing that targeted pilgrims commemorating a revered Shiite saint,. The attacks — the deadliest of which occurred in northern Baghdad‘s predominantly Sunni neighborhood of Azamiyah— offered a clear indication of the push by insurgents to exploit Iraq‘s political vacuum and destabilize the country as U.S. troops head home. Police said the bloody suicide bombing that killed 32 and wounded more than 90 people, occurred Wednesday evening air as Shiite pilgrims were about to cross a bridge leading to the a shrine in the Shiite Kazimiyah neighborhood where a revered imam is buried.

Pakistan

A suicide bomber on a motorcycle struck outside a government office Friday in a tribal region where Pakistan‘s army has fought the Taliban, killing at least 48 people and wounding around 80 The attack indicated that militants remain a potent force in Pakistan’s tribal belt, which borders Afghanistan, despite army offensives. The bomber detonated his explosives near the Yakaghund village office of a top administrator of the Mohmand tribal region. Mohmand is one of several areas in Pakistan’s lawless tribal belt where Taliban and al-Qaeda are believed to be hiding. The Pakistani army has carried out operations in Mohmand, but it has been unable to extirpate the militants.

India

ASSIST News Service reports that around 1.2 million children are believed to be involved in prostitution in India. According to the Indian Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) “human trafficking is a major problem” and they believe that 90 percent of human trafficking in India is “intra-country.” Ashwani Kumar, head of the Central Bureau of Investigation, said that India has occupied a “unique position” as what he called a source, transit nation and destination of this trade. India’s home secretary Madhukar Gupta remarked that at least 100 million people were involved in human trafficking in India. Concrete numbers are difficult to determine, but “studies and surveys sponsored by the ministry of women and child development estimate that there are about three million prostitutes in the country, of which an estimated 40 percent are children,” a CBI statement said.

ASSIST News Service also reports that Hindu extremists continue to victimize pastors in India, using anti-conversion laws as an excuse to attack Christians and limit church activities. According to U.K.-based Release International, two pastors were seriously injured on June 23 when they were attacked by men wielding iron bars in Chandapura, Karnataka state. The men accused them of converting people to Christianity by force. Before that attack some extremists reported to be from the Bajrang Dal organization burnt at least seven vehicles belonging to the Jesus With Us Pentecostal Church. The attack followed efforts by Hindu extremists to prevent the church from holding a four-day convention. The gathering went ahead in a different location under police protection.

Nigeria

Nigeria’s religious communities continue to strike each other with sporadic violence, Worthy News reports. Christians in two states of Nigeria are mourning the killings of at least eight Christian believers. “On the night of July 3, several Muslims attacked Kizachi village in Kaduna State and killed five Christians, including a primary school teacher and mother of six children. The Muslims also burned down five Christian homes,” said International Christian Concern (ICC). According to ICC, police stopped protecting the village on July 2 as the government failed to pay their salaries. There was no immediate comment from Nigerian police. The second attack on July 4 happened near the violence-riddled city of Jos, when 200 Muslims armed with guns and machetes stormed Ganawuri community, allegedly killing three Christians.

Earthquakes

An earthquake was felt in the Los Angeles area Wednesday morning. The magnitude-5.9 quake was centered 28 miles south of Palm Springs, the U.S. Geological Survey said. It struck at 4:53 p.m. local time. A Los Angeles County sheriff’s spokeswoman said there have been no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

Weather

Across the East Coast and beyond Wednesday, people felt the effects of one of the worst heat waves in memory. A fourth day of record-breaking temperatures blanketing the East Coast overtaxed power grids, sent Naval Academy plebes to the hospital and just made folks miserable from New York City to Raleigh, N.C. The triple-digit heat shattered records for the date in New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Raleigh and Hartford, Conn., the National Weather Service said. The temperature in Richmond, Va., hit 103. In New York City, where the temperature hit 100, residents maxed out the power grid. Power company Con Edison

broke its 2010 record for peak electricity use at 5 p.m. Tuesday, delivering 12,963 megawatts of power to sweltering New Yorkers. The intense heat and high power demand caused an electrical fire in Washington, destroying several hundred feet of cable that delivers power to parts of the city.

A rain-packed tropical depression collided with the Texas-Mexico border region on Thursday, posing a new threat to cities already struggling with floods along the Rio Grande and its tributaries. Police in Laredo, Texas, were evacuating people in low-lying areas as the rain-swollen Rio Grande rose to more than 30 feet above flood stage and forced closure of at least two bridges linking Mexico and the U.S. Tens of thousands of people already had been forced from their homes in Mexican towns as officials dumped torrents of water into flood-swollen rivers to avoid the risk of dams overflowing out of control due to last week’s Hurricane Alex and its aftermath. Humberto Moreira, the governor of the border state of Coahuila, said that more than 20,000 homes had been flooded in his state alone, and about 80,000 people had “lost all of their furniture.”

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