Nearly 100 days after oil began gushing into Gulf Coast waters, BP announced plans aimed at plugging its own corporate problems: The company said embattled CEO Tony Hayward would resign his post on Oct. 1. His replacement-Robert Dudley-would become the first American to head the British company. Dudley grew up in Hattiesburg, Miss., and took over cleanup operations on the Gulf Coast after a series of blunders by Hayward.
Workers temporarily capped the well on July 15, and BP said it hoped to finish a permanent relief well by mid-August. Plenty of work still remains: Government scientists estimate the gusher has poured some 94 million gallons of oil into the Gulf. But the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration offered some good news: The federal agency is re-opening some 26,000 square miles of federal waters to recreational and commercial fishing. That leaves about 25 percent of federal waters in the Gulf (and thousands of square miles of state waters) off limits.
Believe or leave
Jennifer Keeton, 24, doesn't believe that homosexuality is biological; she thinks it is a lifestyle choice. Augusta State University, where she is pursuing a master's degree in counseling, has ordered her to enter a remedial program or face expulsion. The Georgia school sent her a notice questioning her ability to be a "multiculturally competent counselor."
In the program, she would be required to attend several gay sensitivity training courses and participate in activities like Augusta's gay pride parade for "exposure and interactions with gay populations." While the school opposes the view that homosexuality is a choice, it has encouraged her to read material that defines gender as a choice. She would be required to submit a monthly two-page reflection on how the program has influenced her beliefs, so the school can "decide the appropriateness of her continuation in the counseling program."
Keeton, backed by the Alliance Defense Fund, has filed suit against the school for violating her First Amendment rights.
Case not quite closed
In a setback for gay marriage advocates, the New Jersey Supreme Court has refused to hear a case in which same-sex couples allege that the state violates their civil rights by not allowing gay marriage. The litigants said that even though New Jersey allows civil unions, they still experience discrimination and do not have the "full rights and benefits enjoyed by heterosexual married couples."
The Supreme Court did not comment on the constitutionality of their claim but voted 3-3 to tell the litigants that they should first file an action with a lower court. (A case needs four votes to be heard directly by the high court.) In a dissenting opinion, Justice Virginia Long said she was "disappointed" that the other three judges chose not to hear the case and said the court should address the possible "constitutional inequities" without "any unnecessary delay."
With the case going to a lower court, Len Deo, head of New Jersey's Family Policy Council and a supporter of traditional marriage, told NBC News that the battle wasn't over: "I'm not gonna say I'm worried, but obviously we're in this for the long haul."
'We don't have the votes'
Short on votes, Senate Democrats on July 22 shelved ambitious climate legislation. The move put an early end to at least one controversial congressional overhaul bill before November's elections. Already bracing for mid-term losses in Congress, Democrats determined that federal encroachment on the energy industry is one big regulatory bill too many.
The collapse of the complex measure means Democrats failed in their agenda to implement the nation's first-ever cap on carbon emissions. "It's easy to count to 60. I could do it by the time I was in eighth grade," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, referencing the 60-vote threshold needed to avoid a filibuster in the Senate. "My point is this, we know where we are. We know we don't have the votes." Instead Democrats will now push a watered-down energy bill, tied mainly to responding to the Gulf oil spill, that is likely to garner a few Republican votes.
Still, the Senate's surrender of the original overhaul puts dozens of House Democrats in precarious positions heading into November. Last summer the House passed, by a seven-vote margin, its 1,200-page regulation of the nation's energy use. With no backing from the Senate, vulnerable House members with their jobs on the line in swing districts will have a more difficult time justifying their votes to Washington-weary voters.
Environmentalists hoping to limit the carbon use of Americans will now push for the EPA to unilaterally impose a cap. Some senators are also reportedly hoping to revisit the matter in a lame duck session of Congress after the November elections.
Hope Award voting continues
Online voting for the 2010 winner of the Hope Award for Effective Compassion continues until Aug. 26-near the end of July two contenders were neck-and-neck. Go to worldmag.com to see the Final Four and choose your favorite: Rock Ministries (Northeast region winner), Advance Memphis (South region), Freedom for Youth (Midwest region), or New Horizons (West region).
An audit review of U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) reveals USAID has given at least $23 million to grantees who are pushing a Kenyan constitution that liberalizes abortion law. The new constitution is supposed to create checks and balances and protect freedoms, but it also changes Kenya's strict abortion law to allow a "trained health professional" to authorize abortion "for emergency treatment" or if the life or health of the mother is in danger.
Jeff Sagnip, spokesperson for Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., said of the abortion language, "It's vague enough of a loophole that you could drive a truck through it." Because the funds went to grantees who agreed to push for a yes vote, Smith and other Republican congressmen say that the funds violate an amendment that prohibits using U.S. foreign assistance funds to lobby for or against abortion.
Dona Dinkler-spokesperson for the inspector general's office, which is conducting the review-stressed that the review is not over and said, "We have no evidence-no information that USAID has done anything illegal." A July Infotrak Harris poll showed 65 percent of Kenyans saying they would vote for the constitution on Aug. 4. Of the 25 percent who said they would vote no, 59 percent said they were voting no because the constitution "permits abortion."
In blocking key provisions of Arizona's controversial immigration law, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton may have ensured that illegal immigration and border security will be high-profile issues in the 2010 elections. On July 28, one day before the law was scheduled to take effect, Bolton put parts of the law on hold until they are resolved by courts.
Specifically, the Clinton appointee blocked sections of the law that require police officers, while enforcing other laws, to check a person's immigration status if they have a reasonable suspicion that the person is an illegal immigrant. She also blocked provisions that require legal immigrants to carry their papers and prohibit illegal immigrants from seeking jobs in public places.
Republican candidates in Arizona, but also as far away as Arkansas and Tennessee, denounced the ruling and pledged to make illegal immigration and border security central issues in their campaigns. Democrats, meanwhile, sought to use the issue to bolster Hispanic support in California and other states. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, pledged to fight for the law: "This is a little road bump. I will battle all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary, for the right to protect the citizens of Arizona."
Overall, the Arizona law is popular. A CNN/Opinion Research poll in July found that 55 percent of Americans favor Arizona's law and 40 percent oppose it. Other surveys have put support as high as 61 percent.
Sixteen years after Rwanda became infamous for a Hutu-led genocide that killed some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus, international observers worry that a new wave of human-rights abuses is corrupting the political landscape. The United Nations has demanded a full investigation into allegations of politically motivated murders of opposition leaders ahead of the country's August elections.
President Paul Kagame-a Tutsi credited with ending the 1994 genocide-now faces allegations of suppressing opposition to his bid for re-election to another seven-year term. Government officials have banned two opposition newspapers from publishing and have harassed opposition politicians. In late July, unidentified assailants beheaded opposition leader Andre Kagwa Rwisereka in southern Rwanda. Other recent murder victims included a human-rights lawyer and a journalist investigating the attempted murder of another Kagame opponent. Rwandan officials deny any involvement in the murders.
Center of moderation?
A public outcry has followed the news that Muslim leaders plan to build a community center and place of worship two blocks from Ground Zero in New York City. The National Republican Trust PAC released an ad showing images of 9/11 with the message, "Where we weep, they rejoice" and "Kill the Ground Zero Mosque." Both Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich spoke against the project with Gingrich saying, "There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia."
The leaders of the initiative say the $100 million, 13-story community center is not a mosque but a prayer space since it contains space for musical performance and a restaurant-neither of which are allowed in mosques. The leaders also changed the name of the project from "Cordoba House" to "Park 51" after critics noted that Cordoba is the name of a Spanish city conquered by Muslims in the eighth century.
At a press conference, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf-chairman of the Cordoba Initiative-said the project was an expression of moderate Muslims "who have condemned and continue to condemn terrorism." Members of his congregation died in the attacks, and he said Park 51's leaders are committed to rebuilding the community with cooperation from non-Muslims. But Rauf has also said the United States' taking of lives overseas made it an accessory to 9/11. He told CBS' 60 Minutes just after the 9/11 attacks, "I wouldn't say that the United States deserved what happened, but United States policies were an accessory to the crime."
Adrift in a sea of oil
Chinese workers and volunteers endured brutal conditions while cleaning up an oil spill that began on July 16 after two pipelines exploded at the port city of Dalian in northeast China. Workers braved the thickly polluted waters to save a man who nearly drowned after attempting to fix an underwater pipe.
Chinese newspapers reported workers initially using other primitive methods to remove oil from the water and shore, including plastic bags, straw mats, bare hands, and chopsticks. A week later, efforts had grown more sophisticated, and workers had dumped some 23 tons of oil-eating bacteria into the waters.
Officials estimated the oil affected some 140 square miles of the Yellow Sea, saying it was China's largest oil spill in years.