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Associated Press/Photo by Abdel Meguid al-Fergany

Obama's (other) war

and more news briefs

Issue: "Focus on Mitt Romney," July 16, 2011

Trying to patch the White House-Congress dispute over the use of U.S. troops in Libya, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on June 28 passed a resolution authorizing U.S. military involvement for up to one year in the NATO-led mission. But President Barack Obama has mostly brushed off the debate surrounding the legality of his decision to send troops there without seeking congressional consent: "A lot of this fuss is politics," he said the day after the vote. "This operation is limited in time and scope." That attitude hasn't sat well with lawmakers from both parties who say Obama has violated the War Powers Act by not seeking formal congressional approval before joining the Libyan intervention. A majority of the U.S. House, including 70 Democrats, rebuked the president on June 24 by rejecting a resolution to back his use of military force. Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court at The Hague has issued arrest warrants for Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, his son, and his intelligence chief. The June 27 indictments accuse them of masterminding the deaths of hundreds of civilians during the first weeks of the now four-month-old uprising.

Floods & flames

Missouri River floodwaters lapped at a nuclear power plant north of Omaha, Neb., June 28 and broke defenses downstream after weeks of sustained pressure on levees running hundreds of miles. Floodwaters in Minot, N.D., began receding after reaching record-breaking levels in mid-June, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers warned that water levels in the Plains states would remain dangerously high for weeks. "It's touch and go," said corps spokeswoman Shannon Bauer. The North Dakota legislature will likely consider offering more flood relief from ample reserves: The state maintains a $386 million rainy day fund fed by North Dakota's booming oil industry.

In New Mexico, flames from record wildfires threatened the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where the U.S. nuclear weapons program began. But authorities said the largest wildfire in Arizona history, the 850-square-mile scorcher Wallow Fire, was by July 1 over 90 percent contained.

Final decisions

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The U.S. Supreme Court rounded out its current term with two big First Amendment decisions-as the court ruled 7-2 that the state of California could not ban the sale of video games to minors, and decided 5-4 that an Arizona campaign finance law violated the First Amendment. Video games should have the same First Amendment protection as books, wrote Justice Antonin Scalia: "Certainly the books we give children to read-or read to them when they are younger-contain no shortage of gore. Grimm's Fairy Tales, for example, are grim indeed." He wrote that even crude and violent video games "are no less forms of speech than The Divine Comedy."

No waiting around

The House-passed bill that defunds Planned Parenthood may not be going anywhere in the U.S. Senate, but several states aren't waiting to cut the pro-abortion organization's more than $360 million in public funding. Texas became the largest state to do so after Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, and Wisconsin all took steps to eliminate taxpayer funding for the organization. Planned Parenthood has challenged the measures in court-winning a temporary injunction in Kansas-but a poll shows 67 percent of voters oppose public funding for abortions.

And then there were eight

With the arrest of Boston mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger just over a month after the killing of Osama bin Laden, the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List has dropped to a recent low. But punishment is never easy, and now federal prosecutors have concluded that the 81-year-old-arrested on June 23 in Santa Monica, Calif., at the end of a 16-year manhunt-will stand trial for 19 murders rather than the longstanding racketeering charges from which he fled.

"The 19 families of murder victims have been denied justice for many years because the defendant has successfully eluded law enforcement apprehension," wrote Carmen M. Ortiz, the U.S. attorney in Boston, in a court filing. "It is also in the public interest to protect public resources-both executive and judicial-by bringing the defendant to trial on the government's strongest case."

Sudan atrocities

The Nuba Mountains region of Sudan-an area that geographically falls in the North under domination of the Islamic government but demographically is home mostly to black African and Christian Sudanese (plus refugees from Darfur and other war-ravaged areas)-has been a persistent flashpoint of North-South conflict. Now it's again a target of Northern cleansing. What began two weeks ago as door-to-door intimidation ahead of the July 9 independence day for South Sudan and an effort to crush opposition movements in South Kordofan state has turned into a full-on assault by Khartoum's Islamic regime. Armed attacks with aerial support have included indiscriminate bombing and evidence of possible chemical weapons. Nuba leaders estimate that half a million civilians have been displaced-of a population of 2.5 million-and more than 50 towns bombed. Said the Episcopal bishop of Kadugli and the Nuba Mountains, Andudu Adam Elnail: "We are facing the nightmare of genocide of our people in a final attempt to erase our culture and society from the face of the earth."

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