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Banner day

Drivers in Atlanta, Ga., discovered an unusual warning when they tuned into local traffic reports on Aug. 1: Watch for delays near Chick-fil-A restaurants.

That's because throngs of customers flooded Chick-fil-A restaurants in Atlanta (where the restaurant chain is headquartered) and around the country for what former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee dubbed "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day."

The event came after Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy faced a firestorm of criticism for expressing support for the biblical definition of marriage. Boston mayor Thomas Menino said the restaurant wasn't welcome in his city. Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel said, "Chick-fil-A's values aren't Chicago's values." And Washington, D.C., mayor Vincent Gray called the restaurant's product "hate chicken."

Huckabee and others responded by defending Cathy's right to free speech and called on customers to support the restaurant particularly on Aug. 1. Restaurant owners around the country reported traffic snarls and record sales.

On a Facebook page, Huckabee explained the effort: "Too often, those on the left make corporate statements to show support for same-sex marriage, abortion, or profanity, but if Christians affirm traditional values, we're considered homophobic, fundamentalists, hate-mongers, and intolerant."

Indeed, on July 27, Jeff Bezos-founder and CEO of Amazon.com-made an announcement that attracted far less attention: He and his wife donated $2.5 million to support same-sex marriage in Washington state.

Curious mission

After an eight-month spaceflight and a difficult, nail-biting landing maneuver, NASA's $2.5 billion Curiosity rover touched down on Mars a little after 1 a.m. (Eastern time) on Aug. 6. The safe landing seemed to indicate American space ingenuity still thrives: NASA engineers used a heat shield, a 51-foot-wide parachute, and eight rocket thrusters to slow the Curiosity spacecraft's 13,000 mph descent through the Martian atmosphere to a hovering standstill, from which the automobile-sized rover was lowered to the planet's surface using nylon cables.

Curiosity is equipped with a drill, a laser strong enough to vaporize stone, instruments for analyzing the chemical makeup of Martian rocks, and 17 cameras. During the plutonium-powered rover's two-year mission, it will explore sediment layers in 3-mile-high Mount Sharp and search for carbon, oxygen, phosphorous, sulfur, and nitrogen-elements NASA scientists think could have allowed Mars to host life in the past.

Winners' fee

Members of the House and Senate have filed bills aimed at exempting Olympic athletes from paying taxes on their medals and prize money. Reps. Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif., and G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., filed the House measure, saying in a joint statement that "only the U.S. tax code can turn the 'thrill of victory' into the agony of victory." Reps. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., and Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., filed similar bills.

The United States Olympic Committee pays athletes for each gold ($25,000), silver ($15,000), and bronze ($10,000) medal they win, and the Internal Revenue Service taxes those earnings at 35 percent. That means 17-year-old swimmer Missy Franklin-who won four golds and a bronze-will have a $38,500 tax bill when she gets home. Swimmer Michael Phelps won four golds and two silvers, giving him a record 22 lifetime Olympic medals. His tax bill for the London games: $45,500.

While it is unclear whether the idea of exempting Olympic medal winnings from taxes will have enough momentum to become law after the London games end, it was quickly endorsed by Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. The exemption would be retroactive to Dec. 31, 2011, to cover this year's Olympians.

Cruz to victory

Tea Party-backed Ted Cruz upset the Texas political establishment with a convincing win July 31 over Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the state's GOP primary runoff for an open U.S. Senate seat. The Tea Party already has enjoyed victories this year in Senate primaries in Indiana and Nebraska. But the come-from-behind underdog win in super-sized Texas, with its powerfully entrenched state Republican Party, provides an even greater boost for the Tea Party in its nationwide power struggle with traditional Republicans.

"Tonight is a victory for the grassroots," Cruz said at his victory rally. "This is how elections are supposed to be decided, by we the people." Dewhurst had the support of Texas Gov. Rick Perry while high-profile Tea Party figures like Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and Sarah Palin campaigned for Cruz. A former Texas solicitor general who memorized the Constitution as a high-school student, Cruz would become the first Hispanic to represent Texas in the U.S. Senate. Texas has not elected a Democrat to statewide office since 1994.


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