Dispatches > News

Rhetoric and run-up

"Rhetoric and run-up" Continued...

Issue: "Unstoppable?," April 20, 2013

But the rebels, too, are divided, with some uncertain how long they will support Djotodia, who proclaimed himself president following the coup. Ousted president François Bozizé reportedly fled with hundreds of heavily armed soldiers. “We fear that there will now be no end to the rebellions in the country,” said one worker, who is not identified for security reasons. “Fears remain that the country could become another Somalia.” —Mindy Belz

Legalizing personhood

North Dakota lawmakers on March 22 approved a “personhood” amendment that would ban nearly all abortions in the state, with exceptions for the life of the mother, incest, or rape. North Dakota voters in November 2014 will have to decide whether to add language to the state’s constitution protecting “the inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development.”

The personhood amendment is one of several abortion bans North Dakota has passed this year. Many legal experts think strict laws like the personhood amendment will be overturned in court, but the amendment’s sponsor, state Sen. Margaret Sitte, is hoping for the fight: “We are intending that it be a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, since [Justice Antonin] Scalia said that the Supreme Court is waiting for states to raise a case.”

9/11 cross cleared

A U.S. district court ruled March 29 that a cross-shaped steel beam housed at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum doesn’t violate the U.S. Constitution or mean the museum is “endorsing Christianity.” American Atheists sued the museum in 2011, claiming that displaying the cross affirmed Christianity, disrespected the contributions of non-Christian rescuers, and violated the constitutional separation of church and state.

But U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts rejected those arguments and counter-argued that the cross and its accompanying panels of text demonstrated “how those at ground zero coped with the devastation they witnessed during the rescue and recovery effort.” She ruled that the museum’s creators aren’t advancing religion, nor does the artifact “create excessive entanglement between the state and religion.”

Postmortem

Connecticut police aren’t sure what motivated Adam Lanza to kill 20 first-graders and six teachers and administrators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December, but at the end of March they released police documents from the day of the shooting. 

Search warrants from Lanza’s home, where he killed his mother before heading to the elementary school, showed he had an arsenal of weapons and ammunition, photos of a dead body, and a clipping from an article on a past school shooting. Lanza’s mother purchased all of the guns involved legally. 

According to the newly released information, police arrived at the school on the day of the shooting five minutes after Lanza broke in and found him dead with three guns, including an automatic rifle which he used in the shooting. They recovered 154 spent casings at the school and three unused 30-round magazines in addition to other partly used magazines. This month the Connecticut legislature agreed on details of tighter gun restrictions, including a ban on purchases of the type of high-capacity magazines Lanza used in the school shooting. But Connecticut gun owners will be able to keep their existing high-capacity magazines, a disappointment to gun restriction advocates. For now the U.S. Congress is not moving toward any new gun restrictions.

Busted

This month’s descent of Stockton, Calif., into bankruptcy could have nationwide consequences. The Chapter 9 bankruptcy case may decide whether federal bankruptcy law trumps a California law that says debts to the state pension fund must be honored. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Klein will decide whether Stockton, the most populous city in the nation to file for bankruptcy, will win the protection over objections from creditors who argue the city failed to first pursue all other means to right its financial affairs. If it receives bankruptcy protection, the city begins negotiations over debt repayment that some say could end up in the U.S. Supreme Court. Stockton owes $900 million to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System to cover pension promises.

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