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Dispatches

News | Top stories from June 26 through July 9

Issue: "Effective compassion," July 27, 2013

Wednesday, June 26

Edward Markey
Associated Press/Photo by Elise Amendola
Edward Markey

Markey wins

Massachusetts voters learned U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., defeated Republican Gabriel Gomez in the special election for the U.S. Senate, meaning Democrats will hold the seat that John Kerry gave up to become secretary of state. Republicans had hoped to repeat the 2010 upset when Republican Scott Brown won the special election to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, but Markey won the seat with a comfortable 55 percent to 45 percent margin.

Falling star 

Prosecutors said Aaron Hernandez, a tight end for the New England Patriots, shot and killed Odin Lloyd after a dispute at a Boston nightclub on June 14. Hernandez, who had recently signed a $40 million contract extension with the Patriots, pleaded not guilty. 

Thursday, June 27

iStock

Sugar low

Students seeking cookies, ice cream, and high-calorie drinks will have to find them somewhere other than school. The U.S. Department of Agriculture finalized regulations that banned such items from school cafeterias and vending machines. Diet soft drinks, granola bars, and baked potato chips made the cut, and bake sales will remain free to offer sugary foods. The regulations, authorized by a child nutrition law passed by Congress in 2010, are part of the government’s campaign against rising childhood obesity in the United States.

Eye in the sky 

NASA launched a satellite named Iris that has the mission of taking a new look at the sun. NASA hopes the 400-pound satellite can help the agency better forecast space weather that disrupts communications systems on Earth. Equipped with an ultraviolet telescope that can take high-resolution images every few seconds, Iris will remain in orbit for two years.

Saturday, June 29

President Obama
Associated Press/Photo by Jerome Delay
President Obama

On to the House

President Obama, during a trip to South Africa, urged the U.S. House to pass an immigration overhaul before its August recess. Two days earlier, the Senate had voted 68-32 to pass a massive bill that would strengthen border security and create a 13-year path to citizenship for the country’s estimated 11 million illegal immigrants. There was little indication House leaders would heed Obama’s call and move quickly: Many House members are concerned that the Senate bill legalizes immigrants before security measures are in place. 

Canadian refuge

Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced that Rimsha Masih, a Pakistani Christian girl falsely accused of burning pages from the Quran, had arrived in Canada. A cleric in Pakistan had accused Masih of burning pages from the Quran. She was acquitted of the charge, but she and her family went into hiding to avoid vigilante mobs that often attack and kill Pakistanis accused of blasphemy. Official reports state Masih’s age as 14, but some of her supporters claim she is 11.

Sunday, June 30

Dean Smith watches as the Yarnell Hill Fire encroaches on his home in Glenn Ilah.
Associated Press/Photo by David Kadlubowski/The Arizona Republic
Dean Smith watches as the Yarnell Hill Fire encroaches on his home in Glenn Ilah.

Western blaze

A fire near Yarnell, Ariz., that started on June 28 killed 19 firefighters as it quickly grew into a 13-square-mile inferno that destroyed 200 homes in less than 24 hours. The fire was started by lightning, and triple-digit temperatures helped spread the blaze. The loss of 19 of the elite 20-member Granite Mountain Hotshots was the highest firefighter death toll since 9/11.

Beginner’s skill 

Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers had the best first month in Major League baseball since Joe DiMaggio. With four hits on June 30, Puig achieved 44 hits in his first 101 at-bats. Puig escaped from Cuba last year and signed a seven-year, $42 million contract with the Dodgers. 

Monday, July 1

Kristen McCloskey leads a class of third graders at Olivenhain Pioneer Elementary School in Encinitas, Calif.
Associated Press/Photo by Gregory Bull
Kristen McCloskey leads a class of third graders at Olivenhain Pioneer Elementary School in Encinitas, Calif.

Secular yoga?

Yoga is not religious, at least not when taught by the Encinitas Union School District in California, ruled Superior Court Judge John S. Meyer. Some parents had argued in court that the San Diego district’s teaching of Ashtanga Yoga to schoolchildren amounts to an unconstitutional establishment of religion. The classes are sponsored by the Jois Foundation, which says on its website that Ashtanga Yoga is “an ancient system that can lead to liberation and greater awareness of our spiritual potential.” Judge Meyer said the district, however, teaches yoga in a non-religious way to promote strength, flexibility, and balance. The plaintiffs plan to appeal the ruling.

American abroad 

Russian President Vladimir Putin said NSA leaker Edward Snowden could remain in Russia as long as he stopped revealing American secrets. “There is one condition if he wants to remain here: He must stop his work aimed at damaging our American partners. As odd as it may sound from me,” Putin said. Snowden said he wanted to leave Russia, suggesting he may have more secret material he wishes to make public. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro offered Snowden asylum on July 5.

Tuesday, July 2

Valerie Jarrett
Associated Press/Photo by Donald Traill
Valerie Jarrett

Wait til next year

With the economy struggling through a recovery and with midterm elections next year, the Obama administration announced that it will postpone a key Obamacare regulation. The requirement that companies with more than 50 employees provide health insurance to workers will take effect in 2015 instead of Jan. 1, 2014. “In our ongoing discussions with businesses we have heard that you need the time to get this right,” said senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett. “We are listening.” Republicans said the delay shows the weaknesses of the law. “The White House seems to slowly be admitting what Americans already know … that Obamacare needs to be repealed and replaced with common-sense reforms that actually lower costs for Americans,” said Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

Deadly prescriptions 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 15,300 women took overdoses of painkillers in 2010, a sharp increase. “These are dangerous medications,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, “and they should be reserved for situations like severe cancer pain.”

Wednesday, July 3

Associated Press/Photo by Amr Nabil

No more Morsi

The Egyptian military announced it had removed President Mohamed Morsi from office and placed the Muslim Brotherhood leader under house arrest. The military said Egypt’s chief justice will serve as interim president. Opposition to Morsi had been growing as he stacked Egypt’s government with members of the Muslim Brotherhood, imposed an Islamist constitution on the country, and presided over an economic tailspin. By late June, Egyptians in record numbers took to the streets to demand Morsi’s resignation.

Bathroom break 

The California Assembly approved a bill that requires public schools to allow transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms and join sports teams based on their gender “identity.” Opponents said youthful sex offenders may use the bill for abusive ends. Said Brad Dacus of the Pacific Justice Institute: “Students using bathrooms, locker rooms, or school showers should not have the anxiety and uncertainty and fear that any time someone from the opposite sex could come in and there would be no retribution for doing so.”

Pro-life win 

In a surprise move, the state Senate in North Carolina passed an amendment to an unrelated bill that would ban taxpayer funding for abortions, protect freedom of conscience for all healthcare professionals, and require abortion centers to meet the facility standards of ambulatory surgical centers. Only one of the state’s 16 abortion centers currently meets those standards. An estimated 500 protesters showed up on one-night’s notice and chanted “shame” at the senators after the vote.

Thursday, July 4

Fireworks explode in the air and on the ground (top); victims are treated by medical personnel (bottom).
Top: Zach Reister/AP • Bottom: Wendy Pierro/The Ventura County Star/AP
Fireworks explode in the air and on the ground (top); victims are treated by medical personnel (bottom).

Errant blast

A blast at a fireworks show northwest of Los Angeles injured dozens on Independence Day. Investigators suspected that a premature explosion knocked over other fireworks, aiming them at a crowd of thousands and setting them off. The resulting shrapnel injured 39 people. Nationwide, the American Pyrotechnics Association expected fireworks sales this year to beat last year’s total of $645 million. Drought conditions last year prompted communities in the Midwest to ban fireworks.

Saturday and Sunday, July 6-7

Associated Press/Photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez

Crash landing

A dramatic evacuation saved the lives of 305 of the 307 passengers on Asiana Airlines Flight 214 after the Boeing 777 crashed at San Francisco’s international airport. The two people killed in the crash, Chinese students Ye Mengyuan, 17, and Wang Linjia, 16, were on their way to a summer program at West Valley Christian Church and School in West Hills, Calif. Investigators were trying to determine whether the cause of the crash was pilot error or a problem with the plane’s or airport’s equipment.

British win 

Britain’s Andy Murray won the men’s championship at Wimbledon on July 7, becoming the first British man to win the title in 77 years. Murray defeated Novak Djokovic 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 in front of 15,000 spectators at the All England Club. Fred Perry in 1936 was the last British man to win Wimbledon.

‘War zone’

Authorities in Quebec said at least 15 people were dead and about 40 were missing after a runaway train derailed near the town of Lac-Mégantic on July 6. Blasts from burning oil tanker cars devastated the town of 6,000, causing Fire Chief Denis Lauzon to compare Lac-Mégantic to “a war zone.” Several of the cars in the 73-car train burned for days.

Monday, July 8

Texas Gov. Rick Perry
Associated Press/Photo by Ricardo Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman
Texas Gov. Rick Perry

Rick running?

Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced that he will not seek re-election in 2014 but also didn’t rule out any “future considerations” such as a presidential run in 2016. Perry recently rehired long-time aide Mark Miner, one of his advisers during his short-lived presidential bid in 2012.

Bill blocked 

U.S. District Judge William Conley  delayed a pro-life bill in Wisconsin that was set to take effect July 8. The law, signed by Gov. Scott Walker, would require abortion centers to have hospital admission privileges within 30 miles. A second hearing on the law was scheduled for July 17.

Tuesday, July 9

Michelle Knight
Associated Press/Photo by Hennes Paynter Communications
Michelle Knight

Ready to speak

Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight, and Gina DeJesus, the three women held captive in a Cleveland house for 10 years by abductor Ariel Castro, spoke to the public for the first time since their escape two months ago. “We need to take a leap of faith and know that God is in control,” said Knight. “We have been hurt by people, but we need to rely on God as being the judge. God has a plan for all of us. The plan that He gave me is to help others who have been in the same situation I have been in.” Castro faces hundreds of charges, including murder for allegedly beating Knight until she miscarried several children he had conceived with her.

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