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Associated Press/Photo by Mark J. Terrill

Dispatches

News

Issue: "China's abortion regime," July 26, 2014

JULY 4: Demonstrators from both sides of the immigration debate confront each other outside a U.S. Border Patrol station in Murrieta, Calif. Demonstrators had gathered where the agency was foiled earlier this week in an attempt to bus in and process some of the immigrants who had flooded the Texas border with Mexico.

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Wednesday, June 25

Associated Press/Photo by Rick Bowmer

Dictated change

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declared Utah’s voter-approved same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, claiming homosexual couples have a “fundamental right” to marry. It was the first time the Court of Appeals had upheld gay marriage, an issue likely destined for the U.S. Supreme Court. Judge Paul J. Kelly Jr., one of three judges on the appeals court panel, dissented: “We should resist the temptation to become philosopher-kings, imposing our views under the guise of the Fourteenth Amendment,” he wrote. The same day, a federal judge struck down Indiana’s same-sex marriage ban. Over 500 gay couples in the state received marriage licenses before an appeals court blocked the decision, pending review. The following week, a federal judge struck down Kentucky’s gay marriage ban.

Thursday, June 26

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Supreme determinations 

Pro-lifers rejoiced as the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a Massachusetts law that had established a 35-foot buffer zone between sidewalk counselors and abortion facilities. Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, said buffer zones that bar access to public property like sidewalks do not pass constitutional muster. He did not challenge more flexible buffer zone laws, however, such as one in Colorado that requires protestors to keep 8 feet away from women entering abortion centers. In a separate ruling, the justices rebuked President Obama for making recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board in 2012 while Congress was not officially in recess.

FIFA bites back 

Soccer officials at FIFA gave Uruguayan star striker Luis Suárez the harshest World Cup punishment in history for biting the shoulder of opponent Giorgio Chiellini during Uruguay’s Tuesday match with Italy. They fined Suárez $112,000 and suspended him from the remainder of the World Cup in Brazil and subsequent games until October. Meanwhile, the U.S. men’s team drew unprecedented numbers of American TV viewers and stayed alive until the tournament’s round of 16. They ultimately fell to Belgium 2-1 in overtime July 1—though U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard made 16 saves, a World Cup record. (See “Game changers.”)

A Coke and a smile

New York City’s attempt to outlaw large sodas came to an end after officials lost their final appeal. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s anti-obesity policy would have banned the sale of sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces in city restaurants, stadiums, street carts, and theaters. But the New York State Court of Appeals said the city’s Board of Health overstepped its authority in imposing the rule.

Friday, June 27

Petro Poroshenko
Associated Press/Photo by Olivier Hoslet
Petro Poroshenko

Ukraine signs

President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine signed a long-awaited trade agreement with the European Union, waving off Russian hostility to the deal. It was the same trade agreement Poroshenko’s predecessor, Viktor Yanukovych, had failed to sign last November, setting in motion protests in Kiev, conflict between pro-Western and pro-Russian Ukrainians, and the Russian takeover of the Crimean peninsula. Former Soviet republics Moldova and Georgia signed EU trade agreements alongside Ukraine. Four days after the deal, Poroshenko launched a new military offensive against pro-Russian militias in eastern Ukraine after they ignored demands to relinquish control of border checkpoints during a cease-fire.

Archbishop removed

The Vatican removed an archbishop and former church ambassador, Jozef Wesolowski, 65, from the priesthood after an internal investigation found him guilty of sexually abusing children. Wesolowski is the highest-ranking Vatican official to be investigated for child sex abuse. He has two months to appeal, and he faces a criminal trial in Vatican City. In May the Holy See said it had defrocked 848 priests in its investigation of sex abuse. It has not defrocked any bishops for covering up sexual abuse and moving predator priests to different parishes.

Sunday, June 29

Nigerian terror 

Militants apparently belonging to Muslim terrorist group Boko Haram fired on residents and Christian worshippers in four villages in northeastern Nigeria, killing at least 50. The villages were near the town of Chibok in a largely Christian enclave where Boko Haram fighters kidnapped 276 schoolgirls in April. Over 2,000 people have died this year in Boko Haram–linked bombings and violence. Some good news: On the first weekend in July at least 63 kidnapped women and girls (not the schoolgirls abducted from Chibok) escaped from the terrorist group.

Caliphate claim 

Sunni Islamist insurgents sweeping through northern and western Iraq declared their organization, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the center of a new caliphate, or global Islamic empire. The pretentious announcement on the first day of Ramadan called on other Muslim groups to pledge allegiance to leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi—a demand likely to kindle further infighting with rival extremist groups like al-Qaeda. A day later, the Obama administration announced it would send 300 U.S. troops to Iraq. That brought to about 750 the U.S. military personnel assigned to provide logistical and moral support to the Iraqi army.

Monday, June 30

Obama and McDonald
Dennis Brack/Black Star/Getty Images
Obama and McDonald

VA replacement

President Obama announced his surprise pick for the new secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs—not a career military general but former Procter & Gamble chief executive Robert McDonald, a Republican donor. Although McDonald spent five years in the Army, he has spent the past 34 primarily at P&G, where he worked to streamline the company and cut costs. “Bob is an expert at making organizations better,” said Obama. If the Senate confirms him, McDonald would replace Eric Shinseki, who resigned in May amid the VA scandal over long healthcare waiting lists.

More recalls

General Motors recalled an additional 8.2 million vehicles for an ignition switch problem that could cause the engine to shut off unexpectedly. The company put safety recalls into high gear after receiving a $35 million federal penalty for ignoring ignition switch defects linked to 13 deaths. The automaker has recalled 29 million vehicles this year, but buyers don’t seem to mind: June sales for GM were up 1 percent from the year before.

Tuesday, July 1

Netanyahu eulogizes teenagers
Associated Press/Photo by Baz Ratner
Netanyahu eulogizes teenagers

Flared conflict

Israeli forces launched 34 airstrikes against militant targets in Gaza in what they said was retaliation for Palestinian rocket attacks. The strikes came the morning after searchers found the bodies of three kidnapped Israeli teenagers beneath a pile of rocks. “Hamas is responsible, and Hamas will pay,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, blaming the killings on the Palestinian terrorist organization. Public anger over the teens’ deaths sparked violent protests and possibly a revenge murder: Suspected Jewish vigilantes abducted off the street a Palestinian teen and burned him alive. Tensions rose to precarious heights as the two sides exchanged retaliatory rocket fire.

Bogus bills? 

Federal regulators accused telecom giant T-Mobile of receiving hundreds of millions of dollars from mobile texting services its customers never authorized. Many customers unknowingly paid $9.99 a month for third-party texting services providing horoscopes or celebrity gossip, with T-Mobile taking a cut of the fee, but the Federal Trade Commission said the company had received enough customer complaints to know the services were likely bogus. T-Mobile called the FTC claim “unfounded and without merit.”

Thursday, July 3

Associated Press/Photo by Wilfredo Lee

Job prospects

A jobs report from the U.S. Labor Department was even better than economists expected: The United States added 288,000 nonfarm jobs in June, while the unemployment rate dropped to 6.1 percent—the lowest since September 2008. Five straight months of strong jobs numbers suggested the economy’s health is improving. At news of the rosy report, the Dow Jones industrial average traded above 17,000 for the first time in history. Analysts noted, however, that the labor force participation rate is unchanged at a low 62.8 percent for the third month in a row.

Stuck in Sudan

After escaping a death sentence for apostasy, Sudanese Christian Meriam Ibrahim faced a fresh lawsuit from relatives trying to convict her of leaving Islam. The new suit aims to prove Meriam was born to a Muslim family, although Ibrahim has previously testified she was raised a Christian. Ibrahim, her husband, and her two children took refuge at the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum after authorities blocked them from boarding a plane and accused them of forging travel documents.

Friday, July 4

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Arthur arrives

A Category 2 hurricane postponed the beach and barbecue plans of thousands of Americans vacationing on the East Coast for the Fourth of July—and prompted the Boston Pops Orchestra to perform its holiday concert a day early. Hurricane Arthur made landfall in North Carolina Thursday night with 100 mph winds, causing over 20,000 residents to lose power. But it weakened quickly on Friday and moved northwest, dumping rain on Atlantic states and leaving minimal damage.

Chinese pastor jailed

A Chinese court sentenced Zhang Shaojle, a Christian pastor from Henan province, to 12 years in prison for alleged fraud and "gathering crowds to disturb public order," according to the pastor's lawyer. Zhang's supporters say the charges are fabricated, coming amid a Communist Party crackdown on the growing Christian church. Authorities arrested Zhang last November over what church members said was a government attempt to seize church land. (For more on the church in China, see “China beachhead” in this issue.)

Saturday & Sunday, July 5-6

Slovyansk
Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images
Slovyansk

Rebels fall back

Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko said his army had reached a “breakthrough” in its fight against rebels in the country’s east, recapturing the city of Slovyansk Saturday, a former stronghold for the pro-Russian separatists. The rebels regrouped in Donetsk, a city of 1 million, where the battle could take the form of street-to-street combat. Russian President Vladimir Putin failed to answer openly the insurgents’ plea for intervention. “We will fight to the end because we have nowhere left to retreat,” one rebel told the Associated Press. The fighting has killed 400 since April.

Wimbledon winners 

Czech tennis champion Petra Kvitova won her second women’s singles title at Wimbledon Saturday by trouncing Canadian Eugenie Bouchard in a 6-3, 6-0 match that lasted only 55 minutes. Media darling Bouchard, 20, was the first Canadian to reach a Grand Slam final. On Sunday, Novak Djokovic battled and prevailed against the player with more Grand Slam titles (17) than any other, 32-year-old Roger Federer, for the men’s singles title. Djokovic, from Serbia, has won seven Grand Slam titles. Federer plans to continue playing next year.

Monday, July 7

Concussion deal 

U.S. District Judge Anita Brody approved a long-awaited deal between the NFL and former football players who may have suffered concussions during games. To satisfy the judge, the league removed a $675 million cap on injury payouts. Under the deal, still subject to a fairness hearing scheduled for November, former players with conditions like Lou Gehrig’s disease or dementia would receive thousands or millions of dollars in compensation for brain injury claims, depending on their age and condition.

Big bird 

A scientist said he had identified the largest extinct flying bird on record, Pelagornis sandersi, a fossil with a wingspan of 21 feet or more—about twice as large as an albatross. Study author Daniel Ksepka had to run computer simulations to ensure the gigantic bird was capable of liftoff. Indeed, the long wings made the bird “capable of highly efficient gliding,” Ksepka wrote in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The fossil was originally found in Charleston, S.C., in 1983, and has been sitting in a museum drawer.

Tuesday, July 8

Associated Press/Photo by Eyad Baba

Ratcheting up 

Tit-for-tat conflict in Israel showed no sign of cooling as Israel bombed over 50 more targets linked with Hamas and other militant groups. The new strikes came a day after militants in Gaza launched about 80 rockets and mortars into southern Israel, driving civilians into bomb shelters. The Israel Defense Forces announced on Twitter it had “commenced Operation Protective Edge in Gaza against Hamas in order to stop the terror Israel’s citizens face on a daily basis.” Israel called out several thousand reserve troops in preparation for a possible ground invasion, and military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner promised “a gradual increase in the pressure we are putting on Hamas.”

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