U.S. NEWS BRIEFS
For Thanksgiving Travelers, A Smooth Trip Home
SEATTLE (AP) — Travelers heading home after the long Thanksgiving weekend had yet another reason to be thankful on Sunday: favorable weather and few airport delays reported on what is traditionally the busiest travel day of the year. Although there was little elbow room on packed buses, trains and airplanes, travel appeared to be running smoothly as millions of people trekked home after feasting with family and friends. Experts had predicted a slight rise in the number of people traveling this Thanksgiving weekend compared to last year. Some 43.6 million Americans were expected to journey 50 miles or more between Wednesday and Sunday, and more of them were likely to be driving while fewer were flying, according to AAA's yearly analysis. Mauro Scappa and his wife, Chris, and their two children were among those who chose not to take to the skies. They braced themselves for delays as they waited at New York’s Penn Station for a train back to Washington, near their home in Falls Church, Va. But their train was expected on time Sunday morning. “We definitely wanted to avoid the airport on Thanksgiving weekend, for sure,” Scappa said. Renee Kerns, her husband Mike and their two children left about 30 minutes earlier than usual to catch a flight to home to California. They anticipated longer lines at the Washington-area Dulles International Airport, but sailed through security in about 10 minutes and were at their gate for their 8:30 a.m. flight to Oakland, Calif., more than an hour before their flight. “It was fine,” Renee Kerns said of getting through security. Added her husband: “Easy, but we’re early.” Helped by dry weather and mostly clear skies, both O’Hare and Midway international airports in Chicago reported normal operations Sunday with no delays. Leonard Reddick, 29, waited near downtown Chicago for a bus back to Flint, Mich. He traveled on Thanksgiving day to see his sister in the Chicago area, explaining that it’s his trick for avoiding the huge crowds on the day before the holiday. He also liked the $84 roundtrip fare. Reddick, who works at General Motors, was rethinking one decision as he was gearing up for the five-hour trip back home to Michigan: He had declined the turkey and mac and cheese leftovers because he thought it might mess up his luggage. The tens of millions of holiday travelers also included a few thousand users of Megabus, the ultra-cheap inter-city network popular among students and the creative class. Shane Dillon, 26, a librarian now living and seeking work in Chicago, joined the throng waiting to board at Detroit’s Rosa Parks Transit Center for the return trip to the Windy City. He was in the area visiting relatives in Allen Park, Mich. “It was great to see family and friends. The food was good,” Dillon said. A few days, though, was enough. “I’m glad to be going home.”
Cyber Monday Likely to Be Busiest Online Sales Day NEW YORK (AP) — Bye-bye Black Friday. So long Small Business Saturday. Now, it’s Cyber Monday's turn. Cyber Monday, coined in 2005 by a shopping trade group that noticed online sales spiked on the Monday following Thanksgiving, is the next in a series of days that stores are counting on to jumpstart the holiday shopping season. It’s estimated that this year’s Cyber Monday will be the biggest online shopping day of the year for the third year in a row: According to research firm comScore, Americans are expected to spend $1.5 billion, up 20 percent from last year on Cyber Monday, as retailers have ramped up their deals to get shoppers to click on their websites. Amazon.com, which is starting its Cyber Monday deals at midnight on Monday, is offering as much as 60 percent off a Panasonic VIERA 55-inch TV that's usually priced higher than $1,000. Sears is offering $430 off a Maytag washer and dryer, each on sale for $399. And Kmart is offering 75 percent off all of its diamond earrings and $60 off a 12in-1 multigame table on sale for $89.99. Retailers are hoping the deals will appeal to shoppers like Matt Sexton, 39, who for the first time plans to complete all of his holiday shopping online this year on his iPad tablet computer. Sexton, who plans to spend up to $4,000 this season, already shopped online on the day after Thanksgiving known as Black Friday and found a laptop from Best Buy for $399, a $200 savings, among other deals. “The descriptions and reviews are so much better online so you can compare and price shop and for the most part get free shipping,” said Sexton, who lives in Queens, N.Y., and is a manager at a utility company. Sexton also said that it’s easier to return an online purchase to a physical store than it had been in previous years. “That helps with gifts,” he said. How well retailers fare on Cyber Monday will offer insight into Americans' evolving shopping habits during the holiday shopping season, a time when stores can make up to 40 percent of their annual revenue. With the growth in high speed Internet access and the wide use of smartphones and tablets, people are relying less on their work computers to shop than they did when Shop.org, the digital division of trade group The National Retail Federation, introduced the term “Cyber Monday.” “People years ago didn’t have ... connectivity to shop online at their homes. So when they went back to work after Thanksgiving they’d shop on the Monday after,” said Vicki Cantrell, executive director of Shop.org. “Now they don’t need the work computer to be able to do that.”
THE CORNELL DAILY SUN | Monday, November 26, 2012 7
Benefits Fight Brings Lesbian Couple to Court SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Like a lot of newlyweds, Karen Golinski was eager to enjoy the financial fruits of marriage. Within weeks of her wedding, she applied to add her spouse to her employer-sponsored health care plan, a move that would save the couple thousands of dollars a year. Her ordinarily routine request still is being debated more than four years later, and by the likes of former attorneys general, a slew of senators, the Obama administration and possibly this week, the U.S. Supreme Court. Because Golinski is married to another woman and works for the U.S. government, her claim for benefits has morphed into a multi-layered legal challenge to a 1996 law that prohibits the federal government from recognizing unions like hers. The high court has scheduled a closed-door conference for Friday to review Golinski’s case and four others that also seek to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act overwhelmingly approved by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton. The purpose of the meeting is to decide which, if any, to put on the court's schedule for arguments next year. The outcome carries economic and social consequences for gay, lesbian and bisexual couples, who now are unable to access Social Security survivor benefits, file joint income taxes, inherit a deceased spouse's pension or obtain family health insurance. The other plaintiffs in the cases pending before the court include the state of Massachusetts, 13 couples and five widows and widowers. “It’s pretty monumental and it’s an honor,” said Golinski, a staff lawyer for the federal appeals court based in San Francisco who married her partner of 23 years, Amy Cunninghis, during the brief 2008 window when same-sex marriages were legal in California. The federal trial courts that heard the cases all ruled the act violates the civil rights of legally married gays and lesbians. Two appellate courts agreed, making it highly likely the high court will agree to hear at least one of the appeals, Lambda Legal Executive Director Jon Davidson said.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had an occasion where the Supreme Court has had so many gay rights cases knocking at its door,” said Davidson, whose gay legal advocacy group represents Golinski. “That in and of itself shows how far we’ve come.” The Supreme Court also is scheduled to discuss Friday whether it should take two more long-simmering cases dealing with relationship recognition for same-sex couples. One is an appeal of two lower court rulings that struck down California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. The other is a challenge to an Arizona law that made state employees in same-sex relationships ineligible for domestic partner benefits. The last time the court confronted a gay rights case was in 2010, when the justices voted 5-4 to let stand lower court rulings holding that a California law school could deny recognition to a Christian student group that does not allow gay members. The time before that was the court's landmark 2003 ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, which declared state anti-sodomy laws to be an unconstitutional violation of personal privacy. Brigham Young University law professor Lynn Wardle, who testified before Congress when lawmakers were considering the Defense of Marriage Act 16 years ago, said he still thinks the law passes constitutional muster. “Congress has the power to define for itself domestic relationships, including defining relationships for purposes of federal programs,” Wardle said. At the same time, he said, the gay rights landscape has shifted radically since 1996, citing this month's election of the first sitting president to declare support for same-sex marriage and four state ballot measures being decided in favor of gay rights activists. “This is the gay moment, momentum is building,” Wardle said. “The politics are profound, and politics influence what the court does.” For Golinski and Cunninghis, getting this far has been a long, sometimes frustrating and sometimes heartening journey.