BRIEFLY Senate ready to approve jobs bill
WASHINGTON — Last-minute money to save the jobs of tens of thousands of teachers and other public workers overcame a Republican filibuster Wednesday and sped toward Senate passage. The House, under pressure to help hard-pressed schools nationwide, was being called back from its summer break for an expected final vote next week. The $26 billion measure would help states ease their severe budget problems and — advocates said — stop the layoffs of nearly 300,000 teachers, firefighters, police and other public employees. Though scaled back, the bill also would salvage a victory for Democrats who have been unable to deliver most of the jobs help they and President Barack Obama promised. The legislation advanced by a 61-38 tally that all but ensured it would pass the Senate on Thursday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would call the House back into session next week to approve the measure to get it to Obama for his signature before most schools reopen. Many Republicans objected to the expense at a time of record budget deficits, but moderate Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine cast the key votes to break the filibuster. The $26 billion package would provide $16 billion to states to help pay their Medicaid bills — preventing budget cuts and layoffs elsewhere — and $10 billion for grants to school districts to forestall teacher layoffs. — Associated Press
Shelly Bailes, left, hugs her wife Ellen Pontac outside of the Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco on Wednesday. A federal judge overturned California’s same-sex marriage ban in a landmark case that eventually could land before the U.S. Supreme Court to decide if gays have a constitutional right to marry in America.
Judge overturns Proposition 8
SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge overturned California’s same-sex marriage ban Wednesday in a landmark case that eventually could land before the U.S. Supreme Court to decide if gays have a constitutional right to marry in America. Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker made his ruling in a lawsuit filed by two gay couples who claimed the voter-approved ban violated their civil rights. Despite the favorable ruling for same-sex couples, gay marriage will not be allowed to resume. That’s because the judge said he wants to decide whether his order should be suspended while the proponents pursue their appeal in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. California voters passed the ban as Proposition 8 in November 2008, five months after the state Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. “Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples,” the judge wrote in a 136page ruling that laid out in precise detail why the ban does not pass constitutional muster. Currently, same-sex couples can only legally wed in Massachusetts, Iowa, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Washington, D.C. — Associated Press
Another incumbent down as Michigan Representative loses
WASHINGTON — Incumbents beware. Another lawmaker just bit the dust. Democratic Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick of Michigan lost her bid for an eighth term on Tuesday, the legal woes of her son Kwame, the former Detroit mayor, dragging her down in a year when fickle voters seem eager to fire longtime lawmakers. She’s the sixth — and the fourth in the House — to lose so far this year. And the frustrated electorate could deal others the same fate in primaries over the next two months, not to mention the general election in November, when nothing less than the balance of power in Washington will be at stake. In another nod to fresh blood, Michigan voters chose political newcomer Rick Snyder as the Republican nominee in the race to succeed outgoing Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm. The 2010 midterm elections already have seen five incumbents lose. Sens. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, and Arlen Specter, D-Pa., were ousted by their respective parties. Reps. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., Parker Griffith, R-Ala., and Bob Inglis, R-S.C., have failed in their primary bids. — Associated Press
GOP presses concerns on eve of Kagan confirmation
WASHINGTON — Elena Kagan marched toward certain Senate confirmation Wednesday, winning enough declared supporters to become the fourth female justice ever to serve on the Supreme Court over increasingly grave Republican objections. A parade of GOP senators took to the Senate floor to outline the case against Kagan even as it became clear that President Barack Obama’s nominee had drawn a majority for confirmation. Republicans portrayed the 50-year-old solicitor general as a partisan figure who would be unable to prevent her liberal leanings from interfering with a justice’s responsibility to rule impartially. “Put simply, Ms. Kagan is a political activist, not a jurist,” Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said. “Throughout her confirmation hearings, she failed to explain where her political philosophy ends and her judicial philosophy begins.” Democrats sang Kagan’s praises, calling her a glass ceiling-shattering nominee who would bring a fresh perspective, strong legal mind, and flair for building consensus to the Supreme Court. She would be the third woman currently on the court. — Associated Press
Thursday, August 5, 2010 • The Dispatch & The Rock Island Argus • C3
End of the spill? Crush of mud finally plugs well; cement pumping starts today NEW ORLEANS (AP) — In the end, it was a crush of mud that finally plugged the blown-out well in the Gulf of Mexico, three months after the offshore drilling rig explosion that unleashed a gusher of oil and a summer of misery along the Gulf Coast. The government stopped just short of pronouncing the well dead, cautioning that cement and mud must still be pumped in from the bottom to seal it off for good. President Barack Obama declared that the battle to contain one of the world’s worst oil spills is “finally close to coming to an end.” Yet after months of living with lost income, fouled shorelines and dying wildlife, some Gulf Coast residents weren’t so sure. “I don’t think we’ve finished with this,” said 59-yearold Harry “Cho-cho” Cheramie, who grew up in Grand Isle, La. “We haven’t really started to deal with it yet. We don’t know what effect it’s going to have on our seafood in the long run.” Still, it appeared there might finally be an end in sight to the disaster that closed vast stretches of fishing areas, interrupted the usually lucrative tourist season, and cost BP’s CEO his job and the company’s shareholders billions of dollars. BP PLC said 2,300 barrels of mud forced down the well overnight — an operation called a “static kill” — had
Oil spill by the numbers 206 million
Latest U.S. government estimate of gallons (780 million liters) spilled into Gulf
10.8 million Gallons (41 million liters) spilled by Exxon Valdez in 1989
Upper estimate of gallons (908 million liters) spilled in Persian Gulf War
31,400 1.8 million 3.2 million People deployed
Gallons (6.8 million liters) of dispersant*
Feet (1.0 million m) of boom** deployed
4,900 Vessels deployed
*Surface and sub-sea **Containment and absorbent
Barrels of oily water skimmed
Highest proportion of federal waters in the Gulf closed to fishing
Suspended deepwater exploratory wells in the Gulf
© 2010 MCT Source: Oil Spill Intelligence Report, BP, NOAA, Department of the Interior Graphic: Julie Sheer, Raoul Ranoa, Los Angeles Times
pushed the crude back down to its source for the first time since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded off Louisiana on April 20. The explosion killed 11 workers and began the spill that sent tar balls washing onto beaches and oil oozing into delicate coastal marshes. Later Wednesday night, National Incident Commander Thad Allen said he approved
NOTE: As of Aug. 3
BP’s plan to begin forcing cement down the well, as long as it didn’t delay work on the relief well. BP officials said they planned to begin pumping cement today. The containment effort — and the cleanup — aren’t finished. Federal officials said they won’t declare complete victory until they pump in mud and cement from the
bottom to seal the well, a procedure that might not be done for weeks. “We’re in a good place today, but we want to get it permanent over the near term, whether that’s days or weeks,” said Kent Wells, BP senior vice president, who repeatedly and pointedly avoided saying the static kill had finished the job. Asked when he will be able to say the well is dead, he replied: “I’m looking forward to that day.” The apparent success of the static kill had some along the Gulf curious about why BP waited so long to try it. “I’m wondering, as smart as the people in the U.S. government are, they couldn’t have done this sooner?” asked 78-year-old Willie Jones, a retiree from Baton Rouge, La., who sat in the shade in Pensacola Beach, Fla., while his wife and granddaughter ventured onto the white — and oil-free — sand. But the static kill — also known as bullheading — probably would not have worked without the cap in place. It involved slowly pumping the mud from a ship down lines running to the top of the ruptured well a mile below, and a similar effort failed in May when the mud couldn’t overcome the flow of oil. Workers stopped pumping mud in after about eight hours of static kill work and were monitoring the well to ensure it remained stable, BP said.
-ILLINOISChicago man accused of plotting to aid al-Qaida
‘No one should be too poor to buy pot’ in Washington, D.C.
Dani Geen holds a 1 1/2 gram ‘care packages’ of medical marijuana on Tuesday at the Harborside Health Center in Oakland, Calif., where, until recently, the center had a program that gave out free weekly ‘care packages’ to about 600 patients on unemployment or pensions. Part of a new medical marijuana law enacted in the nation’s capital includes a provision that no one should be too poor to buy pot if they live in D.C., at least if the marijuana is for a medical condition.
Group sues to stop mosque near N.Y.’s ground zero A conservative advocacy group founded by the Rev. Pat Robertson is suing to try to block a planned Islamic community center and mosque near ground zero. The mosque proposal has become a fulcrum for balancing religious freedom and the legacy of the Sept. 11 attacks. It would be two blocks from ground zero. The American Center for Law and Justice says it filed a petition Wednesday challenging a city panel’s decision to let developers tear down a building to make way for the mosque. The Washington-based
group is representing a firefighter who survived the terrorist attacks. Opponents say the mosque plan insults the memory of those killed by Islamic terrorists nearly nine years ago. Supporters see it as a monument to tolerance.
Missouri residents vote against health care reform Missouri law now contains a direct challenge to the federal health care law passed earlier this year. Primary voters approved Proposition C by a wide margin Tuesday, giving Missourians the power under state law to ignore government requirements to buy health insurance
and nullifying penalties for failing to do so. Missouri voters cast 71 percent of their ballots in favor of a state measure. The measure is intended to invalidate in Missouri a key element of the federal health care law passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama in March. That law requires individuals to purchase health insurance beginning in 2014. Tuesday’s vote was the first statewide referendum in the nation to test an aspect of the health care law. Similar questions will be on November ballots in Oklahoma, Arizona and Florida.
-WORLDHezbollah key to containing Israel-Lebanon flare-up It took no more than cutting down a tree to shatter four years of calm on the Israel-Lebanon border. With Israel uneasy about the growing arsenal of Hezbollah, the real power in the Lebanese border area, and Lebanon influenced by the Iranian-backed group’s clout, the clash that left four dead showed how a small spark could ignite another war. On Wednesday all sides appeared to be trying to restore calm, but the key was clearly in the hands of Hezbollah. Had it entered the fray with a rocket attack on
Israel’s north, Israel would likely have retaliated, and another round of Mideast violence would have been under way — following the pattern of the monthlong conflict in 2006. Instead, Hezbollah sufficed with threats against Israel, and after nightfall Wednesday, representatives of the Israeli and Lebanese armies met with U.N. peacekeepers.
Kenya sees big turnout in vote on new constitution Enthusiastic voters, many wrapped in colorful traditional blankets, waited for hours Wednesday to cast ballots on a new constitu-
tion that could spell a new era for Kenya — curtailing the president’s enormous powers and giving citizens a bill of rights. With memories fresh of the ethnically charged violence that left more than 1,000 people dead following the disputed 2007 election, police were deployed en masse across the country. Voters overwhelmed polling stations in some locations, and one Nairobi site saw dozens of Kenyans who had not yet voted force their way in after authorities tried to shut it down at the official 5 p.m. closing time.
A 26-year-old Chicago man who claimed to be inspired by a radical Muslim cleric was charged after the FBI uncovered his plot to go to Somalia to become a suicide bomber for al-Qaida and another terror group, federal prosecutors alleged in court documents unsealed Wednesday. Shaker Masri was taken into custody Tuesday evening, hours before he was scheduled to leave the country for a trip to his ultimate destination, Somalia, prosecutors said. He was charged with trying to aid al-Qaida and al-Shabab, a violent extremist group in Somalia, and attempting to provide support through the use of a weapon of mass destruction outside the United States.
Charges dropped against Zion man in girls’ deaths A man jailed on first-degree murder charges in the 2005 stabbing deaths of his daughter and another young girl was a free man Wednesday after prosecutors dropped charges because DNA evidence from the crime scene matched that of another man. Jerry Hobbs, 39, arrived at the brief court hearing in a blue prison jumpsuit and handcuffs, and a short time later — after changing his clothes — was released from custody, according to the Lake County Jail. “We’re glad that Jerry has been released today,” said Keith Grant, an assistant public defender. “It’s been a long time coming.”
Bus company sued over crash by vomiting driver A school bus crash allegedly caused by a vomiting driver has prompted a lawsuit by the mother of a child reported injured in the mishap. Akilah Giddings claims the driver opened the door of the bus “in an attempt to lean over so he could barf.” The driver allegedly fell out, while the bus carrying school children continued on and crashed into a ditch. The lawsuit, filed Monday in Cook County Circuit Court, contends the accident occurred as the bus, operated by Illinois Central School Bus, traveled along a road in Kankakee County on Dec. 18. Bus company spokeswoman Diana Hallam declined to comment on the lawsuit, which seeks at least $50,000 in damages.