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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Court Rules Twice on Same-Sex Marriage

In a 5-4 decision today, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which describes the federal understanding of marriage as between “one man and one woman,” is in violation of the Fifth Amendment. This nuanced decision will bring federal benefits to married, same-sex couples, but does not strike down laws barring same-sex marriage in individual states. In another related decision today, the SCOTUS neglected to rule on the propriety of California’s Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage in that state. As the state of California had declined to appeal a lower court’s decision against Prop 8, and because the proponents of Proposition 8 were not entitled to act on behalf of the state to appeal that decision, today the SOCTUS said it could not issue a decision. As such, the lower court’s decision stands; same-sex marriage is legal in California. Brian S. Brown of the National Organization for Marriage expressed dismay at today’s rulings, vowing to continue to oppose same-sex marriage at the state level and federally.

Anti-Terror Raids in Western Europe

In separate actions, German and French police have stages a series of raids against what they claim are terrorist plots involving robbery, money laundering, explosives, and remote-controlled aircraft. While German authorities said they have two Tunisian suspects, none of the other nine raids conducted throughout Germany and Belgium resulted in arrests. The chief federal prosecutor’s office in Karlsruhe released a statement saying the raids were intended to collect evidence regarding the plans of attack and knowledge of how “terrorism motivated by radical Islam” is financed. French Interior Minister Manuel Valls, announced today that intelligence agents have arrested nine people for separate crimes, three of them men suspected of recruiting people to fight in jihadist efforts in other countries. The remaining six are members of an extremist group and are suspected of plotting terror attacks in France.

Syrian Civil War Toll Tops 100,000

The death toll from the Syrian civil war has breached 100,000 people, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which calls even that number conservative. The SOHR can verify that at least 36,661 civilians have been killed in the nearly three-year campaign to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. These figures come as a grim marker, as U.N.’s special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, said yesterday that the international conference proposed by Russia and the U.S. will not take place until later in the summer, partly because of opposition disarray. Already the violence has spread to neighboring Lebanon, where this weekend elements of the Syrian rebel group, Jabhat al Nusra, engaged with Hezbollah and the Lebanese army in a battle that claimed more than 50 lives.

South Sudan’s Oil Woes Succored by EAC

The presidents of Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda have reached an agreement to begin the construction of a brace of pipelines that would allow South Sudan to export its crude oil to the Kenyan port city of Lamu. Currently South Sudanese oil is only available to its neighbor Sudan. But South Sudan and Sudan have had a tumultuous relationship since the former gained independence from the later two years ago. South Sudan took roughly 70 percent of the proven oil reserves, but Sudan retained the majority of the oil infrastructure, including the export terminal in Port Sudan. Just last week, Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir suggested he would stop oil exports, unless South Sudan agreed to cease backing rebels operating across the shared frontier. The South Sudanese government has made similar complaints against Sudan. Today’s agreement also made other strides to foster closer ties among East African Community members, includes the creation of a reliable rail system, a unified tourist visa, and a single EAC identity card.

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