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Friday, June 28, 2013

Court Orders Officials to Grant Same Sex Marriage Licenses Immediately

County clerks in California are to resume granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples immediately, following a ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today. After the U.S. Supreme Court’s affirmative decision on a challenge to Proposition 8, which barred same-sex marriage in California, Governor Jerry Brown ordered his public health agency to advise the state’s counties to “begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in California as soon as the 9th Circuit confirms the stay is lifted.” A spokesperson for the 9th had originally said it would take the court at least 25 days to act after the Supreme Court ruling, but California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris said that the court could act much quicker. County clerks said they were ready for same-sex weddings. Marriage licenses already are gender-neutral, and clerks began receiving calls Wednesday from gay couples wanting to schedule appointments. According to Twitter, such marriages are happening at press time.

Senior Vatican Official Arrested

A commission, established by Pope Francis earlier this month to review the activities of the Vatican bank, has found evidence which led to the arrest of Monsignor Nunzio Scarano and two others. The trio is alleged to have attempted the illegal transit of €20m ($26m) from Switzerland to Italy. Traditionally, the Vatican Bank, officially known as the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR), has refused to co-operate with external authorities investigating financial crime on the grounds of the sovereign independence of the Vatican city-state. But Pope Francis has given the Vatican’s commission carte blanche to rout out corruption and deal with the scandalous allegations that have plagued the bank since its inception.

Ecuador Spurns U.S. Trade Deal

Ecuador has offered to give up special trade preferences with the U.S. over a row concerning the asylum request from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act allows Ecuadorean goods like canned tuna, roses, and broccoli to enter the United States tax-free. Members of the U.S. legislature had intimated that such privileges, which are up for renewal next month, should be withheld if Ecuador granted Snowden asylum. But Ecuadorean Minister of Communications Fernando Alvarado said such behavior amounted to “blackmail”. At a press conference yesterday, Alvarado said, “Ecuador does not accept pressure or threats from anyone and does not negotiate its principles or submit to commercial pressure as important as it might be.” Further the minister announced that, “Ecuador renounces unilaterally and irrevocably those trade preferences.” The preferences save Ecuadorean businesses roughly $23 million each year. The government of Ecuador has offered to send the U.S. that amount in aid each year to train its agents in avoiding “espionage, torture, extrajudicial killings and other acts that denigrate humanity.”

Tensions in Egypt Turn Deadly

At least two people have died in Alexandria, Egypt, as thousands of supporters of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi have clashed with anti-government protesters nationwide. Last night, Hassan el-Shafei, a senior scholar at Al-Azhar, blamed “ignorant people” for some of the violence and said that the country needed to be alert “in order for us not to be dragged into a civil war that does not differentiate between supporters and opposition.” Rallies in the capital have been well attended but largely pacific. Still security has been ramped up at many gatherings; on the outskirts of the pro-Morsi rally in Cairo, rows of men armed with truncheons checked IDs and frisked attendees. Meanwhile, a campaign called “Tamarod,” or “rebellion,” which reportedly collected 18 million signatures calling for Morsi’s ouster, gathered hundreds across town in Tahrir Square. Today’s demonstrations are the latest in a string that began a day after Morsi deployed the army near government ministries and the Suez Canal, started legal proceedings against several judges and purged critics from a state-appointed body that helps regulate the airwaves.

NASA Launches IRIS to the Sun

NASA launched a spaceship to the sun yesterday. The IRIS telescope, short for Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, began what is expected to be a two-year mission to discover among other things why the surface of Sol is 1000 times cooler than its atmosphere. IRIS will, novelly, be able to resolve relatively small section of the sun, while other NASA equipment can only record views of the sun in its entirety. Sun storms are a poorly understood natural phenomenon which regularly interfere with terrestrial electrical grids. Pete Worden, director of NASA’s Ames Research Center is optimistic that IRIS can shed light on such happenstance: “The better we can understand the physics going on, the better we can understand the [solar] activity, the better that we can potentially predict and mitigate some of these problems.”

Weekend Read: Los Infiltradores

Three people, in the U.S. without documentation, risked their lives to expose the injustices of immigrant detention and invented a new form of protest. Michael May explains in The American Prospect.

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