In brief | Nation & World | 8-7-14


Federal appeals court judges weigh 4 states’ gay marriage cases in hearing in Cincinnati

CINCINNATI — A federal appeals court judge hearing arguments in six gay marriage fights in a landmark hearing Wednesday expressed deep skepticism about whether the courts are the ideal setting for such major change, saying that the best way to win the hearts and minds of Americans on the issue would be the democratic process.

The judge, Jeffrey S. Sutton of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, peppered attorneys with the question and said it was strange that the same-sex couples fighting statewide bans weren’t showing more patience.

“I would have thought the best way to get respect and dignity is through the democratic process,” Sutton said. “Nothing happens as quickly as we’d like it. … I’m not 100 percent sure it’s the better route for the gay rights community.”

Sutton and two other judges from the 6th Circuit heard arguments in six cases from Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee in the biggest such session on the issue so far. The cases pit states’ rights and traditional, conservative values against what plaintiffs’ attorneys say is a fundamental right to marry under the U.S. Constitution.

If the 6th Circuit decides against gay marriage, that would create a divide among federal appeals courts and put pressure on the U.S. Supreme Court to settle the issue for good in its 2015 session. The appeals panel did not indicate when it would rule.

Afghan official says US general’s killer hid in bathroom, used NATO assault rifle in attack

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Afghan soldier who killed a U.S. two-star general and wounded 15 other people hid in a bathroom with a NATO assault rifle then opened fire when a group of officers from international forces passed by, an Afghan military official said Wednesday.

As U.S. and Afghan officials investigated the attack Tuesday that killed, Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene, the highest-ranked U.S. officer to be slain in combat since 1970 in the Vietnam War, authorities reported two other so-called “insider” attacks the same day.

In the deadliest of the attacks, an Afghan police officer killed seven of his colleagues at a checkpoint, then stole their weapons and fled in a police car late Tuesday in the Uruzgan provincial capital of Tirin Kot, provincial spokesman Doost Mohammad Nayab said.

A doctor at a local hospital told the AP it appeared the police officer drugged his colleagues before the shooting. The doctor spoke on condition of anonymity as he wasn’t authorized to release the information. Nayab later denied that the police officers had been drugged and said the officer involved had Taliban connections, without elaborating.

In Paktia province, an Afghan police guard exchanged fire with NATO troops near the governor’s office, provincial police said. The guard was killed in the gunfight.

Tensions build in Ukraine over whether Russian army near border will step in to protect rebels

DONETSK, Ukraine — The steadily advancing Ukrainian army is setting its sights on the largest rebel-held city in eastern Ukraine, while Western officials on Wednesday warned that a Russian military buildup on Ukraine’s border could herald a major incursion to protect the separatists.

President Vladimir Putin has resisted mounting pressure from Russian nationalists to send the army in to back the mutiny in eastern Ukraine. Even though the U.S. and NATO would be unlikely to respond militarily, the West would be certain to impose major sanctions that would put the shaky Russian economy on its knees — and could quickly erode Putin’s power.

Russia already is showing signs of economic dismay from sanctions imposed earlier this year, but Putin on Wednesday showed Moscow aims to fight back, calling on government agencies to develop a list of agricultural imports from sanctions-imposing countries that could be banned for up to a year.

The state news agency RIA Novosti later quoted an official from Russia’s plant and veterinary oversight service as saying all U.S. agricultural products would fall under the ban.

Walgreen declines to pursue overseas tax relief but motivation remains for other companies

Growing political heat and possible customer backlash helped dissuade Walgreen from trying to trim its tax bill by reorganizing overseas as part of an acquisition.

But experts say they don’t expect other companies considering the move to follow Walgreen’s lead and stay rooted in the United States.

Walgreen, the nation’s biggest drugstore chain, said Wednesday that it would no longer consider a so-called inversion, which has become popular among large, multinational health care companies looking to cut U.S. taxes. The company said it will instead combine with the Swiss health and beauty retailer Alliance Boots to form a holding company that’s based in the U.S.

Walgreen Co. said in a statement that it was “mindful of the ongoing public reaction to a potential inversion” and its “unique role as an iconic American” retailer.

Walgreen’s decision follows a wave of recently announced inversions that have prompted President Barack Obama and members of Congress to voice growing concern about tax revenue the U.S. government could lose from these moves. Despite Walgreen’s decision, experts say U.S. companies will likely continue to pursue inversions because they can still reap big benefits by reorganizing overseas.

By wire sources