In Brief | Nation & World 03-17-13


Striking divide between Democrats, Republicans in gay marriage cases at Supreme Court

WASHINGTON — No Democratic attorney general in a state that prohibits same-sex couples from marrying has signed onto a legal filing asking the Supreme Court to uphold California’s constitutional ban on gay marriage.

No Republican attorney general is asking the high court to rule in favor of marriage equality.

The Republican leadership in the House of Representatives, supported by 10 GOP senators, is spearheading the defense of the federal law that prevents legally married gay couples from collecting a range of federal benefits otherwise available to married couples.

Some 212 Democrats and independents in Congress want part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act overturned. That includes two dozen who initially voted for it.

A continuing distinct partisan divide is present in the gay marriage cases at the Supreme Court, set for arguments March 26-27, even though a brief on behalf of more than 100 prominent Republicans calls for marriage equality. The split is most apparent in legal briefs filed with the court by state attorneys general.

High-ranking Syrian general defects from army, reports low morale in armed forces

BEIRUT — One of the highest-ranking military officers yet to abandon Syrian President Bashar Assad defected to neighboring Jordan and said in an interview aired Saturday that morale among those still inside the regime had collapsed.

In another setback for the Assad regime, a leading human rights group accused Syria’s government of stepping up its use of widely banned cluster munitions, which often kill and wound civilians.

The twin blows illustrated the slowly spreading cracks appearing in Assad’s regime as well as its deepening international isolation. While few analysts expect the civil war between Assad’s forces and rebels seeking his ouster to end soon, most say it appears impossible for the 4-decade-old regime to continue to rule Syria.

Maj. Gen. Mohammed Ezz al-Din Khalouf announced his defection from Assad’s regime in a video aired Saturday on the Al-Arabiya satellite channel. It showed him sitting next to his son, Capt. Ezz al-Din Khalouf, who defected with him.

The elder Khalouf said that many of those with Assad’s regime have lost faith in it, yet continue to do their jobs, allowing Assad to demonstrate broad support.

Others who had contact sought in rabies case

Public and military health officials say they’re trying to identify people in at least five states who had close contact with an organ donor who died of rabies or with the organ recipients because they might require treatment.

A 20-year-old Air Force recruit from North Carolina who died of rabies in Florida had symptoms of the disease but wasn’t tested before his organs were transplanted to four patients, one of whom died of rabies nearly 18 months later, federal health officials said Friday.

The three other organ recipients are getting rabies shots and haven’t displayed any symptoms. Doctors at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declined to speculate on their chances for survival.

Dr. Matthew Kuehnert, director of the agency’s Office of Blood, Organ, and Other Tissue Safety, said investigators don’t know why doctors in Florida didn’t test the donor for rabies before offering his kidneys, heart and liver to people in Florida, Georgia, Illinois and Maryland.

The man in Maryland who received the transplant died in late February. The Defense Department said he was an Army veteran who had transplant surgery at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in early September 2011.

By wire sources