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US Rep. Bill Young dies at 82; Tampa Bay Republican had served 43 years in Congress

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Rep. Bill Young of Florida, the senior Republican in the U.S. House and a defense hawk who was influential on military spending during his 43 years in Washington, died Friday. He was 82.

His chief of staff, Harry Glenn, said in an email that Young died at 6:50 p.m. at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where he had been for nearly two weeks with back problems that stemmed from a 1970 small plane crash. The email included a statement from Young’s family, saying relatives were with Young when he died from complications related to a chronic injury.

On Oct. 9, from his hospital bed, Young announced that his current 22nd term would be his last and he wouldn’t seek re-election in 2014.

Former House speaker Foley dies at 84; served 30 years in Congress

WASHINGTON — Tall and courtly, Tom Foley served 30 years in the House when partisan confrontation was less rancorous than today and Democrats had dominated for decades. He crowned his long political career by becoming speaker, only to be toppled when Republicans seized control of Congress in 1994, turned out by angry voters with little taste for incumbents.

Foley, the first speaker to be booted from office by his constituents since the Civil War, died Friday at the age of 84 of complications from a stroke, according to his wife, Heather.

She said he had suffered a stroke last December and was hospitalized in May with pneumonia. He returned home after a week and had been on hospice care there ever since, she said.

Foley, who grew up in a politically active family in Spokane, Wash., represented that agriculture-heavy area for 15 terms in the House, including more than five years in the speaker’s chair.

In that job, he was third in line of succession to the presidency and was the first speaker from west of the Rocky Mountains.

In 1997, he took one of the most prestigious assignments in diplomacy, ambassador to Japan under President Bill Clinton. A longtime Japan scholar, Foley had been a frequent visitor to that nation, in part to promote the farm products his district produces, and he held the post for four years.

NJ same-sex weddings can start as court denies Christie request while case is appealed

Same-sex marriages can begin within days in New Jersey after the state’s highest court ruled unanimously Friday to uphold an order that they must start Monday and to deny a delay that had been sought by Gov. Chris Christie’s administration.

The ruling puts New Jersey on the cusp of becoming the 14th state — and the third most populous among them — to allow same-sex marriage. The advocacy group Freedom to Marry said that as of Monday, one-third of Americans will live in a place where same-sex marriage is legal.

“The state has advanced a number of arguments, but none of them overcome this reality: Same-sex couples who cannot marry are not treated equally under the law today,” the court said in an opinion by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner.

A judge on a lower court had ruled last month that New Jersey must recognize same-sex marriage and set Monday as the date to allow weddings. Christie, a Republican who is considered a possible 2016 presidential candidate, appealed the decision and asked for the start date to be put on hold while the state appeals.

A spokesman for Christie said that he will comply with the ruling, though he doesn’t like it.

By wire sources

Officials: Possible criminal charges for men who knocked over ancient Utah rock formation

SALT LAKE CITY — Authorities are mulling whether to press charges against a Boy Scouts leader who purposely knocked over an ancient Utah desert rock formation and against the two men who cheered him on after they posted video of the incident online.

Two of the men, who were leading a group of teenage Boy Scouts on a trip, said the top of the rock formation was loose and they feared it was dangerous.

“This is about saving lives,” Dave Hall, who shot the video, told The Associated Press on Friday. “One rock at a time.”

The rock formation at Goblin Valley State Park is about 170 million years old, Utah State Parks spokesman Eugene Swalberg said. The central Utah park is dotted with thousands of the eerie, mushroom-shaped sandstone formations.

In a video shot last Friday and posted on Facebook, Glenn Taylor of Highland can be seen wedging himself between a formation and a boulder to knock a large rock off the formation’s top. Taylor and his two companions can then be seen cheering, high-fiving and dancing.

By wire sources