Supreme Court set to decide major abortion case

2016-06-27 16:24:24

WASHINGTON The U.S. Supreme Court is due on Monday to decide its first major abortion case since 2007, a challenge by abortion providers to a Republican-backed Texas law that imposed strict regulations on their doctors and facilities.Hundreds of people, including activists on both sides of the dispute, gathered outside the Supreme Court building on a sunny summer day in anticipation of a ruling on an issue that continues to divide Americans as it does people in many countries.Texas has said its law, passed by a Republican-led legislature and signed by a Republican governor in 2013, was aimed at protecting women's health. The abortion providers have said the regulations are medically unnecessary and intended to shut down clinics. Since the law was passed, the number of abortion clinics in Texas, the second-most-populous U.S. state with about 27 million people, has dropped from 41 to 19.The justices must decide whether the law, one of a number of statutes enacted in Republican-led states that put restrictions on abortion, placed an undue burden on women exercising their constitutional right to end a pregnancy established in the court's landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.The normally nine-justice court was left one member short after the Feb. 13 death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who consistently opposed abortion in past rulings. The court is evenly divided with four conservative justices and four liberals, raising the possibility of a 4-4 ruling.Such a split would leave in place a lower-court decision upholding the law but would set no nationwide legal precedent on whether other states could enact similar measures. Democratic President Barack Obama's administration supports the challenge brought by the abortion providers.Monday marks the last day that the court will be issuing decisions in its current term, which began last October.The Texas law required abortion doctors to have "admitting privileges," a type of formal affiliation that can be hard to obtain, at a hospital within 30 miles (48 km) of the clinic so they can treat patients needing surgery or other critical care. The law also required clinic buildings to possess costly, hospital-grade facilities. These regulations covered numerous building features such as corridor width, the swinging motion of doors, floor tiles, parking spaces, elevator size, ventilation, electrical wiring, plumbing, floor tiling and even the angle that water flows from drinking fountains.The "admitting privileges" provision already has gone into effect while the facilities standards have been put on hold.The last time the justices decided a major abortion case was nine years ago when they ruled 5-4 to uphold a federal law banning a late-term abortion procedure. Some U.S. states have pursued a variety of restrictions on abortion, including banning certain types of procedures, prohibiting it after a certain number of weeks of gestation, requiring parental permission for girls until a certain age, imposing waiting periods or mandatory counseling, and others.Americans remain closely divided over whether abortion should be legal. In a Reuters/Ipso online poll involving 6,769 U.S. adults conducted from June 3 to June 22, 47 percent of respondents said abortion generally should be legal and 42 percent said it generally should be illegal.Views on abortion in the United States have changed very little over the decades, according to historical polling data. (Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Additional reporting by Adfam DeRose; Editing by Will Dunham)

Southwest Airlines to postpone delivery of 67 Boeing jets

2016-06-24 01:41:59

Southwest Airlines Co (LUV.N) will push back the delivery of 67 Boeing Co (BA.N) 737 MAX 8 aircraft by up to six years, delaying $1.9 billion of spending, the airline said Thursday.The budget airline said it postponed the new deliveries to the 2023-25 timeframe to manage its capital spending. It also said in an investor presentation that the revenue environment remained "challenging."Shares of Boeing and Southwest fell after the announcement, which raised concern among investors about how long planemakers such as the Chicago-based planemaker can sustain demand for new jets, following years of orders that have created a sizeable production backlog. Southwest shares retraced much of their losses in later trading, while Boeing was up as part of a broad market rally linked to optimism that Britain would remain in the European Union. [.N] "We don't see one airline having an impact on Boeing's current plans for narrowbody production," said RBC Capital Markets analyst Robert Stallard in a research note. However, he said the news was not assuring to investors."Having a well known, well run customer like Southwest deferring aircraft is likely to prompt concern that there are others to follow," Stallard said. Boeing shares dipped after the news but were up more than 1 percent at the New York Stock Exchange's close.In a statement, a Boeing spokesman said, "We continue to see healthy demand in the single-aisle market, with the Next-Generation 737 sold out of positions and the MAX sold out through 2021 ...We were also able to find a mutually-beneficial way to sequence the growth of Southwest’s 737 fleet over the long term." The new schedule does not change Southwest's debut as the first operator of the MAX 8 aircraft next year.Southwest shares fell as much 5.1 percent in afternoon trading but were only down 1.7 percent at the close.Dallas-based Southwest earlier said it moved up plans to retire its classic Boeing 737 jets to the third quarter of 2017 from 2018. The move was in part aimed at resolving uncertainty about U.S.-mandated pilot training for flying those aircraft and their next-generation model, the 737 MAX. Stallard said the early retirements suggest that airlines' move to fly older, less efficient planes while fuel was cheap "has potentially run its course, with oil back at $50."Southwest said Thursday it would advance six orders for 737-800 planes to next year from 2018 to help cover these early retirements. (Reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru and Jeffrey Dastin in New York; Editing by Kirti Pandey and David Gregorio)

Orlando families to bury victims, ask Obama for change

2016-06-17 16:27:41

ORLANDO, Fla. Families of some of the 49 people killed in a massacre at an Orlando gay nightclub will mourn and bury their dead on Friday, a day after President Barack Obama met survivors and said the United States must act to control gun violence.Funerals are expected to be held over the next two weeks.Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, 25, like many of the victims of the Pulse club mass shooting, was from Puerto Rico. He is to be buried on Friday, according to the Newcomer Funeral Home, a day after more than 150 friends and family mourned him at a wake.Obama, who traveled to Orlando on Thursday and met survivors and families of those who died, told reporters: "I held and hugged grieving family members and parents, and they asked, 'Why does this keep happening?'."He urged Congress to pass measures to make it harder to legally acquire high-powered weapons like the semi-automatic rifle used in the attack on Sunday. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were in Orlando after a U.S.-born gunman claiming allegiance to various Islamist militant groups carried out the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.During the shooting rampage the gunman, Omar Mateen, exchanged text messages with his wife, CNN reported on Thursday, as well as posting on Facebook and placing a phone call to a television station. Police killed Mateen, 29, a U.S. citizen born in New York to Afghan immigrants.Obama, who has visited mass shooting victims' families in towns from San Bernardino, California, to Newtown, Connecticut, since becoming president, laid flowers at a memorial for the victims of the attack on the Pulse nightclub. Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack but U.S. officials have said they do not believe Mateen was assisted from abroad. A married couple also claiming allegiance to Islamic State shot dead 14 people in San Bernardino, California, in December.BEFORE THE MADNESSOn Thursday, more than 300 people, including Florida Governor Rick Scott, attended the viewing for Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, who was born in Dorado, Puerto Rico. He was 36 when he was killed during a night of dancing to celebrate a friend's new house. His husband had stayed home that night in the couple's apartment. "He was in a Snapchat video that's out there, dancing away, so we know he had some fun before the madness," said his cousin, Orlando Gonzalez.Twenty-three of the 53 wounded remained hospitalized, six in critical condition, according to the Orlando Regional Medical Center.CNN reported, citing a law enforcement official it did not identify, that Mateen exchanged text messages with his wife, Noor Salman, during the three hours he was holed up in a bathroom inside the nightclub. Salman is under investigation to find out whether she knew about Mateen's plans ahead of time. CONGRESS UNDER PRESSUREThe massacre put pressure on Congress to act.Mateen carried out the slaughter with an assault weapon and handgun that had been legally purchased although he had twice been investigated by the FBI for possible connections with militant Islamist groups.Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, said the chamber would most likely vote on four gun control measures on Monday.However, no formal deal between the parties for votes was announced, and it was unclear when and how the Senate would proceed with the votes, which would be amendments to an appropriations bill funding the Commerce and Justice departments.Republicans, who hold a 54-person majority in the 100-seat Senate, have blocked a number of Democratic-backed gun control measures over the years, saying they infringed on Americans' constitutional right to bear arms. (Additional reporting by Julia Harte and Peter Eisler in Orlando, Patricia Zengerle and Jonathan Landay in Washington and Zachary Fagenson in West Palm Beach, Florida; Writing by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

U.S.-backed forces cut off all routes into IS-held Manbij: Syrian Observatory

2016-06-10 17:22:59

BEIRUT U.S.-backed forces seized control of the last route into Islamic State-held city of Manbij in northern Syria on Friday, completing their encirclement of the main target in a major advance against the militants, a monitoring group said.The Syria Democratic Forces, supported by U.S.-led air strikes and American special forces, launched and advance last week to seize Islamic State's last territory on the Syria-Turkey border and cut the self-declared caliphate off from the world.Other enemies of Islamic State, including the governments of Syria and Iraq, also launched major offensives on other fronts, in what amounts to the most sustained pressure on the militants since they proclaimed their caliphate in 2014.Officials of the SDF, a U.S.-backed group formed last year to unite powerful Kurdish militia with Arab anti-Islamic State fighters, could not immediately be reached.The SDF had by Thursday advanced to within firing distance of the last main highway into Manbij, Islamic State's main bastion in the border area west of the Euphrates. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said the SDF had effectively taken control of the final road to the city early on Friday. "There's no road left... they're all cut," the Observatory's director, Rami Abdulrahman, said.The offensive near the border is the most ambitious advance yet in Syria by a group allied to Washington, which has previously struggled to develop capable allies on the ground amid Syria's five-year multi-sided civil war. SDF forces have also advanced in the neighboring province of Raqqa, and Syrian government forces and their allies, backed by Russia, opened a separate front against Islamic State in Raqqa province last week.The Iraqi government has launched its own assault on the Islamic State bastion Falluja, an hour's drive from Baghdad, at the opposite end of Islamic State territory. The SDF has said this week that it was holding back from an immediate assault to enter Manbij out of concern for civilians.The Observatory said nearly 160 Islamic State fighters had died in battles with the SDF around Manbij and more than 20 SDF fighters had been killed. (Reporting by John Davison; editing by Peter Graff)

New draft of Chinese anti-smoking law weaker than health advocates had hoped

2016-06-03 16:18:15

BEIJING A recent draft of the Chinese national anti-smoking law significantly weakens previously proposed legislation, several people familiar with the bill told Reuters, and some public health advocates said the powerful state-owned tobacco monopoly had lobbied for the changes.The advocates and some former government officials involved in discussions with officials close to the lawmaking process said the tobacco industry had urged the legislative affairs office of the State Council, China's cabinet, to keep allowing cigarette advertisements, and enable workplaces, restaurants and other public places to create enclaves for smokers.An earlier version of the law, released for public comment in 2014, included provisions banning smoking in workplaces and on public transportation, as well as curbs on tobacco ads and promotion, according to health groups."Because the tobacco industry is a big part of the government, they don't need to make these arguments publicly," said a healthcare advocate who has been involved in high level meetings on the development of the law."It's not like big multinational tobacco companies that have to lobby to influence the process. They are inside the process."A second public health advocate, also closely involved in developing the legislation, added: "They are a very strong organization, so they have really made a major impact. It's because they contribute so much in tax revenue to the state."The State Tobacco Monopoly Administration, which oversees China National Tobacco Corporation, did not respond to requests for comment.China National Tobacco Corporation makes hundreds of brands including the popular Red Pagoda Mountain, while foreign cigarette makers have a tiny presence in comparison.A spokesman for China's National Health and Family Planning Commission, which was involved in developing early drafts of the law, said the law was under the supervision of the State Council's Legislative Affairs Office.The State Council Information Office, the cabinet's public relations department, did not respond to a request for comment. HUGE TAX REVENUESThe state monopoly has 98 percent of a market of more than 300 million smokers, making China the world's largest producer and consumer of cigarettes. It contributes about 7 to 10 percent of government tax revenues annually.Anti-smoking advocates had hoped for a complete ban on smoking in public places nationwide, replicating tougher municipal laws in cities like Beijing that have been implemented with relative success.Not every major city has tighter anti-smoking rules, and most of the country would abide by the national legislation.The most recent draft of the national anti-smoking law, circulated in April among those involved in its development, stops short of banning tobacco ads. Ads are currently banned in public places and mass media, but they still appear widely in convenience stores and kiosks.The latest draft also allows government offices and other workplaces, as well as hospital compounds, restaurants and cafes, to set up smoking rooms, according to several sources who have seen the draft.However, the law would impose fines for those violating these rules and create more school programs educating children about the dangers of smoking. "Of course, as a supporter of public health I ... wish that hospitals and schools would be completely smoke free," said Wang Benjin, deputy director of the Beijing Health Inspection Bureau.The earlier draft contained stronger curbs, said health groups, who had hoped the national law would completely ban smoking in public places. Bernhard Schwartländer, the World Health Organisation (WHO) representative in China, expressed disappointment in a statement this week at what he termed "problematic loopholes" for smokers in the draft law."Sadly, it is clear that the vested interests of the tobacco industry have been able to corrupt the national law discussions with a series of superficially compelling yet completely false arguments," he said in the statement.He added that the industry had argued that being too tough on cigarettes would hurt the broader Chinese economy and that enforcement would be too challenging.Sales of the cheapest cigarettes fell 5.5 percent in the year to March 2016 from the previous year in China, according to the WHO, after a major tax hike.Chinese public health advocates were optimistic last year about prospects for restricting smoking, a habit that has become a major burden on the healthcare system.Tobacco-related illnesses kill more than 1 million people annually in China, according to the WHO.Beijing banned smoking in public places on June 1 last year, and marked the anniversary in a ceremony this week, draping a large banner bearing a no-smoking sign across its National Stadium.Recent studies by municipal health authorities show broad support for bans on smoking in public places, and authorities say enforcement of the rules has been successful. (Editing by Mike Collett-White and Martin Howell)

Older Post
As Ebola flares up, Guinea plans to vaccinate contacts of survivors
Italy may keep troops in Afghanistan another year: PM Renzi
High-yield risks shed doubts on strength of U.S. economy