By Lawrence Hurley WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court appeared sharply divided on ideological lines on Wednesday as it tackled a second major challenge to President Barack Obama's healthcare law, with Justice Anthony Kennedy emerging as a likely swing vote in a ruling. The nine justices heard 85 minutes of arguments in the case brought by conservative opponents of the law who contend its tax credits aimed at helping people afford medical insurance should not be available in most states. A ruling favoring the challengers could cripple the law dubbed Obamacare, the president's signature domestic policy achievement. Kennedy, a conservative who often casts the deciding vote in close cases, raised concerns to lawyers on both sides about the possible negative impact on states if the government loses the case, suggesting he could back the Obama administration.
The US ambassador to South Korea, Mark Lippert, was slashed on his face and arm by a blade-wielding assailant shouting anti-war slogans in an attack in Seoul Thursday, police and television reports said. The United States strongly condemned the "act of violence" which left the ambassador bleeding profusely as he was taken to hospital, and said that President Barack Obama had spoken with him. "The President called (Lippert) to tell him that he and his wife Robyn are in his thoughts and prayers, and to wish him the very best for a speedy recovery," said Bernadette Meehan, National Security Council spokeswoman.
By Lisa Lambert and Carey Gillam WASHINGTON/KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Reuters) - A U.S. probe found systemic racial bias targeted blacks and created a "toxic environment" in Ferguson, Missouri, but cleared a white officer in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager there, Attorney General Eric Holder said on Wednesday. The report said the St. Louis suburb overwhelmingly arrested and issued traffic citations to blacks to boost city coffers through fines, used police as a collection agency and created a culture of distrust that exploded in August when Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown. Brown's killing touched off a national debate on race, led to months of street protests and amplified long-standing complaints in Ferguson and across the country of police harassment and mistreatment of minorities. "But seen in this context, amid a highly toxic environment, defined by mistrust and resentment, stoked by years of bad feelings, and spurred by illegal and misguided practices, it is not difficult to imagine how a single tragic incident set off the city of Ferguson like a powder keg." Holder, who is stepping down soon as attorney general, called for wholesale and immediate change in the way Ferguson operates.
Local judges across Alabama appeared on Wednesday to have stopped issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, gay rights advocates said, in compliance with a ruling a day earlier by the Alabama Supreme Court that was in apparent defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court. None of the probate judges in Alabama's 67 counties said they were issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, with some providing no comment when asked, the Human Rights Campaign said. Before Tuesday's ruling, most probate judges were issuing the licenses.
Seven months after one of its white officers fatally shot an unarmed black 18-year-old, the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department’s own findings of what transpired remain under wraps. Excessive force and possible civil rights violations by the suburban St. Louis department have been the focus of a Justice Department investigation since Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown Jr. multiple times last August.