Utah will appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court over last month's ruling by a regional appeals court that found in favor of gay marriage in the conservative state, the attorney general's office said on Wednesday. A challenge by Utah was widely expected after the June 25 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, which said the state could not stop same-sex couples from marrying. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes' office said he would petition the U.S. Supreme Court in the coming week. "Utah's Constitutional Amendment ... (prohibiting gay marriage) is presumed to be constitutional unless the highest courts deem otherwise," it said in a statement.
By Steve Holland DENVER (Reuters) - What if President Barack Obama came to your fund-raising event and you did not attend? His non-attendance raised questions as to whether he did not want to appear personally with Obama as he tries to fight off a tough challenge from Republican U.S. Representative Cory Gardner. Udall's seat could be key in the Republican drive to capture control of the U.S. Senate. "Due to last-minute votes and legislative activity, Mark will be unable to make the trip back to Colorado on Wednesday," Udall's campaign said.
By Jeff Mason and David Lawder WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Congressional Republicans on Wednesday cast a skeptical eye on a White House request for $3.7 billion to address an influx of child migrants at the U.S. border while President Barack Obama headed to Texas to meet a top critic, Texas Governor Rick Perry. Obama is battling increasing political pressure from supporters and opponents alike to halt a growing humanitarian crisis along the Texas border with Mexico. The money, however, must be approved by the Democrat-controlled Senate and Republican-led House of Representatives. Republicans, who have pressed the White House to do more to tackle the crisis, gave a wary reception to the proposal.
By Kathy Finn NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was sentenced on Wednesday to 10 years in federal prison for corruption during the critical years of rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005. Nagin, 58, stirred national controversy with his erratic behavior after Katrina breached floodwalls and inundated New Orleans in 2005, killing at least 1,500 people and leaving tens of thousands homeless. Citing Nagin's devotion to family and commitment to helping New Orleans, U.S. District Judge Helen Ginger Berrigan said a shorter prison term than that recommended under federal sentencing guidelines was warranted. Berrigan also ordered Nagin, who prosecutors say accepted bribes valued at over $500,000, to pay about $84,000 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.
A flock of geese caused the deaths of four US airmen whose military helicopter crashed over a nature reserve in eastern England, investigators said Wednesday. The US Air Force HH-60 Pave Hawk, based at Lakenheath airbase, came down in Norfolk on January 7 while on a training mission. As the helicopters approached, a flock of geese flew off from the reserve in Cley-next-the-Sea, probably startled by the noise, the military investigators' report said. At least three birds crashed through the windscreen into the cockpit, knocking the pilot, co-pilot and aerial gunner unconscious, said a statement from the Accident Investigation Board, issued by US Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa.
Ali Salman, a cleric who heads Al-Wefaq, was called in on Tuesday along with his political assistant, ex-MP Khalil Marzooq, by Bahrain's Public Security. The interior ministry said they were questioned separately about meeting with visiting US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, Tom Malinowski. It said the meeting at the US embassy violated a rule stipulating that contacts between political associations and foreign parties "should be coordinated with the foreign ministry and in the presence" of its representative. The questioning came after Bahrain declared Malinowski, "unwelcome" after he met Salman and other opposition leaders, and demanded his immediate departure.
German authorities said Wednesday they were investigating an alleged foreign spy as reports said the suspect was the second within days believed to be working for US intelligence. If confirmed, the latest case would further strain transatlantic relations, which have taken a bruising since last year with the NSA surveillance scandal sparked by revelations of fugitive US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden. "Federal police officers have since this morning searched the residential and office premises of an accused in the Berlin area due to preliminary suspicion of intelligence activities. The case was considered "more serious" than that of a German intelligence operative and alleged double agent who was arrested last week on charges of spying for the CIA, said reports by the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung and two public broadcasters.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad decreed an amnesty last month but for tens of thousands of prisoners, among them high-profile dissidents, the promise of freedom is a fraud. Yara Bader, 29, has been desperately waiting for word on her husband Mazen Darwish, a journalist and activist detained since February 2012. Her hopes that Assad's amnesty might lead to Darwish's release are fading, as she continues to wage an uphill struggle against despair. "The amnesty gave me real hope they would be freed within hours, but they are still in jail a month on, and it is impossible to know what will happen next."
Israel significantly broadened its campaign against Gaza Wednesday after militants fired at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in their biggest confrontation since 2012, raising fears of a major Israeli ground offensive. It was the most serious flare-up in and around the Gaza Strip since November 2012 and came as Israel struggled to contain a wave of nationwide unrest over the grisly murder of a Palestinian teenager by Jewish extremists. Since Operation Protective Edge began in the early hours of Tuesday, Israel warplanes have bombed 430 targets in Gaza, and Hamas militants have hit back with 117 rockets, some of which struck Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and as far away as Hadera, 116 kilometres (72 miles) to the north.
By Valerie Volcovici and Michael Martina WASHINGTON/BEIJING (Reuters) - The United States and China on Tuesday signed eight partnership pacts to cut greenhouse gases that will bring the world's two biggest carbon emitters closer together on climate policy, but fundamental differences between the two sides remain. Consensus between the United States and China will be a crucial part of any new global climate pact to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, but they have long struggled to come to an agreement on how the costs of cutting greenhouse gases should be distributed among rich and poor nations. Speaking in Beijing during the latest round of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday that the two sides remained committed to "close dialogue" on climate change negotiations. "The significance of these two nations coming together can't be understated. We are working hard to find a solution together that can have an impact on the rest of the world." The deals, which involve companies and research bodies, were signed in Beijing ahead of a two-day visit to China by top Obama administration officials, including Kerry, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.
At least 14 people, among them women, were killed by Syrian rebels in the village of Khatab in central Hama province overnight, state media and an NGO said Wednesday. Syrian state television said rebels carried out a "massacre" that included women and children, while the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said seven men and seven women had been "executed" by rebel fighters. "An armed terrorist group infiltrated the village of Khatab at dawn and committed a massacre among the civilian residents, killing 14 of them," state television said. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said "14 residents of Khatab in the northwestern Hama countryside were killed, including seven (female) civilians, by rebel brigades."