- - Wednesday, February 16, 2011

CALIFORNIA

Berkeley votes against welcoming detainees

BERKELEY | The Berkeley City Council, known for its forays into international affairs, has narrowly rejected a measure that would have welcomed freed Guantanamo Bay detainees to resettle in the college town.

The resolution would have asked Congress to allow Guantanamo prisoners who have been cleared of wrongdoing to resettle in the U.S. and would have invited “one or two” of them to live in Berkeley.

The measure lost in a 4-1 vote, with four abstentions, late Tuesday.

At least two other U.S. cities — Amherst and Leverett in Massachusetts — have approved similar resolutions aimed at clearing the way for Guantanamo detainees to come to the U.S. after their release from the American detention facility in Cuba.

HAWAII

Legislature OKs same-sex civil unions

HONOLULU | Hawaii’s Legislature approved a bill on Wednesday allowing civil unions for same-sex couples, sending the measure to the state’s Democratic governor, who has said he will sign it into law.

Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s office said he intends to sign the bill within 10 days, and civil unions would begin Jan. 1, 2012.

The Senate’s 18-5 vote came after years of thousands-strong rallies, election battles and passionate public testimony on an issue that has divided the Rainbow State for nearly two decades.

The measure grants gay and lesbian couples the same rights and benefits the state provides to married couples.

Hawaii would become the seventh state to grant essentially the same rights of marriage to same-sex couples without authorizing marriage itself.

Five states and the District of Columbia permit same-sex marriage.

NEW YORK

Pirate sentenced in 2009 kidnapping

NEW YORK | A Somali pirate who kidnapped and brutalized the captain of a U.S.-flagged merchant ship off the coast of Africa in 2009 was sentenced to more than 33 years in prison Wednesday by an emotional judge who told him he deserved a stiff punishment for leading a crew of armed bandits bent on committing “depraved acts.”

U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska choked up as she read at length from letters written by Capt. Richard Phillips and traumatized sailors who were aboard the cargo vessel commandeered by Abdiwali Abdiqadir Muse.

The recent spate of piracy on the Indian Ocean and elsewhere “is not a Disneyland-esque problem,” she said, quoting Capt. Phillips, of Underhill, Vt. “These are not Johnny Depps. They threaten seamen’s lives, repeatedly. … They deprive us of the rights that they themselves complain about.”

TEXAS

Ruling postponed in beauty-queen flap

SAN ANTONIO | A Texas judge has postponed ruling whether Miss San Antonio can keep her crown after the 17-year-old was ousted over allegations of gaining weight and other broken rules.

Domonique Ramirez said Wednesday she considers herself Miss San Antonio. She also again denied putting on weight since the 5-foot-8, 129-pound teenager won the local pageant, which is a run-up to the Miss Texas and Miss America contests.

Miss Ramirez is suing to keep her crown after pageant organizers stripped her of her title in January. State District Judge Cathleen Stryker said she’ll decide Friday whether to consider a temporary injunction that would let Miss Ramirez remain Miss San Antonio for now.

Pageant organizers filed a counterclaim Wednesday that accuses Miss Ramirez of violating Miss San Antonio rules “almost from the very beginning” since winning in April.

VIRGINIA

State’s 1st female chief justice sworn in

RICHMOND | Cynthia D. Kinser was sworn in as the Virginia Supreme Court’s first female chief justice Wednesday during a ceremony that blended regional pride, a bit of levity and solemn tributes to her predecessor, who died last week.

Justice Donald W. Lemons administered the oath to Justice Kinser in a courtroom packed with active and retired state judges, current and former elected officials, lawyers and members of Justice Kinser’s family from far southwest Virginia’s Lee County.

WEST VIRGINIA

Marshal, suspect killed in shootout

CHARLESTON | One of three deputy U.S. marshals who were shot while attempting to serve an arrest warrant in West Virginia has died. A drug suspect also was killed in the shootout, authorities said.

It happened at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday as deputy U.S. marshals entered a residence in Elkins, U.S. Marshals Service spokesman Dave Oney said.

The suspect, Charles E. Smith, 50, was wanted on charges related to possession with intent to distribute cocaine, Mr. Oney said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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