Saturday, March 21, 2009

Vermont panel OKs gay marriage

MONTPELIER, Vt. | A state Senate committee unanimously approved a gay marriage bill Friday, moving Vermont one step closer to allowing same-sex couples to legally wed.

“It provides … gay and lesbian couples the same rights that I have as a married heterosexual,” said Sen. John Campbell, vice chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and chief sponsor of the bill.

The measure would replace Vermont’s first-in-the-nation civil union law with one that allows marriage of same-sex partners beginning Sept. 1. Civil unions, which confer some rights similar to marriage, would still be recognized but no longer granted after Sept. 1.

Both Houses, under Democratic control, are expected to pass the measure. The Senate is taking the lead and is expected to debate the bill next week. Gov. Jim Douglas, a Republican, has said he opposes the bill but has declined to say whether he will veto it if it reaches his desk.

Muslim charged with targeting Jews

CHICAGO | A 24-year-old Chicago Muslim was charged Friday with threatening to set off explosives near Jewish schools in the metropolitan area if Israel didn’t halt military actions in Gaza.

Mohammed T. Alkaramla, a native of Jordan, was ordered held without bond, according to the FBI.

Mr. Alkaramla is charged with a felony count of sending an interstate threatening communication and is being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago.

Authorities say he sent a letter to the Ida Crown Jewish Academy in Chicago on Dec. 30 claiming that explosives would be set off around the school unless the Gaza war stopped by Jan. 15. No explosive devices were found and no injuries were reported, the FBI said.

New Jersey backs off ban on waxing

TRENTON, N.J. | New Jersey is smoothing out differences over a plan to ban bare-it-all bikini waxing.

The state Friday decided to reverse course on the proposal after angry salon owners complained about losing business ahead of swimsuit season.

“It was an unnecessary issue,” said spa owner Linda Orsuto. “It was like, ‘Just stay out of our pants, will you?’ ”

The state Cosmetology and Hairstyling Board proposed banning “Brazilian” bikini waxing after two women were hospitalized for infections following the procedure.

On Friday, Consumer Affairs Director David Szuchman effectively killed the plan. In a letter to the board, Mr. Szuchman said he won’t support the ban, and since his office oversees the board, the ban would never be approved.

Woman gives birth to quintuplets

PHOENIX | A Tucson couple is celebrating a big addition to their family: quintuplets.

Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center spokesman Craig Fischer says Lorena Puig gave birth Wednesday at a Phoenix hospital to three girls and two boys, who were born within four minutes of each other during the 29th week of pregnancy.

The babies range in weight from 2 pounds, 1.7 ounces, to 2 pounds, 8 ounces. Phoenix Children’s Hospital officials say the quintuplets likely will remain hospitalized for another 10 weeks.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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