- - Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Hearing set on original Prop 8 judge

SAN FRANCISCO | A federal judge has scheduled a hearing on whether a ruling that struck down California’s same-sex marriage ban should be thrown out because its author is in a same-sex relationship.

Chief U.S. District Judge James Ware’s order, issued Wednesday, said he was fast-tracking the motion involving his retired predecessor, former Chief Judge Vaughn Walker, with a June 13 hearing date.

Lawyers for the sponsors of the voter-approved gay-marriage ban have asked Judge Ware to vacate Judge Walker’s decision overturning Proposition 8 as a violation of gay Californian’s civil rights.

Judge Walker disclosed this month that he has a male partner of 10 years, but said he never considered removing himself from the case.


DNA evidence led to mall bomb suspect

DENVER | DNA evidence taken from a homemade bomb at a Colorado shopping mall led investigators to identify the suspect as a convicted bank robber released from prison just a week before the device was found, according to a newly released court document.

The criminal complaint made public Wednesday said DNA evidence from the bomb matched the DNA profile of Earl Albert Moore, 65, in a national database.

Moore was arrested Tuesday after being spotted drinking coffee at a supermarket Starbucks in Boulder. He’s being held on suspicion of leaving a pipe bomb and two small, camp-stove-style propane tanks at the Southwest Plaza Mall in the south Denver suburbs on April 20.


Homeless mom: Not guilty in school enrollment case

NORWALK | A homeless single mother who lives in her van pleaded not guilty Wednesday to stealing nearly $16,000 worth of education for her son by enrolling the kindergartner in her baby-sitter’s school district.

Tanya McDowell, 33, was arraigned in Norwalk, where she was arrested April 14 on felony charges of committing and attempting to commit first-degree larceny.

Prosecutors say Miss McDowell used her baby-sitter’s address to enroll her son in Norwalk schools in the fall but should have registered the boy in nearby Bridgeport, a significantly poorer urban district and the location of her last permanent address.

Officials call it the first known case of its type in Connecticut, although similar conflicts have played out elsewhere in the U.S. as districts try to ensure their scarce local tax dollars are used for local students.

Miss McDowell, who is black, has drawn the support of civil rights leaders and parents’ groups and is being represented by a lawyer provided by the Connecticut chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She faces up to 20 years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines if convicted of the felony larceny charge.


NASA braces for Giffords, Obamas

CAPE CANAVERAL | Rep. Gabrielle Giffords left hospitals behind Wednesday for the first time since her shooting nearly four months ago and traveled to NASA territory for the next-to-last space shuttle launch, with her husband in command.

“Gabby is looking forward to some time away from the rehab center & the chance to see captain Mark Kelly launch again!” Mrs. Giffords’ staff posted on her Facebook page.

Space Shuttle Endeavour is due to blast off Friday afternoon with Mr. Kelly at the helm. It will be Endeavour’s final voyage after 19 years of spaceflight, as the shuttle era nears the end.

NASA managers said they’re thrilled to host Mrs. Giffords, even though her presence requires a little extra care and attention. She flew by NASA jet from Houston to Florida’s Space Coast, a day behind the other astronauts’ wives and children.

President Obama will arrive on launch day. He’ll bring his wife and two daughters in what will be the first visit by a first family for a launch. Only two other sitting presidents have ever witnessed a manned launch: Richard Nixon for Apollo 12 in 1969 and Bill Clinton for John Glenn’s return to orbit in 1998 aboard Space Shuttle Discovery.


Indiana may end Planned Parenthood funds

INDIANAPOLIS | Indiana is poised to become the first state to cut all government funding for the Planned Parenthood organization.

The move would be a significant victory for anti-abortion activists, but pose a political risk for Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels as he considers running for president.

The Indiana House could vote late Wednesday to cut off the $3 million in federal money the state distributes to the organization for family planning and health programs. The state Senate approved the measure earlier this month.

Indiana would risk losing $4 million in Medicaid funds for indigent births and other care if Mr. Daniels signs the bill. But a veto could antagonize ardent conservatives already wary of Mr. Daniels’ calls for a “truce” on “social issues” to focus on the economy.


Medical marijuana overhaul approved

HELENA | Montana’s state House and Senate have passed a bill aimed at slashing the number of medical marijuana users and eliminating large pot businesses in the state.

The measure cleared both chambers Wednesday. It next heads to Gov. Brian Schweitzer for his signature, veto or amendment recommendations.

Mr. Schweitzer has already vetoed an outright repeal of the state’s medical marijuana law.

Senate Bill 423 would put into place a limited, not-for-profit system meant to do away with the state’s profitable marijuana industry.

The bill would require applicants to provide stricter proof that they have an illness that qualifies them to be on the medical marijuana registry.

Providers would not be able to charge patients for the marijuana.

The bill also would give authorities the ability to monitor and inspect growing operations.


U.S. payouts begin under Justice deal

LAS VEGAS | The world’s largest online poker company says it has started the process of repaying millions of dollars in funds deposited by American players as its executives face allegations of bank fraud and money laundering to conceal illegal Internet gambling.

PokerStars said in a release Wednesday that it has made arrangements with a bank to return the funds as part of an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Isle of Man-based company says player money is safe and has been kept in separate accounts from those used for company operations.

PokerStars recently shut down its real-money gambling offerings to American players after federal authorities in New York announced indictments of 11 executives at PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker.

PokerStars has said it plans to defend itself.


City renamed for a movie, for now

The central Pennsylvania city of Altoona has officially ceased to exist.

Oh, it’s not been wiped from the map. It’s just been renamed after the latest movie by documentarian Morgan Spurlock.

The movie and the town are now both known as “POM Wonderful: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.”

Mr. Spurlock is in the city 85 miles east of Pittsburgh, where he’s participated in the renaming ceremonies.

For now, he’s making appearances around the city in a blue suit emblazoned with sponsors’ logos to lampoon the point he makes in the movie that the proliferation of advertising has gone too far.

Mr. Spurlock is also donating $25,000 to the local police department for the right to rename the city for the next 60 days.


Families accuse schools of promoting Christianity

GALLATIN | Three Sumner County families are accusing the local public schools of illegally promoting Christianity through Bible giveaways and prayers since at least 2006.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, on behalf of the families, has sent a complaint about the activities to the Sumner County Board of Education. The complaint requests the board stop the religious activities, but it is not a lawsuit.

One of the allegations outlined in the complaint is that members of a Bible study club at Madison Creek Elementary were permitted to “pray over the loudspeaker for all schoolchildren to hear” on a daily basis. Principal Robin Hood denied the allegations, saying the school observes a moment of silence but does not broadcast prayers.

The complaint also alleges students at Indian Lake Elementary were instructed to line up outside their classrooms and pick up a Bible from a table, if they wanted one.

At T.W. Hunter Middle School, the complaint claims a local Baptist church threw a party for Hunter students in which they were taken on county school buses to the church for a day of movies, treats and games. Those who did not wish to attend remained at the school, where they were given additional work.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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