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Legal & General Group
24 ноября 2016, 22:58

Chesnara купит голландское подразделение Legal & General

Legal & General Group, крупнейшая в Великобритании компания, специализирующаяся на управлении пенсионными активами, заявила, что продаст своё подразделение в Нидерландах за 160 млн евро ($168,54 млн). В роли покупателя выступит компания Chesnara. Сообщается, что данная сделка осуществляется Legal & General в рамках реализации программы по избавлению от непрофильных активов.

24 ноября 2016, 14:17

Chesnara купит голландское подразделение Legal & General

Legal & General Group, крупнейшая в Великобритании компания, специализирующаяся на управлении пенсионными активами, заявила, что продаст своё подразделение в Нидерландах за 160 млн евро ($168,54 млн). В роли покупателя выступит компания Chesnara. Сообщается, что данная сделка осуществляется Legal & General в рамках реализации программы по избавлению от непрофильных активов.

30 сентября 2016, 17:25

Deutsche Bank to Boost Capital Position with Abbey Life Sale

Deutsche Bank AG (DB) inked a deal to sell its U.K. insurance business, Abbey Life, for $1.09 billion to Phoenix Life Holdings Limited, a unit of Phoenix Group Holdings Limited

16 сентября 2016, 16:39

Deutsche Bank in "Advance Discussions" to Sell Abbey Life

Deutsche Bank AG (DB) is in advance talks with Phoenix Group Holdings to sell its U.K. insurance business, Abbey Life Assurance Company Ltd.

16 марта 2016, 15:04

Котировки фьючерсов на нефть Brent после снижения накануне вернулись к отметке в $39 за баррель

Котировки фьючерсов на нефть Brent после снижения накануне вернулись к отметке в $39 за баррель, отреагировав ростом на данные по запасам нефти и нефтепродуктов в США, опубликованным Американским институтом нефти (API). Фьючерсы на ведущие фондовые индексы США меняются мало. Основные азиатские фондовые индикаторы не показывают единой динамики. Премаркет европейской сессии в текущем моменте сигнализирует о небольшом повышении основных европейских фондовых индексов в начале торгового дня. Ведущие европейские фондовые индексы во вторник снизились. Британский фондовый индикатор FTSE 100 по итогам дня потерял 0.56%, а из числа бумаг, входящих в его состав, понижением выделились акции горнодобывающих предприятий Anglo American (-10.8%), BHP Billiton (-6.5%), Glencore (-4.8%) и компаний из финансового сектора Legal & General Group (-6.4%), Standard Chartered (-4.0%). Давление британском фонд

16 марта 2016, 12:02

Котировки фьючерсов на нефть Brent после снижения накануне вернулись к отметке в $39 за баррель

Котировки фьючерсов на нефть Brent после снижения накануне вернулись к отметке в $39 за баррель, отреагировав ростом на данные по запасам нефти и нефтепродуктов в США, опубликованным Американским институтом нефти (API). Фьючерсы на ведущие фондовые индексы США меняются мало. Основные азиатские фондовые индикаторы не показывают единой динамики. Премаркет европейской сессии в текущем моменте сигнализирует о небольшом повышении основных европейских фондовых индексов в начале торгового дня. Ведущие европейские фондовые индексы во вторник снизились. Британский фондовый индикатор FTSE 100 по итогам дня потерял 0.56%, а из числа бумаг, входящих в его состав, понижением выделились акции горнодобывающих предприятий Anglo American (-10.8%), BHP Billiton (-6.5%), Glencore (-4.8%) и компаний из финансового сектора Legal & General Group (-6.4%), Standard Chartered (-4.0%). Давление британском фонд

05 марта 2014, 20:23

Великобритания: годовая прибыль Legal & General совпала с прогнозами аналитиков

Legal & General Group, крупнейшая в Великобритании компания, специализирующаяся на управлении пенсионными активами, зафиксировала 7%-ный рост годовой прибыли. Так, операционная прибыль в 2013 году составила 1,16 млрд фунтов стерлингов ($1,9 млрд), совпав со средними прогнозами аналитиков. При этом компания увеличила дивидендные выплаты на 22% с 7,65 пенса на акцию годом ранее до 9,3 пенса на бумагу, в то время как аналитики ожидали 9,24 пенса на акцию.

05 марта 2014, 13:05

Великобритания: годовая прибыль Legal & General совпала с прогнозами аналитиков

Legal & General Group, крупнейшая в Великобритании компания, специализирующаяся на управлении пенсионными активами, зафиксировала 7%-ный рост годовой прибыли. Так, операционная прибыль в 2013 году составила 1,16 млрд фунтов стерлингов ($1,9 млрд), совпав со средними прогнозами аналитиков. При этом компания увеличила дивидендные выплаты на 22% с 7,65 пенса на акцию годом ранее до 9,3 пенса на бумагу, в то время как аналитики ожидали 9,24 пенса на акцию.

22 мая 2013, 00:04

Домик в Лондоне подорожал

В 2012 году инвесторы опасались ухудшения экономической ситуации в Великобритании, поэтому вкладывали средства в основном в жилье премиум-класса. Теперь же крупные компании начинают искать дешевые активы за городской чертой. В частности, Legal & General Group объявила о создании фонда, который потратит на покупки за пределами Лондона до 1 млрд фунтов. Фонд Quantum, принадлежащий миллиардеру Джорджу Соросу, также нацелился на увеличение инвестиций. В январе фонд приобрел 5,7% Development Securi­ties, а к маю увеличил свою долю в компании до 6,8%, пишет Bloomberg.

Выбор редакции
29 марта 2013, 03:12

Leeds General Infirmary suspends Children's heart surgery

Decision comes a day after High Court quashes plans to close children's unit after ruling consultation process was flawedChildren's heart surgery has been suspended with immediate effect at a hospital which is embroiled in a long-running row over the future of paediatric cardiac services in England.The decision to stop congenital heart surgery at Leeds General Infirmary comes just a day after the High Court quashed plans by the NHS to close its children's unit after ruling the consultation process was flawed.It follows concerns raised about patients' care including allegations the hospital was avoiding referring children for complex and life-saving treatment at another centre in Newcastle.Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said the temporary measure was being taken to allow an internal review to be conducted following consultation with the Care Quality Commission (CQC).It apologised to the families affected but failed to offer any further details about if and when patients scheduled to have surgery would receive treatment.Maggie Boyle, chief executive of the trust, said: "Following discussions earlier today with senior representatives from NHS England and the Care Quality Commission the trust has agreed to carry out an internal review, independently validated and supported by external experts."This will look at all aspects of congenital cardiac surgery for children undertaken at the unit in Leeds."We have taken the decision to temporarily pause children's congenital cardiac surgery and associated interventions while this review is conducted, a process we would aim to complete in around three weeks.We apologise to parents and families who will be affected during this time, and can assure them we always put the safety of our patients first."It is really important to us that the review is done as speedily and comprehensively as possible which, of course, we hope will show the services in Leeds to be safe. We are confident in the quality of the care provided by our staff and hope they will bear with us during this difficult time."The children's heart surgery unit at the hospital was earmarked for closure under NHS plans taken last July aimed at streamlining services which would have seen operations being carried out at fewer and more specialised centres.A campaign was launched to stop the site from closing which culminated in a legal battle at the High Court on Wednesday where the plan was quashed after a judge ruled the consultation process had been unfair and legally flawed.Sharon Cheng, a member of Save our Surgery - the group co-ordinating the campaign – expressed her shock at the decision to suspend children's heart surgery at the hospital. "We're mystified. We don't know anything that could justify this step."Earlier this month, the CQC confirmed it had received claims that the hospital had resisted sending patients for treatment at Newcastle's Freeman Hospital – a unit that would remain open under the original NHS restructuring plans.The hospital strongly denied "any suggestion that we would act improperly either by restricting referrals or by failing to carry out surgery where either of these actions was the right thing to do".NHS England said the decision to suspend children's heart surgery at the hospital was a "highly responsible precautionary step" while checks were made to ensure the unit was operating safely.Sir Bruce Keogh, the Medical Director of NHS England, said: "Some questions have been raised by the trust's own mortality data and by other information. It is important to understand that while this information raises questions, it does not give us answers. But it is absolutely right not to take any risks while these matters are being looked into. The priority must be the safety of children."NHSHealthCass Jonesguardian.co.uk © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

28 марта 2013, 04:00

Jacob Combs: Supreme Court Likely To Strike Down DOMA -- Here's Why

This morning I had the chance to sit in the Supreme Court's press gallery and hear two packed hours of oral arguments on the constitutionality of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). A big first impression: It seems quite likely that Section 3 of DOMA will be struck down by the Supreme Court. But the court may not get to that decision the way observers might have expected, and there remains a chance that it won't get to that question at all. Today's oral arguments felt like a marathon: We had a brief break between the jurisdictional and merits questions (and by "brief" I mean brief), but other than that, it was over two hours of solid legal back-and-forth. Like yesterday, the arguments were wonky and didn't include any fireworks. First Impressions The jurisdictional/standing arguments made it clear that there is skepticism among the justices as to whether the U.S. House of Representatives' Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) has standing to defend DOMA in court, but also uncertainty about whether the federal government should be able to appeal a lower court decision that it agrees with. For instance, Chief Justice John Roberts asked why President Obama's Department of Justice has not simply ceased enforcing DOMA rather than continuing to enforce it while attacking it in the courts. At one point he told Deputy Solicitor General Sri Srinivasan (arguing on behalf of the federal government) that recognizing jurisdiction in this case (where all parties agree with the lower court's decision) would be "wholly unprecedented." However, Justice Anthony Kennedy did seem convinced that there was an injury present in the case, as did Justice Elena Kagan (who said, simply, that there's "a lot of money" at stake in the case). Chief Justice Roberts also opened up his own argument a bit, asking whether a chamber of Congress could move to join a lawsuit if it simply didn't agree with the government's arguments in favor of a law it had passed. Several justices questioned Paul Clement (the lawyer speaking on behalf of BLAG) on why the just-five-member body could throw the full weight of the U.S. House of Representatives behind DOMA, and they pointed out that a full House vote would be more persuasive. Kennedy asked if the Senate could intervene on the other side of the case, and Clement said that it could not. On the merits of the case, the justices spent a significant a significant amount of today's argument time questioning all parties on whether DOMA was an unconstitutional intrusion of the federal government into an area traditionally reserved for state law. For instance, when Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. stepped up to represent the federal government's position, the justices grilled him on this issue and seemed very skeptical of his claim that there is no federalism problem inherent in DOMA. Justice Kennedy in particular pointed out that DOMA affects access to over 1,000 federal rights and told Clement that DOMA was at "real risk of running in conflict" with the state police power to regulate marriage. Justice Sonia Sotomayor critiqued Clement's argument that DOMA could be defended as an expression of the federal government's wish that marital eligibility be uniform for the purposes of federal law, saying that doing so would treat couples in New York differently from those in Nebraska. Justice Stephen Breyer asked whether Congress could limit federal marital benefits based on age or residency, and when Clement said that it could, the justice said that doing so would be thoroughly irrational. Nevertheless, there appear to be at least five clear votes on the court for invalidating DOMA, either on issues of federal overreach or on equal protection grounds. On the latter issue, the court spent some time, but not much, discussing whether laws that classify people based on sexual orientation should be subject to the more searching judicial review of heightened scrutiny. Justice Kagan in particular questioned whether or not Congress might have had other motives in passing DOMA besides uniformity; Justice Sotomayor quoted the House's record of the law's enactment, which stated that the law was intended to "express moral disapproval of homosexuality." But Chief Justice Roberts asked both Verrilli and Roberta Kaplan, the lawyer representing Edie Windsor, the plaintiff, whether the legislators who voted in favor of DOMA could be explicitly accused of animus, which both lawyers disavowed. Justice Breyer pressed Clement for a "list of reasons" why Congress would want to limit federal marital benefits to opposite-sex couples only. Given today's arguments, it does seem that DOMA is on its last legs and that the Supreme Court will likely strike it down this summer if it decides Windsor's case on the merits. But there are many complex arguments on the standing/jurisdiction questions that the justices will have to address in their decision. Here's a more in-depth look at both sections of today's arguments. Questions of Standing and Jurisdiction The first lawyer up to argue was Vicki Jackson, a Harvard law professor whom the court had appointed to take the position that BLAG does not have standing to defend DOMA and that the Supreme Court therefore has no jurisdiction over the Windsor case, given that the federal government officially agrees with Windsor that DOMA is unconstitutional. Her central arguments was simple: The federal government is only asking the Supreme Court to affirm the lower courts' decisions, as opposed to asking for redress, which is the traditional remedy that courts can supply, and BLAG cannot point to any cognizable injury that it would suffer if DOMA were overturned. Justice Antonin Scalia asked why the district court hadn't simply ordered the federal government to refund Edie Windsor's money without deciding the merits of DOMA, given that the federal government argued against DOMA in that court (after modifying its position from its original defense of the law). Justice Breyer likened the president's position to that of a trustee who feels obligated to obtain a final, authoritative decision on a question of law before relinquishing some of the trust's money, even if he or she were to agree with the legal decision on the law. Justice Kennedy seemed to agree that there was an injury in the Windsor case for the government, with Kagan jumping onto his point to say that whether the government is "happy or sad" to pay the tax refund, there nevertheless is a fiduciary injury. Justices Sotomayor and Breyer seemed on board with this reasoning. As I mentioned before, Chief Justice Roberts told Srinivasan that the federal government's argument that it could appeal a ruling where all parties are pleased by the decision would be "wholly unprecedented." Justice Scalia expressed deep discomfort with the idea, calling it a strange new world where the attorney general could simply choose not to defend laws, which he worried would bring many more cases like Windsor (where both parties agree) to the Supreme Court. In defense of the government's position, Srinivasan quoted a previous Supreme Court decision, Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Chadha, which held that the United States is the aggrieved party in any ruling against it, even if it agrees with the ruling. Justice Sotomayor steered Srinivasan to the question of BLAG's standing, to which he also quoted Chadha, which he argued set a precedent for amicus status for the chambers of Congress, as opposed to status as full parties. Arguing for BLAG, Clement read Chadha to the reverse effect, arguing that it in fact points to the U.S. House of Representatives as the proper party to defend a law in court if the executive branch of the federal government won't. Chief Justice Roberts pushed back, asking Clement whether the House could file to join a lawsuit if it didn't like the executive branch's arguments in defense of a law that Congress had passed. Kagan then jumped in, asking whether the House could try to join a lawsuit if the attorney general decided to interpret a law more narrowly than it liked. Justice Kennedy asked whether the Senate could join as a party to defend DOMA, to which Clement replied that the Senate could not. Justice Alito then asked why one chamber of Congress alone should be able to defend a law when it takes both of them to pass one. Clement also ridiculed a motion to dismiss the Windsor case, filed by the federal government when the case was in the district court, arguing that what the government wrote was essentially for the purpose of creating a suitable appeal. In response, Justice Kennedy said that that brief could give anyone "intellectual whiplash." Long story short, given today's oral arguments, it seems unclear whether the Supreme Court will get past the standing questions to consider DOMA on the merits. Looking at the justices' questions, there doesn't appear to be much support among them for the contention that BLAG has standing to join the case as a party. But the question of whether the United States can appeal a decision that it agrees with is much more central to the Windsor case. If the court finds that the appeal was invalid, it simply will not be able to rule on the merits of the law. Justice Kennedy and the court's liberals did seem to lean toward the idea that the court does have jurisdiction because there is a fiduciary injury to the United States. That means that the court will probably issue a decision on the merits. The Merits My general impression from today's oral arguments is that there are at least five votes to strike down the law, although the justices seem to be leaning toward a decision based on the question of the federal government's intrusion on traditionally state affairs, as opposed to a strict equal protection analysis. Clement was up first. He framed the legal question narrowly: If it is constitutional for states to define marriage as something limited to opposite-sex couples, shouldn't it also be constitutional for the federal government to have its own definition? Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg jumped on this quickly, pointing out that a marriage that does not provide federal benefits might prompt anyone to ask, "What kind of marriage is this?" Justice Kennedy noted that DOMA prohibits legally married same-sex couples from accessing over 1,000 federal rights and told Clement he was at "real risk of running in conflict" with states' police power to regulate marriage. Clement replied that DOMA simply provides for consistency in the federal definition of marriage, but Kennedy pointed out that it only provides consistency when it comes to differing state marriage laws regarding sexual orientation and not any other classification. Justice Sotomayor also took issue with the idea that DOMA provides consistency for federal benefits, saying that Clement's argument elides the fact that the federal government treats married couples in New York differently from those in Nebraska. Justice Breyer picked up this line of reasoning, asking whether Congress could constitutionally limit federal marital benefits on the basis of age or residency. Clement said that it could, which Breyer scoffed at, saying that Clement's argument was essentially that a desire for uniformity could save otherwise irrational classifications. Why are marriages between same-sex couples different, he asked, and what about them makes the federal government need a uniform national definition for federal benefits? Clement told Breyer that DOMA allows the states to make decisions about marriage equality for themselves instead of allowing one state to determine equal marriage rights (in 1996, the fear of those who supported DOMA was that this state would be Hawaii) and thus bring marriage equality to the whole country. Justice Sotomayor was unconvinced, asking why the federal government should worry about what would happen to the states in this regard. Justice Kennedy also pointed out a central contradiction in Clement's argument that DOMA was passed in order to help the states: Even if Section 2 of the law protects states from recognizing other states' same-sex marriage licenses, Section 3 of the law undoubtedly harms states that do decide to extend equal marriage rights to same-sex couples. In essence, Kennedy wryly pointed out, the only states that benefited from DOMA were those that did what the government wanted (i.e., retained a definition of marriage that limited it to opposite-sex couples only). Clement kept coming back to his uniformity argument, but several of the justices seemed quite unconvinced. Justice Ginsburg noted that marriage affects every aspect of life and said that DOMA essentially creates two types of marriage in America, the full kind and another one that's more like "skim milk." Justice Kagan denounced the uniformity argument entirely, pointing out that the only uniform aspect to the federal government's definition of marriage before DOMA was that it deferred to the states' own definitions. Given that such a federal definition had never been attempted before DOMA, she asked, shouldn't that be a red flag that the law was passed because of animus? Justice Sotomayor continued on this line of reasoning, quoting the U.S. House of Representatives' record of the passage of DOMA, which stated that the law expressed Congress' "moral disapproval of homosexuality." Justice Breyer asked Clement to assume that uniformity isn't enough to save DOMA and asked for a list of "really specific things" that would explain why Congress needed to limit federal marital benefits to same-sex couples for the sake of uniformity. Next up was Solicitor General Verrilli, who faced very tough questioning from the justices. Verrilli presented the federal government's position that there is no fundamental federalism problem with DOMA, instead asking the court to strike down the law based on equal protection grounds, but the justices proceeded to tear apart Verrilli's federalism contention. Chief Justice Roberts asked whether it would be constitutional for Congress to pass a law that explicitly extended federal marital benefits to same-sex couples, and he seemed taken aback by Verrilli's answer that such a law would be admissible. Justice Kennedy asked whether Verrilli was saying that Congress could dictate a definition of marriage for the states, telling the solicitor general that the court didn't even need to address the equal protection question if the law was an unconstitutional exercise of federal power. Justice Alito brought up the issue of gay soldiers injured in the line of action. Assume, he said, that there are three soldiers injured, all of whom are in committed relationships. One is married, another is in a domestic partnership and the third has neither. Should only the first one's spouse be allowed to visit him in the hospital? Verrilli kept to his argument, saying that the question in the DOMA case was the problem of equal protection. Chief Justice Roberts pressed Verrilli on whether a lack of DOMA in 1996 would have meant that when one state extended equal marriage rights to same-sex couples, all the other states would have had to follow suit. Verrilli responded that the federal government should have continued its policy of deferring to the states and said that an interest in uniformity cannot save the law. The chief justice asked whether that meant that all the legislators who voted for DOMA, and Bill Clinton, the president who signed it into law, were motivated by animus. Verrilli said that that was not necessarily the case, but then he said pointedly that "Section 3 is discrimination," and that singling out gays and lesbians for disfavor does not comport with the ideals of the U.S. Constitution. Justices Sotomayor and Breyer pressed Verrilli on whether an invalidation of DOMA would mean that the court would also have to strike down state marriage bans. In response, Verrilli said that states could make their own rationales in favor of their laws for the courts to determine, but that the federal government's rationale for DOMA clearly fails to pass muster. Last up was Roberta Kaplan, representing Edie Windsor. Kaplan was asked many of the same questions that were put to Verrilli, but in response to a question from Justice Alito as to what would happen without DOMA if a same-sex couple married in one state and then moved to another without marriage equality and challenged that state's marriage laws, Kaplan said that the courts would need to consider the state's reasons for limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples. Regardless, though, she argued, no compelling argument can (or has) been made to explain why the federal government should treat same-sex couples differently. Justice Breyer asked if DOMA was simply a decision by Congress to "stay out" of the marriage equality issue, but Kaplan disavowed this idea, saying that DOMA in no way stayed out of the question, instead setting up a legal scheme that would eventually punish states that extended equal marriage rights to same-sex couples. In response to the same question about pro-DOMA legislators being motivated by animus (asked by Roberts as he had asked Verrilli), Kaplan said, "I think times can blind." Since then, she argued, there has been a sea change in the public understanding of gay and lesbian individuals and their relationships. Chief Justice Roberts made a brief nod to the question of whether gays are a politically powerful class (an important element of the court's consideration of which level of scrutiny it should employ to review DOMA), saying that "political figures are falling over themselves to endorse [Kaplan's] side of the case." Kaplan responded that gays and lesbians have been uniquely discriminated against, and that they are currently less powerful than women were when the Supreme Court decided gender was a class that merited heightened scrutiny. In his final rebuttal Clement pointed out Verrilli's position that the federal government sees no federalism problem inherent in DOMA. He again underscored the importance of a uniform federal definition of marriage and said that the "sea change" to which Kaplan referred was occurring because of the democratic process -- a process, he told the justices, that the court should not interfere with. What Does It All Mean? The Bottom Line Because of the justices' skepticism regarding Clement's arguments in favor of BLAG, it seems quite likely that there are at least five votes on the court to invalidate DOMA, especially if such a decision were based on issues of federalism rather than on an equal protection question. Based on today's arguments, it seems possible that Chief Justice Roberts would join such an opinion striking down the law, and that Justice Kennedy would rather rule on federalism grounds than on equal protection grounds if he can. Justice Alito's questions were less clear but also seemed to open the door to the idea that he could rule against the law as well. The gateway question, however, is whether the court believes that BLAG has standing to defend DOMA, or whether the federal government could appeal a decision it agreed with. On the first count it seems that there are not five votes on the court to grant BLAG standing. But the court's four liberals, as well as Justice Kennedy, do seem to lean toward a decision that the federal government's appeal was proper and that the law could be considered on the merits. Of course, we'll have to wait a few months to find out. A final decision in both cases should come by the end of June and could come even sooner. Until then, gay and lesbian Americans' rights to marriage and to federal benefits are in the hands of the justices.

28 марта 2013, 02:10

Bryan Wood: Gay Marriage: America's Last Major Civil Rights Movement

The argument over gay marriage in America is not a new one, but it is certainly gaining momentum as it bulldozes its way to the forefront of today's media. Neither side is wavering in their contention on what constitutes marriage, but should one person's opinion on any issue grant the authority to dictate the life choices of another -- exactly where is that line drawn? The American legal system is based on the concept that all actions, opinions and activities are considered legal unless specifically prohibited by law. The foundation of this system rests upon freedom and equality. In order for something to be outlawed and go against this fundamental principle, a public necessity must be shown, and the government must demonstrate a legitimate public purpose for inhibiting the rights of another. An example of this is the enhanced prosecution of hate crimes. As a society, we generally believe that we all have the basic right to believe and think anything we choose. However, if one commits a crime of violence against another based on specifically dictated beliefs, we prosecute the offender more heavily than if they had committed the violent act without the accompanying belief. The goal of such laws isn't to punish the offender based on the belief alone and limit the freedom of expression, but society recognizes the reasonable need for limiting such violent acts of expression. There is an established legitimate public purpose for limiting such a freedom of expression. If our legal system is founded upon the concept of freedom, equality, and protection, with the only deviations being for the reason of legitimate public purpose, what is the public purpose of banning same-sex marriages? Outside of individual opinion, I see none. Same-sex marriage has become the latest, and possibly one of the last, battlegrounds for civil rights in America. It is less of an issue of personal opinion and more of an issue of individual liberties. As Americans, we all demand equal protection under the law. Imagine for a moment a law forbidding the marriage of individuals from a specific ethnic decent -- such a law would be considered intolerable. I'm at a loss for finding the rationality behind defending the limitations of the benefits and legal protections provided by marriage based on gender. It is a clear departure from equal protection under the law. My specific opinion of same-sex marriage, either for or against it, is irrelevant. When we as a people legislate laws, we need to take extreme caution to never let personal opinions, biases, or religious beliefs become the basis for our contention of legitimate public purpose. If the rational behind someone's argument is nothing more than a personal bias, the debate is likely to become a relentless tug-of-war with no clear-cut winner. Even more frightening, the creation of law without a direct relation to a legitimate and needed public purpose is the path to tyranny. Limitation without cause is the foundation of oppression. The answer is quite simple. If what you do in your home has absolutely no impact on the life of another, government has no right to limit that freedom. This is a concept which must not be abandoned by our society, regardless of individual opinion. I think it is important to remind those in same-sex relationships that there are alternatives to gaining a majority of the rights and protections provided by marriage; after all, marriage is basically a contractual agreement. Authorizations for power of attorney, healthcare directives, living wills, real property wills, and numerous other legal documents can be drafted between any couple to provide many of the protections, rights, and benefits of a marriage. I do find it sad, however, that any group of citizens would ever be required to go through such lengths to obtain a protection which is automatically granted to so many others. The last point I want to make about marriage and the law is to question why government is even involved in such an institution. At what point did we as a society allow the government to involve itself in such an intimate life decision? The government requires us to seek permission to marry, in the form of a marriage license, and government dictates the definition and legitimacy of marriage to us. When was government called upon to determine who someone is allowed to love and share their life with? I don't remember ever asking.

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28 марта 2013, 01:40

Gay marriage: Doma faces uncertain future as court questions law's validity

Anthony Kennedy suggests Defense of Marriage Act intrudes on states' rights, while supreme court's liberal justices paint it as discriminatoryUS supreme court justices strongly challenged a federal law banning recognition of same-sex marriages as discriminatory, motivated by prejudice and diminishing the power of individual states to regulate marriage.On the second day of historic hearings about gay unions, the 1996 Defence of Marriage Act (Doma) was left facing an uncertain future. The court's usual swing vote on social issues, Justice Anthony Kennedy, aligned with the four liberal judges to strongly question the legitimacy of the law and the authority of the federal government to impose a definition of marriage as only between a man and a woman on those US states which permit same-sex unions. The law prevents same-sex spouses from receiving federal benefits, tax breaks and some legal protections.Kennedy bolstered the expectations of Doma's opponents by emphasising his concerns that the law intrudes on the rights of individual states to recognise gay marriages."When it has 1,100 laws, which in our society means that the federal government is intertwined with [its] citizens' day-to-day lives, you are at real risk of running in conflict with what has always been thought to be the essence of the state police power, which is to regulate marriage, divorce and custody," he said.The challenge to Doma was brought by Edith Windsor, who was married to Thea Spyer in Canada in 2007. The couple lived in New York, where their marriage was recognised by the state government. But when Spyer died in 2009, the federal government invoked Doma to force Windsor, who is now 83 and in poor health, to pay $363,000 in taxes on her late wife's estate – a charge she would have been exempt from had she been married to a man.The liberal justices at times found themselves in the unusual position of backing Kennedy's emphasis on states' rights – a position usually defended by the court's conservatives – as they painted Doma as unreasonably discriminating against legally married same-sex couples. Nine states and Washington DC recognise gay weddings."It really diminishes what states have said about marriage," said Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.She dismissed descriptions of Doma as merely having an administrative impact, saying it "affects every area of life" for gay couples, and creates "two kinds of marriage"."The full marriage, and then this sort of skim-milk marriage," she said.Justice Elena Kagan questioned the motivation for the law, saying Congress passed it in a climate of "animus" and "dislike" of homosexuals, and of "moral judgement".Justice Stephen Breyer asked why it is necessary to single out gay people as subject to a law barring them from equal treatment. He called the discrimination "irrational" in law.Kennedy's statements had opponents of Doma predicting he will ally himself with the liberal justices to strike down the law. But even if it is ruled unconstitutional, that will not establish a right to gay marriage – merely an obligation on the federal government to recognise it in those states where it is legal.The Obama administration has already repudiated the legislation and supports federal court rulings against it.The US solicitor general, Donald Verrilli, told the supreme court that refusing to recognise gay marriages is not like other forms of discrimination because of the impact on people's lives, and said it breaches equal protection clauses in the constitution.Verrilli said gay people were a "persecuted minority" and asked why the spouse of a gay soldier killed in the line of duty should not receive the same benefits as those given to heterosexual couples."The question before the court is whether the exclusion that Doma imposes violates equal protection, and it does violate equal protection because you can't treat this as though it were just a distinction between optometrists and ophthalmologists, as the Lee Optical case did. This is a different kind of a situation because the discrimination here is being visited on a group that has historically been subject to terrible discrimination," he said.However, Verrilli faced questions over whether obliging the federal government to recognise same-sex marriages where they are legal would not create another kind of discrimination against gay couples in states where they are not.Paul Clement, the former US solicitor general who argued and lost the case against Barack Obama's healthcare reforms, defended Doma as merely creating uniformity in how same sex couples are treated across the country for administrative purposes. He said the law does not intrude on states' rights because it does not regulate marriage but creates a framework for the implementation of policies on benefits and taxation."The federal government is saying that within its own realm in federal policies, where we assume that the federal government has the authority to define the terms that appear in their own statute, that in those areas, they are going to have their own definition," said Clement.Kagan questioned the idea that the law is merely administrative by quoting from the House of Representatives' own report on the debate during the passing of Doma in 1996, which states that "Congress decided to reflect an honour of collective moral judgment and to express moral disapproval of homosexuality".Clement said that was not enough to make the legislation unconstitutional. "Does the House Report say that? Of course the House Report says that. And if that's enough to invalidate the statute, then you should invalidate the statute. But that has never been your approach, especially under rational basis or even rational basis-plus, if that is what you are suggesting," he said.But Kagan said that the motivation behind the legislation should cause the court to give it special scrutiny."So we have a whole series of cases which suggest the following: which suggest that when Congress targets a group that is not everybody's favourite group in the world, that we look at those cases with some rigour to say: do we really think that Congress was doing this for uniformity reasons, or do we think that Congress's judgment was infected by dislike, by fear, by animus, and so forth?"She said: "I guess the question that this statute raises, this statute that does something that's really never been done before, is whether that sends up a pretty good red flag that that's what was going on."The case, coming a day after the supreme court considered the constitutional legitimacy of a California referendum that overturned same-sex marriage in the state, pitted the White House against Republican leaders in Congress angered that the Obama administration will no longer defend Doma.Before the justices heard arguments over the law's constitutionality, they considered opinions over whether Congress had the right to defend Doma. The court appointed its own lawyer, Vicki Jackson, to present the case for why Congress does not have "standing" to take legal action.Jackson told the justices that once Congress passes laws, responsibility for enforcing them shifts to the executive, and the legislature ceases to have active involvement. Jackson also said the supreme court should not consider the case because it was resolved by the Obama administration's decision not to challenge federal court rulings overturning Doma.But Justice Antonin Scalia waded in to suggest that the supreme court has a role to play, because the federal government has taken the unusual step of no longer defending a law still on the statute books even while enforcing it."I'm wondering if we're living in this new world where the attorney general can simply decide: yeah, it's unconstitutional, but it's not so unconstitutional that I'm not willing to enforce it. If we're in this new world, I don't want these cases like this to come before this court all the time," said Scalia.Justice Sonia Sotomayor questioned Clement over whether a committee founded by the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives specifically to defend Doma — the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, known as Blag — has the legal authority to act in the name of Congress. "Can you tell me where the authorisation is here?" she asked.Clement said Blag had been authorised by a vote of the entire House.Edith Windsor's lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, questioned whether a majority could strip a minority of their rights — referring specifically to the case the court heard on Tuesday over the Proposition 8 referendum in California, which reversed a gay marriage law.Roberts pressed her on whether change came about because of political lobbying or popular attitudes."The fact of the matter is, Mr Chief Justice, is that no other group in recent history has been subjected to popular referenda to take away rights that have already been given or exclude those rights, the way gay people have," she said.Gay rightsUS supreme courtUS constitution and civil libertiesUS politicsHuman rightsUnited StatesWashington DCChris McGrealguardian.co.uk © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. 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27 марта 2013, 20:24

Anti-drones activists plan month of protest over Obama's 'kill' policy

Organisers keen to build on renewed focus of president's targeted killing programme by holding series of protests in AprilMilitary bases, universities and companies involved in Barack Obama's drones programme are to be targeted in a month-long series of protests by activists keen to build on the renewed public focus over the president's controversial policy.Dubbed "April Days of Action" by participants, organisers are hoping to capitalise on a series of recent controversies that have thrust the use of drones – especially when it comes to targeted killings of suspected terrorists – into the heart of American political debate.The protests will begin on April 3 with a rally in New York, followed by three days of protest outside the facilities of companies that make drones, including at San Diego-based General Atomics which makes Predator and Reaper drones.Later in the month, protests will take place at universities and other institutions that conduct research into drones or help train drone pilots and operators. At the end of the month, rallies and demonstrations will target military bases in the US from where drones operate, including Hancock air base near Syracuse, New York."There is a tremendous amount of scepticism with the public about drone attacks in other countries. There is concern that innocent people are killed and enemies of the United States are being made," said Nick Mottern, founder of Know Drones, an educational organization that is helping co-ordinate the protests. Over the month the cities targeted by the campaign will also include Washington DC, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Honolulu, San Francisco, Sacramento, Minneapolis, Des Moines and others.The use of unmanned robots to strike at suspected Islamic militants abroad has risen sharply during the Obama administration. Its defenders say that it offers a precision way of hitting targets without the potentially disastrous deployment of US manpower abroad. But critics point out that drone strikes frequently cause civilian casualties, while the definition of a suspect is worryingly broad and the exact legal context of the programme is shrouded in secrecy.The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism tracks drone casualties, and estimates that in Pakistan alone 366 strikes have killed up to 3,581 people, with 884 being innocent civilians. Of that total number of attacks, 314 have been ordered while Obama has been in office.Protesters said they hoped the campaign would rally public anger. "There is no question that the April Days of Action will exhibit a level of anti-war and civil liberties activism that is unprecedented in recent years," said Medea Benjamin, founder of veteran anti-war group Code Pink, whose members recently protested against the appointment of drones advocate John Brennan as the new head of the CIA.But anger over drones is not limited to US liberals. One of the highest-profile critics of the drone programme is Kentucky senator Rand Paul, a rising star of the Republican right wing.Paul recently launched a remarkable 13-hour filibuster effort against Brennan's appointment. The bid failed, but it highlighted concerns over the legal implications of drone attacks that have killed American citizens and worries that the devices might be deployed for similar purposes on US soil.Mottern said that the April Days protests would seek to push forward the debate in the wake of Paul's action. "Most people here in the United States know a little bit about drones; we want everyone to begin to see the depth of the threat that drones present to all of us, regardless of what nation we live in," he said.DronesUS foreign policyPakistanYemenUnited StatesBarack ObamaProtestObama administrationPaul Harrisguardian.co.uk © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

27 марта 2013, 03:04

TSA Lawsuit Challenges Screening Secrecy

NEW YORK -- A lawsuit against the Transportation Security Administration over its airport security procedures is heading to a court hearing next week, following a Friday order in the case that could give the government extra headaches. Two Harvard law students brought the suit in 2010, arguing that their Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches was being violated by "nude body scanners" and "enhanced pat-downs." A federal district court threw out their case, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit will hear their appeal on April 4. In a twist, the 1st Circuit on Friday also granted a request from a group called Freedom To Travel USA to make its own appearance during the oral arguments. The group would like the courts to conduct a fact-finding mission on the intrusiveness of the TSA's search techniques before the 1st Circuit rules directly on their constitutionality. If the appeals court agrees, it could begin to peel back some of the secrecy surrounding screening. "The scanners and patdowns have not been tested in the court of law," said Freedom To Travel USA co-founder Jeff Pierce. "What we're looking for is a fair test in a court of law." The two Harvard students who launched the case, Jeffrey Redfern and Anant Pradhan, referred The Huffington Post's inquiries to Freedom To Travel USA. Co-founders of the advocacy group say it is an effort by ordinary citizens to dig up more information on the TSA's screening programs. In addition to Pierce, a businessman, the group was launched by Renee Beeker, a nonprofit executive, and Wendy Thomson, a retired management consultant. "We have the oddest coalition, all the way from A to Z," said Thomson, claiming both Occupy arrestees and "very, very conservative people" as supporters. "We wanted to take the high road and bring forth actual facts and follow the news and do things along the legal avenue, instead of just taking the emotional avenue," she said. In its friend-of-the-court brief in Redfern v. Napolitano, Freedom To Travel USA argues that the TSA has disclosed far too little about the capabilities of its scanners. "Many Americans have reported experiencing humiliation, fear, and a total loss of dignity," Freedom To Travel USA writes. It is time, the group contends, for the courts to essentially turn the tables on the agency, performing "a fact-intensive review of the TSA searches' unprecedented level of intrusiveness." The TSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Redfern lawsuit. Its lawyers successfully argued to the district court that the case should be dismissed on the narrow grounds that under the relevant law, the plaintiffs should have filed their lawsuit directly with an appeals court. In October, the Supreme Court rejected without comment an appeal in a similar case in which a plaintiff sought to bring a lawsuit in a district court. The lower courts generally have more leeway to investigate facts -- a critical goal for TSA critics who would like the agency to open up about its procedures. Redfern, Pradhan and Freedom To Travel USA have had their arguments hampered by that same shroud of agency secrecy. Volumes of administrative records on TSA screening procedures have been introduced into the court record only under seal, some not even available to the plaintiffs. In a March 20 court filing, a U.S. Department of Justice lawyer representing the TSA asked to be allowed to introduce documents describing why the agency is discontinuing the use of one form of scanning machine, the highly controversial X-ray backscatter device. The agency said that its reasoning was protected as "Sensitive Security Information" and that it was "in the process of creating a redacted, publicly releasable version" of the document. A separate lawsuit, filed against the agency by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), yielded some modest results on Tuesday. In a belated response to a 2011 ruling by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the TSA opened up a public comment period on its use of body scanners. The TSA's move will not likely satisfy critics, who say the agency has released too little information about the privacy and health implications of its devices. "What is there to comment on?" asked Jim Harper, director of information policy studies for the Cato Institute, on his blog. "The TSA's brief document defends a hopelessly vague policy statement instead of the articulation that the court asked for. And as to the policy we all know it's implementing, TSA hides behind the skirts of government secrecy." EPIC scored another court victory earlier in March, when a federal judge found that the Department of Homeland Security should have released two studies on the safety of radiation-emitting scanners in response to a records request. Traditionally, the courts have been deferential to the government when it comes to airline screening. In 2006, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a privacy advocate's challenge to TSA rules forcing passengers to either present ID or submit to an extensive search before boarding planes. The plaintiff in that case had made a similar argument that the TSA should be forced to reveal more detail about its security procedures. The three 1st Circuit judges who will hear the Redfern case have multiple options: They could accept the government's argument and dismiss the case, send the case back to the district court for more argument and possibly a trial, or order a fact-finding effort to determine how intrusive TSA screening is. "Our agenda is to put a spotlight on what's happening, so that at least whatever's happening goes through the rigor of discovery and evidence and logic," said Thompson of Freedom To Travel USA. "We don't believe that has happened yet."

26 марта 2013, 17:00

Richard C. Milstein: The Potential Impact Of This Summer's DOMA Ruling On The IRS' FAQ For Same-Sex Couples

On Oct. 19 the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) published a list of questions that are frequently asked by same-sex couples. In summary the IRS reiterated that it would apply tax law literally, including complying with Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). In other words, in the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) "marriage" means a legal union between a man and a woman as husband and wife. It's likely that the FAQ was published in response to the cases challenging the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA. On Wednesday, March 27, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in one of these cases, United States v. Windsor, and the justices are expected to issue their ruling in late June. If they rule that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional, then the IRS FAQ will be incorrect. The technical issues in Windsor are extremely interesting and will no doubt enhance the already tremendous interest in the case. The Supreme Court also agreed to hear a similar case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, which challenges the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8 (which does not involve tax law). The justices will hear oral arguments in that case on Tuesday, March 26, and are expected to issue their ruling around the same time as the Windsor ruling, in late June. Background The IRC provides tax breaks to married persons. For example, a wealth transfer at death to a spouse is not subject to an estate tax (that's the "marital deduction"). A married couple may also file a joint-income tax return (Form 1040) and thus may pay less in taxes than if each filed a separate return. It is dangerous to generalize about tax matters. DOMA was enacted in 1996. It defines marriage, for federal law purposes, as "a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife." As a result, legally married same-sex couples cannot file joint-income returns, take advantage of the marital deduction or otherwise be treated as married for federal tax purposes. The Windsor case was brought by the estate of the deceased spouse in a legal same-sex marriage. Edith "Edie" Windsor married Thea Spyer, her partner of 40 years, in Canada in 2007. Thea died in 2009, leaving her estate to Edie and naming Edie executor of the estate. Thea's estate filed an estate tax return claiming a marital deduction for the bequest to Edie. The IRS denied the deduction. Thea's estate paid the estate tax as if not entitled to a marital deduction and filed a claim for a tax refund. Normally a claim for a tax refund is defended by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). If the DOJ had defended the refund claim, it would have had to take the position that DOMA is a valid law (that is, it would have to maintain that a same-sex spouse is not a spouse for tax purposes). The DOJ announced in 2010 that it would not defend the constitutionality of DOMA; therefore, the DOJ would not defend the refund claim. But the U.S. House of Representatives has something called the Bipartisan Legal Advisor Group (BLAG), a congressional committee that can participate in litigation that is of interest to Congress. Here, on behalf of House Republicans, BLAG decided to defend the IRS position and argue against Windsor. BLAG was permitted by the Federal District Court to intervene in the case and defend the refund claim. In essence BLAG assumed the DOJ's usual role. The litigation is procedurally and legally complex but extremely interesting, legally. For this purpose, it is sufficient to say that BLAG supports DOMA, and that Windsor's claim is that DOMA is unconstitutional. Two separate courts (the Southern District of New York and the Second District Court of Appeals) sided with Windsor and held DOMA unconstitutional, and other courts have reached the same decision. If the Supreme Court agrees with these lower courts, it is presumed that in the future, legally married same-sex couples will be entitled to marital deductions for bequests to a surviving spouse and will be able to file joint-income tax returns. They will be treated as married under the IRC and can take advantage of all provisions of the IRC that benefit married people. A taxpayer can file a refund claim generally during the three-year period after the return in question was filed. For example, if you filed a separate income tax return and would like to amend and file jointly because it will reduce tax liability, that amended return must be filed within the three-year statute of limitations period. Of course, no one knows how the Supreme Court will rule, but there is anticipation that DOMA will fall. If a person files a protective refund claim when the state of the law is unknown, the three-year period may expire before the law is clarified. Legally married same-sex persons might consider a protective refund claim. The purpose of this short note is to provide background and suggest that legally married same-sex couples consider their options as they relate to tax law. The issues are extremely complex, with few cut and dried answers. However, it makes sense to at least consider the options and discuss them with a professional advisor.

26 марта 2013, 02:04

Daniel Cox: Clash of Cultures: White Evangelical Protestants, Millennials, and the Future of the GOP

After the 2012 election, political commentators from inside and outside the Republican Party devoted considerable time dissecting the various challenges -- shifting demographic landscape, an identity crisis, branding problems -- that seem to have beset the Grand Old Party. (Some have gone so far as to suggest exchanging the "Old" in GOP for something more fashionable.) However, one of the most significant challenges facing the GOP can be reduced to just two nearly identical numbers: 72 percent and 71 percent. According to a recent PRRI/Brookings survey, 72 percent of Millennials (Americans age 18 to 29) favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally, while a nearly identical number (71 percent) of white evangelical Protestants oppose same-sex marriage. Millennials are among the strongest supporters of same-sex marriage, while white evangelicals remain the issue's most ardent opponents. In 2016, the GOP nominee will face a serious coalition management challenge, since the party needs the votes of both groups. Among the general public, a slim majority (52 percent) favor legalizing same-sex marriage, and there are huge gaps in support levels among Democrats vs. Republicans. But among Millennials, there is near consensus on this issue, and partisan differences are muted. Millennial Republicans (58 percent) are nearly twice as likely as Republicans overall (28 percent) and almost four times as likely as senior Republicans (15 percent) to favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. And while Millennial Republicans are significantly less supportive of same-sex marriage than their Democratic peers (77 percent), their views are much more closely aligned with their generation than with their party. The 40-point gap between the views of Democratic and Republican seniors on same-sex marriage (57 vs. 15 percent) shrinks by half among Millennials. A recent report authored by the Republican National Committee suggested that the GOP should play down differences with young people or become quietly conservative on gay and lesbian issues. This advice, however, presumes that white evangelical Protestants will accept such an arrangement. Not only are white evangelical Protestants strongly opposed to same-sex marriage, they are also more confident that their position on the issue is right than other Americans, even Millennials. Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) say they are absolutely certain that their position on same-sex marriage is the right one. Nearly 8-in-10 (77 percent) white evangelicals report that their views on same-sex marriage have not changed in the last five years and those who report they have are as likely to say they have become more opposed (12 percent) as more supportive (9 percent). Not surprisingly, despite dramatically increasing public support for same-sex marriage over the last decade, support has increased only marginally among white evangelical Protestants since 2003 (13 percent to 24 percent). Further, no group has been more critical to the success of Republican presidential candidates over the last two decades than white evangelical Christians. Nearly 8-in-10 white evangelical voters supported Romney in 2012, and they made up 43 percent of his total vote. White evangelical Protestants also play an outsized role in GOP nominating contests, particularly in key states like Iowa, South Carolina. In 2012, half of the primary voters and caucus goers identified as white evangelical Christians in the early states. And while the issue of same-sex marriage ranks fairly low on their list of priorities compared to other issues facing the country, it remains an important cultural touchstone. It's difficult to see how the 2016 GOP nominee will be able to get through the primary process without taking a strong position on the issue. At the same time, the Millennial generation -- which rivals the size of the Baby Boomer generation at approximately 44 million -- will make up an even larger part of the electorate in 2016, making courting their votes an imperative. In 2012, Millennials were a vital part of Obama's coalition and an increasingly important constituency for Democratic candidates. Romney lost Millennial voters to Obama by a considerable margin (37 vs. 60 percent), while Democratic candidates enjoyed a similar margin of support over Republican candidates in House races. Given this, it is certainly not a coincidence that all the current front-runners for the Democratic nomination in 2016 are now on record supporting same-sex marriage. The clash of cultures between Millennials and white evangelicals is bigger than just same-sex marriage. On a range of issues -- marijuana legalization, views of immigrants and Muslims, belief in evolution -- Millennials and white evangelicals occupy opposite sides of a cultural chasm that appears only to be getting wider and deeper. Yet, it is same-sex marriage that has become the litmus test issue for Democratic and Republican candidates. As the GOP charts a way forward, keeping a foothold on both sides of the cultural divide is going to put national candidates in an increasingly uncomfortable position.

25 марта 2013, 04:34

Shooting Victims Seek Greater Control Over Donations

By Daniel Trotta NEW YORK, March 24 (Reuters) - Survivors of mass U.S. shootings have united to provide victims of future tragedies greater control over donations made after such events and to prevent nonprofit groups from holding onto money intended for families of the dead and wounded. A group representing families of those killed at the Columbine, Virginia Tech and Aurora mass shootings wants to ensure any unspecified funds raised as a result of the Newtown shooting go directly to victims and their families. Newtown, the Connecticut town where a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, has identified more than 60 funds raising money on behalf of victims or projects related to the shooting. The families of some mass shooting victims want a trusted, centralized authority to manage future donations. "Going back to Oklahoma City, we've seen families who have had to endure not only horrific loss, but also the unimaginable task of wrestling with Byzantine nonprofit bureaucracies to access financial relief intended for them," the families said in a statement. "It's time to stop the madness. We cannot watch this happen, yet again, in Sandy Hook." The informal group, so far unnamed, has initiated talks with senior White House officials and two members of Congress about establishing an official fundraising operation for such tragedies, said Caryn Kaufman, a spokeswoman for the families. She declined to name the officials out of concern it might jeopardize the project. The group is examining whether legislation or an executive order would be needed to create a federal or nonprofit entity that would coordinate donations after any future tragedy. The project has won initial support from Kenneth Feinberg, the influential Washington lawyer who administered funds for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and several mass shootings. Jerri Jackson, whose son Matt McQuinn was killed with 11 others in the 2012 movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, wants it to be easier for future victims to receive aid. "It's not a matter of if something else happens, it's when something else happens," Jackson said. "Immediately, a fund would be set up. It would be a trusted fund that people would feel they could give to and the money would go to the victims." Jackson said she was forced to "jump through hoops in the midst of tragedy" to receive money raised in her son's name. Nearly $5.9 million in Aurora donations were channeled to the Community First Foundation. When victims' families publicly complained about the pace of disbursement, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper called in Feinberg, who oversaw the disbursement within 45 days. The foundation was later shut down. After the 2007 Virginia Tech University shooting that killed 32 people, more than $10 million spontaneously flowed to the university's fundraising foundation, university spokesman Larry Hincker said. Because that foundation was only authorized to spend money on the university, an executive order from the governor was needed to disburse the funds to victims, Hincker said. Michael Pohle, a member of the group whose son was killed at Virginia Tech, said: "What was so insulting was we had to fill out documents, have them notarized, and basically beg and apply for dollars." Feinberg recognized some grieving survivors were upset but defended the disbursement process following both tragedies, noting the highly unusual circumstances, complex legal requirements and emotional strain on the families. FAMILIES BAND TOGETHER The ad hoc group of 64 people lost relatives in tragedies such as the Sept. 11 attacks, the 2008 shooting at Northern Illinois University and the Sikh temple shooting last year at Oak Creek, Wisconsin. The group has not involved the Sandy Hook families, saying it was too soon for those still grieving. Even so, the group was concerned about the confusion caused by having dozens of nonprofit groups collecting money in Newtown, said Kaufman, the group's spokeswoman. Some of the Newtown funds were designated for a specific purpose, such as creating a playground or scholarship. In other cases, the funds refer to more general goals of supporting the victims. The group believes that money should go to the victims' families. Feinberg has overseen disbursements of funds following Sept. 11, the BP oil spill and several mass shootings. Though he is not affiliated with the group, he supports the concept Of having a protocol in place when a future tragedy occurs. "I think it's a great idea," Feinberg said. "The question is: Is there the political will to do it?" (Editing by Mary Milliken and Stacey Joyce)

23 марта 2013, 21:42

Potential Gay Marriage Court Outcomes Vary

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court can choose from a wide array of outcomes in ruling on California's Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage and the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The federal law, known by the shorthand DOMA, defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman and therefore keeps legally married gay Americans from collecting a range of federal benefits that generally are available to married people. The cases will be argued Tuesday and Wednesday; rulings are not likely before late June. The justices might come out with rulings that are simple, clear and dramatic. Or they might opt for something narrow and legalistic. The court could strike down dozens of state laws that limit marriage to heterosexual couples, but it also could uphold gay marriage bans or say nothing meaningful about the issue at all. A look at potential outcomes for the Proposition 8 case and then for the case about DOMA: ___ Q. What if the Supreme Court upholds Proposition 8? A. This would leave gay Californians without the right to marry in the state and would tell the roughly 40 states that do not allow same-sex marriages that there is no constitutional problem in limiting marriage to a man and a woman. Such an outcome probably would trigger a political campaign in California to repeal Proposition 8 through a ballot measure and could give impetus to similar voter or legislative efforts in other states. ___ Q. What if the court strikes down Proposition 8? A. A ruling in favor of the two same-sex couples who sued to invalidate the voter-approved gay marriage ban could produce one of three possibilities. The broadest would apply across the country, in effect invalidating constitutional provisions or statutes against gay marriage everywhere. Or a majority of the justices could agree on a middle option that applies only to California as well as Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, and Rhode Island. Those states already treat gay and straight couples the same in almost every respect through civil unions or domestic partnerships. The only difference is that gay couples are not allowed to marry. Gov. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., signed his state's civil unions law Thursday. This "nine-state solution" would say that the Constitution forbids states to withhold marriage from same-sex couples while giving them all the basic rights of married people. But this ruling would not implicate marriage bans in other states and would leave open the question of whether states could deprive gay couples of any rights at all. The narrowest of these potential outcomes would apply to California only. The justices essentially would adopt the rationale of the federal appeals court that found that California could not take away the right to marry that had been granted by the state Supreme Court in 2008 before Proposition 8 passed later that year. In addition, if the Supreme Court were to rule that gays and lesbians are deserving of special protection from discriminatory laws, it is unlikely that any state ban on same-sex marriage could survive long, even if the justices don't issue an especially broad ruling in this case. ___ Q. Are there other potential outcomes? A. Yes, the court has a technical way out of the case without deciding anything about same-sex marriage. The Proposition 8 challengers argue that the private parties defending the provision – members of the group that helped put the ban on the ballot – did not have the right to appeal the trial judge's initial decision striking it down or that of the federal appeals court. The justices sometimes attach great importance to this concept, known as standing. If they find Proposition 8's proponents lack standing, the justices also would find the Supreme Court has no basis on which to decide the case. The most likely outcome of such a ruling also would throw out the appeals court decision that struck down the ban but would leave in place the trial court ruling in favor same-sex marriage. At the very least, the two same-sex couples almost certainly would be granted a marriage license, and Gov. Jerry Brown, D-Calif., who opposes Proposition 8, probably would give county clerks the go-ahead to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. ___ Q. Are the possibilities for the DOMA case as complicated? A. No, although there are some technical issues that could get in the way of a significant ruling. ___ Q. What happens if the court upholds Section 3 of DOMA, defining marriage for purposes of federal law as the union of a man and a woman? A. Upholding DOMA would not affect state laws regarding marriage but would keep in place federal statutes and rules that prevent legally married gay Americans from receiving a range of benefits that are otherwise available to married people. These benefits include breaks on estate taxes, health insurance for spouses of federal workers and Social Security survivor benefits. ___ Q. What if the court strikes down the DOMA provision? A. A ruling against DOMA would allow legally married gay couples, or in some cases, a surviving spouse in a same-sex marriage, to receive benefits and tax breaks resulting from more than 1,000 federal statutes in which marital status is relevant. For 83-year-old Edith Windsor, a New York widow whose case is before the court, such a ruling would give her a refund of $363,000 in estate taxes that were paid after the death of her spouse, Thea Spyer. ___ Q. What procedural problems could prevent the court from reaching a decision about DOMA? A. As in the Proposition 8 case, there are questions about whether the House Republican leadership has the right to bring a court case to defend the law because the Obama administration decided not to. House Republicans argue that the administration forfeited its right to participate in the case because it changed its position and now argues that the provision is unconstitutional. If the Supreme Court finds that it does not have the authority to hear the case, Windsor probably would still get her refund because she won in the lower courts, but there would be no definitive decision about the law from the nation's highest court and it would remain on the books. ___ Follow Mark Sherman on Twitter: http://twitter.com/shermancourt

20 марта 2013, 02:55

Washington Officials Call In The A-Team For Legal Weed

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Green thumb? Check. Extensive knowledge of the black market? Check. Throw in impeccable academic credentials and decades of experience with government agencies, and you have Washington's marijuana consultant – a team advising officials on all things pot as they develop rules for the state's new industry in legal, heavily taxed marijuana. The Washington Liquor Control Board introduced Massachusetts-based BOTEC Analysis Corp. as the presumptive winner of the consultant contract during a news conference Tuesday. The team is led by a University of California, Los Angeles, public policy professor and includes a former executive of the company that is the sole licensed supplier of medical marijuana in the Netherlands. It also includes researchers with the RAND Corp. who will help figure out how much marijuana state-licensed growers should produce. "These are, by far, the top consultants available," said Randy Simmons, who oversees the implementation of the legal weed law for the board. "We're serious about doing this the right way." Washington and Colorado last year became the first states to pass laws legalizing the recreational use of marijuana and setting up systems of state-licensed growers, processors and retail stores where adults over 21 can walk in and buy up to an ounce of heavily taxed cannabis. Sales could begin at the end of the year. The votes left state officials with a daunting task: figuring out how to build a huge pot industry from scratch. The state's Liquor Control Board must determine how many growers and stores there should be, how much pot should be produced, how it should be packaged, and how it should be tested to ensure people don't get sick. The board is doing a lot of its own research, with buttoned-up bureaucrats traveling to grow operations in California and Colorado as well as within Washington state. But the consultant's advice will also be important. The state is aiming to produce just enough marijuana to meet current demand: Producing too little would drive up prices and help the black market flourish, while producing too much could lead to excess pot being trafficked out of state. BOTEC – it stands for "back of the envelope calculations" – is a 30-year-old think tank headed by Mark Kleiman, a UCLA public policy professor with a doctorate from Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. The firm has evaluated government programs and provided consulting relating to drug abuse, crime and public health. It studied the results of an effort to crack down on heroin dealers in Lynn, Mass., and in the early 1990s advised the Office of National Drug Control Policy on drug-demand reduction programs. Kleiman has written several books on drug policy and crime, including "Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know," and he has argued that states can't legalize marijuana – federal officials would never stand for it. "Pot dealers nationwide – and from Canada, for that matter – would flock to California to stock up," he wrote in an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times in 2010, when California was considering legalizing marijuana. "There's no way on earth the federal government is going to tolerate that. Instead, we'd see massive federal busts of California growers and retail dealers, no matter how legal their activity was under state law." For that reason, some marijuana advocates questioned how committed his team would be to carrying out the will of the voters. But Alison Holcomb, the author of Washington's new law, said the choice of a consultant who isn't a pot cheerleader sent a message that the state is taking its responsibilities seriously. That's a crucial concern because state officials are trying to persuade the federal government not to sue to block the law from taking effect. Gov. Jay Inslee has said he stressed to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that Washington will have the best-regulated system possible, but the Justice Department still has not announced its intentions. Steven Davenport, BOTEC's managing director, said that with more than 30 people involved, the team comprises a wide range of opinions on marijuana legalization, but none is relevant to the task at hand: figuring out how it can best be accomplished, balancing the needs of a working marijuana distribution system with the interests of public health. "We understand the significance and the size of the task in front of us," Davenport said. "Our intent is to make sure the board does this correctly." Other team members include Michael Sautman, former CEO of Bedrocan International, the international affiliate of the only company licensed to produce medical marijuana for patients in the Netherlands; the company is overseen by the Dutch Ministry of Health, according to BOTEC's bid for the contract. Sautman "has consulted lawmakers and regulators in Canada, Israel and several U.S. states regarding how medical marijuana is produced and distributed in the Netherlands," the bid reads. Beau Kilmer, co-director of RAND's Drug Policy Research Center, said RAND is already under contract with the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy to develop a new approach for estimating the number of marijuana users across the country and how much pot they consume. His group will build off that work to estimate use by county in Washington state, and that it could involve Internet-based surveys asking people to detail their cannabis use – to the extent of asking them to explain the size of their most recent joint, as compared with a photograph of a joint next to a credit card or ruler for scale. "That's going to be a challenge, but I'm excited to work on it," Kilmer said. The value of BOTEC's contract has not been set, but it is expected to exceed $100,000. The losing bidders have 10 days to contest the award. ___ Johnson can be reached at . https://twitter.com/GeneAPseattle