California may become the first state in the nation to ban plastic grocery bags. The state’s legislature enacted the ban on Friday with a vote of 22-15 and now must be signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown by September 30. “Single-use plastic bags not only litter our beaches, but also our mountains, our deserts, and our rivers, streams and lakes,” state Senator Alex Padilla, a sponsor of the bill, said. The bill would both ban single-use plastic bags and provide money to local plastic bag companies to make heavier, multiple-use bags that customers could buy.
A federal judge has struck down part of Utah’s ban on polygamy, effectively decriminalizing it in the state. U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups ruled Wednesday that the law’s phrase “or cohabits with another person” was deemed a violation of the free exercise clause of the First Amendment and the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The case was brought by Kody Brown and his four wives, stars of the TLC reality show Sister Wives. In a lawsuit, the Browns claimed the state law forced them to flee Utah over fears of persecution. They were awarded financial compensation.
General Motors has received 107 death claims through its program to compensate victims of its faulty ignition despite only accepting them since August 1. This number far exceeds the 13 deaths GM officially attributed to its faulty ignition switch. However, just because these claims have been filed, it doesn't mean they are eligible for compensation. That will have to be determined by Kenneth Feinberg, who has overseen other high-profile compensation cases, such as with the BP oil spill in 2010 and the September 11, 2001 attacks. Since the program will accept claims through December 31, the number of claims will likely grow further. GM has allocated $400 million for compensation, but has not placed any caps on it.
An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.0 has hit California's northern Bay Area early Sunday morning. This is the largest earthquake to hit since the 1989 6.9 Loma Prieta quake. According to the local fire departments, there have been injuries. One hospital says it has treated at least 89 people with injuries related to the quake. PG&E is reporting outages to more than 42,000 customers across the northern Bay Area. There have also been reports that Route 121 is damaged with cracks that could cause flat tires. The quake took place at 3:20 a.m. local time. As a result of the quake, Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency.
In a video posted online late Tuesday, ISIS beheaded James Wright Foley, an American freelance journalist who was captured in Syria in early 2012. The video says the killing is a warning to the U.S. to end its intervention in Iraq. Before he was decapitated, the journalist was forced to denounce his own country. Foley had been held captive previously in Libya in 2011. The ISIS video also shows Steven Sotloff, a freelance journalist who had worked for Time, and threatens that he will be next. Foley was working as a photographer in Syria for GlobalPost and AFP when he was taken. The U.S. government has confirmed the video is real and that an effort to rescue Foley earlier in the summer had failed. ISIS was seeking $100 million for his release.
A child born in 2013 will cost an estimated $245,340 to raise, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. According to its annual Expenditures on Children by Families report, a middle-income family can expect to spend hundreds of thousands in food, housing, childcare and education (not including college tuition costs). The price tag is lower in the urban South and rural areas, while it's highest in the urban Northeast. This year's costs show a 1.8 percent increase from 2012.
On Friday, Texas Governor Perry was indicted on two felony counts of coercion and official oppression by a public servant (punishable by up to 99 years in prison). The charges stem from Perry’s veto of $7.5 million in state funding for the Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office. District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg (a Democrat) was arrested for drunk driving in 2013, leading Perry to say she was unfit for office. Unless Lehmberg resigned, Perry said at the time, he would veto the funding. When Lehmberg refused, Perry went through with the veto. Perry will now have to turn himself in to Travis County jail and have a mugshot taken.
Shares in SeaWorld Entertainment fell 33 percent yesterday, indicating that allegations of animal mistreatment are taking a financial toll. The company’s earnings failed to meet Wall Street’s expecations, reaching 43 cents per share, compared to the 60 cents analysts anticipated. Animal-rights activists have been hitting SeaWorld hard since Blackfish, a movie that accuses the park of mistreating orca whales, came out last year. For the first time, SeaWorld executives admitted that the bad publicity has hurt its bottom line, rather than attribute the drop to ticket price increases or holiday schedules as they have in the past. While SeaWorld grapples with its costly reputation, animal-rights activists are reveling in the company’s plunge. PETA’s Jared Goodman said “Anyone who cares about marine life and wants orcas and dolphins to live free with their pods is cheering the fact that SeaWorld’s stock is tanking.”
The FBI has opened an investigation into the death of Michael Brown (age 18) by a Missouri police officer. Brown’s death sparked protests that turned violent late Sunday. While police argue the shooting was justified and necessary, some witnesses claim Brown was unarmed and had his hands in the air when shot early Saturday afternoon. Gas stations and businesses were looted and police say that at least 20 patrol cars were damaged. Tear gas and rubber bullets have been necessary against the growing crowds.
Whenever a race car driver pulls onto the track, there is an understanding that one may suffer harm due accidents. There are numerous examples, after all, of drivers dying or being seriously injured on track. What is not normally considered, however, is that one could be hit on the track when out of a vehicle. On Saturday night, NASCAR driver Tony Stewart hit 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. on the backstretch of Canandaigua Raceway in New York after Ward got out of his car to demonstrate his displeasure with Stewart's actions in Turns 1 and 2. At this time, no charges are pending, but there is the potential for serious legal ramifications down the road for Stewart--who opted to not participate in the NASCAR race Sunday at Watkins Glenn.
Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued its highest possible emergency health alert over the Ebola outbreak in Africa. This allows the agency to free up hundreds of workers to focus specifically on the Ebola crisis. Unfortunately, it also indicates that the CDC views this as a long-term health crisis and not just an immediate threat. The agency’s “level 1 activation” was utilized during the 2009 bird flu concerns and 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.The announcement did, however, come after good domestic news regarding the virus: the two American patients suffering form Ebola are improving and the man in New York feared to have Ebola tested negative for the virus. Many Americans still question the decision to return two individuals to an Atlanta hospital who had tested positive for the virus.
A retired Israeli military official—General Giora Eiland—wrote an op-ed this week claiming that there is no such thing as an innocent civilian currently living in Gaza. He notes that current citizens are as guilty as members of Hamas: “[T]hey are to blame for this situation just like Germany's residents were to blame for electing Hitler as their leader and paid a heavy price for that, and rightfully so.”
Much like a blog post on the Times of Israel entitled “When Genocide is Permissible,” an outcry has occurred in wake of the release of Eiland’s views. Regardless, Eiland argues Israel has spent too many resources trying to help citizens of Gaza while at the same time attacking Hamas. As a result, Eiland argues that Gaza must be entirely cut off: “The moment it begins, the right thing to do is to shut down the crossings, prevent the entry of any goods, including food, and definitely prevent the supply of gas and electricity.”
Organizations such as Human Rights Watch strongly disagree. This week a report was released that find: “Deliberate attacks on civilians who are not participating in the fighting are war crimes.”
Early today, officials in Toledo continued to warn the roughly 400,000 residents that it still was not safe to drink the water. The city issued its initial alert on Saturday when tests revealed some toxin, possibly from algae on Lake Erie, was present at unsafe levels in the city’s water supply. The city also advised against brushing one’s teeth with the water or boiling it since such actions would only increase the toxin’s concentration. Although new samples showed decreased toxin levels, the city is still awaiting the results of more tests. Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins made clear that “This is not over yet." Ohio Governor John Kasich, likewise, declared a state of emergency to allow state agencies and the Ohio National Guard to begin bringing in water. Water distribution centers have also been set up around the city, limiting families to one case of bottled waters.