A Republican elected to Alabama's Public Service Commission opposed new EPA coal plant regulations on the grounds that coal was created in Alabama by God, and the federal government should not enact policy that runs counter to God's plan. "Who has the right to take what God's given a state?" said commissioner-elect Chip Beeker at a press conference. Commission president Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh called on the people of the state to ask for God's intervention and said, "We will not stand for what they are doing to our way of life in Alabama." The press conference was held in the offices of the Alabama Coal Association. read more
Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura has won a $1.8 million libel suit he filed against famous Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle for a claim in Kyle's best-selling book. The jury found that Kyle fabricated a story about punching Ventura in a bar after he allegedly said the Navy SEALs "deserve to lose a few." Kyle was slain at a Texas gun range last year, so the suit was filed against his estate. People who were with Ventura that night testified that the alleged confrontation never happened. "The statement is completely out of character for Jesse Ventura. He never said anything like that in his life, and he never will," said Ventura attorney David Bradley Olsen.
The last surviving member of the crew that dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima has died in Georgia. Theodore "Dutch" VanKirk died at a nursing home in Stone Mountain. He was 93. VanKirk was the 24-year-old navigator on the Enola Gay, the B-29 Superfortress that dropped the world's first atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, killing 140,000 people. VanKirk said in a 2005 interview, "The whole World War II experience shows that wars don't settle anything. And atomic weapons don't settle anything," he said. "I personally think there shouldn't be any atomic bombs in the world -- I'd like to see them all abolished. But if anyone has one, I want to have one more than my enemy."
The general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board ruled on Tuesday that McDonald's could be held jointly liable for labor and wage violations by its franchise operators -- a decision that, if upheld, would disrupt longtime practices in the fast-food industry and ease the way for unionizing nationwide. Richard F. Griffin Jr., the labor board's general counsel, said he found merit in 43 of the 181 claims, accusing McDonald's restaurants of illegally firing, threatening or otherwise penalizing workers for their pro-labor activities. "Employers like McDonald's seek to avoid recognizing the rights of their employees by claiming that they are not really their employer, despite exercising control over crucial aspects of the employment relationship," said Julius Getman, a labor law professor at the University of Texas. "McDonald's should no longer be able to hide behind its franchisees." read more
David Brooks, New York Times: It's amazing how much of the discussion of the Gaza war is based on the supposition that it is still 1979. ... The big regional convulsions are driving events, including the conflict in Gaza. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become just a stage on which the regional clashes in the Arab world are being expressed. When Middle Eastern powers clash, they take shots at Israel to gain advantage over each other. Look at how the current fighting in Gaza got stoked. Authoritarians and Islamists have been waging a fight for control of Egypt. After the Arab Spring, the Islamists briefly gained the upper hand. But when the Muslim Brotherhood government fell, the military leaders cracked down. They sentenced hundreds of the Brotherhood's leadership class to death. They also closed roughly 95 percent of the tunnels that connected Egypt to Gaza, where the Brotherhood's offshoot, Hamas, had gained power. read more
Israeli tank shells slammed into a crowded U.N. school sheltering Gaza war refugees Wednesday, killing 15 Palestinians and wounding 90 after tearing through two classroom walls, a health official and a U.N. aid agency said. Later, Gaza health officials said 15 people were killed and more than 150 wounded by an Israeli airstrike in a crowded shopping area. Gaza health ministry official Ashraf al-Kidra said the area was busy Wednesday because residents thought a cease-fire was in place. read more
Newly signed UFC welterweight Joe Riggs was involved in a firearm-related accident in his home on Monday, according to UFC officials. Riggs, 31, was reportedly cleaning a pistol when it accidentally went off. "While cleaning his permitted firearm, the gun discharged, injuring his hand and upper thigh. Riggs was transported to a nearby hospital in Arizona where is being treated by physicians," the UFC said in a statement. In November, Riggs won the MMA reality series Fight Master, leading to his return to UFC after eight years in other competitions. read more
A federal appeals panel on Tuesday blocked a Mississippi law that would have shut the sole abortion clinic in the state by requiring its doctors to obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals, something they had been unable to do. By a 2-to-1 vote, the panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that by imposing a law that would effectively end abortion in the state, Mississippi would illegally shift its constitutional obligations to neighboring states. The ruling is the latest at a time when states, particularly in the South, are increasingly setting new restrictions that supporters say address safety issues and that critics say are intended to shut clinics. read more
Flames and clouds of black smoke billowed over Gaza's only power plant on Tuesday after it was destroyed during the most relentless and widespread Israeli bombardment of the current conflict. At least 100 people were killed, according to Gaza health officials. "The power plant is finished," said its director, Mohammed al-Sharif, signalling a new crisis for Gaza's 1.8 million people, who were already enduring power cuts of more than 20 hours a day.
Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress are rushing towards passage of a $225 million missile defense package for Israel. Israel unleashed its heaviest day of bombardment in the four-week war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. At least 1,200 Palestinians have been killed, including more than 100 Tuesday, and more than 50 Israeli soldiers and three civilians also have died.
McDonald's Japan will begin selling Tofu Shinjo Nuggets Wednesday in the company's Japanese locations. The tofu nuggets release could be a welcome bright spot for McDonald's Japan as it deals with poor sales and the fallout from a scandal involving one of its major Chinese meat suppliers.
Some states are publicly clarifying that they consider their health insurance marketplace created under Obamacare to be state-based, according to the Wall Street Journal. That would prevent their residents from losing their tax credits under the law if the Supreme Court were to decide that tax credits were not available through the federal marketplace, HealthCare.gov. Two officially state-based marketplaces, Idaho and New Mexico, used HealthCare.gov's technical platform this year. But in their decision, the federal appeals court judges who struck down subsidies through the federal website lumped them in with the other 34 states using the federal marketplace. Idaho quickly proclaimed itself to be state-based after the ruling, the Journal reported.
Hashmat Khalil Karzai, a cousin of President Hamid Karzai and a powerful supporter of the presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani, was killed by a suicide bomber in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday as he greeted well-wishers at his home. Karzai was killed instantly when a young man embraced him and set off a bomb in his turban. "The enemy of Afghanistan is always misusing our culture and religion by carrying out cunning and un-Islamic acts," said Kandahar governor Tooryalai Wesa. President Karzai also condemned the attack and expressed his condolences to friends and relatives of his cousin. "Like other Afghans that are being killed daily by these terrorist attacks, our family is not the exception and we accept this sacrifice," he said.
Aaron Blake, Washington Post: A new Pew Research Center poll is the second in the past week to show a huge generational split on the current conflict in Gaza. While all age groups north of 30 years old clearly blame Hamas more than Israel for the current violence, young adults buck the trend in a big way. Among 18 to 29-year olds, 29 percent blame Israel more for the current wave of violence, while 21 percent blame Hamas. Young people are more likely to blame Israel than are Democrats, who blame Hamas more by a 29-26 margin. Even liberal Democrats are split 30-30. The only other major demographic groups who blame Israel more than Hamas are African Americans and Hispanics.
The Israeli military, relentlessly and methodically, is driving people out of the 1.8 mile buffer zone it says it needs to protect against Hamas rockets and tunnels. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the buffer zone eats up about 44 percent of Gaza's territory. What that means on the ground is scenes of extraordinary devastation in places like the Al Shajaya district approaching Gaza's eastern frontier, and Beit Hanoun in the north. These were crowded neighborhoods less than three weeks ago. Now they have been literally depopulated, the residents joining more than 160,000 internally displaced people in refuges and makeshift shelters. It's not like Israel didn't plan this. It told tens of thousands of Palestinians to flee so its air force, artillery and tanks could create this uninhabitable no-man's land of half-standing, burned-out buildings, broken concrete and twisted metal. read more