TIME Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

PLO Offers 24-Hour Truce, Says It Speaks for Hamas

(RAMALLAH, West Bank) — A senior PLO official has called for a 24-hour humanitarian cease-fire in the Gaza war, saying he is also speaking in the name of Hamas.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said on Tuesday that Israel must bear the consequences if it rejects this call.

There was no immediate comment from Hamas on the offer.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev brushed aside the offer. He says that until Israel hears from Hamas directly, “it’s not serious.”

TIME Mexico

Strong Quake Shakes Mexico’s Gulf Coast

(MEXICO CITY) — A strong earthquake shook much of eastern Mexico on Tuesday, but there were no immediate reports of damage or injury.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude-6.3 quake was centered in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, about 260 miles (418 kilometers) east-southeast of Mexico City. The epicenter was relatively deep, 59 miles (95 kilometers) below the surface.

State Gov. Javier Duarte issued a Twitter post saying there were no reports of damage yet, though local news media said the 5:46 a.m. (6:46 a.m. EDT; 1046 GMT) quake was felt strongly.

It rocked buildings at least as far away as Mexico City.

TIME russia

St. Petersburg, Russia, Airport Briefly Evacuated

(ST. PETERSBURG, Russia) — The Pulkovo airport in Russia’s St. Petersburg was briefly evacuated on Tuesday because of a bomb threat.

Transit police of the north-west region said the airport received an anonymous telephone bomb threat at 1.30 p.m. and that a bomb squad was searching the terminal.

Anna Fedoseyeva, spokeswoman for the airport in Russia’s second-largest city, said the evacuation of passengers and staff began at 3 p.m. local time. An hour later, normal operations resumed after the call was judged to be a false alarm, Fedoseyeva said.

Bomb threats are common in Russia, mostly the work of teenage pranksters, but evacuations of airports or railway stations are rare.

The Pulkovo airport, about 14 miles (20 kms) south of St. Petersburg, handled nearly 13 million passengers last year.

TIME

China: Ex-Security Czar Zhou Under Investigation

(BEIJING) — China’s ruling Communist Party announced Tuesday it is launching an investigation into former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang, who was once one of the country’s most feared leaders.

The party’s anti-graft watchdog, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, said on its website that it is investigating Zhou for serious violations of party discipline, but gave no details.

Until his retirement in 2012, Zhou was one of nine leaders in the party’s ruling inner circle, whose members had until now been considered off-limits for prosecution in an unwritten rule aimed at preserving party unity.

The announcement ended months of speculation over Zhou’s fate that had built up as several high-ranking officials and businesspeople and dozens of other known associates came under investigation.

One after another, they disappeared into the custody of party investigators, foreshadowing the problems that lay ahead for Zhou.

TIME Money

Study: 35% of Americans Facing Debt Collectors

The word "Bankruptcy" is painted on the side of a building in Detroit on Oct. 25, 2013.
The word "Bankruptcy" is painted on the side of a building in Detroit on Oct. 25, 2013. Joshua Lott—Reuters

The delinquent debt is overwhelmingly concentrated in Southern and western states

(WASHINGTON) — More than 35 percent of Americans have debts and unpaid bills that have been reported to collection agencies, according to a study released Tuesday by the Urban Institute.

These consumers fall behind on credit cards or hospital bills. Their mortgages, auto loans or student debt pile up, unpaid. Even past-due gym membership fees or cellphone contracts can end up with a collection agency, potentially hurting credit scores and job prospects, said Caroline Ratcliffe, a senior fellow at the Washington-based think tank.

“Roughly, every third person you pass on the street is going to have debt in collections,” Ratcliffe said. “It can tip employers’ hiring decisions, or whether or not you get that apartment.”

The study found that 35.1 percent of people with credit records had been reported to collections for debt that averaged $5,178, based on September 2013 records. The study points to a disturbing trend: The share of Americans in collections has remained relatively constant, even as the country as a whole has whittled down the size of its credit card debt since the official end of the Great Recession in the middle of 2009.

As a share of people’s income, credit card debt has reached its lowest level in more than a decade, according to the American Bankers Association. People increasingly pay off balances each month. Just 2.44 percent of card accounts are overdue by 30 days or more, versus the 15-year average of 3.82 percent.

Yet roughly the same percentage of people are still getting reported for unpaid bills, according to the Urban Institute study performed in conjunction with researchers from the Consumer Credit Research Institute. Their figures nearly match the 36.5 percent of people in collections reported by a 2004 Federal Reserve analysis.

All of this has reshaped the economy. The collections industry employs 140,000 workers who recover $50 billion each year, according to a separate study published this year by the Federal Reserve’s Philadelphia bank branch.

The delinquent debt is overwhelmingly concentrated in Southern and Western states. Texas cities have a large share of their populations being reported to collection agencies: Dallas (44.3 percent); El Paso (44.4 percent), Houston (43.7 percent), McAllen (51.7 percent) and San Antonio (44.5 percent).

Almost half of Las Vegas residents— many of whom bore the brunt of the housing bust that sparked the recession— have debt in collections. Other Southern cities have a disproportionate number of their people facing debt collectors, including Orlando and Jacksonville, Florida; Memphis, Tennessee; Columbia, South Carolina; and Jackson, Mississippi.

Other cities have populations that have largely managed to repay their bills on time. Just 20.1 percent of Minneapolis residents have debts in collection. Boston, Honolulu and San Jose, California, are similarly low.

Only about 20 percent of Americans with credit records have any debt at all. Yet high debt levels don’t always lead to more delinquencies, since the debt largely comes from mortgages.

An average San Jose resident has $97,150 in total debt, with 84 percent of it tied to a mortgage. But because incomes and real estate values are higher in the technology hub, those residents are less likely to be delinquent.

By contrast, the average person in the Texas city of McAllen has only $23,546 in debt, yet more than half of the population has debt in collections, more than anywhere else in the United States.

The Urban Institute’s Ratcliffe said that stagnant incomes are key to why some parts of the country are struggling to repay their debt.

Wages have barely kept up with inflation during the five-year recovery, according to Labor Department figures. And a separate measure by Wells Fargo found that after-tax income fell for the bottom 20 percent of earners during the same period.

TIME Gaza

Israel Targets Symbols of Hamas Control in Gaza

APTOPIX Israel Palestinians
In this image taken from video, an explosion hits the media complex that houses the offices of Hamas-run al-Aqsa television and radio in central Gaza City early on July 29, 2014 AP

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have been pressing Israel to accept an immediate and unconditional humanitarian cease-fire

(GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip) — Israeli aircraft, tanks and navy gunboats targeted symbols of Hamas control in Gaza City early Tuesday in the heaviest night of bombardment in three weeks of Israel-Hamas fighting after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of a “prolonged” campaign in Gaza.

The overnight strikes hit the home of the top Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, as well as government offices and the headquarters of the Hamas satellite TV station.

Israeli forces fired hundreds of flares that turned the night sky bright orange. By daybreak Tuesday, a cloud of thick dust from the explosions hung over Gaza City.

A Palestinian health official put the overall Gaza death toll at 1,110. Israel has lost 53 soldiers, including four killed Monday in a mortar attack in southern Israel, along with two civilians and a Thai national.

Signaling an escalation of Israel’s Gaza operation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israelis Monday to be ready for a “prolonged” war, and the military warned Palestinians in three large neighborhoods to leave their homes and head immediately for Gaza City.

At dawn Tuesday, plumes of smoke rose above the Al Shorouq media building in central Gaza City which houses the offices of the Hamas-run Al Aqsa television and radio. Hours earlier, at least two major explosions hit the media building, one of the tallest in Gaza, starting a fire on the roof and and shaking surrounding buildings.

AP video showed a massive flash as the first strike hit the top of the building, sending debris raining down. The building also houses offices of a number of Arab satellite television news channels.

The Abu Khadra government complex in Gaza City was also badly damaged by the Israeli attacks.

Hamas leaders remained defiant in the aftermath of the Israeli onslaught

“My house is not more valuable than the houses of other people, destroying stones will not break our determination,” Haniyeh said in a statement.

Netanyahu defended the Gaza air and ground offensive, saying in a televised speech Monday that “there is no war more just than this.”

The overnight strikes came after a day of heavy Hamas-Israeli fighting in which nine children were killed by a strike on a Gaza park where they were playing, according to Palestinian health officials — a tragedy that each side blamed on the other.

Israeli tanks also resumed heavy shelling in border areas of Gaza, killing five people, including three children and a 70-year-old woman, and wounding 50 in the town of Jebaliya, which was among the areas warned to evacuate, the Red Crescent said.

Many Jebaliya residents said they did not dare attempt an escape. Sufian Abed Rabbo said his extended family of 17 had taken refuge under the stairway in their home.

“God help us. We have nothing to do but pray,” the 27-year-old told The Associated Press by phone. “I don’t know who left and who stayed, but in our street, we are all very scared to move.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern about the reports of Israeli forces dropping leaflets over northern Gaza Monday evening warning tens of thousands of residents to leave their homes and evacuate to Gaza City, according to a statement released by his spokesman.

“If true, this would have a further devastating humanitarian impact on the beleaguered civilians of those areas of the Gaza Strip, who have already undergone immense suffering in recent days,” it said. “The United Nations agencies present in Gaza do not have the resources on the ground to cope with, or provide assistance to, an enormous extra influx of desperate people.”

The latest bloodshed came despite mounting international calls for a cease-fire and followed failed attempts by both sides to agree to even a lull in fighting of several hours for the start of the three-day Muslim holiday of Eid el-Fitr that marks the end of Ramadan.

The Hamas-run health ministry said 10 people, including nine children under the age of 12, were killed and 46 wounded in the blast at a park in the Shati refugee camp on the outskirts of Gaza City.

Each side blamed the other.

Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, said the explosion was caused when a rocket launched by Gaza militants misfired and landed in the park. Palestinian police and civil defense said an Israeli missile hit as children were playing on a swing set.

“The children were playing and were happy, enjoying Eid, and they got hit,” said Nidal Aljerbi, a witness.

After three weeks of bloodshed, both Israel and Hamas are holding out for bigger gains and a cease-fire remains elusive, despite an appeal by the U.N. Security Council and growing pressure from the United States.

Israel says its troops will not leave Gaza until they have demolished scores of Hamas military tunnels under the Gaza-Israel border that militants use to infiltrate Israel and smuggle weapons. Hamas says it will not cease fire until it receives international guarantees Gaza’s 7-year-old border blockade by Egypt and Israel will be lifted.

Israel has said it is defending its citizens against attack from Gaza by hitting Hamas rocket launchers, weapons storage sites and military tunnels. However, there is growing U.S. frustration with the mounting number of Palestinian casualties — the vast majority of them civilians.

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have been pressing Israel to accept an immediate and unconditional humanitarian cease-fire.

The Obama administration pushed back Monday against a torrent of Israeli criticism over Kerry’s latest bid to secure a cease-fire with Hamas, accusing some in Israel of launching a “misinformation campaign” against the top American diplomat.

“It’s simply not the way partners and allies treat each other,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

Her comments were echoed by the White House, where officials said they were disappointed by Israeli reports that cast Kerry’s efforts to negotiate a cease-fire as more favorable to Hamas.

Israel had accepted an Egyptian call for an unconditional cease-fire early in its Gaza campaign, but Hamas rejected the idea.

Netanyahu said Monday that Israel won’t end its offensive until Hamas’ network of tunnels under the Gaza-Israel border has been neutralized. “We need to be ready for a prolonged campaign,” he said. “We will continue to act aggressively and responsibly until the mission is completed to protect our citizens, soldiers and children.”

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri responded defiantly. “His threats do not scare Hamas or the Palestinian people, and the occupation will pay the price for the massacres against civilians and children,” he said.

Israel’s last major Gaza invasion ended in January 2009 after 23 days, one-third of that time with troops on the ground. Already, the current ground operation, which began 11 days ago, has lasted longer than the one in 2009.

In recent days, Israeli leaders have debated whether to withdraw from Gaza after the tunnels are demolished, or to expand the ground operation to deliver a more painful blow against Hamas. Those in favor of an escalation have argued that unless Hamas is toppled and disarmed, a new round of Israel-Gaza fighting is inevitable. Opponents say attempting to reoccupy densely populated Gaza, even if for a short period, could quickly entangle Israel politically and militarily and drive up the number of dead.

In his remarks Monday, Netanyahu didn’t let on which way he is leaning. However, he insisted that “preventing the arming of terror groups and demilitarizing Gaza must be part of any solution,” indicating that Israel’s aims are broader than initially stated.

For now, ground forces have largely operated on the edges of Gaza.

The Israeli military has said it has located 31 tunnels, is aware of the existence of 10 more and has so far demolished close to 20.

Gaza militants have repeatedly used the tunnels to sneak into Israel, including on Monday when several infiltrated into southern Israel. The army said one Hamas militant coming through a tunnel was killed in a firefight, but that searches in the area were continuing.

The Hamas military wing said nine of its fighters infiltrated and attacked an army post.

After three weeks of battle, “our fighters still have a lot of surprises in store for the leaders of the occupation and their elite soldiers,” the group said in a statement.

The blast at the Gaza park occurred within minutes of a separate strike Monday afternoon on nearby Shifa Hospital, Gaza City’s largest medical facility. Several people were wounded in the blast near one of the hospital’s outpatient clinics, Hamas health officials said.

Lerner, the army spokesman, denied Israel was involved in the two attacks. “This incident was carried out by Gaza terrorists whose rockets fell short and hit the Shifa Hospital and the Beach (Shati) camp,” he said, adding that the military had identified 200 “failed launchings” so far.

Early Tuesday, the military released aerial photographs that it said showed the paths of two misfired Hamas rockets it said hit the park and Shifa Hospital. It said the rockets were detected by Israeli military radar and sensors.

Gaza’s police operations room and civil defense department blamed the attacks on Israeli airstrikes.

Gaza’s Interior Ministry spokesman Eyad al-Bozum said he believes that shrapnel found in the dead and wounded is evidence of Israel’s role in the incident.

TIME Infectious Disease

New Fears About Ebola Spread After Plane Scare

It's an unprecedented public-health scenario: since 1976, when the virus was first discovered, Ebola outbreaks were limited to remote corners of Congo and Uganda

+ READ ARTICLE

(DAKAR, Senegal) — No one knows for sure just how many people Patrick Sawyer came into contact with the day he boarded a flight in Liberia, had a stopover in Ghana, changed planes in Togo, and then arrived in Nigeria, where authorities say he died days later from Ebola, one of the deadliest diseases known to man.

Now health workers are scrambling to trace those who may have been exposed to Sawyer across West Africa, including flight attendants and fellow passengers.

Health experts say it is unlikely he could have infected others with the virus that can cause victims to bleed from the eyes, mouth and ears. Still, unsettling questions remain: How could a man whose sister recently died from Ebola manage to board a plane leaving the country? And worse: Could Ebola become the latest disease to be spread by international air travel?

Sawyer’s death on Friday has led to tighter screening of airline passengers in West Africa, where an unprecedented outbreak that emerged in March has killed more than 670 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. But some health authorities expressed little confidence in such precautions.

“The best thing would be if people did not travel when they were sick, but the problem is people won’t say when they’re sick. They will lie in order to travel, so it is doubtful travel recommendations would have a big impact,” said Dr. David Heymann, professor of infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“The important thing is for countries to be prepared when they get patients infected with Ebola, that they are isolated, family members are told what to do and health workers take the right steps.”

The World Health Organization is awaiting laboratory confirmation after Nigerian health authorities said Sawyer tested positive for Ebola, WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl said. The WHO has not recommended any travel restrictions since the outbreak came to light.

“We would have to consider any travel recommendations very carefully, but the best way to stop this outbreak is to put the necessary measures in place at the source of infection,” Hartl said. Closing borders “might help, but it won’t be exhaustive or foolproof.”

The risk of travelers contracting Ebola is considered low because it requires direct contact with bodily fluids or secretions such as urine, blood, sweat or saliva, experts say. Ebola can’t be spread like flu through casual contact or breathing in the same air.

Patients are contagious only once the disease has progressed to the point they show symptoms, according to the WHO. And the most vulnerable are health care workers and relatives who come in much closer contact with the sick.

Still, witnesses say Sawyer, a 40-year-old Liberian Finance Ministry employee en route to a conference in Nigeria, was vomiting and had diarrhea aboard at least one of his flights with some 50 other passengers aboard. Ebola can be contracted from traces of feces or vomit, experts say.

Sawyer was immediately quarantined upon arrival in Lagos — a city of 21 million people — and Nigerian authorities say his fellow travelers were advised of Ebola’s symptoms and then were allowed to leave. The incubation period can be as long as 21 days, meaning anyone infected may not fall ill for several weeks.

Health officials rely on “contact tracing” — locating anyone who may have been exposed, and then anyone who may have come into contact with that person. That may prove impossible, given that other passengers journeyed on to dozens of other cities.

Patrick Sawyer had planned to visit his family in Minnesota next month to attend two of his three daughters’ birthdays, his wife, Decontee Sawyer, told KSTP-TV in Minnesota.

“It’s a global problem because Patrick could have easily come home with Ebola, easy,” she said. The Associated Press left phone and email messages for her Monday.

International travel has made the spread of disease via airplanes almost routine. Outbreaks of measles, polio and cholera have been traced back to countries thousands of miles away. Even Ebola previously traveled the globe this way: During an outbreak in Ivory Coast in the 1990s, the virus infected a veterinarian who traveled to Switzerland, where the disease was snuffed out upon arrival and she ultimately survived, experts say.

Two American aid workers in Liberia have tested positive for the virus and are being treated there. U.S. health officials said Monday that the risk of the deadly germ spreading to the United States is remote.

The mere prospect of Ebola in Africa’s most populous nation has Nigerians on edge.

In Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, Alex Akinwale, a 35-year-old entrepreneur, said he is particularly concerned about taking the bus, which is the only affordable way to travel.

“It’s actually making me very nervous. If I had my own car, I would be safer,” he said. “The doctors are on strike, and that means they are not prepared for it. For now I’m trying to be very careful.”

It’s an unprecedented public health scenario: Since 1976, when the virus was first discovered, Ebola outbreaks were limited to remote corners of Congo and Uganda, far from urban centers, and stayed within the borders of a single country. This time, cases first emerged in Guinea, and before long hundreds of others were stricken in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Those are some of the poorest countries in the world, with few doctors and nurses to treat sick patients let alone determine who is well enough to travel. In Sawyer’s case, it appears nothing was done to question him until he fell sick on his second flight with Asky Airlines. An airline spokesman would not comment on what precautions were being taken in the aftermath of Sawyer’s journey.

Liberian Assistant Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswah told The Associated Press last week that there had been no screening at Liberia’s Monrovia airport. That changed quickly over the weekend, when President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said a new policy on inspecting and testing all outgoing and incoming passengers will be strictly observed. She also announced that some borders were being closed and communities with large numbers of Ebola cases would be quarantined.

International travelers departing from the capitals of Sierra Leone and Guinea are also being checked for signs of fever, airport officials said. Buckets of chlorine are also on hand at Sierra Leone’s airport in Freetown for disinfection, authorities said.

Still, detecting Ebola in departing passengers might be tricky, since its initial symptoms are similar to many other diseases, including malaria and typhoid fever.

“It will be very difficult now to contain this outbreak because it’s spread,” Heymann said. “The chance to stop it quickly was months ago before it crossed borders … but this can still be stopped if there is good hospital infection control, contact tracing and collaboration between countries.”

Nigerian authorities so far have identified 59 people who came into contact with Sawyer and have tested 20, said Lagos State Health Commissioner Jide Idris. Among them were officials from ECOWAS, a West African governing body, airline employees, health workers and the Nigerian ambassador to Liberia, he said. He said there have been no new cases of the disease.

___

Associated Press Medical Writer Maria Cheng reported from London. Jonathan Paye-Layleh in Monrovia, Liberia; Clarence Roy-Macaulay in Freetown, Sierra Leone; Erick Kaglan in Lome, Togo; and Heather Murdock in Abuja, Nigeria, also contributed to this report.

TIME Foreign Policy

White House: EU, US to Impose New Russia Sanctions

(WASHINGTON) — The United States and European Union plan to impose new sanctions against Russia this week, including penalties targeting key sectors of the Russian economy, the White House said Monday.

The show of Western solidarity comes as the U.S. accuses Russia of ramping up its troop presence on its border with Ukraine and shipping more heavy weaponry to pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukrainian cities.

President Barack Obama and the leaders of Britain, Germany, France and Italy discussed the crisis during a rare joint video teleconference on Monday. The discussion follows days of bilateral talks on how to implement tougher sanctions after the downing of a passenger jet in eastern Ukraine, an attack the U.S. says was carried out by the separatists.

The U.S. and European sanctions are likely to target Russia’s energy, arms and financial sectors. The EU is also weighing the prospect of levying penalties on individuals close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who appears to only be deepening Russia’s role in destabilizing Ukraine.

“It’s precisely because we’ve not yet seen a strategic turn from Putin that we believe it’s absolutely essential to take additional measures, and that’s what the Europeans and the United States intend to do this week,” said Tony Blinken, Obama’s deputy national security adviser.

Europe, which has a stronger trade relationship with Russia than the U.S., has lagged behind Washington with its earlier sanctions package, in part out of concern from leaders that the penalties could have a negative impact on their own economies. But a spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron said following Monday’s call that the West agreed that the EU should move a “strong package of sectoral sanctions as swiftly as possible.”

French President Francois Hollande said in a statement that the Western leaders “regretted Russia has not effectively pressured separatists to bring them to negotiate nor taken expected concrete measures to assure control of the Russian-Ukrainian border.”

The U.S. penalties are expected to be imposed after Europe finalizes its next moves. Neither set of penalties is expected to fully cut off Russian economic sectors from the West, an options U.S. officials have said they’re holding in reserve in case Russia launches a full-on military incursion in Ukraine or takes a similarly provocative step.

As the West presses ahead with new sanctions, U.S. officials say Russia is getting more directly involved in the clash between separatists and the Ukrainian government. Blinken said Russia appeared to be using the international attention focused on the downed Malaysia Airlines plane as “cover and distraction” while it moves more heavy weaponry over its border and into Ukraine.

“We’ve seen a significant re-buildup of Russian forces along the border, potentially positioning Russia for a so-called humanitarian or peace-keeping intervention in Ukraine,” Blinken said. “So there’s urgency to arresting this.”

Nearly 300 people were killed when the Malaysian plane was shot down by a missile on July 17. The West blames the separatists for the missile attack and Russia for supplying the rebels with equipment that can take down a plane.

Other leaders participating in Monday’s call were German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. The White House said the leaders also discussed the stalled efforts to achieve a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, the need for Iraq to form a more inclusive government and the uptick in security threats in Libya.

TIME Virginia

US Court: Va. Gay Marriage Ban Unconstitutional

(RICHMOND, Va.) — A federal appeals court ruled Monday that Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional, the latest in a string of decisions overturning bans across the country.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond ruled that state constitutional and statutory provisions barring gay marriage and denying recognition of such unions performed in other states violate the U.S. Constitution. The Virginia gay marriage case is one of several that could go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

It was not immediately clear if or when the state would need to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Virginia’s same-sex marriage bans “impermissibly infringe on its citizens’ fundamental right to marry,” Judge Henry F. Floyd wrote in the court’s opinion.

In February, U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen ruled that Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection and due process guarantees. Lawyers for two circuit court clerks whose duties include issuing marriage licenses appealed. Attorney General Mark Herring, representing a state official also named as a defendant, sided with the plaintiffs.

“Marriage is one of the most fundamental rights — if not the most fundamental right — of all Americans,” David Boies, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a statement. “This court has affirmed that our plaintiffs — and all gay and lesbian Virginians — no longer have to live as second-class citizens who are harmed and demeaned every day.”

Gay marriage proponents have won more than 20 legal decisions around the country since the U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down a key part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Those rulings remain in various stages of appeal.

More than 70 cases have been filed in all 31 states that prohibit same-sex marriage. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia allow such marriages.

The Virginia lawsuit was filed by Timothy Bostic and Tony London of Norfolk, who were denied a marriage license, and Carol Schall and Mary Townley of Chesterfield County. The women were married in California and wanted their marriage recognized in Virginia, where they are raising a 16-year-old daughter.

Two other same-sex couples, Joanne Harris and Jessica Duff of Staunton and Christy Berghoff and Victoria Kidd of Winchester, filed a similar lawsuit in Harrisonburg and were allowed to intervene in the case before the appeals court.

In 2006, Virginians voted 57 percent to 43 percent to approve the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Virginia laws also prohibit recognition of same-sex marriages performed in other states.

TIME weather

Tornado Rips Off Roofs, Downs Trees Near Boston

Severe Weather
People survey damage in front of a funeral home in Revere, Mass. Monday, July 28, 2014 after a tornado touched down. Deputy Fire Chief Mike Viviano says the fire department in that coastal city has received dozens of calls reporting partial building and roof collapses, and downed trees and power lines. Elise Amendola—AP

(REVERE, Mass.) — A storm system that wreaked havoc across the eastern half of the U.S. spawned a tornado just north of Boston on Monday, causing extensive damage in Revere, where roofs were ripped off buildings and dozens of large trees were uprooted.

Officials in Revere, a coastal city of about 53,000, said there no immediate reports of serious injuries, but several people suffered minor injuries, including a baby who was in a car and hurt by flying glass and an elderly woman who suffered cuts.

“Given the magnitude of the storm, it’s really a miracle that no one sustained more serious injuries,” said Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo.

Communities across the U.S. were cleaning up Monday after strong storms destroyed homes, knocked out power for thousands of people and toppled power lines and trees.

The tornado was spawned by a powerful storm that moved through the Boston area shortly after 9 a.m. Deputy Fire Chief Mike Viviano said his department received dozens of calls reporting partial building and roof collapses, and downed trees and power lines.

Paul and Patty Carrabes said they were both at work when the wind tore the roof off their home.

“I probably would have died if I was in there,” said Patty Carrabes said.

Bob Cronin, the city’s sealer of weights and measures, said he was in City Hall when the tornado hit.

Cronin said City Hall was damaged, as were a number of businesses. One auto body shop had its roof ripped clean off, Cronin said.

“This isn’t something you expect to happen when you wake up in the morning,” he said.

The National Weather Service’s office in Massachusetts said it was the first tornado in Suffolk County, which includes the city of Boston and the northern communities of Revere, Chelsea and Winthrop, since the agency began keeping records on them in 1950.

Rizzo said City Hall was evacuated due to damage and will likely be closed for a couple of days. He said he expected the city to open a shelter for any residents who are unable to stay in their homes.

In eastern Tennessee, officials said there were no reports of any deaths or injuries from Sunday’s storms, though at least 10 homes were destroyed. Claiborne County emergency management spokeswoman Gina Breeding told The Associated Press it wasn’t clear whether the destruction was the result of a tornado, but noted there were strong winds, lightning and heavy thunderstorms.

In Kentucky, National Weather Service forecaster Tony Edwards said some areas got softball-sized hail Sunday.

Massive hail also was reported in Michigan, where winds toppled trees and ripped the roofs off buildings. And in Ohio, some roads had been blocked by flash flooding. In Pennsylvania, nighttime storms knocked out power to thousands.

 

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