TIME

Supreme Court Delays Benefits for Utah Gay Couples

(SALT LAKE CITY) — More than 1,000 same-sex married couples in Utah must wait longer for state benefits after the U.S. Supreme Court granted the state a stay on an order requiring it to recognize the marriages.

The high court issued the order Friday afternoon, saying the stay will remain in place pending the outcome of the appeal to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Utah argued benefits should be delayed until the larger issue of the marriage ban makes its way through the courts.

The state’s same-sex marriage ban was struck down in December and the couples got married before the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a halt.

In May, a different federal judge ruled Utah must grant benefits — such as child custody — to those couples, but the decision was put on hold.

TIME

ESPN Reaches Deal with Comcast for SEC Network

(BIRMINGHAM, Ala.) — Comcast Cable has reached a deal with ESPN to carry the SEC Network.

The network, which launches on Aug. 14, was already set to be carried on cable and satellite providers like DISH Network, Cox Communications and AT&T U-Verse.

The addition of the nation’s largest cable provider announced Friday means the SEC Network will be available in a total of 46 million households nationally, with other negotiations continuing.

The SEC Network will carry at least 45 football games this season.

TIME Oklahoma

Court: Oklahoma Must Allow Gay Couples to Wed

The decision upholds a ruling that struck down Oklahoma's gay marriage ban

DENVER (AP) — A federal appeals court ruled Friday that Oklahoma must allow gay couples to wed, marking the second time it has found the U.S. Constitution protects same-sex marriage.

The decision from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholds a ruling that struck down Oklahoma’s gay marriage ban. But the court immediately put its decision on hold pending an appeal, meaning same-sex couple won’t be allowed to marry in the state for now.

The 2-1 ruling comes after the same three-judge panel ruled in June that Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the Constitution. It was the first time an appellate court determined that last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act meant states couldn’t deny gays the ability to wed. That ruling also is on hold, and Utah’s attorney general has said he plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The lawsuit challenging Oklahoma’s ban was filed against the Tulsa County clerk, whose attorneys were still considering their options Friday afternoon. But they noted the panel’s dissenting judge argued that changing the definition of marriage should belong to Oklahoma residents, not a federal court.

“Every child deserves a mom and a dad, and the people of Oklahoma confirmed that at the ballot box when they approved a constitutional amendment that affirmed marriage as a man-woman union,” said Byron Babione, senior attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom, which is defending the county clerk.

Proponents of gay marriage quickly planned rallies Friday in Oklahoma City and Tulsa to celebrate the ruling.

“We’re excited that Oklahoma will be counted among the places where all of its citizens are treated equally,” said Toby Jenkins, executive director of Oklahomans for Equality.

In its 46-page ruling Friday, the judges dealt less with the constitutionality of same-sex marriages and instead focused more on arcane legal matters of whether the Oklahoma couples sued the correct government officials.

However, Justice Carlos Lucero reiterated that the court has already found that same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marry that cannot be breached by the state’s concern with keeping the focus of marriage on the procreative potential of man-woman unions. He wrote that Oklahoma’s ban, “denies a fundamental right to all same-sex couples who seek to marry or to have their marriages recognized regardless of their child-rearing ambitions.”

Justice Jerome A. Holmes concurred but stressed in his own opinion that the court did not find that voters exhibited legal animus, or dislike, toward gay individuals when they outlawed same-sex marriage in 2004. Justice Paul Kelly Jr. dissented.

The two decisions give increased momentum to a legal cause that has compiled an impressive string of lower court victories. More than 20 courts have issued rulings siding with gay marriage advocates since the Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling in June 2013. The rulings have come in 17 states, with Florida being the latest.

Two of the most striking of those decisions were in conservative Utah and Oklahoma, which saw their voter-approved gay marriage bans struck down in December and January, respectively. In Utah, more than 1,000 same-sex couples married before the Supreme Court issued a stay.

It’s unclear whether the two cases will be the first to reach the Supreme Court. The high court could choose from cases moving through five other federal appellate courts, and it won’t consider a case until next year at the earliest.

Attorneys representing Utah and Oklahoma argued voters have the right to define marriage in their states, and unions between a man and woman are best for children.

Gay rights lawyers countered that voters cannot define marriage in a way that deprives gay people of their fundamental rights, and say there is no proof that gay couples make inferior parents.

Ten years ago, nearly a dozen states outlawed gay marriage. Now same-sex marriage is legal in 19 states and the District of Columbia, and recent polls show a majority of Americans support it.

TIME Italy

Italian Court Acquits Berlusconi in Sex Case

An appeals court reversed a lower court conviction

MILAN (AP) — An Italian appeals court on Friday acquitted former Premier Silvio Berlusconi in a sex-for-hire case, reversing a lower court conviction that had carried a seven-year prison sentence and a lifetime ban on holding political office.

The case has grabbed global attention, offering an unseemly peek into the 77-year-old three-time premier’s private life, with witness testimony revealing raunchy, sex-fueled bunga-bunga parties at his private villa attended by a bevy of aspiring showgirls.

The prosecution alleged that Berlusconi had paid for sex with an underage prostitute, a Moroccan named Karima el-Mahroug, better known as Ruby, and then using his influence to cover it up.

He denied the charges, and both he and el-Mahroug, who was 17 when she frequented Berlusconi’s villa, denied ever having had sex.

The acquittal was announced just as Berlusconi was leaving a facility for Alzheimer’s patients where he is performing community service for a separate conviction on a tax fraud charge. That is the only case finalized against Berlusconi, who has faced dozens of trials, mostly for his business dealings.

Berlusconi thrust his hand from a car as he was being driven away from facility and a political supporter waiting at the gate grabbed his hand and shook it. The window was then rolled up and the media mogul waved as he was driven away.

Berlusconi’s defense lawyer, Franco Coppi, said the decision “goes beyond the rosiest predictions,” adding that he would have been satisfied with an acquittal for lack of evidence. But the court went further, saying that no crimes had been committed.

While the court has 90 days to issue its reasoning, Coppi said the decision to acquit for paying an underage prostitute for sex could have been due to Berlusconi’s testimony that he believed el-Mahroug was over 18.

The case may not end there, however. Prosecutors can challenge Friday’s acquittal in Italy’s highest criminal court, the Court of Cassation.

Berlusconi also is on trial in Naples accused of political corruption, and under investigation in Milan accused of witness-tampering in the sex-for-hire trial and in another related case involving three aides who were convicted of procuring prostitutes for his parties.

Berlusconi remains influential on the Italian political scene as head of his Forza Italia party, despite the tax fraud conviction’s ban on holding political office for two years that led the Senate to yank his seat.

The verdict was widely lauded by political backers. One of Berlusconi’s staunchest, lawmaker Renato Brunetta, hailed “Berlusconi innocent!!!” on Twitter.

TIME campus sexual assault

UConn Settles Sexual Assault Lawsuit

STORRS, Conn— The University of Connecticut has settled a federal lawsuit filed by five women who claimed the school responded to their sexual assault complaints with indifference.

The bulk of the settlement, $900,000, will go to a former UConn hockey player who joined the Title IX lawsuit last December, a month after it was originally filed by four other women. She alleged she was kicked off the team after reporting she had been raped by a male hockey player in August 2011.

The other four women will receive payments ranging from $125,000 to $25,000.

The Associated Press obtained settlement documents in advance of a planned Friday morning announcement by the university and plaintiffs.

The school, which has repeatedly defended its policies for responding to sexual assault complaints, did not admit any wrongdoing.

“It was clear to all parties that no good would have come from dragging this out for years as it consumed the time, attention and resources — both financial and emotional — of everyone involved,” said Larry McHugh, the chairman of the school’s Board of Trustees. “In order to do this, compromise was required on both sides, which is reflected in the settlement. I hope this resolution will help the students find closure on this issue.”

Messages seeking comment were left for the women’s attorney, Gloria Allred, who planned hold a news conference at 1 p.m. Friday.

The lawsuit alleged discrimination based on gender and retaliation in violation of Title IX, which guarantees equal educational opportunities to students at schools that receive federal funds. It sought unspecified monetary damages and changes in university policies.

The U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights began a Title IX investigation in December based on complaints filed by four of the plaintiffs and three other women. That investigation, which could include the loss of federal funds for the school, continues even though these four women also have withdrawn their complaint to the Education Department.

School officials said they would continue to cooperate with that investigation.

The two sides issued a joint statement, which includes an acknowledgment by the plaintiffs that “certain UConn employees provided compassionate care and assistance to them” while contending the response of the school as a whole, showed deliberate indifference.

One plaintiff, Kylie Angell, said she was told by a police officer that, “Women need to stop spreading their legs like peanut butter or rape is going to keep happening until the cows come home.”

Angell receives $115,000 in the settlement. Carolyn Luby will get $25,000; Rosemary Richi receives $60,000 and Erica Daniels receives $125,000. The Associated Press normally does not release the names of victims in sexual assault cases, but those four have made their names public at news conferences. The hockey player has not.

None of the men involved in the complaints ever faced criminal charges. The attacks allegedly occurred between 2010 and 2013, while the women were students at the school.

UConn officials have detailed numerous steps the school has taken to ensure women can report sexual assaults to police or schools and receive proper guidance and counseling. The school also said it has expelled 27 students since 2005 who have been the subject of sexual misconduct allegations, including 15 in the past five years. The school could not say how many complaints had been filed during that time.

“This lawsuit may have been settled, but the issue of sexual assault on college campuses has not been,” said school President Susan Herbst. “Our hearts go out to all victims of sexual violence. The University has taken many positive, important steps in the battle against sexual assault in recent years, which are described in the joint statement, but there is still more to be done.”

Reported by By Pat Eaton-robb

TIME

Woman Loses Relatives in 2 Malaysia Air Disasters

"It's just ... ripped our guts again," said the woman's brother

SYDNEY (AP) — In an almost incomprehensible twist of fate, an Australian woman who lost her brother in the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 learned on Friday that her stepdaughter was on the plane shot down over Ukraine.

Kaylene Mann’s brother Rod Burrows and sister-in-law Mary Burrows were on board Flight 370 when it vanished in March. On Friday, Mann found out that her stepdaughter, Maree Rizk, was killed along with 297 others on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which U.S. intelligence authorities believe was shot down by a surface-to-air missile.

“It’s just brought everyone, everything back,” said Greg Burrows, Mann’s brother. “It’s just … ripped our guts again.”

Burrows said his family was struggling to understand how they could be struck by such horrible luck on two separate occasions with the same airline.

“She just lost a brother and now a stepdaughter, so…” he said of his sister, his voice trailing off.

Rizk and her husband Albert, of Melbourne, were returning home from a four-week holiday in Europe, said Phil Lithgow, president of the Sunbury Football Club, with which the family was heavily involved. Albert, a real estate agent, was a member of the club’s committee, Maree was a volunteer in the canteen and their son, James, plays on the club’s team.

“They were very lovely people,” Lithgow said. “You wouldn’t hear a bad word about them — very generous with their time in the community, very community-minded, and just really very entertaining people to be with.”

The club members planned to wear black armbands and observe a minute of silence to honor the Rizks at their game on Saturday, Lithgow said.

Despite the twin tragedies, Burrows said he holds nothing against Malaysia Airlines.

“Nobody could predict they were going to get shot down,” he said. “That was out of their hands.”

TIME Asia

Malaysia Airlines Ukraine Crash: Disaster Strikes Twice

Less than five months after MH370 mysteriously disappeared, Malaysia Airlines is reeling from a second disaster after a Boeing 777 was reportedly shot down over Ukraine on Thursday

+ READ ARTICLE

(HANOI, Vietnam) — Two Boeing 777s. Two incredibly rare aviation disasters. And one airline.

In what appears to be a mind-boggling coincidence, Malaysia is reeling from the second tragedy to hit its national airline in less than five months.

On March 8, a Malaysia Airlines jetliner vanished about an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur, spawning an international mystery that remains unsolved. On Thursday, the airline — and the nation — were pitched into another crisis after the same type of aircraft was reported shot down over Ukraine.

Ukraine said the plane was brought down by a missile over the violence-wracked eastern part of the country. Other details were only just beginning to emerge.

But what’s certain is that the struggling airline and the nation must now prepare for another agonizing encounter with grief, recriminations, international scrutiny and serious legal and diplomatic implications.

“This is a tragic day in what has already been a tragic year for Malaysia,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said.

Amid it all, a question: Just how could disaster strike the airline twice in such a short space of time?

“Either one of these events has an unbelievably low probability,” said John Cox, president and CEO of Safety Operating Systems and a former airline pilot and accident investigator. “To have two in a just a few months of each other is certainly unprecedented.”

The first disaster deeply scarred Malaysia and left the world dumbstruck. How could a Boeing 777-200ER, a modern jumbo jet, simply disappear? Flight 370 had veered off course during a flight to Beijing and is believed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean far off the western Australian coast.

The search area has changed several times, but no sign of the aircraft, or the 239 people aboard, has been found. Until then, how the plane got there is likely to remain a mystery.

On Thursday, there was no mystery over the whereabouts of the Boeing 777-200ER, which went down on a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with 283 passengers and 15 crew members. Its wreckage was found in Ukraine, and there were no survivors.

Officials said the plane was shot down at an altitude of 10,000 meters (33,000 feet.) The region has seen severe fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia separatists in recent days.

“If it transpires that the plane was indeed shot down, we insist that the perpetrators must swiftly be brought to justice,” Malaysia’s prime minister said.

Malaysia Airlines was widely criticized for the way it handled the Flight 370 hunt and investigation. Some relatives of those on board accused the airline of engaging in a cover-up, and there have been persistent conspiracy theories over the fate of the plane, including that it might have been shot down.

There was no immediate reason to think the two disasters to befall the airline were in any way linked.

Najib said the plane’s flight route had been declared safe by the global civil aviation body. And Cox said that to his knowledge, there was no prohibition against flying over eastern Ukraine despite the fighting on the ground.

Charles Oman, a lecturer at the department of aeronautics and astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said it was too early to draw conclusions.

“Given the military conflict in the region, one has to be concerned that identities could have been mistaken,” he said in an email.

Malaysia Airlines was especially criticized for the way it handled the communications around the missing jetliner, which presented unique challenges because of the uncertainty facing the relatives of those on board. With the plane crashing Thursday over land and its wreckage already located, there will be no such uncertainty.

But the investigation will be just as sensitive. There will be legal and diplomatic implications depending on who was responsible.

“The airline and the Malaysian transport ministry took a lot of hits for the way they handled MH370, due to their inexperience,” Oman said. “Hopefully they will do better this time.”

The accident will surely inflict more financial damage on Malaysia Airlines. Even before the March disaster, it reported a loss of $370 million in 2013 when most of the word’s other airlines were posting an average profit of 4.7 percent. After the Flight 370 disaster, passengers canceled flights, and even though the airline is insured, it faces uncertainty over payouts to the victims’ families.

“They were in worse shape than any other airline in the world before even the first incident,” said Seth Kaplan, managing partner of industry newsletter Airline Weekly. “There’s little precedent for an airline going through what they have gone through let alone surviving it.”

TIME Israel

Israel Begins Gaza Ground Offensive

Smoke rises after an Israeli missile strike hit the northern Gaza Strip on July 17, 2014.
Smoke rises after an Israeli missile strike hit the northern Gaza Strip on July 17, 2014. Lefteris Pitarakis—AP

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — The Israeli military says it has launched a ground offensive in Gaza.

The army said in a statement late Thursday that after 10 days of Hamas attacks, it has “initiated a ground operation within the Gaza Strip.”

The army says the objective is to strike a “significant blow to Hamas’ terror infrastructure.”

TIME Transportation

Strike Averted on LIRR, Nation’s Busiest Commuter Railway

A man buys a ticket for a Long Island Rail Road train at Pennsylvania Station in New York City on July 14, 2014.
A man buys a ticket for a Long Island Rail Road train at Pennsylvania Station in New York City on July 14, 2014. Shannon Stapleton—Reuters

A tentative agreement was announced Thursday that averts a strike by workers at the nation's largest commuter railroad

Updated 7:24 a.m. ET Friday

NEW YORK (AP) — After four years of negotiations — and weeks of fretting by 300,000 daily riders about a possible strike — unions and management at the nation’s largest commuter railroad reached a tentative contract agreement Thursday.

The deal announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who personally got involved in the final hours of the negotiations, gives Long Island Rail Road workers a 17 percent pay raise over six and a half years but requires them to contribute to their health care costs for the first time.

Cuomo, who is running for a second term in November, hailed the deal as a compromise that protects workers and riders because it calls for no additional fare hikes.

“There was a high degree of agita,” the governor said of nervousness over the negotiations. “The good news is there could have been a lot more agita next week” if there had been a strike.

Eight unions representing 5,400 Long Island Rail Road workers had threatened to walk off the job at 12:01 a.m. Sunday. The workers had been seeking a new deal since 2010.

Commuters at Penn Station in Manhattan expressed relief that they would not have to seek transportation alternatives.

“I was really concerned,” said Sibel Aras of Port Washington. “It’s really good news. I’m happy for them. They deserve it.”

Manhattan attorney Douglas Bartner said he was pleased Cuomo stepped in.

“His taking last minute efforts to avert what could be a crisis is good, whatever it takes,” Bartner said. “It got done. I hope the terms are fair to employees.”

According to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the LIRR’s parent organization, the typical salary for a Long Island Rail Road worker is $65,000, and with overtime annual earnings average $85,000. A round-trip peak ticket from central Nassau County to Manhattan currently costs $25 a day; an unlimited trip monthly ticket is $276.

“Both sides have compromised to reach an agreement that gives our employees the raises they deserve while also providing for the MTA’s long-term financial stability,” said Thomas Prendergast, the MTA chairman.

Chief union negotiator Anthony Simon said his membership was reluctant to strike, but a tough stance was necessary in order to get an agreement.

“This was definitely about the riders,” Simon said. “We cared about the financial stability of the railroad as well as the members and their financial stability.”

Officials in New York City and Long Island had predicted dire consequences if workers walked off the job.

“All riders feel relief at the announcement of this settlement” said Mark Epstein, chairman of a commuter advocacy group. “We are encouraged by Gov. Cuomo’s assurances on fares and the MTA’s ability to fund its capital program and look forward to reviewing additional details on the settlement and the way in which it will be funded.”

Earlier this week it appeared a strike was imminent when union negotiators and MTA officials said that they had reached an impasse. Commuters fretted over contingency plans that would have had many riding school buses from LIRR stations to subway stops in New York City, or spending hours on clogged New York area roadways.

Cuomo, a Democrat who is running for re-election, jump-started the talks on Wednesday when he appealed to both sides to resume negotiating. The governor held discussions with the sides later that day and on Thursday morning summoned them to his office.

The state comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, had estimated a strike would be a “devastating blow” to a region causing economic losses of $50 million a day.

While commuters were relieved by the deal, few were likely as happy as Mayor Bill de Blasio. The mayor had been criticized for planning to be out of town on a vacation in Italy starting Friday.

Before the agreement was announced Thursday, de Blasio said at event in Brooklyn that he thought the contingency plan for a possible strike was strong and that the impact would have been felt strongest outside the city limit.

“He can take his vacation to Italy,” Cuomo said. “I hope he enjoys it. I’m a tad envious.”

TIME LGBT

Ruling Allows Same-Sex Marriages for Florida Keys

MIAMI (AP) — A judge in the Florida Keys has overturned the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage after a legal challenge by six gay couples said it effectively made them second-class citizens.

The ruling was issued Thursday by Circuit Judge Luis M. Garcia and applies only to Monroe County, which covers the Keys. The lawsuit contended that the same-sex marriage ban approved by voters in 2008 violated the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. The judge says licenses could be issued starting Tuesday.

Attorney General Pam Bondi and ban supporters argued that the referendum vote should be respected and that Florida has sole authority to define marriage in the state. The Florida amendment defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

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