TIME LGBT

Puerto Rico Drops Opposition to Gay Marriage

"Today is a great day for my island," wrote Puerto Rican superstar Ricky Martin.

The Puerto Rican government announced on Friday that it would drop its opposition to same-sex marriage.

Justice Secretary Cesar Miranda said at a news conference that the Puerto Rican justice department would no longer oppose a suit challenging the constitutionality of the socially conservative island’s ban.

“Our constitutional system does not allow discriminatory distinctions such as that contained in the Civil Code concerning the rights of same-sex couples,” Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla said in a statement posted to his office’s website. “Everyone knows my religious beliefs, but it is not for political leaders to impose our beliefs. We must push for progress in civil and human rights for all citizens equally. As Governor of Puerto Rico, that’s my duty.”

Puerto Rico native Ricky Martin, who has advocated for gay rights since he announced he was gay in 2010, said on Twitter that he was grateful for the move.

In a lengthier statement, the singer called Padilla a “leader who is not afraid of the present challenges.”

“Today is a great day for my island,” he wrote. “How proud I am to live a country of equality. I love you Puerto Rico.”

TIME Yemen

ISIS Claims Role in Yemen Attack, But Doubts Persist

One expert calls the claim "not credible"

A group claiming allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria took responsibility for the suicide attacks that killed at least 137 people in Yemen’s capital city on Friday — but at least one expert has said the ISIS claim is “not credible.”

The claim was made online by a group that says it is the Yemeni branch of ISIS, the group that seized swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria, the Associated Press reports. If true, it would mark by far ISIS’s largest attack in Yemen, where sectarian tensions have already spilled over into violence without intervention from ISIS.

But Bruce Riedel, director of the Intelligence Project at the Brookings Institute said it was likelier to be al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the terror network’s powerful affiliate in Yemen that opposes the Shi’ite rebels, known as the Houthis, who seized the capital last year. “ISIS’s claim is not credible,” he said. “The attacks in Sanaa are more likely AQAP, which has both capability and intent. But ISIS may find a following in Yemen given the chaos and sectarian violence.”

ISIS’s spread in Syria and Iraq has been curbed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, but the group has expanded into countries like Libya—where violence has fueled a power vacuum—by drawing support from local militants. Whether it has a foothold in Yemen remains unclear.

“In Yemen, it has never been particularly clear that ISIS had any presence whatsoever, nor what the relationship between al-Qaeda and ISIS is in Yemen,” said said Belkis Wille, a Yemen and Kuwait researcher with Human Rights Watch.

During Friday’s noon prayer, when the mosques are most crowded, a suicide bomber detonated explosives at the al-Badr mosque while another attacked amid the ensuing panic, the AP reports. At least one other suicide bomber exploded at the al-Hashoosh mosque across the city. By Friday evening, the death toll from the attacks on the predominantly Shi’ite mosques had risen to 137, according to the rebel-owned Al-Masirah TV channel

There’s no scarcity of potential perpetrators in Yemen, a deeply splintered country where a standoff between the country’s president and the Houthis has exacerbated tensions. In February, the Houthis, who swept into the capital months earlier, dissolved the parliament and put President Abdel Rabbo Mansour Hadi under house arrest. Hadi, who the UN still recognizes as the legitimate president, escaped Sana’a and fled to the southern city of Aden, where he has declared a rival government.

On Thursday, a day before the suicide bombings, Aden was rocked by gun battles between forces loyal to Hadi and those loyal to longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who stepped down in 2012 in the wake of Arab Spring protests but is believed to be cooperating with the Iranian-backed Houthis. An unidentified warplane also attacked the presidential compound in Aden amid the clashes, though Hadi was unhurt.

Wille predicted “an uptick” in targeted terrorist attacks aimed at Houthi-affiliated institutions as Sunni extremist groups attempt to thwart the Shi’ite rebels.

“Unfortunately, this violence, which comes in the context of escalating tension between Sunni Islamists, armed groups, and the Houthis, represents a serious blow to the continuation of negotiations for a peaceful transition,” Wille said,

“As long as the Houthis remain a prominent political power, I fear that there will be more attacks coming from either al-Qaeda or other Sunni islamist groups, including potentially ISIS, which is a new development,” she said.

TIME Law

Texas Moves Closer to Allowing Guns on College Campuses

UT Chancellor William McRaven, a retired Navy admiral, opposes the measure

The Texas Senate approved a bill on Thursday that would allow people to carry concealed handguns on college campuses.

Supporters say the measure, which has the backing of gun rights groups, will help licensed students over 21 better protect themselves. The Senate voted on the measure along party lines, and the Republican-controlled House is taking it up next week.

But the move to legalize licensed weapons on campuses has prompted opposition from law enforcement and university leaders, including University of Texas System Chancellor William McRaven, a retired Navy admiral who oversaw the operation that killed Osama bin Laden.

“I continue to remain apprehensive about the effects of this legislation on UT System institutions and our students, staff, patients and visitors,” McRaven said in a statement to TIME. “I continue to hear from students, parents, staff and faculty about their uneasiness related to this legislation. In light of this, it is my responsibility to continue to express our concerns as the Senate bill goes to the House and the House bill goes through the process.”

While most states either ban concealed arms on campus or leave the decision to colleges and universities individually, seven states have provisions that allow for concealed weapons on public post-secondary campuses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Several Republican-held legislatures, including in Florida and Montana, are also considering easing their restrictions on weapons on campuses.

While the Texas legislature has failed to pass similar bills three times since 2009, this bill has strong backing in the House and Governor Greg Abbott has expressed his support.

Still, student groups and higher education leaders are voicing their opposition.

“There is great concern that the presence of handguns, even if limited to licensed individuals age 21 or older, will lead to an increase in both accidental shootings and self-inflicted wounds,” McRaven wrote in an open letter to state leaders in January.

— Charlotte Alter contributed reporting.

TIME

Netanyahu Now Says He Wants a 2-State Solution

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech to supporters at party headquarters in Tel Aviv on March 18, 2015.
Nir Elias—Reuters Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech to supporters at party headquarters in Tel Aviv on March 18, 2015.

The Israeli Prime Minister backtracked on election-timed statements he made earlier this week

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that he supports a two-state solution for Israel and Palestinian despite coming out against a Palestinian state on the eve of Tuesday’s election.

Netanyahu had reversed course on his support for a two-state solution when he said in an interview on Monday that he would not allow a Palestinian state if he remained in office. That stance appeared aimed at bolstering support from Israel’s right ahead of what was expected to be a close election on Tuesday, though his statement drew widespread condemnation abroad, including from the White House.

But fresh off of a surprise strong showing in Tuesday’s vote, Netanyahu said in an interview Thursday with MSNBC that he doesn’t want “a one-state solution.”

“I want a sustainable, peaceful two-state solution. But for that circumstances have to change,” said Netanyahu, who is poised to get a fourth term in office.

Netanyahu’s Likud party won 30 of the 120 seats in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, handily defeating his strongest opposition, the Zionist Union, which won 24 seats. According to the Israeli system, President Reuven Rivlin is now expected to select Netanyahu to try to form a new coalition government.

Watch the full interview below:

TIME Bizarre

Extreme Ironing Is Back

The sport's creator is coming back after an 11-year hiatus

The man who invented Extreme Ironing is coming out of retirement.

Phil Shaw says he is again training for the sport he created in the 1990s after an 11 year hiatus, according to Britain’s ITN. For the uninitiated, Extreme Ironing involves performing the domestic chore in extreme environments like rock climbing or kayaking on rapids. Somehow, the concept briefly took off (including a world tour).

“I’d almost forgotten how people respond to it,” Shaw said. “At the end of the day, it’s a bit of fun, and people enjoy it.”

[The Guardian]

TIME Transportation

Uber Cars Outnumber Yellow Cabs on Streets of New York

Taxis New York
Mario Tama—Getty Images Taxis pass Broadway theater billboards in Times Square in New York City.

Statistics from NYC’s taxi regulator reveal an important milestone for the ride-sharing service

Uber cars have overtaken yellow cabs on the streets of New York City.

There are 14,088 registered Uber cars compared with 13,587 yellow taxis, according to new statistics from New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission.

The figures, reported by the AP, reflect the rapid expansion of the ride-sharing service, which was introduced in New York in 2011.

But as the AP notes, the numbers don’t mark the demise of the yellow cab just yet. While there are more registered Uber cars, there are still roughly 15 times as many daily rides in yellow cabs as there are in Uber vehicles.

Uber drivers are likely to own their car and drive less than 40 hours per week, while yellow taxis are generally owned by companies that find drivers for the cars during all hours of the week.

[AP]

TIME Tunisia

2 Spanish Tourists Hid in Tunisian Museum Overnight

A man holds a Tunisian and a Catalan flag during a minute of silence held outside Barcelona's city hall in Barcelona on March 19, 2015.
Josep Lago—AFP/Getty Images A man holds a Tunisian and a Catalan flag during a minute of silence held outside Barcelona's city hall in Barcelona on March 19, 2015.

A museum employee reportedly helped hide the tourists

Two Spanish tourists emerged unscathed from a Tunisian museum Thursday morning alongside the museum worker who helped hide them, one day after gunmen opened fire on visitors in an attack that left at least 23 people dead.

The Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo confirmed to reporters in Spain on Thursday that the two tourists, Juan Carlos Sanchez and Cristina Rubio, were safe, according to the Associated Press. Rubio is four months pregnant.

At least 23 people were killed, including the two gunmen, and dozens were injured on Wednesday in the assault on the National Bardo Museum, the worst terror attack in the country in years.

The museum employee helped hide the two tourists in an office during the attack, AFP reports, citing a representative of the Tunisian security forces. All three people, who were uninjured, were taken to a hospital Thursday for medical tests.

“I thought my son was dead. Now I’m relieved,” the employee’s mother told AFP.

It’s still unclear how the three survivors were not found by security forces who spent the night searching for them following the attack.

[AFP]

 

TIME Health Care

Support for Obamacare Highest in Years, Poll Says

The country is almost evenly divided.

The gap between Americans who support and oppose President Obama’s controversial health care law shrank to its narrowest margin in more than two years, according to a new poll.

A Kaiser Health Tracking Poll conducted in March found that 41% of respondents had a favorable view of the Affordable Care Act—up from 1% in January—and 43% had an unfavorable view. The numbers are a marked increase from July 2014, when the same poll found 53% of respondents viewed the law unfavorably, and they come just ahead of the five-year anniversary of the law’s enactment this weekend. Kaiser has tracked opinion on the health care law regularly.

Support largely fell along party lines, with 74% of Republicans expressing an unfavorable opinion and 65% of Democrats expressing a favorable view. While most people said the law had no direct impact on them, Republicans were far more likely to say it had hurt them than Democrats.

In total, 30% of respondents said that Congress should repeal the law, including 11% of Democrats and 61% of Republicans, while 46% of respondents said the law should remain as is or be expanded, including 72% of Democrats and 16% of Republicans.

Most respondents—53%—also said they were not aware of the Supreme Court case underway that threatens to roll back a key feature of the law.

The poll of 1,503 adults, conducted March 6-12, has a margin of error of three percentage points.

TIME Environment

This Was the Warmest Winter on Record

But you wouldn't have guessed it if you lived on the East Coast

Global temperatures from December to February were the highest on record, U.S. climate officials said Wednesday.

If that comes as a surprise to many Americans after an agonizingly cold winter, it’s because the region encompassing the eastern United States and Canada was one of the only places on earth with lower-than-average temperatures.

NOAA

Globally, the average temperature from December to February was 1.42 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the 20th-century average, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The average temperature was the highest since tracking began in 1880, surpassing the previous high in 2007 by .05 degrees.

Last month marked the second coldest February on record, behind February 1998.

Read next: It’s Official: Boston Had Snowiest Winter Ever

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME technology

Angry Birds Maker Rovio Sees Profits Fall 73% in 2014

"Angry Birds" merchandise displayed in Jakarta, Indonesia in 2012.
Romeo Gacad—AFP/Getty Images "Angry Birds" merchandise displayed in Jakarta, Indonesia in 2012.

The maker of the game is hoping that the upcoming Angry Birds film will help bolster a plunge in revenue.

The maker of the Angry Birds franchise said Thursday that profits were down last year as new games overtook its mainstay in popularity.

Finnish developer Rovio said its 2014 revenue dropped to 158.3 million euros ($169 million) from 173.5 million euros a year earlier and profits fell 73% to 10 million euros, the Wall Street Journal reports. Merchandise sales plummeted to 41.4 million euros from 73.1 million euros.

Angry Birds, launched in 2009 at the price of $0.99, has been surpassed in popularity by free-to-download alternatives. King Digital Entertainment, the maker of Candy Crush Saga, pulled in $2.26 billion last year.

In an effort the help rejuvenate the company, Rovio is releasing an animated film, Angry Birds, in May 2016. The 3D film is being developed by Sony Pictures Imageworks, and will star Jason Sudeikis, Danny McBride, Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph and Peter Dinklage.

[Wall Street Journal]

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