Nation and World Briefs
High Court: Prayers are not violation
WASHINGTON — A narrowly divided Supreme Court upheld decidedly Christian prayers at the start of local council meetings on Monday, declaring them in line with long national traditions though the country has grown more religiously diverse.
The content of the prayers is not significant as long as they do not denigrate non-Christians or try to win converts, the court said in a 5-4 decision backed by its conservative majority.
Though the decision split the court along ideological lines, the Obama administration backed the winning side, the town of Greece, N.Y., outside of Rochester.
The outcome relied heavily on a 1983 decision in which the court upheld an opening prayer in the Nebraska Legislature and said prayer is part of the nation’s fabric, not a violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of religion.
Writing for the court on Monday, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that forcing clergy to scrub the prayers of references to Jesus Christ and other sectarian religious figures would turn officials into censors. Instead, Kennedy said, the prayers should be seen as ceremonial and in keeping with the nation’s traditions.
Leader threatens to sell schoolgirls
LAGOS, Nigeria — Nigeria’s Islamic extremist leader is threatening to sell the nearly 300 teenage schoolgirls abducted from a school in the remote northeast three weeks ago, in a new videotape received Monday.
Abubakar Shekau for the first time also claimed responsibility for the April 15 mass abduction, warning that his group plans to attack more schools and abduct more girls.
“I abducted your girls,” said the leader of Boko Haram, which means “Western education is sinful.”
He described the girls as “slaves” and said, “By Allah, I will sell them in the marketplace.” The hourlong video starts with fighters lifting automatic rifles and shooting in the air as they chant “Allahu akbar!” or “God is great.”
It was unclear if the video was made before or after reports emerged last week that some of the girls have been forced to marry their abductors — who paid a nominal bride price of $12 — and that others have been carried into neighboring Cameroon and Chad. Those reports could not be verified.
Snapped clip suspected in circus fall
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Investigators suspect that a snapped clip sent eight aerial acrobats plummeting 20 feet or more during a daring performance, an experience one injured performer likened to a “plunge into darkness.”
The clip, a common type called a carabiner that’s used for everything from rock climbing to holding keyrings, was one of several pieces at the top of a chandelier-like apparatus that suspended the performers, fire officials said. After the accident, the 4- to 5-inch steel clip was found in three pieces on the ground with its spine snapped.
Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare stopped short of saying the carabiner caused Sunday’s accident at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey circus, witnessed by about 3,900 people, many of them children. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is trying to make a final determination.
“We don’t know if it was metal fatigue, if it wasn’t properly positioned or something else,” Pare said. “We just don’t know.”
Two of the acrobats were in critical condition Monday and all eight were still hospitalized with injuries including a pierced liver and neck and back fractures, as well as head injuries. None of the injuries appear to be life-threatening, said Stephen Payne, a spokesman for Feld Entertainment, Ringling’s parent company.
Ex-army chief: Muslim Brotherhood will never return
CAIRO — Egypt’s former military chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, seen as certain to become the next president, says the Muslim Brotherhood will never return if he is elected, accusing it of using militant groups to destabilize the country.
Asked in the first TV interview of his campaign for elections this month, whether the group will no longer exist under his presidency, el-Sissi replied, “Yes, just like that.”
“It’s not me that finished it, the Egyptians have. The problem is not with me,” said el-Sissi, who last summer ousted Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood figure who in 2012 became Egypt’s first democratically elected president.
He said the Brotherhood had been using Islamic militant groups as “cover, to fight from behind this or that group,” referring to the campaign of militant violence since Morsi’s ouster.
– The Associated Press