Nation and World Briefs
The Associated Press | June 26,2014
US to Syria: Stay out of Iraq
Syrian warplanes bombed Sunni militants’ positions inside Iraq, military officials confirmed Wednesday, deepening the concerns that the extremist insurgency that spans the two neighboring countries could morph into an even wider regional conflict. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned against the threat and said other nations should stay out.
Meanwhile, a new insurgent artillery offensive against Christian villages in the north of Iraq sent thousands of Christians fleeing their homes, seeking sanctuary in Kurdish-controlled territory, Associated Press reporters who witnessed the scene said.
The United States government and a senior Iraqi military official confirmed that Syrian warplanes bombed militants’ positions Tuesday in and near the border crossing in the town of Qaim. Iraq’s other neighbors — Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Turkey — were all bolstering flights just inside their airspace to monitor the situation, said the Iraqi official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
American officials said the target was the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the Sunni extremist group that has seized large swathes of Iraq and seeks to carve out a purist Islamic enclave across both sides of the Syria-Iraq border.
“We’ve made it clear to everyone in the region that we don’t need anything to take place that might exacerbate the sectarian divisions that are already at a heightened level of tension,” Kerry said, speaking in Brussels at a meeting of diplomats from NATO nations. “It’s already important that nothing take place that contributes to the extremism or could act as a flash point with respect to the sectarian divide.”
Ruling on cellphone searches
In an emphatic defense of privacy in the digital age, a unanimous Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that police generally may not search the cellphones of people they arrest without first getting search warrants.
Cellphones are unlike anything else police may find on someone they arrest, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court. They are “not just another technological convenience,” he said, but ubiquitous, increasingly powerful computers that contain vast quantities of personal, sensitive information.
“With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans the privacies of life,” Roberts declared. So the message to police about what they should do before rummaging through a cellphone’s contents following an arrest is simple: “Get a warrant.”
The chief justice acknowledged that barring searches would affect law enforcement, but he said: “Privacy comes at a cost.”
By ruling as it did, the court chose not to extend earlier decisions from the 1970s— when cellphone technology was not yet available — that allow police to empty a suspect’s pockets and examine whatever they find to ensure officers’ safety and prevent the destruction of evidence.
Court: gay marriage bans illegal
A federal appeals court ruled for the first time Wednesday that states cannot prevent gay couples from getting married, extending the movement’s legal winning streak and bringing the issue a big step closer to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The three-judge panel in Denver ruled 2-1 that states cannot deprive people of the fundamental right to marry simply because they choose a partner of the same sex.
“It is wholly illogical to believe that state recognition of love and commitment of same-sex couples will alter the most intimate and personal decisions of opposite-sex couples,” the judges wrote, addressing arguments that the ruling could undermine traditional marriage.
The decision by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel upheld a lower-court ruling that struck down Utah’s gay marriage ban. It becomes law in the six states covered by the 10th Circuit: Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming. But the panel immediately put the ruling on hold pending an appeal.
The Utah attorney general’s office planned to appeal the decision but it was assessing whether to go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court or ask the entire 10th Circuit to review the ruling, spokeswoman Missy Larsen said.
Actor Eli Wallach dies at 98
As a masterful character actor and early product of postwar, Method-style theater, Eli Wallach wore countless faces, disappearing into them all. But he was always propelled — in acting and in life — by a mischievousness and an abiding playfulness that made him a tireless performer, an enduring family man, and, of course, one immortal scoundrel.
“I never lost my appetite for acting,” Wallach wrote in his 2005 memoir “The Good, The Bad, and Me,” named after his most famous film. “I feel like a magician.”
Wallach died Tuesday evening from natural causes after 98 years of life, 66 years of marriage and some 100 films, including several he made in his 90s. His son, Peter Wallach, confirmed his passing Wednesday.
The versatile, raspy-voiced actor was a mainstay of Tennessee Williams’ plays (he won a Tony Award for “The Rose Tattoo” in 1951) and an original member of the Actors Studio in the early days of Method acting. But the most notable credit in his prolific career was “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” in which he played the rascally Mexican outlaw Tuco.
As the “Ugly” of the title, he stole Sergio Leone’s spaghetti Western from “The Good” (Clint Eastwood) with lines like: “When you have to shoot, shoot, don’t talk.”
Rangel wins Democratic primary
U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, the face of Harlem politics for generations, held off a strong Democratic primary challenge and moved one step closer to what he says will be his 23rd and final term in the House.
Rangel, 84, defeated state Sen. Adriano Espaillat in what was a bruising fight that shed light on the changing face of a district that was once one of the nation’s black political power bases.
With 100 percent of the vote counted in unofficial results, Rangel led Espaillat 47.4 percent to 43.6 percent, a difference of fewer than 2,000 votes. Nearly 47,800 votes had been counted. The Associated Press called Rangel the winner based on information Wednesday from the city Board of Elections on ballots cast that were not included in the election night tally. The number of absentee and provisional ballots was not sufficient for Espaillat to make up the difference.
“Fired up and ready to go!” the congressman declared in a statement thanking voters for “standing with me to the very end and giving this veteran his one last fight.”
“I’ve got a lot of fight in me and will not let them down,” said Rangel. He added that he hoped to begin healing the “division that was created during the course of the campaign.”
Scientists develop designer T cells
Bone marrow transplants save thousands of lives but patients are vulnerable to severe viral infections in the months afterward, until their new immune system kicks in. Now scientists are developing protection for that risky period — injections of cells specially designed to fend off up to five different viruses at once.
“These viruses are a huge problem, and there’s a huge need for these products,” said Dr. Ann Leen, who leads a team at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital that found an easier way to produce these long-desired designer T cells.
Healthy people have an army of T cells that roams the body, primed to recognize and fight viruses. People with suppressed immune systems — such as those undergoing a bone marrow transplant to treat leukemia or other diseases — lack that protection. It can take anywhere from four months to more than a year for marrow stem cells from a healthy donor to take root and start producing new immune cells for the recipient. When patients get sick before then, today’s antiviral medications don’t always work and cause lots of side effects.
The proposed solution: Take certain virus-fighting T cells from that same bone marrow donor, and freeze them to use if the recipient gets sick. Years of experiments show it can work. But turning the idea into an easy-to-use treatment has been difficult. A dose had to be customized to each donor-recipient pair and protected against only one or two viruses. And it took as long as three months to make.
Wednesday, Leen reported a novel technique to rapidly manufacture so-called virus-specific T cells that can target up to five of the viruses that cause the most trouble for transplant patients: Epstein-Barr virus, adenovirus, cytomegalovirus, BK virus, and human herpesvirus 6.