Keeping Jesus in government avoided by the Supremes

The U.S. Supreme Court last week passed up the chance to decide whether opening up a public meeting with a sectarian prayer, usually invoking the name of Jesus — a practice carried out in broad swaths of Red State America — is constitutional.

Every business day, thousands of government bodies at all levels begin sessions with prayers. Those prayers are supposed to be “non-sectarian” — they are supposed to appeal to a Supreme Being without reference to religion. But what if a prayer delivered at the start of a government meeting makes a specific reference to a particular religion, for example, using the name of Jesus?

A panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, one of the most conservative U.S. appeals courts in the country, has ruled such specific references are unconstitutional.

The U.S. Supreme Court last week left that ruling in place, but whether the appeals court ruling will have an effect on the government meetings across the country opened with Christian prayers remains to be seen.

The high court could always take on the dispute in some future case. But for the moment the appeals court ruling is the law in the Fourth Circuit: North Carolina, Maryland, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia…

The Supreme Court denied the request for review last Tuesday without comment.

And local bible-thumpers will continue to violate the law same as it ever was. You expected different?

As I am wont to say within this context, Separation of church and state – in the United States – is only observed when it comes to paying taxes.

Laura Dekker is youngest to solo circumnavigate the globe

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

A year and a day after she set out to sail single-handed around the globe, Dutch teenager Laura Dekker finished her 27,000 mile voyage on Saturday night.

Miss Dekker, who is 16 years and four months old, has cut six months off the unofficial record set in 2010 by Australian teenager Jessica Watson, who was days away from her 17th birthday when she completed her own non-stop voyage…

“There were moments where I was like, ‘What the hell am I doing out here?,’ but I never wanted to stop,” she told reporters. “It’s a dream, and I wanted to do it.”

Miss Dekker has had to cope with weeks of solitude, ocean storms and a fear of pirates while navigating and sailing a 38-foot yacht called Guppy, all the time trying to keep up with her schoolwork…

Miss Dekker fled abroad in 2010 when Dutch child welfare authorities took legal action to try to stop her making the voyage. She later won a 10-month court battle, promising judges she would buy a bigger boat with advanced navigation equipment, take courses in first aid and coping with sleep deprivation, and enrol in a special correspondence school…

Unlike other youthful round-the-world sailors, Miss Dekker made several stops at ports to ensure her vessel was properly maintained, and to brush up on her studies…

On Friday night she wrote: “I do not want to be totally negative about Holland, I know I have many supporters there. I feel sad for them that I am not sailing into either Hoek van Holland or Ijmuiden. That would have bene a great party for everyone…”

She now expects to go back to school, Mr van Erp said, though not necessarily in the Netherlands.

Miss Dekker said in blogs written during her voyage that she was so tired of the controversy it had aroused in Holland that she might move abroad. She holds a New Zealand passport as she was born in New Zealand waters – on a boat – during a seven-year voyage made by her parents. She also hopes to work for conservation, after using her voyage to raise funds for the charity Sea Shepherd.

Bravo! The aura of money that surrounds her sport doesn’t minimize her courage or her apparent ability to communicate with the world about what she does and thinks and feels. Though I endorse government’s responsibility to aid safe and nurturing environments for all children – I don’t think that requires bureaucratic opposition to the spirit of adventure.

Gabby Giffords leaves Congress this week

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords will step down from Congress this week to continue her recovery from a gunshot wound inflicted a year ago this month.

“I have more work to do on my recovery, so to do what is best for Arizona, I will step down this week,” the congresswoman said in a video message released today to her constituents.

Giffords, a third-generation Arizonan who served five years in the state Legislature before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2006, will not seek re-election this fall. But Giffords vowed that her career in public service has not come to an end.

I will return and we will work together for Arizona and this great country,” she said…

“A lot has happened over the past year,” she said. “We cannot change that. But I know on the issues we fought for, we can change things for the better. Jobs, border security, veterans. We can do so much more by working together.”

Giffords will submit her letter of resignation later this week to House Speaker John Boehner and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer. The governor will set the date for special primary and general elections to determine who will serve the remainder of Giffords’ term.

Before she leaves office, Giffords will finish her Congress On Your Corner event that was interrupted by a gunman on Jan. 8, 2011. In a private gathering in Tucson, Giffords will meet with some of the people who were at that event.

Brave woman, brave person. Legitimate politician. A rare breed in our Congress.

Drug dealer, bigamist beats deportation – human rights? – WTF?

Taoufik Didi and Marina Gregory, wife #2 – sort of – in 2008 wedding

Home Office lawyers hoped the deportation of foreign criminal Taoufik Didi would be an open-and-shut case. He had been sentenced to three years in prison for selling cocaine to undercover police officers, and so exceeded the criteria for “automatic deportation” under the law.

However, the Moroccan launched a human rights appeal, telling immigration judges he had been in a loving relationship with a British woman, Marina Gregory, for 10 years. He now intended to wed her and start a family.

The judges believed the 47-year-old criminal and, to the disappointment of Home Office officials, granted his appeal under the Human Rights Act – ruling that his “right to private and family life” entitled him to stay on in Britain…

The judges reached their decision despite two surprising admissions made by Didi in court. He told them he already had a wife, who he had married in 1989, and was awaiting a divorce which would free him to remarry. Furthermore, he admitted that he had initially kept his first wife’s existence a secret from Miss Gregory – although he claimed that she had now forgiven his deception.

Now The Sunday Telegraph has established that Didi did not tell the whole truth in the immigration hearing – and that his family life is even more convoluted than the version the judges heard.

In fact, Didi has two “wives”. He committed bigamy by “marrying” Miss Gregory three years ago in an open-air ceremony in Cyprus, while legally wed to his first wife…

Didi came to Britain in 1986 when he was aged 22. Three years later, on May 12, 1989, he married Karen Ann Ridley at the register office in Redbridge, north-east London…Didi was granted indefinite leave to remain in Britain on the basis of that marriage…

He was arrested in 2009 after selling £160 “wraps” of cocaine to undercover police officers on four occasions, and was jailed for three years at Snaresbrook Crown Court in March 2010. The criminal, who has previous convictions for false accounting, criminal damage and perverting the course of justice, served half the sentence and was freed last October.

Apparently, the Home Office will now consider whether or not their kindness has been “abused”. I would say it’s been bloody-well trampled.

Jewish publisher apologizes for suggesting Obama’s murder

The U.S. Secret Service is looking into a controversial column by an Atlanta Jewish newspaper publisher that mulled the assassination of an American president.

Andrew Adler, owner and publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times, wrote a January 13 column about the threat of Iran to Israel. He posed three options for the Jewish state to counter the Iranian regime.

One of them called for a “hit on a president in order to preserve Israel’s existence.”

“Give the go-ahead for U.S. based Mossad agents to take out a president deemed unfriendly to Israel in order for the current vice president to take his place and forcefully dictate that the United States’ policy includes its helping the Jewish state obliterate its enemies.”

U.S. Secret Service spokesman George Ogilvie told CNN Saturday, “We are aware of it. We are taking the appropriate investigative steps…”

“The suggestion by anyone, in this case a Jewish newspaper publisher, that Israel should consider assassinating President Obama is shocking beyond belief,” said Dov Wilker, director of the American Jewish Committee in Atlanta.

“While we acknowledge Mr. Adler’s [eventual] apology, we are flabbergasted that he could ever say such a thing in the first place. How could he even conceive of such a twisted idea?” said Wilker. “Mr. Adler surely owes immediate apologies to President Obama, as well as to the State of Israel and his readership, the Atlanta Jewish community.”

The White House declined to comment Saturday on the column.

I guess this proves that fundamentalists needn’t be Christians to be nutballs.