SCOTUS to Rule on Same-Sex Marriage
The U.S. Supreme Court announced on Friday that it would finally make a decision on same-sex marriage after refusing to do so in October 2014. The case comes the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals which upheld same-sex marriage bans in Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Michigan.
The court is expected to address two questions in the ruling. First, it will decide whether or not a state is required under the 14th amendment to license a marriage between a same-sex couple. Second, the court will declare whether or not a state is required to recognize a same-sex marriage if the marriage was performed and lawfully licensed outside of the state.
The Obama administration expects to to file a brief supporting equal access to marital rights in all states. The court will hear arguments in April and issue a ruling by the end of the current term in late June. The New York Times suggests that the timing could be to Republicans’ advantage, giving them “political cover” before the 2016 elections.
Boko Haram Massacre Claims 2,000 Victims
Boko Haram killed thousands of Nigerians in the organization’s deadliest massacre, starting on January 3 and lasting through January 4. The Washington Post reported that most victims were children and elders who could not escape the rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles from the terrorists.
Amnesty International reports that the group killed as many as 2,000 people, but there were too many bodies to count accurately. Witnesses describe relentless violence, where people were slaughtered “like insects.”
Since January 3, Boko Haram has been staging attacks throughout the region, including kidnapping 80 people from a village in Cameroon and detonating suicide bombs throughout Nigeria, killing at least 14 and wounding many more.
The attacks precede the February 14 presidential elections, where President Goodluck Jonathan is running for re-election. Many have criticized his silence in the wake of the attacks and suggested the historically close election may be to blame, as he does not want to draw attention to his government’s inadequate counter-insurgency efforts.
Boko Haram has been wreaking terror in Nigeria for five years. The organization took over 10,000 lives in 2014 alone and is known for its opposition to secular governance and Western-style education, specifically for girls.
NSA Spying on North Korea Prior to Attacks
A recently released N.S.A. report revealed that U.S. intelligence had infiltrated North Korean networks well before the Sony attack began on November 24, 2014. The covert program apparently started in 2010 when the agency began breaking into the country’s computer systems and implanting invisible “beacons” to track an estimated 6,000 North Korean hackers. Because the intelligence left “no doubt” as to the responsible party, President Obama publicly accused North Korea of committing the attack. North Korea denied any involvement.
Despite these disclosures, rumors continue to circulate that North Korea was not to blame after all, a theory F.B.I. director James B. Comey firmly rejects. Critics have also asked why, if the U.S. was monitoring North Korean networks, the attacks were not detected sooner.
South Korean activists funded by the Human Rights Foundation are preparing to drop 100,000 copies of “The Interview,” the controversial film that prompted the cyberattacks, from balloons across North Korea in late January.
The 2016 Presidential Rundown
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush first announced on December 16th that he would “actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States.” Bush, the son of George H.W. Bush and brother of George W. Bush, has since resigned from a number of board positions in anticipation of a presidential bid, and his new political action committee, Right To Rise PAC, raised over $100,000 on the day it launched.
Meanwhile, a slew of other GOP hopefuls announced potential 2016 campaigns. 2012 nominee Mitt Romney suggested that he may explore another run at the White House, while Mike Huckabee, the arch-conservative former Arkansas governor, announced that he would leave his post at Fox News to consider a presidential bid. Huckabee finished third in the 2008 primary field behind Romney and Sen. John McCain, who eventually became the Republican nominee. Former New York governor George Pataki also announced that he would run for president, while Rep. Paul Ryan, Romney’s running mate in 2012, said he would not run for president in 2016.
On the Democratic side, assumed-frontrunner Hillary Clinton has reportedly begun to assemble her election team. Robby Mook, who recently ran Terry McAuliffe’s successful Virginia gubernatorial campaign, is thought to have been tapped as campaign manager. Joining Mook in the speculative Hillary team are Joel Benenson, her alleged chief strategist and pollster, Jim Margolis, Clinton’s media advisor, and John Podesta, her campaign chairman. All three worked on President Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns, and Podesta is currently the president’s counselor. Outside of Hillaryland, former Virginia Senator, Jim Webb formed an exploratory committee. Others Democrat contenders could include Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, Vice President Joe Biden, and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley.
In other news…
The NFL is investigating claims that the New England Patriots intentionally deflated footballs during their win over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC championship game. The Patriots are slated to face the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl on February 1st.
President Obama will deliver the State of the Union on Tuesday night. The President will likely discuss his recently-announced plans to make two years of community college free and raise taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations.
A court in Egypt overturned former-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s fraud conviction. The Egyptian dictator was to serve a three year conviction after being found guilty of having billed the government for $14 million of personal expenses.
A study from anti-poverty charity OXFAM concluded that the world’s richest one-percent will soon own more wealth than the rest of the world combined.
The Twitter account belonging to United States Central Command was hacked by an ISIL-sympathizing group calling itself ‘Cyber Caliphate’. The Washington Post reported, however, that this did not mean that Centcom, which heads US military operations in the Middle East, had itself been hacked.
Colombia’s president said he is ready to enter truce talks with the FARC guerilla group. The US, EU, and other governments consider the FARC a terrorist organization.
Following California Senator Barbara Boxer’s announcement that she would retire at the end of her term, California Attorney General Kamala Harris stated that she would seek Boxer’s seat. Harris, who aided President Obama in his 2008 presidential run, is the state’s first female, African-American, and Asian-American attorney general.
Raif Badawi, a liberal blogger in Saudi Arabia who has been imprisoned since 2012, was publicly flogged for allegedly insulting Islam this past week prompting an international outcry. A planned second round of flogging was recently postponed. Badawi was sentenced in 2014 to 1000 lashes and ten years of prison.
Over the weekend high-profile North Korean prison camp escapee Shin Dong-Hyuk revealed significant inaccuracies in his story.