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  |   Aug. 12, 2010 at 5:00 PM
Judge refuses to lift Prop 8 stay

SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 12 (UPI) -- A U.S. judge Thursday refused to lift his stay on his injunction blocking California's voter-enacted ban on same-sex marriage.

Had the judge lifted the stay, and state officials had said they would go along with that, and marriage of gays and lesbians could have resumed in the state while the legal process played itself out.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Attorney General Jerry Brown had urged the judge to allow gay and lesbian marriages to go on during the legal process, saying the state was equipped to handle them, the Los Angeles Times reported.

U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn R. Walker issued a preliminary injunction against the ban, a state constitutional amendment called Proposition 8, on Aug. 4. The judge said it "both unconstitutionally burdens the exercise of the fundamental right to marry and creates an irrational classification on the basis of sexual orientation."

But Walker issued a stay of his own order while sponsors of the amendment appeal his order to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The Times said the sponsors had warned they would go to the U.S. Supreme Court seeking a stay if Walker allowed same-sex marriages to continue.

California voters approved the ban in November 2008 by a 52.3 percent majority six months after the California Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was permitted under the state Constitution. That same state court later upheld Prop 8 as a valid amendment to the state Constitution.


BP gets $167.9M bill for spill cleanup

VENICE, La., Aug. 12 (UPI) -- The Obama administration sent a $167.9 million bill -- its fifth -- to BP and others for cleaning up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, officials said.

BP and other responsible parties have fully paid the first four totaling $222 million, the administration said in a statement posted Thursday on its Web site.

The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig leased by BP exploded April 20, killing 11 workers, and sank two days later, spilling millions of barrels of oil into the gulf until a temporary cap contained the spill July 15,

Michael R. Bromwich, director of the Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement Bureau, hosted the third in a series of public forums called to collect information and views from several constituencies -- including academics, the environmental community, the oil and gas industry, and federal, state and local officials -- technical issues concerning deep water drilling safety reforms, well containment, and oil spill response, the White House said.

Bromwich said he will consider the information he received in evaluating whether the scope or duration of the deep water drilling moratorium imposed July 12 should be altered.

The Small Business Administration to date approved 233 economic injury assistance loans, totaling more than $20.4 million for Gulf Coast small businesses impacted by the BP oil spill, administration officials said. The SBA also granted deferments on 789 existing SBA disaster loans in the region, totaling more than $4.3 million per month in payments.

Administration officials said 147,194 claims have been opened so far, and more than $340 million have been disbursed. No claims have been denied to date.

Also, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association opened some of the federal waters off the Florida panhandle to fin fishing earlier this week, Food Safety News said.

NOAA officials said oil has not been observed since July 3 in the 5,144 square mile area off the Florida coast opened to fin fishing Tuesday. It remains closed to non-fin species, such as shrimp

The area west of Pensacola to Louisiana still is closed, represents about 22 percent of the U.S. "exclusive economic zone" in the Gulf of Mexico, the trade publication said.


Blago jury undecided on 22 of 24 counts

CHICAGO, Aug. 12 (UPI) -- The jury at the corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has reached a verdict on only two of the 24 counts in the case, the judge says.

U.S. District Judge James Zagel was expected to order the jury to continue deliberations for a 12th day on the federal corruption charges against Blagojevich and his brother, Robert, WLS-TV, Chicago, reported.

Blagojevich, his wife Patti and his brother were in court as Zagel announced that the panel had yet to even consider 11 wire fraud charges against the men, the Chicago Sun-Times said. A note from the jury Wednesday said they were deadlocked on at least some counts and the judge called a hearing Thursday seeking more information on how badly they were deadlocked.

Blagojevich is charged with 24 counts of racketeering, mail fraud, attempted extortion and bribery, including trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama to the highest bidder.

Robert Blagojevich, his former fundraiser, is charged with four counts of wire fraud, conspiracy and attempted extortion.


Sen. Durbin has cancer surgery

WASHINGTON, Aug. 12 (UPI) -- Doctors removed a small, cancerous mass from the stomach of U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and he is expected to recover completely, aides say.

Durbin, 65, underwent a laparoscopic procedure at the University of Chicago Medical Center to remove what was described as a gastro-intestinal stromal tumor that was found during a CAT scan for a medical checkup, the Chicago Tribune reported Thursday.

The mass was completely removed and a preliminary biopsy was favorable, said Durbin spokesman Joe Shoemaker. "This particular type of tumor is a rare form of stomach cancer, so it is cancer, yes," he told the Tribune.

Durbin, the majority whip in the U.S. Senate, reportedly had no symptoms before the tumor was discovered and there was no evidence it had spread.

Durbin was expected to resume a full schedule next week, aides said.


Poll: Many in U.S. support term limits

NEW YORK, Aug. 12 (UPI) -- Nearly two-thirds of Americans support limiting U.S. senators to one or two six-year terms, an Angus Reid Public Opinion Poll indicates.

The poll, an online survey of 1,002 U.S. adults Aug. 4-5, shows 64 percent supporting Senate term limits: 31 percent for a single six-year term; 33 percent for two six-year terms, and 9 percent supported a maximum of three terms in the Senate.

Only 16 percent support the current law, which allows Senators to serve as many terms as they want.

Nearly half, 47 percent, support limiting House terms to three elections, or six years.

But only 1 in 5, 20 percent, would limit presidents to one four-year term; 61 percent say they are satisfied with the current constitutional limit of two presidential terms.

The margin of error was plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

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