N. Korea to sever military hotline
PYONGYANG, North Korea, March 27 (UPI) -- North Korea Wednesday raised tensions on the Korean Peninsula another notch by telling South Korea that it was severing their military hotline.
Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency said that the head of the North's delegation to the two Koreas' general-level military talks said in a message to the South Wednesday he had been authorized to "inform the South side that the North-South military communications will be cut off ...," the Yonhap news agency reported.
On Tuesday, the Korean People's Army's Supreme Command claimed it had placed all of its missile and artillery units "into the No. 1 combat ready posture," targeting South Korea as well as the U.S. mainland, Hawaii, Guam and military installations in the Pacific. The U.S. Forces-Korea dismissed it as part of the North's "bellicose rhetoric and threats" designed to raise tensions and intimidate others.
Wednesday's warning about the military hotline follows the severing of the inter-Korean Red Cross hotline through the truce village of Panmunjom earlier this month.
KCNA also quoted the "Supreme Command of the Korean People's Army" as saying that due "to the reckless acts of the enemies," the military communications "which were set up for dialogue and cooperation between the North and the South has already lost its significance." The reference was to the United States and South Korea.
Yonhap, quoting analysts, said Wednesday's move would impact the operation of the inter-Korean industrial complex in the North's border town of Kaesong as the military hotline is used to guarantee the safety of South Koreans at the complex located just north the demilitarized zone.
South Korea's Ministry of Unification, noting the North was no longer answering calls on the hotline, said the Communist country must take immediate steps to reconsider its actions.
A ministry official said movement of people and vehicles, however, was not interrupted on Wednesday.
The North also has announced scrapping the 1953 Armistice agreement that ended the 1950-53 Korean War saying that it no longer respects existing non-aggression pacts between the two Koreas.
Court set to hear DOMA challenge
WASHINGTON, March 27 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court is getting ready to hear argument Wednesday on the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
The act says a broad range of federal benefits and considerations for married couples apply only to heterosexual unions.
The entire law, enacted in 1996, is not under attack. Section 2 says no state is required "to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of another state that treats a relationship between two persons of the same sex as a marriage under its laws."
Section 3, which is targeted, says, "In determining the meaning of any act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife."
The Obama administration is among the DOMA challengers.
"Although Section 3 of DOMA does not purport to invalidate same-sex marriages in those states that permit them," the administration told the Supreme Court, "it excludes such marriages from recognition for purposes of more than 1,000 federal statutes and programs whose administration turns in part on individuals' marital status. ... Section 3 of DOMA thus denies to legally married same-sex couples many substantial benefits otherwise available to legally married opposite-sex couples under federal employment, immigration, public health and welfare, tax and other laws."
In the underlying case, Edith Schlain Windsor, an 84-year-old New Yorker, married her same-sex partner of 40 years, Thea Spyer, in 2007 in Canada. When Spyer died in 2009 of multiple sclerosis, she left her estate to Windsor.
As executor of Spyer's estate, Windsor paid approximately $363,000 in federal estate taxes, but filed a refund claim under a federal statute that says "property that passes from a decedent to a surviving spouse may generally pass free of federal estate taxes." The Internal Revenue Service denied the claim on the ground that Windsor is not a "spouse" within the meaning of DOMA Section 3 and thus not a "surviving spouse" within the meaning of the statute.
A federal appeals court ruled in her favor.
U.S. House Republican leaders are defending DOMA, represented by a group called the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group of the United States House of Representatives, or BLAG.
N.D. governor signs toughest abortion laws
BISMARCK, N.D., March 27 (UPI) -- North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed into law restrictions banning nearly all abortion procedures and, scholars say, sets the state up for legal challenges.
Of the three bills Dalrymple, a Republican, signed into law Tuesday, the most sweeping bars abortion once a fetal heartbeat is "detectable," which could be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy using transvaginal ultrasound procedures, The New York Times reported.
Legal scholars said the law would violate the Supreme Court's finding in Roe vs. Wade that abortions were permitted until the fetus could live outside of the womb, generally around 24 weeks.
"Although the likelihood of this measure surviving a court challenge remains in question, this bill is nevertheless a legitimate attempt by a state Legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe vs. Wade," Dalrymple said in a statement Tuesday.
The Supreme Court, he said, "has never considered this precise restriction ..."
Paul Linton, a constitutional lawyer who once was general counsel for Americans United for Life, told the Times the anti-abortion movement has been frustrated because four decades after Roe vs. Wade was decided, "it's still the law of the land."
The three North Dakota bills would be effective Aug. 1.
Abortion rights supporters attacked Dalrymple's decision as effectively banning abortion in North Dakota and as an attack on women.
LAPD awarded Manson follower's tapes
LOS ANGELES, March 27 (UPI) -- Conversations taped 40-years ago between a Charles Manson's follower and his late attorney can be handed over to police, a judge in California ruled.
U.S. District Judge Richard A. Snell said Manson follower Charles "Tex" Watson waived his right to attorney-client privilege when he let his lawyer sell the tapes to an author who wrote a book about Watson, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.
Watson is serving a life sentence for the 1969 killing of actress Sharon Tate and four others by Charles Manson and his followers.
Los Angeles police want the taped conversations because they suspect Watson "may have discussed additional unsolved murders committed by followers of Charles Manson" on them.
Snell's ruling affirms an earlier decision by a bankruptcy judge that the LAPD can have the tapes of Watson and his attorney Bill Boyd who died in 2009.
LAPD will send detectives to Texas to pick up the tapes once Watson's 30 days to appeal the decision expire.
Australia: Four injured in grass fire
DEREEL, Australia, March 27 (UPI) -- An out-of-control grass fire in Dereel, Australia, Wednesday destroyed at least one home and injured four firefighters, officials said.
Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsey told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that four firefighters were treated for superficial burns after their truck collided with a tree in thick smoke.
Authorities determined that one house and one shed were destroyed, and they are investigating 12 other damage reports.
A westerly wind change Wednesday night could push the fire toward more homes, the Australian broadcaster reported.
Emergency warnings are in place in Dereel, Corindhap and Mount Mercer, ABC said, and authorities are advising residents to leave if it is safe for them to do so.