A partially collapsed crane hangs from a high-rise building in Manhattan as Hurricane Sandy makes its approach in New York October 29, 2012. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
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Last Sunday, May 20, a strong and unusually shallow earthquake struck northern Italy, killing at least seven people, damaging or destroying hundreds of structures, and leaving thousands homeless. The magnitude 6.0 earthquake occurred just after 4 a.m. local time, at a depth of only 5 km (3 mi). The affected region is home to countless historic churches, castles, and towers — many of which were damaged or toppled. Displaced families are taking shelter in tents erected on local soccer fields as rescue workers search for survivors and recovery crews try to salvage historic artifacts from the rubble.
Top: Half of a clock face on Modenesi’s Towers of Finale Emilia, destroyed following an earthquake on May 20, 2012 in Ferrara, Italy.
Bottom: A woman cries following an earthquake, in Sant’Agostino, on May 20. 2012.
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"Ultimately, I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress. And I’d just remind conservative commentators that for years what we’ve heard is, the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint — that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law. Well, this is a good example. And I’m pretty confident that this Court will recognize that and not take that step."
The president has whipped partisans into a frenzy by warning conservative justices that overturning ObamaCare would constitute the very judicial activism they despise. Should Obama really be declaring war on the Supreme Court? (via theweekmagazine)
Today was the most important day in the history of the individual mandate. And it might be the day the individual mandate died, based on the conservative justices’ creative and painstaking assault on the law. “This was a train wreck for the Obama administration,” Jeffrey Toobin told CNN. “This law looks like it’s going to be struck down.”
Let’s go to the tape.
Here is the transcript of the Supreme Court arguments this morning. It is a remarkable, entertaining, triumphant (for some), and aggravating (for others) document. The four conservative justices — Thomas doesn’t say a word — launch a cannonade of metaphors and arguments by analogy that Attorney General Verrilli often fails to deflect or combat. Over the course of the hour, health insurance was compared to cell phones, broccoli, exercise, and cars. We collected 12 of the most withering questions, in chronological order, with some context in italics:
1) Justice Kennedy: A fundamental question: Can you create economic activity to regulate it?
“Can you create commerce in order to regulate it?”
2) Chief Justice Roberts: Everybody needs access to emergency assistance. If you can make people buy health insurance, can you make people buy cell phones for safety?
“So can the government require you to buy a cell phone because that would facilitate responding when you need emergency services? You can just dial 911 no matter where you are?”
3) Justice Alito: Everybody dies. If you can make people buy health insurance, can you make people buy burial insurance?
“Suppose that you and I walked around downtown Washington at lunch hour and we found a couple of healthy young people and we stopped them and we said, ‘You know what you’re doing? You are financing your burial services right now because eventually you’re going to die, and somebody is going to have to pay for it, and if you don’t have burial insurance and you haven’t saved money for it, you’re going to shift the cost to somebody else.’ Isn’t that a very artificial way of talking about what somebody is doing? I don’t see the difference. You can get burial insurance. You can get health insurance. Most people are going to need health care. Almost everybody. Everybody is going to be buried or cremated at some point. What’s the difference?”
Read the rest. [Image: Reuters]
this supreme court. they are a bunch of tables.
Hybrid Sharks Show How Nature Adapts to Climate Change
Off the coast of Australia, researchers have found a new breed of shark cruising the deep blue. The first hybrid shark is a genetic mashup of the common black tip and Australian black tip. The result is a more robust breed of shark with a timely adaptation: an increased coastal range. The researchers speculate that the interbreeding may help ensure the survival of the shark species in the face of climate change or fishing pressures. (Long live Shark Week.)
It was not long ago that most Americans would envy Marilyn Berenzweig. Today Berenzweig eats, sleeps and entertains in a two-person tent in the middle of the woods. On her recent 61st birthday, she was one of dozens of people, from the chronically homeless to former professionals like herself, who have come to call such places home.
[…] Hill says the fact that he just outed himself on national television had barely registered when he absorbed the boos and Santorum’s answer followed by applause.
“When the actual booing occurred, my gut dropped out, because my first inclination was, did I just do something wrong?” he said. “The answer, obviously, wasn’t very supportive of gay people, and there was a lot of fear of how the Army would take the question.”
He did not have to wait long to find out. At breakfast later that morning, the segment was playing on the chow hall television. Hill immediately tracked down his commander, who told him she had no problem with what he’d done but that she would need to run it up the chain of command. She later relayed the response.
“She said, `What the military’s most concerned with is that you are OK, because it’s a lot of pressure on you and we want to make sure if there is anything we can do to help,’” he recalled. […]
What Hill remembers most was that a presidential candidate defined his marriage and military service in terms of sex. He holds that up against the times he hid Snyder’s photograph because Army buddies were coming over to play video games, introduced his husband as his roommate or brother, and the legal vows they exchanged at the grave of Air Force Sgt. Leonard Matlovich, who was discharged in 1975 after becoming the first gay service member to challenge the U.S. military’s ban on gay troops. [read more]
In the age of tight budgets and rallying cries for fiscal conservatism, public media has not fared well. During the spring and summer budget debates, one program facing the chopping block was the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the entity which supports National Public Radio and PBS. While federal funds for public media remain safe for the time being, the truth is that public media have already seen large cuts in government spending. In the past four years, 24 states have either significantly decreased or zeroed-out contributions to local media. Read more.