Tag: Signs

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant Signs Religious Freedom Bill HB 1523 Into Law – ACLU Hardest Hit

Mississippi Passes Religious Freedom Bill, ACLU Livid – WorldNetDaily

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Mississippi’s faith-based communities were given a legal victory on Tuesday when the state’s new religious freedom bill passed.

Gov. Phil Bryant’s signature on HB 1523 provides legal cover to individuals who refuse to provide services when their religious principles are jeopardized.

“I have signed HB 1523 into law to protect sincerely held religious beliefs and moral convictions of individuals, organizations and private associations from discriminatory action by state government or its political subdivisions, which would include counties, cities and institutions of higher learning,” Bryant said in a statement released Tuesday. “This bill merely reinforces the rights which currently exist to the exercise of religious freedom as stated in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

The governor went on to say the bill does not limit constitutionally protected rights of any citizen under federal or state laws. The legislation takes effect July 1.

Kellie Fiedorek, legal counsel for the religious rights organization Alliance Defending Freedom, cheered the bill’s passage.

“We commend the governor for signing into law protections for schools, churches, businesses, and public employees so that they won’t face government discrimination. After all, you’re not free if your beliefs are confined to your mind. What makes America unique is our freedom to peacefully live out those beliefs, and the Constitution protects that freedom,” Fiedorek said.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant issued a statement after the passage of the state’s religious freedom bill, April 5, 2016 (Photo: Facebook, Phil Bryant)

The ACLU did not share Fiedorek’s joy, saying on Twitter that HB 1523 “just made discrimination a part of state law.”

Some companies that denounced the law include MGM Resorts International, Nissan, Toyota, Tyson Foods, AT&T, IBM and Levi Strauss & Co., CNN reported Tuesday.

Mississippi’s business community merely needs to look at North Carolina to gauge the kind of economic consequences that are likely to follow. The Tar Heel State passed the North Carolina Public Facilities and Security Act on March 23 and was immediately threatened with financial repercussions.

North Carolina’s law prohibits local governments from passing ‘anti-discrimination’ ordinances and requires transgender people to use the public restrooms that align with their biological gender, WND reported Jan. 31.

PayPal, which vowed to cancel plans to open a facility in the state, followed through on its threat Tuesday.

“Becoming an employer in North Carolina, where members of our teams will not have equal rights under the law, is simply untenable,” PayPal CEO Dan Schulman said in a statement, CNN Money reported. “The new law perpetuates discrimination and it violates the values and principles that are at the core of PayPal’s mission and culture.”

Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing religious liberties, says otherwise.

“Those who criticize this law probably have either failed to read and understand it, or they intentionally misrepresent it,” Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, said in a statement released Tuesday.

Liberty Counsel has volunteered to defend the state’s law at no charge since N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper has refused to issue a defense.

“I think the attorney general is a national embarrassment, quite frankly,” Staver told WND on Jan. 31. “Does Mr. Cooper really, honestly, want to open up women’s public bathrooms and showers to men and put the privacy of women and young girls at risk? Is that really what he wants?”

The nonprofit organization called the bill a “commonsense law” that protects the privacy and safety of women and girls in a statement released Tuesday.

“Bathroom bills that allow men to use the women’s restrooms and locker rooms are nonsense. A biological man should use the men’s restroom. How simple can that concept be?” Staver said. “The North Carolina law did not address employment in the private sector. The relationship between private employers and employees remains free of local government interference, and remains regulated by the state. If private companies want to provide additional policies, they are free to do so. People should read the law and stop the histrionics.”

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Republican Governor Of Tennessee Signs Bill Prohibiting State Cooperation With Federal Gun Control Laws

TN Gov. Signs Bill Prohibiting State Cooperation with Fed Gun Control Laws – Big Government

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On April 30, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam (R) signed Senate Bill 1110 – a bill which bars state cooperation with federal gun control laws.

Sponsored by Senator Richard Briggs (R-Dist. 7), SB 1110 “prohibits the use of any public funds, personnel, or property to enforce any federal law or regulation that regulates the ownership, use, or possession of firearms, ammunition, or firearms accessories.”

SB 1110 passed the house by a margin of 74 to 20 and the senate by a margin of 24 to 1.

According to the Tenth Amendment Center, the measure was “originally introduced in the House as HB1341 by Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver.” At that time, Weaver said, “I’m from the cut that there is no need for Washington D.C. to be the end all and be all with regards to the regulatory world. We should respect our 10th Amendment and shift the power back to the states and that’s what House Bill 1341 does.”

What was true for HB 1341 is also true for SB 1110.

This law comes on the heels of another blow to federal gun control signed by Indiana Governor Mike Pence (R) last week. On April 29, Pence signed Senate Bill 433 – a bill that “repeals the prohibition against manufacturing, importing, selling, or possessing a sawed-off shotgun.”

SB 433 addresses the ban on short barreled, modified shotguns and will also present a challenge to the federal government’s “title II firearm” policy requiring registration fees and transfer records each time the firearm changes hands.

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New Mexico Governor Signs Bill Abolishing Civil Forfeiture Without A Criminal Conviction

New Mexico Enacts Sweeping Civil Forfeiture Reform – Daily Signal

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Last month, the New Mexico legislature unanimously passed a bipartisan bill essentially abolishing civil forfeiture in the Land of Enchantment (yes, that’s what they call themselves). But weeks went by and it looked like Gov. Susana Martinez was going to “pocket veto” the bill. If she hadn’t signed the bill by noon Tuesday, it would have expired and forfeiture reform would have been dead until next year.

But she signed it Tuesday at the eleventh hour (literally), making New Mexico the latest state to reform its asset forfeiture laws. Kudos to Gov.Martinez!

Civil asset forfeiture is a law enforcement tool enabling authorities to seize property permanently if the property is allegedly related to a crime. However, at the state and federal level numerous examples of abuse have come to light in recent years, and various states (and the District of Columbia) have ramped up due process protections for property owners.

The new law in New Mexico is comprehensive, but here are some highlights:

* A criminal conviction is required before property could be forfeited
* Provides additional due process protections to property owners, such as codifying an “innocent owner” presumption
* Places forfeiture proceeds in the general fund
* Requires additional reporting and transparency to allow better oversight of forfeiture process

As forfeiture reform continues to sweep the states and the federal government, New Mexico today stands as yet another example of bipartisan work getting things done. The next example might be Florida (join us for an event in Tallahassee next Monday!) or it might be your state.

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Husband Of Democrat State Senator From Delaware Caught Red-Handed Stealing GOP Campaign Signs (Video)

Police Issue Arrest Warrant For Husband Of Dem State Senator After GOP Volunteers Catch Him Red-Handed On Video – The Blaze

Police in Middletown, Delaware, issued an arrest warrant for the husband of state Sen. Bethany Hall-Long on Wednesday after he was caught on video allegedly stealing campaign signs put up by Republicans.

The suspect, identified as Dana Armon Long, has been charged with a Class A misdemeanor for theft under $1,500. He faces up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,300.

On Wednesday, Republican campaign volunteers reportedly set up a camera at the location in Middletown where dozens of their political signs kept disappearing. Some of the signs apparently read, “Fix the Economy! Vote Republican.”

“We got you, brother! We got the license plate, your face, and everything,” one of the volunteers says in the video.

Watch the footage below:

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Hall-Long confirmed that the man caught on video stealing the signs is her husband. She released the following statement on Wednesdsay:

“My husband is the man depicted in the video. The video shows him removing a handful of signs this morning. He turned them over to the Democratic Party and asked that they be returned to the Republican Party about six hours after they were taken up,” she said. “Sadly, this race has become tough and personal. My husband is my high school sweetheart and he loves me very much. I was not aware that he had allowed his frustration over the campaign attacks to get the better of him. Of course I’m disappointed and wish that it had not happened.”

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Delaware Gov. Jack Markell is escorted from the Senate Chamber by Sens. Catherine Clutier, left, and Bethany Hall-Long, right, after delivering his state of the state speech Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013 in Dover, Del. (AP Photo/The News Journal, Gary Emeigh)

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Republicans in the state also seized on the incident to criticize Democrats.

John Fluharty, executive director of the Deleware GOP, said in a statement: “When you only have a track record of high taxes, unemployment and lower wages for private sector employees to stand on, the Democrats must resort to breaking the law to win elections because they are scared of being held accountable for their dismal performance.”

Long refused to make any comments on the case against him “at the advice of counsel,” according to Delware Online.

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Sports Alert: First Openly Straight Male Figure Skater Signs With Olympic Practice Squad

Nathan Tom, First Openly Straight Male Figure Skater, Signs With Olympic Practice Squad – Daily Caller

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After his strong showing at the 2014 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships in January, figure-skating sensation Nathan Tom has signed with the Team USA Olympic practice squad.

Tom has unequivocally stated that his goal is to become the first openly straight male figure skater in U.S. Olympic history.

Tom, a 25-year-old former U.S. Army tank commander from Provo, Utah, will join Team USA’s 10-skater Olympic practice squad on Friday, according to U.S. Figure Skating Executive Director Joan Chong.

“I’m excited to be headed to the practice squad and it’s just great to keep skating,” Tom said. “Since I quit my job as a lumberjack, everything has been crazy. It’s awesome, though. I just want to skate as long as I can.”

A fellow member of the Team USA Olympic practice squad, Chett Branson, said he believes Tom will fit in with no problems.

“Everybody on this squad is like a family,” Branson said. “We drink wine together. We see musical theater together. No one is going to criticize a teammate because of his sexual orientation. If he can help us bring home the gold in 2018, then I am eager to skate right beside him.”

Tom, the 2013 U.S. Figure Skating Skater of the Year, is best known for his virtual sweep of the awards at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Boston.

Thanks to a dazzling octuple camel spin immediately followed by a crowd-pleasing, very risky five-rotation axel, Tom skated away with the men’s championship by a wide margin.

He and his pairs partner, Tatiana Horvath-Futas, similarly crushed the competition in the pairs championship. The dancing couple featured a series of lightning fast “death spirals” up and down the ice to wow the judges. They also used a reworked, operatic version of Megadeth’s “The Skull Beneath the Skin” to great theatrical effect.

The 2018 Winter Olympics is scheduled to take place in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Tom is widely expected to be a shoo-in. He has already announced that he plans to take his entire family to the Olympic Games.

Tom and his wife, Esther, have two sons, Jake and Gunner. The couple is expecting twins in December.

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Louisiana Governor Jindal Signs Two Expanded Gun Rights Bills Into Law

Bobby Jindal Signs Gun Rights Bills Into Law – Tea Party

Gov. Bobby Jindal signed two bills into law Friday (May 23) that will expand gun rights for Louisiana residents after they received overwhelming support from the state Legislature. The new statutes will go into effect Aug. 1.

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The more sweeping of the two gun rights measures will allow people with concealed handgun permits to carry their weapons into restaurants that serve alcohol, but make most of their money from food sales.

Present law does not allow citizens to carry guns into establishments that serve alcohol. And while people with concealed handgun permits will be able to go into a restaurant serving alcohol soon, they still wouldn’t be able to drink alcohol while packing heat.

The soon-to-be law also gives current and retired law enforcement officers as well as district attorneys and judges even more flexibility than the general public when it comes to concealed weapons. Those in law enforcement would be allowed to carry guns into bars, though they also couldn’t drink while carrying a weapon.

In present law, law enforcement officers are only allowed to have their guns in a bar if they are acting in an official capacity. Even under the new law, local sheriffs will still be able to prohibit their own officers from carrying guns into bars if they didn’t think it was a good idea.

The second bill signed by Jindal will expand the “stand your ground” law in Louisiana. Under current law, a person who kills an intruder coming into his car or house is given the benefit of the doubt and can use self-defense as a lawful reason for the killing. But the same self-defense argument could not be legally applied to situations where a person hurt, but didn’t kill, the intruder.

Metairie Rep. Joe Lopinto, the sponsor of the legislation, said he wanted to close that loophole. People who end up harming – but not killing – an intruder or a carjacker should not be charged with murder if those who kill those people don’t face those consequences, he said.

“Stand your ground” laws are controversial, particularly after it was thought Florida resident George Zimmerman would use such a statute to defend his high-profile shooting of teenager Trayvon Martin.

There has also been a controversial “stand your ground” case in New Orleans, where a 33-year-old Marigny homeowner shot an unarmed 14-year-old. Lopinto said his legislation would not apply to this particular case because the shooting took place outdoors.

In an unusual move for Louisiana, the Legislature and Jindal have agreed to enact one new gun restriction. Domestic abusers under a legal protective order will be prevented from owning a gun for 10 years under a new law that will go into effect Aug. 1.

The National Rifle Association – which usually fights gun restrictions – remained neutral on the domestic abuser provision, which is probably one of the reasons the pro-gun Legislature and Jindal agreed to pass it.

When presenting the restriction, state Sen. J.P. Morrell said Louisiana has a particularly high rate of fatalities related to domestic abuse. ”We lead the nation in spouses murdering spouses with firearms,” he said.

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Governor Sam Brownback Signs Bill Nullifying All City And County Gun Laws In Kansas

Kansas Governor Brownback Signs Bill Nullifying Gun Laws – Conservative Infidel

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On April 23rd, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed a bill “nullifying city and county gun restrictions” to ensure that it is legal to “openly carry firearms” throughout the state.

The law takes effect on July 1.

According to cjonline.com, the law will “sweep away restrictions on open carry.” It will also “prevent cities and counties from enacting restrictions on firearm sales or how guns are stored or transported.”

Supporters of the law say it will correct “a patchwork of local regulations [that have] infringed on gun-ownership rights.”

But Melissa Wangemann, legal counsel for the Kansas Association of Counties, believes the law “shows a lack of trust in local elected officials.” She said it takes away the ability of “pro-2nd Amendment counties” to expand concealed carry on their own.

Wangemann also said this law means her counties “can’t enact any regulation,” nor can they tell gun owners, “Keep your safety on, keep the gun on your side, don’t lay it on your desk.”

On March 25th, Breitbart News reported that West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin (D) signed a bill eliminating local ordinances against carrying guns in his state as well.

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Georgia Governor Nathan Deal Signs Bill Into Law Allowing Guns In Churches, Bars And School Zones

Georgia Gov. Signs Bill Allowing Guns In Churches, Bars, And School Zones – CNS

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law Wednesday a bill that expands gun rights in the state to allow weapons in government buildings, bars, places of worship, and school zones under certain circumstances.

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Under House Bill 60, also known as the Safe Carry Protection Act of 2014, school districts will get to decide whether to allow authorized personnel to carry weapons within school safety zones under certain circumstances.

In addition, church leaders will be able to decide whether to allow licensed gun owners to bring weapons into their place of worship. The law also removes fingerprinting requirements for renewal licenses.

The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action called the bill the “most comprehensive pro-gun bill in state history.”

Deal, who characterized himself as a staunch defender of the Second Amendment, said the measure “will protect the constitutional rights of Georgians who have gone through a background check to legally obtain a Georgia Weapons Carry License.”

“Roughly 500,000 Georgia citizens have a permit of this kind, which is approximately 5 percent of our population,” Deal said in a press release. “License holders have passed background checks and are in good standing with the law. This law gives added protections to those who have played by the rules – and who can protect themselves and others from those who don’t play by the rules.”

“Our nation’s founders put the right to bear arms on par with freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Georgians cherish their Second Amendment rights, and this law embodies those values,” he added.

Executive Director Pia Carusone of Americans for Responsible Solutions, which lobbied against the bill, called it “extremism in action.”

“It moves Georgia out of the mainstream,” Carusone said. “Since the Georgia House first passed this expansive legislation, thousands of Georgians and tens of thousands of Americans have said loud and clear that they are tired of the gun lobby advancing its extreme agenda at the expense of their families’ safety.”

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Obama Signs Into Law Ted Cruz Bill That Passed With Unanimous Consent Then Immediately Refuses To Enforce It

Obama Signs Cruz ‘Anti-Terrorist’ Bill Into Law, Says He WON’T Enforce It – TPNN

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In 1979, there was a student takeover of the United States Embassy in Tehran. For 444 days, 52 Americans were held hostage. Then President Jimmy Carter was lambasted for his weak foreign policy which lead the Iranians to view him as an inconsequential leader. Therefore, they did not fear America. When Ronald Reagan became president in 1980, with the spinelessness of Jimmy Carter purged from the White House, the hostages were released on the very day of his inauguration.

But, the pain of those nearly 15 months in captivity would linger not just for those held hostage, but for America as the people remembered that horrible time in our history. The country would have to recover and again position itself as a world leader to be feared and respected.

We have seen our position of power in the world erode over the last 5 years, with the most recent indicator being the invasion of Ukraine by Russian President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB operative who is unafraid of Obama’s weak warnings.

As the world has watched this invasion, events that some believe are a signal to the beginning of another Cold War, the pain caused by the Iran hostage crisis some 35 years ago is being renewed.

Hamid Abutalebi has been selected by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as their United States Ambassador. Abutalebi was one of the hostage takers of those 52 Americans. While he claims he only served as a translator and negotiator, the United States Congress voted unanimously to deny his entry into the United States, since the U.N. meetings are held in New York.

The bill passed by Congress was authored by Republican Senator Ted Cruz from Texas and Congressman Doug Lamborn from Colorado. After the bill passed unanimously with bi-partisan support, Cruz and Lamborn released the following statements in calling for Obama to sign the bill to prevent terrorists from obtaining visas to enter the U.S. as U.N. ambassadors.

Congress has voted unanimously in support of a bill to reject Iran’s deliberately insulting nomination of a known terrorist – one of the 1979 hostage-takers – to be their ambassador to the United Nations,” said Sen. Cruz. “I thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for supporting it, and urge the President to act quickly. We, as a country, can send an unequivocal message to rogue nations like Iran that the United States will not tolerate this kind of provocative and hostile behavior.”

“I have been working hard with House Leadership to move this bill even before it passed the Senate,” said Congressman Lamborn. “I appreciate House Leadership’s rapid response to my request to quickly bring the Cruz/Lamborn bill to the House Floor for a vote. It will give the President the power to prevent an Iranian terrorist from entering our country with diplomatic immunity. This is a great example of leadership in action by both Houses of Congress. After Senator Cruz worked to ensure Senate passage earlier in the week, I felt that it was extremely important that the House respond in-kind by considering the Cruz/Lamborn bill in an expedited manner. It is great to see Congress send a strong, bipartisan message that Iranian evildoers will be treated like terrorists, not tourists. Terrorists, from Iran or elsewhere, should not be allowed to walk the streets of Manhattan with diplomatic immunity.”

Individuals with diplomatic immunity cannot be prosecuted or even charged with so much as a traffic ticket, let alone an act of terrorism.

Eight days later, President Obama has signed the bill into law, but, according to the Washington Examiner, he immediately released a statement saying that he would not enforce the law. While Obama recognized the concerns of Congress regarding allowing a terrorist to gain access to our country, he stated the following to explain his decision to ignore the law of the land.

“Acts of espionage and terrorism against the United States and our allies are unquestionably problems of the utmost gravity, and I share the Congress’s concern that individuals who have engaged in such activity may use the cover of diplomacy to gain access to our Nation.”

When Bush was president, then Senator Obama was extremely critical of him for signing such statements stating that, “Congress’s job is to pass legislation. The president can veto it or he can sign it.” The statements that Bush signed did not grant a terrorist unfettered access to our country.

Now that Obama is president, he has demonstrated time and again his complete disregard for any laws that he does not like. Certain laws, like his signature legislation Obamacare, are deemed the law of the land that must be followed. However, he very often changes parts of that law unconstitutionally via executive order to fit his political needs. With others, such as the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), he would, in his lawlessness, decide that he would not enforce the law.

His decision to sign the bill into law, but immediately state that he will not enforce it flies in the face of the rule of law upon which this country was built and endangers America.

Obama’s disregard for the law as passed by Congress and signed by him, thereby allowing a known terrorist who committed an act of terrorism against the American people unto American soil, comes days after the one year anniversary of the terrorist bombing at the Boston Marathon. Iran was insistent that the terrorist Abutalebi was their choice for ambassador. When the U.S. threatened denial, they requested an investigation by the U.N.

Thanks to Obama, no investigation is needed. The President of the United States is going to allow a known terrorist to violate the law with no repercussions and give him complete access to America and its citizens with diplomatic immunity.

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Putin Signs Treaty Annexing Crimea (Video)

Russia’s Putin Signs Treaty To Annex Crimea – Wall Street Journal

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday moved to annex the breakaway Ukrainian region of Crimea but sought to reassure Ukrainians by saying Moscow has no further designs on its southern neighbor’s territories.

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In an otherwise defiant speech to both houses of parliament and top officials, Mr. Putin dismissed sanctions and threats of other consequences from Europe and the U.S., saying the West had “crossed the line” by fomenting what he called a putsch in Kiev earlier this year.

Mr. Putin signed treaties formally annexing Crimea and the port city of Sevastopol, which has long had a separate administrative status. Even if he stops there, Mr. Putin’s annexation of the Black Sea peninsula would be the first such move in Europe since the end of World War II, upending long-held assumptions about security on the continent and potentially condemning Russia to a period of prolonged isolation.

Western leaders immediately denounced the move and threatened new sanctions. U.S. President Barack Obama called for a meeting next week of the leaders of the Group of Seven leading industrial nations in Europe to discuss the crisis, pointedly excluding Russia from what had been known as the G-8.

Legislators were expected to complete the ratification process this week and the regions would become Russian territory within days. The process has moved swiftly since voters in Crimea on Sunday overwhelmingly passed a referendum to secede from Ukraine and join Russia.

Reaching back centuries into czarist history and relying heavily on widely felt nostalgia for the superpower status of the Soviet Union, Mr. Putin said Russia will stand up for the millions of ethnic Russians and Russian-speakers in what he called “historic Russian lands” now outside its borders.

“In the hearts and consciousness of people, Crimea always was and will be an inalienable part of Russia,” he said, arguing that the 1954 Soviet decision to assign the region to Ukraine was a “blatant historical injustice” conducted in violation of laws then in effect.

“Crimea is our common property and a very important factor in the stability of the region,” he said. “This strategic territory should be under a strong, sovereign state and that in fact can only be Russia.” Leaving Crimea in Ukrainian hands, he warned, could lead Sevastopol, home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, to become a harbor for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Mr. Putin was interrupted repeatedly by applause and some wiped tears from their eyes. Dignitaries chanted “Glory to Putin” during the ovations.

He signaled that Moscow isn’t planning to send its troops – which occupied Crimea over the last two weeks – further into Ukraine. But he reiterated his harsh denunciations of the Western-backed government in Kiev as illegitimate and dominated by nationalists.

Appealing to the people of Ukraine, Mr. Putin said, “don’t believe those who are using Russia to scare you, who say that other regions will follow Crimea. We don’t want a partition of Ukraine. We don’t need this.”

“Millions of Russian people, Russian-speakers, now live and will continue to live in Ukraine, and Russia will always defend their interests through political, diplomatic and legal means,” he said.

Ukraine’s foreign ministry didn’t appear persuaded by Putin’s signal that Moscow wasn’t planning to send troops, and said it wouldn’t recognize the annexation.

“The signing of the so-called agreement on the inclusion of Crimea in Russia and the president’s speech has nothing to do either with the law, or with democracy or common sense,” a spokesman said. “Putin’s speech demonstrated how dangerous Russia is for the civilized world and global security.”

Elsewhere in the speech, Mr. Putin seemed to cast doubt on Ukraine’s historical claims to the eastern and southern regions where ethnic Russians make up a large share of the population. Mr. Putin said those territories – which he called “the historical south of Russia” – were given to Ukraine by Bolshevik leaders in the early 1900s without the approval of residents.

Western capitals have called the annexation a violation of international law. On a visit to Warsaw, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said the world sees through Mr. Putin’s “flawed logic” and that the U.S. was ready to impose further sanctions on Russia.

The U.S. joins “Poland and the international community in condemning the continuing assault on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and the blatant violation of international law by Mr. Putin,” he said.

Mr. Putin scoffed at such criticisms in his speech, accusing the U.S. and its allies of ignoring international law when it suited their interests and “cynically” relying on “the law of the strong.”

“We’ve been deceived time after time” by Western assurances that Russia’s interests would be taken into account, he said. “We have every reason to believe that the well-known policy of containing Russia from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries is being continued today.”

After years of weakness in the 1990s where Russia couldn’t defend its interests, Mr. Putin said Russia now is able to stand up for itself. “If you compress a spring to the limit, it will ultimately rebound strongly,” he said.

He dismissed threats of western sanctions. “We of course will confront external pressure, but we have to decide for ourselves whether we are ready to consistently defense our national interests or endlessly betray them, retreating who knows where,” he said.

Russia’s currency and stock markets have dropped since the crisis began and capital flight has accelerated, leading many economists to warn that the economy faces stagnation this year.

But investors welcomed the tone of Mr. Putin’s speech, interpreting it as more conciliatory than expected.

European shares, which had fallen as investors awaited the speech, rallied sharply. The Stoxx Europe 600 index was up 0.8% midafternoon. Russia’s RTS index climbed 2.5%, while the Russian ruble bounced back from steep losses earlier in the day.

Officials blacklisted by the U.S. and EU on Monday laughed off the initial wave of sanctions, with many saying they have no overseas assets that could be targeted. Many said they viewed being named as an honor.

All of the 353 deputies of the lower house of parliament, the state Duma, present Tuesday voted to join in on the sanctions, state news channel Rossiya 24 reported.

In his speech, Mr. Putin cited strong public support for the annexation, noting that polls show over 90% of Russians back the move. The Kremlin organized a celebratory rally on Red Square on Tuesday afternoon, where Putin also spoke.

A poll released this week found that about as many Russians – 48% – said they wanted to live in a “great power that other countries respect and fear” as said they wanted to live in a country with a high standard of living that wasn’t one of the most powerful in the world.

Fueling fears the hardening of foreign policy is bringing a crackdown on opponents at home, Mr. Putin also warned that any efforts by outsiders to undermine Russia’s resolve through what he called “a fifth column or various national traitors” would provoke a firm response.

In recent weeks, the Kremlin has tightened pressure on independent media and political opponents.

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Ukrainian President Yanukovych Signs Deal With Opposition Leaders In Attempt To End Crisis

Opposition Leaders Sign Deal With President To End Crisis In Ukraine – Fox News

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Shots rang out and tension remained high in the streets of Kiev Friday, as Ukrainian protest leaders signed a deal with Ukraine’s president to defuse a political crisis that has left scores dead and hundreds injured.

After hours of European-led negotiations, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych signed an agreement with opposition leaders Friday that calls for early elections, a new constitution and a new unity government. The deal promises presidential elections will be held no later than December, instead of March 2015 as scheduled.

Many protesters say December is too late – they want Yanukovych out immediately.

Ukrainian authorities also will now name a new government – including opposition figures – within 10 days. The deal says the government will not impose a state of emergency and both sides will refrain from violence.

It’s a “good compromise for Ukraine. Gives peace a chance. Opens the way for reform and to Europe. Poland and EU support it,” European Union mediator, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, said in a Twitter post Friday.

The Ukrainian parliament approved amnesty for protesters involved in the violent months-long standoff, following the agreement Friday. The parliament also voted to restore the 2004 constitution that limits presidential powers, clawing back some of the powers that Yanukovych had pushed through after being elected in 2010. Although Yanukovych retains an apparent majority in parliament, his powers are now significantly reduced.

Yanukovych gave in to pressure from European diplomats, offering concessions – including elections – and promising to invite the opposition into the government, in an attempt to end the violence.

Opposition leader Oleh Yaroslavovych Tyahnybok says one condition of the agreement was that the present interior minister and prosecutor-general be excluded from any interim government, Reuters reported, citing Interfax.

Russian officials immediately criticized the deal and protesters angry over police violence showed no sign of abandoning their sprawling camp in central Kiev. While opposition leaders agreed that protesters should hand over any weapons and withdraw from occupied buildings and protest camps around the country, it’s far from clear whether the thousands of demonstrators camped out in Kiev Friday will go home.

One by one, protesters took to a stage on Independence Square to say they’re not happy and didn’t get what they wanted.

A statement on the website of the Health Ministry said 77 people had been killed between Tuesday morning, when the violence began, and Friday morning. The statement said 577 people had been wounded and 369 hospitalized. Opposition sources claimed at least 70 on their side were killed Thursday. There was no way to immediately verify the figures.

European foreign ministers had stayed up all night in Kiev trying to negotiate an end to the standoff, sparked when the president aborted a pact with the European Union in November in favor of close ties with Russia instead.

The U.S., Russia and European Union are deeply concerned about the future of Ukraine, a nation of 46 million that has divided loyalties between Russia and the West.

Leonid Slutsky, the chairman of the committee in charge of relations with other ex-Soviet nations in the lower house of Russian parliament, told reporters Friday that the agreement serves the interests of the West.

“We realize where and by whom this agreement has been written. It’s entirely in the interests of the United States and other powers, who want to split Ukraine from Russia,” Slutsky said.

Slutsky also shrugged off claims that Russia could send its troops to Ukraine, saying Moscow will communicate with any government Ukraine has. “No matter how bad and hard to deal with the new government is for us, we will deal with it,” he said. “We must learn from mistakes we have made.”

Lawmaker Inna Bogoslovskaya, allied with the opposition, told The AP that December is too late for elections. “After 77 corpses yesterday… that changes the stakes,” she said. “The Maidan (protest movement) demands immediate resignation of the president instead of early elections.”

Protesters will not abandon occupied buildings until after the constitution is changed, she added.

“It’s completely not enough,” said protester Anton Gusev, standing at one of the barricades near city hall. Referring to the election date, he said, “December or March – what difference does it make?”

At the city hall barricade, protesters were busily organizing stacks of tires. The street was crowded with people heading toward the central square.

Several regions in the west of the country are in open revolt against the central government, while many in eastern Ukraine back the president and favor strong ties with Russia, their former Soviet ruler.

In a sign of the high tensions, armed law enforcement officers tried to enter parliament Friday morning during a debate over measures to end the crisis. Shouting lawmakers pushed them out.

The report of a deal followed the worst violence yet in the confrontation between the government and protesters. Demonstrators advanced on police lines in the heart of the Ukrainian capital on Thursday, prompting government snipers to shoot back and kill scores of people in the country’s deadliest day since the breakup of the Soviet Union a quarter-century ago.

Protesters across the country are upset over corruption in Ukraine, the lack of democratic rights and the country’s ailing economy, which just barely avoided bankruptcy with the first disbursement of a $15 billion bailout promised by Russia.

The violence is making Ukraine’s economic troubles worse. Ratings agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded Ukraine’s debt rating Friday, saying the country will likely default if there are no significant improvements in the political crisis, which it does not expect.

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Texas Governor Rick Perry Signs Restrictive Abortion Bill Into Law

Texas Gov. Perry Signs Restrictive New Abortion Law – NewsMax

Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry on Thursday signed into law several new restrictions on abortion, including a ban after 20 weeks of pregnancy and tough new health and safety standards for abortion clinics in the state.

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Texas is the most populous state in the nation to impose a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, and the law would allow exceptions to the ban only for the life of the mother or for a fetus with severe abnormalities.

The Texas measures are fiercely opposed by Democrats and abortion rights activists, who say the new strictures will reduce access to abortion in the state and could force dozens of clinics to close. Republican supporters of the law say the warning about mass clinic closures is exaggerated.

Family planning organization Planned Parenthood has vowed to immediately challenge the new law in court.
Texas Republicans, who have a large majority in the state legislature, pushed through the restrictions over the fierce objection of Democrats and supporters of the right to abortion.

Democratic state Senator Wendy Davis briefly caught national attention last month by staging a filibuster to stall the restrictions, although her gambit ultimately failed.

While several other conservative states have approved piecemeal abortion restrictions, Texas is by far the most populous and politically important, and it took more dramatic action by combining several measures into one bill.

The Texas measures are also more far reaching than a ban passed by the U.S. Congress in 2003 on a type of late-term abortion called “partial birth,” which covered only a small fraction of abortions performed each year.

Texas will join 12 other states which have passed bans on abortion after 20 weeks, citing controversial research that a fetus feels pain by that stage. North Dakota and Arkansas have gone further, banning abortion as early as six and 12 weeks respectively.

The current limit for abortions in Texas is 26 weeks.

Texas is also requiring all abortion facilities to meet the same standards as outpatient surgery centers by September 2014, and forcing doctors performing abortions to have the right to admit a patient to a hospital within 30 miles of a clinic.

The law will prohibit anyone other than a doctor dispensing the so-called “abortion pill,” or RU-486 drug, to end pregnancies, and require that a second dosage be administered at a clinic under a doctor’s supervision and not at home.

Texas already has a law passed two years ago requiring a woman to undergo an ultrasound and be shown the results, before an abortion can be performed.

Opponents of the new Texas law say it will be found unconstitutional because the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973 allowed abortion up to the point a fetus is viable, or can live outside the womb.

But supporters of the Texas law say technology for treating premature babies has resulted in survival at earlier stages of gestation. They say that the government has a compelling right to protect the fetus as early as 20 weeks.

The Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives last month passed a ban on abortion after 20 weeks, although the measure has little chance of passage in the Democratic majority Senate.

Planned Parenthood and other operators of clinics have warned that only a handful of the 42 facilities in Texas providing abortions now meet the standards set in the new law, and the cost of upgrading could force dozens to close. Supporters of the law say that is an exaggeration.

Abortion rights activists have vowed to immediately challenge the Texas law in court. Some challenges of other state laws have been successful. A federal judge on Wednesday extended for two more weeks a hold on a Wisconsin provision requiring doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital, while the judge studies whether to block the law.

The U.S. Supreme Court has not ruled recently on an abortion case. But in 2006 it narrowly endorsed, 5 to 4, the U.S. Congressional ban on “partial birth” abortions.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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