Compiled by SARA RATHOD ’15
Nation and World Columnist
EPA announces tough new sulfur emissions rules
On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled a major new regulation, which would require oil companies to strip sulfur from gasoline. The sulfur interferes with pollution-control equipment in vehicle engines, which increases tail pipe emissions that are linked to lung disease and other breathing problems, aggregated heart disease and premature births and deaths. According to the EPA, the action will be equivalent to removing an estimated 33 million cars from the road. Proponents, including automakers such as Ford Motor, praised the new rule. Some say it will be President Obama’s most significant public health achievement in his second term. However opponents of the new rule, mainly oil refineries, say the regulation is unnecessary and will hurt consumers at the gas pump. While EPA officials estimate that the new rule will raise the cost of gasoline by only two-thirds of one cent per gallon, oil refineries expect gasoline prices to rise by 9 cents per gallon. The EPA predicts that by 2030, cleaner-burning gasoline will lead to $6.7 billion to $19 billion annually in economic benefits owing to saved lives and increased productivity.
Same-sex marriage ban in Texas overturned, Arizona anti-gay law vetoed in same day
Last Wednesday, a federal judge overturned the same-sex marriage ban in Texas. San Antonio-based Judge Orlando Garcia ruled that the ban stigmatized same-sex relationships and deprived same-sex couples of equal protection under the law. Garcia’s decision falls in line with five previous rulings in which federal judges have struck down similar bans, all of which followed the Supreme Court’s vote to strike down the section of the Defense of Marriage Act that denied federal recognition of same-sex marriages. The ruling, however, will not take effect immediately, meaning that same-sex couples will have to wait to get married until the case is through the appeals process. On the same day that Garcia issued his decision, Arizona’s governor Jan Brewer, a Republican, vetoed a controversial bill that would have allowed business owners to deny services to gays and lesbians on the grounds of religious freedom. Arizona’s two Republican senators and leading Republican candidates for governor urged Brewer to veto the bill, and several GOP legislators who had voted for the bill renounced their actions.
Ukraine mobilizes reserve troops in response to Russian occupation
The new Ukrainian government mobilized its reserve troops on Sunday, a day after Russia moved to seize control of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. The escalating crisis has raised fears of armed conflict in the region. Russian troops encircled government buildings, communication hubs and military bases in Crimea on Saturday, provoking Western condemnation of Russian president Vladimir Putin. NATO ambassadors held an emergency meeting to address what is considered a Russian violation of Ukrainian sovereignty. Secretary of State John Kerry, who visited Ukraine on Tuesday, stated that several Western powers are prepared to isolate Russia economically if the country does not withdraw its troops. Ukraine has been the site of ongoing political instability since President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted on Feb. 22 in favor of a new, pro-Western regime. Many in the largely pro-Russian Crimean region remain loyal to the old government and welcomed Russian troops on Saturday. Ukrainian prime minister Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk stated that he was “convinced” that Russia would not move its troops further into Eastern Ukraine, as this would be “the beginning of war and the end of all relations” between Ukraine and Russia.
Chinese separatists blamed for attack on train station
On Saturday, a group of approximately 10 attackers, which authorities identified as assailants from China’s far-western region of Xinjiang, slashed employees and commuters with long knives and daggers at the Kunming Railway Station in southwest China. At least 29 people were killed and 143 wounded, according to the state news media. Authorities shot dead four assailants during the attack, and have since captured three more. The Kunming Railway Station is one of the largest in southwest China. The incident, which the Ministry of Public Security called a terrorist attack, has heightened tensions between the ethnic Han who dominate China and the Uighur minority, who traditionally reside in the far western regions. Xinjiang, a resource-rich area, is home to minority Uighur Muslims and has been the site of a series of bloody conflicts in recent months, leading to the death of more than 100 people, nearly all of whom were ethnic Uighurs. According to the New York Times, the increased tensions as a result of Saturday’s attack are likely to intensify Chinese government crackdowns in that area.