President Vladimir Putin signed a controversial measure banning the adoption of Russian children by U.S. families, the Kremlin said Friday. CNN reports the action could affect hundreds of American families seeking to adopt. Americans adopted close to 1,000 Russian children last year, according to U.S. State Department figures. Though the number has been dropping in recent years, Russia remains the third most popular country for U.S. citizens to adopt, after China and Ethiopia. U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul tweeted this week that passage of the bill “saddens” him, but said he’s open to dialogue. The measure also bars any political activities by nongovernmental organizations receiving funding from the United States, if such activities could affect Russian interests, Russia’s semiofficial RIA-Novosti news agency said. It also imposes sanctions against U.S. officials thought to have violated human rights. The law goes into effect January 1.
Time is running out to avoid a strike at 14 ports from Boston to Houston that could choke off half of the ocean containers carrying goods to and from American shores. Businesses that depend on the flow of goods are warning of billions of dollars in economic damage if the 14,500 members of the International Longshoremen Association (ILA) go on strike at 12:01 a.m. Sunday as threatened. But despite federally mediated talks taking place this week, efforts to reach an 11th-hour deal — or at least a contract extension to keep workers on the job — appear to be a long shot, as the union continues to balk at a key negotiating demand of management. If a strike does start, tens of thousands of other workers at railroads, trucking companies and warehouses handling freight that moves through the ports could find themselves out of work. And shipping costs will rise on a wide variety of consumer goods. Business groups claim that a comparable 11-day lockout at ports on the West Coast in 2002 cost the economy $1 billion per day, or nearly 4 percent of the nation’s output during that period.
Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby will defy a federal law that requires employee health care plans to provide insurance coverage for types of contraception that the firm’s owners consider to be “abortion-causing drugs and devices,” an attorney for the company said Thursday. With Wednesday’s rejection of an emergency stay of that federal health care law by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Hobby Lobby and sister company Mardel could be subject to fines of up to $1.3 million a day beginning Tuesday. The Green family, owners of Hobby Lobby and Mardel, filed a lawsuit in September challenging part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. They said a provision dealing with insurance coverage for certain types of contraception — the morning-after pill, the week-after pill and some intrauterine devices — went against the family’s beliefs. The Greens believe those types of contraception could cause abortions.
The Chicago Teachers Union has sued the nation’s third largest school district, saying Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s campaign to reform or close underperforming public schools discriminates against African-American teachers and staff. Reuters reports the federal lawsuit filed on Wednesday and announced on Thursday is the latest battle with the city since teachers staged a week-long strike in September. It alleges that more than half of the tenured teachers fired in the most recent round of school closings and turnarounds were African-American. But blacks make up less than 30 percent of the tenured teaching staff in the district and 35 percent of the tenured teacher population in the failing schools, the lawsuit claims. The suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois seeks an immediate moratorium on any additional school closings in the city. Emanuel, a former top White House adviser to President Barack Obama, and the school district are expected to close more schools in the coming years because of declining enrollment and a huge budget deficit. The school district has until the end of March 2013 to say which schools it wants to close, and it has appointed a commission to study the matter.
Hundreds of Utah educators showed up at the Maverik Center in West Valley City on Thursday for a free class in weapons training. In the wake of a mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school, the Utah Shooting Sports Council and a local business called Ops Gear teamed up to offer training that will allow teachers to be eligible for concealed firearm permits. Ops Gear CEO David Brunell, who taught Thursday morning’s session, says he isn’t trying to arm every teacher in Utah, but to teach educators how to interrupt the actions of a killer. More than 200 educators packed the class on Thursday, but not all of them are planning on carrying a weapon in school. Utah is one of four states that allows teachers and other permit-holding adults to carry guns at school without exception. The other three are Oregon, New Hampshire and Hawaii.