New challenge to Obama health law: Split rulings by

appeals courts

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Barack Obama’s health care law is snarled in another big legal battle, with two federal appeals courts issuing contradictory rulings on a key financing issue within hours of each other Tuesday.

But the split rulings don’t necessarily mean another trip to the Supreme Court for the Affordable Care Act.

And White House spokesman Josh Earnest immediately announced that millions of consumers will keep getting financial aid for their premiums – billions of dollars in all – as the administration appeals the one adverse decision.

In that first ruling, a divided three-judge panel in Washington called into question the subsidies that help millions of low- and middle-income people afford their premiums, saying financial aid can be provided only in states that have set up their own insurance markets, or exchanges.

About 100 miles to the south in Richmond, Virginia, another appeals court panel unanimously came to the opposite conclusion, ruling that the Internal Revenue Service correctly interpreted the will of Congress when it issued regulations allowing health insurance tax credits for consumers in all 50 states.

Senate Democrats set to whack Obama’s border spending request, but no deal likely with House

WASHINGTON (AP) – Senate Democrats prepared Tuesday to whack $1 billion from President Barack Obama’s emergency spending request for the border, while leaving out policy changes Republicans have demanded as their price for agreeing to any money. The developments pointed to a hardening stalemate over the crisis in South Texas with lawmakers preparing to leave Washington for their annual summer recess at the end of next week.

Legislation being finalized by Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski would spend $2.7 billion for more immigration judges, detention facilities and other resources for the southern border, where unaccompanied kids are arriving by the tens of thousands from Central America. It also would include $225 million for Israel’s Iron Dome, designed to intercept short-range rockets and mortars, as Israel battles Hamas militants, and $615 million to fight wildfires raging in the West.

“The United States has an obligation to help resolve these crises but is running out of money,” Mikulski said in a statement late Tuesday. “The costs are real and urgent. We don’t save money by refusing to act or through delay.”

Yet the money for wildfires and for Israel appeared unlikely to sweeten the deal enough for Republicans to swallow it absent legal changes to allow the Central American kids to be turned around fast at the border and sent back home.

“We insist on having the 2008 law repealed as part of it and they’re not willing to do that,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

New arrest is linked to gun used to kill officer after Marathon attack

BOSTON (AP) – A friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is believed to have provided the handgun used to kill a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer during the manhunt, people with knowledge of the investigation said Tuesday.

Stephen Silva made an initial appearance in federal court on charges related to heroin trafficking and possession of a handgun with an obliterated serial number. An attorney for Silva, Jonathan Shapiro, said Tuesday evening that he had received the case only a few hours earlier.

“According to news reports, law-enforcement officials say it is the same weapon that was used … in the MIT officer Sean Collier shooting. However, this has not been charged in the indictment,” Shapiro said.

“I am in the process of meeting with my client and reviewing the available evidence which will eventually be presented in a court of law in accordance with our system of justice,” Shapiro said in a statement. “Out of respect for that system and for my client, I cannot make any further comment on the case.”

The 9 mm Ruger pistol described in the indictment is the same handgun that was used to kill MIT police officer Sean Collier during the manhunt for the bombing suspects, according to the two people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the investigation. The grand jury indictment, which was filed July 15, does not mention Collier’s slaying or any connection to Tsarnaev.

Supreme Court

allows Arizona

execution to go forward in closely watched First Amendment case

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed an Arizona execution to go forward amid a closely watched First Amendment fight over the secrecy surrounding lethal injection drugs in the country.

The court ruled in favor of Arizona officials in the case of Joseph Rudolph Wood, who was convicted of murder in the 1989 shooting deaths of his estranged girlfriend and her father. The state plans to execute him Wednesday.

Wood, 55, argued he has a First Amendment right to details about the state’s lethal injection method, the qualifications of the executioner and who makes the drugs. Such demands for greater transparency have become a new legal tactic in death penalty cases in recent months.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had put Wood’s execution on hold, saying the state must reveal the information. That marked the first time an appeals court has acted to delayed an execution based on the issue of drug secrecy, said Richard Dieter, director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C.

The 9th Circuit gave new hope to death penalty opponents. While many death row inmates have made the same First Amendment argument as Wood, other appeals courts have shot them down. But the Supreme Court has not been receptive to the defense lawyers’ latest arguments, ruling against them each time the transparency issue has come before the justices.

Koch’s $25M donation to United Negro College Fund creates hard choices for struggling HBCUs

America’s black colleges are struggling for funds. The Republican Party is struggling to attract black voters.

Enter a $25 million gift to the United Negro College Fund from the conservative Koch brothers, which has pitted the needs of black students against liberals’ insistence that the Kochs are pursuing a racist political agenda.

Whether genuine philanthropy, political jujitsu or some of both, the gift sparked a debate that peaked when Lee Saunders, president of the powerful American Federation for State, County and Municipal Employees union, sent the UNCF a blistering letter ending the union’s financial support.

Historically black colleges and universities have educated a huge percentage of black America. Today, HBCUs are facing unprecedented challenges: decreases in government funding, tougher parent loan eligibility, and the threat of losing even more federal aid based on low retention and graduation rates.

Board puts soda tax before San Francisco voters

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – San Francisco lawmakers narrowly agreed Tuesday to place a 2-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks on the November ballot, a move that promises to turn the election into an expensive fight between the beverage industry and public health advocates.

The city’s Board of Supervisors voted 6-4 to ask voters to approve the tax on sodas, sports drinks and other beverages sweetened with sugar and sold in the city. It would have to be approved by two-thirds of the electorate to take effect.