Tag Archives: Kentucky

Searching for clues, answers in Trump Country

Judy Pennington voted for Barack Obama in 2008, decades after her grandfather dug up and sold coal from his property. Elliott County, Kentucky, had followed the rest of the country into a deep recession, and Pennington “thought somebody young could bring new ideas in for the country.”

“But we didn’t get new ideas. We didn’t get anything,” she says.

On Nov. 8, Pennington was one of the voters who helped the county shift from voting for Democrats since its founding in 1869 to choosing Republican Donald Trump in 2016. Seventy percent backed Trump in a county Barack Obama won twice.

In interviews with The Associated Press, Elliott County residents provided clues to the results that handed Trump the presidency: They felt left behind the nation’s recovery, disappointed in Obama and infuriated by Clinton’s vow to put coal miners “out of business.” They like the way Trump talks and they like what they heard him say: That he’ll create jobs, and correct what they see as the wrongs of NAFTA and corrupt government. The New York City businessman made the sale with these rural voters who still reject congressional and state Republicans when there are other choices.

“If Trump was able to win in Elliott County, that really underscores how his message resonated across the country,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky’s longest-serving U.S. senator — who has never been able to win Elliott County in his 31-year Senate career. “He ended up being able to do what most of us thought was impossible, which was to appeal to significant numbers of white working-class voters, many of them, I suppose, never had voted for any Republican before.”

In theory, Pennington and her neighbors could be the best-represented Americans in Washington next year.

They are Trump’s base — nearly all-white and working class. Despite vexing McConnell with its “resistance,” the county by definition has as its advocate the most powerful man in the Senate. The House of Representatives and the White House are also Republican.

But what residents of the county’s hollows want from those soon to be in power is rooted in its coal-infused past. The aftermaths of the Civil War and the Great Depression hit hard here, offset by the New Deal’s government-supported projects, organized labor, agriculture and the coal industry — now more a cultural influence than the economic engine it was for generations.

That’s why Clinton’s remark at a town hall event in West Virginia — “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business,” stung — even after she apologized, said U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, a Republican who represents the county.

“The super PACs did an excellent job of playing that quote over and over and over, and that’s all anyone could think about after a while,” said state Rep. Rocky Adkins, a Democrat who represents Elliott in the state House. “That tells people, ‘That person is against me. That person is not for my family.”

Over the last decade while most of the country pulled itself out of the recession, Elliott County did not. AK Steel, one of the largest employers in the region, idled its plant in nearby Ashland. The Big Sandy power plant in Louisa, which once propped up the eastern Kentucky economy with its massive coal purchases, started using natural gas. Now one of the county’s largest employers is a state prison just outside of town, and many of the county’s residents have to travel out of state to find work. Unemployment in Elliott County stands at 11 percent, more than twice the national rate of 4.9 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Median household income is just north of $28,000, a bit more than half of the national median.

More than 85 percent of registered voters in Elliott County are Democrats. Republicans make up 8 percent.

In the 2016 election, Elliott went with other parts of the state to elect Trump and send Rogers, who was unopposed, back to Washington. But it’s still a rebel county in some ways. Trump was the only Republican to win a contested race in Elliott County. Jim Gray, a gay, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, beat Republican Sen. Rand Paul by more than 12 percentage points in the county, while Paul won re-election. And though 17 incumbent Democrats lost their state House seats and handed Republicans control for the first time in 96 years, Elliott County re-elected Adkins with more than 85 percent of the vote.

With Trump, Pennington said she finally found a candidate she believed spoke directly to her.

“He talked and talked like the other candidates would have liked to have said, but they never did. He was just plainspoken,” she said.

For Phillip Justice, Trump fits snugly into his worldview. The 54-year-old retired state worker and small business owner sees injustice everywhere, whether it is who starts for the local high school basketball team or his son’s ability to get a college scholarship.

“I’m tired of putting in my 8, 10 hours a day and being dependable, and you go home and your neighbor has got as much or more that don’t do nothing,” he said. “I look for (Trump) to say, ‘Hey, you people that are on the draw, you are going to go to work and earn your check.’”

Justice is not a Republican voter, although he votes for Republicans.

Eugene Dickerson, an Elliott County native who owns a coal mine in West Virginia, has been voting for Republican candidates since 2000. He said Trump’s surprising surge there could be attributed to the county’s conservative mindset, abetted by its abundance of churches, that unites people around issues like abortion and gay marriage.

“I think appointment of Supreme Court really was the driving force behind Donald Trump carrying Elliott County,” he said.

Others see Trump as someone who represents their interests.

“I’m not expecting (Trump) to be a pastor,” Justice said. “But I’m not expecting him to be a dictator.”

Kentucky deputy convicted of rights violations

A former deputy with the Bullitt County, Kentucky, Sheriff’s Office was convicted this week by a federal jury of two counts of willfully depriving a Bullitt County resident of his constitutional rights under color of law.

The evidence presented at trial established that Matthew Corder, of Louisville, Kentucky, abused his authority as a sworn law enforcement officer by retaliating against a Bullitt County resident who insulted him.

Corder unlawfully entered the man’s home, tased the man in the back, arrested him without probable cause and charged him with crimes that he did not commit.

The charges against the man — disorderly conduct and fleeing and evading — eventually were dismissed. However, the man sat in jail for works and lost his job.

“This deputy abused his authority, neglected the law and harmed a resident he swore an oath to protect,” said Vanita Gupta, principal deputy assistant attorney general. “No insult justifies depriving the victim of his constitutional rights and anytime law enforcement officers act like Corder did here, they do a disservice to the vast majority of their colleagues who safeguard our communities with fidelity, professionalism and distinction.  The Justice Department will work tirelessly to bring to justice any member of law enforcement who breaks the law by using excessive force.”

U.S. Attorney John E. Kuhn Jr. of the Western District of Kentucky said in a statement to the press, “In those rare instances when a police officer violates his foremost duty to obey the law and adhere to the limits imposed by our Constitution, the Department of Justice will vigorously work to hold that officer accountable. Today our efforts culminated in a unanimous jury verdict finding that former Deputy Sheriff Corder victimized an individual by making an unconstitutional arrest and bringing unconstitutional charges.

The four-day trial included testimony from the victim, the victim’s sister and an officer on scene, which corroborated the victim’s account.

The instructors from the police academy who trained Corder also testified, saying he knew what the law permits and knew that his conduct violated the victim’s constitutional rights.

Evidence included Corder’s false arrest report as well as body-camera footage of the arrest.

Corder faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison on the first charge and one year of imprisonment on the second charge.

His sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 17, before U.S. District Judge David J. Hale of the Western District of Kentucky.

This case was investigated by the FBI’s Louisville Division and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Gregory of the Western District of Kentucky and trial attorney Christopher Perras of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section.

Defense counsel representing Kim Davis deemed a hate group

Kim Davis’ lawyer stood onstage in a Washington, D.C., hotel and pointed to a photo on the screen. It showed 100,000 people packed into a Peruvian soccer stadium, Mat Staver told the crowd, all there to pray for the Kentucky clerk battling against gay marriage.

The crowd erupted.

It wasn’t true.

Staver’s firm, the Liberty Counsel, which revealed Davis’ secret meeting with Pope Francis, has been accused by advocacy groups of peddling misrepresentations in the past. Yet it has become the main source of details about the controversial pope meeting.

Online sleuths quickly debunked the Peru story Staver told at the Values Voter Summit, a conference for the conservative Family Research Council. The photo was from a year-old gathering unrelated to Davis, who spent five days in jail for defying a court order and refusing to license gay marriages. Staver could provide no evidence of a massive Davis rally. He called it a mistake and blamed miscommunication with the Peruvian authorities who gave him the photo.

The next day, the firm dropped a bombshell. It said Pope Francis, on his celebrated visit to America, secretly met with Davis. The pope hugged her, thanked her for her courage and told her to “stay strong,” Liberty Counsel said. The Vatican has said the pope had a brief meeting with Davis that should not be seen as support for her stance.

Many on the religious right hail the Florida-based Liberty Counsel, which bills itself as a nonprofit committed to “restoring the culture by advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of human life and the family.”

“They’re willing to stand up for our rights under the Constitution, they’re not backing down,” said Nick Williams, a probate judge in Alabama who has also pledged never to issue a marriage licenses to a same-sex couple and sought guidance from the Liberty Counsel. Williams compared the federal court system to the tyrannical kings in the Bible: “I’m glad we have a law firm willing to stand up to the kings of our time.”

But critics watched in exasperation as the organization rocketed to national celebrity alongside Davis.

The Southern Poverty Law Center lists the Liberty Counsel as an anti-gay hate group for spreading false information.

“A group that regularly portrays gay people as perverse, diseased pedophiles putting Western civilization at risk are way, way over the line,” said Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the center.

The Liberty Counsel has connected homosexuality to higher rates of promiscuity and incest, Potok said, despite scientific evidence to the contrary. The firm opposes laws banning hate crimes and supports discredited conversion therapies that purport to turn homosexuals into heterosexuals. Staver once declared that the Boy Scouts would become a “playground for pedophiles” once it allowed gay troop leaders.

Staver, his hair bright white and his ties usually red, contends his quotes were taken out of context and he has legal arguments for the rest: hate crime laws infringe on free speech, he believes, and gay conversion therapies should be available to those who want them because he believes in “personal autonomy.”

“It is irresponsible and reckless to call someone a hate group because you disagree with them,” he said.

He added that he can’t be considered a hater because he loves all of God’s creation.

Williams also came to his defense: the Bible warned that Christians would be persecuted for standing strong for their faith, he noted.

“Jesus told us we would be hated for his name,” he said. “For standing for what we stand for, people will hate us. It happened to the disciples, but it’s also happening today.”

Staver grew up in Florida. He told The Associated Press in a phone interview that his father was an abusive alcoholic who his Catholic mother divorced when he was young. She worked three jobs and raised him alone, he said, and he went through the motions of Catholicism until an evangelical pastor saved him from sin as a young man.

He became a pastor himself in Kentucky, though he shied away from social issues until he saw a film in 1982 about abortion. He resolved to go to law school to fight for traditional family values. He graduated from the University of Kentucky’s law school, moved back to Florida with his wife, Anita, and they started the Liberty Counsel in 1989.

For years they dabbled in causes against abortion, the “War on Christmas” and other hot-button topics in the American culture wars.

In 2000, the firm threatened to sue a Florida library that offered a “Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry” certificate to kids who read the Harry Potter book series. Five years later, they sent letters complaining that a Wisconsin elementary school put on a decades-old play called “The Little Christmas Tree,” about a lonely pine searching for a family, which sets a song to the tune of ‘’Silent Night” but does not mention Jesus.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, has called Staver a courageous legal scholar. 

Civil liberties advocates disagree. 

“There is an enormous amount of bluster amid his legal arguments,” said Barry Lynn, a minister and executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who has debated Staver on religious freedom issues. “It looks to me like he’s making claims that will get his clients great publicity, but not necessarily get them victories.”

Staver stands firm on his contributions to American jurisprudence. His firm has been involved in 60 same-sex marriage cases. It has 10 full-time attorneys, and dozens more across the country willing to work for free to promote the cause. In 2013, the firm hauled in more than $4 million, according to tax returns.

As Davis defied a series of federal court orders and was sent to jail, Staver cast her as a heroine called into battle by God. He compared her actions to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Lincoln. She received 20,000 pieces of mail in jail, he said.

“I’ve lost the ability to be surprised at how easy it is to become the next Joan of Arc,” said Lynn. “When you make heroes out of people who refuse to accept the rule of law and who fail to acknowledge the dignity of other human beings, you are on a very dangerous path.”

Staver said the meeting with the pope validates his arguments about Davis’ rights to conscientious objection. He rejects even the suggestion he might wake up one day and discover himself on the wrong side of history.

Last week, he showed the crowd at the Values Voter Summit the photo of the imaginary Peruvian prayer rally and declared its significance in the battle against Christian oppression.

“That, my friends, is happening around the world,” he said. “When one person stands it has an impact and Kim Davis will continue to stand for her lord and savior Jesus Christ.”

An open letter to Kim Davis | Signatures are invited

As you may know, when you fall in love with someone, you hand your heart and soul over to them. Anyone who has committed to sharing their life with another human and forming a family unit knows that it is the biggest and most rewarding adventure you will ever take.

You know that all of the laughs and all of the tears won’t fall on the echo of an empty room, but will instead be received in the warm embrace of someone who has pledged to see you at your best and love you at your worst. You know that person is there to help pick you up on those days when the odds are stacked against you. You know that you never have to do the dishes alone.

When I met John, I had no idea that I would spend the next two decades building a life with the man who would one day inspire me to demand our right to be recognized by our country. I earned the right to lawfully call him my husband, just as you have a right to call your husband such. Love transcends gender.

You’re imposing the same indignities on couples in Rowan County that John and I suffered when Ohio would not legally recognize us as a married couple. Thankfully, the law is now changed so that nobody should ever have to experience the injustice that John and I endured. No one is above the law, Kim, not even you.

I joined the fight to have our love treated equally precisely because our love is equal. The love that any family shares is no more or less worthy than that of any other, and it’s not fair for you, or anyone, to judge. It’s your job to simply do your job. Issuing a marriage license at work is not a personal endorsement of my marriage any more than recording a deed is an endorsement of my home ownership.

It’s simply following the rules in this civil society in which we’ve all agreed to be members.

What truly matters is the kindness and compassion we share with our families and with those around us. Love makes a family. And as of June 2015 the federal government agrees.

I did not fight for my right to call John my husband in vain. I stand today in his memory and proudly declare him my legally wedded spouse. Do not stand in the way of others seeking their legal right to have their love recognized.

Sincerely,

Jim Obergefell for ACLU Action

On the Web …

To sign the open letter with Jim in support of marriage equality, please visit: 
https://action.aclu.org/secure/letter-kim-davis


Obama: Religious freedom no defense for denying constitutional rights

Freedom of religion isn’t reason enough to deny any American their constitutional rights, President Barack Obama said Sunday as he addressed members of the LGBT community, one of his major sources of political and financial support.

Speaking at a Democratic Party fundraiser, Obama said while Americans hold dear the constitutional right to practice their religion free from government interference, that right can’t be used to deny constitutional rights to others.

“We affirm that we cherish our religious freedom and are profoundly respectful of religious traditions,” Obama said during remarks that were interrupted by repeated applause and cheers. “But we also have to say clearly that our religious freedom doesn’t grant us the freedom to deny our fellow Americans their constitutional rights.”

“And that even as we are respectful and accommodating genuine concerns and interests of religious institutions, we need to reject politicians who are supporting new forms of discrimination as a way to scare up votes. That’s not how we move America forward,” he added. That was an apparent reference to some of the Republican presidential candidates.

Earlier this month, Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis spent several days in jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples despite a Supreme Court ruling that made same-sex unions legal nationwide. Davis said such marriages violate her Apostolic Christian faith.

Since being released, the Rowan County clerk has allowed marriage licenses to be issued, but only without her name and title. She also announced that she has left the Democratic Party and become a Republican.

Jim Obergefell, the plaintiff in Obergefell v. Hodges, the legal case that led the Supreme Court in June to rule narrowly in favor of gay marriage, introduced Obama.

The president began by recalling for his supporters that “seven years ago, we came together not just to elect a president, but to reaffirm our faith in that most American of ideals: the notion that people, no matter where they come from … or who they love can change this country.”

He noted that everyone in the U.S., regardless of sexual orientation, is protected by a federal hate crimes law he signed in his first year as president, and that federal contractors are barred from terminating employees for being gay.

Obama got some of his biggest cheers and loudest applause when he said “we live in an America where `don’t ask, don’t tell’ is something that `don’t exist.'” Obama lifted the Pentagon policy that barred gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.

“And tonight, thanks to the unbending sense of justice passed down through generations of citizens who never gave up hope that we could bring this country closer to our founding ideals … we now live in America where our marriages are equal as well,” he said.

Next weekend, Vice President Joe Biden will address members of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights group, in Washington, D.C. The HRC is holding its national dinner, which traditionally features a key not speech from a politician and recognization of a number of celebrities who support equality rights for LGBT people.

Earlier on Oct. 3, Hillary Clinton will speak to the organization at a separate event. About 800 grassroots leaders from across the country will hear from Clinton, who is running for the Democratic nomination for president.

Pop and politics: Some campaigns hit high notes, some just off-key

Right-wing presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and anti-gay Kentucky clerk Kim Davis stepped forward, hands clasped, arms raised, signaling triumph, imitating Rocky Balboa.

Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” anthem blared as a crowd cheered the homophobic former governor of Arkansas and an anti-gay public servant who refused to do her job and carry out her oath of office.

Perhaps they should have chosen “Dixie,” because soon after the grandstanding, Survivor issued a statement from founder Jim Peterik on Facebook: “NO! We did not grant Kim Davis any rights to use ‘My Tune — The Eye Of The Tiger.’ I would not grant her the rights to use Charmin!”

Fueled by an Onion-like website, rumors circulated that Survivor would file a $1.2 million copyright infringement suit against Davis and Huckabee. No suit followed. However, Peterik sought a cease-and-desist letter from his publisher and joined the chorus of other musicians who have decried and denounced politicians — most of them Republicans — for misappropriating their musical messages or infringing on copyrights.

Neil Young tangled with Donald Trump earlier this summer, alleging the candidate was not authorized to use “Rockin’ in the Free World” in his campaigns. 

Trump and Ted Cruz heard from Michael Stipe of R.E.M. after using “It’s the End of the World as We Know It.” The singer-songwriter informed both candidates, “Go f*ck yourselves.”

Dropkick Monkeys sounded a similar refrain in January, after Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker stepped onto the stage at the Iowa Freedom Summit to “I’m Shipping Up to Boston.” “Please stop using our music in any way … we literally hate you!!!” the band tweeted.

There’s a history of rockers and pop stars objecting to Republicans playing their songs:

Heart repeatedly asked Sarah “Barracuda” Palin to stop playing “Barracuda” at her rallies and again at the GOP convention in 2008. In the same campaign, Jackson Browne curbed John McCain’s use of “Running on Empty.” Tom Petty ordered Michele Bachmann to cease and desist playing “American Girl” in 2011. Rush challenged Rand Paul’s right to use “Spirit of the Radio” in 2010. David Byrne sued Charlie Crist — before his conversion to Democrat — for using “Road to Nowhere” in 2010 campaign ads. Isaac Hayes objected to Bob Dole’s campaign rewriting “Soul Man” to “Dole Man.” John Mellencamp, who has said he’s as “left wing as you can get,” acted to stop Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and McCain from co-opting “Our Country,” “Pink Houses” and “ROCK in the USA.”

And, perhaps most famously, Bruce Springsteen took on Ronald Reagan for using “Born in the USA” at campaign rallies. Springsteen went on to object when Dole and Pat Buchanan used the song.

It’s not that Springsteen is apolitical. When Barack Obama closed out his 2012 campaign in Madison, Springsteen was onstage and opened the rally with “No Surrender.”

Springsteen hasn’t publicly endorsed a candidate for 2016, but Neil Young is in Bernie Sanders’ camp. After demanding Trump stop playing his music, Young gifted “Rockin’ in the Free World” to the Vermont senator. Other Sanders supporters include Buckwheat Zydeco, Belinda Carlisle, drummer Jon Fishman of Phish, bassist Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Henry Rollins, Roger Waters and Lucinda Williams. 

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton supporters include 50 Cent, Paula Abdul, ASAP Rocky, Tony Bennett, Beyonce, Jon Bon Jovi, Mariah Carey, Kelly Clarkson, Carole King, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Tim McGraw, Ricky Martin, Moby, Morrissey, Ne-Yo, Snoop Dogg, Faith Hill, Ice-T, Elton John, Kanye West, Young Jeezy, Ariana Grande, Pharrell Williams and Katy Perry.

Clinton included music by some of those artists on her first campaign playlist, released when she kicked off her campaign in Central Park, arriving onstage to Sara Bareille’s “Brave.” That song is on the 14-tune playlist, along with Clarkson’s “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You),” American Authors’ “Best Day of My Life” and “Believer,” and Perry’s “Roar.”

Perry, in a tweet, offered to write a campaign song for the former secretary of state, senator and first lady: “I told @hillaryclinton that I would write her a ‘theme’ song if she needs it.”

Clinton replied: “Well that’s not a Hard Choice. You already did! Keep letting us hear you Roar.”

So, it’s a good bet there will be no objection from the musician when “Roar” rallies the crowds at campaign stops and Clinton arrives to the lyrics, “I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire/’Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar.”

ACLU: Kentucky clerk Kim Davis failing to comply with judicial orders

The American Civil Liberties Union this week filed a motion in Kentucky District Court asserting that the Rowan County clerk’s office has failed to comply with orders that directed deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses without interference by Clerk Kim Davis.

The motion argues that the significant alteration of licenses at the direction of Davis — having a deputy sign them as a notary public rather than as a deputy clerk, removing any reference to the Rowan County clerk’s office, and stating that they are issued pursuant to court order — violates the court’s Sept. 3 order directing Davis and her deputies to issue licenses and its Sept. 8 order that released Davis from jail under the condition that she not interfere with the process.

“The clerk’s office needs to issue valid licenses that comply with the court’s orders,” said James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project. “It’s sad that Ms. Davis has continued to interfere with the basic constitutional right of all loving couples to marry and that the plaintiff couples have to ask the court to intervene once again.”

The filing asks the court to order the clerk’s office to issue the same licenses that were issued on or before Sept. 8, when Davis was released from jail.

The motion also asks the court to order the deputy clerks to disregard any contrary instructions from Davis and requests that she be ordered to immediately stop interfering or face civil contempt fines and the placement of the clerk’s office into a receivership for the purpose of issuing marriage licenses.

WiGWag: Collie candidate for prez and a wall around Walker

Canine candidate

Lucy Lou, a border collie, has served as mayor of Rabbit Hash, Kentucky, since 2008. About 135 people live in the unincorporated community, where the canine’s handler recently announced the dog plans to run for the nation’s highest office. Lucy Lou already defeated one human, nine dogs, a cat, an opossum and also a jackass to win the mayoral race, so she might run strong against Donald Trump.

Toasted transports

Authorities in Aurora, Illinois, say they are borrowing a tactic from Madison and compiling a “habitual drunkard” list. Police and paramedics in the Chicago suburb plan to name people who’ve required personal transport at least six times in 120 days. That list will go to local bars and retailers, which are supposed to refuse to sell liquor to their best clients. … Right.

Color blind

A study from sociologist Asia Friedman at the University of Delaware explores whether blind people characterize others by race. She interviewed 25 individuals who are blind and found they categorize people by race far less often than do sighted people, who assign a race to almost everyone they see. Friedman said of those she interviewed, “Their thinking is deliberative rather than automatic and even after they’ve categorized someone by race, they’re often not certain that they’re correct.”

God is everywhere but work?

A study conducted using smartphones finds that people feel higher levels of spiritual awareness in the morning, when attending worship or meditating, and when listening to music, reading or exercising. Spiritual awareness tends to be much lower for people when at work or playing video games. 

Bare protest

Hundreds of people gathered in a Minneapolis park on a recent Sunday afternoon to protest laws requiring women to cover their chests while men can legally bare their skin. The gathering, held in conjunction with national “Go Topless Day,” drew a variety of states of dress and undress, with some women fully exposing their breasts and others covering their nipples with colorful tape. Some men wore bikini tops and bras in a show of solidarity.

Betty White has ‘Bones’ to pick

After wrapping up her TV stint on Hot in Cleveland earlier this year, 93-year-old Betty White immediately took a role on Bones this coming season. Her character, Dr. Beth Mayer, is brought in to assist in a fantasy football murder case.

The sky is falling — again

The odds of dying from an asteroid impact are one in 700,000 — much less than the odds of being struck by lightning (one in 3,000) or finding a pearl in an oyster (one in 12,000). But end-time Christianists are creating a panic on the Internet with their prophecy that an area around Puerto Rico will be struck by an asteroid between Sept. 15 and Sept. 28. The coming destruction is related to the Bible Code — whatever that is.

Dog under the influence

A Georgia man has been charged after authorities say his dog tested positive for methamphetamine. Marty Rogers took his small terrier-mix dog named Little Guy to a veterinary clinic on Aug. 17, where veterinarians discovered meth in the dog’s system. Veterinarians say the dog was extremely nervous, panting and pacing. Rogers faces several charges, including cruelty to animals. The dog was taken away by animal control officers.

Full of crap

A 27-year-old Chinese man who was suffering from severe constipation for 10 years underwent surgery to remove an 11 lb. stool from his colon. Fox News, which knows a thing or two about reporting crap, broke the story in the United States.

Wall around Walker 

Responding to news that Scott Walker was considering the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Canadian border, a group calling itself “We, the Beaverton” launched a campaign on change.org. It reads: “On behalf of all Canadians and most Americans, (we) are requesting the U.S. government place a soundproof and bulletproof barrier around Wisconsin Gov. and Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker.”

Hot transit

A special edition swipe card for Taiwan’s mass transit featuring the clothed image of a Japanese porn star sold out within hours overnight via a telephone hotline, despite a storm of opposition. “In the future we will continue to strengthen public service and social responsibility,” the company said in a statement on its website. Local media say proceeds from the card set sales will go to charity. Company spokespeople were not available for comment.

Judge orders release of anti-gay clerk Kim Davis from jail

U.S. District Judge David Bunning on Sept. 8 ordered the release of Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis from federal custody and ordered her not to “interfere in any way, directly or indirectly, with the efforts of her deputy clerks to issue marriage licenses to all legally eligible couples.”

Davis was sent to jail last week after being found in contempt of court for refusing to comply with the law on same-sex marriage. She has refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, citing her religious beliefs and in violation of her sworn oath of office in Kentucky.

In her quest to be allowed to continue to discriminate against gays and lesbians, Davis was denied stays at all levels of federal court, including the U.S. Supreme Court.

After she went to jail last week, staff in her office began issuing marriage licenses.

“It is imperative that Kim Davis follow the law and allow same-sex couples to access their constitutional right to marry the person they love. Period,” said Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign. “While Davis has the right to believe whatever she likes, as a public official she has no legal basis to refuse to follow the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. The overwhelming majority of public officials across this country are following the law, and history will not judge her kindly. It’s far past time for this needless ordeal to end.”

William Sharp, legal director of the ACLU of Kentucky, said “This case was brought to ensure that all residents of Rowan County, gay and straight, could obtain marriage licenses. That goal has been achieved. The Kentucky attorney general and counsel for Rowan County have said the marriage licenses are valid. We are relying on those representations, and our clients look forward to proceeding with their plans to marry.”

With clerk in jail, gay couples get marriage licenses in Kentucky county

A gay couple emerged from a Kentucky county clerk’s office with a marriage license in hand early on Sept. 4, embracing and crying as the defiant clerk who runs the office remained jailed for her refusal to issue the licenses because she opposed same-sex marriage.

William Smith Jr. and James Yates, a couple for nearly a decade, were the first to receive a marriage license in Rowan County on Sept. 4. Deputy clerk Brian Mason issued the license, congratulating the couple and shaking their hands as he smiled. After they paid the license fee of $35.50, James Yates rushed across the steps of the courthouse to hug his mom as both cried.

“This means at least for this area that civil rights are civil rights and they are not subject to belief,” said Yates, who had been denied a license five times previously. He said he and Smith were optimistic they would get a license when they arrived, in part because the deputy clerk, Mason, had always been respectful when they came previously.

A crowd of supporters cheered outside as the couple left, while a street preacher rained down words of condemnation. Yates and Smith said they are trying to choose between two wedding dates and plan a small ceremony at the home of Yates’ parents.

The licenses were issued only after five of Kim Davis’ deputy clerks agreed to issue the licenses, the lone holdout from the office being her son, Nathan Davis. Kim Davis’ office was dark as the license was issued to Yates and Smith, with a sheriff’s deputy standing guard in front of it.

“I just want the licenses given out. I don’t want her in jail. No one wanted her in jail,” Yates said.

A second couple, Timothy and Michael Long, also were issued a license about an hour after Yates and Smith. When the couple got inside the office on Sept. 4, a man harassed them and said, “More sodomites getting married?” The Longs did not respond, and a worker told the man to leave.

During a hearing Sept. 3, U.S. District Judge David Bunning had offered to release Davis if she promised not to interfere with her employees issuing licenses, but she refused, citing her Christian beliefs.

Speaking to reporters, Davis’ husband, Joe Davis, held a sign saying, “Welcome to Sodom and Gomorrah” and said his wife was in good spirits after her first night in jail.

When asked if she would resign, he said, “Oh, God no. She’s not going to resign at all. It’s a matter of telling Bunning he ain’t the boss.”

Kim Davis and Joe Davis still support her employees, who he called “good people” and “good workers.” He said he ate with the other deputy clerks on Sept. 3 at an Applebee’s restaurant and told them “I loved them and I was proud of them.”

Davis’ son supported his mother and was warned by the judge not to interfere with his fellow employees. The judge said he did not want “any shenanigans,” like the staff closing the office for computer upgrades as they did briefly last week.

“That would show a level of disrespect for the court’s order,” Bunning said. He added: “I’m hoping that cooler heads will prevail.”

Davis’ son sat stoically as the judge questioned the clerks on Sept. 3, some of whom were reluctant.

“I don’t really want to, but I will comply with the law,” deputy clerk Melissa Thompson said, weeping while she stood before the packed courtroom. “I’m a preacher’s daughter and this is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life.”

“I don’t hate anybody,” she added. “None of us do.”

Bunning indicated Kim Davis would remain in jail at least a week, saying he would revisit his decision after the deputy clerks have had time to comply with his order.

Davis said she hopes the Legislature will change Kentucky laws to find some way for her to keep her job while following her conscience.

But Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear again refused to call a special session of the legislature. State lawmakers will not meet until January.

Davis, an Apostolic Christian, wept during her testimony in federal court on Sept. 3, telling the judge she was “always a good person” but that she gave her heart to the Lord in 2011 and “promised to love Him with all my heart, mind and soul because I wanted to make heaven my home.”

“God’s moral law conflicts with my job duties,” Davis told the judge before she was taken away by a U.S. marshal. “You can’t be separated from something that’s in your heart and in your soul.”