National Briefs: 6/19/14

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Presbyterian votes near allowing  same-sex marriages

DETROIT — Committees within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have recommended that the denomination allow same-sex marriages and pull investments in businesses supplying Israel’s occupying forces in the West Bank.

The votes — along with minority reports recommending opposite actions — came earlier this week at the legislative General Assembly of the denomination, currently meeting in Detroit.

Final deliberations by the full assembly are scheduled for today and Friday.

One committee voted 51-18 to allow pastors the discretion of performing same-sex marriages in states such as Pennsylvania where they are legal.

It also voted 49-18 to recommend changing the church constitution — pending regional approval — to define marriage as a covenant between two people regardless of gender.

A separate committee voted 45-20 to recommend divesting from Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions and Hewlett Packard for selling products aiding Israel’s occupation.

That measure has drawn fierce criticism from advocates for Israel who say it unfairly targets one side of the Mideast conflict.

The recommendation also affirmed Israel’s right to exist within secure, internationally recognized borders and explicitly distanced the action from a broader campaign to target Israel with boycotts, divestment and sanctions.

Lawmakers grill GM

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers expressed disbelief Wednesday at General Motors’ explanation for why it took 11 years to recall millions of small cars with defective ignition switches, and also confronted its chief executive with evidence that the company dragged its feet on a similar safety issue in different vehicles.

CEO Mary Barra and attorney Anton Valukas, who recently released a 315-page investigative report into the recall, endured skepticism and some lecturing at a House subcommittee hearing.

Marathon bombing case

BOSTON — Lawyers for the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing asked a judge on Wednesday to move his upcoming trial to Washington, D.C., saying so many residents of Boston had been at the race that it would be all but impossible to select an impartial jury there.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, is the surviving member of a pair of ethnic Chechen brothers whom federal prosecutors contend killed three people and injured more than 260 in the largest mass-casualty attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001.

Border agent slaying

TUSCON, Ariz.—A man charged in the killing of Brian A. Terry, a U.S. Border Patrol agent whose death was at the center of the Operation Fast and Furious investigation, has been returned to the United States, according to federal government sources and the family of the slain officer.

Lionel Portillo-Meza, also known as Jesus Leonel Sanchez-Meza, was arrested in Mexico on Sept. 6, 2012, and had been in custody awaiting extradition.

He is accused of being among the five men in the “Rip-Crew,” charged with killing Agent Terry during a 2010 shootout in Arizona near the border with Mexico.

Robert Heyer, Agent Terry’s cousin and chairman of the Brian Terry Foundation, confirmed that he was notified by officials that Mr. Portillo-Meza was extradited Tuesday night from Mexico City and was now in the United States.

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